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post #21 of 159 (permalink) Old 02-18-11, 04:03 PM Thread Starter
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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.
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post #22 of 159 (permalink) Old 02-18-11, 04:04 PM Thread Starter
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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."
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post #23 of 159 (permalink) Old 02-18-11, 04:05 PM Thread Starter
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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.
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"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.
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The 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.
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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."
--
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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."
--
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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.
--
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post #29 of 159 (permalink) Old 02-18-11, 04:18 PM Thread Starter
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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."
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post #30 of 159 (permalink) Old 02-18-11, 04:19 PM Thread Starter
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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…"
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