The Long Road Home

Characters: Terry Hale

It was strange how complicated Hyperspace was. Not just the scientific reasons any pilot would get drummed into his head in academy. Rather the ones of perception that began to take life through the long assignments. Mysterious in the secrets it kept, a haven or graveyard in the fits of Fortune that decided the drifts of War, and… ironically, one of the few things to be counted on in places where “alien” didn’t even begin to explain it. The roads that spread out from home…. and amazingly, back again.

Looking out, Terry only wished the road home for once didn’t look so red: the colour of war.

“Ten minutes to the jumpgate at Babylon 5, Captain.”

Terry drew her eyes away from the hypnotizing drift and turned to the transport pilot. The words were in Adronado, but so familiar to her ears now it was almost jarring to look down at the bonecrest of a Minbari.

“Thank you, Turain. Proceed, and dock us with the station,” she replied and stepped back out of the cabin.

Beyond the door, the hum of conversation returned. The transport was a simple one, with long rows of cots stretching between the strapped crates of supplies. The bare necessities, and nothing more, but the crew seemed to have accepted it without fuss. Unnoticed from the alcove to the flight cabin, Terry watched how they spent their quiet moments before being thrown yet again into battle.

Some lay quietly, resting their wounds – in body and mind. Others seemed incapable of idleness, working at whatever tasks they could bring into their small space for the trip. Most, though, sat in groups, talking quietly between themselves of what was ahead, or anything but.

Terry smiled sadly. If she could, she’d turn the transport about and spared them another war, free will be damned. Part of it was selfish, the desire to spare herself the pain of losing even one of them to death. The rest … she wasn’t sure she could put a name to it yet, but she knew she regretted the possibility of not serving with them once the war had passed.

And the war would pass. In the last brief moments of the Machine’s operation a timeslip had flung them one last time into the stream. It was brief, but Terry remembered it clearly.

She was standing on the docks of a western shore she had once known well growing up. The night glow of Victoria Island shone in the distance, connected to the continent by the gleaming strands of boat lights eddying in the currents. She could hear the celebration roar in the air, and it wasn’t for the first of July that the fireworks crackled across the sky. Summer was months away, with the air holding the chill of winter and the ground still damp with a spent winter rainstorm.

Neither was it the past, for when she looked down, the gleaming oval of her Isil’zha’s stone greeted her sight. Somehow, and not too distantly, she stood at her home, openly in the uniform of a Ranger.

That was all there was to see, but it was enough now. At the time, she wished she had the time to look down at what she’d been holding in her hand, but she suspected now that she knew what it was. It was not so long from now at all. She only wished that brief glimpse of the future could have helped her with what she had to face now.


 

They all felt the shift that took them from Hyperspace toward the orbiting ring around Babylon 5. Terry straightened and into the brief listening silence she spoke,

“This is it everyone. We’ve reached Babylon 5, and in less than two days we will have caught up with the fleet to take Mars. If any of you have doubts, now is the time to speak before we board White Star 21. There will be no other chances.

“Also, for those who go on… you have two hours on Babylon 5 to finish any business you may have. Make good use of the time, and we’ll see you on the White Star.”