The Conspiracy of Customs, Part 1
The ceremonies which marked the dedication of the new ISA Headquarters had been wrapped up, and President Sheridan formally installed in his office. It was not long after when the members of the security detail were urgently called to their liaison to the Anla’shok Council, Nesaan. She stood at one side of the darkened Council chamber, lacing her fingers together and unlacing them again, as she waited for them to approach.
Darquin stepped into the light, fending off the foreboding atmosphere with a more deliberate version of his usual swagger. Morgan only made a speculative sound. Kim followed her fellow Anla’shok into the room, puzzled by the mood that made the air in that space a little heavier. The soft chiming sound from Yoshino’s hair ornaments accompanied her as she stepped up with them. “What is the matter, I wonder.”
Nesaan bowed to them all. “Anla’shok,” she said, “I am bound to inform you that some serious complaints have been lodged against you, and there are calls for redress.”
Darquin exchanged glances with as many eyes as he could find. “Complaints? We’ve been on duty the whole time.”
Yoshino’s look back to him showed her shock and confusion. She looked away with difficulty as Nesaan spoke again. Kim instead looked more closely, her mouth thinning to a hard line at what saw.
“It is in relation to that duty. As you know, part of the ceremony for President Sheridan’s investiture took place in one of our temples. All four of you were armed while there. The custodians of the temple take this as a serious affront, and have lodged the complaint.”
“There were no instructions regarding this rule in our briefing,” Kim said.
Morgan took a step forward, scowling. “We were there by request, ie? We could not perform that sort of duty unarmed.”
“I am aware of that,” Nesaan said. “The custodians of the temple believe that, to use the human expression, ‘ignorance is no excuse.’ And they stand firm that regardless, you should have known better.” Nesaan laced and unlaced her fingers again.
Yoshino looked carefully at Nesaan. “And would have known better, if we were Minbari?” she suggested.
“With our luck, it’d depend on which caste we were from,” Darquin said.
Nesaan closed her eyes.
Any feelings of courtesy slipped away from Kim. There were things she could see in Nesaan’s agitation she didn’t want to. “I see now that the war is done, we can settle into our individual grievances.”
“Perhaps it is that we are not Minbari,” Morgan remarked pointedly.
“But we wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for them,” Darquin snapped, pointing a glare at Nesaan’s back. “One minute, they’re trying to wipe us out. Then they’re jerking our chains, begging us to join them. All the talk about honor and tradition, ethical codes, and duty? Was that all it was — talk?!”
Finally Nesaan looked back at all of them. “It is my duty to represent the Council to the crew of the Sorna’silat–”
“It’s Earthforce all over again,” Darquin muttered, incredulous.
“–and to represent you to them! It is thus that I am bound to tell you this!”
“This is petty,” Kim said. “And it is only a small relief that you appear to be divided on the issue yourself.”
“And it is the religious caste that brings this, after being barred from the duty we have just done,” Yoshino said. “It’s hard to believe they would stoop to such things in revenge.”
“That’s just it,” Darquin chimed in. “Revenge for what? Valen said that humans are supposed to be here. So we’re second-class citizens? Now that we saved your butts, you just want us to sit in the back of the bus?”
A bitter smile curled the corner of Kim’s mouth. “That is when the the Minbari were outnumbered by the enemy. Need…is different than want.”
“I know,” Nesaan said. “And I have believed the words of Valen all my life. I have always tried to act in the spirit of what Valen said — and Entil’zha Sinclair. Not just the letter.”
“Then stand by us,” Kim told her.
“Damn straight,” Darquin said.
Morgan turned away sharply, to pace away, restless. Nesaan began to pace as well.
“That’s it?” Darquin said. “That’s all you’re going to say? Damn it, we rode fire for you. Gave blood for you. Brought the Phoenix back, even when it was just ash and deckplates!”
The Minbari turned to face them, a sudden burst of motion that set her robes rippling. “I will tell you two things,” she said. “First, you have three choices in this — accept the punishment the custodians of the temple have requested; depart the Anla’shok; or …” She took a quick breath — “appeal to Anla’shok Na.”
“And the other thing?” Kim asked.
“It is quite possible that Anla’shok Yoshino is correct, that this complaint was a vengeful act. Members of the religious caste were barred from the security duties for these ceremonies. I know exactly why the decision was made to bar them. The custodians of the temple do not. And the reason is one which Anla’shok Na will not like being reminded of.”
Darquin hesitated. But his face held the same hot emotions as before. “Captain Hale wouldn’t be thrilled either.”
“It would be well if this could be resolved quickly, so as not to disturb her recovery,” Nesaan said. “If you wish to make the appeal, it is my duty to represent you. But it is also your prerogative to make it yourselves.”
Darquin turned to his crewmates. “I wanna fight this. I’ve tried playing the game their way for a while. But I can’t do this.”
Morgan’s response was immediate. “Ie. This is only on us, Nesaan? Not the whole ship?”
“That is correct,” Nesaan said. “The four of you.”
“But this is not just,” Yoshino said. “We cannot let it stand. Should we take the appeal up ourselves, or allow Nesaan to do so for us?”
“If we are to be challenged for what we are, we’d best stand for ourselves.” Kim nodded to Yoshino. “If we let this stand, as you said, it will happen again. And next time it could be a betrayal in far more dangerous circumstances.”
“I’m up for it.” Darquin glanced at Nesaan. “Besides…we’ve given her enough static.”
Yoshino spoke in a low voice. “Should we ask her about this reason which Anla’shok Na would not like?”
“That would be a good thing, but otherwise, no reason to hold her,” Morgan said.
Darquin nodded. “Sure, I’ll bite.”
Kim took a slow breath and worked to breath out the anger that was more than her own, building up like an electric charge. “If she was told. But best to ask it, even if we learn nothing.”
Morgan took the initiative. “Nesaan, what is this thing that Anla’shok Na would not like?”
“During the journey to Tuzanor from Babylon 5, there was an accident, and President Sheridan was greatly endangered. One of the Anla’shok was… involved.”
Kim looked at Yoshino, thinking of their speculation just hours before.
“A Minbari,” Nesaan added. “Religious caste.”
“Then there is something specific behind this,” Kim said.
“We felt it best to be cautious,” Nesaan said. “The one involved has fled. We do not know where he is, what is truly in his mind, or who he may have contacted.”
“Then that makes this seems like… flailing hysterically on the religious caste’s part,” Morgan said.
“Or killing two birds with one stone,” Darquin said.
“Protect and defend your own, but yes, it seems like there is more than one reason,” Kim said.
Nesaan sighed audibly. “When I learned of this, this terrible deed — on the part of an Anla’shok — I agreed with the decision to remove the religious caste from the security surrounding the President. I also agreed with the decision to not inform the custodians of the temple as to why this was done. I do not agree with their complaint, based as it is on a … technicality. And I do not agree with my fellows in the Council who wish to follow the letter of the law to the detriment of its soul. I will inform Anla’shok Na of the complaints against you and of your appeal.”
“We will await her convenience,” Morgan said, after a glance at the others.
“Until she renders a decision, you may consider yourselves at liberty,” Nesaan said. “Unless you have other questions of me, you may go.”
“Councilor, while this decision will be placed in Anla’shok Na’s hands, will you also be speaking again to the rest of the Council?” Kim asked.
“I will tell them that you dispute these charges, and that you have chosen to appeal directly to Anla’shok Na.”
“You might also express our disappointment. And concern. Actions like this… Well, you may not need us so desperately now, but things like this creates a wedge that can be used against the unity of the Anla’shok.”
Nesaan laced her fingers again tightly. “They are aware of this … but I will remind them on your behalf.” Her voice was quiet. “Not all are as inclined to treat the way you have served with so little regard.”
Kim bowed then, in preparation to leave. There seemed to be little else to do.