A few hours after the Phoenix had arrived at Rolui, the bridge was busy. Bridge personnel had filed in and taken their positions, preparing reports for Captain Hale, who was in her ready room, and First Officer Morgan, who was on her way back from Engineering. Darquin was still at the helm. Yoshino was working her console with both hands at high speed, coordinating sensor scans of the planet, arranging several off-planet excursions by science teams, and overseeing the Phoenix getting settled into her hidden orbit.
Yoshino turned to Darquin. “The science team is requesting escort from Security,” she said. “Is there someone you can call up here for some quick instructions?”
“No problem.” He tapped a key on his hand link. “The first escort team’ll meet them in the docking bay. I got another team team ready. Still assembling a third. Let’s hope we won’t need more,” he said, crossing his fingers.
G’fen made his way to the bridge. “Chief…what’s up?”
Darquin waved him over. “Hey, just in time. We’re making a quiet approach on Rolui 4, behind the biggest moon, so we can keep a low profile. Then a couple of teams’ll go planetside. Once they’re down, the rest of us can start sweeping for those rogue ships.”
“Yes sir. Where am I needed?”
“Here, you’ll be in charge of onboard patrols. I know you’d probably have more fun dirtside, but we need sentries walking the decks.” Darquin grinned. “And there’s nothing like a Narn guarding your back.”
G’fen smiled. Darquin always had a way of making a boring assignment better. “Sure thing, Chief.”
Yoshino’s eyes opened wide, as she pressed the small earpiece through which she monitored communications against her head. She looked around the bridge to see if the Captain or Exec were still there.
Morgan was stepping out of the turbolift when she noticed Yoshino’s expression. “What is it?”
“Shok’na-li, there is an urgent message from Tuzanor. Entil’zha Delenn’s White Star is overdue to arrive on Minbar. They have been unable to make contact.”
Morgan scowled. Things were too unsettled for this to be something simple. “Have they changed our orders?”
Yoshino glanced back down at her console. “The Phoenix is to remain in its present position, but use any resources we have to search this sector.”
“Ie. Send an acknowledgment, if you will.”
“Hai.” Yoshino turned back to her console.
Morgan turned back to her board, to assess what resources were still available after the deployment of their existing mission. Under Morgan’s direction, Yoshino set about coordinating the resources the Phoenix had to search for the missing ship — first she passed on the orders to dispatch Desell Squadron and what ships from Storm that weren’t already assigned to escort the science teams to the planet. Then she accessed the Phoenix’s battery of long range probes, and passed control over to the Helm station for Darquin to handle.
As she was finishing this, one voice out of the many datastreams crossing through her console caused her to gasp. She pressed the earpiece of her headset tight, listening again.
“Kannon Bosatsu,” she cried, her expression one of horror.
As everyone on the bridge turned to look, she brought the ISN feed from her console up on the main holoviewer for everyone to see:
“– from the Narn Regime and Drazi Freehold have converged on Centauri Prime, and are now devastating the planet,” the reporter was saying. “Reports from ships that have gotten past a planet-wide jamming field now report minimal resistance from the Centauri. No word as yet from the Interstellar Alliance as to their position –”
Darquin was coding the probes with flight instructions when Yoshino cried out, concentrating on the job. The words from the ISN broadcast nearly tore him out of it. Eager for situational awareness, he checked the sensors, watching for activity around Rolui 4. He half expected a torrent of spacecraft, or a gasp of horror on an alien frequency, on some other ship besides theirs. The planet ahead was silent, seemingly undisturbed.
“Request permission to open an interweb link?” He was already setting it up on his nav console.
“Ie, ie, granted,” Morgan said quickly, her stomach sinking.
G’fen burst with extreme delight. “We will kill them all! Let them die in fear!”
His almost demonic expression horrified everyone around him.
Darquin was racing, keying commands into the console and out to distant communication nodes. With each successful ping, he established a link, on and on, across light-years, crashing through wall after wall of static, until he reached a communications satellite, diverting the signal to a holo-projector near the tactical console.
And he did all this while locking the ship’s position, rushing the moment Morgan let G’fen have it. The only question in his mind was which one of them would get hurt the worst. It’d take as many PPG rounds to stop either of them.
Of all the command crew, she was the one who reacted first. She strode to G’fen quickly and grabbed his uniform by the shoulder and pulled them up until they were face to face. “There are Rangers on that planet!” she roared.
G’fen continued in an evil laugh. “Not the point. The point is that Centauri Prime will be in ruins. Let us hope they all die.”
Darquin flew out of his chair. “G’fen! Come on, knock it off!” He reached into the melee and pulled him out by the collar. “G’fen, you just crossed the line! I’ll spell it out for you! First, we’re Rangers! We don’t get to pick and choose whose lives we get to save!”
He pointed at the holo-image from the Centauri satellite, grainy impressions of Narn and Drazi ships. “Second, you don’t keep up on intelligence reports, smart guy! G’kar is down there! He’s Mollari’s bodyguard, in the damn Imperial Palace! Those idiots over there are bombing him too!”
Morgan had momentarily forgotten that, but didn’t let it show. “Do you think you’re better than G’Kar, for still having your anger?”
“We must all make our sacrifices, Darquin.” G’fen said calmly. Then he glared at Morgan. “And to you…G’kar is a great leader…but his acceptance of Centauri life is not shared by all of us…”
Morgan’s grip on G’fen tightened. “Since you missed it, I’ll say it again. Rangers are called to serve life. All life, whether you like it or not.”
“Since I’m not lucky enough to be with the Squad at Centauri Prime…it’s not my problem,” G’fen told Morgan.
Yoshino’s eyes were wide, color draining from her face, almost ghostly. At this moment, she felt ghost-like, drifting through a galaxy of the dying. And G’fen … G’fen was proud of it. She swallowed hard.
“Mikaijin,” she said softly, looking at G’fen. “How was this kaibutsu ever allowed into the Anla’shok?”
“I don’t know,” Morgan snapped, understanding Yoshino’s intent, if not the actual words.
G’fen looked over at Yoshino, his face turning angry. “If you know what is good for you, you will silence yourself.”
“G’fen, you’re RELIEVED!” Darquin’s voice rang throughout the command deck. “Your security codes are revoked as of now! Consider yourself confined to quarters, on charges of insubordination!” Darquin’s PPG whined as it powered up. “Leave the bridge. Now.”
“I have not been insubordinate,” G’fen shot back. “My opinions are my own. That is the point of this Alliance!!”
Darquin gaped. “Are you a fraggin’ moron?! We’re in the oldest military force in known space! The military works like this: I’m your superior officer. I get to tell you where to go and I’m tellin’ you get the hell to your quarters or to the brig. I don’t care which!”
With his free hand he pointed at Yoshino, who was still fuming at Ops. “She’s your superior officer. You are below her and me in the chain of command. In the military, mouthing off to a superior officer is called insubordination. Threatening a superior officer is a court-martial offense in any military force you’ll ever find. And in my personal code, it’s called ‘messing with my girl.’ That’s a capital crime.”
He pointed to Morgan, still at the Narn’s throat like a wolf. “And she’s your superior officer. She’s my boss, Yoshino’s boss, and definitely your boss, and if you don’t back off, she’ll bite you so hard, you’ll swear she’s half-Narn. And she’ll get away with it.”
“And the lady who sits over there–” Darquin pointed at the center seat, “is our superior officer. On this ship, there is only one opinion here on the bridge–hers! And if she decides to put you on the slowest ship to Narn we can find, it’ll be the opinion of the whole damn crew. If you try your little opinion on her, she’ll drum you out of the Rangers so fast you’ll never need artificial gravity again. And you know someone who can vouch for that, so you know damn well she’ll do it!
“Now that we’ve got the theory down, let’s put it into practice: Ranger G’fen, you’re under arrest on three charges of insubordination! You got five seconds to leave the bridge and go back to your quarters. After six seconds, I open fire. NOW MOVE IT!”
Before she had let go of him, Morgan squeezed so tightly she felt the fine bones in her hand groan, on the verge of breaking. She ignored them. Leaning close, she hissed, “And if anything happens to Peter Carlacci there, you can tell his daughter.”
G’fen stormed out and left for his quarters. If they thought they could force their views on him…they were sadly mistaken.
As the turbolift closed behind him, Morgan turned away, looking fixedly at the viewer, nursing her hand. Her top lip was white, it was clamped so firmly shut on a shout.
Yoshino turned away and back toward her console, folding her arms across it and lowering her head to rest on top of them.
Darquin lowered his weapon, setting off a withering whine as it powered down. His face was flushed, a mix of rage and embarrassment.
After a moment, Yoshino straightened, brushing tears out of her eyes. “Please forgive me,” she said, though it wasn’t clear if she was addressing anyone–or everyone–on the bridge. “It’s … it’s just all a bit too much, too fast.”
Morgan shook herself. “There is nothing to forgive. It is a stressful time.” She strode back to her console, trying to ignore the pain in her hand.
Then all eyes turned to the open doorway of the Captain’s ready room. Captain Hale stood in the open doorway, her arms crossed over her chest. The frown on her face made it clear how long she’d been there watching.
As she met their eyes, she gave Morgan and Darquin a nod. Everyone on the bridge watched them pour into her office and the door slide shut. And they waited for the repercussions to begin.
Phoenix–“Embers, Part 2” © 2003 Leslie McBride, Jamie Lawson, Alida Saxon, Nick Wistner, Joe Medina
Babylon 5 tm and © 2002 Warner Bros.