Terry Hale led the march across the control deck as the standard lighting flickered weakly, a snowstorm of static and black and white phosphorescence rolling across monitors on the bridge behind them. They all brushed past the fumes, the sparks, and the dangling garden of cables coming from the ceiling as they kicked debris aside to reach one of the adjoining command offices. Irritation and querying glances over the summons flickered across a few faces, but changed quickly with the first statement she made.
“Okay, this’ll be the first time most of you have heard about the whole plan,” she said quickly, “since I figured everyone would think it was completely insane.”
The command staff froze in place, poised to take their seats in front of the Captain’s desk.
“We have no choice left. The ship is still trying to repair itself from the explosion. And now we’re face to face with a hostile group far from known space. Outmanned, outgunned.”
Morgan dropped into a chair beside the Captain. “Whether we surrender or stand and fight, we’re just as trapped.”
“Exactly. And I say we came here for a mission, so let’s finish it.”
“Unless we get any better ideas.” Morgan gave everyone an ironic smirk.
Darquin sat up in his chair. “I’m not sure there are any.”
“We must escape,” Yoshino said, “even if only to warn Babylon 5 and the Army of Light about these Vorlon servants. Communications are still being jammed.”
Kim spoke quickly before anyone else had a chance. “Even if we could get through, I don’t think we can afford the wait for help. How long till they get what they want? We can’t let them continue to use that time machine. They don’t care who they’re hurting.”
“That bothers me too.” Darquin took a deep breath, staring down at the desk. “A lot of people, of all kinds, are dead because of them. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I say we ought to take it out of their hides.”
Morgan nodded grimly. “That’s the plan.”
“But it might require some sacrifice,” Hale added. All eyes were on her again. Beyond the distant crackling of dying circuits next door, anticipation silenced the room. “With help from all of you, I’ve been planning a full frontal assault on the Vorlon servants. All available ships would go out to directly engage them. While they’re distracted, one group goes down to the planet to bomb that time travel device.”
To his own surprise, Darquin chimed in. “A couple Starfuries? I mean, the Thunderbolts in Storm Squadron are good in atmospheric maneuvers. Or a shuttle with a minimal fighter escort.”
“Something less subtle than that,” Morgan said. “We’re taking a page out of Captain Sheridan’s book. A shuttle loaded with explosives–spare warheads, some of Kordieh’s bombs, anything we can get our hands on–set for a crash-dive right into the time machine.”
Darquin let out an appreciative whistle, overwhelmed. It was a crazy plan all right.
“Captain,” Kim chimed in, “what about the explosion? The time machine has been affecting all of us. For all we know, the whole sector. What would blowing up that thing do?”
Morgan gave her old friend an honest shrug. “We don’t even know if we can use the jump engines. Engineering says they could act like a jump engine activating inside a jumpgate.”
Darquin groaned painfully, shielding his eyes with one hand, and started rubbing his temples with his thumb and finger.
“On the other hand, they might not do anything…at all.”
“So we can’t count on them, is what you’re saying.”
“They’re our last resort,” the Captain said firmly. “But we haven’t even gotten that far yet. First we have to make sure those bombs hit their target.”
Yoshino had been thinking on that problem since Hale had first raised it to her, before the conference had begun. Sending a pilot would be suicide. Such things figured prominently in her people’s history — she even wore a small picture of one, just beneath her heart. But she had no wish to join the Divine Wind, and knew Hale would never allow it in any case.
But there was another way, which she had finally remembered, and told the captain. “We could modify the shuttle’s navigational system to accept commands from the Phoenix,” she said.
Captain Hale nodded. “I talked to our Chief Engineer about it, but I’m not counting on it. The whole Engineering Department is busy keeping the ship together.”
“My assistants and I can begin.” Katia turned her chair around to defer to Kim with a painstaking and formal nod. “Perhaps the Science Department can lend us–”
“All three of us are at your disposal,” Kim said with a wry grin.
“And I’ll help you as well. I have–some considerable experience in such modifications,” Yoshino added, eyes looking at some distant memory.
“Darquin,” the Captain said, “I want to you to stay when I talk to Medical and the squadron leaders, but when we’re done, you’d better go help them with the shuttles. You’re familiar with them and we haven’t checked everything for sabotage yet.”
The security chief nodded. “Kordieh might’ve been thorough.”
“Now everyone–” Captain Hale waited till she knew she had their attention. “–you must warn your people that we’re going to take a real pounding. Even if we make it out of the fight without a scratch, we don’t know what the explosion will do to this ship. When everyone’s at their battle stations, we’ll immediately close the bulkheads in case of a hull breach. Whenever you are, assume you’re there for the duration.”
“Check your area and make sure there’s enough emergency kits,” Morgan added.
Hale quirked a lopsided smile at the Centauri, “And I imagine you and your team already have plans you want to get back to, Doctor.” She looked into all their faces. “All right, any more questions?” She paused with a searching glance. “Any better ideas…? Hell. Okay, Darquin, Doctor Trassano, you stay; the rest of you get started.”
She watched the others file out of the ready room, apprehension and doubt sticking sharply in her throat like an ice cube. She couldn’t be certain which was worse; failing, or actually pulling off this madness.
Darquin followed the Captain’s lead and waited till the door was shut. “So what’s next?”
“Battle tactics. We have to figure out how to hold them off long enough to destroy that device, get our people back, and get out before the explosion takes us with it.”
“And you want the Medlab crew…to set up a rescue plan?”
“For our pilots as well as onboard personnel. I’m not leaving anyone behind. Not if I can help it.” Her elbows on the desk, her fingers laced together, the Captain let her head rest on her folded hands. Her red hair rained down over her face. “I just hope…I don’t turn into another Jankowski. We just got out of one war. I feel as if I’m starting another.”
“You’re not Jankowski, Cap. They were the ones who started this, and we’re having to fight just to get out of here alive.” Darquin sneaked an evil grin onto his face. “Besides, you’re cuter than Jankowski.”
Terry Hale glared up at him.
He shrugged. “Well…it’s true, isn’t it?”
Copyright (C) 1998 Joe R. Medina, Alida Saxon, Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.