Characters: Vincent Fragomeni, Fleet Captain Friese, Dylan Shaver, Tylo Narsh
The view from the Commanding Officer’s Office on Babylon 5 is an impressive one, the large window looking into the great barrel of the station’s primary rotating section. There were the gardens, lit now by small, unobtrusive lights during the station’s night cycle. The public grounds, and hydroponics. Expensive shops. The Restaurant, Fresh Air, was still going at the late hour, glittering with delicate light off in one corner. One could almost hear the soft drift of music and laughter. In another area, the brightened field of a baseball diamond — a game going that had to be deep into overtime by the hour.
There was probably a good reason why John Sheridan had such a good view. It was about as close as he would be able to get on his schedule.
Fleet Captain Freise turned from the picture window to face the small group that was assembling. Delenn was over sitting in one of the chairs, Lennier in another, speaking with her in quiet conference. Sheridan was behind his desk, dealing with a perpetual load of work. Captain Narsh, Commander Shaver, and Captain Fragomeni, would be arriving soon. The Phoenix and Hellfire had just gotten into docking patterns around the station and were releasing their crew to the station. Freise had only just arrived an hour earlier, and still he didn’t have any answers.
Just as well there was such a rush to meet. Freise was not fond of these sorts of mysteries. It too often had death in the mix.
Vincent Fragomeni paced down the halls of Babylon 5 in an all time record bad mood. We’ll, maybe that time that… No, don’t think about that.
He was out a Tactical Officer, damn him. He needed a new one. This was the last of his worries, but he was really disappointed that with all the people who had joined his group of “merry men,” there was only one tactical officer — and he was a traitor.
Then there was the computer specialist, second officer, and his chief of ship’s security to add to the aggravation. “Ah, I can live without them, but a tactical officer?”
Has it been mentioned that Fragomeni was walking through a very empty part of Babylon 5, searching desperately for nothing?
Well, he was.
He saw a dark figure at the end of the hall, with long, dark hair. He blinked, and she was still there, moving rapidly toward him. ‘Who the hell is that?’ He thought, staring at her. There was no other possibility.
“Captain Fragomeni!” Commander Susan Ivanova shouted to him, “How was the mission?”
He blinked. How did she manage to be everywhere at once? “Terrible,” he declared, “Do you realize that we almost ran into a very large moon?”
“Couldn’t have been that bad.”
“And my tactical officer is dead.”
“Damn. That was terrible.”
“I know.” Vince didn’t mention how he got that way, but that was none of her business. All he wanted was to forget. He’d been on Babylon 5 for hours, and hadn’t succeeded in that, finding a new Tactical Officer or even finding a decent bowl of chili.
“Well, you’re supposed to meet with Captain Sheridan. NOW,” Ivanova said, breaking into his thoughts. “That’s really why I’ve had to hunt you down. I don’t appreciate that, you know. I’m not your personal page. Leave your link on next time, will you?”
Great. Now definitely not the chili.
Shaver stared at his clear desk. Damn. There was nothing left to delay his leave for Babylon 5. The paperwork was done, Bob was fed, almost all the Minbari refugees were of the ship.
“You have it lucky,” he informed the hamster.
Bob was on his wheel, probably thinking something like, “Hey, look, it’s my wheel again! Perhaps I will run on it today.”
Shaver stood, a grim figure as the animal went through it’s undisturbed routine. Bob walked over to his water spout and licked it, and then had a food pellet. Satisfied, he went to lay in the straw and stared out the side of his cage. Life was good– he couldn’t ask for anything more.
Shaver stared at what Bob was, but the interesting view of the deactivated holoprojecter on the side of the desk was nothing but a bad reminder to Shaver.
Suddenly Bob got up, looking as if he’d just remembered, “Oh, yeah, the Wheel.” Soon the little hoop of rungs were whirling under its feet.
It was the life. Shaver wondered if there was a technomage somewhere that could turn him into a hamster. Maybe he’d start saving the credits just in case.
Narsh and Shaver stepped off the shuttle, and looked around Babylon 5. Not a pretty sight– never was. Beyond the dull, utilitarian bays, they came out into the rush of customs and then the market areas.
Shaver saw herds of people crowding around all over the place, buying and selling supplies and services. He didn’t smile.
Narsh saw the same thing, in a different light. It was alive, exciting, bustling. He did smile.
A few security officers looked at Shaver wearily– Shaver stared through them coldly, “Captain- I believe we should be getting to our meeting.”
“Yes, of course.”
The two dodged through the crowd, trying futilely not to bump into anybody. It was very unpleasant, bumping and pushing.
At this point, Shaver made an uncomfortable discovery. It, actually, wasn’t his discovery, because a scientist on Pak’Ma’Ra found it out twenty-three hundred years earlier while visiting the food court at the local megamall. The discovery was this– in a crowded area, at any given moment, everybody is moving in a perpendicular course to everybody else.
This astounded the physicists at the time, saying that there are only so many people in a crowd, and given space limitations, it wasn’t possible for this to happen, but the particular Pak’Ma’Ra scientist replied simply with, “Have you ever been to the food court at the Megamall at dinner time?”
And that was that.
Shaver realized that nobody was moving in the same direction, and therefore– going nowhere.
“Dylan!” Narsh said, shouting over the crowd, “If I live through this next mission, remind me to only come back here on a minimal basis.”
“Yes, sir,” Shaver replied, and mentally continued, I doubt I’ll have to worry about that.
The two ducked and wove through the crowd, dodging salespeople and Centauri alike. By the end of the crowd, Shaver was ready to break something, but such an action would most likely not be appreciated.
Back at Babylon 5, Shaver thought. Again. I though I was never going to come back here. I hoped I would never come back here.
“Good. Come in.” Sheridan stood as Narsh, Shaver and Fragomeni filed into the office. The latter of the trio was staring hard at a point somewhere in Commander Shaver’s back, possibly considering burying a weapon there. Sheridan could understand the sentiment, as anyone once of Earth Force, but then these were odd times and even stranger alliances made. But they never said anything about trust.
Brief greetings were made, but soon all were facing Sheridan. The nature of the summons did not leave room for niceties. Would he be sending others to their deaths? Possibly, even likely, depending on who you spoke to. Sheridan cleared his throat and began.
Who could have guessed such a short meeting could feel like an eternity? There was a long silence after the first flurry of discussion. Captain Narsh was the first to stir, his artificial eye glittering in contrast to the somberness of the natural one.
“And who will we be meeting with out… there?” he asked.
“Captain Hale, White Star 21. She’s been patrolling the edge of that sector for the past month,” Sheridan replied. Even he was avoiding mentioning the place. “You will rendezvous with her.”
“White Star 24 is at your disposal, Captain Narsh,” Delenn spoke up for the first time since their brief greetings. He delicately accented voice was grave, moreso than the others. Perhaps this mission was a sacrilege, among all the other problems.
Narsh, though, was far more concerned with one point in particular now. “Not the Phoenix? I–“
“The Phoenix will be too long tied up with resupply here. We need this investigation pursued now. The Phoenix and the Hellfire will follow, but this must be done immediately. Captain Freise, ” Sheridan nodded to him, “will take temporary command of the Phoenix and will follow you out as soon as is possible. It will take any ship just under four days to get there. We cannot waste any more time. The situation with the Drakh, Earthgov and everything else makes this impossible to ignore.”
“You don’t trust me,” Shaver said suddenly into the gap. Disturbingly, he didn’t sound angry. During the whole meeting it was as if they were lightfooting around him, and Dylan wondered if they would have excluded him if possible. Traitor once, traitor twice, as the saying went. Shaver would have gotten quite sick and annoyed with the constant reminders… if he gave a damn anymore.
Sheridan decided to be blunt. “It’s your conditioning we don’t trust. There is no telling what else has been done, or waiting to activate.”
“Why not remove me then?”
Narsh shifted, about to protest on the behalf of his XO, but Sheridan answered Shaver before he could.
“Because you are also in the best position to help. It’s a resource we can’t discard.” Sheridan then glances at Narsh. “So, will you do this?”
“Si, but I don’t have to like it. Within the hour?”
“As soon as possible.” Sheridan paced toward his window, clasping his hands behind his back. For a moment it seemed the meeting might be over, but he spoke again without turning. “You have a telepath, Narsh, Correct? Be sure she goes with you as well. You may need one.”
“Captain, what about Lyta Alexander. Perhaps–“
“No… no, that’s too much of a risk right now.” Sheridan turned to them, a harder man that he’d been in previous experiences. “You’re telepath, Narsh. And the other’s soon to back you up. That’s all.”
After everyone started to leave, Freise stood and started walking out of the office. He still had some doubts. Why should he give up the life of semi luxury to take command of the Phoenix?
“Mackey, wait. I need to speak with you,” Sheridan said while waiting for everyone else to leave. “And we need you, your experience with that area of space. I know that you had other… well let’s say things to do.” Sheridan continued.
“John, I have been away from all this mess for the past few years after you took over as commander of Babylon 5 and I know you mean well, but I have my work to do.” Freise said.
“Mack, I won’t beg, but I also will not let your ship leave the Station. That is until you return,” Sheridan said.
“You can’t do that, John. Remember I still out rank you,” Freise stated.
“Not anymore, Captain. You resigned your position and when civilian, now I control if your ship stays or leaves,” Sheridan said.
“So it is down to this,” Freise responded.
“Mackey, I don’t want to fight you, I need you, the League needs you.” Sheridan said. “You will have total command of the Phoenix, even temporarily your rank back. Once you finish this mission, you return to the station and you can go your merry way with your ship, but you will be helping us a lot,” Sheridan continued.
“Ok, John. I will do that, but only this once, then the Phoenix goes back under the command of Captain Narsh. I gave him that command and I do not want to take it away from him. But understand this, it is only temporary,” Freise said.
“Great, how about lunch then before you go onto the Phoenix so you can tell me about your adventures,” Sheridan said they left his office.
Tylo Narsh and Dylan Shaver paced through Babylon 5’s corridors, their speed having nothing to do with the need for haste.
“Dylan, have Solo meet me aboard the White Star 24, immediately.”
“Not Doctor Matsumoto.”
“Si. She stays with the ship. Solo will be fine for this,” Narsh said definitely. “I trust he will be enough to satisfy Sheridan’s needs, and I’m trusting you to see the Phoenix is taken care of. And be quick, amigo. I have a feeling we’ll need the reenforcements. It’s dangerous space. I doubt the survivors could be counted on two hands.”
“Aye, Capt– Tylo. Good luck.” Dylan said.
They parted ways, he for a lift, Narsh for another corridor. Dylan stared at the mottled grey doors and muttered, “I don’t think anyone really survived, personally.”