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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)

The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

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Enigma
PostPosted: 2011-01-27 12:11pm 

is a laughing fool.


Joined: 2003-04-30 10:24pm
Posts: 6903
Location: Painesville TWP, Ohio
Excellent story but you keep mixing Saclair with Sanclair. Which one is it? I keep feeling that you are hinting Saclair to be Sinclair. :)
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tortieconspiracy
PostPosted: 2011-01-27 04:07pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2009-07-01 09:38am
Posts: 98
Given that Sinclair went into the past and became Valen, that seems unlikely. My speculation has been that the guy is, well, maybe not a direct descendant exactly, since there's no indication that Sinclair had any human descendants outside of any lineage founded by Delenn and Sheridan (who wouldn't bear the Sinclair name), but perhaps a descendant of a near relative (sibling, first cousin). Oooh, now there's a speculation. Some descendant of Sheridan and Delenn married into Sinclair's family, thus providing Sinclair with human descendants bearing his surname a few thousand years after Valen. I mean even if Delenn and Sheridan had only the one son mentioned in the show, there's nothing saying that the son didn't have a daughter who married a Sinclair relative. I'm assuming that the custom of sons, if not offspring in general taking the father's surname remains more or less constant into the 40K era.
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-01-27 05:04pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
Actually I have an word processor that thinks it knows how to type better than I do. They aren't the same. Thank you for pointing that out.

Sanclair is an actual name that autocorrect wants the word to be, Sáclair is the name named the captain.
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-02-07 12:50am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
Daul would have gladly slept for a week given the opportunity. His entire body ached. A patchwork of cuts and abrasions covered what little of his body was not bruised. Cairn had all but carried him to his quarters and forced him into bed after they'd managed to strip him out of his armor. His beloved power armor was now little more than scrap.

When Cairn shuffled the Daul towards the inquisitor's chambers Daul had protested vehemently that he could not sleep yet. The security forces onboard would need his expertise in repelling warp entities. Throne forbid they should be boarded by a full Demonic incursion while he slept. The Endless Bounty had been buffeted and bucked around in the warp for a good twenty minutes before they were able to get enough power from the generators to break back into real-space. Twenty minutes was more than long enough for possession and daemonic incursion. There had been scattered cases of sanctioned psychics and crewmen being overtaken by murderous entities but if the initial security reports were to be trusted the immediate threat had been contained.

He needed to screen the entire population of the Bounty for possible demonic possessions. He needed to debrief Sáclair. He needed to do any one of a million tasks running though his head. He very well might not seep that week let alone that month. He could do it, he may die from stimulant overdose but he could do it.

Cairn had listened to none of the Inquisitors excuses. When Daul had tried to lift himself out of bed the Skitarii had simply held him down with his remaining arm and administered a sedative with one of his mechandrites. It was a weaker sedative that Daul would have chosen to use normally, not one that would prevent dreams. Daul was so injured that anything stronger would have been risky.

"Let me up you over-important toaster," he muttered groggily as his vision swam.

The feeling of dread he always associated with falling asleep washed over him and he suddenly felt blackness and the world of dreams. His first dreams were inconsequential nonsense. It was to be expected. His nightmare was always the last of his dreams. Daul walked the shadowed twisting corridors of his dreams staring into bizarre tableaus of near reality, a confusing but comforting nonsense of flight and fancy. He was a novice under the care of Inquisitor Gaal being praised for his research of Imperial history. He was a soldier watching the retaking of Choros IX. He was a proud father staring at a newborn child dreaming of a large family in his estates on Metzik. He was standing next to the Primarchs watching the glories of the great Crusade. He was a young man feeling the warmth of a woman's flesh for the first time. Dreams spun at random, confusing him with their abrupt changes and shifting geometries, truth, fiction and memory churning without cause.

He tried clear his head mind. He wanted to make sense of the memories and fantasies or find an exit. He pleaded with himself as he felt his body shrink and stretch till it was child sized "Damn, not the dream, please don't be the damned dream," but he was unmistakably in the house of his childhood but not the scene of his nightmare. He stood in the kitchen opposite his grandfather watching him carve a bit of wood. He bit his lip and stared at Bast Hilder's friendly face. It had been too long since he thought of that face. It was decidedly odd that his grandfather was in the kitchen but not his mother. The dream usually started with his mother… three years later come to think of it. Bast Hilder died long before his father. The lung disease jokingly called the venerable miner's breath took most men from the mines. It probably would have taken Daul if he'd stayed. Bast stared at him over a set of spectacles and took the pipe from his mouth, tapping the ashes into a stone pot at his side, "Child if you mean to keep staring at me like I've just kicked your pet dog I plan to take it personal."

Daul stuttered, "No it's just I was expecting… It's nothing really Opa," the Metizk world slipped off his tongue for the first time in years not said as a scream in a nightmare, "I'm just surprised to see you. That's all."

"Surprised not to see my damned fool of a son you mean," Bast Hilder packed his pipe with Talbac, Daul's grandfather always had the best Talbac, and rooted around in his pockets for match. He looked up at Daul's terrified expression, "Oh calm yourself boy. No damned fool is going to lay a hand on my grandson. Took me long enough to find what the idiot has been up to but I set things to right. You can see for yourself. Get me those matches off the sideboard would you?"

Daul turned and walked to the sideboard. He grabbed the matches from where they always were on the sideboard next to the change jar. Or rather they were on the side board next to where the change jar had always been. In place of the change jar was a small clear glass aquarium that held a single occupant. Daul's twisted monster of a father sat sullenly on top of a bed of cottonballs and sawdust muttering murderously. When he noticed his son he jumped up, waving his arms and screaming threats. His entire body shook from the effort of waving his arms and his voice was entirely too high to understand a word of it. Daul turned to his grandfather, "Opa how did you… how did you do that?"

"You listen with your ears but never think with your head boy. Didn't I always tell you that you need to shrink your fears down to as big as they deserve to be? My boy's been dead going on a century, shame that, but what he became died with him. He doesn't deserve more of you than that box he's in right now. Don't start thinking otherwise," he looked at the box in Daul's hand, "Now are you going to bring me those matches or are you going to make an old man stand up."

Daul rushed over and handed the cardboard box over to the Hilder patriarch. Bast took the box with hands calloused from years working in the mines and shook it next to his ear before taking out a match and striking it. He lit his pipe and puffed at it contentedly before picking up his knife and whittling the bit of wood into an armored shape vaguely resembling Daul's grown up self, "Sit down child you're hopping about like a startled toad."

Daul sat down with on the stool behind him with such force that it knocked the wind out of him. He tried to articulate exactly how he was feeling into words but all he managed to do was sob a bit and say, "I miss them Opa. I miss them so much. Especially now that… now that he's dead," Daul choked on the name of his most recent loss.

"Can you not bring yourself to say his name child? There's no sense in dishonoring family by forgetting them. He's gone but as long as you love him he's still with you," His face crinked with a kind smile, "Though I'll admit having someone watching over you from beyond is less comfort than being able to hold them in your arms and your eyes, even if they are still in your heart."

"It's just too soon Opa. It just still hurts," Daul felt Bast's hand ruffling his hair in the way he used to hate as a boy, "It never seems to go away. It won't go away not till he's dead," his voice brimmed with hatred, "Faust will die. Faust will die by my hands. I'll make Faust feel the pain he felt, die the death he died. He deserves it. He needs to die."

"That well may be child, that well may be," His grandfather walked over to the kitchen table and started fipping through the pages of a lovewarn copy of the "The Teachings of Sebastian Thor" that his mother always had around till he reached his favorite passage, "Revenge is a task that hurts everyone and helps none. Justice is riteous but revenge will always be torn by spite. Rage is the weapon of the enemy. The enemy will drive you and use you through your rage. He will seek to make you into him. Seek not revenge but find justice for it is in reason and righteousness that we stand in the Emperor's light." He chuckled, "Don't give me that sullen look boy. You well may have to kill him but if you do make sure you do it for the right reasons. Now let's stop talking about this unpleasantness. I've got a century of catching up to do and a whole mess of common sense what needs to get beaten into you again."

It was wonderful to have a conversation with the man again, even if it wasn't real. Daul sat, and listened, and dreamed without fear for the first time since he was a child. When he was woken by Cairn ten hours later he felt calmer and more refreshed than he could not remember ever having been. It was just as well. Cairn's news was decidedly unpleasant. Unpleasant enough to forget that Bast's voice from his dreams was not as he remembered it.

The wine glass flew half the distance of the great hall before it shattered on the floor. None of the servants bothered clean it. They scurried about righting statues and freeing servitors from the rubble. The Hall had taken the worst of its damage to non-critical systems but the damaged pride of Sáclair was mirrored every pane of shattered glass and broken chandelier. The Captain had not slept in thirty-six hours and refused to leave his post for anything, even to sleep. Even his concubines had retreated to their quarters for fear of his mood. The Captian sat on his throne brooding, eying the court beneath him, and shooting murderous looks at anyone foolish enough to make eye-contact.

Everyone capable of assisting with repairs had been enlisted to do. Even the nobility was making a show of scurrying around with reports and data-slates. The queue to his throne was blissfully empty of crewmen. Nobody wanted to give Sáclair even the vague impression they were slacking. His penalties for doing so were decidedly unpleasant. Sáclair had sent the ship's assistant Quartermaster to oversee the servitors clearing bodies from the hold after he showed up late for duty by two minutes.

The only people in the great hall not spending every waking moment appearing as busy as possible were those unlucky few who reported directly to Sáclair. Hakam Danzig, Donat Enzo, Étienne Sácomer, Zorn Calven, Anoosheh Osma and Faest Nor stood in a semi-circle in front of Sánclair. Even the normally jolly Sácomer was in ill humor. He stood sagging from the spidery legs of his agumentic walking frame like a deflated balloon, wobbling slightly with the effort of staying awake. Sácomer had taken the loss nearly as hard as the captain. Sánclair spoke in clipped businesslike tones even as a servant appeared with a fresh glass of wine, "Gentlemen we have all been working non-stop for the better part of the past day. I understand that the past hours have been trying. However, if someone does not at the very least tell me where in the blazes we are I will be irked beyond measure," the jovial tone and forced smile did not match the furious look in his eyes, "It would be unwise to allow that."

Sánclair downed the new glass of wine in a single swig and chucked it into the distance where it cracked on the ground with a satisfying smash. It wasn't fair of him to take out his frustrations on the crew but the voices of his ancestors were in a state of turmoil. The collective spoke to him in a passive state generally, offering words of wisdom at times and sharing their memories when asked. Since the Endless Bounty had exited the warp the voices of his ancestors had gone from a calming voice in the distance to an impossible mess of gibbering words and shouting matches. Those who came before him were terrified, and not without reason. He was fine with their fear but he could have done without their arguments. More than once he'd found himself to be shouting for silence in an already silent room, his attendants eying him with uncomprehending fear. Alcohol dimmed their voices some, and work distracted his mind from their quarrellings. He tapped his hand on the arm of his throne, eying the navigator in annoyance and speaking in a voice dripping with cruel sanctimony, "Well esteemed Navigator? What light does your house have to shed on this situation? You of the most clever house of navigators."

Calven ignored Sáclair's rudeness entirely, "As my Captain will recall I did warn him that the warp tunnel could lead anywhere. As my Captain was told it was beyond the knowledge of any navigator how such a feat could be done or to what purpose it might serve," Sáclair could not help but think of the Navigator's ornate feathered cloak was looking increasingly flammable with each word, "As my Captain will remember it was only the fast thinking of Setvan Illrich of the Navigators that we were able to get enough power from the reactors to escape the warp at all. My captain knows that Navigators Illrich and Zain are overseeing the astropathic choir to seek solutions. My Captain is a very capable man so he has no need for me to remind him of what he already knows."

"So stop wasting my time by talking about what the Captain already knows you translucent, three eyed, toad," Sáclair cracked a smile. Danzig, bandaged and bruised was as loyal to and protective of Sáclair as ever. Sáclair would not have put it past Danzig to punch the Navigator in his third eye given the chance. The sanctimony of the Navigators never sat well with the Lionhearts, "If you've got something new to say then say it otherwise I've been beaten, shot at, stabbed, and burned in the past twelve hours. Every minute you're spending with this infuriating game of words and meanings is a minute me and him," he pointed to Faest, "aren't down in the damned hospital making sure my men pull through."

Zorn eyed Danzig loftily but said nothing in response, not to avoid angering the soldier, the navigator knew too well the Lionheart would never willingly allow harm to befall an navigator, but for fear of the Chief Docere Medicus. Medicus Nor would stitch Zorn's mouth shut if he believed that it would speed up his ability to go back to his beloved hospital a second faster. The navigator curled his lip but continued as though there had been no interruption, "In short Captain we are somewhere beyond the galactic rim. We cannot find any consistency to the stellar geography matching the areas mapped by the navigators."

Donat blinked, "What of the Astronomicon? Has the choir recovered from the unpleasantness and found it yet?" Sáclair sighed, Donat was a faithful second in command but an unimaginative one. The idea that there were great sections of uncharted space beyond the light and grace of the Emperor was something that no amount of proof could convince Donat to believe. He would obey but he would not believe. Sácomer required far less proof of their circumstances. Sáclair had never taken the larger man for a fatalist but Sácomer's blind panic was obvious. It wasn't beyond belief, Sácomer had a keen mind in spite of his foppishness and blubber.

"Lieutenant Enzo if you insist upon living in a fantasy world I cannot be blamed for your ignorance," there should be a law against the level of smugness in the Navigator's voice. He would have to confer with the ancestors later to see if there is an existing law he might repurpose to that end, "We are beyond the limit of the Astronomicon's light. If that means we are simply at the extremes of where Solar Macharius' armies refused to go or are in an entirely new galaxy remains to be seen. The Astropaths had to be forcibly stopped from killing themselves from the shock of losing its light. I suspect we well may have to kill the ones who have gone mad from the shock anyway. This is not some spatial anomaly we can simply coast through. We are truly in the rough," his voice became clinical and he pulled out a small hololithic projector and held it up. A small swirling mass of stars appeared with a red dot at the galactic southern edge, "We estimate that this is our place in the galaxy but honestly any stellar cartography we have of the area will be an estimate at best. On the bright side I am reasonably convinced that the ship we were chasing was hit by a group of mines soon after we were. I cannot say for certain if they were tossed out of the warp as well, but it seems plausible. That we were not tossed out into the coronal mass of a sun is nothing but luck, perhaps they were not so lucky."

"Wishful thinking accomplishes nothing navigator," Sáclair had no patience for optimism at the moment, "Do we have any way of navigating in the warp?"

"To where sir? I can direct this ship through the flows of the warp but I must have an idea of to where I am to go. The Astronomicon provides a point of reference off of which the navigators judge distance and location," the navigator zoomed out the image of unfamiliar stars as far as it would go, "without a point of reference I am just reaching in the dark. I can take us into the warp and out of the warp but we would be sailing blindly. We have nowhere to go to or from. We will at least have little difficulty in getting to there, the warp currents seem especially mild in this region which is some small comfort."

Sáclair motioned for another glass of wine, the servant came with a silver pitcher filled to the brim. Sáclair raised an eyebrow and motioned the servant closer. The servant, a particularly frightened looking girl wearing the livery of his household approached him nervously. She carefully avoided eye contact, "Yes sir? Do you need anything else?"

"This is not a glass," he lifted the sliver pitcher up to eye level, "Where is my glass?"

"The Lady Sáclair told us we weren't to bring out any more glasses sir. The lady told us that if you asked we were to pass on a message," Her face turned beet red, "The Lady said to say 'If my fool of a husband thinks he can destroy all the good crystal just because he's in a tiff then he can damn well forget it. He'll drink from the pitcher and like it or neither I nor his concubines will warm his bed for at least a year." She blanched and clarified as she nervously rubbed her hands in her apron, "She said that sir, not me! I'd never talk about my betters like that. I know my place."

"Calm yourself girl," Sáclair chuckled, "I know my wife's words and temper better than any man. I have no doubt she said it and meant it. Do be so kind as to pass a message back to her for me. For her and for no others."

The girl nodded wide-eyed, "If you want me to sir, I will sir."

"Good," He leaned in and whispered, "Love makes a man do foolish things but it does not make a man a fool. Your good crystal is safe. If I am a fool of a man I am still your fool of a man and I expect to see both you and my concubines in my chambers tonight. You may be mistress of my heart but I will remind you why I am the master of our bed." The girl blushed a florescent red and bowed herself away as fast as she could, clearly eager not to give him the opportunity to elaborate.

As she lifted up to the servant's entrance a grav hook he yelled, "And I want to see her in pearls!" at her retreating back. The girl blushed with her entire body, she must be new to his wife's staff. Not many of the serving girls who worked for her stayed modest long. Her temper and frankness robbed them of that. His wife's words had brightened his humor, as had the prospect of the night to come. The Lady Sáclair only bothered to threaten withholding her company if she had something equally entertaining in mind to reward him for making the proper decision. The officers looked at him with of mixed expressions of amusement and consternation. Generations of outlandish behavior from house Sáclair had since rendered the shock value of his words moot for the officers.

"Spoilsports," Saclair muttered a stage whisper. The officers all chuckled dryly. He rolled his eyes downed his wine and remembered why he had been sullen in the first place, "Medicus how many did we lose?"

"It's difficult to say, most of the damage was limited to the aft sections which were already mostly abandoned after the first fight with the smaller ship. The major population centers are in the mid decks away from the engines for obvious reasons. There were a number of fatalities but not enough to leave us understaffed in any critical areas. We lost a lot of dock workers in the decompression, not all of them were lucky enough to have attached the grav hooks to keep them on the ship. Fewer still had their survival masks in reach," he looked over his scrolls, "That we haven't instituted carrying one of those at all times for the dock workers is nothing short of criminal. We really must fix that."

Sáclair nodded, "Consider it done. The workers will complain but I suspect their supervisors flogging those who don't comply will change their tune. I'll mention it to the chief of the Tech-priest ensigneers once Kerrigan lets him go. I would have called him for this meeting for you to tell him yourself but I'm not fool enough to get between the Adeptus Mechanicus and fixing a hull breach."

"Odd that he's not here," muttered Calven.

"Chief Ensigneer Iino and Father Al'Ashir are seeing to duties that obviously take precedence at the moment. I we expect the Admech to stop their devotions to the machine any more than I can expect the church to stop their devotions to the Emperor," Osma's deep grumble ground out its disapproval. Osma did not like the navigator and made no secret of his dislike, "And considering it's me who'll have to oversee any floggings I assure you we are more than capable of seeing punishment going to those who deserve it." He let 'deserve it' hang in the air, pointedly staring at the navigator, leaving no doubt in anyone's mind exactly who deserved it in his eyes. Calven stared back murderously. Osma had been one of the few in support of allowing the Inquisitor to interrogate navigators. The chief's belief that all are subject to the rule of law was categorical and unmoving.

"I doubt floggings will be necessary, we lost half our dock workers due to asphyxiation in plain view of the rest. Even then they had to float there hanging from the grav hooks in open space till we could get a patch on the doors. The dockworkers are going to sleep wearing those damn things for the next year if I don't miss my guess," he pulled out a pen and made a note on the page, " I might too for that matter provided we don't get someone in to scrub the smell out of the main halls soon. One of the sewage lines ruptured along the main drag. It's not a medical emergency yet but it will be if we don't disinfect the entire drag stem to stern before disease breaks out. The last thing we need right now is a cholera epidemic."

"I'd actually like to get the Belzafest survivors working on that sir," Donat's face showed no signs of restlessness but he was shifting nervously on his feet and looking down at a pocket watch every other moment, "The main drag is well guarded in case any of them try anything funny and it might do us some good to have the crew seeing them pitching in their share. Tempers are high, the last thing we want is for the crew to start thinking of the Belzafesters as spoiled or lazy. We have enough issues without starting a mutiny against a group of trained soldiers, even if they are from a backwater PDF regiment." He looked back down to his watch again.

"Am I keeping you from an appointment Mr. Enzo? One with someone more important?" Sáclair snatched the pocket watch out of Mr. Enzo's hand and looked at it. It was a heavy watch of Sezan designs, infinitely less fashionable than even one of Damascan make and dented in several places. I wasn't even gold or silver but one of the silvery metallic alloys favored by the crew for its durability rather than its style. In fact the only remarkable part of the watch was the inscription on the inside "So that you'll never be late no matter where you are" written inside in a child's messy hand underneath a portrait of a round cheeked blond child.

Donat responded in a voice of measured calm as he snatched back his watch, "Yes, Captain. As a matter of fact misters Danzig and Nor are not the only ones who have an immediate interest in being in hospital."

It was sometimes easy to forget that Donat had a daughter. He spoke so little of his family. It wasn't as though Sáclair had never met the man's wife and child. They were regularly in his court on business but they seemed to have developed Donat's talent for disappearing in plain view. Donat did not ever speak of emotion or love but Sáclair had never know the man to miss anything that he promised her he would attend at the Escole-Imperailis most of the officers sent their children to. Sáclair could not claim the same but he had five daughters and ten bastard sons, they couldn't expect him to show up for everything. Come to think of it he believed one of his bastard children was romantically interested in the girl. It was a pity really. Donat would never consent to a marriage between his daughter and a bastard. He would have to arrange someone suitable for the boy else there could be trouble on the horizon.

"Calm yourself Donny, we're all not at our best," Chief of Security Osma's stroked his hand through the messily groomed braids of beard handing from his face. The lower breed Damascan's had never been truly purged of their pagan ways but Osma's backwardness was a boon really. He was substantially less threatening for the crew to approach than his predecessor and did not judge guilt or innocence based upon breeding alone. Minor pagan irregularities were commonplace in the cult of the Emperor and few could be credited with true heresy. Osma was not of high birth but his meticulous successes made the nobility of the bounty willing to overlook that slight flaw of character. Or rather it did till they themselves were brought up on charges. Sáclair tolerated the pillbox hat and ceremonial knife worn in addition to the standard uniform of the Security Chief in the same way he tolerated the Lionhearts custom of calls to prayer six times a day over the intercoms. They were minor concessions that allowed the ship to function. He was a clever and capable head of security but his oratory was like close to listening to someone gargle rocks, "I'll have to insist that there is an additional security presence around the Belzafesters till the Inquisitor has had a chance to screen them for heretics. Oh don't give me that look Lieutenant, you can still have them cleaning the main drag, but I'm not going to risk any one of them going south and starting a fight or some damned fool heretic committing sabotage. It might to have some 'off duty' Lionhearts wandering around the ship as well, strapped with their side arms of course. I don't want them to do much other than be there just in case. We're not at martial law yet."

"It we might be soon," Sácomer kicked a foot in the air as he talked. His many chins wobbled as his beady eyes looked determinedly everywhere but at Sáclair, "Sir, we lost a good portion of our food supply in the attacks, grain, meat, most of the non-perishables. We even lost a good number of the livestock we'd been using for milk and eggs. If we start rationing now we'll probably be able to make it last a month in relative comfort, two if we tighten our belts," belt tightening was said with the same gravitas as one might refer to execution, "That's the least of our worries however. Mr. Enzo would you be so kind?"

"Of course Mr. Sácomer. Captian if I may?" he waved at the massive holo-lithic projector in the center of the great hall. Sánclair nodded and Donat pulled out a small remote. A massive glowing green rendering of the Endless Bounty appeared hovering in the middle of the room. The officers below stopped scurrying around to stare at it. Even their fear of extra duties would not stop them the chance to speculate about the conversations of the Captain. By this time the next day half the crew would speak of the conversations prompting the use of the great hololith though none of them could hear through Sáclair's privacy filters. Not that any of the crew would let a little thing like the truth get in the way of good gossip.

Donat twisted a knob on the remote and the image started to divide into a isometric cross section by deck. Areas of the ship damaged in the fight glowed red, including a number of major systems that made Sáclair cringe, "The sewage line bursting was only the tip of the iceberg. We lost most of our water reserves when the cisterns burst. We even if the water reclamation systems were to go nonstop for the next two days we could only force a weeks worth of water out of them. Less than that considering how many wounded we have. We need water, and soon. I've started dispatching the flight wings to search the surrounding area." Water, of course it had to be water. A body could go for days, or even weeks if deprived from food but a crew without adequate water would mutiny fast as anything Sáclair could imagine.

"We're looking for any viable planets or asteroids with something resembling potable water but we aren't very hopeful at the moment. Even if we were to find a source of it we'd need to run it through the filtration systems which, as has already been mentioned, aren't running at full capacity," Donat stared disapprovingly as Sáclair drank deeply from the wine pitcher. Donat was welcome to stuff his disapproval in the darkest pits of himself and keep it there, "I'd suggest a temporary hold on alcohol rations to the crew. We can't hope to slow down the black market but it would be best to avoid the problems that come with drunkenness in addition to those that come with lack of food and water."

Osma grunted his approval. He was astoundingly puritanical in his dislike of alcohol, another of his holdovers from the old Damascan tradition. Osma always made a point of pretending not to notice that Sáclair drank and generally excused himself from functions where imbibing alcohol was custom, "I already have extra guards sent to oversee the merchant sectors and storage areas. With all the shuffling and chaos going on it might be some days before anyone realizes that code-lock on the storage containers isn't simply some machine sprit going rampant."

"Very well, do your best. We'll meet again in eight hours unless something pressing comes up in the meanwhile. Mr. Enzo I realize that you'll be wanting to spend some time in the Hospital with your girl. I will take your shift," he raised a hand before Donat could speak, "Yes I realize I need to rest Mr. Enzo. I will do so, and soon. Lord knows my wife has no intention of letting me sit on this chair more than is strictly necessary, but family takes precedence over duty at times. Not always, mind you, but I am loath to hoist more unpleasantness on us than we can avoid. You may all go, except for you Navigator Calven. I still have business with you."

"That you sir," Donat patted the pocket in which he kept his chronometer and turned to one of the great hovering marble slabs that ferried people too and from Sáclair's throne. The others followed him closely, eager to get to their respective duties and to sleep. Osma paused briefly to shoot a mistrusting look at the Navigator before boarding the platform with the rest. It made a slight sucking noise as it sunk beyond the limits of the privacy filter and sunk to the floor of the great hall.

"My answer about the Astronomicon hasn't changed just because we're in private captain," Zorn's near translucent fingers held his elegant snuffbox. He snorted a pinch of it and shook his head slightly before pursing his lips and continuing, "There's little to filter out worth mentioning."

"And what was there to filter," Sáclair was not foolish enough to take a navigator at his word alone. Their own sense of entitlement often gave them the impression that anything possible of escaping their notice was not worth noticing, "You need not dilute your speech. I am neither ignorant of your craft nor am I blind to obvious omissions."

The Navigator smiled wrily and pulled out the star map once more. He fumbled with the controls for a moment and a handful of bright white lights appeared in the spiraling green mass of stars, "Setvan and I have searched for the great beacon of mankind but we've had no luck. There are, however, lesser beacons spread throughout nearby space. Small and insignificant by comparison to the glorious light of the Astronomicon and the psychic choirs of Terra but they're none the less. They bear a passing resemblance to the hardwired astropathic relays we use for interplanetary communication."

"I thought you said there were no signs of civilization in the area?" A deep sinking feeling was overtaking the Captain. Sáclair hoped he was wrong about the meaning of the white lights but he doubted it.

"I said there was no Imperial civilization in the area sir," Zorn looked altogether too excited at the prospect of being beyond the known frontiers, "I suspect that this method of directing warp travel is a xenos methodology. I did not mention it because there is no reason to start a panic. It's not the working of any of the known enemies of the Empire, nor recorded in the annuls of the Dark Age."

"So they could attack us at any moment?"

"Sir they're either unaware we're here, or ignoring us, or deciding if we're a threat to them, or doing any one of a million things. We know as much about the probability of being attacked here as we do about how to predict the comings and goings of Eldar Corsairs," he shrugged, "I can't do much more than speculate at the moment. I've held off on sending out an astropathic distress signal for just that reason. We have no idea who will get it or how they will react. And frankly I'm a bit unsure of the quality of any transmissions we send we'll have to sedate an astropath heavily before we can get them to be compliant. You know as well as I and better sir, a drug addled mind tends to be more susceptible to the predications of the warp."

"Send it," Sánclair ran a hand through his hair, "Wide band, no decryptions. If we don't get water soon it won't matter what the Imperial Cult thinks of our actions. We'd be far beyond even their reach. I'll have Osma post guards with you in a private astropathic communications cell. That ought to give you the privacy you need to keep this off the lips of the crew and ought to allow us to contain the damage if it all goes pear shaped."

"Could not such a course be seen as unwise?" Zorn's voice of concern did not mirror the look of pleasure on his face, "Our past history of interacting with xenos is what got the ship indentured to the Inquisitor to begin with. Such actions could be problematic."

"It's not heresy for a damaged ship to call out for aid. We need to get water from somewhere." Sáclair looked pensive, "The Inquisitor has mentioned circumstances that merited interactions with xenos in the past. He has them on retainer for Throne's sake," Calven raised an eyebrow un mild surprise, though Sáclair doubted it was genuine, "I'll talk to him about getting some special dispensation from the Inquisition to pardon our sins on the offhand chance we're exceeding our writ of trade."

"And if the Inquisitor decides that it's heresy for us to even entertain the notion of trading with Xenos?" Zorn's smile went wide, "What will you do then?"

"I prefer not to speculate on such unfortunate circumstances Mr. Calven, " Sáclair said in a voice of ruthless composure, "Send the distress signal. Take Sácomer with you, he's senior enough to negotiate with any xenos or humans who might get the signal. Do it sooner rather than later."

"Of course Captain," Zorn smiled cruelly, "I know you'll act in the best interest of the ship."
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-02-07 12:50am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
The main drag was an utter mess. People cleaned their shop windows with buckets and mops soaked in cleaning solvents. Servitors, blessedly unable to smell the filth they were in, skittered about the broken septic lines fixing, cleaning, welding and sealing. The smell was overpowering. Sørian gagged and pulled his scarf tight over his mouth. By the gods but that stank, even through the perfumed oils and opiates he'd soaked the soft wool in it stank. Then again, he always though the lower levels stank of the filth that lived in them, "low breed scum, all of them."

The wool of his cloak itched on skin more accustomed to the more refined smoothness of silk. Silk would have drawn attention to him though. A man in silk and velvet did not walk through murk and mire lest he had dire pressing need. It was unlikely anyone would question that need today but any efforts he could make to go unnoticed would better serve his purposes. Keep out of the eyes of security and the crew alike, "Wouldn't want them thinking too hard about where I'm going now would I?"

He blinked briefly then remembered his bondservant was not with him to laugh at his jokes. The servant had been left behind to oversee the repairs of Sørian's quarters. With luck there would be a hot bath and some warm honeyed wine waiting for him when he returned to his apartments. He'd need a bath to be sure; it would not be fitting to pray while still caught in the stink of this place. His patron did so tend to be fickle about such things. The Prince of Excess was truly magnificent but his moods swung fast as any of the gods, well any of the gods save that blithering ruler of fools Khorne. It was just as well that prayers to his god proved as enjoyable as they were, the less subtle sacrifices asked by the other patrons would have been noticed even in the Endless Bounty's state of disarray. A pity he'd have to put off finding a partner at the moment but the Amon Sui waited for no man.

He held his breath as security walked by. They'd have no cause to stop him. By all rights he should be down in the drag surveying the damages but it could prove indelicate were they able to draw a pattern between his strolls and certain misfortunes to overcome the Endless Bounty. He watched the bright uniforms of the officers, crisp even in the current state of the Drag, round the corner before he raised his head. He walked at a brisk pace, taking care not to seem that he was in too much of a hurry or too interested in heading anywhere in particular, till he reached the door of marked with a painting of a green hand. The hand itself was unremarkable on the Endless Bounty. The green fist of Amon was still a common household sigil. The scent of almonds and vinegar was unmistakable, the implanted nerve cluster picked up the pheromones clear as day.

He pushed the door open and had to bite back the urge to scream as a lithe figure wrapped in black synthaskin and blue silks yanked him through the door and put a serrated knife to his throat. He knew from experience the knife was poisoned with a pain-inducing paralytic. He stared into the eyeless porcelain mask of the woman and spoke in slow measured tones, "For the glory of the hand that grasps I come, for the glory of the hand that holds I come, for the glory of the hand that gives I come, for the glory of the hand I come."

He briefly wondered it she would accidentally knick him with the blade just to watch him twitch in pain. Their patron would appreciate that certainly. It wouldn't be the first time either. He'd never been able to figure out how the cultist knew that they shared the same dark patron. These meetings of the Amon Sui never exchanged names or showed faces without masks but he had instantly been recognized by the cultist as one of the Prince's flock. She delighted in testing his faith to their prince and patron. His more subtle excesses of drink and vice never sat well with her more violent excesses of rage and passion. Her body relaxed and she rubbed up against Sørian exquisitely as she rose from the ground, Sørian swallowed as he felt her shifting weight lift off him. He tried to ignore the way the synthaskin body sleeve conformed to every curve of her body, "Must we go through this every damned time I attend a meeting you pretentious bitch."

She spun her knife in her hand, leaned against the wall, and arched her back. She really did have curves. She giggled and spoke in husky tones, "The prince enjoys all excesses. Pain and pleasure, suffering and decadence, they're all the same to him. We must all be willing to bring our own ends to further his."

"Piss off you harridan of a woman," the curt tones of Adric Alan cut in. Sørian was not supposed to recognize Alan. None of the agents were supposed to recognize each other, that way if they were captured none of them could be traced back to each other. In fact only Phoneutria, the head of their organization, was supposed to know the true names of all members of the order. He knew that Adric recognized him as well but proprieties sake they referred to each other by their code names. Sørian was no more "Latrodectus" than Adric was "Atrax" or the cultist was "Hexathelidae" but needs were musts. There was a circle of some thirty or so men and women with similarly fake names and negotiable allegiances. A wide circle of bodyguards and attendants stood around them, silent and masked. They were prepared for the first signs of trouble. They were not all devotees of the dark gods, though he suspected many were. The Amon Sui were willing to turn a blind eye to such things. Orders were usually given privately, either through dead drops or coded messages, but once a week the group met just so that Phoneutria could issue more pressing orders to the group.

In the center of room was girl strapped to a pole. She sobbed quietly. Her tears stained her already mussed dress. Sørian though she was familiar though he could not place from where. She must be a noble's daughter for him to remember the face. He wouldn't have bothered to memorize a common crewman's no matter how pretty. It would have been beneath him. The girls cries and whimpers were mildly interesting but the holo-projector next to him showing the narrow, proud form of Phoneutria was what really caught his attention. The man's image shimmered as it paced backwards and forwards around the circle, eyeing ever man in the circle with contempt. Phoneutria was the only one who never bothered to wear a mask. Sørian had never seen the man, though he had often glimpsed around the great hall hoping to see him and to know him for whom he really was.

His haughtiness and slurred speech marked him as one of upper Amon stock, though where an upper Amon might be hiding on the bounty was a mystery to Sørian. Few were allowed to say other than those who bowed and bent to the whims of the Inquisitor. His stomach churned to think of the once proud Amon bowing and bending and preening around the Inquisitor. Phoneutria was certainly not one of them. His ranting would have been difficult to forget.

"I expect an explanation for your lateness Latrodectus," he slurred out. The hologram stared slightly beyond Sørian giving the distinct impression that Phoneutria was blind, "You were expected on the hour. It is already half past."

Sørian thought of the pain inducers at the cultist's belt. Phoneutria was fond of public examples, "There were difficulties in acquiring discreet passage. I would not risk your safety."

"Of course you wouldn't," Phoneutria gave no impression that he believed a word of it but allowed him to enter the circle with the others, "Arrive late twice and I might start considering Hexathelidae's proposals with a more liberal eye."

He wasn't joking. Phoneutria had no sense of humor to speak of. Sørian managed to say composed in spite of Hexathelidae's insufferably pleased expression. He would have to show up early for the next year to avoid ending up as part of Hexathelidae's prayers to her patron, "If you so wish it. I will obey without hesitation."

"Your willingness is irrelevant only your obedience matters to me or to us," He clicked his tongue off his teeth and turned to the center of the circle, "And it seems that we've had a rash of disobedience lately. I give simple orders. When I give one I expect it to be obeyed, for the glory of the hand and the might of the Amon Sui," his holographic hand brushed the face of the sobbing girl, "When we do not obey punishment must be met."

He tossed his arms wide and resumed his frenzied pacing, "We are in the center of the wilderness lost to the Empire. Think of it! Virgin stars, untamed lands, everything the guild could dream to have. We risk of losing it all if Faust decides not to return and share the means by which he achieved it. We promised to bring this ship to its knees before we reached Belzafest. In that we failed," he shot a murderous look at the girl, "We promised to kill the Inquisitor when he made planet fall. Our agents never even saw him set foot on the ground of the planet. And why," he looked to the girl, "Inaction. We have lacked proper motivation. Hexathelidae darling would you please come over here. You too Latrodectus."

The two jumped into action nearly running to the center of the circle. Hexathelidae was staring at the girl with barely controlled anticipation behind the porcelain covering all but her eyes. The knives seemed ready to pop out from the webbing about her shoulders and corset and into her hands at a moment's notice. Sørian suspected he had a similar expression on his face. Phoneutria rarely provided treats such as this.

Phoneutria pretended not to notice, "You all know of my punishments as theory as ideals. None of you know of them as realities. It is time that changed. Hexathelidae and Latrodectus are going to show you what happens to those who do not finish their planned duties in a timely fashion." He leaned in and whispered, "Consider this a girl. Pretty little thing isn't she. Her father was tasked with delaying the efforts of Magos Kerrigan. Not a true believer some have accused, just a fool with a love of gold and a lack of understanding for his proper duty. The explosives were never detonated and the inquisitor lives. Worse still he nearly failed to complete his part of the prophet's revival. A simple task of insurmountable importance he blunders so blindly that we are forced to dispose of members of the Mago's retinue in secret," his lip curled as though saying the name brought him great pain, "He failed and so he must give penance to our cause to prove his loyalty. This girl is my price."

The circle of men and women stood silent and impassive, none wishing to show recognition or fear. A short, knobby-legged man squeaked and shifted his shoulders as though about to say something. Phoneutria shifted his eyes to the man, "A hefty price for you. Flesh and blood for failure, her life to save yours. That was my price."

The man's voice cracked as he replied, "A price willingly paid in service of the hand," he voice grew squeaky as the girl screamed though her gag, "I have other daughters after all, an she's only a bastard."

"Indeed," Phoneutria smiled, "Then she means nothing to you? Nothing at all."

"I part with her willingly," the man's voice evened as he felt more secure in his safety. His shoulders did not relax but he ceased drumming his hand on his left leg, "I am a supplicant to the whims of the hand."

Phoneutria snapped his fingers and the two large bodyguards behind the knobby legged man grabbed his arms and dragged him forwards. Sørian noted the slightly fearful looks in all the Amon Sui agent's eyes. The man struggled against the two meaty fists holding him in place, "I'm your master bondsman. Unhand me."

"No sir," the man's gravely voice replied, "I am in contracted in your service through the Amon Sui. It to them that I belong or have you forgotten?"

The man kicked and yelled in panic and dawning comprehension, "Sir! Phoneutria! I gave you what you asked for. I served you loyally."

Phoneutria laughed, "Foolish man, a sacrifice has no meaning if it holds no value to you. I take what you offer and more for your arrogance. Hexathelidae, Latrodectus, I believe that it is high time since your crafts have been honed," Sørian and Hexathelidae bowed in deference before following the strong-arm guards forcing the knobby legged man and his daughter into the back room. A room Sørian knew to be soundproof from experience, a room where he gained boons from his god. As the door slowly closed the voice of Phoneutria rang clear. "Oh and Latrodectus do remember to not be late again. I should be very cross if you were to be late again."

The shifting reds of hyperspace were endlessly passing the false window, bathing everyone in the bridge with a dull red glow. At the center of the bridge, sitting stiffly and observing his crew with an expression of mild disapproval was a man with a ruff of great hear that stuck out like a peacock's feathers. The man's hair and everything about his dress was tailored specifically to reflect his status and bloodline. Seated at the command consuls were young men with similar, though smaller, crests of feathered hair. The only man in the room wearing a crest of hair vaguely as grand as Captian Ibil's, was an abstentious looking man in the broad striped silks of the Psychic's guild. Ibil sat with his elbows on the armrests and his fingertips pressed together at his lips in an expression of concentration.

"Pretty, isn't it sir?" asked a young officer with a broad smile and smug eyes. One of a number of officers assigned to the primus by blood rather than merit, thought Ibil. They did have a habit of opening their mouths in order to prove their inexperience. For reasons beyond his understanding his new recruits were convinced that a captain staring out into hyperspace was thinking deep thoughts rather than doing what any sane person did while on standby in hyperspace. Namely thinking of everywhere you would rather be than sitting in a chair staring at shifting red nothingness for ten hour shifts, "Shame it's only a view screen and not a real window. I want to be able to see our enemies with my own eyes, look in to their hearts."

"Mr. Marran I suggest in future you simply shut your lips and look like a fool rather than open your lips and prove my suspicions," The Bridge of a Primus had no true windows. It was seated in the ships heart behind many thick sheets of armored metal and ceramics. The command crew of the "Majesty of Morva" was seated at their posts. The Centauri went through great pains to ensure that the exact location of the bridge on a primus was slightly different from ship to ship. It was more expensive to produce ships that way. Substantially more expensive than the cost of making the newer, faster Vorchan class warships but it prevented Narn saboteurs from being able to sneak to the bridge and assassinate high-ranking officials and officers. Unfortunately for Captain Ibil Movan it also meant that the servants responsible from bringing him hot Jala was always insufferably late in coming. Not for the first time since being given the duty of patrolling the wild space at the edge of Drazi territory did he curse the name of Vocator Reefa for condemning him to this pitiful scrap of nowhere.

What matter was it to the great Centauri if the Drazi were to choose to attack their neighbors? The great Centauri Lion ought to be stretching its claws and grasping back the territories lost, not watching the lesser powers fighting over table's scraps. It was a sad time to be a Centauri for sure. He rubbed his hand over his generous forehead and muttered darkly as his aide strode into the room carrying a glass of hot Jala on a silver platter. Ibil must have done something to set himself in disfavor with his house to earn him the misfortune of such an addlebrained aide; the boy walked with altogether too much pride for his station but it was perhaps to be expected from house Reefa, "Great Maker! Did you feel the need to walk every corridor in the ship before coming?"

"Apologies sir, I'm not used to the ships layout yet. My previous posting was on a luxury liner, I could not find a map of the ship."

"Addlebrained child, this is a warship not a pleasure liner. There are no maps posted on the walls nor will there ever be," he shared a pained look with the guardsman to his right. The guardsman, in the tight breeches and green jacket of house Movan stared back impassively. Just as well he didn't talk, a soldier who wasted too much time on words was a fool in Ibil's mind. He looked to the data pad in his aide's hand being careful not to say the aide's name and risk giving any impression of approval, "I'll take my messages now as well boy. Be quick about it."

His aide scowled as he put down the tray on the table next to Ibil and looked down to the data pad, "You've received several messages from home-world sir. Your wife has laid out a list of the expenses of your household that she had billed to your personal accounts. I'd suggest altering the access codes to them soon sir, there are some irregularities in the accounting." Unsurprising but not tragic, it was a wife's prerogative to steal from her husband in case of divorce or dishonor in later life. The next message was just as mundane but no less frustrating, "It would seem that we've surrendered another colony to the Narn or rather are about to soon. House Reefa seems to believe that we will soon be forced to retreat from quadrant 37."

"Another glorious victory for the Centauri Republic," muttered Ibil darkly. The Emperor was not as great of a leader as his father. His father had perhaps had a taste for war beyond what was strictly necessary but the new Emperor was almost six rods short of a man. Most people said so in private though none had the political power to do much else than mutter darkly. There was little impetus to do more than talk though. Taking over the Empire at this point was a fool's errand, who wants to be the next in a line of failing Emperors?

His Aide continued, "There's also a general order about our mission in wild space warning us to beware of Drazi warships and… I believe that we need to get a doctor into the bridge as soon as is possible."

"Is our mission making you ill boy?"

"No sir," he protested though his expression had gone distinctly nauseous, "But I believe the honorable representative of the Guild of Psychers is in some considerable pain."

He was right. Elan Vashan was swaying drunkenly as he gritted his teeth together moaning. He was gripping the sash that marked his rank within psychic's guild tightly, stretching the silk to the point of breaking. Two guardsmen ran from Ibil's side to help steady the guild representative. The psychic's face had gone totally white and his eyes were unfocused. The tentacles wrapped around his pelvis shifted and jerked beneath his shirt indecently. His arms and legs twitched. He muttered to himself darkly as he steadied himself, walked over behind a hanging tapestry, and emptied the contents of his stomach.

Ibil winced at the scent of vomit, "Call the doctor to the bridge. Mr. Vashan seems to have taken ill." He waved to his aide.

"No! Not… not ill," Elan Vashan wiped at his face with his sleeve, "Not me anyway. I don't know about him."

"I see. He's the one in pain then?" said a slightly apprehensive Ibil. Elan was starting at a blank patch of gilded metal on the wall with wrapped attention, "Rush that order for the doctor Mr. Reefa."

"Great maker! Listen, I am not ill and I am not hallucinating. I'm fine just listen," his tone was anything but fine, "I just received a message, at least I think it was a message. There's someone out here lost, in trouble. They want help."

Par Milla, the comms officer, looked up perplexed, "I haven't received any distress signals in hours sir. Are you sure you've not taken ill. Fever will make a man imagine any number of things."

Elan closed his eyes in an apparent effort to resist the urge to scream, "To hell with fever. I don't give a damn what you have and have not received. There is a distress signal being sent out from a nearby system… by someone not recorded in Centauri history. No race I can think of has such powerful psychics."

"The Vorlons?" Mr. Reefa looked hopeful. Ibis couldn't blame him. The idea of coming to a Vorlon's rescue had a distinct appeal to it.

"The Vorlons send tachyon transmissions the same as anyone else… at least I think they do. I suppose they could send a telepathic distress signal, they're rumored to be able to any number of things," Ibil twisted the stem of his glass between his thumb and index finger watching the green liquid swirl, "But I can't see them pleading with one of the lesser races for help. And even if they did, what can we do against something that troubles a Vorlon?"

"Sir, if we don't help whomever it is sending the message I do suspect I will go mad. It's like being trapped in a room with someone distinctly infuriating who won't stop talking," Elan said in a pained voice, "And I suspect I should become an infuriating man in this bridge till someone was so kind as to liberate me of the noise."

"Don't be melodramatic Mr. Elan," Ibis smiled, "And calm your nerves. I intend to respond to your distress signal. It isn't as though we're saddled with an abundance of other pressing matters. I suspect the Drazi will survive without us for the next few hours without the benevolent gaze of the Centauri Republic's finest."

"Of course sir. I knew you would make the right choice. I have absolute confidence in your judgment," he said in a voice of great anticipation, "I'm not sure exactly where the signal is coming from but I believe it's in this direction." The psychic pointed off into the void of hyperspace.

It was strange to be traveling through hyperspace without exact co-ordinates of the destination. The Majesty of Morva was not a particularly agile ship and every time Elan decided that they were going in the wrong direction course corrections took longer than Ibis would normally care for. Elan was taking them farther and farther into wild space, the area at the rim of the known galaxy. Little was known about the rim and few expeditions were willingly taken to it. It was an odd place where many dark races were rumored to live and only a handful of known hyperspace gates existed.

Elan was determined to drag them as far into that scrap of nowhere as he could, farther and farther from the network of hyperspace gates. Farther from safety, perhaps this would be a true first contact situation after all. The men who made first contact with other races were often richly paid for their efforts in land and titles. The ill-fated Centauri first contact with the Dilgar had been rewarded by the Centarum in spite of fiasco. The Centauri hated unknowns. The unknown could not be prepared for or used and was insufferably prone to destroying the machinations of the noble houses. Those who made the unknown matters of the universe known and quantifiable were rewarded accordingly.

"Just a bit farther," Elan muttered to himself. His eyes were closed and his ear was raised as though he was trying to hear something in the distance. He opened his eyes and tapped on the display in front of officer seated at navigation controls, "There. We need to exit there."

The Majesty of Morva's hyperdrive generator hummed into life and a swirling window opened in front of it. After a brief flash of light the view screen shifted from images of a swirling red maelstrom to blackness of space dappled with pinpricks of starlight. They'd existed into a binary star system with seven planets, twenty one moons, and one great hulking mass of spaceship in orbit of the fourth moon of the fifth planet.

"It would seem Mr. Elan's fever is catching. For if he's going mad then I suppose I am as well," chuckled the navigation officer.

"Great Maker that's a large ship!" Ibis muttered darkly. It was easily three times the size of the Majesty of Morva, "Not a transport certainly."

The tactical officer Pex Wen was starting at readout with wrapped attention. Pex was running his fingers through his ridiculous goatee and drumming his fingers on his knee "I believe it's a warship. It certainly has enough guns to be one. Then again even a transport is capable of carrying guns."

"Is this a trap?" Ibis said as the viewscreen zoomed in closer to the ship. It was most certainly well armed even if it wasn't a warship. A number of smaller craft were darting about it, moving to the planet below and to the moons beyond, "A large ship doesn't guarantee great weapons but I'd prefer not to chance it."

"I would assume their signal is genuine. They aren't making any efforts to use electronic countermeasures and there are several gaping holes in the hull that have only recently been patched. You don't plan an ambush with a single damaged warship, even a large one," Pex muttered to himself, "There are some strange energy readings to this ship though, readings I can't place."

"I would be astounded if we were able to just guess at the purposes of every system," Ibil stood up and walked over to the tactical display, "Do they know we're here?"

"They know… muttered Elan," the psychic sat down on the floor, "I can't understand the thoughts exactly but I understand the message. They're frightened but glad to see another person. At least I think they are, the specifics are always confusing when communicating with non-Centauri minds," he started pawing at his sash, "I think I've managed to convince him that we're no danger to them, at least for now."

"Hail them Mr. Milla," Ibis smiled, "Its about time we met our new friends."

"I've tried sending tachyon signals but they're not responding sir," the young officer was looking perplexed, "I think that they must rely on psychics for long ranged communications," his eyes widened as the gears turned in his head, "And why would they? If they're going to send out distress signals though psychics then why not use them exclusively for long-range communications? Sir I don't know if I'm even going to be able to reach these people."

"Don't be too sure of that Mr. Milla," Pex sounded pleased with himself, "Check microwave band and radio transmissions and try running them through an audio-visual encoder. I suspect that their short range transmissions might be more viable."

"Microwave? Damned primitives," muttered Milla as he re-calibrated the communications network, "By the Gods they're definitely sending out radio signals and microwave signals to communicate between the larger ship and the smaller ones."

"Can the language programs translate?" This was looking increasingly better to Ibis. He could think of at least one technology these primitives might want to trade for right off the bat.

"Doubtful sir," Milla shook his head, "Not without a frame of reference. And even then," he looked down at a flashing light, "sir, I think they're hailing us."

"Then respond Maker take you! We can't afford to anger them this early into a first contact situation," Ibis couldn't help but wonder what they would look like. Would they be bipedal like the Humans and Narn or insectoid like the Gaim, or even crystalline as some claimed the Vorlons to be? He briefly amused himself with fantasies of a race of beautiful promiscuous women with smooth heads and golden skin. Great Maker it had been far too long since he'd last attended a gentleman's establishment.

"Just calibrating a few things sir," Millan muttered as he jiggled the controls, "And there we go!"

The entire bridge crew held its collective breath as a image flickered into life on the viewscreen and Ibis looked at a scene that seemed familiar but at the same time altogether alien. The first thing Ibis noticed was the wide double-headed bird of prey painted onto the wall behind the aliens. The solid gold of the eagle stood out garishly against the crimson paint on the wall. In front of the wall were figures that shared a passing resemblance to the Centauri, but only a passing one. A group of figures wearing hooded red cloaks fringed with black and white checks were clustered around a smaller, somewhat frazzled looking alien strapped into a chair. White globes with mechanical arms hovered about the machine, adjusting and tweaking it. In front of that cluster were two men; at least he assumed they were men, facing the camera. The first was almost skeletal looking and pallid. He had a milky white eye third sitting in the center of his forehead that glowed slightly. The man to his right was, for lack of a better word, massive, not muscular just large. Great folds of blubber hung down from his arms and his entire body was suspended from a mechanical frame.

The blubbery man and the smaller man raised their arms to their chests, crossing them with thumbs locked and fanning them over their chests. The larger man spoke at friendly pace in alien speech, "Guten Tag creatura foris plurrimi sanctus terra Imperator. Dhe paqe qoftë mbi ju." He smiled widely in what Ibis hoped was a friendly gesture. Considering the man's considerable girth Ibis couldn't help but wonder what prey this species ate to make it so large.

Still it couldn't hurt to be polite. He responded by offering his hands palms up and saying, "Greetings from the Centauri Republic. I offer you the hands of friendship!"

The wobbling chins shook with approval. Apparently the hands of friendship had some sort of similar cultural basis. The man spoke in the alien tones again apparently eager to get to business. Ibis turned to Elan, "Do they realize we can't understand a word they're saying?"

"Apparently not. I'll try to explain it," Elan scrunched up his face and grunted. The men in the Alien ship turned around to the man strapped to the chair as he started to speak. Ibis realized with dawning horror that the man strapped into the machine must be a psychic, the chair he sat in was probably way permitted him to send psychic transmissions into hyperspace. Moreover it seemed likely that the psychic had no choice in the matter, one rarely shackled themselves to a chair of their own volition. More alarmingly after closer examination the globe like robots flitting about the room were quite clearly built to resemble skulls. No, not to resemble skulls, they were skulls.

The large man, apparently unaware of Ibis revulsion, turned from the psychic and bowed slightly. Apparently he was apologizing for his rudeness. Ibis bowed back, "Mister Milla would you be so kind as to transmit the first contact protocols to them via microwave transmission. I would like to be able to actually do more than bow at some point."

"Of course sir."

The two men on the other ship turned to the cluster of men in red robes when one of them started to speak. The voice was distinctly metallic. It seemed entirely possible that the men in red robes were some form of android or servant species to the other two. One of the androids pulled up a red box and asked something of the larger man. The larger man smiled and nodded.

"Well men, prepare to receive their language codes, this went about as smoothly as I could hope for," Ibis smiled to himself. His contentment did not last. As soon as the men in red turned back to the man on the chair and tapped into the small computer Elan began to scream. Ibis jerked back in horror and looked up at the men on the screen, "Stop damnit! Stop!"

The skeletal man rounded on the men behind him, "Stop jetzt! Vacuus creatura de apparatus, Stop jetzt pro EGO Träne sicco vestri pectus pectoris of lux lucis! Nos brauchen lemma."

One of the metal men responded impassively, "Nos can non subsisto. Phasmatis of apparatus hat einen eigenen Willen. Wissen du geest est partis per mens."

"Disconnect the transmission," Ibis yelled, "Do it now!"

"Do I fire on them sir! Do I fire on them?" The tactical officer was starting at the twitching psychic with mounting apprehension. Ibis was tempted to agree with him, they needed to get out of that system quickly. He might have been too eager to dismiss the ship as a threat.

"No!" Elan spat up a bloody glob of spittle, "They aren't attacking. They're sharing their language and basic math," he grunted in pain, "At least I think that's what's happening. I don't think they intended for this to be sent to someone who wasn't prepared for it."

Elan groaned in frustration, "Somebody get me paper," he waved away the soldier helping him to his feet, "to the abyss with standing up just get me some damned paper."

"Even so I must insist that we leave the system immediately," the tactical officer had already started typing in the commands to warm up the hyperspace engines, "We can head for homeworld and regroup."

"Fine, send them the co-ordinates for Babylon 5 and get us out of here. We've done our duty. Let Mollari deal with this mess." Ibis was not looking forward to this debriefing on the home world. It would be a nightmare.

-----

Please review. Any input at all is useful.

I'm combining german, latin, and albanian to make "Gothic" anything that is said in gothic will be either explained later in the story or will made clear by context (hopefully). I always find it annoying when everyone in the damn universe speaks English or to have a Western Uk/American perspective on life.
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Faabio
PostPosted: 2011-02-07 09:35am 

Padawan Learner


Joined: 2003-11-16 11:18am
Posts: 162
Location: Raahe, Finland
Excellent more good stuff. I liked the parts where the Captain and officers etc. are going over the damages and how to solve the different problems. Gives a nice feel to the things going on in the ship. Makes it feel more alive I think. I read the version posted on FFnet so don't know about this one but there were some minor misspellings like captain = captian and so forth. Anyways can't wait for more especially now that were in B5 proper. Keep up the good work.
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LadyTevar
PostPosted: 2011-02-07 06:55pm 

White Mage


Joined: 2003-02-12 11:59pm
Posts: 17601
Location: Tahalshia Manor
OH very well done.
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DarkAscendant
PostPosted: 2011-02-14 09:20pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2009-02-18 08:50am
Posts: 33
tortieconspiracy wrote:
I believe that JMS is on record as saying that Vorlons are sort of crystalline entities, not that we ever got a good look, even in the episode the Shadows killed Kosh which I think is the only time we really see him out of the environment suit without putting on a humanoid seeming. In the episode where he rescued Sheridan from being thrown from the core shuttle, everyone saw their personal conception of an angel or their world's nearest equivalent, well, except Londo who saw nothing.


I got all my information from 'Darkness And Light: The Vorlon & Shadow Fact Book'.

http://www.4shared.com/get/oA0bCJ8V/Babylon_5_1E_-_Darkness__Light.html

The Vorlons sound like some kind of transhumanist wet dream.
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-02-16 04:40am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
Generally speaking the common peoples of The Endless Bounty were not granted the privilege of a Noble's funeral. There were a number of crematoriums based around the plasma reactors that saw to their needs. The crematoriums had been incapacitated by the damage to the ship meaning that it could be a matter of days before the bodies were all properly cremated. The bodies would fester and rot in that time. Neither Danzig nor Father Al'Ashir wanted that. So to expedite the process they decided to simply bury the lot as Lionhearts.

Some of the nobles had protested the decision. They'd gone as far as to petition at Sáclair's seat of power in the great hall. The idea of their relatives being sent off with the commoners was 'distasteful and beyond acceptable'. Daul chuckled at the thought of the face of Bertrand Gauge and the other self-important nobles when Sáclair had let loose. Daul doubted that Sáclair would actually fire them out the airlock with the other 'useless dead weight'. Apparently the nobility of the bounty wasn't so sure, effectively silencing the privileged and self-important.

Thousands cramped into the wide space of one of the many docking bays that lined the Endless Bounty. Every crewman and noble not actively engaged in repairs was in attendance. Daul walked through the sobbing crowd of mourners. They gave the Inquisitor a wide berth. He noticed that even behind their white veils of mourning, none of the crew dared look him in the eye. Even bandaged and bruised as he was an Inquisitor was to be feared. He wished Cairn was with him. As soon as the Skitarii had been sure Daul was properly bandaged Cairn had excused himself to assist with the death preparations for the Adeptus Mechanicus. Thus it was necessary for a substitute to serve as Daul's bodyguard. Dorn was out of the question; Sáclair was loath to allow the Archo-flagellant on his ship while comatose.

How Cairn had purchased the services of one of the ships indentured Ogryn in the few short hours Daul slept was yet another of Cairn's mysteries but hire one he had. For that matter he was unsure how he'd already purchased a suit emblazoned with Daul's personal heraldry for the Ogryn. Galut was as malodorous and clumsy as one could expect from an Ogryn. Daul was reasonably convinced that Galut had eaten the wax fruit from the anteroom of his chambers but had great hulking thews as thick as Daul's chest was broad.

Daul winced as he adjusted the sword belt at his side. Even with some of the accelerated healing salves and pain killing regents applied by Cairn his broken ribs still throbbed. All things considered he had managed to escape the conflict relatively unharmed. The wide space of the loading bay was full of the bodies of those who had not been so lucky. The linen covered corpses of several hundred crewmen, nobles, and soldiers were laid out side by side on the floor of the other side of the airlock, equal in death. The Damascan tradition was to burn the bodies of the dead, any bodies buried in Damascus soil would be dug up by the native creatures of Damascus in short order. The Lionhearts followed that tradition to its logical extreme. They dropped the bodies of their dead into a sun so that they could become part of the universe they traversed.

Galut frowned and rubbed his large hands together, "I don' like funerals. Too much death."

"Nobody likes funerals Gaul," Daul had this same conversation with the Ogryn twice already. Galut was easily sidetracked, "We do them because we have to, not because we want to."

"Don' smell right sir," the Ogryn muttered. Daul was sure he saw something in the abhuman's teeth that hadn't died yet.

"Try holding your breath as long as you can," muttered Daul sarcastically, he missed the infinitely more expedient services of Cairn, "Air is where the smell is kept."

"Good idea sa' I'll do tha' eh?" The large man breathed in deeply and puffed out his cheeks as far as he could.

"It is good to see you up and about Inquisitor. The rumors of your demise were clearly exaggerations," Daul turned around and found himself face to face with the diminutive ship's Chaplain. Al'Ashir was a portly man with a thick braided beard a tall back hat. Small golden Aquilla and prayers of purity were stitched into the fabrics of his robe and hat, spelled in the flowing script of ancient Damascan. Chained to the belt at his waist was a thick tome, covered in red leather. Like all prayer books of the bounty it had been made by hand, copied and engraved lovingly by Father Al'Ashir himself. He was a man of the Emperor and a man of Faith, but not a man of blind obedience least of all to the Inquisition.

"Such a waste," muttered Father Al'Ashir looking out the airlock at the bodies stacked like cordwood, "The loss of these men and women Inquisitor."

"It was the will of the Emperor Father," Daul smiled sadly. He almost actually believed it as he said, "The Emperor has a plan for us all. You mark that well."

"The greatest Heresies are committed by the most loyal before they've ever realized it Inquisitor. Do not let your righteousness overpower your sense," Father Al'Ashir started flipping through the well worn pages of his prayer book, "Else we be forced to consign more men to the stars. Now go," he pointed to the crimson and gold silks in the distance, "You're the one who brought them here, you be the one to convince them of the righteousness of their deeds. I suspect they'll get greater comfort from your words than from mine."

"Of course Father, anything I can do to alleviate the pain of others… breathe you great lout!" he yelled up at the purpling face of the Ogryn, "Breathe! Breathe, for the love of the Emperor."

The Ogryn exhaled and looked down. Daul winced from the powerful halitosis, "It was working sir. I couldn't smell nothing! You're a thinker you is."

"Just come," Daul winced as he turned too quickly, "We have work to do."

It wasn't hard to find the Lionhearts. They were nothing if not flamboyant. Several hundred well-dressed soldiers were sitting on the floor in front of the airlock, each of them holding a musical instrument. There was not an arms length of space in front of the hundred meters of airlock door that was not occupied by a morose warrior minstrel. Song, with the Lionhearts there was always song in everything they did. When he got within about ten paces of the Lionhearts someone yelled out an order in Ancient Damascan.

Out of the lines of Lionhearts came Danzig, Sergi and Hamman. They were wore their best silk dress uniforms, crimson with gold lace sashes around their waists. Each had a saber strapped to his waist and had wrapped woolen bands of tasseled cloth around his head topping it with a black pillbox hat, "I welcome you Inquisitor. As you shed blood with the Lionhearts it is only fitting that you be here to see off the honored dead."

"I must confess I'm surprised it's Donat Enzo who is overseeing this ceremony and not Sáclair," the Captian didn't seem the type to miss a ceremony of this magnitude.

"It's an old custom I'm afraid," Danzig tucked his flute under his arm, "The Captain may never be physically present at a funeral for the Lionhearts, though he does play an important role. He must stand on the throne of the ship and personally control the docking bay doors to send them into the hereafter. It's viewed as a great honor."

"It is right to honor those who have aided in the cause of the Emperor's will," Daul sighed, "I only wish that we could have defeated Faust so that we could have properly earned their sacrifice."

Sergi adjusted the tassels from his scarf, "I wouldn't worry about it too much sir. I know that Semal would have felt dying to save what few of the Belzafesters we could was worth it." He looked pointedly at a crowd of people to the back of the wide docking bay wearing a mess of ragged dress blacks rather than the lacy whites favored by the crew of the Endless Bounty. They were hardly properly dressed for a funeral but dress clothes hadn't been a priority for the fleeing Belzafest colonists. Even at this distance and surrounded Endless Bounty the looks of gratitude from the colonists was absolute and unwavering, "It is good that we saved them."

Sergei's voice was friendly but had an edge to it. The caged Belzafest colonists they hadn't been able to save were clearly on his mind. Sergi could be a problem when Daul started checking the population for genetic manipulations.

Daul pointed to the men in crisp uniforms of the standing round the Belzafest colonists, "I see that you've appointed Osma's security forces to guard them till they've been properly screened. A wise choice."

"Indeed," Danzig interjected, "Oh don't give me that look Sergei. They were on the planet for a damned month with those… creatures. People have become heretics for reasons substantially less valid than fear for their own lives."

Sergei nodded slowly. He looked at the group with concern, "I suppose it's better to be safe than sorry. Still it's good that we save any of them at all, even if we do have to space a few heretics."

"A mere formality I'm sure," Hamman chortled, "They're a scraggily looking lot but they got away from Faust's troops quickly enough. Takes some real courage to plan hit and run attacks on those damned half-breeds. More still to chose to live in those poisoned mists for a month rather than surrender."

Danzig looked to his chronometer, "It's time," he turned to Daul, "You don't know the words to our songs of prayer but I offer you the opportunity to stand with us and witness the going of the fallen comrades."

"I accept," Daul nodded, "Without hesitation." Being allowed to stand with the Lionhearts at this ceremony would improve his political situation on the Endless Bounty substantially, "Galut, please be so kind as to stay here and stand watch." He took his place in the line of Lionhearts and recited as much of the Metzik prayers of purification as he could remember. He could not sing but it felt important to do something special for the fallen.

The inner doors to airlock began to close, separating the living from the dead. Father Al'Ashir's voice rang out over the speakers, leading the prayer chants for the fallen. They called for mercy. They called for absolution. They called for peace in death that had not been reached in life. They prayers of the Belzafesters too called for resolution and mercy but Daul noticed they added several prayers the 'Litanies of Retribution' during the normally refrain of the death rites.

The doors creaked and screeched as they met. There was a clanging and a squelching noise and then silence after the powerful sucking of atmospheric regulators ripped the usable air out of the space between the bulkheads.

Danzig put his hand up to the doors, "Farewell," he turned to Daul, "Sáclair has called a meeting in six hours to discuss the next point of action."

"Has there been any progress in determining our location?" Daul hadn't had much time for news. He'd barely had time to dress himself and reach the funeral.

"Of a sort," Danzig looked reticent to speak of it in mixed company, even his own men. He pulled out a data-slate and handed it to Daul, "Read this, it is an summary of our situation. You may do with the information as you will but I ask that you reserve any frustrations you have for our meeting after the ceremonies are completed."

Daul accepted the slate and started to read. His prayers caught in his throat and he had to stop. He stood there reading the data. The songs of the Lionhearts washed over him as he absorbed the gravity of their situation. It seemed their only paths in front of him were death or heresy. Trading with xenos, the sheer cheek of it! "It would seem we are left to chose between undesirable options."

Danzig nodded sadly as he rubbed his hand on the massive airlock doors, "I wonder how many of us will see these doors from the other side in the weeks to come," he looked morosely to Daul, "I wonder how many will not? I suppose that's up to you though Inquisitor."

Daul's eyes widened with comprehension and horror. By accepting Danzig's offer to stand with the Lionhearts in support of them he had unwittingly tossed his lot in with their schemes and those of their captain. The Lionhearts all looked at him with friendly, trusting expressions and he realized his path had been chosen for him already.
--

Being rousted at three in the morning because of a bad dream was unpleasant. Being rousted at three in the morning because there was a problem on station that ought to have already been dealt with by someone else was infuriating. Being rousted out of bed at three in the morning after a double shift by an irately hissing and screaming Narn demanding a meeting of the Babylon 5 Advisory Council was about as close to the seventh circle of hell as Ivanova could imagine. She had put her head down on the pillow for only a matter of seconds before her link had gone off informing her that the Narn Embassador pro tempore had called an emergency session of the Advisory Council. At three in the morning! She wouldn't even be able to cast a vote on behalf of Earth, she was only authorized to abstain so that Sinclair could make the vote when he returned.

Lieutenant Commander Susan Ivanova stared daggers at anyone foolish enough to eye contact with her as she strode to a transport tube. Not stomped, she was sure she was not stomping. The flower deliveryman who jumped out of her way had simply been overreacting. It was three in the fragging morning and her shift would be in just under four hours. The sooner they managed to get Commander Sinclair back on station the better, things seemed had taken a turn for the worse since he'd left. The Embassador's for both the Narn and Mimbari had become indisposed, the Centauri posturing had gotten worse than ever, and the League of Non Aligned Worlds was at each other's throats nearly twenty four seven.

It was all she could do to resist the urge to pull the ridiculous sash off the Brakiri ambassador's waist and choke him to death with it earlier that day when he'd had the audacity to suggest that the layout of Babylon 5 ought to be altered to better allow for the "will of Derchal." Every ambassador seemed to take Sinclair's absence as a sign of weakness and they were spending every waking moment petitioning for the most insufferably insignificant alternations to apartment locations and seating charts. Susan pondered the possibility of simply venting the entire council chambers into space as she entered the lift.

"Please hold the elevator Lieutenant Commander," a small Mimbari in white robes was shuffling quickly along the corridor. It was Lennier, assistant to Delenn and the temporary Mimbari ambassador in her absence. He was a lean and spindly man, with a temperament as pleasant as one could ask for. Susan thumbed the button for the elevator and allowed him to enter the lift.

"Thank you Lieutenant Commander," Lennier smiled brightly and innocently, "I did not get the message for the meeting till moments ago. My link was temporary silenced so as not to interrupt the flow of my prayers."

Ivanova's expression softened. Lennier was understandably troubled by Ambassador Delenn's condition. Delenn was encased in a cocoon.

Dr. Franklin assured her that Mimbari encasing itself in a cocoon was unprecedented in his records, "How is the Ambassador doing?"

"She is in a state of what she is on the way to the state of what she will be," Lennier said smiling sadly, "I pray to Valen twice a day. I believe it eases the process. Delenn told left me a message telling me to 'not worry about the now but to look forwards to what is yet to come."

"Mr. Lennier I'm not even sure I understand what you're talking about," Ivanova looked down at her watch trying to ignore thoughts about her next shift, "When I find out one of the Ambassadors I'm responsible to ensure the safety of has become encased in a cocoon and her assistant is refusing treatment based upon her wishes I'm more confused about the here and now than eager for what comes later.

"Frankly Lieutenant Commander on this we are in agreement," Lennir shrugged, "But understanding is not important only obedience."

The Mimbari sense of duty, it was hard not to respect it. It equally hard to associate the kidly Lennier and the Mimbari's blind obedience to duty that had started the war between their two peoples.

Ten years ago they would have been enemies. Susan would have killed the kind faced Lennier without a second thought and Lennier would have done the same. That was why the Babylon Project was so important. Given the opportunity to live together in peace sentient species tended to prefer co-existence to warfare.

The Earth-Mimbari war, for all its bloodshed, was a war caused by cultural misunderstanding during first contact between the two races. Captain Jankowski had seen the open gun ports of the Mimbari ship pointed at the EAS Prometheus and fired on the ship. It might even have been resolved through negations if someone hadn't bombed the peace summit.

He had no way of knowing that open gun ports was a sign of respect to the Mimbari, no way of knowing the Mimbari ruling body was onboard the ship, and certainly no way of knowing he would kill the religious leader of the Mimbari. Millions had died for what he did not know and because both sides were unwilling to talk. Three in the fragging morning but better three in the fragging morning than not at all. Lost sleep was better than lost lives any day.

The bell chimed and the lift opened onto the wide corridor leading to the Babylon 5 Advisory council chambers. Susan stepped out into the teeming mass of various assorted ambassadors and attendants filing towards the wide double doors to the chamber. All of them seemed to be just as cross about being rousted at this unreasonable hour as Susan was, though some were making more of an effort than others at hiding it. Lennier looked about in innocent curiosity, "Do you know why Na'Toth has called a meeting of the full advisory council at this hour? It is uncommon, even for the Narn."

"No, I can't say I do," Susan looked towards to portly figures with feathered hair wearing purple silk suits with yellow sashes, "but if the Narn government has authorized G'Kar's stand in to speak on behalf of the Narn Government you can bet the Centauri were involved somehow." The Narn would say the sky was green just to spite the Centari. The blood feud between the two peoples had been strong ever since the Centauri occupation of the Narn home world.

"You do not think someone invaded another Narn world do you?" his face scrunched up in distaste at the thought, Lennier abhorred violence, "So soon after they attacked Quadrant 37? Or did the Centauri government claim responsibility for it?"

"I doubt it. The Centauri government was as surprised by it as anyone else," Susan sighed, "As much as the Narn would probably like to go to war it would be too costly for both sides at the moment. "

"I find their respective stubbornness to be confusing," Lennier nodded sagely, "One must be more flexible in their dealings with others."

Susan resisted the urge to roll her eyes, but just barely. The Mimbari were twice as stubborn and rooted in tradition as any other race in the Advisory Council, "I'm sure they'll take it under advisement."

The bustling group filed into their respective seats in the council chambers. The League of Non Alligned Worlds sat in tiered seating opposite a wide table at which sat the five major powers, the Narn, the Centauri, the Mimbari, the Humans, and the Vorlon. Babylon 5 being a human station, a human was expected to sit at the center of the large table. Sinclair had always made being head of the Council seem effortless. Susan always felt small when she sat in the chair and took up the gavel.

She smacked the gravel down twice, "I call the council to order. I believe the Narn representative has a matter they need addressed."

Londo Mollari of House Mollari, ambassador to the Centauri Republic was seated at his chair with the palm of his hand placed squarely in his generous forehead massaging away a well-earned hangover. He glowered at Na'Toth, "I really must protest this entire meeting of the council. I insist upon dealing with the official ambassador to the Narn homeworld and the official ambassador only. If you will not censure this Harridan's presence," he pointed to Na'Thoth, "At least put limits upon the hour at which she can call us to discuss the same arguments for a fifth time. I would prefer my time were wasted during daylight hours."

Na'Toth curled back her lips to show white teeth and hissed, her orange reptilian features were twisted in contempt, "I will not sacrifice the interests of my people, not even so that you can have more time to gamble and womanize Centauri."

"Then at least have the decency to speak your madness quickly so that I might get back to something more important than the ravings of a self important, orange-skinned, spotted madwoman with delusions of greater standing."

Susan slammed down the gavel, "Ambassador Mollari sit down! I will not have this turn into a match of petty schoolyard name-calling," she scowled at Na'Toth's pleased grin, "I hope you didn't call this meeting simply to frustrate the Centauri Ambassador," she paused and twisted the gavel in her hand menacingly, "that would make me testy."

"Of course not Lieutenant Commander," the Narn female's nostrils flared as she snorted indignantly. Her red eyes shone balefully at the plump Centauri across the table, "My government is troubled by the actions of the Centauri."

"I will be glad to give you a properly scornful reply to your baseless and scurrilous allegations," the Centauri Ambassador massaged his temples, no doubt fighting hangover, "Just as soon as the Narn delegate will be so kind as to tell me what in the hell she is talking about. Or is this just another flight of fancy that seems to take them so often?"

"Nothing of the sort," Na'Toth snorted in a dismissive tone, "Serious news has come to my attention that required immediate attention. Any misfortune to the Ambassador's social schedule is purely co-incidental." She emphasized co-incidental smiling cruelly, "It has come to the attention of my government that there has been a first contact situation with a powerful unknown race in the middle of the uncharted space beyond the Drazi border."

The Drazi representative stood up abruptly, ruffling his purple sash. The smooth bony plate on the front of his scull clicked as the folds of scales below it shifted against it, "We have made no such contact! You called a meeting for this? For rumormongering and suspicion? I need not sit here to take these lies."

"I never said it was the Drazi who made the contact!" Na'Toth's understanding of subtle diplomacy left a great deal to be desired.

"Who then," said the Brakiri ambassador, "my government has made no such contact nor has that of the honorable Pak'ma'ra."

"It was a Centauri Primus class warship that made the first contact," Na'Toth looked more pleased than Ivanova had ever seen the woman. Her reptilian skin crinkled at the lips where her face curved into a wide grin, "A Centauri warship sent to spy on it's neighbors."

Londo scoffed and stood up, pacing in front of the League, being careful to make eye contact as he spoke, "Yes we had a ship at the edge of your territory, in uncontested space. As I suspect many of you have ships at the edge of ours at some time or another. The ship was sent to do legitimate research in an area not controlled by any known governments as well as to explore uncharted space."

"Do you often explore with warships along the borders of your neighbors Ambassador," The fin along the Abbai Ambassador's head was twitching with irritation, "Do you 'explore' the space around all of the League worlds or just those of the Drazi?"

"Honored ambassadors," Mollari smiled, "Do not mistake the actions of my government. We only have the best intentions."

"As you did for Narn no doubt," spat out Na'Toth.

Mollari sent a pained look at Susan, "The lies the Narn still feel compelled to tell about our people's relationships."

"Ambassadors!" Susan smacked the gavel down and stood abruptly. Her eyes flashed dangerously at the ambassadors. At the best of times Susan was imposing, on nearly no sleep she was truly impressive, "I will not have you intentionally provoking each other. I will not allow it."

"Of course Lieutenant Commander," Na'Toth brushed the multicolored fabrics of her jerkin, rounded her shoulders an continued, "But some matters require more immediacy than they do tact."

"It is good then that the Great Maker saw fit to gift you with an abundance of promptness rather than tact," Mollari laughed, "You waste my sleep over this trifle. This was no secret I had half a mind to declare a meeting myself at something resembling a reasonable hour."

"Indeed," grumbled the Drazi incredulously. He stood up and walked over to the pacing Centauri. The Drazi ambassador bent over so his face was within inches of Mollari's face. Flecks of spittle hit Mollari's face and coats, "And when did you intend to tell my government that you were conducting first contact with species surrounding Drazi space? We do not like this action Centauri, we do not like it at all."

"We violated no agreements, no territories, no treaties," Mollari raised a finger with each word, held up his hand and waved it in front of the Drazi's face. The Drazi ambassador looked like he would very much like break Mollari's fingers. It wouldn't be an unprecedented act in Drazi diplomatic history, "We have every right to conduct our business as we please provided that we don't break any treaties we have with your people. Outside of that you may yell your displeasure as loud as you like. Yell till you're blue in the face… or whatever color it is you people turn when you yell, but the Empire is under no obligation to listen to you."

Na'Toth chimed in, "I must insist that the Centauri allow for outside observers to oversee their negotiations with this new race. I wouldn't want the Centauri to promise anything imprudent by accident. Perhaps even offer territory that isn't strictly yours to give."

"You may observe them yourself Narn. My government has nothing hide, in fact we intend to meet with them on Babylon 5. Conduct business with them as you will," he smiled widely showing two enlarged canines, "In fact I'll go a step farther. I'll send all races of the Babylon 5 council a copy of our speculations on the long-range communication technologies used by this race," he smiled maliciously, "That should expedite your own efforts to communicate with them. I will send a highly detailed report over the new races speculated method of long communication including a transcript of all tachyon transmissions sent between the two ships."

Lennier smiled widely, "That is most generous of you Ambassador." Most ambassadors, even the Drazi, seemed to be placated by Londo's offer.

"Is that all then?" Susan looked around the room, "Does anyone have any objections to this?"

Na'Toth eyed the Centauri as though trying to figure out the trap in his words. After apparently finding none she sneered and said, "That would be acceptable."

"Fine," Susan rapped the gavel down in the ground, "I call this meeting to an end. I don't know about all of you but I'm looking forwards to getting some sleep in my own bed. Ambassador Mollari I would appreciate a word with you after the meeting finishes. If we're hosting this meet and greet I'm going to need to know more about these people than how to talk to them."

Mollari gave an exaggerated sigh and bowed his head slightly, "If you insist."
--

Daul were ushered into Sáclair's apartments by Preston, an aging and substantially ugly manservant of Sáclair's household. Sáclair was so greatful to be rid of Galut's odor that he didn't even protest when Preston informed him that his bodyguard would be expected to wait outside. The private apartments of Nathaniel Sáclair were surprisingly subdued and tasteful considering the man's fondness for the ornate and baroque. It was the Lady Annabelle Sáclair who's duty it was to oversee his household and thus the furnishings were sturdy and handsome but not gaudy. The walls were lined with paintings, tapestries and trophy cases, all of which were kept at a sufficient height to keep them out of the hands of Sáclair's many young children. As Preston led him to Sáclair's study he caught sight of small faces peeking out from behind doors and around corners. The Captain had fifteen children, five of which weren't bastards, born from his wife and concubines as well as the unborn heir growing in his wife's belly. It would be the first of his male children not born of a concubine.

Children amused Daul; there was no lying in them. He chuckled as a third door clicked shut when the child behind it realized the Inquisitor they were watching was staring back. Preston muttered in annoyance and pulled a ring of keys out of his jacket pocket, "The mistresses told the children that they were not to disturb you sir and they were to make themselves scarce when you arrived. It seems they still have a rebellious streak to them."

"I dare say that the fastest way to get them peeking out of doors was to forbid them to do so," Daul considered jumping around and yelling 'boo' at the next person to peek out at him. The child would probably die of fright, "I don't really mind."

Preston's face pinched into what might have been a smile on someone else but only managed to make him uglier, "I suppose it would at that."

Preston shoved his keys into the lock and twisted the handle of a cherry red door at the end of the hall. The tall doors swung open into a wide, richly furnished study lined with all manner of books and scrolls of all kinds. It vaguely reminded Daul of the library of Inquisitor Gaal, though with fewer jars of preserved fetal xenos along the wall.

"Hildy!" the voice of Sáclair boomed across the room, "Fantastic! You're here. Now we can get to business."

Sáclair stood at a table covered in maps and charts, surrounded by the command staff of the Endless Bounty and by Magos Frist. He was supremely grateful to see the tall shape of Cairn at Kerrigan's left. Cairn walked up to Daul with arms crossed and gave him a piercing look. He pointed to the empty space behind Daul and let off a string of angry binary screeches. Daul rolled his eyes, "Cairn I can manage to walk down a corridor in the Captain's own household unguarded. The Ogryn is waiting outside. The butler asked him to wait at the door. He has a communicator if I needed him I would simply have called."

Magos Kerrigan interrupted Cairn's loud griping by turning to Sáclair and saying, "I must confess Captian it is highly irregular to prevent a man's bodyguard the ability to guard him," she waved at a broad shouldered servitor behind her, "especially considering the precedents you've set for others. Your rivalry with the Inquisitor seems to have overrode your sense."

"The Lady Sáclair is guilty of this offense I'm afraid. She doesn't allow Ogryn into the house. She seems to think they leave an odor behind. Well they do leave an odor behind to be frank. We force the ship's bonded Ogryn to bathe once a month and even that's a battle," he looked to Daul and considered the matter, "But I suppose I should make an exception for you Inquisitor. All joking aside while I appreciate your faith in the trustworthiness of my household even I am not without a guard at all times in my own house. The Amon Sui were my allies for far too long for me to have considered screening for their agents. My wife will tolerate the smell if she feels that it guarantees additional safely for our children, as will I for that matter." He paused as though considering employing Ogryn bodyguards for all his children.

Thinking of the foul smelling simpleton outside Sáclair's apartments Daul hastily said, "That's truly not necessary. I would not impose on the charity of your wife," and then changed the subject, "I apologize for my lateness. After the Lionhearts ceremonies some of the Belzafest colonists had questions for me."

"Really," Sácomer raised a meaty eyebrow, "I'd have thought they'd be avoiding you entirely considering the circumstances."

"Just the opposite I'm afraid," Daul ran his hand through his hair, wincing as he accidentally pressed down on cracked part of his skull, "They were so eager to have an opportunity to prove they weren't tainted by Faust they were all but climbing over each other to be examined. They seem to want me to check them over to validate that their faith in the Emperor and resistance against Faust meant something," he pulled a painkiller out of a tube in his pocket and swallowed it, "If I end up discovering a heretic or xeno-breed in their population we won't have time to toss them out the airlock. The Belzafesters will tear them apart with their bare hands."

Osma nodded and twirled his beards, "They have seemed surprisingly willing to allow my men access to all they brought with them. I was expecting a fight to have them surrender all weapons and munitions. Before I could even consider broaching the issue they'd turned them over to the duty officer along with the command codes for all the tanks they brought onboard."

"Well at least that's one thing more or less settled for the time being," Enzo was rubbing a small golden pocket watch between his thumb and forefinger. Worry was emanating from his mind so powerfully that Daul had to resist the urge to read the man's surface thoughts, "Good to have luck in at least one thing. Our survey teams found some potable frozen water in the asteroid belt but nowhere near enough for what we need. At least nowhere near enough that we can harvest before our water reserves run out."

"Indeed," Sáclair smoothed out a star chart that was laid on the table in front of him, "Mr. Sácomer, honored Navigator would you be so kind as to update the Inquisitor on the past few hours."

Sacomer nodded and turned to Daul, "We sent out an unencrypted distress signal as far as we could. It apparently had some success, or at least enough success," he licked his chops, "That is to say someone responded to it. Some three hours after sending the signal a ship showed up at the edge of local space. We made contact with a humanoid species that seemed peaceful enough. They have some limited ability for astropathic communication, at least enough to say 'we're friends don't shoot.' There was some," he cleared his throat, "difficulty in communicating with them when we tried to exchange languages."

"Difficulty," a haughty and wet voice ground out, "difficulty doesn't even begin to describe that disaster." Navigator Illrich could barely be recognized as human. Nearly eight hundred years old and the recipient of countless rejuvenation treatments he was as alien as any species Daul had ever met. He glowered at Sácomer and Calven with his three milky white eyes, "It's a minor miracle they didn't chose to start shooting."

"Patriarch we had no way of knowing that the astropath would override the short range transmitters nor that he would cause an adverse reaction in their xenos astropath," Zorn stated in a tone of sullen calm, "We've never known it to happen before."

"You drugged that astropath ten ways from sane and you're surprised he did something unexpected? Astropaths are people, not machines. Sometimes they chose to do things that don't make sense," Illrich waved his arms wildly, fanning his robes and looking distinctly bat-like, "You should have known better."

"The drugging of the Astropath was my fault honored Navigator Illrich," Sáclair interjected, "He did so on my orders and under my expressed supervision. Any fault in this situation ought to like squarely with me."

"I'll get to you once I'm done with him. You damn well should have known better too," the Navigator's face had gone purple with anger. They could almost see the blood rushing to parts of his face it usually did not flow. The third eye in the center of his forehead spun and twitched with anger.

"Navigator," Daul raised his hands palms outwards in placation. They could not afford a feud between the Navigators at the moment, "Under normal circumstances I would agree with you but under the current condition of the ship I'm not sure what other course of action we had. Sáclair has my full endorsement of this decision as do those who aided with it," Zorn's face scrunched up as though someone had fed him sour milk the idea of having Daul's support, "It was not a safe choice but it was a necessary one."

Donat nodded, "It wasn't a total loss. We have a location for some sort of neutral ground the local species make use of," he stuttered over the foreign words, "A station called bab-babi-baylon 5 It's apparently where the locals meet to conduct trade. It's possible it's a trap but I suspect they would have already attacked us," he pocketed the golden watch, "and it isn't as though we can afford to ignore it either way."

"A sad day when the servants of the Empire are forced to rely on Xenos," Sáclair shook his head, "But you're right there's nothing for it. I will not take a course of action that forces me to condemn loyal servants of the Emperor to dehydration and death if I can save them."

"We must sometimes make lesser concessions for the greater good," Daul admitted diffidently, "I'll sign a writ of pardon to help guarantee for the survival of your crew Captain. I give you my word."

Sáclair gave a pleased nod, "If you insist Inquisitor Hilder. "

"And what of payment," asked Sácomer, "Do we have any currency they'll take?"

"If they don't take precious metals and jewels I'll eat my hat," laughed Enzo, "Failing that we might be able to work something out by exchanging star charts and the like. Old ones mind you, ones with outdates warp storms."

"I will not surrender any of my secrets to these xenos," muttered Iino darkly as he eyed Magos Frist with slight suspicion, "And I suggest we avoid doing so if possible. I don't like providing xenos with any of the secrets of the Omassiah."

"Some outdated or inferior technologies wouldn't be inappropriate Ensigneer Iino," Kerrigan said brightly, "Especially if we can get relevant technologies in exchange. We still need metals and ceramics that are beyond our capabilities to fabricate on ship in order to repair the hull and without the proper exotic materials we can't even begin to hope to restart the backup plasma reactors."

Iino shot daggers at Kerrigan with his eyes but held his tongue. Even in disgrace Kerrigan outranked him within the hierarchy of the Cult of the Machine. He seemed to be in great pain as he said, "It's possible there may be some, lesser, secrets that would be worthy of exchange for the necessary materials for repairs. Provided we're sure we cannot simply take them from the surrounding systems."

"Ensigneer Iino," Donat chuckled in a friendly manner wholly incongruous with his stoic features, "We have half the mining equipment we'd need to extract the minerals from the surrounding systems in a year, let alone the few short days we have before the crew starts rioting for lack of water and food."

"Then we're settled? Good," Sánclair clapped his hands together, "Illrich, how long will it take for us to get to the meeting point?"

"Some ten to twelve hours depending on warp currents. The flows of the warp are surprisingly calm in this area," Illirch closed his bottom two eyes, "It's almost serene really. Yes, ten to twelve hours depending on the issues of time dilatation."

Ensigneer Iino nodded and began to speak. His voice was weak and choked from smoke inhalation. He'd been hurt badly fighting fires. "We should have the water reclamation systems running at full capacity by that time. If you can get the water from the xenos we ought to be able to purify it of all contaminants and bacteria."

"Actually speaking of bacteria," Hakam Danzig snapped his fingers, "I almost forgot to say this. Docere Medicus Faest asked me to remind you that our negotiation team will need to be fitted with full environmental hazard gear in addition to the standard inoculations package, at least till he's had an opportunity to immunize us to any local bacteria on the station. Air filters, closed seals, and the works."

"A wise decision," nodded Daul, "One that I would have suggested myself. How do we plan to communicate with the xenos?"

"They were kind enough to transmit some basic language codes and xenos science to us," Magos Kerrigan said the word 'xenos science' with mixed emotion, "It was easy enough to feed them into the ships logic engines for translation. For ship-to-ship communications we ought to be all right but I know you'll want to negotiate in person," she tapped at the communicator at her wrist, "Jak would you be so kind as to come in?"

The door to the study opened and an average man covered in augmentics walked in. His movements were a bit jerky and his lower lip twitched, as he constantly whispered to himself. He was a savant no doubt. The savants were a class of biologically and augmentically altered humans created with the purpose of increased mental storage and processing power. The process that created them gave them preternatural memory but had an unfortunate series of side effects and physical defects that came along with it. He stood there twitching mildly as Kerrigan turned to Daul, "Jak's command of languages ought to be more that sufficient for our needs. Jak Mert has been in my service for two years now as he underwent the pysical and mental transformations into a savant. I release him from my service and give him over to yours Inquisitor."

"My thanks Magos," Daul beamed as he looked to the savant. He hadn't had a free moment to think about replacing his lost staff and a savant to assist him with research would go a long way in making his life easier. His own prodigious psychic talent often let him sense the mood, flow and intention of other languages but he needed just as much time to learn them as anyone else. Time that they did not have.

"I'd planned to present his debt of service to you once the mission was over anyway as thanks for getting me in contact with the Captain," the Mago's expression brightened.

"Pardon me for distracting from the topic at hand Magos but we need to discuss something in private," Interjected Osma, "There's no rush but I do need a moment of your time Magos.

"Of course Mr. Osma," Kerrigan's cheeks crinkled into a smile, "I'm glad to be of service."

"Yes you two do that," Sáclair smiled, "While we're in the business of giving you things Inquisitor I want you to take our guest from the cell-block with you when you go over to the station. Him and his damn hounds."

"Very well," Daul nodded grudgingly. Taking as many disposables as possible was probably a wise choice, "That is probably for the best. We ought to activate the Dorn unit as well…Wait? When I go over to the station? Do you not intend to take part in the negotiations."

"I don't intend to leave the ship," Sáclair looked up from the table, "Not to enter an unknown and hostile territory. I will communicate through a supplicant-servitor, that ought to be more than sufficient." Daul flinched slightly. He disliked the meat puppets that were sometimes used for long-range negotiations en lieu of astropathic communications. Sáclair seemed not to notice Daul's discomfort as he stretched any yawned. Considering how many hours the Captain had been awake it was entirely possible he genuinely hadn't noticed, "If that's everything then I suppose this meeting is over and I must confess my bed is calling to me from even this distance."

Daul and the others filed out of the room.
--

"General… with all due respect. You're reassigning him. Reassigning him where?" Susan had only managed to get a few short hours sleep before she was once again roused by the sound of her link, chiming a gold channel message. She groaned and stood up from bed, she hadn't even had the energy to take off her uniform when she got back from the meeting. She wasn't even remotely well rested enough to be finding out that the station was getting a completely new commanding officer.

The hard faced General Hague ran his hand through a thick graying goatee and replied, "To the Mimbari home world, He'll be functioning as the first earth ambassador allowed permanent residence there. The President has been trying to find someone suitable and the Mimbari specifically requested Sinclair. "

"But why him?" Sinclair had proved to be a successful commander of one of the most politically difficult positions in the know galaxy. Reassigning him at this point seemed vastly premature.

"This information is strictly on a need to know basis," the general said in a tone that clearly emphasized she did not need to, "I've already briefed captain Sheridan on the situation."

"Captain Sheridan? John Sheridan?" Susan blinked in surprise.

"That's right I believe you know him."

"Yes sir I served under him at the transfer point off Io. He's a good man and a fine officer but… he's got to be a controversial choice," controversial wouldn't be the half of it. Sheridan was the only Earthforce officer to manage a military victory against the Mimbari during the Earth-Mimbari war, "If I may ask…"

"You many not. Any further questions will have to go through your new CO. Good day Lieutenant Commander." The transmission cut off abruptly leaving a dumbfounded Susan staring at the blank screen.

She looked to the clock. She'd gotten a grand total of two hours sleep that night and would soon go on duty, "Oh Khuyesos"
-

The unpleasantness of his job in warning the Earthers of the danger potentially presented by the Trigati was nothing compared to what he discovered in Delenn's quarters. He entered the Ambassadorial suite to discover Lennier kneeling and praying in front of a cocoon… a cocoon that could only possibly be one thing. A thing that he dreaded… Delenn had defied the orders of the Grey Council and had taken prophecy into her own hands.

Delenn had always been a loyal partisan to those who favored obeying the plans of the Vorlons. It was hardly a controversial view in the grey council, time and time again their Advice had proven to be more than adequate in advancing the Mimbari to the favored status they now enjoyed. But interpreting how to seek an end to prophecy and prepare for the coming war was a matter of great debate within the council. It was a matter that ought to have been resolved by a majority consensus of the Grey Council, yet clearly a matter that had been taken out of their hands.

There had been some concern for Delenn's stability and mental well being after the murder of Dhukat. She had been more bloodthirsty than anyone else on the Grey Council to start the war then at the flip of a coin had become the most ardent supporter for human protectionism and advancement. Was she making up for her past sins or had she simply cracked under the pressure of helping lead her people? There had once been a time where he had wished for her to lead the Grey Council but now he was not sure if he even wanted her to be part of it.

He whispered an oath, "In Valen's name… we are at the edge of destiny…"

The cocoon took up a large portion of the modest rooms given to the Ambassador for Mimbar. Lennier and Delenn had clearly tried to bring a Mimbari sensibility to the otherwise square and distinctly human space but it still had the underlying backwardness of Earther architecture to it. It was certainly not a space worthy of a member of the Grey Council in Hedronn's opinion. He disliked the station, disliked the humans, and disliked that he had to spend time away from Mimbar on this unpleasant errand.

He walked up and looked at the pod, "So she's done it hasn't she? She's in there? We told her to wait. Prophecy will attend to itself we told her."

Lennier nodded and turned his eyes to the floor rather than stare at a member of the Grey Council. He sighed, it would do him no good to take out his frustrations on the young man, "Now we are committed to the path. I have spoken with the other members of the council. The Trigati has been seen in this sector. If it should appear you will go to the humans and tell them what we have told you. It's time they knew the truth."
--

As Lieutennant Commander Ivanova walked into the Command and Control center one of the younger officers walked up to greet her, "Good morning, Commander about the new captain."

Susan looked at the young Earthforce officer and smiled. "Yes I would like a full honor guard present when his ship docks. We've barely got enough time."

The young officer cleared his throat, "He's here."

"What?" Screeched Ivanova.

"His Earthforce transport just docked. Apparently there was a miscommunication about the time," Susan didn't wait for the rest of his explanation before tearing out of the command center and running for an open transport tube. Customs was fortunately only a short trip from the Command and Control center. She tapped her foot nervously as the tube rumbled along. One more thing, there was always one more thing. The tube opened to blue sector customs and Susan sprinted to the diplomatic entrance.

Sheridan was standing just inside the entrance of the diplomatic customs center carrying a battered hard-side suitcase and leather briefcase. Susan grabbed a security officer by the hand and ran up to the commander. The somewhat bemused security guard followed her, standing just behind her and eying Sheridan with mild interest.

"Welcome aboard sir," she snapped off a hasty salute, "I'm authorized to surrender command of Babyon 5 to you at this time."

"Thank you Lieutenant Commander I accept," Sheridan said in a pleasantly pleased voice, "Uh, there seems to be a problem with the unloaders. Can I get my bags delivered to my quarters?"

"Of course," Susan nodded to the officer. The dark skinned woman grabbed the suitcases and walked in the direction of the transport tube Susan just left, "I assume you'd like to begin with a quick tour of the facilities?"

"Yes, absolutely!" Sheridan smiled brightly as he looked around. He seemed to be trying to soak in everything at once.

"Great, this way." Susan smiled and started walking away from customs. Sheridan followed her closely, "It's good to see you again sir, how was your flight?"

"Fine, they actually had fresh oranges on the transport. I haven't had an orange in almost two years. I used to dream about them. Grapes, nectarines, plums black ones," he waved his hands to emphasize his point, "not the red ones. I mean it's amazing what two years on the rim can do to you. I have a hunch I'll be spending a lot of time in hydroponics." He let loose a bark of a laugh, "On the way in I read the station reports, trying to catch up on everything. What's our status?"

They stopped briefly as a door opened letting a string of traders off a lift from green sector. Susan chewed her lip and said, "Chief of security is in critical condition in med lab. He thinks there's a conspiracy concerning the President's death. Ambassador G'Kar has mysteriously vanished. We've just been informed that we're soon to be visited by an as of yet unknown species that uses psychics for a phone call. The Narns are going to be livid when they realize Mollari's offer to provide them with long range communications tech can only work if they have a psychic. After two years we still don't know what ambassador Kosh looks like inside his encounter suit," she paused briefly unsure if she should proceed, "And ambassador Delenn is in a cocoon."

There was a moment of pregnant silence before Sheridan asked, "A cocoon? As in a moth or a Butterfly?"

"Yes sir," She raised her hand, "About yeah high."

Sheridan smiled and chuckled, "Interesting place you have here."

"Yes sir." Sheridan didn't even begin to suspect how 'interesting' the station could get.

Last edited by Todeswind on 2011-02-16 06:27pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-02-16 04:41am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
he shuttle hummed with the sounds of the reactors powering it. It had been a good three hour since Sørian had flown from the bounty to the asteroid belt at the fringe of the system, ostensibly to assist in the effort to look for potable water. It was a simple gesture that allowed him to appear proactive in the eyes of the command staff and to have the privacy necessary to complete rituals outside the boundaries of the ship's hexegrammic wards. The wards that covered most of the ship were made with the specific intent of reinforcing the stability of real space to prevent warp incursions in transit. They also had the side effect of making it insufferably difficult to complete any rituals to the true gods.

Sørian took any opportunity to take his private ship out for "survey missions" and "diplomatic oversight" on behalf of the bounty in order to get outside the boundaries of the wards. Not that it seemed to be doing him any good today. He'd gone through a monumental effort to collect not one but two young girls from the crew and sneak them, bound and gagged, onto his ship before launch. And it seemed it would be all for naught.

Sørian looked down at the sacrificial altar for the third time since he'd made the sacrifice and wondered what he'd done wrong. It couldn't be the offering. A freshly slaughtered virgin's blood was always sufficient for gaining the attentions of a deamon of Slaanesh. It wasn't the altar. His shuttle was safely outside the range of he hexegrammic wards of the ship. The eight-pointed star was aligned properly in the middle of his fetishes and candles. He was in good standing with his patron. At least he believed he was, "So why can I only summon wisps and shades?"

It was infuriating. He'd tried two separate sacrifices and never managed to summon anything stronger than an insubstantial shadowy nothingness. The whispered and promised him greatness but could manage little else. He doubted he would even need the protection of the circle of salt to keep these worthless servants of his master away from him.

It was this area of space perhaps. There were uncommonly turbulent spaces in the warp where servants of the true gods walked at will so why not places where they dared not tread. But what would keep them from this part of the immaterial world. And why?

Perhaps he had entered the realm of one of the other patrons. A section of space could theoretically be dominated by one of the other four major powers or even one of the lesser gods of Chaos Undivided. He eyed the basin pool of blood. There was more than enough for another summoning. He needed answers, his patron would forgive him brokering a deal with one of the other gods so long as it wasn't with Khorn.

He flipped through the tome sitting on the table to his right. The blood dripped off his hands and soaked into the pages. They sucked up the blood greedily, the ink glowing brightly wherever it dropped. It was a dark sickly book, made from centuries of obscene ritual and perversity. Within it were the names of a million creatures to twisted to speak of only the least of which Sørian had been brave enough to contact. He stopped at a likely candidate and read to himself, "Tzzek'an'to'krax… yes a lesser creature of Tzeentch ought to do nicely."

He dipped his dagger into the pool of blood once more and dripped small droplets of blood into the circle of salt in the center of the room, "Thrice bound I call you, weaver of lies. Thrice bound I name you, deamon of the fates. Thrice bound I name you Tzzek'an'to'krax the profane. Thrice bound I summon you and done!"

It started as an insubstantial shape, a flickering blue wispy something. It billowed and grew and howled and sung till it grew into an twisted and avian figure twice as tall as a man. It's body was covered in shimmering and shifting feathers and iridescent robes that altered in impossible geometries of shape and color. Sørian gulped and looked down at his book. He had not summoned Tzzek'an'to'krax the impish teller of profane truth this was a daemon of the higher orders. A daemon whose name he did not know and might not be able to banish at will.

Sørian looked down to the circle of salt to reassure himself it was safely in place. It was. He looked back up at the creature being careful to avoid staring it in the eyes. Daemons could sometimes mesmerize the unwary with a look. A single misstep and he could be undone, "I greet you honored Herald of Tzeentch. How is it that I am favored by your attentions?"

The creature chortled and began to speak in a voice broken by shrill whistles and clicks. It seemed to have difficulty making human speech with it's beaklike mouth, "Knowledge is not given without payment lesser creature but I'll grant you a single boon. Curiosity man-child, curiosity brings me. You are a servant of the thirsting god beyond the well."

"Yes I serve the prince of excess," it was nothing to admit it. The daemon would know if he lied. They always seemed to be able to tell lies apart from truth, "I offer you this offering of virgin blood in exchange for information."

"No," the daemon tilted its head to the side. Somehow never moving its eyes as the rest of its head shifted, "I will not accept that offer. I am not some petty creature of the thirsting one. I am a weaver of fate, the taste of virgin blood holds no special meaning to me."

"Then what do you wish? My soul is not on the table at the moment," Sørian had not yet bartered with it and was unwilling to do so for anything less that daemonhood, "Would one of my true names suffice."

"I require neither," the creature's three eyes narrowed and multiplied, "I want to know what lies beyond the well."

"What lies beyond the what?" Daemons had an infuriating tendency to speak in riddles. At least this one hadn't picked up the insufferable talent of rhyming that so many of the lesser daemons were fond of.

"The veil of foresight! What lies beyond the well at the end of what is?" The daemon's face twisted into something cruel and angry, "Tell me or die! Tell me where the weaves go!"

"Creature you will bargain or be banished!"

"I spit on your pathetic magics! I spit on you!" The creature reached out to the barrier of light that surrounded it and tore through it with a single talon, "Tell me what lies beyond the well! Tell me where the weaves turn!"

Sørian started screaming out a chant of banishment, grabbing for the jar of blessed salt sitting on the table next to the book. He heaved the entire contents of the jar at the daemon and kicked the bowl of blood while screaming the rites of banishment. The daemon got within inches of his throat with a great clawed fist before fading into the insubstantial. It screamed, "Where do the weaves meet!" before disappearing with a crack of thunder and the smell of sulfur.

"Bloody hell," Sørian rubbed at his throat, "I'm going to need to start putting up stronger wards." The sooner they left this part of space the better, any daemon capable of just walking through a ward had to be an upper circle one. Upper circle daemons were dangerous to summon, even when they were of your own patron. It was an easy way to get killed or worse.

He chuckled to himself as he thought about it. If he was very lucky Hexathelidae was trying the same thing he was. He was willing to wager he was better at banishing and summoning than the bitch could ever hope to be.
--

John smiled as Susan led him through the doors. She seemed to be working very hard to show off her station to him, "And this will be your quarters. I hope it's satisfactory"

"Fine," John looked at the cavernous space, "fine. Certainly a lot bigger than what I'm used to," a wonderful thought popped into his head, "does this place come with a shower? I mean a real, live, honest to god shower with running water and everything?" It had been two years since his last real shower rather than a vibe shower. Vibe showers killed all the bacteria but they somehow were never as good as the real thing.

Susan nodded, "The executive suites and command quarters all have showers with real live honest to god water. The rest get vibe showers our water reclamation system can't handle much more than that."

John grunted in approval, "A shower. I may come to like it here."

"Which brings me to something I've been wanting to ask you. It's, uh" she stumbled over the words in an effort to be discreet, "Kind of awkward."

"You've never been worried about being diplomatic before. Don't disappoint me by starting now," John still remembered the young officer who broke a man's arm for pinching her. The dockworker had been so embarrassed to be beaten by a woman he didn't even press charges.

"When I heard about the change in command I figured we'd get stuck with some high level bureaucrat or an admiral or an ambassador and…" Susan trailed off.

"And why me?" He nodded. John had been expecting this question sooner or later.

Susan smiled embarrassedly.

John's tone was friendly and understanding, "I wondered the same thing. Apparently I was the late presidents first choice to replace Sinclair in case anything happened to him. While commanding the Agamemnon I worked with many of the Non-Aligned Worlds, Centauri, Narns," John looked at his feet, "even a few Mimbari."

"That's what I was concerned about. I mean the Mimbari aren't exactly going to be thrilled to find out you're running Babylon 5," she played about with the interlink on her hand, "I hear they still call you the star killer."

"That was a long time ago, twelve years," John said in an entirely unconvincing tone, "Maybe they've forgotten about it by now."

Susan looked in disbelief. John chuckled, "Yeah I know. I don't believe it either. Well one thing for sure. I'll be relying on you pretty heavily these next few weeks." He sat down his desk. The chair was surprisingly comfortable, "Till I'm up to speed."

"Well it certainly couldn't be any worse than the last week. What with President Santiago's death and everything else," Susan's voice darkened. The death of Santiago was not at easy subject for Earthforce personnel.

"How's the crew handling it?" John queried.

"They're still pretty shocked. I don't think the reality of it has quite sunk in yet."

"And you?"

Susan stood up, walked to the middle of the room, and sat down opposite John. She looked surprisingly frail, "I don't know. It's just. I just keep seeing Earth Force One blowing up, over and over and over again in my dreams. I mean all my life I thought that I could handle everything, fix any problem," her face twitched, "When I saw that I just realized I couldn't do anything to stop it," she swallowed deeply to clear her throat, "I don't think I've ever felt so helpless."

"I know," John's voice softened, "I felt the same way."

"Ever since then the crew's needed me to be strong for them. And I've tried. I don't like to show weakness." Susan looked down, "I guess I get that from my father. But with the added madness of trying to run this place and the commander being called back to Earth and the Ambassadors yelling and carrying on."

John nodded in agreement. Susan continued, "I don't know I just hope I've done ok by them. Lets just say I'm very happy to see you."

"I appreciate that," John smiled, "And coming from you it means a lot."

"I should also mention that the crew is really looking forwards to meeting you. They've heard all about you and I think right about now they could all use something to smile about," Sheridan was very grateful that Susan already knew and liked him. It would save him the trouble of breaking in his second in command.

"Then I won't keep them waiting," Sheridan stood up and brushed off his lap, "I'll just grab a fast shower, we'll head up to Command and Control and I'll give them my good luck speech."

"Sir?" Sheridan smiled. Susan hadn't been there to hear him give it at the Io Station after all so she wouldn't have heard it before. Fantastic, it meant he had another person to hear it with fresh ears.

"It's the same speech I gave them when I took command on Io, on the Agamemnon, it's sort of my, uh, good luck charm," Sheridan chuckled "I always give it within twenty four hours of taking on a new assignment."

"Then I look forward to hearing it," Susan checked her watch, "Would you mind if I went to C and C I have to take care of."

"Oh of course, I'll see you there in twenty minutes."
--

"In Valen's name!" Hedronn's eyes widened in shock. Kalain couldn't be onboard an Earther station could he? It was insane.

"Kalain?" He yelled "Kalain! Wait!" He followed the warrior cast member round the corner. Strong hands grabbed him and held him by the throat, a three pronged claw pressed up against the main vein of his neck. He swallowed and said, "We do not harm our own kind. We never have."

"Perhaps it is time to start," grunted the deep voice of Kalain in a tone of utter scorn, "The Grey Council has betrayed us why should that matter now?"

"No one has been betrayed," Kalain did not know the truth. He could not know the terrible truth. There had been no betrayal at the battle of the line but to tell the truth was to undo the fabric of Mimbari society.

"No! No lies," spat out Kalain, "We have intercepted a message from the Humans to Mimbar. We know they have chosen Sheridan the Star Killer to lead this place. It is an obscenity."

"We protested," Hedronn gritted his teeth, "They ignored us."

"Satai Delenn, did she also ignore you?" Kalain chuckled.

Hedronn froze, briefly forgetting the claw at his throat, "What do you know?"

"We have supporters even among the council. They tell us that Sinclair is now on our world," Kalain's lip curled in distaste at the human's name.

"He is an Ambassador."

"So you say. But the Grey Council never tells anyone the whole truth. Does it? If you value your life leave now" he shoved Hedronn away and ran, "While you still can."
--

Doctor Franklin smiled as he heard the footsteps behind him. Susan was surprisingly sweet despite her best efforts to have a hard exterior, "Good Afternoon Lieutenant Commander."

"How'd you know it was me?" Susan clucked her tongue on her teeth.

"Well it's 2:45. You always come at 2:45, see how he's doing," Franklin looked into the long term patients ward to the balding man lying in the crash unit.

"So, how is he doing?" Susan's said in a worried tone.

Franklin sighed and took on the clinical tone of a doctor, "Still no change. We managed to stabilize his condition. Dropped in as may regent packs as we think his body can handle. Now all we can do is wait and see if he comes out of the coma." He shook his head, "Could be hours, days, weeks."

"Years, never?" Susan's smiled but her eyes were distinctly cold.

"Yeah," the idea of never seeing Garibaldi again was as painful to Franklin as it was to Susan. Franklin missed the man's sarcastic whit and painfully stupid jokes. Garibaldi was a man who trusted nobody but could be trusted by everybody.

"So all we can do is keep him hooked up like this? What forever?" Susan pressed her hand to the glass. It fogged up from the heat of her hand.

"Well the human body is an amazing thing," Franklin sighed, "It can cure itself or it can simply decide one day that the world is too painful to deal with and won't co-operate no matter how hard you heal it. That debate is going on somewhere in Garibaldi's body, right now. Just going to have to wait and see who wins."

Susan rubbed her hands together, "Well then I'll say a prayer for him tonight."

Dr. Franklin chuckled, "He's agnostic."

Susan rolled her eyes, "Then I'll say half a prayer."
--

Sheridan looked around the CnC at the expectant and smiling faces of the command staff as they stood at attention. He cleared his throat, "As you were. When I was twenty-one I visited Tibet I went to see the new Dali Lama. You do that sort of thing when you're twenty-one and the son of a diplomatic envoy. We had a simple meal. Rice, raisins, carrots," he raised the index finger of his right hand and waved it, "Steamed, not boiled. And green tea. When it was over he turned to me and asked me 'do you understand" he shrugged his shoulders and pursed his lips in confusion, "I said no, I didn't. 'Good beginning,' he said, 'you'll be even better when you begin to understand what you do not understand."

The command staff laughed politely. He smiled and continued, "After reading some of your reports I begin to understand what I do not understand about Babylon 5. But I couldn't wish for a more capable and skilled group of people to learn from. It was an early Earth President, Abraham Lincon, who best described our current situation. He said…"

He looked down to as one of the command staff tapped her earpiece to silence a warning from the security desk, "Is there a problem?"

"I'm sorry to bother you sir but I've got security on the link," She shrugged apologetically, "They've got a Mimbari demanding to see you. He won't say what it's about only that it involves that safety of this station. He say's it's absolutely urgent."

"Ah well," he looked around the room, "Um, we'll get back to this later. There's plenty of time for speeches. Carry on."
--

Donat stood next to the great throne. Sáclair had finally retired to his apartments in order to sleep after their meeting with the Inquisitor, leaving Donat in command of the bounty. The Captain desperately needed the rest, had he insisted on trying to command the ship for another eight hour shift he would have forced him into bed on medical leave. Donat had no doubt in his mind Faest would be more than formidable enough to force even the incorrigible Sáclair to get some rest.

He would have done so a shift earlier but for his daughter, Donat was not of Damascan blood but of the Amon and was thus bound by monogamy. His wife, lovely though she was, had become unable to bear children after complications with her first pregnancy had required a hysterectomy after she gave birth. It was thus that Donat's daughter was the only child he would ever have to his name. A better child he could never hope for though. Bonafila was as clever and pretty of a girl as he'd ever met. Kind to other children and as apt a student as the schola had ever had. She was the apple of her father's eye.

She'd been caught by a stray bit of shattering bulkhead fell into a coma during the fighting. She would have died except for the quick actions of David Sáclair. David, one of Sáclair's eldest bastard children wasn't forthcoming for exactly why he'd been in the merchant's quarter with his daughter. There had been a number of situations involving his daughter as of late that had featured David prominently. He'd grudgingly granted David permission to watch over his daughter and talk to her in her comatose state, provided of course that the girl's mother was present at all times. That boy would be trouble.

He put his watch back in his pocket and pushed thoughts of Bonafila to the back of his mind. He tapped his communicator, "Navigator Illrich, have you plotted in a course to Babylon 5 yet?"

Navigator Illrich stood at the far end of the great hall just at the edge of sight on a chair at the highest tier of the astropathic choir. Numerous servants and servitors scurried about on the lower tiers overseeing the astropaths and typing in calculations and co-ordinates. The batlike face of Illrich nodded and he responded over the link, "We are prepared to go to the warp. Hexegrammic wards are at full power."

Donat nodded in satisfaction, "Good, the last of our fighters just docked," he reached over to the throne and flipped the button for the Hololithic communicator, "Sácomer take us to warp."

The great mass of the Endless Bounty shot away from the sun and towards the edge of space, to a spot where the material world was closer to the warp. The navigators had never been able to properly explain to him why some places were closer to the warp than others. To them it was like explaining why water was wet, it simply was. Donat switched the great hololith in the middle of the room to an exterior view and watched.

There was a strange beauty in the great warp tears. The shifting hues had a distinct majesty to them. Odd, that the edges of this warp tear were a swirling blue rather than the purples he associated with warp tears, "Navigator should we be worried about the change in color of this tear?"

The navigator scoffed, "We're in the most peaceful patch of warp space I can recall. If anything we should start hoping they start being all blue if they indicate favorable conditions like these."

"If you say so honored Navigator," Donat switched off the hololith, "You have greater experience with these matters than I," he sighed and looked at the chronometer, "Mr. Sácomer, take us in."

Donat felt the cool sinking plunge of entering warp-space and listened to the chatter of the duty officers. He eyed the throne mildly, technically speaking he was allowed to sit in it when the Captain was off duty but custom dictated that he did not. Even so he could not help but feel those cushions looked distinctly comfortable as his back ached from the effort of standing. No, it was not his place and it would never be.
--

Human, this entire station was too insufferably human. They should have wiped them all off the face of the universe, if for no other reason than to stop them from making insufferably illogical stations like this one, He'd been wandering green sector for the better part of an hour trying to find Ambassador Delenn's quarters.

"Hold on, that area is restricted to diplomatic staff," apparently security had spotted him. Why now did they stop him? They had been all but willing to ignore his movements everywhere else on green sector. Why would they notice a mimbari walking towards the Mimbari Ambassador's suite? How could a human even tell two Mimbari apart?

Kalain bit back a bitter response turned to the grey suited officer, "I'm sorry, I seem to be lost. I'm looking for Brown two."

"Oh you're way off. You want the core shuttle it's back there," the security officer shrugged and pointed in the opposite direction from where Kalain was walking.

Kalain nodded, he could always double back later once the human went away. There was plenty of time for him to do what he must, "I see, thank you I'll be on my way."

Kalain tried to walk past but was stopped by the officer's outstretched hand, "After I see you're identicard."

Kalain pulled a card out from his pocket. It was outdated but it would serve his purposes. The security officer inserted it into a card reader. After a few seconds it buzzed loudly and flashed red, "Hey wait a minute this card is," Kalain kicked him in the stomach and knocked him unconscious before he had the chance to finish talking.
--

The ship's brig was at the edge of the ships hull just inside the bulkhead inside of a part of the ship that was just barely livable for organic life because of the ambient radiation from the secondary plasma reactors. The cells were cramped and dark. The guards were mostly members of Osma's staff who'd proved to be too reactionary or too unstable to trust in the more populous areas of the ship. The detention cells weren't intended for long term care only temporary storage till the ship reached a planet with a properly unpleasant justice system in place.

Dogmatic loyalty was valued a great deal more than competence so a few of the ships Ogryn had been trusted with the role of patrolling the cells to make sure none of the prisoners escaped. Not that there were many prisoners left in the cell block, explosive decompression had killed a quarter of the ship's prison populations on the lower decks. When he'd reached the 53rd level detention block the desk clerk had merely looked up at the hard faced Inquisitor flanked by the Skitarii, the Ogryn, and the Savant before saying, "Sáclair said to expect you. He's in cell seven. If you kill him hit the button for the cleansing servitors. They're going to have to clean the mess not me. And if you don't kill him at least make the bastard not able to talk, he never shuts his beak. He doesn't even sleep for Throne's sake!"

The barred door buzzed then opened wide, creaking on its hinges. Jak twitched and fidgeted in place. He was an odd man. The process that made him into a repository of knowledge seemed to have made him a bit senile. He certainly started conversation in the strangest of ways, "Cannibalistic rituals are common within the Empire in spite of being near universally declared to be heresy by the Cult of the Emperor. If someone were to eat part of me I would prefer it were an arm."

Daul chuckled as he walked down the corridor looking through the barred windows at the huddled figures chained to the wall, "Good to know. I'll bear that in mind."

"An arm is the easiest part to replace augmentically. Esthetically and physically it is the least complex appendage to have full dexterity in after replacement," his eye twitched, "And it seems that there is a socio-cultural preference for augmentic arms in most societies. Having a mechanical arm is somehow seen as a sign of masculinity and virility. Having an augmentic leg is difficult to become accustomed to unless you've replaced both legs. Even then, they are rarely seen by others and are thus impractical for status. So I'd like it to be an arm."

Cairn's shoulders were shaking so hard Daul felt they might be in danger of cracking under the pressure of the Skitarii's laughter. Galut seemed to have missed the joke entirely, he was eying the prisoner's food inside their cells with wrapped interest. Daul was grateful for the narrow bars else he suspected the Ogryn would simply have reached in and stolen a bowl of gruel, "I've always been a big believe in keeping all ones limbs."

"I agree sir," Jak wobbled a bit, "But won't he demand a price of flesh from you?"

Ah, so that was what this was. It seemed even the Savant's were not immune to the power of rumor and fear mongering about xenos, "I wouldn't worry. Vira'capac's price was already paid long ago. We can trust his loyalty to his debts owed even if we can't trust him."

Cairn warbled unconvinced, he wasn't fond of the xenos.

"We need as many guns with us as we can have," he sighed, "And having a xenos with us will give us an air of legitimacy, even pluralism that might make trading substantially easier," he turned to the door marked with a massive VII, "Here we are."

A reedy whistling clicking sound was coming from inside the cell, avian and shrill. As Daul pressed the combination into the keypad and pushed the door open the whistling clicks subsided to a pleased trilling purr. A beam of light from the corridor shone into the inky blackness of the cell, highlighting a lean avian shape leaning against the wall. The xenos wore a simple white linen robe above mottled flesh. Razor sharp quills jutted out from every joint and poked through the linen. Quills Daul knew all to well to be full of a paralytic venom capable to stunning a man for hours. Vira'capac licked his fingers and clicked his beak loudly, "I am needed?"

Daul noticed idly that Vira had grown an opposable thumb, "More needed that you are in this cell. Tell me Vira'capac, how many of your cell mates did you consume?"

The yellow-skinned kroot crooned in what might have been a laugh, "Calm your mind and your fears. They only tossed the corpses to me after they were dead, as you no doubt instructed them to. A tool for getting obedience from prisoners fear is. A foolish one but a powerful one."

"You'll pardon me if I take the moral imperatives of someone I've watched eat men's still beating hearts with a grain of salt," Daul said dryly. The Kroot insisted upon trying to correct what he believed to be Daul's moral failings, though he was careful never to do so in public. He'd never entirely understood the social dynamics of Kroot culture but it seemed it was the duty of lesser members of the brood to question all decisions made by the Shaper, even if they obeyed his orders implicitly, "You'll soon be leaving his cell."

"Am I finally to die by your hand Inquisitor?" Vira'capac crowed hopefully.

"No," Daul shook his head, "Not by mine."

The Kroot's expression darkened, "Then leave me in peace to die of age like a coward. My brood is dead yet I live, unable to breed, unable to pass on what I am, what I have gained. Kill me before I gain more that I cannot share with the greater part of who we were. Kill me so that they might consume me and I might become them."

"I gave my word to your Shaper Vira'faola," Daul started.

"I know the name of my own brood father!" Screeched Vira'capac with contempt, "And I know the value of an Inquisitor's word. You were not the first of your order to contract the broodchildren nor will it be the last. You are an order founded on lies, dependant on lies, and designed to master lies. End me as you should have done years ago!"

"No," Daul shook his head, "I chose not to end you and I chose not to leave you be. You are still in my service Vira'capac, you will be in my service till you die an honorable death. I can at least promise your death will be worthy of the brood consuming you."

Vira'capac hissed and flared his quills.

"You will be accompanying me to a xenos port of call," Daul ignored the Kroot's posturing. The Inquisitors mouth twitched as an amusing thought popped into his mind, "You and your hounds."

The quills at the back of Vira'capac's head twitched, shaking the beads and bangles looped through them. His nostrils flared and he trilled in resignation, fingering the necklace of various humanoid bones around his neck. He had not seen his hounds in the better part of the year., "Very well Inquisitor. Very well."
--

Sheridan stared at the haughty Mimbari standing across from him. The Mimbari had never been especially friendly to him and many outright despised him but he was unused to meeting one who seemed to ignore him. Hedronn didn't look at Sheridan so much as he stared through the Earthforce officer. It was unsettling, the Mimbari's tenancy to talk around Sheridan rather than towards him was equally annoying, "His name is Kalain. He was second in command of one of our flagship cruisers during the war with your people. He has not been seen since the end of the war."

Susan looked to Hedronn with an expression of puzzlement, "Why do you think he's here to cause a problem?"

"I have my reasons. I would not be brining this to you otherwise," Sheridan hated the Mimbari flair for misdirection without telling a lie, "If you will arrange to have him apprehended I will have him picked up by others and conveyed to Mimbar."

Hedronn nodded as though the matter was finished and turned as though to leave. Sheridan bristled but surpressed the frustration at being given an order on his own station by a Mimbari bureaucrat. He smiled brightly and asked, "You say he was second in command of a Mimbari Cruiser. Which one?"

"I don't see what that has to do with this," Hedronn was especially talented at misdirection. It was just as well Sheridan could play the 'clueless human' card quite well.

"Was it the Trigati?" Hedronn froze and went silent. Sheridan suspected he was trying to find a way to answer Sheridan's question without lying.

Susan turned to Sheridan, "What's the Trigati?"

"It is not something we like to talk about," Hedronn reluctantly started to speak, "At the end of the war when our ships were ordered to surrender one of our war leaders Sinoval took his own life rather than obey and became a martyr to his own crew. Kalain assumed command and as a final act of protest they and the cruiser disappeared into self imposed exile."

Sherian nodded, that made sense, "Over the years we've heard rumors of a Mimbari cruiser sighted where it shouldn't been. We always figured it was the Trigati but we've never been able to prove it."

"They believe that they have been betrayed by their own world," shot a keen glance at Sheridan, "And yours. Kalain's presence could indicate they mean to come out of retirement."

Sheridan breathed deeply and stood up, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together. There was still something that made no sense to him about Hedronn's story, "Something I don't understand. You said you're with the Mimbari government, the Ministry of Culture?"

"Yes that's right." Hedronn nodded slightly.

"So how does someone in the Ministry of Culture know a high ranking member of the warrior cast well enough to recognize him twelve years later?" Sheridan walked up to Hedronn and stared him directly in the eyes.

"I would answer your question if I recognized your authority," his mouth twisted at the word authority. "Unlike your predecessor my government was not consulted on your appointment."

Sheridan gave up the pretense of politeness, "The President feels the Mimbari had too much influence over an Earth outpost. Times change."

"And the day that a man such as yourself is given a position of this importance is a dark day indeed," Hedronn's voice grew harsh, "We lost some of our best warriors because of you and we do not soon forget such things."

He let that hang in the air before continuing, "If there is a doom on this station it is because you brought it here."

Sheridan watched him storm out of the room before turning to Susan, "Well he's grey council he's gotta be. Only someone in the Grey Council would had contact with someone that high in the Mimbari warrior caste," he shook his head, "They do not normally mix. You are right. They're not happy to see me here."

"They're a prideful people and the Black Star was their flagship." Susan seemed to be taking this in stride.

Sheridan grunted and smiled, "That's why it made a good target."

"How did you take her out? I've always heard it was some sort of new maneuver but I've never heard the specifics."

"There wasn't much style or finesse involved," he closed his eyes as he remembered, "She was huge. Monstrous, we tried everything but none of our weapons would lock on to their ships. Some kind of stealth technology," He shuddered as he remembered it.

Dark memories from worse times in his life shot into his head. Ships burning, worlds in ruins, millions dead, and nothing anyone could do to stop the Mimbari assault. It had taken nearly ten years to come to terms with it, "So, I hit on the idea of mining the asteroid field between Jupiter and mars. A fusion bomb doesn't have to lock onto anything if it's close enough. We took out the Black Star and three of their heavy cruisers before they could escape. It was the only real victory we had in the whole damn war and I am not about to apologize for it."

Susan shifted uncomfortably

Sheridan ran over what Hedronn had said in his head" Kalain feels his world has betrayed him. If that's true wouldn't your first target be the representative of that world?"

Susan's eyes widened and she reached for her link, "Delenn…"

Last edited by Todeswind on 2011-02-16 06:34pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-02-16 04:42am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
Lennier didn't notice that there was anyone else in the room with him till he heard the sound of a pulse pistol charging. He turned around in shock to find himself facing a cruel faced warrior cast member.

"Get up," grunted the warrior. Lennier stood at the ready, striking up a pose of the religious cast's fighting form and placing himself between the gun and Delenn. The warrior stared furiously beyond where Lennier at Delenn's cocoon.

"She's in there isn't she?" The warrior screamed in fury. He waved his pistol in Lennier's face, "More aside. Move aside!"

Mimbari did not kill Mimbari but this warrior seemed to have lost his mind entirely. It must be Kalain, or someone else from the Trigati. He would not allow harm to befall Delenn. Delenn was the most wonderful woman he'd ever met in his life and some deranged, gun-toting, sociopath would not be allowed to touch her on his watch.

He would die for her if he had to. Lennier swallowed and started to recite the rites of conclusion to himself, preparing himself for the end. Members of the religious cast were supposed to accept their own death as they did their own life but Lennier would have been lying to say he was not supremely pleased when the door opened revealing a handful of well-armed security officers.

"Freeze!" a half dozen officers pointed PPGs at the back of Kalain's head.

A tall man walked into the room wearing an Earthforce uniform, "Put the gun down! Put the gun down and we won't hurt you."

Lennier relaxed and stared Kalain in the face. It was time for this to end, "If you are going to kill me then do so. Otherwise I have considerable work to get do."

Kalain smiled amusedly and handed his weapon to the officers. They cuffed him and frog marched him out of the room, pointing their PPGs deep into his ribs to keep him from struggling.

The Earthforce officer walked up to Lennier. Lennier eyed the pips on the human's collar and the way the Lieutennant Commander seemed to be deferring to him. He sighed, he'd hoped rumors of Sinclair's reassignment had been exaggerated, "You are the new commanding officer."

"Captain John Sheridan Earth Force," Oh in Valen's name what were the human's thinking sending the Star Killer to a place of diplomacy? He would ruin the place within the month.

"Lennier of the Third Fane of Chudomo," he would not disgrace his clan by hiding it, even from the Star Killer.

Sheridan eyed Delenn's cocoon in curiosity and tired to enter. Lennier tensed up and moved in front of him. The sheer cheek of entering farther into Delenn's private rooms without permission from Lennier, "Ambassador Delenn is indisposed at the moment," Sheridan continued to examine cocoon apparently oblivious to his rudeness, "Perhaps you would come back later. Much later."

Sheridan smiled embarrassedly and nodded, "Of course."

Lennier watched him leave before sitting down to meditate on what had just happened. For some reason he could not help but feel like Delenn was staring at him disapprovingly for his harsh words.
--

Magos Frist looked down at the two bodies sitting on the steel tables of the coroner's office with clinical interest. They were still possessed of the features of youth, though the redhead was covered in substantially more augmenters than the brunette. She had known them of course. There wasn't any member of Tech-cults on the ship she did not know. But she had assumed they'd been killed in the decompression of the docks. There were many unaccounted for members of the crew who'd most likely been lost that way. She sighed, "They were tech-priests alright."

Osma chucked, "The mechandrites gave that away Magos. Still it's procedure that I ask the next of kin to come and identify their bodies. You were the closest thing I could think of for these two."

"I'm surprised you didn't just bring them down to the service we conducted earlier today," Kerrigan ran her hand over the face of the redheaded boy, "They should have been properly preserved in the afterlife."

"Normally I would Magos but I suspect foul play," Osma held his pillbox hat between his hands, "I can't find the cause of death and they were found in one of the cremation chambers. Someone not from the church apparently has a key to the blasted chambers. Hell they would have been cremated long ago of the flaming things hadn't gone up the spout on us after the last fight. I've ordered some of my men to start camping outside the cremation chambers. I don't want to know how many bodies were dumped there before we caught these two."

"Cremation chambers? With their agumentics still attached?" Kerrigan's eyes widened in shock, "They were most certainly not put there by adepts of the machine god."

"I thought at first that maybe a crewman found their bodies and put them in he chambers as the fighting was going on. They crew isn't exactly expert on the rites of the Techs but then I found this," he held up a report in his hand, "It's their duty roster. The last thing I can confirm they showed up for was checking the plasma readouts for the main cannons and then nothing. I can't find a single one of their duties they showed up twelve hours prior to the invasion of Belzafest."

"Damn," Kerrigan swore, "And you're not sure how they died?"

"The Coroner was afraid to do an autopsy. Hell he wasn't even sure how to do one even if I'd allowed him to try," Osma laughed, "He was afraid the might trip some failsafe and blow himself up."

"Its not as impossible as you might think Mr. Osma. I have systems to that affect to protect my secrets, and they were more than capable of making similar ones," she looked down at them, "But I can save him the trouble. You see this notch right here? It's an intravenous nutrient feed line. They're quite common for priests who've given up having a digestive system," she picked up and pinched the cable revealing a tiny black blemish imperceptible to normal human eyes, "it's been punctured. I suspect someone fed poison into the feed lines. I'll have to analyze it to be sure but I feel confident that it was something quick acting, a small mercy at least."

"Amon Sui saboteurs?" Osma spat on the ground, "Damn, I was afraid of that. They were quiet for the past few weeks but I knew that was more about them lying low than them having given up. "

"May I see the duty roster?" Kerrigan reached out with a mechandrite.

"Of course," he handed it over to Kerrigan, "I'd appreciate any help you can give me. I don't really understand enough about the Ad-Mech to make a complete investigation into the matter without your advice."

"No, I don't suppose you would at that," Kerrigan's eyes flitted from line to line. Most of the duties given to the two priests hand been standard maintenance, none of it spectacularly important and nearly all of it was shared between multiple priests to ensure it got done in a timely fashion, "I'd have to suspect the Amon Sui partisans were just sowing chaos. Proving that they can attack at any time, it's not as though they have much in the way of resources to do a lot else. They were hardly given… any…." her eyes stopped and she felt a feeling of dread crawl up her spine, "Mr. Osma, can you say without a doubt that these men died before completing any of the other duties on this list."

"Reasonably so," Osma nodded and positioned his pillbox hat so that it covered the bald patch on the crown of his head, "We got a time stamp off the door longs for the crematorium. Not the main logs, mind you, they'd tampered with those but there is a secondary log in a redundant system that we checked. Or I should say your boys checked, Tech-Adept Tyan was of great assistance to me."

"I'll pass along your compliments when I see him next. If he's to be trusted, and his work usually is, this is troubling. Mr. Osma… these were the tech priests who's job it was to activate the Inquisitor's Arco-flagellant," Kerrigan looked down at the paper in confusion, "But I know for a fact that the Dorn unit was on Belzafest with the Inquisitor and used to great effect. The attempt at sabotage clearly failed…so who was it that activated it? And why?"
--

The interrogation room of was a small octagonal space with a couple of alcoves for the guards to stand in with a table in between them and the prisoner. Kalain sat shackled to the floor and staring straight ahead, smirking slightly. John leaned in and got close to the Mimbari's face, "Let me get this straight. A high ranking member of the Mimbari warrior caste who no one has seen in nearly twelve years suddenly appears and for no apparent reason breaks into Ambassador Delenn's quarters gun in hand." John paced back and forth around the room, "Now if you were looking the Mimbari tourist bureau, you were just a little off course. Wouldn't you say? But the curious thing is, you don't finish the job," he continued his pacing around the room looking briefly at the two officers eying Kalain with their hands close to their PPGs, "You could have killed both of them and been out of there in two minutes. Instead we find you standing there, practically waiting for us."

Kalain sneered, "Everyone knows Mimbari do not kill Mimbari."

John rounded on him, slamming his palms against the table with a smack. His hands throbbed from the force of it, "Then why are you here?"

"Perhaps everyone is wrong," the Mimbari's voice dripped with venom.

"Maybe you never intended to kill them at all," John considered the series of illogical events. Kalain was up to something, "Perhaps something else is going on."

"Perhaps you are the problem."

"What's that supposed to mean," John glowered at Kalain till he felt the firm pressure of Susan's hand pressing on his shoulder. His second in command shook her head.

"Captain, we're not getting anywhere. I suggest we wrap it up for now and try again tomorrow."

"No…one last thing," John eyed Kalain, "I'm told that after the death of your commanding officer you took command of a Mimbari War Cruiser… but if you're here where's your ship?"

Kalain simply stared and smirked. John saw white and quickly exited the room. If he didn't leave soon he would start pummeling the warrior caste member in his insufferably smug face. That would be satisfying but wouldn't accomplish anything. Susan sensed his mood and said nothing as they walked out of the brig and down the corridors of blue sector.

A familiar voice rang out from behind him as soon as he walked out, "Captain, please wait captain!"

He turned around to see Mr. Lennier, the assistant to Ambassador Delenn, was rushing towards them. He winced and prepared himself for another Mimbari verbal assault. The small Mimbari bowed deeply when he reached them, "Captain! I apologize if I was rude earlier. There is something we need to discuss, especially in light of Kalain's presence. It concerns the reason you were sent here, the relocation of Commander Sinclair and the reason we surrendered at the Battle of the Line."

Well, when it rains it pours.
--

Abbas adjusted the brown robe for a third time since he put it on. The robes of a novice were meant to show the humility and respect for the higher members of the orders of the machine, they were symbols of the greater society of the Omassiah. They also itched very badly. Abbas, as a son of Sáclair, was used to the softness of velvet and silk not the course fibers of wool used for the robe. He resisted the urge to scratch at his back looked at himself in the mirror of his room for the fifth time since he put it on.

In spite of being nowhere near as fine as the clothing he was used to he could not help but feel that the tech-novice's robes he wore were the most impressive thing he'd ever owned. He raised his hand in a mechanical fashion and pointed it at his reflection in the mirror pretending it was one of the augmentic concealed weapons of the tech-priests. It was about midway though making machine gun noises with his lips at imaginary pirates that he noticed that there was someone behind him in the room, someone biting down on their lip to silence giggles, his half-sister Ami.

"Brother, I suspect that vanity is one of the things the Adeptus Mechanicus try to weed out of their members," she brushed back honey blonde curls and walked over to him. She reached out and straightened the collar of his cowl, "And I suspect they don't tuck their hood into the back of their shirt either."

Abbas jerked and reached behind him. When he discovered his hood in the proper place he glared sullenly at Ami who only giggled in response, "I'll have you know I intend to be the best tech-priest there ever was, maybe even the Fabricator General on Mars!"

"Dream big little brother," she hugged him and ruffled his hair, "You're a Sáclair and the Sáclair do not do things by half measures. I think we'd be cross with you if you didn't plan to change the universe," she looked down at him, "but I suspect you'll have to grow a few inches before they let you run a Titan."

Abbas laughed. Ami was fond of calling him the runt of the litter, in spite of being a good three inches shorter than he was. She was older than he by a good three years and had gotten in the habit of helping mother him early on. The Lady Sáclair insisted that the legitimate children of their father help raise the bastard children to ensure there was no jealousy between them. It wasn't a perfect solution but it certainly helped. Ami was his favorite sister by far. He would miss living with her when he moved in with the other novices, "I'm sorry Ami, I was coming to say goodbye to you before I left."

"You were going to say goodbye to me if you ever pried yourself away from your own reflection you mean," she squeezed his shoulders, "Don't worry little brother, we're all proud of you and happy for you. Well all of us but the heir apparent and till mother gives birth to him his opinion doesn't matter. You're still going to be able to visit at free times and on holidays, the Magos Kerrigan promised it."

"I know but I'll miss you all terribly," He felt his eyes tearing up a bit.

"Hey, hey, no tears," she wiped his cheek with her thumb, "This is a good thing, remember," she got a stern expression, "Now go and say goodbye to the rest of your siblings. They're in the den waiting with a cake, we'd have grabbed you earlier but Isaac got distracted by trying to spy on the inquisitor. He got the backside of mother's hand for his troubles too. Now come on, I want to eat cake," she laughed, "And try to act surprised."
--

Lennier looked especially uncomfortable, even smaller and more fidgety than he did normally on the wide couch of John's office. He licked his lips and began to speak in a slow measured tone as though he was delivering a lecture. John listened to every word with fascination, "After three years, the holy war that begin when our leader was killed by an Earth explorer division was almost over. To avenge Dhukat's death we had pursued your forces all the way back to your homeworld. The few surviving Earth ships that had been were ordered to defend your world at any cost were not an obstacle. The Grey Council had come to oversee our final victory over the earth forces. They took Sinclair on board their ship, at first he was tortured but then he was scanned. And they discovered….they were horrified to find it out but it was true."

Susan shook her head and said the question that was at the forefront of John's mind, "What was discovered?"

Lennier swallowed and looked up as though considering how to word his response, "It is our belief that every generation of Mimbari is reborn in each following generation. Remove those souls and the whole suffers. We are diminished. Over the last two thousand years there have been fewer Mimbari born into each generation. Those who are born do not seem equal to those who came before. It is almost as though our greater souls have been disappearing. At the battle of the line we discovered where our souls were going. They were going to you. Mimbari souls were being reborn, in part or in full, in human bodies.

Susan blanched, "So you stopped the war in order to avoid harming your own souls?"

"Yes. But the council knew that our people and yours were not ready for this information. It could unravel our entire society. So we could not tell our generals the reason for the surrender. We had all memory of the examination erased from Sinclair's mind and we let him go. It has been our secret. Now it is yours. It must be kept." So, that was why they'd ended it. That was why they'd surrendered. If they'd called for a truce of some sort the Humans would have questioned why but nobody bothered to worry why they'd won a war.

Susan shook her head in confustion, "Then why break the silence now? I mean why tell us?"

"Because changes are coming," Lennier seemed to be hinting at something important, "Commander Sinclair was the first, there will be more."

John's link went off and the looked down, "Sheridan."

A garbled voice played out of it, "Captain we've got something major coming through the jump gate. It's a Mimbari cruiser. Her gunports are open and targeting systems are online. She's on an attack vector."

John and Susan looked at each other, stood up and sprinted towards the CnC. The commanding officer's office was placed directly above it specifically so that when these sort of situations happened he would be able to get to the CnC in short order. It didn't make every second they spent sprinting to the command center feel any less like an eternity. John knocked over two officers and a Brakiri Ambassadorial attendant in his hurry.

Huffing and puffing from their exertions the two officers burst through the open door to the command and control center.. Sheridan sprung into action the second he was in the command center, "Red Alert! I want all squadrons on standby but to take no actions. I don't want to do anything that might be provocative."

Susan rushed to the main control consul, "Scrambling fighters"

The curving shape of the Mimbari cruiser was visible in the distance. The Sharlin was a beautiful angular curving predator of the stars, vaguely resembling a blue angelfish. It's elegance was matched only by its firepower, it would be more than enough to damage or destroy Babylon 5. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that. John walked up to the communications display and activated a wide band transmission, "This is Captian John Sheridan, Earth Alliance Babylon 5 to the Mimbari war cruiser. Power down your weapons this is a diplomatic station."

A haughty looking Mimbari answered his call. She sneered and said, "I am Ay'leet Duran of the Mimbari War Cruiser Trigati. You have illegally arrested and detained the captain of this vessel."

Sheridan squared his shoulders, "Your captain assaulted one of my crew and was caught in an attempted murder."

"None of your people were killed. No Mimbari was killed. You have not been harmed. You will release our captain," Her condescension increased with every syllable. She didn't even need to say the words 'star killer' for him to feel her hatred boring through him.

He stared right on back, "And if we refuse?"

"Captain she's launching fighters," yelled an operations officer. The small inverted dart-like shapes of Nial fighters disgorged from the belly of the great ship and swarmed about the larger craft."

John turned to the monitor, "This is madness. Babylon 5 is a place of peace. There must be for some way to reach a non-violent solution to this. Please just listen for a moment."

"The time for talking is over Human, as is the time for listening. You had the opportunity to talk and listen to the greatest of us and instead you chose to kill him," She shook her head, "All that remains now is honor and… and death" She looked at something in the distance, outside the view of the camera. She yelled something in the Mimbari warrior caste language and deactivated the transmission.

John turned around, "Somebody get me a translation for what she just said. I caught the word impossible and didn't catch the rest."

"Sir," the telemetry operations terminal officer turned around, "I don't think we're going to need a translation for that. There's something extremely odd going on near the hyperspace gate. Something's coming in though the gateway… but whatever it's opening up to most certainly isn't hyperspace."

"What do you mean," Susan approached the consul, eyeing the readouts, "What is it opening up to?"

"I don't know but these readings are off the charts for exotic particles. We're getting alarms for every known type of exotic radiation and a couple of exotic particles I think we've never encountered outside of a particle-collider."

"Sir!" hollered the operations officer, "Something's coming out of it. Something big, something very, very, big."

Sheridan turned to the main view-screen, "Somebody get me the view off the nearest repair-bot in the area."

The screen flickered and a grainy picture of a blue, swirling puncture in space appeared on the screen. It was right behind the rapidly fleeing Trigali billowing an ominous electric blue, nothing like any hyperspace window John had ever seen. A wide gilded prow larger in the shape of a predatory bird was piercing out of the blue. Iridescent green lighting shot out from the blue smoky void and danced across the hull, "What in the hell is that?"

Susan laughed, "That would be the new species the Centauri contacted at the edge of Drazi space yesterday. Ambassador Mollari warned me they might be coming to Babylon 5 but assumed he meant in days or weeks not hours. The Drazi territories are halfway across the galaxy."

"Damn," swore John. The last thing he wanted was for a first contact situation to end with a firefight, "Do we know how to contact them? Warn them that the Trigati isn't ours."

"According to the Centauri they communicate with microwave transmissions for short range communications sir," she sighed, "But I have no way of knowing if they've learned Interlac."

"Do it, send them a transmission to stay out of this. This is our fight not theirs." John looked out at the two massive ships outside Babylon five and the slowly dissipating blue cloud. The bright crimson ship with the golden prow was easily more than half the size of Babylon five, "And tell our fighters not to shoot till someone starts shooting at them.

"We're getting a message from the Trigati sir," the Susan looked at John, "I'll put it on the main screen."

"Do it, and keep transmitting to the other ship that they don't have to help defend the station," John turned to the monitor and looked into the livid face of the Ay'leet Duran, "Mimbari war cruiser Trigali. Do not fire on the incoming ship. I repeat do not fire on the incoming ship. They are a new race. This is a first contact situation. Your problems are with us, not them."

"It is you I want Star Killer, do not worry," Duran smiled cruely, "It is time we finished what we could not at the battle of the line."

"There's no reason for this," Sheridan waved his hands, "The war is over."

"The war is never over Star Killer," she turned her head, "And for some it is just beginning. It seems the choice of keeping the young race out of this battle was taken out of our hands. Defend yourselves!"

"Sir! The new ship has deployed fighters and is engaging the Mimbari warship," Susan looked up, "They sent us a message in reply to our warnings to stay out of the fighting. 'Onward to death, for the homeword, for the Emperor."

"Tell the fighters they are free to engage the Mimbari targets," Sheridan said in a defeated tone, "If they're willing to die to protect the station the least we can do is support them. Activate the station weapons and bulkheads. All hands prepare for impact."

The Sharlin turned to the red ship and fired its man cannon. Brilliant green lances of energy shot out and cut across the port side of the ship. An invisible wall of energy shimmered and spat from the impact.

"Shields," John's eyebrows raised, "They have shields. Are they holding?"

"How should I know?" Susan turned to John, "The Abbai haven't been exactly forthcoming with information about their shield technology." The distant rumbling pulse of the stations pulse cannons and plasma weapons rumbled though its superstructure.

John looked a the tactical readout, "Wait. We can target them?"

Susan raised an eyebrow, "That's odd, do you suppose the other ship is undoing the Jamming technologies?"

"No," he shook his head, "No we've been able to lock onto the ship ever since it came through hyperspace… but that would mean… no… no! They came here to die! They want to be martyrs. Call the other ship! Warn them not to shoot!"

It was too late, the crimson ship's powerful port-side batteries opened fire on the Trigati, crippling it. John activated an open channel to the crimson ship in interlac, "Cease fire! I repeat, cease fire! The Trigati is disabled."

The crimson ship's guns stopped firing, though it's fighters continued to skirmish with Mimbari fighters. John sighed with relief.

"Sir another hyperspace window is forming. It's another Shalin class sir," Susan groaned, "They brought re-enforcements."

"No they didn't commander, I called that one here to help with the Trigati… and for the love of god will someone please get a warning off to the crimson ship that the other Sharlin is a friendly!" He said as the crimson ships fighters moved to engage the incoming Sharlin. He tapped the communicator, "The incoming ship is friendly, I repeat the incoming ship is friendly."

"Sir the Trigati is hailing us," the communications officer blanched, "One word only, 'honor."

Susan yelled, "Radiological alarm, get our fighters out of there." Seconds before a brilliant white plume of energy burst outside the station, rendering the Trigali to debris.

John blinked the stars out of his eyes, "Is everyone ok?"

Susan groaned, "We lost five pilots in the blast sir." Damn, five men dead on his first day. Damn and double damn.

"The other Sharlin is haling us sir."

John winced, "Put it on screen."

A dour and depressed looking mimbari appeared on the viewer, "Perhaps to you this was a tactical problem to be solved, for us this was a great sorrow. The crew of the Trigati were heroes to many of the warrior caste. Their death will be mourned and your name will be remembered, Sheridan Star Killer." The transmission cut to black. The Sharlin turned and sped away into hyperspace even as the crimson ship's fighters sped to intercept it.

Sheridan looked around at the depressing scene outside the station, and to the crimson ship in the distance. He sighed and began to speak into the relative silence of the CnC, "It was an early Earth president, Abraham Lincoln, who best described our situation. 'The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. We cannot escape history. We will be remembered in spite of ourselves. The fiery trial though which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the last generation.' We shall nobly save or meanly lose our last, best hope of Earth. We can only seek the future while trying to honor the past."

"Now please try to open up a channel to the other ship."

---

Can anyone suggest a good site for finding transcripts of B5 episodes? Transcribing dialogue is a painfully long process.

Cheers, as always reviews are welcome.

EDIT: FFN cocked up my scene breaks....

--

Last edited by Todeswind on 2011-02-16 06:43pm, edited 1 time in total.
   Profile |  

tortieconspiracy
PostPosted: 2011-02-16 09:38am 

Youngling


Joined: 2009-07-01 09:38am
Posts: 98
One suggestion. Can you do something to make the scene changes clearer? As it was, shifts between the 40K material and B5 material were rather confusing because they were only separated in the same way as paragraphs within a location.
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Enigma
PostPosted: 2011-02-16 12:36pm 

is a laughing fool.


Joined: 2003-04-30 10:24pm
Posts: 6903
Location: Painesville TWP, Ohio
I agree, it get's confusing when you go from one scene to another. The easiest way to deal with that is to add ------------ to separate them.
   Profile |  

Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-03-24 09:32pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
A single red giant glowed at the center of the system like a baleful eye in the middle of the cold stone of a dozen dead worlds. They were shadowy seats of powers long dead or so G'kar had believed. A squadron of ships had been lurking in the gravity well of the moon.

The dead did not rest easy it would seem.

At the edge of sensor range ships black as hell were tearing through space, hell bent on his destruction. They'd stumbled into a hornet's nest of black darts and plasma-fire.

The engines of his Frazi class heavy fighter groaned and screeched as he watched the three flickering blips. He licked his lips in frustration and tapped the communicator. "Stay together! Just a little further to the gate."

He flinched as a great purple blob of plasma shot past his window. It collided with one of his escorts. The ship cracked and burst, tossing shrapnel against the hull. It thudded and pinged ominously against the already stressed sides.

G'Nok, leader of his escort, yelled from the fighter behild G'kar, "We're not going to make it."

"Yes we will," G'Kar said, not believing a word of it. These darts were faster than his ship could hope to be. There was no practical way he'd reach the jump-gate in time.

"No," G'Nok said in a tone of stony resolve, "Leave us. Tell the others. Warn them!"

G'Kar winced as the two little green hexagons on his radar turned and charged the ships behind them, firing as fast as they could. The black darts slowed and tried to correct their course to avoid the fighters. He could still hear the warning klaxons of an imminent hull depressurization as G'Nok yelled, "In death we salute you….Honor our names, goodbye."

G'Nok's ship crashed into the dart-ship, exploding with the force of the ship's fission reactors and tossing the other darts off course. G'Kar closed his eyes prayed for their souls. By G'Quan, he would escape to validate their sacrifices, "G'Quan bless your names. You will be remembered with honor."

G'Kar didn't even bother to wait for his sensors to properly calibrate before he started up his computers and activated the command system, "Set Jumpgate sequence, destination Babylon 5."

-=-

"No," Susan repeated for the fifth time over the Interlac translator, "Those are friendlies, I repeat those are friendlies. Do not fire on them. Do not fire on anyone coming through the gate unless they fire first."

She turned to Lt. Corwin and suppressed as screech as she switched off the transmission, "I swear to God, these Imperials had better have something worth all the insanity that we're having to go through for them. They're insufferable."

"I think it's an automated system they've got programmed to ask that question whenever a new ship enters the system. The grammar is always exactly the same for every ship that enters the system."

"I'm just grateful we finally convinced them that they didn't need to have their gun-ports open at all times. ISN is going to have a field day over this thing if something tweaks them off. I'd rather not put those shields of theirs to the test," The Imperials were understandably trigger-happy what had
happened on their first day at Babylon 5. It was uncommon to be involved in a firefight at was supposed to be neutral territory even when you understood all the players involved in local politics.

It had been two weeks and they didn't know any more about these Imperials than what the Centauri had shared. The repair bots had got some candid shots of spacesuit-clad bipeds crawling about around on the hull conducting repairs. Small shuttles and Imperial fighters had been flying around the system at odd hours, always filing flight plans with Babylon 5 but never explaining what they were doing or why.

"They sent another request to verify the atmospheric conditions of the station that came in last shift. I did what you asked and just re-sent the same data as last time with an updated scan of the docking bay," he pulled out a data crystal, "We actually had one of the techs set up a macro for it in the future."

"Oh, I could hug you Lieutenant. Typing that command in five times a day was enough once in a lifetime, every day for two weeks….it's just too much." Additional quarantine procedures that were demanded of any species coming to Babylon 5 for the first time but the steps the Imperials were
demanding was wholesale paranoia.

It had been two weeks since the crimson and gold ship had arrived and Susan was still confirming a re-confirming the most basic of atmospheric data and bacteria warnings, even after they'd informed her that they had no intention of entering the station without encounter suits. It was like dealing with some hypochondriac version of the Vorlon Empire. At least the Vorlons had the common sense to simply sit in the distance and look cryptic, the chatter between the station and the Imperial ship had been incessant.

The Imperial ship had sent not one but five alphabets and distinct languages. When Susan had asked if they could specify which languages were used by the Imperial government in official documents the Imperials had responded that they already had done so then sent an additional six hundred languages that were apparently colloquial languages of the Empire. She rather pitied the linguistics department at Earthdome who got to sift through that data.

And the prayers! Every three hours without fail the ship would broadcast a signal to the various ships in system. When Babylon 5 had sent a request for a translation of the signal they'd gotten more than they bargained for. Most of the finer points of the prayers were lost in translation to and from interlac but there were some uncomfortable lines about "burning the unclean" and "cleansing the unworthy" that reminded her too much of Dilgar battle rhetoric.

"On the bright side Mam' they seem to have very advanced technologies," the lieutenant smiled, "I wouldn't mind getting a look at the cockpit of one of those Imperial fighters. They may maneuver like a tank but they're fast as all get out."

"You might get your chance Lieutenant," Susan looked down at the chiming interlac translator, "They're requesting permission to dock with the station in docking bay 19 at 13:00 hours."

"That's great Commander," Corwin smiled, "I'll inform the Captain and the Ambassadors."

"I don't know Lieutenant," Susan stared at the ship, "Something about that ship just feels… wrong to me. It's the start of something new but I can't help but shake the feeling that we might be about to find out how Jankowski felt in his later years."

-=-

The isolation ward behind the thick glass of the environmentally sealed healing chamber looked as sterile and uncomfortable as Sheridan remembered those on the Agamemnon being. He looked in at the Starfury pilots who managed to get away from the blast and couldn't help but think of those who hadn't.

Treatment for radiation burns was a small price to pay by comparison.

He turned as he heard footsteps behind him, "Doctor, how's it going? I thought you'd be off duty by now."

"I'm running a little late," Dr. Franklin squinted and rubbed as his eyes, staring blearily at his patients, "Can I talk to you for a moment?"

"Yeah," Sheridan looked down at his watch, "I can afford a minute. My sister's coming for a visit. I have time before she arrives. How is mister Garibaldi?"

"Frankly not great," the doctor pulled a series of radion treatment vials and passed them to a nurse. The nurse walked away and entered the isolation ward, "That's what I want to talk to you about. I've pulled out every trick I know and nothing seems to work. He's not coming out of that coma."

Sheridan grunted noncommittally. Security Chief Michael Garibaldi had been shot in the back under mysterious circumstances several weeks ago by a person or persons unknown. Garibaldi's record was colorful but the near universal respect and understanding the crew seemed to have for the man overshadowed his past. It would be a tragedy if they lost someone so clearly important to the cohesion of Babylon 5. Even the Centauri Ambassador seemed to be genuinely worried about Mr. Garibaldi's recovery.

The doctor eyed Sheridan's pensive look and continued, "Now there is one other option but it means performing an unauthorized procedure."
"I see," authorizing any more esoteric medical procedures was uncommon but within his rights as military governor of the station, "Have you tried contacting his next of kin?"

"I tried and failed," the doctor's voice took on some genuine fear, "And I'm afraid if we wait any longer it wont do any good." It was unlikely that he would ever find any of Garibaldi's relatives. Michel was tight lipped about the specifics of his home life growing up but Stephen had always gotten the impression that Garibaldi's family was long dead.

Sheridan tilted his head, "What's the procedure?"

"Last year I came into possession of an alien device capable of draining the life energy from a person and giving it to somebody else," Sheridan's eyebrow quirked upwards, the use of alien medical technology was permitted on earth force stations but rarely without decades of testing to make sure it didn't have any side effects, "It was used as a kind of death penalty."

Death was definitely a side effect, "Sounds nasty,"

"But it can be used safely at lower settings," Dr. Franklin's hesitated, "to heal people."

"Are you speaking from personal experience?" Dr. Franklin did not seem like the type to suggest this sort of thing without evidence, and if he was conducting medical research on station without informing Sheridan this conversation could prove to be problematic.

"Oh no, no, no, no I haven't done it myself but I have seen it used that way," the doctor shook his head wildly, "Still there is a risk and I wanted your permission before I tried it."

"And there's no other way?"

Dr. Franklin shook his head, "It's his only hope."

Sheridan smiled sadly, "We don't have much choice do we?" The doctor's face broke into an expression of great relief as Sheridan continued, "Who are you going to hook up to the machine."

"Well I can't ask somebody else to hook up to the machine if something goes wrong," Dr. Franklin looked into the long term ward pensively, "I'll do it"

-=-

Abbas felt hopelessly small as the held the ornamental tool chest and carried it over with Dax, another of Kerrigan's apprentices. It was a large framed steel box emblazoned with the cog of the Adeptus Mechanicus and filled to the brim with large tools intended to be held by agumentically enhanced arms, altogether too heavy for a single boy of Abbas' size to carry on his own.

He felt his knees shake slightly as Dax tilted the box upwards and set his side on the workbench of Kerrigan's workbench. Abbas pushed hard and shoved the box onto the table. His eyes widened as he realized he'd misjudged his own strength and the reached to stop the tool-case from tipping off the other side of the workbench.

A long mechandrite shot out from seemingly nowhere and a harsh metallic voice rang out, "I believe it was the table I wanted those on young master Abbas. Not the floor. Let's avoid blasphemy in your first week."

Blasphemy, it was so odd to be worshiping the Machine aspect of the Emperor rather than the usual cult of the Emperor. Tools were icons of worship much as the golden aquilla under the robes of any common man of the Empire would be.

He looked up at the inscrutable and scarred face of Enginseer Iino. Iino was not a bad teacher by any measure but Abbas preferred the carefree joy Kerrigan showed in her worship of the machine rather than the dirge like meticulousness of Enginseer Iino's idea of worship, "Of course machine-brother Iino. I understand," he caught Iino's stern look, "No Enginseer… I really don't. I'm sorry."

"No child," he chuckled, "You do not. But someday you will," he said in a surprisingly kind tone before turning to the other apprentice, "Dax I believe? Yes, you are. Report to the fight deck, you'll be with Engineer Xon learning about the proper invocations of preparation."

He snorted at the slightly startled expression on Dax's face at Iino remembering his name, "Memory Engrams boy. I'm not about to forget a name or a face this century. Now go! And I expect you to grab the incense for the ritual before you get there."

Dax hopped to attention and shuffled out of the room, making a rough facsimile of the hunched position of prayer he'd seen done by the elder devotees of the machine god. Iino rolled his remaining eye and turned to Abbas, "You, on the other hand will be helping me with something else."

"What machine-brother?" For all Iino's severe traditionalism and businesslike manner his works were always fascinating. Abbas understood little of what he saw and littler of what it did but he would. He would be allowed to know things about the bounty that even his father would never know, a thought that appealed to him greatly.

"A thirst for knowledge is a good thing child," Iino said in a tone of mild disapproval, "But don't let it override your common sense. You may be apprenticed to the Magos but certain aspects of her ideology are wisest if not fully explored."

Iino had been hinting at some 'issue' of 'ideology' shown by Kerrigan for some time though Abbas had no idea what he was speaking of. He suspected it was some sort of test of loyalty or something, testing him to see if he would crack under pressure and start revealing things about the magos. He simply nodded politely and said, "I suspect I'm too early into my apprenticeship to understand what it means to be a Tech-priest."

"Truer words were never spoken boy," Iino started to pull bizarre instruments out of the toolbox and prod them at a skull-faced helmet on the table, "Now tell me, what is it that I'm working on right now."

Abbas smiled, he might actually know this one, "The Inquisitor's pressure suit I believe… flak armor layered over a bodysuit." It was as ornate and ostentatious a suit of body-armor as even his father could have hoped for. Every inch of flak armor was covered with a thin layer of some obsidian colored ceramic covered in small golden hexegrammic wards and prayers written in blocky high-gothic. The skull-faced golden death mask in Iino's hands was covered in cables leading to a complicated machine seated at the base of the neck and leading down the spine.

Iino tapped at the helmet with the tool, "Child you might has well tell me I was working on 'something' for the Inquisitor. Specifically what am I working on?"

Abbas approached and eyed the fine and tubes Iino was running through his fingers, "That's the filtration system right? To separate out any harmful elements out of the air, bacterial and the like."

"Good," Iino nodded curtly, "And why are we rubbing the oils into the machine's workings?"

"To cleanse and appease the machine's will?" He said tentatively. There were so many conflicting rites and rituals it was hard to keep them straight in his mind.

"All rituals we do are to that end child. Let's try something different," he pointed to the find bundled cables streaming from the back of the helmet, "What function do these serve in the filtration system."

"Uh, none I can think of machine brother," he looked closer and pointed at a machine thin machine on the left side of the belt of the inquisitor's suit, "That's the filtration unit so unless it's a redundant system I can't think of any way it could be part of it."

"Good," Iino nodded, "It is not. This is part of the Inquistor's psychic hood. This symbol here," he pointed to a symbol of a yawning skull burning overlaid on the Inquisitorial sigil, "This warns of psychically reactive materials within the machine. Never attempt to repair a machine with this symbol on it."

"With what symbol on it?" rang out a voice from behind them. Abbas turned and found himself face to face with Inquisitor Hilder himself. He hadn't even heard the man approach at all. The Inquisitor's sandy hair and hawk like features seemed even more stony and intimidating than the rumors made them out to be.

He tried to clear his mind of all impure thoughts, Inquisitors could supposedly sniff out heresies no matter now remote. As he tried not to think of how many times he'd taken the Emperor's name in vain when he'd stubbed his toe in the dark this morning Iino started conversing with the Inquisitor after greeting the Inquisitor's Skitarii bodyguard in binary.

"Your suit is just about ready Inquisitor. I'm just making some final adjustments to the hood's calibrations. Are you quite sure you want it to be activated when you arrive?"

"Better safe than sorry, they've already shown what the value of 'neutral' ground means in this sector of space. That ship may well have been a renegade but I'm not taking any chances. I know for a fact that several psychics have tried and failed to probe past the ship's wards. We need all the defenses we can have." He looked around the room,"Where's Magos Frist?"

"Retrieving the Archo-flagellant," Iino said impassively, "And getting your Ogryn to wear a pressure suit I suspect."

"Rather mundane work for a Magos," The Inquisitor blinked in surprise, "I wasn't surprised she agreed to my plan but I didn't expect her to become this personally involved," he chuckled.

"The Magos has become security conscious as of late," Iino said, looking deliberately at the helmet on the table and away from the Inquisitor, "She preferred to limit the range of communications with the staff."

"Not the damned Amon Sui again? Who did they get this time? How can I help?" The inquisitor rested his hand on the hilt of a well-worn power sword. Abbas stiffened slightly as he watched the Inquisitor's fingers caress the ruby pommel of the sword and briefly imagined wearing the full battle harness of a Magos and fighting at the Inquisitor's side.

"You need not trouble yourself inquisitor," Iino lifted the helmet, "Lets get you suited up!"

"I really must insist," the Inquisitor said in a voice of dangerous calm.

"This is an internal affair of the Adeptus Mechanicus, I am neither required nor welling to reveal more to you than I have. Now strip and put on this suit or I shall weld it to you," the Inquisitor flinched as though he were about to say something, but thought better of it, nodded and acquiesced.

"Very well then Enginseer," The Inquisitor started stripping down to a skin tight sythaskin body-glove, "If I'm to be suited up, suit me up," he raised a finger, "but I demand the opportunity to question any Amon Sui prisoners you take."

The enginseer lifted the helmet Daul's pressure suit and shoved it into the Inquisitor's hands, "You may demand all you like Inquisitor, I'm sure the Magos will consider it."

Abbas suddently wondered if it was wise to stand between the two men.

-=-
John smiled as he spotted a hand waving over the crowd and heard a familiar voice yell, "Johnny!" A blonde head popped into and out of view as it jumped up and down like an excited spaniel. The crowd shifted and a short, friendly-looking woman in a fashionable suit forced her way through the crowd and made her way over to John.

She had always been a bit pushy. John suspected it was to compensate for never growing as tall as her big brother.

"Lizzy!" He hugged her and twirled her in the air "Lizzy, Lizzy!"

"Hi big brother," Liz giggled as John set her on the ground.

"Oh it's good to see you. How was your flight? I hope the extra security for our new arrivals didn't slow you down much." It had only been a matter of hours since the Imperials had declared they were finally sending over an envoy and Babylon security had been put on high alert.

"Fine, a little bumpy coming out of hyperspace and your security guards seemed especially on edge but otherwise no complaints."

"Good."

"You look like you've gained weight."

"Ah well," Liz always had a habit of mothering him, "What can I say. After three years in deep patrol eating synthetics I took one look at the garden here and completely lost control."

"Sounds great. I'm starved" Liz rubbed the sides of her stomach.

"Good, let's get you something to eat! I'll have your bags sent to your quarters," he smiled bashfully, "Liz I'm sorry but before we eat I've got to help with the meet and greet. It's a first contact situation and they can't risk snubbing the guy in charge by having him meet with the second in command and not the first."

"Oh," Liz smiled, "Any juicy stories?"

John chuckled and grinned, "You have no idea. Still it hopefully won't keep me too long. It's just a basic meet, greet, and show them to their temporary quarters."

"Quarters eh? Which sector?"

"Green actually," John smiled, "There's a special section of green sector made for this exact purpose, though it hasn't gotten much use. The Senate was actually debating repurposing them as paid living spaces because they were used so little."

"I'd say that argument got shot down," Liz laughed, "Don't worry about me. You go meet whoever it is you need to, I could use a nap after that trip anyway."

"Great, let's show you to your quarters."
-=-

Londo sat in the garden staring at a bush and wondering why the Earther's seemed to be so determined to plant orange flowers all over the place. They were truly garish looking buds, vaguely resembling Narn skin tones. Vir Cotto, his attendant, assured him they had always been planted there but he didn't believe that for a moment. It was some subtle insult from someone. It had to be.

It was probably the doing of a Narn.

Mollari had Narns on the brain as of late. Mollari had always hated the Narn but hadn't ever feared them, not more than any other Centauri did.
Now, with what he had done… no not what he had done, what he had allowed to happen Mollari feared every single Narn he saw on the station. Which of them held a dagger with his name on it thirsting for his blood? There was not a Narn alive who would not declare a blood oath against him if they knew his crimes against them.

They might be coming for him already.

Lost in these dark thoughts he flinched as he heard a familiar voice from behind him, "I understand you were looking for me Ambassador."

Londo turned and saw a stone faced Earther in a tidy suit, one Mr. Morden. He did not know Mr. Morden's first name or his history, nor did he wish to. Mr. Morden had come into Mollari's life with the past month seemingly out of nowhere offering the impossible, and delivering it. Mr. Morden represented someone very powerful in the universe. They were the sorts of people willing to destroy a Narn outpost as a demonstration.

The ever smiling Morden strode forward at a confident pace, "How can I be of service?"

"The destruction of the Narn base in quadrant 37 is drawing quite a lot of attention," Mollari stared Mr. Morden straight in the eye. Showing fear or mistrust would be unwise in these sort of secret dealings.

Mordren smiled and started to walk along the path past Mollari, "Yes, that was the intent."

Mollari reached out and hesitantly grabbed Mr. Morden by the sleeve, " And you are absolutely certain this cannot be traced back me?"

"Oh, without a shadow of a doubt," Mr. Morden's confident assurances somehow made Mollari less comfortable rather than moreso, "The Narn's will never be able to prove that it was done at your instigation." Mordren smiles, "And based upon your promise to take care of it your government accepts your responsibility without question or hesitation."

"Perfect symmetry and balance." Mr. Morden laughed as though he'd just made a great joke, "I believe that this little demonstration will bring you some very interesting propositions."

"Yes," Londo twisted his face halfway between a scowl and a smile, "but what happens if I'm asked for another of these little demonstrations?"

"Then we'll provide it. Simply choose your target, a colony, an outpost."

Londo snorted, "Why don't you eliminate the entire Narn home world while you're at it?"

"One step at a time Ambassador, one step at a time," Mr. Morden's voice had a dangerous edge to it.

Londo blanched and stared.

Mordren started to walk away and stopped, "Oh, one last thing, a small favor in return for our good efforts on your behalf. A person in an important position like yours hears many things. And if you should hear about anything strange happening out on the rim I'd appreciate being informed. Even if it seems unimportant."

Londo snorted, "Other than these Imperials you mean."

"That is a start," the human had an unnatural tendency not to blink, "I would appreciate you being so kind as to keep my appraised of any major events that might come to pass with these," he paused as though considering the name, "Imperials."

"These associates of yours," Londo chuckled, "Not a big fan of outside influences causing conflict in their plans are they? Keeping an eye on things I see?"

"Nothing so blunt ambassador," Morden smiled wider and shook his head laughing at some private joke, "Call it a… professional rivalry. My associates are especially interested in fostering a welcoming environment for these Imperials if possible. Perhaps even coming to a similar friendship as ours."
"What am I supposed to do then?"

"Nothing that you wouldn't be trying to do already. Open trade with them, have cultural exchanges," Mr. Morden rubbed his hands together, "We would appreciate it if you saw to it that the Imperials were properly introduced to the community as smoothly as is possible."


"I see," Londo felt a powerful need for Brivari.

"I doubt that," Morden looked down at his watch, "I apologize for my abruptness but I have business elsewhere. Good day ambassador."

The Earther bowed his head and exited the gardens. Londo sat down on the cold stone of the bench and once again wondered just who it was he was in business with. He would sit there for another hour just thinking till his communicator chimed warning him of the incoming Imperial ambassador. He stood and wandered off to the docking bays.

–=-

Lennier scratched at the spot on his arm where he'd been inoculated with the cocktails of anti-bacterial and anit-viral preventatives. It was necessary for first contact situations but it made his arm twinge painfully. He tried to distract himself by looking around the room.
It was an inauspicious space for the first contact with such a clearly advanced race. The Earther's had done their best to decorate the area to make it properly fitting of such an event but they were only human. No Minbari would even begin to consider using a space without proper incense or candlelight but the Earthers were odd that way.

Delenn had always assured Lennier that the human preference for subdued minimalism was to their credit but he could not help but feel the flags and fanfare of the Earthforce honor guard would be outshined by an elegant and contemplative religious caste embassy. However needs were musts and Babylon 5 was an Earther station and beholden to Earther traditions, unsophisticated though they were.

He did deeply wish that it were Delenn who was responsible for the first contact with the Imperials rather than he. The Grey Council had authorized him to be at the first contact, it would not do for the younger races to be present but not the Minbari. He was not to negotiate anything, mind you, but to be the first representative of Minbar to meet them. It was a great honor, if an admittedly intimidating one.

There were a good two-dozen odd Ambassadors packed into the small space of the docking bay along with an honor guard of Babylon 5 security officers in full black armor. There was a powerful atmosphere of excitement as the Starkiller… no not the Starkiller, Captian Sheridan. The man's name was John Sheridan. He had to keep reminding himself of that, if he continued to think of the Captain in terms of his war record it could make thinks awkward later. Captain Sheridan walked into the docking bay with his second in command Lieutenant Commander Ivanova.

"Strange scamperings at the twilight hour," Lennier nearly jumped out of his skin at the voice. How could something that big be that quiet?
Lennier turned and faced the enigmatic creature behind him. Ambassador Kosh was a Vorlon, the Ambassador to the Vorlon Empire, and as unfathomable as any of his species. The Vorlons were creatures of myths and legend. Even the Minbari, favored among the Vorlon's allies, were left in shadow to all things Vorlon.

Rumor had it that members of the Grey Council were permitted to see a Vorlon without the massive encounter suit favored by the Vorlons but that was only one of a thousand rumors about the Vorlons, each less credible than the last.

"It is good to see you Ambassador Kosh," Lennier said, trying to look Ambassador Kosh in the helmet without flinching at the single red optic in the middle of it, "What brings you to this gathering?"

For anyone else it would have been an odd question. First contact situations with new species were massive political affairs. However the Vorlons rarely concerned themselves with the doings of other, lesser, races. Kosh was not even particularly wont to attending meetings of the Council, in spite of his species having one of the five major votes.

Kosh sighed deeply, "The unusual. "

"What is unusual?" Vorlons had an infuriating habit of speaking in riddles. There were septs of the Minbari priest class who did nothing but listen for the meaning and wisdom in Vorlon speech.

"The unexpected… the unknown," The Vorlon's eye focused into the distance and grew sad, "The predictable and the predetermined."

Lennier looked in the direction the Vorlon was staring. The Centauri had been the ones to first contact the Imperials so it was fitting that they took the lead in greeting them. It was an honor that rankled other members of the Council and the League.

The Drazi and Brakiri ambassadors seemed to be vying over which of them could give the most derisive looks to the Centauri ambassador. Well at least vying for second to the Narn delegate. Na'Toth stood in the second row of the greeting committee with the non-aligned worlds ambassadors for the Drazi and Brakiri home worlds. She stared at Londo with a smoldering hatred Lennier hoped he would never understand.

"They do seem determined to keep their hatreds alive for eternity," Lennier sighed and looked back at Ambassador Kosh.

Kosh was no longer paying attention to the Minbari. The single red optic was focused on a nondescript bit of wall and he was muttering something about a widening circle.

The Vorlons could be fickle like that. Lennier resisted the urge to bob on his heels in anticipation as a human voice crackled over the speakers, "Incoming Imperial shuttle one. Prepare for disembarkation."

Lenneir head a low whistle of amazement from Captain Sheridan as the airlock doors opened and large transport slowly lowered to the floor of the docking bay. He noticed the great gilded paintings of lions on the bottoms of the wings and rose his brow rose in mild surprise. It was uncommon for species to decorate their shuttles, the micro debris and radiation of space often made such ornamentation prohibitively expensive and impractical to maintain.

The floor beneath the ship glowed blue, as it's antigravity repulsions flared against the deck. Three stocky legs extended from the ship and the hum of engine and repulsion fields cut. As the rear door hissed and groaned from opening into a variable pressure environment, a slight mist forming in the air where ice crystals cracked off the door that had formed in the vacuum. Lennier couldn't help but notice what looked distinctly like weapon mounts on the nose and wings of the shuttle.

"Curious," The Vorlon quirked his head at the sound of feet hitting deck echoing from inside the ship. Over a dozen wildly different looking sentient creatures ambled down the walkway. They were nearly as varied and odd a collection of creatures as the League itself.

The first to exit were a quartet of broad shouldered bipeds wearing bright crimson and gold pressure suits under broad silk cloaks and pants. They edged warily down the ramp with the air of professional soldiers and twitched their arms as though they would much prefer to be holding pulse-rifles rather than unarmed. They were closely flanked by a giant figure in a massive black pressure suit, a warped mechanical creature with numerous mechanical tentacles that waved about as though sniffing the air, and an avian creature wearing a cotton jerkin and holding the leash to two lean reptilian mastiffs.

The security officers around the room rubbed their pulse rifles confidently, eying the newcomers and daring them to start trouble. The man at the front of them eventually relaxed slightly and yelled, "Is est tutus. Vos können Ausfahrt traba Inchizitor."

Out from the dark interior of the ship strode a small cluster of other figures easily as eclectic as the first. This newfound Empire had to consist of dozens of member species to contain such vast variation in its members. It would be exciting to share their respective cultures. He was however somewhat apprehensive to discover exactly what purpose the naked humanoid creature with the thick beard and the whips grafted onto his fingers served.

The Captain and the rest of the honor guard approached the newcomers. Sheridan's tone was infectiously happy as he said in broken interlac, "On behalf on the Earth alliance it is my pleasure to welcome you to Babylon 5," and held out his hand.

The skull-masked man in the center of the group eyed Sheridan's hand as though looking for the trap, nodded and shook the proffered appendage before turning to the slightly twitching man to his left and speaking in the gruff tones of one of the Imperial languages.

The twitching man nodded began to speak, "On behalf of the Empire we greet you, may his grace shine upon this meeting. I am Jak, I am a speaker of fact," Lennier winced linguistic nuance was often lost in interlac, "and I will make the voice of honorable Daul Hilder heard."

"And who is Daul Hilder, if I might ask? Is he the captain of your ship?" Mollari rubbed his hands together eagerly.

Jack turned to Hilder and spoke in the rough Imperial language. The Imperials burst into a gibbering mess of hooting and hollering with laughter. Mollari had apparently made a joke, though if it was simply an issue of idiomatic translation or cultural misunderstanding was unclear.
Mollari deflated a bit at the apparent cultural misstep. His crest of hair seemed to droop as he smiled right on back. It was the same smile he wore when speaking to the Narn Ambassador, forced and painful.

After a few moments Jack turned back to the Earthforce honor guard and began speaking in Interlac, "The Captain of the Endless Bounty is indisposed at the moment but we have brought the proper technology to communicate with him directly at the later meeting. Daul Hilder's position within the hierarchy is more… this language lacks the proper words… he is a seeker of hidden truth and a finder of lies. I will endeavor to make these linguistic complexities clearer. "

Sheridan smiled, "We expect our computers to have a translator up an running by the time we have an actual meeting so as to expedite the process," he nodded, "provided of course it's ok for us to do so."

Jack translated again. The three-eyed man wearing the transparent glass helmet blinked his bottom two eyes in surprise and spoke in condescending tones for a few seconds. He was cut off by an abrupt screeching metallic warble from the mechanical man.
The skull helmeted man raised his hands to the two of them and spoke in clipped orders before turning back to Jak and speaking in measured tones.

"You would not require us to receive implants for that would you?"

Sheridan smiled patiently, "That will not be necessary, we simply would need you to carry a translation device with you. For the moment we'll need to use one of the bulkier more complex devices."

Jak nodded slowly, "These devices would be acceptable. For the meetings only, we will not allow listening devices with us outside of the meetings."
"Great," Sheridan waved his arm. "If you will follow me I would be glad to direct you to your apartments. We've scheduled a number of meetings and cultural exchanges between our worlds so that you might better…" Sheridan trailed off as the skull helmeted man raised a gloved hand to his forehead, "Are you quite alright?"

The man responded in scornful Imperial dialect. As the large mechanical man rushed to his side small plumes of blue static bloomed from the skull-faced man's neck and helmet, glowing eerily. The "truth seeker" growled gutturally and howled something furiously. Plumes of static discharge spat from his body.

Jak's voice became even more clipped and businesslike, "Lord Hilder will not tolerate psychic probes into his mind or into the minds of his retinue. We were very clear that there should be no psychics here to greet us. He graciously allows you forgiveness for this one offense but will shred the mind of the next man to try it."

Sheridan glared daggers at the others in the room and nodded, "Of course. I understand," he switched back into English as the honor guard started leading the Imperials into green sector, "And I shouldn't have to remind you what a stupid idea it is to conduct an illegal and unregistered mind probe on a species we've never met before on an Earthforce military outpost. I will, of course, be launching an investigation into this."

Lennier turned to ask Kosh if he had any idea what device the Imperial diplomat had stopped the would-be probe with but the Vorlon had already vanished. How someone so large could be so stealthy made no sense at all.

It was a shame Delenn hadn't been here to greet them.
-=-

Dauls head throbbed badly as he berated himself for revealing that he had a defense against psychic intrusions into his mind. The xenos mind-probing had been delicate, nothing more than a mild surface scan to make him aware that there was a powerful psychic mind in the room. It was common for psychic species to do so as a polite way of allowing other species to be aware of them.

He'd intended to simply ignore the probe or bat it away with his own mind but the familiar warm probing sensation caused something in him to snap. Beyond all reason he wanted to keep that probe away from his mind at all costs. He'd put so much force into tossing away a minor probe that he doubted he'd be able to do it a second time.

Hopefully whatever had tried it wouldn't do so a second time.

Cairn was torn between his urge to mother Daul and his urge to intimidate the station security officers. Cairn settled for giving mildly worried looks in Daul's direction and staying close enough to the security officers to unnerve them with his waving mechandrites.

The broad jawed humanoid in charge of the station "Sha-in-clair" was at least esthetically of Terran stock. The Captain's accent and mannerisms resembled those of the Merican guardsmen who'd served in his retinue at the Ve'x'xiz offensive but numerous species resembled humans esthetically if not biologically. He would not be lulled by a friendly face.

The Lionhearts walked proudly but a bit nakedly without the ornate weapons they usually carried with them at all times. Daul doubted they'd obeyed his order not to bring any weapons with them. He'd certainly dropped enough hints that they were to carry secret weapons that it would have taken someone simpler than a grox to have missed his actual intent in warning them not to carry weapons with them, namely not getting caught.

Babylon Five was an odd place to be sure. The décor was an odd mix of Spartan practicality and gaudy showiness. Everything about the station indicated a new race that had just started to spread out to the stars.

Danzig smiled and chuckled and shook his head. The long hose from his air-scrubber shook and clicked against the flak armor under his silken shirts and leather jerkin, "I don't like this sir, there are too many bulkheads between us and our ship."

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it Colonel," Daul felt the pain abating in his temples, "For now keep talk like that to a minimum. Assume the walls have ears."

The oily voice of Navigator Calven was somewhat muffled by the vox unit on his helmet as he said, "They said they're working on a translator but I'd wager good money that it's already being used to listen in on us. I would pick my words with care honored Inquisitor… then again I suspect you already have more than enough practice at saying less than you mean and meaning less than you say."

Daul wondered how badly it would damage negotiations were he to punch the navigators face. It was probably not worth the brief satisfaction it would give, but only just so. Daul felt something bump into his side and looked down to see the normally unnaturally chipper face of Dorn twisted into a scowl of dislike for the Navigator.

He blinked and looked back down at the servitor in confusion. Dorn was smiling and drooling the same as he always did. "Fantastic," groaned Daul, "Now I'm imagining things. I need a good stiff drink."

"A foolish man sees that he sees and knows what he knows. A clever man trys to undersand," whistled Vira'Capac from behind Daul. His two mastiffs growled and clicked their beaks eagerly.

"I did not ask for your advice," Daul said in a tone that invited no argument.

"You did not need to," tittered Vira'Capac, "Wisdom is tempered by criticism."

"Are you sure I can't shoot it?" Hamman said in a tone of strained patience.

"Not yet," Daul muttered as the Babylon Captian led them deeper into the bowels of the ship, "Not yet."

As they walked to the Imperial ambassador's suite Jack translated the various rules and regulations of the station being explained by the Captain. The protocols expected of the Imperials was strict, but not prohibitively or unacceptably so. Anyone from Daul's entourage was welcome to tour the ship and make use of its facilities, provided they continued to wear their encounter suits till their doctors ensured they were carrying no harmful bacteria, but never without an escort.

It was all very reasonable to Daul, however there was a particular point to the station's rules that incensed Vira'Capac. He would not be allowed to take his mastiffs out of the diplomatic quarters. The tall Kroot actually grabbed the Captain by his shirt with his taloned hands and screeched furiously in the Kroot language at the idea of being separated from what remained of his brood. The two mastiffs, still muzzled and on their leads growled ominously.

Daul eyed the now primed and aimed weapons of their security escort wondering if he would be able to grab the Kroot in time to stop him from ripping the Captain's throat out. Fortunately Gault, in a brief moment of agility, swatted Vira'Capac across the beak with the backside of his trash-bin lid sized hand, knocking the Kroot senseless senseless. He draped the dazed Kroot over his shoulder and grabbed the two stunned looking mastiffs by the leathery scruff of their necks, tucking them under each arm.

Daul bit his lip to stop from laughing as brutish ogryn actually started humming to the wildly kicking mastiffs to soothe them. Cairn's shoulder's were shaking fit to burst and there was an infuriating smugness to him as Daul whispered, "I get it you mechanical maniac. You were right, I was wrong. The oaf is useful and we can keep him. Now do you want to explain to the men aiming guns at us why shooting at us would be a bad thing or shall I?"
The black suited security officers were pointing bulky rifles at the Imperials aiming at the stony faced Lionhearts who in turn had shifted and were preparing themselves to strike at a moments notice. The primed weapons were giving off a high pitched whistling noise that sounded all too much like the priming of plasma weaponry for comfort.

The only ones who didn't seem to be on edge about the situation were Galut, who by all accounts considered his part in the confrontation to be over, Calven, who was making every effort to seem bored with the situation, and Dorn, who never had a clue where he was under the best of circumstances.
The Captain of the Babylon station ran his fingers along where Vira'Capac's talons had ripped his uniform and said something in a language Daul did not understand. Language was, however, only supplementary to the conversation at this point. The man's expression of barely controlled anger needed no words.

Jak opened his mouth to translate but was interrupted by Daul, "I know what he said. Tell him this, word for word as close as you can manage it. I apologize for the confusion. We seem to have had a cultural misunderstanding. I expect there will be many of them in the days to come. The Kroot hounds are actually infant forms of the larger Kroot creature. Vira'Capac believed you wanted to take away his children."

"Those hounds will no more develop into hunters in their lifetimes than an ape would develop into you or I," Jak twitched.

"Jak, just lie. It may very well bite us later in negotiations but hopefully not as bad as being shot now would now would hurt us all," Daul said in a voice of measured calm, "Now translate what I said."

Jak translated. The Captains face went from angry, to shocked, to embarrassed, and then back to friendly. He said something to the back-suited security forces and they relaxed somewhat, their weapons no longer whining with primed energy. The Captain flashed a dazzling smile and spoke to Jack.

"The Kroot will be permitted to travel with his… children," Jak's lip quirked, "But he must insist that if they misbehave they be confined to quarters else both they and their parent return to your base ship."

Daul nodded curtly, "Tell him that will be acceptable, now it would be best if we went to our quarters I think. I've had more than enough excitement for the moment."
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-03-24 09:45pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
To be reduced to asking her for help was insufferable. Sørian would gladly have turned to anyone else, literally anyone, before turning to her but he could think of no alternative to it. Contacting other members of the Amon Sui networks was an unstated unwritten taboo yet he needed to know if other practitioners were experiencing difficulty. His value to Phoneutria was almost wholly dependant upon his ability to collect information, were that avenue closed to him it would possibly spell his doom.

The bar he'd chosen was one of the private clubs favored by the officers with unique appetites. It catered to the unique needs of the Bounty's profitable and well to do in the privacy of soundproof cells. Sørian commonly used it as a recruiting ground for lesser operatives and minor cult practitioners, it was prime real-estate for those pledged to excess.

It also had the benefit of weapons scanners sophisticated enough to find most weapons and poisons. Sørian would of course be allowed to carry his weapons through, he owned part of the club after all, but that insufferable women would have to be on the defensive. He snorted the white powder off the table and felt his senses heighten and his fingers twinge. Slaught was a narcotic powerful enough that it ought to boost his reaction times to being roughly equal those of the cultist, or so he hoped.

The door cracked and through it stepped the familiar porcelain masked figure. Tall, lithe, and swaying, Hexathelidae had arrived. She glided over to one of the cushioned sofas and stretched on it luxuriously. Sørian ignored the way that the silks stretched deliciously over her every curve.

"You've noticed then I take it?"

She laughed cruelly, "Noticed what little boy. Why did you bring me here? To talk about the work of the Prince or was it to show me your gun," she puckered her lips and eyed his pistol exaggeratedly, doing something with her index finger that made him swallow uncomfortably.

"Games later Hexathelidae," he smiled, "You wouldn't deign to come when I called unless you had dire need or you were sure it would be to put a knife in my throat."

"We all have hobbies," she said with deliberate disinterest as she ran her fingernails over the plush material of the couch, "And I have no need of you."

"Don't you?" Sørian smiled, "And if I were to tell you I had a way to get back in contact with our patron so that he will respond to our sacrifices."

Hexathelidae flinched visibly and the pretenses of civility left her voice, "You did this to me didn't you," she eyed his pistol seemingly considering jumping the table and throttling him, "you robbed me of my boon and my savior!"

"Nothing so fortunate I'm afraid," said in a calming tone. He was sure he would win a fight but he had no doubt Hexathelidae would gouge his eyes out first, "I am similarly indisposed. There is something off about this region of space, the patron seems not to have reached here yet."

"My summons have gone," she licked her lips, "Awry."

"The wrong daemon came when you summoned and demanded answers?" Sørian shook his head, "Damned addlebrained creatures of Tzeench rambling about what lies beyond the well?"

"Khorne actually," Hexathelidae said the word Khorne with the tone of one discussing a particularly nasty but of filth, "Scornful and frothing as ever."

"There is something very wrong with this sector of space. The virgin warp-flows where we are seem to be almost even beyond all but the strongest of the servants of the true gods," Sørian eyed Hexathelidae and considered whether to continue, "There is… opportunity in that."

"How so?" Hexathelidae's eyes lit up.

"This part of space is only beyond the reach of our patron so far. There is no reason to assume that we could not expand his domain to include this realm." Sørian's eyes lit up, "Imagine it! Imagine how he would favor us for our deeds. A new galaxy ripe for the taking and full of creatures to corrupt outside the reach of the realms of his fellow gods."

Hexathelidae smiled widely and started to run her hands over her sides, hugging her hips and cupping her generous bosoms, "A sacrifice worthy my ascension."

"Our ascension," he winked, "I suspect the prince will grant all those who aid in brining him over to this realm the gift of immortality."

"And why would you get it," Hexathelidae said huskily, "What need do I have of you?"

"Why Hexathelidae," Sørian smiled, "It isn't I who needs to prove my value in this relationship. What need do I have of you? I am the sorcerer, it will be my understanding of magic and ritual that brings the prince to this realm."

Hexathelidae stood and removed her shirt, letting it fall to the ground and exposing corset and bare flesh before sauntering over to Sørian, "Why there are any number of reasons. I have operatives, I have a talent for subterfuge, and I have one thing no other woman has," she gripped Sørian's inner thigh and whispered into his ear, "An understanding of those rituals of our great lord beyond any other save you."

Sørian smiled and cupped the porcelain face, "It would seem that we are allies." She smiled back and moved her hand, crouching between his legs. As Sørain felt lust overtake him he wondered how far into the process they would get before he had to kill her.

A shooting sensation of electric ecstasy spread through his body. He smiled and muttered to himself, "Not for the next hour at least."

-=-

Fresh Air was a small restaurant in the middle of the gardens of Babylon Five with a reputation for quality food and exotic cuisine. It was the choice eatery of diplomats, traders, and businessmen. It was hard to even get a reservation, let alone bump one back four hours because but being the commander of the station had its perks. John was grateful to finally have some time to simply sit and unwind with his sister, though the Imperials had certainly gotten his adrenaline running.

"And it's certainly a big change from running the Agamemnon. It's more like being the military governor of a small self contained country," John waved his chopsticks, "You know, with it's own borders, customs, a thousand different languages, everyone coming and going at all hours. Still there's a terrific energy here, a sense of really being out on the frontier. The Imperials are just the icing on the cake."

He looked at his sister and saw the familiar sight of Liz half listening and moving things around with her chopsticks. It was the same thing she used to do when their dad told her she wouldn't be able to go out and play with the neigborhood kids and play till she finished her homework. He leaned over and looked at her food, "How's your salad?"

She looked down, "Oh, it's fine. Fine."

Something about the way she said 'fine' convinced him that it was anything but, "You don't look fine."

"It's just, we haven't seen each other in two years and from the moment I've gotten here you haven't stopped talking about work," she said exasperatedly "this is me Johnny, remember?"

"I'm sorry," John stumbled over his words, "I just, uh, seeing you again. It brings it all back."

"I know," Liz reached out and touched his hand, "That's why I'm here. Nothing has ever really been the same between us, not since Anna passed away."

"I need more time, that's all," John did not want to be discussing this.

"Johnny," Liz said calmly "It's been two years."

"Then why I still have to remind myself that she's gone? Why when I see something interesting on the news I'll say to myself. 'Oh! I've got to remember to mention this to Ann Tonight' Sometimes I will turn to say something to her. She's not there but just for a second I don't know why she's not there," John hadn't meant to snap and regretted it as soon as Liz's look of irritation appeared, "I miss her Liz, I miss her and love her as much right now as I did when she was still here."

"I know," Liz said as though explaining two plus two equals four, "It's not easy. She was my friend for a lot longer than you were married to her and I miss her too. But if she were here right now she would be mad as hell at you. She would want you to get on with your life and stop burying yourself in your work."

"It's not about work!" John slapped his chopsticks against the table.

"What's it about?"

Sheridan rubbed his fingers together, "I… I just don't want to get into this thing right now. Can we just table this for a while? Can't we just talk for a while? Get to know each other again, just catch up a little."

Hold hands, "Ok. The discussion is tabled." "Until later."

John exhaled.

-=-

Kerrigan stood in the cell where Dorn was kept in storage. The normally dark cell was lit up brightly so as not to allow any detail to escape her gaze. A small army of sensor equipped servo skulls flitted about the room, numerous needle thin sensor arrays hanging down from their undercarriages shooting out taking samples of anything suspicious.

Something that happened in this room had been worth killing two of her men. Her initial hypothesis had been that someone intended to poison the servitor with something slow acting, something to prevent it functioning at a crucial moment.

As of yet she'd managed to find a copious amount of anti-venom and restoratives added to the nutrient feeds that was outside the parameters of safe operation. The chemical content of the feed had been altered, but whatever alterations had been done seemed to be to benign affect.

"Why would kill two men to hide the fact that you were injecting antidote into a servitor… to a poison that he hasn't been infected with?"

She'd managed to track down the duty rosters and discover who was responsible for injecting the chemicals. Two of the security staff had been ordered to come into the Arco-flagellant's cell, inject an unspecified chemical into the servitor, then to leave. Unfortunately she wouldn't ever be able to question the two of them, they'd died in the decompression of the docking bay.

Backtracking who'd given the orders had proven to be similarly fruitless. No effort had been expended whatsoever to conceal the identification code of the issuer, but it seemed unlikely that Xelkk Pok had risen from the grave to start issuing orders. His command codes must never have been erased from the system. How anyone knew them or was able to use them was an equal mystery.

There were too many unknown variables to make a decision about who had done to make a decision yet. Kerrigan reached up and massaged her temples, the cool metal of her augmentic fingers felt good and soothed her troubled mind.

Once again Kerrigan started pacing around the chair, "Why? Why would anyone chose to do that? It makes no sense."

She ran a finger over the bindings on the chair, feeling for any clues at all, "The doors were accessed twice. Assuming the first group came in twice one has to wonder what took two trips. If there are two groups we have to wonder if they're working alone or together. If they aren't working together why did each group enter the room?"

A servo skull whipped past her head and stared sampling the mold growing in a corner of the room along the wall.

"If they entered separately were they aware of each other or acting independently of each other?" Kerrigan waved her arms impotently, "And why would two separate groups of people unaware of each other go though the trouble of killing two tech-priests in order to inject antivenin into a servitor in secret."

Kerrigan paused, "Unless the first one was doing something else and second assumed the first was poisoning Dorn," she shook her head, "But how would the second group know about the first group? If they did know about each other how would the second group know enough about the plans of the first group to select an antivenin? And to what purpose was any of this done?"

Kerrigan swore and grabbed the main nutrient cistern, lifting it off where it was hanging and bringing it to eye level. If the good Samaritan had assumed that adding anivenin was the proper solution to aid the servitor then it stood to reason something had been added to the cistern in order for him to jump to that conclusion. Her face reflected off the watery contents of the cistern.

There were advanced sensors back in her lab. If the cistern contained any clues she would find them.
-=-

Lennier dabbed at the waxy shell of the cocoon with a towel. He'd taken to bathing the cocoon twice a day in the purifying agents used by the Minbari to shed he outer layer of skin and remove any bacteria or impurities. It was a contemplative, meditative act. Just as well, Lennier had a lot to think about.

After the Imperials had been led out of the docking bay he'd stayed to watch the Imperial ship. His curiosity had gotten the better of him and he'd stayed to watch the baggage of the Imperials clearing customs. What he'd seen alarmed him. A handful of humanoids were carrying the bags and supplies to a pallet destined for the first contact suites. A more pitful group of humanoids Lennier had never seen.

They were shambling and foolish creatures, their limbs sawed off and replaced with crude mechanical substitutions. They seemed barely alive, responding only to the curt commands of the ship's red-suited pilot. They were twisted, warped, and hollow shells of what might once have been men. Lennier hoped he was wrong about what the half-metal men were.

However it was early and there might very well be a reasonable cultural explanation to explain why and how these twisted abattoir creatures came to be. He doubted it but there were often things he doubted that came to be. It was part of the mystery of the universe.

A fragment of shell cracked off and came with his towel. Lennier smiled and looked at it. "Soon now, soon."

Delenn would have clearer thoughts than he in this situation, he was sure of it.
-=-

Stephen was hooking up Garibaldi to the alien device when someone spoke behind him, "Doctor."

"Captain?" Stephen straightened up in surprise and turned to Captain Sheridan, "You're up late." He was unsure why the Captain was in med-bay. A sinking feeling of dread started to set in.

Had he come to prevent the use of the machine? It had seemed too easy to get him to agree to it the first time. He'd been sure the conversation would require a great deal more convincing.

"I couldn't sleep. I started thinking about life and death, what we can do, what we can't do and maybe what we should do when we have the chance." Captain Sheridan pointed to the device, "This is the device, eh'?"

"Correct, I was just about to," Stephen moved to insert his arm before the Captain could stop him. If he could just get the machine started before the Captain told him it was too dangerous to do so he could make up some techo-medical-babble reason why it was too dangerous to detach him from the machine before Garibaldi was healed. He might get

"Plug me in," the Captain cut him off, rolling up his sleeve and moving into the seat in front of the machine. It was not the response Stephen had been expecting.

Stephen blinked a couple of times as he realized what Sheridan had actually said, sputtered in surprise and said, "No, but, I thought we agreed."

"I can't have you giving your life energy and operating this machine at the same time. What would happen if you pass out during the process huh? It'll just keep taking your life energy until you're dead correct?"

"I don't know." Stephen assumed the machine had some sort of a cut off to stop the donor from passing out that but there was no guarantee.

"Exactly, It's better you're running it and someone else is at this end." The Captain nodded with insufferable satisfaction. More frustratingly he was correct.

"He's my patient!" Stephen said somewhat petulantly.

"But when I took over B5 he became my responsibility," The Captain smiled in a friendly but commanding way, "I don't think loosing my head of security in under two weeks of being on the station will look good on my resume."

"Alright," Stephen gave up on arguing, "we split the difference, we'll both do it in shifts but I'll go first. Have to make sure the configuration is correct."

He stuck out his hand and offered it to Sheridan, "Deal?"

"Done and done." Sheridan grabbed his hand and slapped him on the shoulder with the other one. It would seem that Earthdome had found a more than suitable stand in for Jeffrey Sinclair, at least for now.

-=-

"No Inquisitor," Hakam Danzig said as he swept through the room for the fifth time, "We have no found any listening devices so far."

The second that the doors to the modest apartments had closed the Inquisitor had ordered the Skitarii and Lionhearts to examine the room for any and all traps, secret passages, and listening devices. In fact they had been checking and re-checking the room for the better part of six hours. Were it not so crucial that they have privacy Danzig would have found the task to be tedious, but needs were musts.

He greatly wished that he could take off the pressure suit, but till the device in the Skitarii's hands checking to make sure there were no atmospheric contagions it would have to stay on. He couldn't help but look at the slowly descending numbers and think about how badly he needed to use the necessary.

"Every damn time I have to wear one of these things for hours on end," he muttered. Danzig navigated around the sofa upon which the unconscious Kroot was draped and flinched as the mastiffs growled ominously. Muzzle or no they were damn intimidating.

"Sir at this point if they've managed to hide a bug from us and have figured out how to properly translate I say let them listen. Anyone that skilled deserves to hear us," Hamman opened a cabinet and pulled out a bottle, opened it and eyed the contents, "And frankly considering their taste in liquor I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. If I didn't know better I'd say this is aged amsec."

"Don't you dare think popping the seals on your helmet and drinking that till the scan's come up clean and Gazan's run a damn poison swoop over it," Fadir said in a tone of uncharacteristic sobriety. He trusted the Babylonians even less than he trusted the Inquisitor. Danzig didn't trust them either if it came down to it, "Xenos can be traded with but they can't be trusted. About the only xenos you can trust is the nids' and they aren't exactly the conversational type."

"A wise bit of advice," the Navigator was thumbing through a book of photos left on the table, "We should take nothing at face value… we should…" the navigator trailed off staring at one of the photos. He picked it up in his near translucent fingers and flipped the photo over to read the writing on the back.

"Is something wrong honored Navigator?" the Inquisitor said in a friendly tone.

"Nothing," the navigator blinked all three eyes as he pocketed the photo, "but I have a suspicion I want to test."

"What suspicion is that," asked Gazan as he spread anitseptic ointments onto the small healing cuts on Dorn's back. The still healing stitches on Dorn's side were an angry red but as of yet they hadn't suffered any infection.

"Never mind," The Navigator put the tips of his fingers together in an arch, elbows resting on his knees, "Deal with the here and now. I'd prefer to be able to verify my fits of fancy before I indulge in sharing them with others."

Danzig flinched at a loud thud, the Skitarii dropped a large tome onto the table next to the auto-savant. Jak looked up from the pages of invitations, letters and requests from the various sentient creatures on station offering audiences and requests to open trade relations to nod in thanks to the Skitarii before turning to the Inquisitor, "We're scheduled to meet with the major diplomatic forum later in the day, and a number of smaller powers have requested meetings prior to that."

"Just get the water and the star charts from whoever is willing to trade the fastest and let's get out of here," Fadir rubbed his hands together and made the sign of the aquilla, "This place feels wrong to me. There is a sensation of instability that I cannot shake."

"Daz' because the ship spins," grunted Galut helpfully. The giant leaned in close and spun one of his great sausage-like fingers in a wide circle to demonstrate what he meant. Fadir's eye twitched as he bit back a scathing retort. It would be unwise to anger the Ogryn, at best he would be cruelly insulting a mental simpleton and at worst the ogryn might take offense and tear off Fadir's head.

The Skitarii's shoulders shook as he searched the ceiling for listening devices with his mechandrites. It jiggled a bit of dust off the top of one of the lamps and onto the table in front of Danzig.

"I suspect that he mean metaphorical instability Galut," Galut stared back at the Inquisitor uncomprehending the Inquisitor's words, "It's… it's a joke Galut. Fadir made a funny joke, now go and play with the hounds. They miss you." Galut shook his head at not understanding the joke but was seemingly satisfied pet the two increasingly docile looking hounds.

Danzig shook his head. The Inquisitor continued to puzzle him. The revelation that he'd had a Kroot mercenary in his employ was not beyond belief but was substantially unexpected considering the Inquisitor's professional interest in ensuring minimal contact between humans and xenos. Sergei had some choice words on the matter when that bombshell was dropped on them.

It was just as well that the Inquisitor couldn't speak Damascan or Danzig had no doubt the Inquisitor would have gladly flayed his second in command alive.

Vira'Capac seemed like a good sort, well as good as the xenos could hope to be, but he was clearly unbalanced and unpredictable. Danzig would have to be prepared to kill the xenos if it snapped again like it had done in the corridor. The Inqusitor's reasons, as always, were no-one's but his own and were shared with none save the Skitarii and possibly Captian Sáclair. The ogryn was more than likely privy to them as well but the ogryn were prone to ignore anything not said to them directly and to remember less.

"Jak, would you be so kind as to give a political summary of the climate we've entered into. I suspect that by now reading those invitations and documents has given you at least a rough picture of whom we're dealing with," the Inquisitor walked past Danzig. Soft blue plumes of benign psychic discharge blossomed off the leads in his psychic hood, they tingled on Danzig's face as the Inquisitor passed.

Jak lifted the scroll he'd been scribbling notes on and passed it over to the Inquisitor, "They've been surprisingly candid. I suspect initiating trade relations with unknown species is a mark of status else they would be a bit more guarded. The strongest powers seem to be the Alliance, the Minbari, the Narn, and the Centauri. It was the Centauri that we made contact with first."

"Why do you assume that they are the strongest powers?" Calven's simpering voice rang out. The Navigator had a unique talent for wording a reasonable question in the smarmiest of ways.

"Because they talk about opening trade in very open and direct terms. The wording of their letters is structured in such a way that it's clear it never
even began to occur to them to approach us as anything but equals. The other nations, ones less sure if they will have something we want or if they could stop an invasion, talk in terms of opening friendship and trading culture," The savant tapped on a part of the page the Inquisitor was holding, "See? It's quite simple really, a nation that believes it needs nothing from you will try to negotiate from a position of strength or outright indifference."

"A reasonable deduction," the Inquisitor nodded and tapped his hand against the ceramic armor on his legs, "but what is this note right here?" He pointed to a series of scrawling repetitions of the same word with tally marks beneath them. Danzig tried and failed to read the crunched gothic script of the savant. It wouldn't be uncommon for a savant to write notes in code but Danzig suspected this was more of an issue of penmanship than secrecy.

Jak's face lit up, "That is a riddle I've been trying to puzzle out. We keep getting asked about our connections with someone called the "First Ones." Sometimes people are asking if we are one of these "First Ones," others are asking if we've met them. They're also curious for our knowledge of something called a Vorlon."

"A what?" Hamman had poured a glass of the amsec and was staring at the chronometer waiting for an all clear. Danzig shot him a murderous look to which he bristled and spoke in calm but angry Damascan, "I haven't drunk it yet and if we don't get the all clear I wont, but there's no harm in pouring a glass," then switched back into gothic as though nothing happened, "What is a Vorlon?"

Jak blinked at the sudden string of Damascan but shook his head and continued, "It is, well that is to say they are… to be honest I haven't a clue what they are. There is a domain called the Vorlon Empire at the edge of space. Presumably the Vorlons are very powerful and important and I suppose not much is known about them. They must be especially secretive for them to be willing to ask perfect strangers for any scrap of information they know on the subject."

Danzig grunted. He wasn't spectacularly fond of the xenos species he knew; the addition of a new, unknown and enigmatic species did not lift his mood. He felt for the ceramic knives hidden in the copious silk sleeves of his shirt to reassure himself that he was armed, however lightly. It was at least some comfort.

Gazan smiled as the chronometer chimed, "Well lads, the air is breathable and the viral and bacterial content of the station is well within the tolerances of the standard inoculations. Pop the helemets if you will," Gazan raised a hand and stopped Hamman from removing his helmet, "If you take that off and try to drink that without first running it under a poison sweep, throne help me, I will cause you pain."

"I would suggest," Navigator Calven started, "That we continue to wear pressure suits outside this apartment, at least till I've had a chance to test my theory."

The Inquisitor gave the Navigator an inscrutable look and said something in an archaic variant of High Gothic that Danzig couldn't even begin to place. The Navigator had no such difficulties. His three eyes narrowed and the smiled slightly, "Perhaps Inquisitor, perhaps. Play the role of the "enigmatic stranger" for now. I suspect you're well practiced at it."

The Inquisitor nodded and once again Danzig got a sinking feeling that the Inqusitor's plans were once again seated on the razor's edge, "We should keep some of our party in the quarters to ensure that no devices are placed inside while we are gone. Danzig, Gazan, Calven, Cairn, the servitor, and I will proceed to the meetings as planned. The rest of you will stay here. Jak I want you to keep running over local history. I don't want any surprises."

"Wise Inquisitor," Calven nodded, "I concur."

The Navigator and the Inqusitor were agreeing. Eye of Horus that was bad.

-=-

The stack of diplomatic reports just barely balanced on her knee as Na'Toth swiped her ID card at the entrance to G'Kar's chambers. Every day since he'd left she would gather all the diplomatic reports and missives, look through them, and leave them in a stack on G'Kar's desk. It was a thankless and mundane task considering that there was no ambassador to read them, but she didn't want to risk falling out of the habit of doing so else she might forget her job when he returned.

G'Kar's quarters were pitch black. The computer must have switched off the lights to save power since she was last in the room. Rather than search around in the dark Na'Toth stood at the door reading the data-slate from the light of the hallway. Her eyes strained to read in the dull light.
"Close the door," Na'toth looked up in surprise. There was already someone in the room.
"Close," the dim red light of the room flickered on revealing a tall, broad Narn in a slightly battered shirt sitting on the bed. It was ambassador G'Kar, looking more terrified and despondent than she had ever seen him.

The ambassador grasped the bridge of his nose between leather gauntleted thumb and forefinger and sighed, "Weep for the future Na'toth, weep for us all."

"Are you alright?" It wasn't the most eloquent thing to say but Na'Toth was at a loss for something more elegant to say.

"I have looked into the Darkness Na'Toth. You cannot do that and ever be the same again. When you told me about the destruction of our base at quadrant 37 I knew that only a major power could attempt an assault of that magnitude. But none of the governments here could have done it, which left only two possibilities. A new race or an old race… a very old race," the Ambassador picked up a well worn prayer book and flipped to a page showing a spidery black ship and a hunched skull faced figure with horns, "Ga'Quan spoke of a great war long ago against an enemy so terrible it nearly overwhelmed the stars themselves. Ga'Quan said that before that enemy was thrown down it dwelled in the systems at the rim of known space."
Na'Toth pursed her lips. The veracity of the ancient superstitions of her people were at times suspect, for every nugget of truth in the holy books of the Narn there were ten bits of history long since disproved by science. However something about G'Kar's tone didn't seem to be leaving the matter up for discussion.

"I searched for days, going from one system to another." The ambassador stared at a point in the distance, "Then in the dark deserted worlds where there should be no life, where no living thing has walked in over a thousand years something was moving, gathering its forces quietly, quietly. Hoping to go unnoticed."

His voice filled with sadness and he choked on his own words, "We must warn the others Na'Toth. After a thousand years the darkness has come again."

-=-
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-03-24 09:53pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
It was dark and warm. That was the first thought in a long time, it was dark and warm and she needed to get out. She couldn't remember how she got there. She couldn't remember why she was there but it was very important that she get out.

She shifted her arms and found that they weren't moving. She tried to shift her legs and it was the same. She tried to scream for help but found that a barrier of some viscous semi-permeable fluid blocked her.

She was alone, it was dark and she was afraid. She struggled with all her might, pressing at the walls as hard as she could till finally, blessedly, the walls started to give way. She clawed, kicked, beat and screamed her way out of he tiny prison she was in.

The soft inner flesh of the walls burst and she crawled through, gasping and screaming at the pain of it. She laid on the floor, naked and sobbing in pain for a couple minutes before she even remembered her own name.

Delenn, her name was Delenn. She grabbed the thin cotton robe and winced and at how it chafed her cracked and changing flesh. Had someone forced her to enter the cocoon. No…entering the cocoon was her will an the will of no other. It was her choice and her following of prophecy.
Even as she felt her legs scream with the pain of standing and her skin cracked and bled with scaly grey tumors she knew that what she had done, what she had allowed herself to become was necessary. Her pain was necessary.

She winced again as he legs gave out and she hunched in the corner. Her pain was necessary but she would not lament it's passing. How long had it been? Days? Weeks? Months? Kosh hadn't been clear on the specifics of the device only on the necessity of its use.

Her body burned in agony as she looked at her hands and tried not to recoil at the sight of the scaly and twisted growths covering her body. How was this part of the great plan? Understanding was of course unimportant, only obedience mattered.

Obedience to fate mattered.

-=-
Michael Garibaldi woke with a start, groaning and trying to shake the grogginess out of his head. His entire body felt like it was stuffed with cotton,
sluggish and slow. He tried to lift his head up, winced from the pain of it and simply rested it back on the bed. It was bad. It was very bad.

"Hi" the soothing voice of Dr. Franklin was music to his ears. He must be in medical, but how did he get there? He was doing something. Something important. What was he doing?

Michael groaned in pain, "Yo, what's up Doc?"

Dr. Franklin shook his head at the terrible pun and tapped his link, "Franklin to Ivanova, I think you and the Captain need to get down to med-lab. Garibaldi's awake."

His link crackled and Susan's voice echoed over the communicator, "On our way."

Michael looked at the ceiling and realized with mounting clarity and dread exactly where he was and exactly how he'd gotten there. He stared at the ceiling, "My god. They're going to do it, they're really going to do it. They're going to kill the President."

He had to tell someone before it was too late.

-=-
Donat found himself growing to like the Belzafesters. Screening them for heretical materials or genetic abnormalities was transpiring to be far less onerous of a task than he'd feared it might be. It wasn't a complex process, each survivor would have to walk through one of the medical scanners in order to be examined and would submit what few belongings they had to search. They would all have to go through this process once a week for the next several months, just to ensure that none of Faust's abnormally altered half-breeds had managed to sneak onboard.

There was some minor grumbling about how irritating it was to do them once a week but by and large the Belzafesters were so grateful to be alive that without prompting all of them would line up and submit their belongings to search. Donat only wished their enthusiasm was matched by their skill. Amateur soldiers made poor sailors. The crewmen assigned to supervise the Belzafester's on work duty were having to teach them basic survival skills for onboard life that it had never occurred to them would be necessary to explain.

The common joke on-ship was that the Belzafesters were like the Ogryn, strong, friendly, loyal, and dumb as a post. Hopefully that would be solved with time and for the moment the Belzafester's lack of understanding the crew's odd gothic variant was serving as a barrier to them taking offense.

"I've been talking with the Magos about simply putting up these sensors at every major junction on the ship," Osma said as he watched yet another Belzafester amble through the medical sensors, "I suspect it might cut down on shipboard crime."

"It only scans the bodies of humans for genetic abnormalities, not for stolen goods."

"Aiwa," Osma puffed at a thin cigarette, "but we can track who is entering and leaving the various sections of the ship. It won't be practical in the higher radiation areas or the areas close to the hull but it ought to help with the commercial sectors."

"Do what you will Osma," Donat watched the stream of people walking through the scanners with mild disinterest, "Security is your specialty not mine."

"Your mind is on the on your daughter," Osma shrugged his shoulders, "She'll be well and with you soon Insh'Emparator. Inta famat?"

"Yes I understand," Donat shook his head, "But if the Inquisitor can't get potable water to the ship it won't matter. We'll start dying of thirst in a matter of days, if that."

"I will not become some shadowy Ghul of a what I once was," Osama shook his head, "The Inquisitor will get the water. It is the Emperor's plan, he wills it and we make it so."

"With all the death we've seen lately how can you believe that?" Donat fidgeted with the pocket watch at his side, "How can you believe all that death was the Emperor's will?"

"With all the lives we've saved how can you not?" Osma's lips quirked behind his beard and he waved his open arms to the many thousands of Belzafesters lined in front of them. Donat smiled politely but the burden of the watch in his waistcoat was still weighing down on his mind and on his heart.

-=-

"Garibaldi," Dr. Franklin shone a blinding light into Michael's eyes. The brightness caused a sharp pain to lance up into his head. He looked pleadingly to Susan and the other Earthforce officer behind her.

Michael groaned and shifted trying to find a comfortable position on the stiff bed that didn't cause the wound in his back to throb, "Uh, yeah?"

"How are you feeling?" Doctors always seemed to feel the need to ask the most bindingly stupid questions. How was he feeling? He'd just been shot in the back! 'Dancing, he damn well felt like dancing.' It would show Dr. Franklin… no there would be no time for that. He had something vital to say.
He waved Dr. Franklin away, "That's not important. Just stop them, they've come to kill the president." Sinclair would be able to get on gold channel and warn the President's security detail of the danger if Dr. Franklin would just let him go. He could worry about being wounded later.

"I'm afraid the President's dead. Earthdome is saying it was an accident," Franklin continued to check Michael's vitals as Michael felt his heart sink and his head spin.

"Oh no, no, no I gotta see the Commander," Michael tried to sit upright. His entire back felt like it was lit on fire and he wobbled around.

Dr. Franklin grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him to lie down, "He's not here, alright? He's been reassigned."

"What?" stars danced in front of Michaels eyes, "Oh God, I'm out of it for a few days and the whole place goes to hell."

A man in an Earthforce captain's uniform standing next to the bed cleared his throat and walked forward. He was broad shouldered and of average height but carried himself with the sort of swagger that implied he was used to giving orders and having them obeyed willingly. Sinclair would have called it nonchalant authority. The uniformed man spoke, "Well I hope I can prove otherwise. Captian John Sheridan, your new CO."

"I don't know you." Michael's voice turned to stone. He was in no mood for making new friends.

"No," the man chuckled in a friendly manner, undeterred by Michael's cold manner, "But I think we'll get along just fine."

Susan interjected apparently eager to change the subject, "Garibaldi, I know you're tired but do you remember what happened? Do you remember who shot you?"

"I… I keep trying," he could never remember more than shadowy fragments of memories, a face, a feeling, a word. He remembered everything but the most important detail, the face of the man who shot him, "No, I… I don't remember. I was shot from behind. I never saw him."

Michael rested his head down on the pillow and looked into the distance. The second in command of security, Jack, was standing at the door. He was eying Michel with an expression of friendly concern. Michael nodded to him. Jack smiled and saluted before leaving the medical bay.

-=-

The Imperials were insufferably obtuse and insular. After Sheridan had shown them to their quarters they had firmly but politely insisted on total privacy till their scheduled meetings with the various Ambassadors. The utter indifference shown to the might of the Centauri Republic was staggering, they'd never been impolite but the Imperials gave him the distinct impression that they were sizing the threat he represented at all times.
At least that's what he thought they were doing. There was some comfort at least in knowing that they races of the Empire were not in total unity, the altercation with the birdlike one was proof enough of that. Still the Centaurum could provide him with no more information upon which to operate in determining how to deal with the Imperials, at least till the ship responsible for first contact made it's way to the Centauri home world and was properly debriefed.

It was a step up from the utterly inscrutable Vorlon Ambassador to be sure but the faceless, expressionless pressure suits favored by the Imperils were hardly ideal for reading into body language. Negotiations would probably be nearly as frustrating as negotiating with the Gaim or the Vree.
Londo rounded the corner and saw a familiar mottled orange head. Londo blinked in surprise and ran to catch up with Ambassador G'Kar, "Ah Ambassador G'Kar, back from your little expedition I see. Did you find anything interesting?"

The Narn Ambassador stopped and turned to Mollari with an expression of solemn interest, "Yes I'm going to call for a meeting of the Council to discuss it."

"Oh?" Londo felt his hearts catch in his throat. G'kar couldn't know about quadrant 37 could he? No. If he knew about that he wouldn't bother with pleasantries, he would simply choke the life out of Londo.

"Mollari, the grievances between my people and yours can never be resolved except with Centauri blood, accept that as a given," G'Kar said in a friendly tone, apparently trying to be reconciliatory.

"Well its good to know we're appreciated," Londo quirked a generous eyebrow. The nerve of it, really!

"But there may be some dangers that threaten both our worlds, not to mention the Minbari, the Eathers, the Leauge, and everyone else around here," G'kar waved his hand vaguely, "Except possibly the Vorlons I don't know what could threaten them really very soon Ambassador I may require your help, in the interests of all our governments."

"Help? My help" Londo put his hands to chest in astonishment, "Well this is astonishing. Have you spoken to the others?"

"No I was just on my way to speak with Delenn." G'Kar turned to walk towards the Minbari ambassador's quarters.

Londo snorted, "Ah well, you may find that rather difficult at the moment. You see just after you left something happened to her."

"Is she still alive?" G'kar turned round in surprise.

"That is a very good question."

-=-

The weather in Geneva was as pleasant as one could hope for. A an urge to skive off his next couple of meetings in order to properly enjoy a smooth summer breeze and a cup of proper European coffee at one of the numerous small birstros along the cobblestones of the old town nagged at the back of his head as Stepehen Kevin Dexter in the Presidential office of Earthdome, the seat of power in the Earth Alliance. It had been a long time since anyone had called Stephen by his given name. It had been a long time since anyone even knew what it really was.

Given names indicated camaraderie and availability, neither of which was useful to a Psi Cop. Stephen Dexter was only known as Alfred Bester, even to those in the inner circle of the Psi Corps, and to all but precious few was Mr. Bester.

Even his friends called him Bester rather than Alfred, or they would if Bester allowed himself to have friends. Friends would have been a distraction.

Mr. Bester hated distractions.

Mr. Bester was one of the many government employees whose position was devoted entirely to the capture and rehabilitation of rouge telepaths. It was a task at which he excelled. At some point in the future, and Mr. Bester hoped the near future, it would be psychics and not normal who held control over Earthgov, but for now he was content to simply rule over his own little fiefdom in Psi Corps.

Psi Corps was left to its own devices, mostly, provided that it occasionally assisted Earthgov in the commission of some of its more esoteric agendas. Always off the books, of course, the Earth Alliance did not condone the commission of assassinations, unauthorized mind wipes, or arbitrary deep mental scans. At least it did not do so on paper. There were always politicians who were willing to barter outside the lines of what was strictly legal.

Bester's unofficial position within the Psi Corps was the commission of these more esoteric deals. He didn't tell command what he and his subordinates were doing and they didn't ask.

All he did he did for the corps. The corps was mother. The corps was father. He was the corps.

It was in the service of the core that he'd come into an agreement with the former Vice President, now president Clarke. Clarke was a man of conviction and a man of prejudice. He was part of the old school of isolationism that had actually led to the creation of the Psi corps. Even without scanning him he could feel the man's distaste for being in a room with a psychic.

William Morgan Clarke's smooth voice was tinted with the soft Midwestern twang that had gotten him elected as a senator ten times. It was the sort of voice that could tell you that you needed to be taxed twice as much and you'd believe it without question, "Mr. Bester it would seem that we have a new complication in the works."

"Do we Mr. President?" Bester adjusted his uniform slightly. It was unseasonably hot in the room.

"Yes we darn well do," the president reached into the mahogany desk and pulled out a thick folder of papers. Clarke had to be one of the only people left on the planet who insisted upon having all his reports printed out on paper rather than using a data pad, "It looks like we've got trouble on the horizon. I assume you've heard about the Imperials already? The Psi Corps is always well informed, you more than most."

Heard about it? The covert intelligence community was overflowing with rumors about the Imperials. A new power popping out of the blue and starting off their tenure by attacking a Minbari ship in defense of an Earthforce station. The official report stated that the Trigati had enacted a self-destruct to avoid the shame of surrender but nobody was letting a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good story.

"I'm aware of numerous rumors Mr. President. Each more improbable than the last."

"Well," the President pulled out a sheet of paper and passed it to Bester, "It turns out that some of the most ridiculous sounding parts of it are true. They do use psychics instead of sending Tachyon transmissions and their ships are shielded by some sort of an energy barrier."

"Is this confirmed?" Bester tried not to seem too excited by the idea of long-range psychic communications but knew he was failing badly. Psi Core had long been researching the possibility of long-range psychic communication but as of yet the most they'd managed was a few miles.

"As confirmed as I can hope for our operatives on the Centauri home world to make it," Clarke sipped at a cup of coffee, "They haven't gotten the ship that made first contact back to the home world but they've apparently restarted funding to some projects abandoned by the Psychic's Guild some thousand years ago. The Centauri aren't exactly the type for radical progressive thought."

"And what do you want from me Mr. President?" Bester sensed the President's motives but caution was always warranted.

"I want you to acquire this technology however you can. Beg, trade, borrow, steal, but don't let it fall into the hands of the Centari or the Minbari before us. We can't let them develop a substantial military advantage over us any more than we can allow ourselves to lag behind these Imperials," he raised a finger, "but do not antagonize the Imperials more than is absolutely necessary. I want this tech but I don't want it bad enough to start another war."

"Of course," Bester smiled widely and nodded to Clark, pretending not to feel the stabbing sensation of hatred as they shook hands goodbye. The man truly loathed anything different.

-=-

Delenn's suite smelled odd, there was a sickly sweet odor of copper and cinnamon in the air that made Lennier's nose twitch. He sneezed and walked towards the cocoon, the now broken cocoon. Lennier's breath caught in his throat.

Was she ok?

He approached the cocoon and looked inside at the orange semi-luminescent fluids of the cocoon.

The floor squshed under his feet as he bent over to pick up a brittle fibrous bit of broken cocoon shell. Ichors dripped off the sides of the still warm bit of cocoon. A million thoughts and fears ran through Lennier's mind. He'd feared and anticipated this moment for so long but not that it was here he was unsure what to do.

A soft voice groaned in pain and Lennier froze.

"Lennier." Lennier dropped the shell and rushed over to the huddled shape in the corner. Delenn was pitiful looking, twitching and shivering beneath a thin priests' robe of course cotton fibers. He reached out to touch her and she recoiled.

"Delenn?" Lennier felt cold fear in the pit of his stomach.

Delenn reached out with a hand covered in thick grey scales, "Help me"

Lennier grabbed her hand and stands her up looking at her face in horror. Every inch of exposed flesh was covered in thick painful grey growths. The grey matter covered even her eyelids.

"Delenn, what have you done to yourself?" Lennier said as he helped her hobble over to a wide sofa.

"I have done what is necessary." Delenn said in a not entirely convincing tone.

"I'll get the Doctor!" Lennier knew of several good Minbari surgeons who were passing through the station, any of which would gladly assist a member of the Grey Council like Delenn.

"Dr. Franklin. You will get Dr. Stephen Franklin." Delenn winced as she adjusted herself on the sofa.

"Dr. Franklin?" Lennier stopped walking over to the comms, "You would not prefer one of our…"

"Understanding is not necessary Lennier," Delenn's voice cut across him, "It will be Dr. Franklin."

"Very well," Lennier shook his head and thumbed the communicator. After only a few seconds the serious face of the doctor popped onscreen.

"Yes," the doctor blinked in mild surprise when he saw Lennier. It would not be necessary for Lennier to submit to a station required medical examination for some time.

"Dr. Franklin, would you please come to Ambassador Delenn's quarters at once." Lennier paused, considering how much more to say over the open comms.

"Well I'm kind of in the middle of things, Mr. Garibaldi is awake," Of course the chief of security would pick now of all times to come back to the land of the living. It was in keeping with the man's dreadful sense of humor.

"Please it is urgent. I think something may be wrong with Ambassador Delenn." Lennier winced as the words came out of his mouth. He should not have even said that much but he needed the doctor to come.

Dr. Franklin's jaw dropped, "Of course I'll be right over."

"Hurry," Lennier deactivated the communicator and winced as Delenn cried in pain again then said again to himself quietly, "In Valen's name please hurry."

-=-

The translation computer was bulky and impractical. It ought to have been phased out of military production ten years ago when the Higashi Corporation had come out with the newer, sleeker model 45's but there was no money in the operations budget to replace it. It was a device mono-tasked with the automatic and, at least theoretically, seamless translation of one language to another in near real time. It allowed for initial negations while two species learned each other's languages but it had a disturbing aspect of ventriloquism to it that unnerved Susan.

However at the moment the only thing about it that seemed revenant was it's substantial weight. Exactly which engineer decided the device required sufficient mass to have it's own small orbit deserved a punch in the nose.

Someone needed to bring the heavy machine down to test it on the Imperials then carry it back to the bridge to tweak anything that needed to be tweaked. Sheridan reasoned it should be someone of importance to bring it to them so they didn't feel they were being ignored. As he had business with his sister it had fallen to Susan to carry the heavy box halfway across the station.

Susan nodded briefly to the Babylon 5 security forces around the door before thumbing the door-chime. After a few moments the door swung open and she came face to mask with one of the Imperials. The Imperial stood staring at her in silence, unmoving.

"Hi," Susan started awkwardly, "I'm here to bring the translator."

The Imperial stared and said nothing, crossing his arms and tapping his fingers on his arm in apparent disinterest. His crimson silks draped elegantly over thick ceramics and Mylar-encased steel. He stood utterly immobile and dispassionate.

"You don't speak a word of English do you," Said Susan, feeling slightly stupid that she'd entirely forgotten the reason why she was carrying the heavy computer. Damn, she would have to speak in Interlac. She was terrible at Interlac, she managed to say "Me, enter room?" before a voice inside yelled out, "Permissum suus ineo. Is est erwartete."

The man at the door stepped away and Susan rushed into the room, placing the heavy computer on the table. One of the gold and crimson suited guards giggled and said something to his companions. She was reasonably sure that if she'd hit him he would have deserved it for whatever he said.

Apparently his superior officer agreed with Susan. He said something in a flowing airy language that did not sound congratulatory. It sounded suspiciously familiar to Susan for some reason.

The translator, Jak, hobbled over from a back room and Susan caught a glimpse of something that made her blood run cold. A full-chested woman was being lifted out of a crate and onto the bed, her eyes glassed over and her head lolling backwards and forwards at an unnatural angle. She was naked and bound in chains but unmistakably human.

The room spun as Susan heard the Jak say, "Is this the translation computer?" in interlac.

Susan blinked and tried to tear her gaze away from the woman being lifted out of the crate by the large metal man with the tentacles, "Yes... that is the device."

"We are to test its ability to translate yes?" Everyone else seemed to be totally unaware that the woman was being taken out of the suitcase else were ignoring it as though it were of no consequence. God what kind of creatures were these Imperials?

"Yes. Just flip the switch," Susan stuttered out in Inerlac, her eyes still fixed on the woman on the bed as the metal man pulled out a thin scalpel and started to slice into her chest, "Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Susan slid past the skull masked Imperial Ambassador, Hilder, and faced the metal man, the translator could burn in hell for all she cared, "You have a hell of a lot of explaining to do."

"I suspect," the metallic monotone English of the translator module reverberated against the thick tones of the Imperial language, "There has been a slight cultural mismatch. The woman is dead, long dead."

"Then why are you carrying her corpse around with you," she pointed to the metal man, "And why is, stop shaking your damn shoulders at me! Why is the iron giant trying to cut her open?" Susan blanched, "You aren't carrion eaters are you? That wasn't in any of your transmissions."

Ambassador Hilder laughed, "We do not consume the flesh of our own," his gaze strayed to the sullen looking beaked creature and his hounds, "…well most of us do not anyway and hunter Vira'Capac only eats what he kills himself. The meat puppet serves another purpose entirely."

"Meat puppet?" Susan blanched. The armored man had pressed a button on the woman's chest. The flesh split neatly down the middle exposing a mesh of organs and mechanical devices. His deceptively nimble fingers manipulated the flesh and machine, making the body twitch and groan grotesquely. The Imperials disregarded this bizarre tableau with the air that one might ignore the janitor sweeping the floors.

"Ah, that did not translate through the machine. No matter, it's function is what you need to understand. It serves as a body so that those who are far away may still interact physically with us through an avatar," The man pulled out a remote from a fold in his jacket and pressed a button. Out of the confines of his luggage an alarming humanoid skull covered in metal bits and bobs floated out hovered over to Hilder, "You see we do not waste the dead needlessly. The dead serve the Emperor just as surely as the living."

He caressed the skull with a finger, it wobbled slightly and hovered away from his finger chitterling angrily at the attention, "We use the shells of men once their souls are gone for numerous tasks. The puppet on the mattress will serve as an avatar to the Captain."

"I… see," Susan started, "They chose to do this then? After they die?" The skull was flitting about her head cooing in a bizarre warbling speech. She would very much have liked to grab it and smash it against the table.

"The process doesn't always require a living subject no," Hilder pressed the remote again. The skull whipped past Susan. She winced as she felt the tug of a few stray hairs that had gotten caught in the machines hanging probes.

Susan froze. Doesn't always require a living subject? "How often are the subjects alive?"

"Now is not the time for such unpleasant talk," Hilder cocked his head and the red and crimson guards moved within arms reach of Susan. They smiled but their taught posture warned Susan she was treading on dangerous ground, "If you wish for the secrets of the flesh you will have to talk with the Machine God ambassador when she arrives. I must confess the specifics of the process aren't known to me." He waved in the direction of the metallic man with his hands still half buried in the woman's torso, "Our current representative of the most honorable Omassiah has taken a vow of silence and is thus unable to answer such questions."

Susan nodded unconvinced but held her tongue. She would be taking this matter up with the captain. The implications of long-term relations with this species needed to be better assessed, "Very well Ambassador if you say so but we really must continue with testing the translator, I will need you to speak in front of the Translator. Call it a cultural exchange. It's best to have as few surprises as possible before the actual negotiations Ambassador."
The three-eyed man in the clear helmet snorted, "Ambassador. Honestly you, an ambassador. How amusing!"

Hilder said in a dangerous tone, "Ambassador is an acceptable substitute for my title Navigator."

"Call a grox a grox. You're a Thron verflucht Inkvizitor." The translator skipped over a small burst of complex spoken Imperial Gothic.

"Daul Hilder Thron verflucht Inkvizitor in service of the throne and seeker of heresy, to be precise," The skull helmeted man said scathingly towards the three eyed man, "And I will thank you to be silent for the rest of this meeting Navigator Calven."

"And why are you here… Thron verflucht Inkvizitor Daul Hilder?" The red uniformed guards got a fit of the giggles and Susan suspected that she ought to have stuck with calling him Ambassador.

Hilder paused as though considering his response, "Right now? I am seeking water, I will deal with the rest as it comes. My true calling is seeking heretics."

"I see," Susan said through tight lips and a forced smile Heresy that wasa word of ill omen to the Russian Jew. She shoved the dark thoughts about pogroms and "pure blood" to the back of her mind and held up the list of words, "These are the phrases I'll need to check with you. Please inform me if there are any errors or offensive translations in any of these words please."

It would take an hour to go through all the basic vocabulary and grammar in order to calibrate the device. It was just long enough for Susan to figure out exactly how much of an earful she was planning on giving the Captain about putting a tighter security detail on these damned Imperials.

-=-

Within seconds of pressing the button to activate the door it had opened, revealing the uncharacteristically hard faced Lennier. Even the man's crest of bone along his head seemed sterner and more angular than usual, "Dr. Franklin, before we can allow you to proceed I must insist anything you learn here in the next few minutes be kept in the strictest of confidence. "

"Of course," Stephen patted at the bag strapped over his shoulder. It was heavy and he was eager to put it down, "You have my word… but if she's sick I'm surprised you didn't call in one of your own doctors."

"I'm not ill doctor," the ragged voice of Delenn splintered out from under her hood haphazardly. She was hunched over on one of the Spartan sofas favored by the Minbari and looking all the worse for wear. She tried to stand and bow, the standard Minbari greeting but only managed a weak wobble before collapsing back onto the sofa.

Lennier and Stephen rushed to Delenn to help steady her where she was sitting. Stephen flinched slightly at the fibrous scaly feel of her cracked skin. "What I have become… what I suffer… requires you alone," Delenn stared him in the eyes with absolute and unwavering faith in him.

As Stephen stared at what he could only even begin to guess were tumors he could not feel a similar confidence in his abilities. The Minbari physiology wasn't as well known within human medical circles as the other humanoid species. Races tended to prefer doctors of their own species, and the Minbari were more insular than most. Dr. Franklin was ostensibly one of the experts on xenobiology and he couldn't think of a single disease on record that could come close to having the same symptoms. He massaged one of the growths between his fingers and it peeled away, revealing soft pink flesh covered in ichor.

"Is… is it supposed to do that?" Stephen said lamely.

The conviction in Delenn's eyes wavered, "I do not know."

Stephen pulled out a medical scanner and put it up to Delenn's chest as she twitched with another convulsion of pain. She is twisted and groaned muttering, "What am I? What am?" as she curled into the fetal position.

-=-

The Commander's quarters weren't luxurious but in the space of a couple weeks John liked to think he'd done a good job of making it very homey. A couple of creature comforts, old maps, some war trophies from his adventures, and a set of overstuffed chairs had done wonders in making the drab grey space more cheerful. With Liz curled up in one of the chairs all they needed was a roaring fire and some reruns of "Rebo and Zooty" and it would be just like Saturdays back at the old farmhouse in Iowa.

"Well granted I get stir crazy sometimes but the wonderful thing is if I want to see aliens I don't have to go looking for them, they come here. All I have to do is go out that door down two levels, and there's always something new," John poured a generous measure of brandy into two glasses and walked over to the overstuffed chairs, " Some new race I've never heard of and never seen."

"Like these Imperials I've been hearing about on ISN?" Liz smiled wryly and John had to resist the urge to roll his eyes. ISN had spent the better part of the past week running wildly sensationalist stories speculating on the Imperials and their apparent paranoid protection of the Babylon station.
"Yes," John sipped at the brandy and savored the slight burn of it as it slid down his throat, "Just like the Imperials."

"Are they really eight feet tall with three eyes and beaks?" Liz said in a would be casual voice that did not conceal the excitement in her eyes. John wasn't the only one in the family with a thirst for the new and the unknown. You don't become a teacher if you don't enjoy learning.

"Only the one of them had three eyes that I saw, but they mostly wore masks that concealed their faces. Near as we've been able to tell they're actually a collection of different races," he chuckled, "It's like dealing with a more organized version of the League," he sipped at his glass again, "hopefully I won't accidentally threaten to steal their children a second time."

"You didn't!" Liz squealed covering her mouth with her hands.

John shook his hands and sighed, "I did. Honestly, how was I supposed to know the lizard-hound creatures weren't his pets but his children? They send over no biological information about themselves other than a list of potential pathogens they might be carrying and give no warning at all."

"I suppose he didn't like that."

"Tried to tear my throat out," he looked at Liz's incredulous expression, "No really, bared claws and all. The big one had to knock him out and carry his dogs in his arms."

"Well you're having a fun time of it."

"The only thing that could make it better is if Anna were here to share it."

Liz smiles sadly, "And with that scientist mind of hers, she would have loved it."

Sheridan nursed his drink and felt his face sour. Liz reached out and grabbed John's hand, "What is it Johnny?"

"Damn it Liz, its my fault she's not here," the words poured out before John had even realized he'd said them. He didn't want to say them but he needed to say it out loud to someone for once. He needed to get it out of his system.

"Oh Johnny stop that," Liz's teacher voice cracked into action, "You've been carrying this guilt for two years. She died on a deep space exploration vessel that exploded. You had nothing to do with that."

"No but I'm responsible for her being on that ship in the first place," John choked back tears, "We were going to get together on our Anniversary. She'd arranged to meet me when we pulled into space dock off of Centauri Prime," he waved his hand, "We hadn't seen much of each other the year before. You know what the military life is like."

Long days, bad pay, and lots of danger, it had all seemed worth it with Ann.

"Well I'd gotten real busy. I was up to my ears in inspections, drills, I had to call her and tell her I couldn't make it," John swigged his drink.
He coughed as it burned in the back of his throat, "I was too busy."

John stood up and stared at Liz before walking to liquor cabinet, "Too damn busy. Well right after I canceled she too that science officer's job on the Icarus. 'Just a two week survey' she said she'd be back before I even noticed she was gone."

He strode back to his seat, "Well she didn't come back, and I've been noticing she's been gone every minute of every day."

"You can't blame yourself Johnny," Liz shook her head sadly.

"Yes I can," Liz just didn't understand, she couldn't, "If I hadn't canceled out, if I hadn't driven her away she'd be here right now. But the thing is, the real killer is when we used to talk to each other over long distance we would say I love you at the end. The last time I talked to her, I don't know I was rushed… I didn't say it. I didn't even realize it," he choked on his own words, "And I figured I'd make it up to her later on. I never even got to say goodbye to her."

Liz leaned in and hugged him. Sheridan felt tears in his eyes, "Oh Lizzie I miss her. I just didn't want her to go without telling her I loved her one last time."

-=-

Last edited by Todeswind on 2011-03-25 08:25pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-03-24 09:59pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
The use of astropathic puppets always unnerved Sáclair. It was similar to the method by which Sáclair communed with the ship but was nothing other than a pale shadow of the experience of being one with the ship. Sáclair's senses were dulled though the avatar, there was always a sense of lethargy. It was as though every thought and movement he took was done while wading through a thick syrupy mess. In fact out of his vast collection of previous lives only those memories from the life of Hezekiah the Unsound seemed to indicate anything but utter hatred for the use of astropathic puppets.

Little by little he felt the great throne of the Endless Bounty disappearing from beneath him into a dull numb nothingness. The Navigators assured him that the nothingness was only the delay between sending and receiving sensory feedback from the puppet but every second of nothingness felt like a small death. Sáclair always feared that one day he might fall into that darkness and never come out.

Something was resisting him. Trying to force his mind away from where it wished to go. The presence was strong, but not strong enough to drown out the entire astropathic choir performing in concert. It struggled against him but was swept away with the tidal wave of will.

Blissfully Sáclair felt the numb tingles of sensation as the muscles of the puppet synched with the psychic projection of his mind. It would be a few minutes before he was able to move anything. Sáclair tried to absorb his surroundings as he waited for his body to respond to his commands.
Sounds, garbled at first, filtered into his hearing, "Ambassador your translator is not malfunctioning. That is what I said."

The disjointed half-speech half-mechanical translation of an alien voice speaking in a baroque language chattered back rudely, "My apologies then Ambassador. Allow me to rephrase. I didn't really want to know. 'Is that a corpse?' I was altogether too absorbed with the more pressing question why have you found it necessary to drag the corpse into my apartments? A pretty corpse is still a corpse."

"Ambassador I assure you that," the smarmy voice of Calven started.

"Assure, cajole, promise, do whatever you feel is necessary," the scornful voice replied, "But get that festering pile of flesh out of my room. The Centauri Republic will not stand for such insults. The indignity of it."

Sinclair opened his eyes and squinted in he direction of the scornful voice. At a height of at least a thirty centimeters shorter than anyone else in the room stood an officious looking pudgy humanoid. His features were hawk like and his currently bared teeth were abnormally pointed and flashing at the Inquisitor. It was a bit like watching one of the sparrows that were so fond of roosting in the high places on the Endless Bounty cursing at a hawk. Sáclair found himself instantly liking the man, "I don't give a damn what is customary on your homeworld Ambassador Hilder. If you do not remove this corpse at once I will remove every one of you from this room, this station, and this galaxy even if I have to carry your ship on my back and paddle it out to the rim of space while holding my breath. Is that clear!"

"How long have they been at this?" Sáclair said out loud, looking at the smaller softer looking xenos nervously standing between Galut and Danzig. The xenos squealed and flinched as Sáclair started to drunkenly move his limbs about.

"A good thirty minutes I'd guess sir," Danzig smiled, "What do you think Mr. Cotto?"

The disheveled Cotto nodded and spoke through his translation computer, "A good thirty minutes… Mrs… nice… corpse lady." The xenos winced as the words fell lamely from his lips.

Sáclair adjusted the sheer sheet covering the puppet's frame for modesty's sake, noting idly that the body was female. He stood and cracked his neck, "Captain Nathaniel Emmanuelle Sáclair at your service."

The officious man with the feathery crest of hair blinked blandly and quirked an eyebrow, "You are significantly less dead than you were when you were carried into my quarters. Exactly how did you achieve that madam?"

"Mister actually. This form," he ran his hands down his body, "is simply a puppet, a servitor to serve as my shape during these negotiations. My actual body is substantially more dashing… and substantially more male."

"Of course it is," Sáclair couldn't tell which was more scornful, the native speech dripping with sarcasm or the deadpan delivery of the translator. He rounded on the Inquisitor, "Are there any other surprises you feel compelled to deliver to me Ambassador Hilder?"

"I have no doubt there are Ambassador Mollari," The Inquisitor stared at Sáclair's avatar pointedly, "but hopefully not today."

"Really Inquisitor I must ask why you did not simply wait to bring me in till our scheduled time rather than having the added confusion?" Sáclair shook his head in mild consternation. If this was some political strategy on the part of the Inquisitor to gain influence on the Endless Bounty it was hardly the time for it.

Unexpectely it was Navigator Calven who came to the Inquisitor's defense, "Honored Captain you are an hour late. We would have kept the avatar concealed longer but we were unsure if it had ceased functioning."

"An hour?" Sáclair blinked sluggishly as he examined the delicate hands of the Avatar, "I experienced some resistance in reaching the station but I assumed it had been over a matter of minutes not a matter of hours."

The Inquisitor's voice darkened, "It would seem our psychic intruder from the landing bay has been up to more mischief. It appears that we need to take additional precautions."

"Bah," exclaimed the Ambassador, "Psychics, hang the lot of them and let the maker sort them out," he shook a sausage-like finger, "You mark my word, a psychic left to his own devices can only lead to bad things." The Imperials laughed politely and the portly xenos seemed to relax somewhat, though Sáclair noticed Mollari's eyes lingered on the chest and hips of the avatar. He would have to remember that in future, he could use it.

The Ambassador clapped his hands together and the portly, shorter xenos waddled out with a tray of some aromatic green liquor. He nervously approached each of the Imperials in turn offering the liquor and they each in turn politely turned the offer down with the exception of the Inquisitor and, surprisingly, the Skitarii. The Inquisitor had to accept the drink for politeness sake but Sáclair couldn't fathom why the Skitarii had accepted the drink. Not to be outdone, as the tray reached Sáclair's avatar he snatched a glass of the steaming liquid with delicate fingers.

"Ah good!" Chortled the Ambassador, "I was beginning to think your species was a bunch of insufferable teetotalers. A toast then! To the meeting of our worlds." He raised his glass then drank the entire contents of it. The Imperials each raised their glasses and downed their own. Sáclair repeated in kind, knowing full well alcohol would have no effect on the avatar. The Inquisitor tipped the contents of his glass into the space between the skull mask's teeth, no doubt into some secret catheter or pouch specifically for this purpose. The Skitharii sipped with gusto from his drink with a proboscis like mechandrite.

The Inquisitor interjected, "While I do enjoy pleasantries we do have pressing business to deal with Ambassador. I hate to break with such lovely revelry but we truly must get to business."

Sáclair chortled, "Business, business, business, it's always business with you Hildy," the leaned towards Ambassador Mollari and said in a false whisper, "Unfortunately he is correct though. We do need to get to business."

The Inquisitor snapped his fingers and the fidgety autosavant approached with a long scroll written in the simplistic script of Interlac. The Ambassador took the proffered list and eyed in with forced mild disinterest then his eyes widened, "You have of course double checked this figure on how much water you want. It's double what Babylon 5 makes use of in monthly operations."

"The figure is correct," Sáclair said firmly.

"Great maker… you must be dying of thirst!"

"Not as of yet," the Inquisitor said in a tone of measured indifference nearly as flat as the translation out of the small computer on the table.

"None of these demands seem unreasonable. Getting this much potable water here on your timeline will be difficult and expensive but not impossible," he waved over to his attendant who walked over with a data tablet, "The grain and… what is a grox?"

"A quadruped commonly consumed for its meat," the Inquisitor stated dryly, "We'll settle for any low maintenance large edible quadruped."

"Yes, the sale of grain and foodstuffs must go through proper medical quarantine procedures first. We'll need to make sure it doesn't damage your first. If you'll provide us with medical records we can…" The Ambassador cut off as the Inquisitor raised his hand palm facing outwards.

"If that is the case then we request samples of the grain and animals in question. We are fully capable of testing them ourselves," Sáclair nodded. He was in no rush to provide xenos with biological profiles of humans.

"If you insist," the Ambassador fidgeted with the data tablet, "The water will be here within two days, you have my word on that. As to the matter of payment," Sáclair stiffened, "It has been covered by a third party already."

Sáclair blinked nonplussed and stared at the blank mask of the Inquisitor, "Paid? Paid for by whom?" The Inquisitor shook his head a fraction of a centimeter, he had no idea who their donor was either.

"They have stated their wish to stay anonymous," the Ambassador nursed a fresh drink, "However they appear to have a common professional interest in your goals in this sector and in keeping you independent from local entanglements. It is a wise suggestion, I would obey it if I were you."

"Is that a threat Ambassador Mollari?" The Inquisitor rubbed his fingers together, small flickers of psychic energy sparked in his palm.
The Ambassador chuckled, "I have no need to threaten you. You will find out quickly enough that the universe is dangerous enough for all of us without the need to manufacture enemies where there are none. Take the water, the food, and the advice. Freedom is a gift. Do not squander it."

-=-

The council would listen. They had to listen. They had to listen or all would be lost. G'kar had spend his entire life working for one cause or another. When he'd been younger it had been helping form the Narn government, which had led to politics, which had led to his position on Babylon 5. Now he once again found himself on the precipice of great strife. There was wisdom an clarity in that.

G'Kar had always been a man of clear head and clear thought. He found purpose in right action and planning for the worst. It had served him well in the past and now might very well serve all the races of the galaxy. The teachings G'Quan state that the universe brings each of us to pivotal moments in time in which we shape the face of things to come. G'Kar believed meeting of the council was one such moment. Yet even as G'Kar spoke of his travels and the dark danger he'd uncovered he felt the cool indifference of disbelief from the other members, "I believe that the ancient race described in our holy books may have returned. If true this holds grave danger for all of us."

"You say the dead worlds previously controlled by this force are inhabited again," the new Captain waved his hand, "Maybe they've been colonized by someone else? The Imperials perhaps?"

"No it's them I'm sure of it. The configuration of the ships that fired on us was too similar to the drawings made by G'Quan," G'Kar shook his head, "The imperial ships are nothing like those that fired on mine."

"Then why have we heard nothing official from the Narn home world confirming your opinion," G'Kar winced. The Human's comment was entirely reasonable but not productive to G'Kar's goals.

"My government has certain reservations." G'Kar hedged.

"Then we're back where we started. We need proof." The human was insufferably narrow-minded. Sinclair would have perhaps been more agreeable to taking G'Kar's word on faith.

"And I am prepared to give you that proof, despite the misgivings of a few in the inner circle of my government I have convinced them to send a ship to the heart of the enemy's old domain located at the rim of known space," G'kar shuddered at the memory, "A dark terrible place known as Za'ha'dum. It has been dead for a thousand years. No one goes there, no one."

Mollari stiffened considerably. He'd never expected the Centauri to be the one to simply sit back and listen to G'Kar without skepticisim. The Centauri had been positively respectful through the entire meeting. Apparently Mollari had taken their previous conversation to heart.

G'Kar continued, "Our ship will arrive in twelve hours coming out of hyperspace as close to enemy's home world as possible. They will scan the
planet for signs of life and return to hyperspace before anyone can attack."

"And if someone is living there?" Sheridan still didn't seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. But how could he? He was an ignorant human, unaware of the teachings of G'Quan.

"Then all our races stand on the edge of extinction," The council members looked at him with varying levels of incredulity. The Vorlon was, as always, silent.

-=-

"Navigator if you ever have the unmitigated gall to interfere with an ongoing negotiation with a foreign government with something as insufferably petty as name calling I will cut off your arms," Daul's temper finally boiled over, "You are welcome to engage in whatever power plays and word games you wish in within the confines of the Endless Bounty but I will not allow your ego to damage our safety in this region."

It had been some three hours since they'd started negotiating with the Drazi Ambassador for the right to pass through their territory. It could easily have been two if Daul hadn't been forced to talk up, down, over and around the Navigator's insufferable backtalk. He seemed not to have noticed yet that once you spoke through a translation computer the subtle nuances of the language were lost. Every word spoken was taken at face value as truth.

Daul narrowly missed tripping over one of Dorn's dragging whips as they walked along, flanked closely by the armored security officials. Daul had realized with some surprise that they seemed to be serving their stated purpose of guarding the Imperial envoy rather than spying on it. Their ambient thoughts were mostly indicative of curiosity rather than suspicion.

"I'm sure I haven't a clue what you're speaking of Inquisitor," the Navigator snidely droned in an unconvincing manner. Having a seven foot scaly beast threaten to tear your limbs off at feed them to your was generally accepted to be a memorable event.

"Then figure it out else keep your abnormally sharp tongue immobile. This is not the time or the place for us to match wits," Daul cracked his neck, "And I cannot always use my own talents to save you from your own foolishness."

Using psychic suggestion to convince the Ambassador had been risky. Races had gone to war for less.

"Inquisitor I assure you, you have never matched my wit." Calven swiped at the ruffled bit of his silk overcoat.

"Navigator," Sáclair's Avatar said in a voice of dangerous calm, "Propriety demands that we have a navigator as part of any diplomatic entourage. There is nothing stating that you need to be conscious. Don't tempt fate."

The navigator bristled at the insult but stayed blissfully silent for the next thirty minutes. Daul knew he would pay for it later but enjoyed the brief respite from the navigator's sanctimony.

-=-

Mr. Morden entered Londo's quarters with his usual calm and swagger, "You wanted to see me ambassador?"

"You said I should tell you if I heard about anything unusual happening out on the rim," Londo eyed his face with interest, "the Narns have sent a military ship to investigate a world called Za'ha'dum."

Morden stiffened, near imperceptivity, but he did stiffen.

"Ah," Londo's face cracked into a smile, "I see you know it."

"Only in passing," Mr. Morden's face was a blank mask of serenity, "Do you by any chance know when it's scheduled to arrive?'

"Yes, in a little under ten hours," Londo didn't know why he told Mr. Morden what he asked for. It wasn't that he felt he owed Mr. Morden anything. He simply feared that his involvement with Mr. Morden might be discovered.

"An what of the other matter? The Imperials?" His face betrayed some excitement at the word 'Imperials.'

"They have requested large qualities of grain and water," Londo paused, "Not large, massive, monumental, insane quantities of grain and water."

"My associates might be interested in financing part of that," Mr Morden started.

"I'm sorry Mr. Morden but the cost has already been met," Londo tried to keep his face straight, "They are a proud people and were unwilling to put themselves in the debt of anyone else. They actually negotiated the price up so that it would better reflect the value being offered."

"Interesting," Mr. Morden smiled the grin that didn't reach his eyes and bowed slightly, "Well I must take my leave of you Ambassador. I hope you forgive me." Then he left without waiting for so much as a goodbye.

As the door shut his attendant Vir asked, "Sir, why did you lie to him? You paid the cost of getting the water and grain here, at substantial cost to your diplomatic accounts I might add. What is served by pretending that the Imperials are unwilling to receive gifts."

Londo nodded, "Vir, I am old. I am too old to change my ways but I am not so old as to have gone foolish." He walked over to the bar and poured himself a drink, "The Imperials must be truly at the edge of their wits to request that much water at once. I don't even want to begin to imagine the sort of rationing they're doing. Mr. Morden relies upon the desires of those in need. I simply removed some of that need."

"But we know nothing of these Imperials sir! What we do know is troubling."

"Better to have them as an ally then isn't it?" Londo sighed, "In truth Vir I do not know why I did it. It seemed to be the right thing to offer them the water just as now it seems wise to distance myself from them to Mr. Morden. It is perhaps best not to think about it too hard," he downed his drink, "I won't."

-=-

Talia Winters strode down the hallway with Lou Welch, trying to ignore the stray thoughts she way catching from the security guard. Lou wasn't stupid by any measure, but nobody had ever accused the man of being overtly complex. The man wore his heart on his sleeve and his thoughts could easily be heard out loud even if you weren't a psychic. A dull hum of worry about the security chief and stray thoughts about women they passed in the hallway buzzed in the back of her mind.

Talia liked Lou, there was no insincerity too him, she just wished fewer of his stray thoughts about women had to do with her. She rolled her eyes as the doors to the med bay opened and another stray thought of Lou's ran through her head. Well, at least that one was mildly romantic.
Lou walked into the med bay, bent over one of the sleeping figures and gently shook Garibaldi, "Chief, I brought her like you asked,"

Garibaldi looked up, "Hey Lou, good work," he looked at Talia, "He tell you?" Garibaldi's mind always projected a subtle edge of planning into a room. It was a bit like standing next to a chess match, you never quite got a read on his surface thoughts but he gave you the impression he'd already planned out checkmate.

Unfortunately the side effect of being so good at planning ahead was that he sometimes lost track of the here and now, "Yes, Mr. Garibaldi you have to understand that even if I do go into your mind, even if I do find anything, it's not admissible in court."

Garibaldi shook his head, "I know," Talia felt a jolt of his desperation, "Look I've gotta find out who did this to me. If there's anything in my memory, anything I missed or forgot you can find it."

"You may be placing too much faith in my abilities," Talia said nervously as she realized how conflicted Garibaldi was feeling, "But I'll try."

She removed her gloves, "In this condition this will have to be a deep scan." She smiled politely, "It may cause you some discomfort." There was no "may" about it. It was going to hurt like hell but there was no reason to get him more worked up than he already was.

Garibaldi grabbed her hand without a second thought, "Let's do it."

Talia felt the jolt of being in his mind. It was an odd sensation being in someone else's memories. She didn't simply view the memories, she became part of them for a short while. She felt the cold air of down below, the slight twinge from a cut on Michael's hand and a sight pang of hunger from having missed lunch.

But above all she felt the rush of adrenaline that Garibaldi felt as he apprehended three ner-do-well thugs in brown sector. They were the sort of thug for hire that thrived in brown sector, all muscle and no neck. A squinty eyed man with a slight slur spoke to Michael fearlessly, "I told you, not to poke around in things that are too big for you."

"Yeah well it's a litter late for that," Talia felt Michel's surge of amusement at his own wit. The man way all together too satisfied with his own sense of humor, "Now up against the wall"

"I think not," The man smiled and looked past Michael.

The memory started to freeze and skip for a moment, Michael's memory was approaching the point where he blacked out. Talia felt fear, exhalation, and confusion as the whine of a plasma pistol firing sounded in the small corridor and Michael's world exploded into pain.

The memory skipped and restarted as Michel's mind tried with all it's might to force itself away from that moment of pain. Not just the pain… the betrayal.

Why betrayal? The face, a face, there was a familiar face in the mirror. A face holding a gun, a known face, a trusted face, it was a friend's face.
Talia let got of Mr. Garibaldi's hand in horror when she realized who's face she was looking at, "No! Oh god no…" She gently massaged her hand.
Lou grabbed her shoulders and tried to comfort her, "What? What'd you see?"

Talia tried to say but simply stood in horror as Mr. Garibaldi seethed in rage, his every revenge fantasy playing through her mind.

Checkmate.
-=-
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-03-24 10:06pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
Jack looked through yet another stack of requisition forms wondering idly how Garibaldi managed to get all this paperwork done and micromanage as much of the station security operations as he did. There had to be some secret to it but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what it was. By all accounts Garibaldi had to be employing elves or something to do it for him otherwise he had given up sleep altogether.

Chen Park rushed into the room breaking Jack's train of thought, "Hey, come you gotta see this!"

"What is it? I'm kind of busy here," Jack tired to remember what word he'd been intending to write next. Theft of goods perhaps? Damn.

"Ambassador Delenn is out of that weird cocoon and she's got wings just like a butterfly," he flapped his arms exaggeratedly, "You gotta come see."

Jack rolled his eyes and followed into corridor. Delenn had better not have sprouted wings or he owed Mike Turner fifty credits. As he wondered if he'd be able to Welch his way out of paying the bet he felt a powerful pair of hands grab him and toss him to the wall. Before he knew it a fist had clipped him in the face and he was sitting in a half dazed heap with a plasma rifle inches from his mouth.

Jack looked up to see half the security staff of the ship in full body armor pointing PPGs in his face. He smiled shaking his head, Garibaldi had told him that this was the right of initiation for a new security chief but he'd never actually believed it. Lou hadn't needed to hit him quite so hard for the joke but Lou wasn't the most subtle man on the planet.

Lou sneered and yelled, "Go ahead, go for it, make my fragging solar year." As he plasma rifle whined with a round.

Jack flinched. This was no joke, Lou was not that good of an actor and wasn't about to have a live round on anyone he didn't actually intend to shoot. Garibaldi had instilled that in them all very early on. As Lou's foot connected with his kidney Jack coughed up phleghm and realized what was happening.

Garibaldi's memory must have returned. Damn, and double damn, he should have just shot him twice to be sure in Brown sector.

"That's enough," Sheridan walked down the corridor and eyed Jack with disdain.

"He's all your's sir," Lou growled looking down at Jack with murder in his eyes, "Unless you want to walk around the block a few times and leave him to us."

"I appreciate your enthusiasm but I don't think that'll be necessary." Sheridan said in a pleasantly brusque tone, "Put him in lockup under maximum security I want check ups every quarter hour."

"Yes sir," Jack winced in pain as Lou yanked him up and tossed him to two other security officers. Jack noticed they never took their fingers off the trigger of their guns. An accident still seemed entirely likely, "Take him."

As they dragged him away Jack resisted the urge to smile. They should have just shot him when they had the chance.

-=-

As Daul sat on one of the sofas in the apartment granted to the Imperial diplomatic envoy he reflected on his day. Meeting the diplomats had been simple, almost pleasant even.

In the space of a day they'd met the Centauri, Drazi, Abbai and Vree representatives. Wholly inexperienced with the foreign policy of the Empire the various races with Embassies on Babylon 5 had been all too willing to provide maps and star charts with the hope of procuring trade in future. Their openness about providing details of their spatial geography was jarring really, they acquired so much information that Navigator Calven insisted upon returning to the Endless Bounty so that it could be analyzed.

So eager was Daul to rid himself of the insufferable nuisance of a Navigator it was not till the shuttle had lifted off carrying Calven, Fadir, and Hamman that Daul realized he had no exit strategy if relations on the Babylon station soured. After all the danger and fear of the past week the openness and apparent friendship of the Babylon station had tricked him into letting his guard down. He tried not to think of what his mentor Inquistior Gaal would have had to say about something as foolish as letting a questionable ally leave with the only escape craft.

The Sáclair's avatar stood at the bar fixing another drink for itself. Hamman shook his head and turned to him, "Captian what point is there in wasting alcohol on an astropathic avatar?"

"Inquisitor at some point you will realize that there is an art to hospitality," he lifted the glass of the blue liquid, "When you are offered drink, you drink. The Vree honored me by offering me a strong spirit, thus I must drink it."

Gazan smiled as he looked at the poison swoop in his hands, "And the fact that you can drink what is effectively promethium at no risk to your own liver is only part of it sir? I think Hamman uses less potent materials in his flamer."

Daul chuckled dryly, "Unless I miss my mark what they said is 'may your ship drink this.' I'm reasonably certain that is a fuel additive."

"Is it now?" the avatar wiped it's lips, "We'll I'd best disconnect from the avatar before it eats through the synthetics lining the stomach and starts to cause the avatar pain. Cheers Hildy." The avatar placed it's glass on the counter and fell boneless in a heap on the floor. Cairn, chattering angrily in binary lifted the body and carried it back to the bed. Daul recognized that tone, it was the same tone he was subjected to when he broke an auspex.

Vira'Capac growled and stirred from his place on the floor with his mastiffs, "Something comes. Old, I do not like it." The dogs snapped their jaws, "Neither do my hounds."

"Helmets ON!" Daul ordered as he scrambled to replace his own. There was something to be said for intimidation.

The door chimed and the Lionhearts hopped to attention on either side of it. Daul nodded to Danzig and he pressed the button to permit entry. A tall man in a tailored suit sauntered in smiling at Daul as though he weren't surrounded. He cocked his head and started to speak in gothic, "Good day Inquisitor. Lovely weather we've been having lately isn't it."

Daul blinked nonplussed and walked over to the grinning man, "You speak high gothic?"

"I am Mr. Morden. My associate's understanding of language far supercedes that of those on Babylon five. Suffice it to say they find you to be," he tapped his fingers together searching for the right word, "…interesting. And thus they provided me with the necessary… equipment to fulfill the role of communicating with you."

"And just who might these linguistically savvy associates be?" Daul crossed his arms. The temptation to simply allow Galut to pound the arrogant man to paste was ample.

"Now, now," The man smiled, "Start small. I've come to ask you a question… a riddle really. They want to see if you know the answer to it."
"Indeed?" Daul said impassively. A few pregnant moments of silence passed as Mr. Morden stood smiling. Daul raised his palm to his forehead as he realized what Mr. Moren was waiting for, "Mr. Morden what is your question?"

The man grinned, "What do you want?"

"What are the policy goals of my government?" Daul asked politely. It wasn't a spectacularly unexpected question, and was admittedly one he'd hedged around for most of the day.

"No," Mr. Morden shook his head, "You personally. What do you want?"

"Mr. Morden," Daul's annoyance seeped into his voice, "I hope you are not deliberately wasting my time."

"It's a simple question Inquisitor," The man continued, "What do you want."

"I want all the gold in the universe," Daul waved to the open door, "Now leave."

"What do you want?" the man was unabashed.

"I want you to leave." Daul waved to his retinue, all of whom started cracking their knuckles and glaring.

"What do you want?" The man wholly ignored even the ogryn and the yapping mastiffs.

Before he knew it Daul was screaming. He hadn't intended to say it but for some reason it boiled out of him, "I want to find and kill Soren Faust. I want to torture him for an age and a day then kill him so slowly the dark pits of hell will seem like a glorious holiday by comparison. I want to find all his works and render them to ash and erase him from history and memory."

The man grinned widely, "And then?"

Daul glowered, ashamed that he'd admitted as much as he had, "And then if you do not leave this room in ten seconds I will flay the skin from your bones and allow Vira'Capac to consume your entrails." His face left no room for doubt that he meant what he said.

The man bowed and politely excused himself from the room, smiling broadly, "I'll see you soon Inquisitor."

Daul stared the man in the eyes and realized idly that he would most likely have to kill that man before the year ended. He doubted he would regret the action.

-=-

Michael hobbled around the interrogation room, staring at Jack with irate fury. It had taken a massive amount of effort to get the doctor to agree to dope him up enough that he could stare his shooter in the face. Now that he was here he only felt cold burning disappointment, "I trusted you. I taught you everything I knew. I gave you every break," he growled, "I even treated you like my own brother."

Jack looked to the wall in front of him, pretending not to even notice Michael. Micheal slammed his cane on table. Jack flinched but said nothing.
"My god why did you do it?" Michael felt a desperation seep into in his voice. It made no sense, why would Jack do this? Even consider this?
"I had my instructions," Jack said with cool confidence.

"From who?" Michael said with as much venom as he could manage.

"There's a new order coming back home Garibaldi. You can either be part of it or you can be stepped on.. be a winner or loser," Jack said with cult-like conviction, "I'm with the side that's going to win."

"Home Guard?" It wouldn't be beyond their agenda to do so. They'd caused numerous smaller incidents back on earth.

"Home Guard," Jack chuckled, "They're a bunch of misfits." He squinted at Michael in surprise, "You really don't have a clue do you Garibaldi."
Michael was in no mood to be condescended to by his shooter, "Look if I were you I'd start talking straight because right now you're in a whole world of trouble."

"You don't even know what trouble is," Jack smiled brightly, "but you're going to find out real soon."

"Yeah well, while I'm worrying about that," Michael leaned in close to Jack's ear, "roll this one around in your head. Shooting a senior officer is an act of treason and mutiny. The penalty is spacing. They put you in an airlock, seal it, and open the space door. You spend the next five minutes chewing vacuum until your lungs turn inside out, your eyeballs freeze and your heart explodes. It's the worst kind of death you can imagine."
Jack's face tightened and Michael continued, "And when that day comes, I'll be there to push the button."

Garibaldi walked to exit with a heavy heart and his blood boiling.

"Hey Garibaldi," Jack saluted Michael's turned back, "Be seeing you."

-=-

John sat in his office doing paperwork. It was a fantastic excuse to brood in private rather than have another of the insufferably personal conversations that Liz seemed determined to foist on him. He finished reading another report on the state of station hydroponics and felt his head throb. The throbbing turned into a shooting pain as the monitor rang.

He pressed the activator and the face of Lieutenant Commander Susan Ivanova appeared on the monitor, "Captain."

"I know. I know. The council meeting. I'm just trying to finish up a few things here before I go." John picked up the hydroponics report and tossed it in a drawer. It didn't help his headache but it did give a strange sense of satisfaction.

"It's the President. He's on Gold Channel One. He wants to speak with you," Ivanova smiled knowingly "Unless you'd like to have me tell him to call back later?"

"Ivanova," John sighed in exasperation. One did not tell the President to call back later, especially not one of his military officers.

"Yes sir," she smiled "Stand by."

Sheridan stood and moved over to main viewer behind his desk. He thought idly that he really ought to have worn his formal uniform today rather than his standard one as the Balding and sour face of President Clarkeappeared on screen. Rumor had it that the new President had an obsession with proper appearance.

"Mr. President, to what do I owe the honor of this call?"

"Captain Sheridan I've just read the report on your recent arrest," the President's voice filled with shock, "Do you really think this individual was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate my predecessor?"

"It's a little early for that sir. All we have on him now is attempted murder of the senior officer who discovered the alleged conspiracy." Sheridan wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be true, but he was still hoping it was simply an unfortunate co-incidence.

"I see," President Clarkenodded, "This is very serious captain if there's the slightest chance this might be true we need to investigate fully."

"Oh I agree sir."

"Good," the president clapped his hands "I want him put on the first prison ship to Earth."

"I'm not sure I understand sir," it would potentially break the chain of evidence to have the investigation run from Earthdome. They still needed to interrogate Jack further.

"We can't risk this being mishandled Captain. During the time I as Vice President under Santiago I grew to admire and appreciate the man. I owe it to his memory to personally oversee any inquiry," Clarkeleft no room for debate in his voice. It was an order, simply not stated as such, "The first shuttle out Captain."

"And I want all transcripts, vid, and background materials sent with him. I need to have everything right at my fingertips." Sheridan felt the same feeling of confusion again but this was doubtless going to be a highly political trial. It wouldn't do to lose on a technicality he supposed.

"Yes sir," he hesitated slightly, "Of course sir."

"You're a good man Sheridan," the President smiled brightly.

"Thank you," Sheridan beamed at the compliment.

"Good work on this," the President said with gusto, "To you and your chief of security. I'll keep you informed of anything we find. Earth dome out."
Sheridan stood in confusion for a few minutes before heading out of his office. The council was waiting. The whole situation was astoundingly strange.

-=-

Magos Frist flinched at the severe tone of the Chief Docere Medicus, "I do not even begin to understand why you are in my surgery and making use of my equipment but if you do not put that regent pack back into the cupboard ask me for it first I will remove the hand that is holding it with a bonesaw."

Kerrigan turned to Docere Nor as the diminutive surgeon stood there in his white scrubs and apron with his arms crossed tapping his foot, "My apologies Docere but there are some necessary tests I need to do…"

"They'd better be damn necessary for you to try and sneak a level two contained substance out of my supply cabinets without my knowledge," He pointed to the numberous servo-skulls flitting about the room, "You do realize the servo-skulls are programmed to inform me or the nearest doctor the second that anyone tries to remove anything from the medical supplies without going through proper channels? You're lucky you didn't set off the damn gun turrets."

"Not lucky per se," Kerrigan smiled as she put the regent pack down, but not quite away, "I disabled the defense turrets."

"Damn it woman! We use those to discourage the theft of opiates," Nor waved his scalpel around in the air to emphasize his point, the silver tip flashed in the bright sterile light of the surgery.

"I indented to activate them after I left," Kerrigan bristled, "But it really was urgent to test this sample." Kerrigan pulled out the vial from her robes full of the nutrient liquid from Dorn's chambers, "I believe there might be an exotic toxin in it."

"Oh for the love of…." The Docere strode forwards and snatched the vial out of Kerrigan's hand, "Testing this with a level two pack is only going to tell you how to treat a human being and if one of the things it can treat is in it. None of those things are "exotic" in the slightest." He stared at the vial, "If you want it tested proper I can do it but it might take a matter of some days."

Kerrigan smiled. It was not the ideal solution but it seemed unlikely she would get a better offer, "You realize I will require some discretion in this of course? And one of my attendants will be with the sample to observe the procedure."

"Of course," Nor nodded, "Just stay out of my damn surgery. Half my patients are so doped up they were screaming they saw a daemon when you walked by. I've got enough to get on with without psychotic breakdowns."

-=-

"I'm afraid to say that the ship dispatched to investigate Za'ha'dum has been destroyed. They're reporting it as an accident with the jump engines. It happened just as they left hyperspace. The Ka'ri says it cannot afford to send another ship for some time." Na'toth's news was like a dagger in G'Kar's heart. The assembled council stared at him expectantly.

He had no proof, damn.

"No I won't accept this," He slapped his hand against the table, "This cannot have been an accident. When a warship jumps to normal space it's briefly out of contact because of the energy drain. It might have been attacked during that period."

"But that couldn't happen unless," a dangerous thought flitted into his mind, "unless they knew the ship was coming and were waiting for it. But no one knew except," trailed off and looked at the council members in horror.

"What exactly are you implying Ambassador?" Sheridan growled.

G'Kar moaned dejectedly, "Nothing. I'm too late. Everything is too late." His purpose, his goal, all was lost. They would come and the worlds would no be ready.

His dark thoughts were broken as the Minbari Mr. Lennier walked in proudly, "If I may address the council."

"Yes Mr. Lennier?" Sheridan smiled politely. Human friendliness involved altogether too much baring of teeth. It was difficult to tell rage from joy.

"Ambassador Delenn has been unavailable of late," Ambassador Mollari snorted at the understatement, "She has now returned and wishes to know if she may take back her seat on the council."

"Well yes, of course. Have her come in," the human said in his usual gung-ho boorish voice, "I've been looking forward to meeting her."

Lennier bowed and exited. In his wake a white robed figure entered the room, Delenn. She lowered her head and revealed something altogether not Minbari. G'Kar's jaw dropped in astonishment. The face and bone ridge had changed significantly, softening and subduing the angular features of the Minbari. Her crest of bone had bisected and now covered a generous mane of soft brown hair that reached down to her shoulders.

She was beautiful.

She spoke in the familiar comforting tone G'Kar remembered, "Ambassador Sinclair has been allowed to live on my world as an act of good faith to create a greater understanding between Minbari and humans. In return I have undergone this change with the blessings of my government so that I might become a bridge between our worlds in the hope that we will never know war between us again."

Perhaps not all was lost yet after all.

-=-

It was some hours later that John was back in his quarters with his sister, still reeling at the events of the council meeting, "All I could do was sit there my jaw on the floor looking at her"

"I can't say as I blame you," Liz smiled, "Has her genetic structure changed as well or just her outward appearance."

"I don't know but she didn't seem to inclined to talk about it," John smiled brightly "God what a day, the Imperials, Garibaldi, the President, the Imperials, and now this?"

"And it's not quite over yet," Liz said morosely, "When I decided to come see you I brought something with me. I've been debating over if I ought to show it to you or not but after our talk the other night… and you blaming yourself for Anna taking that job on the Icarus, I think it's something you ought to see."

She pulled a video crystal out of her purse, "Its part of a message sent to me about a week before she left on the Icarus." John took the crystal and stared at it in numb shock "I'll be in my quarters if you want to talk."

She rose and left the room. After a moment John walked over to computers and put in the crystal, "Play."

Ann appeared on screen just as beautiful as he remembered her, "Ah well maybe we'll have the chance to try again later. I am really excited about signing up for the Icarus next week. John and I were supposed to spend some time together but Dr. Chang thinks he's found the ruins to an ancient civilization nobody's ever heard of before and the chance to be there when the discovery is confirmed is just too good of an opportunity to pass up. I had already decided to put off our vacation when John called and told me that he had to cancel so it worked out just great."

She laughed and John felt knives in his heart, "Though the poor dear looked so put out about canceling I wanted to tell him that I was going away anyway but we had so much else to cover and there's never enough time. I'll just have to fill him in when I get back."

"You've got quite a brother there Liz. I can't tell you how lucky I feel sometimes. When he's not here I just… someone said that love knows no borders and ours certainly tests the meaning. I'll check in with you when I get back but with any luck you'll hear about it on the news first. My love to Danny and the kids. Bye!"

John reached a shaking hand to the screen said, "Goodbye. I love you Anna," and broke down crying for the first time in years.

-=-

"I want to thank you for helping out," Michael turned to Talia and Susan as they entered the med-bay.

"Don't worry but it's still not admissible in court." Talia waved her gloved hand knowingly.

"Nah, now that you've got the ol' memory going I'll be able to find and, uh, speaking of taking it from here," Michael nodded to Susan, "Can I have a minute?"

"Oh! Sure, I'll see you later." Talia politely let herself out.

Susan raised an eyebrow, "Is something the matter?"

"No," Michael said unconvincingly, "I just didn't want her to hear this. I trust her… well I trust her as much as I trust any telepath but she's still Psi-core."

"What does Psi-core have to do with this?" Susan blinked.

"I've been thinking about this little salute Jack gave me back in his cell, it's the same as that Psycop Bester gave," He imitated the salute, "Its like he was rubbing my nose in something he knew I could never prove. Remember there was a big scandal about the core endorsing Vice-President Clark?"

"Sure it was big news, made all the nets," Susan shook her head in disgust, "Their charter prohibits them from recommending candidates to their members."

"Exactly," Michael waved his finger in the air, "Now Jack didn't admit anything but he did say the home guard wasn't behind President Santiago's assassination. What if it was the Psi-core? What if they wanted someone in office who was sympathetic to the core? Right before Earthforce One exploded the Vice President got off at Mars saying he had the flu. It's pretty convenient wouldn't you say?"

-=-

The Inquisitor pulled the servo skull out of it's case and passed it to Gazan. It felt cold in his hands. He pursed his lips and looked at the Inquisitor,

"Sir?"

"The probes on the skull ought to have collected some hair and skin cells covertly. I want the samples tested against known biological profiles for species in known space," he pointed to the skitarii, "Cairn is more than capable of doing the analysis but he won't be able to tell me what the results are in plain speech."

"Which is where we come in," Gazan said looking at Jak.

"Which is where you come in," Daul nodded, "I'm going to get some sleep. I've been awake for close to seventy-two hours now. Wake me the second you finish the analysis."

Gazan nodded as the Inquisitor walked away. It was jarring to think of the Inquisitor doing something as normal as eating or sleeping. He'd certainly never done either in view of any of the Lionhearts. There were some bizarre rumors that the Inquisitor required neither and simply survived by consuming the souls of heretics.

Danzig wandered over as the Skitarii set up some unrecognizable scanning equipment and shoved the servo-skulls sample tray unto it. The Lieutenant eyed the Skitarii and muttered, "Gazan do you have the remotest clue what he's doing?"

"I suspect that he's scanning it with a sophisticated medical Auspex to determine the genetic profile of the species on station through a xeno-dna-cipher at level 1 clearance planning profile," Jak smiled at Danzig's uncomprehending look, "Yes Lieutentant I do have an understanding of it."

"Good," Danzig cracked his neck, "And it will let us know who we're dealing with?"

Gazan shrugged. It might let them know for some of the species but even the geno-archives of the bounty were limited. There were simply too many species in the galaxy to have records of all of them. Between the auto-savant and his medical logs from the Bounty it ought to more than suffice for identifying the known dangerous breeds, "More or less sir."

The Kroot giggled from its corner, "Can't even see what's staring you in the face can you. Can't taste it. Ignoring the hound to find the wolf."

"Shut it up will you Galut?" Danzig said to the massive ogryn.

The brute blinked confusedly, "Ez' just talkin'. Wot's the matter wid talkin'."

"Because he's saying naughty xenos things," giggled the kroot, "Vira'Capac speaks naughty xenos truths."

"If there's truth hidden in your rambling I've long since missed it," Jak snapped, "Now shut up and let us work."

-=-

It had taken John a long time to get himself composed enough not to burst into tears when he talked to Liz but eventually he soldiered on, put on a smile and helped her carry her bags to the departures section. It was sad to see her leave but he felt as though perhaps some of his regret might be getting on the shuttle and leaving with her.

Liz hugged John and beamed, "You'll write every once and a while to let me know how you are?"

"Yes, yes of course," John said as The intercom called out that Earth Cruiser Von Braun was announcing final boarding.

"That's my ship. Take care Johnny," they hugged again.

"You to huh? Thanks for coming, thanks for everything." John smiled brightly.

Liz swatted his shoulder and walked towards the boarding ramp, "You're my brother."

As John watched her round the corner and board the plane his link chimed, "Sheridan,"

"You're needed in CnC," it was Susan. John stared at the closing doors to the departure airlock and started to walk to blue sector command.

-=-

Na'Toth sat awkwardly in the garden next to G'Kar. He was insufferable when he got into one of his moods. It was best to simply sit back and indulge his introspection; he often came to useful conclusions eventually. She just wished they happened more quickly.

"Things have changed Na'Toth and they will never be the same, but we are Narns. We have learned to cope with change, to triumph in the face of adversity. We will overcome this as well."

G'Kar smiled amusedly and waved about a book, "We have no other choice."

Na'Toth pointed at the book in curiosity, "What is that?"

"A human book," G'Kar smiled and tapped the open page, "I've been studying their literature for a while and it seems that they may be wiser than we had assumed. Listen.


Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?



Na'Toth did not see the importance of it but G'Kar often saw deep meaning in things that disinterested her.

-=- 

"So what's the problem?" John walked into the empty CnC. Only Susan was on shift as no ships were scheduled to arrive for another four hours.

"On a hunch I just checked on the ship taking the prisoner back to Earth," Susan frowned "He was transferred to another ship a half an hour later. It had Earthforce security markings, it knew all the right access and identification codes, had papers authorizing the transfer, but I just backtracked with Earth Central and the ID codes don't match any ship registered to Earthforce."

"Oh great!" John swore, "So he's gone and all the evidence with him?"

"I'm afraid so." Susan looked dejected.

"Have you notified President Clark?" John suspected the answer.

Susan shook her head, "He's not taking any calls."

John gritted his teeth and stared at the stars, "Gets cold up here sometimes Lieutenant Commander?"

"Yes sir," Susan nodded, "It does indeed."

-=-

Daul sank into the dream. It was not the nightmare he'd come to expect for decades but the comforting friendly space he'd always desired. He was in a garden, a beautiful garden full of flowers and trees. It was not the bramble filled garden of his family house on Metzik, or the stately order of the gardens at his own estate. It was more structured as though every inch of space had needed to be used.

His grandfather was standing in the middle of a vegetable patch with his goves off, pulling weeds from the sod. He paused his weeding to tug off a glove, pull out a handkerchief, stand up, and mop his brow, "You're late. I expected you days ago. I understand you're busy saving the universe and all but a body needs to sleep."

Daul wandered over to his grandfather and was elated to realize he was fully-grown. He stood a good quarter-meter taller than his grandfather. His grandfather quirked an eyebrow at Daul's expression, "Yes, yes. All boys have to grow up some day," he shoved a bulging basket of round red vegetables into Daul's arms, "Now you get to carry the basket."

Daul lost his balance slightly and had to struggle to keep from falling as the followed his grandfather. Bast Hilder pulled out his pipe and lit it as they wandered a winding path, "Come now boy keep up! We've got a lot of work to do yet."

"Where is this Opa?" Daul said as he stepped quickly to avoid stepping on some buzzing machine that was spraying water on the ground, "I don't recognize it."

"You do," Bast chuckled, "It's your mind after all." After a few minutes they reached a bench in the middle of a circle of flowers and Bast sat down, motioning for Daul to sit as well.

Daul sat and quickly put the basket down. Bast groaned, "Damn it boy! Don't bruise them. It takes too damn long to pick them to get more."
He held out his hand and grabbed one. It was read and juicy looking. When Bast cut a slice out of it, it made a soft squishy crunching sound before he popped it in his mouth, "Beautiful. Just perfectly ripe."

"What are those Opa?" Daul looked at them with interest.

"I don't rightly know," Bast looked up at him, "It's your dream after all. I just live here. Speaking of which you must have something you're dying to ask me else you would have taken one of those insufferable sleep potions you drink like candy."

"I just need to be up at a moment's notice Opa," Daul floundered. He really had been hoping to have the dream again but these new dreams scared him. He couldn't figure out what they meant, the nightmare at least he could categorize and understand. These visions were just too, odd.

"Boy I'm in your mind," Bast chewed another bit of the vegetable, "If you can't trust yourself around me you've gone completely around the bend." He tapped his brow, "Anyhow I know when you lie before you do child. Don't waste the effort."

Daul chuckled, "There's something familiar about this whole station. Ever since we got here I've been having premonitions about things. At first I thought it was just picking up stray thoughts and mistaking them for my own, but it's more than that. I know this place some how. I recognize were I am." Daul picked up one of the red vegetables and took a bite. The savory juice inside ran down his lip and he wiped it with the back of his hand, "I'd wager that were we're sitting right now is probably part of the station I've never been to."

Bast smiled widely, "Now you're using your head boy." He reached up and ruffled Daul's hair, "Now you're using your head."

"But it doesn't make any sense," Daul shuddered, "Why would I know anything about this place."

"Boy," Bast shook his head and puffed at his pipe, "You still aren't asking the right questions yet. You have to pick the right questions to get the right answer."

Bast stood up and dusted off his pant legs, "Now you're going have to wake up boy."

Daul looked up in shock as the garden started to fade, "But Opa!"

"Wake up boy," Bast's face faded out of view, "Wake up boy."

Daul opened his eyes and came face to face with Danzig. The Lionheart had Daul by the shoulder and was shaking him, "Sir you need to wake up! Wake up now!"

"I'm awake Lieutenant," Danzig blinked the stars out of his eyes, "What is so pressing?"

Gazan approached with a data-slate in trembling hands, his face perked upwards into a smile of stunned joy. He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it and shook his head.

"Out with it already," Daul massaged his temples, "What is it?"

Vira'Capac laughed uproariously, "Your metal man and flesh-fixer have just discovered that the Babylonians aren't any known form of xeno-breed at all."

"That's hardly that shocking," Daul blinked, "There are billions of unknown and known non-human species that aren't in the data banks."

Vira'Capac crowed with laughter again and Jack swallowed uncomfortably before speaking, "Oh we have a record of the species... it just isn't on any of the 'non-human' lists."

Daul froze and looked at Gazan. Gazan swallowed and said, "Sir, of the forty sentients the servo skull sampled from exactly fifteen of them were one hundred percent pure blood human. Sir… the Babylonians… the Alliance… they're human."

"Throne of Terra almighty… where are we?" Daul's waking mind was wild with the possibilities.
--
A/N- My update schedule will be more irregular for the next couple months. I live in Japan and as I'm sure you know there are some rather... pressing matters that take precedent over writing fanfiction. 

As always, reviews are appreciated.
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Enigma
PostPosted: 2011-03-25 10:08am 

is a laughing fool.


Joined: 2003-04-30 10:24pm
Posts: 6903
Location: Painesville TWP, Ohio
Keep it up! I like it. :)
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General Trelane (Retired)
PostPosted: 2011-03-25 07:02pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2002-07-31 05:27pm
Posts: 620
Location: Gothos
Seconded.

Btw, it's Psi Corps. :wink:
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LadyTevar
PostPosted: 2011-03-25 10:33pm 

White Mage


Joined: 2003-02-12 11:59pm
Posts: 17601
Location: Tahalshia Manor
Fantastic.
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-03-28 07:28pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
General Trelane (Retired) wrote:
Btw, it's Psi Corps. :wink:


Thank you for pointing this out. If anyone notices any spelling or grammar errors please point them out to me. I am writing this to get used to writing and plotting novel length fiction and any and all constructive input is much appreciated.

The next chapter may well be out within the week.
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Dracowar
PostPosted: 2011-03-29 06:53pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2005-02-09 06:16pm
Posts: 5
Deleen's race is called Minbari.

I'm loving this story. Keep going!
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General Trelane (Retired)
PostPosted: 2011-03-30 12:05pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2002-07-31 05:27pm
Posts: 620
Location: Gothos
Dracowar wrote:
Deleen's race is called Minbari.

Who is Deleen? :wink:
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Todeswind
PostPosted: 2011-04-04 02:01am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-09-01 07:16pm
Posts: 867
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
I just mapped out the plot so that I resolve everything I want to resolve and get the end I want to have... this is going to end up being longer than freaking war and peace....
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