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.