Settling into the center seat, Captain Terry Hale felt a taut undercurrent of uneasiness in the otherwise professional atmosphere on the main bridge.
As she checked off on a few reports, she watched her bridge crew. They were falling back in routine, but the smiles exchanged were nervous ones. Rangers watched the monitors with more intensity than before. Two local days had passed since the galactic upheavals that followed the Phoenix into the Rolui system. Entil’zha Delenn was on her way back to Babylon 5, and the Centauri war–the latest one, Terry noted–was over at last. Now everyone aboard the Phoenix was settling into the regular jobs that comprised their duties before crisis, warfare, and loss had supplanted the daily grind.
But there was still no word from the ship’s navigator, Peter Carlacci. No one knew whether he had escaped the destruction on Centauri Prime, or whether he and Ryath had become two more of the millions of casualties.
It was with some surprise, then, that Yoshino received a communication from an inbound Minbari Flyer which had just arrived in the system. She sent a message at once to the Captain, First Officer, and to Darquin.
An indicator on Captain Hale’s command chair chimed, responding to the page. Terry had a good idea what was it about. “Status on the Minbari flyer?”
“She is approaching, on course to intercept us,” Yoshino said. “Its transponder code has been confirmed. Her pilot is an Anla’shok courier with messages for us.”
“Change the flyer’s tactical status.”
“Yes, Captain. I have just given the vessel permission to dock.”
The Captain tapped the comm key on her command chair. “Hale to Morgan, a courier will be boarding in about 30 minutes, in the main shuttle bay. Will you be done with the maintenance checks on Deck 14 by then?”
Morgan tried to neither get her hopes up nor think the worst as she acknowledged the message. “Aye, sir. I can meet the pilot in the docking bay. Morgan out.”
The Flyer had already settled into the docking bay when Morgan arrived. As she admired the deceptively delicate lines of the Minbari single-seater, the boarding ramp opened and a Pak’ma’ra emerged, moving as briskly as his bulk allowed toward Morgan.
An Isil’zha gleamed silver and green on the outer edge of his heavy cloak. He stopped in front of her. As the tentacle-like appendages of his mouth began to move, English emerged from his translator wand. “I have a package. I am charged to deliver it to Shok-na Hale, Shok-na’li Morgan or Second Officer Darquin.”
It had been a bad week – she had to remind herself that the Pak’ma’ra really were Rangers now. “I am Shok-na’li Morgan, Anla’shok.”
Bowing to Morgan, the Pak’ma’ra presented her with a small case of data crystals. “These were given to me to carry by Anla’shok Peter Carlacci on Babylon 5,” the translator said, glimmering. “I will wait here for a while, to see if there are any messages from the Phoenix that need to be carried.”
Morgan blinked, surprised. It took her a moment to recover to respond. “Er, yes. Thank you. I don’t know if our mess has anything you could eat, but you are welcome to check.”
“Thank you, and I think I will try,” the Pak’ma’ra said. “It was a long journey from Babylon 5.” He waited politely for Morgan to lead the way out of the docking bay.
Morgan did, then pointed him to the shortest way to the mess before turning in the other direction, bound for the Captain’s office.
Hale was there waiting for her, curiosity tempered with a certain wariness–there was always a good chance of bad news.
Darquin stepped into the Captain’s office just as Morgan put the case on Hale’s desk. “Sorry, I was checking the new security codes. Did I miss anything?”
“I haven’t checked yet,” Morgan said. “It was one of the new Pak’ma’ra couriers. Ordered to deliver it to one of us three only.”
“Well, since we’re all here, let’s have a look.” Hale waved Morgan towards the terminal at her desk.
Morgan stepped toward it and inserted the first crystal. The screen lit up immediately with the image of Peter Carlacci’s face.
“I’m sending this by courier, in case any transmissions from B5 itself are being monitored by the Centauri — or anyone else, for that matter,” he began. “Sorry for the delay — I’m sure you’ve heard about what happened on Centauri Prime. We managed to get out in one piece, fortunately, but it wasn’t pretty. The whole capital, except for maybe a few pieces of the Imperial Palace, looks like it’s been slagged completely.
“We did find Mira. She’s here with me now; a little shaken up, but all right. The second crystal in this set has a message from her, which should be transmitted to the Council in Tuzanor. She plans to stay on B5 for the time being, to see if she can work with Ambassador Cotto and find some allies on the Centauri homeworld.
“The rest of the crystals contain data I was able to copy from the Ministries of Information and Defense, while I was looking for Mira. We should have a very good picture of what the Centauri military looked like, up to the moment the Narn and Drazi fleets showed up. Could be useful.
“Ryath will bring me back to the Phoenix, hopefully in a few days. There’s not a lot I can tell you about her ship; she’s gone out of her way to keep her secrets. She’s got a few very, very scary tricks though –especially if someone decides to start throwing energy weapons in her direction. It looks too much like the Shadows for my peace of mind.”
He took a deep breath. “See you all in a few more days. Morgan, Tom, would you please tell Candace I’m all right and that I’ll call her myself as soon as I can? Thanks.” He bowed over folded hands, Minbari fashion, and then the image blinked out.
Darquin let out a sigh of relief. “Thank God. We could use some good news.”
Morgan nodded. “Ie. I can talk to Candace myself – I need to ask her something as it is.”
“Then Darquin,” Hale said, nudging the case of data crystals toward him, “if you could send Dr. Trassano’s message on and leave me the intelligence reports, we can see what good we can make of them.”
“I’m on it.” He slipped the data crystals into his pockets and headed out.
Phoenix–“Good Tidings in Limbo” © 2003 ISA Phoenix
Babylon 5 tm and © 2002 Warner Bros.