The settlement on the moon of Vega Six Segunda was spartan even back when it had been lived in by its Centauri colonists. Decades of neglect had left the verdant world to its own devices, letting the thick green vines with red leaves grow over the white stone surfaces of prefabricated dwellings in natural camouflage. Brightly colored songbirds nested the myriad of overgrown flower-boxes, twittering warning calls to each other as Londo passed them.
“They're beautiful aren't they Ambassador Mollari,” G'Kar said from where he lay in the shade an old tree, idly thumbing through his prayerbook.
“The birds? Yes.” Londo agreed, sitting on the edge of what had once been a fountain, “It is just as well that neither of our people took this place. We would have destroyed this beauty for the sake of denying it to each other.”
“I imagine this was what my world looked like before your people came. I've seen pictures, of course, but this?” he waved his arms at the omnipresent flowers, “This is how I pray it was. And how I pray it will be.”
“G'Kar,” Londo replied in annoyance, “Have we been to cordial for the past several days? Do you feel the need to bring out bad blood for old time's sake?”
“Nothing of the sort Mollari. Nothing of the sort.” G'Kar stood up from the ground, brushing the back of his trousers, “I'm just enjoying the irony of your solution to the Vega Six problem. You do realize that I had to propose it as a way of getting “one up” on the Centauri?”
“I would be very surprised if you hadn't. There are a number of Centauri politicians doubtlessly waiting for their agents on Narn to inform them of the inevitable Narn outrage,” Londo shrugged, “I had expected it to take more effort to be honest.”
“Both our governments are eager to ingratiate themselves with the Imperial government,” G'Kar nodded, “And both of us have our personal reasons for wanting the Imperials to go unharmed.”
“I'm just looking out for the interests of my people,” Londo insisted, though the pleased thanks of Mr. Morden repeated in the back of his mind, “I have no ulterior motive.”
“Ambassador you brought the Narns with you to fight the Vorlon Empire. Now I haven't been able to figure out how or why you knew it was coming but whatever game you're playing I know that it is you who features chiefly in your interests.” G'Kar held up his gloved finger and tapped the side of his forehead, “I'm not a fool Mollari. But for now, as long as your goals coincide with my own, I'm willing to go along with it.”
“Very well,” Londo hissed sarcastically, “By all means live out our conspiracy fantasies. In the meanwhile prepare yourself. Unless I miss my guess that is an Imperial shuttle on the horizon.”
The Narn and Centauri soldiers milling about the plaza hopped to attention, standing around the hexagonal cement landing pad at attention in a guard of honor. They may have been on an uncivilized scrap of nowhere but neither race would embarrass themselves in front of the other with less than perfect manners. Admittedly there were a great many more hateful red-eyed stares from the Narn style of politeness than Londo felt were strictly necessary but one could not expect perfection from a Narn.
Four ships zoomed into view, the bird-like transport ship of the Inquisitor accompanied by another two fighters that were more boxy and irregular, clearly designed for combat rather than beauty. The ugly boxy fighters took positions around the perimeter as the avian craft hovered above them, a stylized white eagle painted onto the belly of the otherwise crimson and gold craft. It swooped twice around the city before settling into the hexagon.
It was overkill, but Londo couldn't blame the Inquisitor for being cautious about meeting the two ambassadors on an unknown world. The man had recently suffered a crippling injury at the hands of the Vorlons, he was likely to be wary of alien interests. Not so wary, however, that he would refuse a meeting, thank the Maker.
The mouth of the shuttle yawned wide, extending a long metal plank down to the vine covered ground. A thin layer of smoke and steam billowed out from the opening, pressurized hypoallergenic gasses to ensure no bacteria found their way into the transport. A familiar golden skull poked out from the mists, leading a handful of colorfully dressed companions. Londo sighed at the obvious fear of alien bacterial contamination. There was taking precautions and then there was just being impolite.
“We did send them the profile for a sufficent vaccination for this planet yes?” Londo asked G'Kar as the Imperial embassy marched in their direction.
“We most certainly did,” G'Kar whispered through a forced smile, “But the Imperials are worse than the Markab when it comes to ensuring the purity of their people. I'm astonished they ever take the infuriating pressure suits off.”
“Don't tempt fate,” Londo whispered before saying in a much louder voice, “Inquisitor Hilder my good friend! I had not expected to see you in person so soon after your injury.”
“I'm quite well Ambassador Mollari.” The Inquisitor's metallic voice reverberated. He raised an ivory finger capped with a gold talon and tapped it on the side of his helmet, “An arm can be replaced so long as the mind is whole.”
A busty redhead wearing a high necked leather long-coat with stylized grinning skulls for buttons snorted and rolled her eyes. Her mouth and nose were covered by a rebreather “Daul could you possibly be more pretentious?”
G'Kar's reptilian inner eyelid slid over his red eyes, reflexively cleaning them as he sniffed the air, “Do I know you?”
“You most certainly do Ambassador. My apprentice is miss Susan Ivanova, formerly of Babylon 5,” Londo gagged in surprise, his fangs flexing against his lips.
“I had been led to believe the commander died in the attack,” Londo hedged uneasily around the obvious question. Outright asking if the commander had defected seemed ill advised, “They officially listed you as missing in action.”
“We are u...unable to c...communicate with real-space while we are in transit,” The Inquisitor's diminutive aid replied, “W...we could not correct such an error.”
Susan looked as though she very much would have liked to say something but a stern look passed between her and the skull-faced telepath. Londo got the distinct impression that a conversation was passing between the two of them. Susan stared daggers at the mask for a moment then gritted her teeth as she hissed, “You unbelievable son of a bitch. This is why you brought me here?”
Londo winced at her astringent acrimony. The scrupulously professional Commander was quivering with rage as the Inquisitor calmly rejoined, “Truth does not go away with time.”
“And what truth is that Inquisitor?” G'Kar sighed in exasperation.
If looks could kill the Inquisitor would have been a small pile of ashes upon the ground. Another round of meaningful looks passed between the Inquisitor and the buxom redhead before Commander Ivanova pulled off her mask and spoke in a tone drizzled with a thick layer of sarcasm, “I've been generously accepted by the Inquisitor as his apprentice.”
G'Kar and Londo shared a look of confusion that was not missed by the Inquisitor, “I found it unacceptable for her psychic talents to go to waste and dangerous for them to go untrained. Certianly not for a psychic with such impressive psychic potential.”
“What!” Squawked Londo in horror. Great Maker, he'd spent two years around a psychic without ever having the vaguest hint of it. The possible fallout was horrifying. How many of his secrets did she know? How many other Earth Alliance officers were secret telepaths? He'd grown accustomed to the Earther's telepathic apartheid but how much of his security measures were in error?
G'Kar seemed more intrigued that horrified, “Commander Ivanova is this true?”
“Yes,” The Commander replied with a level of vulnerability Londo had rarely heard from the Russian. It was like listening to a small child admit to a mistake they'd long hoped forgotten, “I'm a telepath, like my mother before me.”
“How can this be?” G'Kar all but whispered, putting his gloved hand upon Susan's arm in a gesture of solidarity, “I thought that all members of the Earthforce were tested?”
“I wasn't strong,” Susan admitted, “Barely a P-1, it didn't take much for them to overlook me.”
“The talents of the Psi-corps are astonishingly limited,” The Inquisitor interjected, his reverberating voice abounding with professional pique, “Having examined a half dozen men and women trained by them it's become clear to me they understand almost nothing of warp-craft. To allow a mind so readily prepared for the biomantic and pyromantic arts to go by the wayside for a lack of telepathic finesse is utter madness. Telepathy is only one of a million skills. They struggle to understand telekinesis and fancy themselves the masters of sorcery. Bah!”
“Not everyone can bend the forces of nature about their finger Hildy,” Replied an irritated woman. Unclad except for a sheer white sheet, her ebon skin glowed with the dull golden glow of active astropathy from an intricate patchwork of runes and circuitry, “And even those who can tend to lack your unique insights into the subject. The sisters of silence aren't especially fond of people researching the subject if memory serves.”
“Captain Sáclair I presume?” Londo bowed deferentially. He really did like the bombastic letch, the time would not come soon enough that they would meet in person, “Would it be possible for us to get our crewmen back? My assistant in particular has been greatly missed. Don't tell him though, a competent assistant who realizes his necessity soon becomes unbearable.”
“But of course,” The woman remarked offhandedly as she locked arms with Londo and marched him towards the ship, “Your men are already being transported back to your ships. And unless I miss my – Ah yes! Here comes young Mr. Cotto.”
Londo's portly assistant waddled his way out of the Imperial transport with the aid of a large and particularly ugly Narn, a greenish tint of airsickness about him. The astropathic servitor leaned in closely and whispered conspiratorially, “Between the two of us I like the lad but he's a bit queasy around the bends. I wouldn't put him at the helm of anything larger than a ground car.”
“His continuing survival is something of a mystery, yes,” Londo agreed before shouting to his assistant, “Vir! That's quite enough stalling. Your little vacation is over. It is time to work.”
“Vacation?” His assistant rolled shifted his eyes back towards the transport as though her were considering the merits of going back to the Endless Bounty and never returning, but common sense overruled his fear of the Ambassador. Vir exhaustedly plodded forward, distinctly the worse for ware. His coat, still the same one he'd left the babylon station wearing, had been hastily sewn together after being slit and his shirt was flecked with a mix of soot and something that resembled blood. “I think I'm done with vacations. Forever.”
“Just as well, you have none left to use,” Londo growled irritatedly, grinning and patting his assistant on the back jovially, “I am glad to see you well and whole Vir. To my great surprise I do in truth enjoy your company,” he lowered his voice, “And you will be wanted on the home-world soon.”
“Good,” Vir determinedly agreed, “Yes that sounds very good.”
“Th... this is actually a very n...nice planet,” commented the hunch-backed auto-savant Jak as he poked at the flora with a small sliver box, a scanner of some sort, “Lush and fertile. Why is it uninhabited?”
“History and luck,” G'Kar waved at the surrounding settlement, “This was formerly an outspost when the Centauri slavers were transporting my people. We drove them out, then abandoned it because of where it fell along our supply chains.”
“We drew you to it so that you would make such a foolish over-expansion,” Londo corrected, “But even the Narn occasionally make a tactically sound decision.”
“Ah,” The Inquisitor sighed, “You do not want to risk offering us shelter and having the Vorlons declare war upon you. Clever.”
“Partially,” G'Kar admitted, pulling a data-pad from his satchel and handing it to the Inquisitor, “But we've expanded our goals since then.”
“What is this?” The Inquisitor skimmed the contents of the data-pad before handing them off to Commander Ivanova.
The Commander's jaw dropped, “They're settling rights. Unconditional settling rights from both the Centauri and Narn governments to this solar system,” Susan looked at the Narn and Centauri Ambassador's in utter bafflement, “You're just giving them a solar system without asking for anything in return?”
“Of course he isn't,” Sáclair's Avatar laughed, “This scrap of space is part of the demilitarized zone between their peoples isn't it? They want to use us as a barrier to cut off both sides from using this place as a military staging point. A wall between two predators.”
“Among other benefits,” Londo replied, “There's nothing to be lost in turning what was previously a dead world into an new economic trading partner.”
“Very well then,” The Inquisitor nodded once, “If Jak finds nothing wrong with your contract I will graciously accept. The Belzafesters have been going stir crazy onboard the Bounty anyway.”
“They were ill-suited spacers to begin with. I'll start moving them into the settlement while you finish up down here,” Sáclair sighed freezing and leaning to the left, the woman's body going limp and falling to the ground in suddenly suspended animation. The servitor crumpled to the ground like a limp marionette.
“I hate when he does that,” Londo shuddered as he looked into the suddenly dead and glassy eyes of what had only moments ago been a living and breathing woman, “It's just unnatural.”
“I suspect that's why he doesn't warn us,” Sighed the Inquisitor, “He's up there on his throne giggling about our facial expressions, I just know it,” he shook his golden skull, apparently embarrassed to have spoken out of turn, “You've shown me a great deal of faith, now I shall return it in kind. I will accept a Narn and Centauri into my service to serve as the representatives of your people in the Empire. Mr. Cotto has already -”
“Vir!” Londo hissed, “What have you done?”
“I didn't know that – I mean – I er, what?” His assistant sputtered nervously, “He just told me I was the Ambassador, I didn't say anything.”
“I will accept no others and I will not hear a word of argument against it,” The Inquisitor nodded, “Mr. Cotto has agreed to enter my retinue. A great honor that puts him in the highest court of the Empire.”
“Mr. Cotto has a role in government. My government. The Centauri government,” Londo corrected the Imperial, “One that requires he be with me at all times. He cannot exactly aid the embassy if he isn't around the Ambassador.”
“Ambassador, I am offering a permanent Centauri mission on this planet but I will accept no other diplomat than Mr. Cotto,” Inquisitor Hilder repeated firmly, “I trust him, well him and you. But we both know you have no desire to leave Babylon Five.”
“Very well then,” Londo sighed in grudging acquiescence, “I accept your offer.”
“What – but he – huh?” Vir repeated in utter bafflement, “Me?”
“Yes, you're an Ambassador to the Empire now, don't let it go to your head,” Londo patted his baffled aide on the back, “You look positively green Vir you should sit down.”
“What – oh yeah, sitting,” His horrified aide replied, plopping down on the ground in confusion, “Sitting is good.”
“I have no specific request for the Narn Ambassador,” The Inquisitor admitted to G'Kar, “Just someone who isn't prone to confrontation.”
“I have several in mind,” G'Kar admitted, “But we have another matter to discuss that is more important. I received troubling news as we were in transit.”
“Yes,” Londo admitted, “The Non-Aligned worlds are comitted to a peace keeping operation in the Shi'lassen Triumvirate in co-operation with the Earth Alliance, Narn Empire and Centauri Republic. As a member race of the Non-Aligned worlds you are expected to aid in peacekeeping effort.”
“The Empire does not go to war on the whims of other nations,” The Inquisitor whispered in a voice of deadly calm, the wisps of balefire flickering around him blazing white-hot.
“I think you'll want to,” G'Kar replied, “Our old friends have decided to show themselves. An army of monsters rallying behind the banner of one they only call Faust.”
The ground beneath the Inquisitor cracked as he mashed his long range communicator and outright bellowed, “Sáclair! Mobilize the Lionhearts. We go to war!”