In a far corner of the main shuttlebay, Darquin stood in front of a stack of dark, steaming wreckage.
Nearby, Yoshino was working on her hand computer and her headset communicator at once, retrieving reports from the ship’s libraries as well as the many Rangers working on repairs. Closing down one conversation, she turned to look again at the wreckage, as disbelieving as when she had first seen it through the robot camera eyes.
“I keep looking at it,” Darquin muttered. “I still don’t know what I should feel about it.”
Yoshino nodded. “I keep asking myself, ‘Why?'”
Shaking his head was the only response Darquin could muster.
It wasn’t the only arrival. Shortly after the maintenance bot settled its load, one of the shuttles returned, setting down nearby. Most aboard went straight to other duties, but Kim paused, eyes widening at her first view. A charred, once white Psi-Corps symbol stood out from the rest of smouldering scrap metal.
She shook off her unsteadiness and approached. “Whose aim should I praise?” Experience had given her room for callousness.
Hearing her voice, Darquin did a double take. “Heya,” he said with a weary grin. “We’re still trying to find out. Thermal forensics are going to match the alien that attacked us. I’d take bets on it.”
Kim still had dust on her boots, a pack over her shoulder and taken in enough sun to resurface a smattering of freckles across her cheeks. “What happened? I got a lot of chatter on the shuttle, but…”
“An unidentified ship jumped into the system and opened fire,” Darquin said. “On us, some of our fighters, even on the Huka planetside.”
“No other ships?”
“No — strangely, most of the fire was aimed at Desell Squadron, even though it was Storm that led the counterattack,” Yoshino said.
“Civvie traffic was untouched,” Darquin added. “Lucky thing.”
Morgan dragged herself downstairs from an upper level of the shuttlebay. She was there to see the wreckage, but she’d have looked regardless. “Myn Duw…”
Darquin turned to Morgan. “Dunno what you said, boss, but I’m with you.”
“It might not seem like it, but this makes a certain sense, from what I heard down on the surface,” Kim said. “I’d gotten a whiff of a story about some human teeps being searched for. I guess it was true.”
“Yup, definitely tracks. Good job, catching that.”
“The only thing I can draw is that they — whoever these aliens are — would appear to have a grudge against telepaths — of any species,” Yoshino said.
“But there was no telepath on this ship or those fighters –” Kim abruptly paused.
“Any species,” Darquin muttered, glancing at the others.
Morgan shook her head. “It makes no sense I can see.”
“Desell Squadron and this ship,” Kim said, “they’re both heavy on bioengineering. Partially organic. Even responsive to non-verbal signals.”
“Yeah, part Minbari and part Vorlon.” Darquin gulped, a thought striking him. “Oh God. Vorlon tech.”
“You could say telepaths are part Vorlon, too,” Kim said. She looked to Darquin. “You read the latest packet too, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” Darquin said reluctantly. “Ever since Byron.”
The XO groaned. “That is something I should have read, ie?”
“Well, nobody expected critical tac info on B-SPAN….”
“That’s the connection,” Kim said. “Widen your target enough and ‘anything Vorlon’ covers everything that got attacked.”
“An attack on the Vorlons.”
“Kannon …” Yoshino murmured softly.
“What triggered it, though?” Kim wondered aloud.
“Well…we’re the biggest ship for several light-years,” Darquin offered.
“But there’s others in deeper space than us. Closer to wherever these beings might be, since they’re obviously not common contact.”
“The Huka?” Morgan suggested.
“It would make the most sense that they were the prime target and we — and the Psi-Corps ship — were just a bonus, so to speak,” Yoshino said.
“And this is the only inhabited planet this far out,” Darquin said. “The only one we know of.”
Kim paced around the debris. From her point of view, blaming the Psi-Corps for stirring up trouble again would have made matters nice and tidy. Certainly easy. But not likely.
“Then the Huka are going to need help,” she said. “They don’t have a fleet. They don’t even have a defensive grid up to more than dealing with space debris.”
“If it’s only the Vorlon influence these aliens are after, it may be a moot point,” Yoshino said.
“Why?” Kim asked Yoshino.
“The House of the Speakers was destroyed.” Yoshino’s tone was bleak. “The vast majority of the Huka telepaths are dead.”
“Are there….” Darquin struggled with the words. “Um, enough to keep their house going?”
Yoshino said, “Possibly. I haven’t gotten enough information to know for certain.”
“Maybe we can bug the Gaim later for their genetic engineering tech,” Darquin said half to himself. “But we have an even bigger problem out there.”
“To keep it from widening,” Kim said. “What if they target another world?”
Morgan shook her head. “This was so deliberate… I do not think it will be ‘if’.”
“I wish I’d been here,” Kim said. “If I could have sensed something…”
“I don’t know how anyone could’ve seen this coming,” Darquin said quickly. “Whatever we do, we gotta move fast. We could lose track of that ship any time now.”
“I have spoken with Mr. Jordan,” Yoshino said. “It will not be long before we are in condition to move.”
“I’ll get a link to the archives on Minbar,” Kim said. “There might’ve been some sighting or interaction recorded in the past. That advanced, they’d have had to be traveling space well before now.”
“That could give us a better tactical picture.” Darquin exchanged a glance with Morgan, who nodded in agreement.
“You want the unsifted results to your computer — or my results?”
“Your results, definitely,” Darquin said. “By the time you can get it to us, we’ll be moving and ready to use it.”
Kim cut off her curiosity about the debris and got moving. “I’ll be in the lab.”
“Thanks, Kim. Did I mention I’m glad to see ya?” he called out.
Tossing a wave over her shoulder, she dashed for an opening lift.
“A round of caffeine for everybody,” Darquin muttered.
Morgan said, “I shall purchase it.”
“I’ll keep our probes on that ship,” Darquin said. “Man, who the hell’s doing all this….”
ISA Phoenix–“The Gates of Delirium, Part 3”
© 2005 Alida Saxon, Leslie McBride, Jamie Lawson, Joe Medina
Babylon 5 tm and © 2005 Warner Bros.