By Aris Merquoni
A Babylon 5/Pirates of the Caribbean crossover AU.
Disclaimer: All the Pirates-related characters herein belong to Disney, and all the B5-related ones belong to JMS and WB. I wouldn't dream of making money off this.
Author's Note: This is... well, I suppose I could be hubristic and call this "my 5th season AU", only it's a little more and less than that. This was an idea that floated by while thinking of topics for the LJ community crossovers100, and the more I wrote the better of an idea it seemed. This is more or less a replacement for the first episode of Season 5, "No Compromises."
Thanks to: All my friends who sit through my babbling about this story, most especially Shad, Zibb, and Noah.
James Norrington wasn't used to being pulled from command in the middle of a tour of duty. He wasn't used to commanding anything larger than a destroyer. And he wasn't used to taking what amounted to orders from civilians, even if they were supposedly only polite suggestions. But then, nothing on his new posting seemed to be anything like what he was used to.
Sheridan. That was someone he wasn't used to, either. He hadn't seen the man in almost fifteen--twenty? years. Twenty years. A long time to change someone. He'd been surprised when he'd heard ISN's reports about his activities, only slightly reassured when he'd picked up the Voice of the Resistance broadcasts in contrast, and completely shocked when he'd been ordered to take over command of the station, specifically requested... by Sheridan.
Specifically requested, he'd shown up... only to be met by a single, obviously overworked lieutenant, who babbled through a list of the myriad reasons the rest of the command staff was absent. And then after a brief tour to find his quarters and meet the bridge crew in C&C, someone had found a dead Ranger floating outside, a sign addressing the corpse to Babylon 5 around his neck. Medlab and security were coordinating on the details, but everyone was very busy preparing for the inauguration tomorrow, and things had been so busy what with the civil war and everything... James took mental notes on it all and promised himself he'd get a decent filing system set up by Thursday if it killed half the junior lieutenants.
He sighed and glared at the reports he'd taken to lunch with him. Having to work through lunch was another thing on the list of things he wasn't used to. But until that filing system was set, he had at least three week's worth of reports to sort out, and that wasn't counting what may have been ill-attended to before Captain Ivanova got herself nearly killed--
The background sound from the Zocalo snapped off.
Startled, he looked up to see a man approaching his table. Sauntering, more like. He had black hair wrapped back in a red bandanna, wore loose-fitting clothes that looked like they'd been through the last war and only hastily mended, and grinned widely as he took the seat across from him. "Captain," the man said. "Thought I ought to be introducing myself. We should talk."
James chanced a look at the silent patrons bustling around the rest of the plaza. "Should we?"
"Oh, yes, yes we should. My name's Jack Sparrow."
James narrowed his eyes. "Charmed."
Sparrow didn't seem to care about his sarcasm. "Now, this is hardly the place for a conversation, so why don't you meet me at around, oh, fifteen-hundred hours in brown seven. Some more of my people are coming."
"Oh, that's just--"
He broke off as Sparrow grinned again, and vanished. Sound returned. He looked around, but caught no sight of the other man.
He stared down at the remains of lunch, and the stack of reports. Suddenly neither seemed appetizing.
It took him half an hour to track down Mr. Allan. It wasn't that the head of security wasn't answering his link; it was that he'd answer, say "I'll be right there, Captain," and then go back to being harangued by Mr. Garibaldi. James observed this himself from the opposite side of the Zocalo before going over to intervene.
The other man spun around with impressive alacrity and drew himself to attention. "Captain. Sir."
Garibaldi, for his part, slouched in his civilian clothes and glared a bit. James filed it away mentally and said, "I need a security team for a meeting."
There was an unvoiced 'why' before the acknowledgment. Just like there was an unvoiced fight between Interstellar Alliance black and Earthforce blue. James nodded and drew Allan aside, slightly, lowering his voice. "There is a group of rogue telepaths on station who want to meet with me. I thought that in giving them the chance to explain themselves I'd rather not get shot."
Allan grinned lopsidedly. "Understood, sir. Uh... these wouldn't happen to be some of the rogues we used in the war with the Shadows last year, would they?"
Now that was a good question. "I don't know that yet. The invitation was rather... brief."
"Yeah." Allan rubbed his nose and looked around. "Some of those guys saved our butts. I don't know how much you saw of the Shadows when they were around, but they were nasty."
"Though apparently susceptible to acts of martyrdom?"
That was a test. He wondered if Mr. Allan would pick up on it.
"Yeah, well, I guess enough thermonuclear bombs will take care of anybody." Another one of those grins. And no overt eagerness to talk about Sheridan's larger-than-life persona. "Anyway, yeah, let me get you set up. When's the meeting?"
"Hour and a half, in brown seven."
Allan nodded as he brought his link up. "Allan to Security."
A pause "Security."
"Briggs? Get team twelve together and meet our new Captain in brown seven in eighty minutes."
Allan dropped his link. "Okay?"
It was a little irregular, certainly unorthodox. "That will do for now. Thank you."
"Yeah, nice meeting you, sir."
Garibaldi had been edging his way over slowly, and was now in range to say, "Now if you'll excuse us, Captain, we need to make sure that nobody's shooting at President Sheridan, either."
There was an edge to 'Captain' that he didn't like, and saying 'President' before Sheridan sounded unnatural, so he was dropping the title to make a point. "See to it that doesn't happen, then," James said, and took his leave on Allan's wince and Garibaldi's continuing glare.
He had well enough time to make it to Medlab for Dr. Franklin's autopsy report. Dead Rangers, telepaths... it was not an auspicious first day. He wondered if, when John had taken over from Commander Sinclair three years ago, there had been anything like this going on.
He was thinking of him as 'John' again. Dammit. James shook his head and corrected himself--misterpresidentsheridan--hard. This day was going to be a challenge enough as it was.
The Ranger was under a sheet in isolation. It occurred to James as he walked through the door and came up behind Dr. Franklin that he didn't even know the dead man's name. He resolved to find out, later, and without preamble asked, "What killed him?"
Franklin turned around enough to identify him, then went back to his pad. "Single PPG burst to the chest. The superheated helium tore through his rib cage, incinerated most of his heart, and fused the fifteenth and sixteenth vertebrae. Caught him from about six feet away at a slightly downward angle. This was accurate and professional."
James nodded. Part of his mind went into overdrive constructing scenarios, while the other part asked, "How long ago?"
"We're doing a second run of tests now, but pending that I'd say more than two days and less than a week. But maintbot records indicate the body was only floating in space for six or seven hours before it was found."
He frowned. "Meaning he was kept around for a while before he was put out for us to find. If he were killed here he would have been no reason to keep a Ranger's corpse around for several days attracting attention. He must have been killed elsewhere and brought here, ejected from an incoming transport."
Franklin nodded. "I agree."
"I suppose there's no good, fast way to figure out where he was killed." On Franklin's negative, he sighed. "Well. Considering the sign and the fact that he is a Ranger, we can pretty much assume a political statement. And given what's happening tomorrow, I have an idea of who the target is."
The doctor looked startled. "You think someone's going to try and kill Sheridan?"
James smiled grimly. "Better to plan for that and try and flush him out than ignore him and reap the consequences."
"I suppose so." Franklin shook his head. "Well, after all we went through in the last year, I can imagine there would be some sore tempers. But assassination? What's that going to accomplish?"
"Ask Brutus. He's an honorable man, right?" He raised his link. "Norrington to Allan."
"Meet me in my office in ten minutes. Dr. Franklin's autopsy report has just made your job more interesting." Link down. "Thank you, Doctor. If you find anything else, let me know."
"Of course. Nice meeting you, Captain."
"And you; we'll talk more when the crisis is over." The current crisis, that was. He was starting to believe Lt. Corwin's assessment of Babylon 5 as a magnet for trouble.
It was another test to see if Allan could keep Garibaldi away from the summons. James wasn't too surprised to see that failed. "Mr. Garibaldi. You weren't exactly on the invitation."
"Sheridan's safety is my responsibility," he snapped. "I know Babylon 5 inside and out better than anyone, and I intend to use that knowledge to keep anything from happening tomorrow."
"All right," James agreed.
That sent Garibaldi's rant off its footing faster than if he'd punched him in the face. James continued, "The Ranger who was found dead outside the station this morning was killed by a professional. Franklin's autopsy indicates he was most likely killed elsewhere a couple days ago and transported here to be a message to us. Given that the situation is already violent and it's likely that the killer is on the station, I want you to find out as much as you can."
Garibaldi stared at him blankly. "And all I have to go on is this guy's a professional."
"And arrived here not too much more than six hours before the Ranger was found, and assuming he didn't kill the Ranger on board he didn't come from anywhere more than a few days away. That considerably narrows your search margin." He was getting thoroughly sick of saying 'the Ranger.' He'd find out his name and attend his service, which was probably going to be quiet, or after the inauguration. Later.
His request had brought back Garibaldi's narrow-eyed stare, but this time it was considering rather than openly hostile. Finally the former security chief nodded, rocked back on his heels, then turned and left. James turned to Allan, who was chewing on his lip. "I assume that your men will work with Mr. Garibaldi without you having to instruct them?"
"Michael trained most of them personally," Allan said, which was enough of an answer.
James let it stand and crossed to the monitor and brought up a station map. "The planning you showed me earlier was in response to a conventional assassin. What can we do against an unconventional one?"
"What makes you think this guy's unconventional?"
He shrugged. "Something about his handwriting. And the fact that he felt he had to announce his presence."
"Great. Should I put a team on President Sheridan?"
"He'd hate it," James said reflexively. "No, there's very good reason to believe this individual won't strike until the inauguration itself. It's going to be broadcast live over Stellarcom, and that's too tempting to pass up for someone trying to send a message."
"All right," Allan said, and turned to the map.
The following forty minutes were excruciatingly frustrating. Babylon 5 was just too big. There were too many hiding places, too many back doors.
"What about the air ducts?"
Allan rubbed his eyes. "Easily big enough to crawl through. We have to move enough air through here so people don't suffocate, and the maintenance guys have to be able to get in quick if something goes wrong or the air starts smelling bad. There are supposed to be motion sensors on all the frames but half of 'em don't work."
"Why is that?"
"We've just been through a war, Captain. We couldn't get parts to replace the ones that broke. Blue and green sectors are all covered, and some of red, but the rest?" He sighed.
"But the rotunda is covered."
"Yeah, and the observatory platform has airlock units in case of a blowout, so you can't get in that way."
James sighed. "At this point I'm half expecting him to run in guns blazing, just to put this planning to waste." He looked over at the clock and winced. "I have to meet those telepaths. I'll make it as quick as I can. Carry on."
A rogue telepath. Possibly many rogue telepaths. Not a situation he wanted to go into with this on his mind. He closed his eyes in the lift and tried to focus on oblivion.
James was slightly worried, upon hooking up with Mr. Briggs and the rest of his team, that he wouldn't be able to find this Sparrow character. He needn't have worried. After wandering through a couple turns on the lookout, the telepath sauntered into the open behind him.
"Captain! You came!" Sparrow gestured expansively as James turned to look at him. "And you brought friends! Oh, that's wonderful. I also brought my friends--come on out, lads and lasses, and let the nice Security gentlemen see us, hmm?"
From behind him, James heard five--ten?--people step into the corridor, and gently pressed the signal that brought out Briggs' team. Sparrow grinned at the riot-armored men and stuck his hands in the air. "I'm unarmed, gentlemen. We all are."
"But you are telepaths," James said, steadfastly refusing to turn and watch the search going on behind him.
Sparrow cocked one finger to the jaunty red scarf on his head and winked. "You got it, Captain. It's all up here."
He was wearing eyeliner, James noted. He had at least three mismatched rings, and the empty holster on his positively antique belt had badly-battered synthetic roses of an indeterminate color jammed in it. He waited, patiently, until Briggs said, "They're clear, Captain."
"Good. You can go."
The security team left, and he watched Sparrow watch him not turn around and grin wider--and his teeth were the only giveaway that this man wasn't the pure rogue he claimed to be; they were perfect, even, and white, meaning that there was some sort of fall in his past, from comfort if not from money.
"It's so nice to start bargaining from a trusting standpoint," Sparrow said, taking a couple steps forward. "And I would like to bargain with you, Captain." He pursed his lips. "Captain. That's a funny rank, isn't it? I mean, it used to mean you were in charge of a ship."
James forbade to mention the Acheron, which several times today he'd longed to return to. "Well, I'm in charge of the station."
"Seems a funny sort of ship, this station." Sparrow turned in place slowly, pointing at the walls thoughtfully, brushing his goatee. "Doesn't really go anywhere."
"We 'go' around the planet at speeds in excess of six kilometers a second," James pointed out. Then, irritated that he was getting into an astromechanics discussion with this... person, he said, "Anyway, it's more of a ship of state, given the size."
Sparrow finished his rotation with a flourish and wide, bright eyes. "Solon. Greek. Exiled to Lydia for a bit and gave advice to Creosus about some statues named Kleobus and Biton."
What the... "What did you actually want?"
Sparrow's face fell, and he did a fair impression of a puppy with his eyes. "We want a home, Captain."
He stared at Sparrow's pathetic expression for a good few seconds. "Sorry," he said. "You want..."
"Just a place to live, that's all, just a little corner where you don't have anything special planned, we'll work it out. My people and I don't need much." Sparrow did a little hop from one foot to the other and spread his hands. "We'll sing for our supper, keep away from the folk upstairs, you'll hardly know we're here. And once we find out about a planet to colonize, maybe, we'll vanish. Poof."
He blinked. "A planet?"
Sparrow grinned. "Yes, exactly. A homeland. Freedom, Captain. A free land where we're not beholden to anyone or fighting for our lives or, y'know, taxed without representation."
"And you want to use this station as... a staging area. A gathering place."
"Exactly!" He beamed. "Got it in one."
James narrowed his eyes. "A bit of a tall order, don't you think?"
Sober in an instant, Sparrow leaned forward until they were almost touching. "Yes," he said softly. "But where is it written that all our dreams must be small ones?"
The sheer intensity of that gaze was frightening. It reminded him, suddenly, that he wasn't just dealing with a man--this was a telepath, no matter how crazy he seemed. "And you speak for all of them, do you?" he forced himself to ask, forced himself to not back away.
Sparrow rocked back so quickly he feared the man might overbalance, but he righted himself with a lurch. "My friends! You must meet them. Come on, I'll introduce you." He actually grabbed James' arm and turned him around to face the other telepaths before skipping over to them. There were seven of them, and they watched either him or Sparrow with amused and hopeful expressions.
"This is Sarah, she does the most wonderful birdsong impressions, sparrows, y'know, that's why I like her best--" the woman batted at Sparrow's shoulder and blushed slightly. "And David, tragic story, Psi Corps... we've all had run-ins, this is Cotton, 'e just goes by that, Psi Corps cut his tongue out." Sparrow made a face. "Awful. Lucky he can talk to us, though--man's got a wonderful talent. Can communicate with animals. He had this parrot--never mind, moving on, this is Joshamee, and he was Earthforce, until they found out and kicked him out."
"It's just Josh," the man said in a gravelly baritone, then went quiet, shrugging.
Sparrow went on as though he hadn't been interrupted. "This lovely thing is Anamaria, don't cross her temper, and the beauty next to 'er is Rosaline, and we haven't tried to separate the two since they laid eyes on each other--" Anamaria hit him this time, much harder than Sarah had. "And this is Simon," Sparrow finished without pause. "He's a special one, Captain, he's got a gift like none I've seen before. Simon?"
James had taken the boy to be twelve or thirteen, but he realized with a start that he was closer to six-or-seventeen. The youth smiled shyly, and then
there w w w a a a was r r r m m m a garden blooming in springtime sunlight soft breeze wet smells warm - m r a w m m m and r r r a a a safe w w w
he was back in his own head, and Sparrow was grinning like a lunatic again, or that is to say, like himself. "Oh, he likes you," he exclaimed happily. "Simon's a good judge of character, you know. He remembers everything he's felt and seen since he was a wee thing and can share with anyone. He only gives those flowers to people he likes."
He'd passed some sort of test, James realized. He looked up at Simon, who was smiling shyly. "Thank you," he said.
Simon ducked his head and huddled back against Sarah, who hugged him gently. "Ah, that one doesn't talk," Sparrow said. "Not even, y'know, to us. Here." He tapped his forehead.
"He doesn't look well. Is he sick?"
"Dunno, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a telepath." James stared at him and he shrugged. "Actually, it's the other way 'round this time. Sorry for any confusion."
"We should take him to Medlab," he said, trying not to lose his concentration.
"Right. We'll do that." Sparrow turned back to him with his intense stare and said, "Think about that bargain, Captain. Give us a home here, for a while, and we'll work for our keep, be on your side... back you up. Keep the place so neat and tidy you won't know we're here unless you need us."
"I'll think about it," he said, and let the telepaths precede him to the lift.
When he dropped Sparrow and Simon off at Medlab, James stepped aside to ask Dr. Franklin about the Ranger.
"Anla'shok Mauricio Mendoza," Franklin said. "There's going to be a short memorial ceremony in the chapel this evening at 1900, before we send his body back to Minbar."
"To Minbar? Not to his family?"
Franklin shrugged. "He's a Ranger."
"Anything more on his autopsy?"
"I've narrowed down the range on his time of death a little," Franklin said. "More than that, no."
"All right." James glanced over at the telepaths. They were ignoring him, looking around Medlab with idle curiosity. "I've asked Mr. Garibaldi to look into Anla'shok Mendoza's death. Coordinate with him. I'll be in my office if you need me."
Mr. Allan was waiting for him, taking notes on a datapad. "Sorry about that," he said.
Allan looked up. "That was quick. What happened?"
"They want to start a colony, here. I'll give you a full report later." He paused. "Initially I don't think it's a good idea, but we should do a security analysis before I give them my answer."
"All right," Allan said. "Hey, you should talk to Lyta about it."
It took James a second to recognize the name. "Lyta Alexander? Station telepath?"
"Well, she's not really the station telepath, I mean, she was working for the Vorlon ambassador... she's sorta... freelance."
There was obvious emotional conflict in Allan's voice, more evidence that there was a lot of cleaning up to do in terms of station organization. "Is she Psi Corps?" James asked.
"Uhhh...." Allan winced. "That's complicated, Captain."
"Well, then, I'd better talk to her."
Mr. Allan was looking even more embarrassed, as though he wished he'd never brought up the subject in the first place. Clearing his throat, James asked, "Has Mr. Garibaldi turned up anything?"
"Nah, not yet. And I can't think of any way this guy could get into the rotunda or the ceremony that we haven't covered."
"Which only means that he probably will." James rubbed his eyes and sighed. "I'm sorry. I don't doubt your competence, or that of your men. Hopefully we'll catch him far ahead of time and this won't be necessary at all."
"Yeah, here's hoping." Allan's link chirped, and he raised it. "Zack here."
"Sir, President Sheridan just got an anonymous message threatening his life," Lt. Corwin said.
"He's called for an emergency meeting of the Alliance council and the command staff in his office in 20 minutes."
"All right. The Captain's here, we'll take care of this." He dropped his link, paused, and said, "He probably should have called you, first."
James shrugged. "The President's life is threatened, you call Security. It's a good instinct."
"I should talk with Garibaldi."
"Yes, the chance that we have two President-threatening madmen on station is significantly less than we just have one who likes to listen to himself talk." He let himself close his eyes, briefly. "I'm going to check in at C&C before the meeting. I'll see you there."
It was with some consternation, then, that he entered Sheridan's office to find, not Mr. Allan, but Mr. Garibaldi, in discussion with Dr. Franklin. He hadn't met any of the others, but he recognized Delenn, of course, and the other two would be Prime Minister Mollari, and G'Kar, who wasn't an ambassador formally, but might as well be, given the confusing state of Narn affairs at the moment...
Come to think of it, Minbar had gone through a civil war, as well. It had been a hellish year for a lot of people.
Sheridan went through a round of very brief introductions, then went straight to the business at hand. "This is the message that I recieved this afternoon. The computer couldn't trace the source, and Michael couldn't get anything out of it on a first check." He turned to the viewscreen. "Play."
James listened to the message, trying to find clues of location, background... anything. The voice sounded faintly familiar, but most unaccented male voices sounded similar once they were piped through speakers.
"Well," he said when the file ended. "You can add 'human, male, and experienced with Earthforce computers' to your search criteria, Mr. Garibaldi."
Sheridan turned and stared at him. "You knew about this?"
"Not this in particular," James said. "But after the late Ranger Mendoza was found this morning it was a good bet the person behind his killing was here, and after you."
Sheridan's eyes narrowed. "Don't you think it would have been wise to tell me?"
James shrugged. "I would have, at the end of the day. But it didn't seem particularly urgent."
"Not particularly urgent? Someone is trying to kill me."
"With all due respect," James said. "You're president, now. You're going to have to get used to it. And your inauguration--"
"We ought to postpone the ceremony," Garibaldi said.
Sheridan looked at him sharply. "Why?"
"It's too good a target. We should wait and bring in more security."
Sheridan objected, forcefully. James waited as Garibaldi attempted to argue him down, gauging the other tempers in the room. It seemed like nobody really wanted to get in the way of the argument, but everyone more or less agreed with Garibaldi. It was too dangerous, Sheridan needed to be put behind a thicker layer of guards and at the moment they didn't have the manpower.
Sheridan, one noted, still didn't like to be protected.
"If more of our so-called leaders would walk the same streets as the people who voted them in," Sheridan was arguing, getting up a good head of steam, "Live in the same houses, eat the same food, instead of hiding behind glass and steel and bodyguards, maybe we'd get better leadership and a little more concern for the future!"
There was a slightly awkward pause.
"John, that's a commendable idea," Dr. Franklin said. "But it's very dangerous."
"Is it?" Sheridan retorted. "Our new friend just said all the security in the world can't stop a lone gunman dedicated to exchange his life for the target. And he is right. So you might as well live, instead of being a prisoner."
James cleared his throat. "I'm not sure we ought to be taking an assassin's word on anything relating to your security," he pointed out.
Sheridan turned to him and sighed. "So you're against me too on this, huh?"
"On the contrary," James said. "I think we should go ahead as planned."
By now he was used to Garibaldi glaring at him, but the combined expressions of shock and outrage from the doctor, two diplomats, one prime minister and one President of the Interstellar Alliance were really something to behold. "How can you say that?" Dr. Franklin said, first to recover his voice.
"Because I believe we can stop this lone gunman with the proper preparation," James said, crossing the room to stand beside Sheridan at his desk. "Because postponing the inauguration will make him more likely to try when we're not ready, because postponing the inauguration makes it more likely that more than one gunman will show up, and because the political statement of not being afraid of the people on this station is worth the risk."
He looked around at the hardened expressions greeting him. "You're all friends here," he said. "That may have blinded you to the other political realities at stake." Sheridan was looking at him with an odd expression when he turned. "I vote we continue as planned, Mr. President."
Sheridan looked around, at his friends, his wife, people who really had his best interests at heart and who wanted him safe. Then he said, "I concur."
"Done, then," James said, hoping to forestall any more argument. And without looking at Garibaldi, he continued, "I'll let Mr. Allan know."
The footsteps behind him after he left could only belong to one person. Garibaldi's voice confirmed it. "Hey, wait up."
Back on the Acheron, he would have been off duty by now. "I have things to do, Mr. Garibaldi."
"Take five for this. What the hell was that back there?"
"That," James said acidly, "was a meeting of the Alliance advisory council and the Babylon 5 command staff. Neither of which is a category into which you fall. By all rights you shouldn't have been there."
"Look, Sheridan's the kind of guy who looks for something to challenge him," Garibaldi said, ignoring his point. "Sometimes I think he's a martyr in training. Great motives, lousy ending, in case you missed the whole Joan of Arc story. Now in a situation like this, we have to protect him against himself."
James sighed shortly. "If you want to take responsibility for his protection, perhaps you ought to acquire some authorization to go with it. Go through channels to get your old job back, or let Mr. Allan at it and keep out of the way."
"Look, dammit," Garibaldi said, "I was here a hell of a long time before you ever showed up."
"Yes, you were," James said. "And then you left."
You stabbed John in the back, he thought, but didn't say.
He took a breath. "I think that's all that needs to be said."
Garibaldi stared after him as he passed by, trying to put it out of mind. He'd have Mr. Allan coordinate the manhunt. He'd see Ms. Alexander about a telepath's view on telepaths. He'd see the Ranger into the final blackness.
Then he'd see if he could sleep, tonight.
Lyta Alexander turned out to be easy to recognize from a photograph, even from a traditionally terrible identification photograph. She was eating at the Zocalo's largest cafe, alone, gloves neatly placed next to her silverware and Psi Corps pin prominent on her lapel. Her hair was done up in a complicated knot at the back of her neck, businesslike. Just like any other commercial telepath rated P5.
James had a small file on Lyta Alexander. It included the entries, 'Assigned to Babylon 5 as station commercial telepath, 2257. Recalled, 2257. Listed as rogue telepath, 2259. Returned to Babylon 5 as personal assistant to Ambassador Kosh, 2260.'
Rogue telepaths and representatives of foriegn powers don't show up wearing the badge and the gloves of Psi Corps. Whatever had Mr. Allan wincing would have to eventually be sorted out, if the station's command staff was to be forced back into something resembling an Earthforce organizational structure. But not, he promised himself, on the first day.
She looked up and spotted him as he approached; telepaths were hard to sneak up on. "Miss Alexander?" he asked rhetorically. "I'm Captain Norrington. May I join you?"
"Oh, yes, Captain. It's nice to finally meet you." She gestured at the seat in front of her, then dismissively at her plate of noodles. "Don't mind me, I just have to eat something. It's been a long day."
"I sympathize; I've had a bit of a long day myself."
She nodded, and he got the feeling he was being... not scanned, but observed. "Honestly? I think this place attracts trouble. You know, the first day I was ever here, I got nearly involved in a hostage incident, propositioned by Ambassador G'Kar, involved as a witness to the attempted assassination of Ambassador Kosh... and then I got shot at by my doppelganger. That was a bad day."
"You've had an interesting tenure here. If I may ask, what is your current relationship with Psi Corps?"
Lyta paused with a forkful of noodles in midair, then slowly lowered the utensil back to her plate. "It's... complicated."
"Funny, that's exactly what Mr. Allan said." She still wasn't looking up. "From what I've read in the station logs, Babylon 5 hasn't had much luck with Psi Corps, and you were unafilliated for a long time. But you are wearing the badge, so I'm assuming there's some sort of connection."
She looked up, stared him straight in the eye, and said, "It's complicated."
No love lost there.
"All right. The particulars don't concern me all that much, except I've come to you for advice on telepaths."
Lyta lifted an eyebrow. "Telepaths? Not telepathy?"
"Rogue telepaths, specifically."
Her eyes narrowed slightly.
He leaned forward and lowered his voice a bit. "I have been approached by the leader of a group of rogue telepaths who wish to start a colony on this station."
"Let them," she said instantly.
James stared at her numbly while she took another bite of noodles. "That was decisive."
She nodded. "There are many good reasons to want to leave Psi Corps," she said after swallowing. "They do experiments on telepaths. Breeding programs. Forced marriages. Psychic surgery. Drug regimes. Brain implants. And if you don't see things their way, they're within their rights to imprison you or stick you on sleepers, because it's the Corps' way or the highway."
"You're saying I should treat these people as refugees."
Lyta gave him another stern look. "They are refugees."
He thought that over as she went back to eating. After a minute, he asked, "What will happen, if there's a war between telepaths and the rest of us?"
Her look this time was full of regret. "Terrible things, Captain. Terrible things."
Allan called him at 1840. "Michael's got something on the voiceprint," he said. Then he frowned, slightly. "Something up, Captain?"
James looked down at his dress greys, back at Allen's expression. "Ranger Mendoza's memorial in twenty minutes."
"Ahh." He winced. "Right. He wasn't one of the Rangers who came through here a lot; I never really met him."
James shrugged, adjusted his cuffs again. "It's my first day."
Allan nodded, awkwardly, then cleared his throat and started over. "Anyway, Michael thinks he's ID'ed the guy. He got a really good voicematch and a visual from his docking ID, which was faked but still had his picture."
"Who is it?"
"His name's John Clemens. That used to be Major Clemens when he was in Earthforce."
James froze. John Clemens. No wonder that voice sounded familiar... "Go on."
"He was running the Beta 7 prison system under Clark. Guy carried out all the orders for torture and execution of dissidents without blinking, and when we gave Clark the boot, well, he didn't stick around for a war crimes trial."
James sighed. "I knew him," he admitted. "We served on the Ajax together three years ago. This is a surprise, but I suppose that's what they always say about the quiet ones."
"I'm sorry, Captain."
He shook his head. "This is bad news. Clemens was good at what he did, and what he did was infiltration. He was the only Earthforce infiltrator to come back from the Earth-Minbari war."
"Jeez. So, should we try and flush him out?"
After a second he said, "Yes, but carefully. If we spook him, Sheridan's life will be in danger immediately."
The screen winked off. James sighed, fidgeted with the braiding on his cuffs again, and left for the chapel.
He was saluted by two alert security guards on his way in, both Narns. He was relieved to see them. He didn't think Clemens was going to show, not tonight, but...
John and--MisterPresidentSheridan and Ambassador Delenn were already there, talking with a man in monk's robes--possibly even a monk, he pointed out to himself--and another Minbari he didn't immediately recognize.
Sheridan gestured him over. "Captain Norrington. This is Brother Theo, head of his order on the station. He and Mr. Lennier will be conducting the ceremony."
"Hello," James said.
His confusion must have shown, because Lennier said, "Anla'shok Mendoza was raised Catholic, but training in the Rangers includes training in Minbari religion as well. We wished to honor both sides of his spiritual upbringing."
Mr. Garibaldi appeared at the door. Sheridan and Delenn excused themselves to go speak with him. Moments later, Lennier also bowed and left to finish preparations, leaving James alone with Brother Theo.
"It seems strange," he said, "that I didn't know him. I never even met him."
"And yet you came," Theo said.
"It's my first day here." He sighed. "It shouldn't have started in death."
"Try not to take it as an omen," Theo advised. "His life was given in service to a cause he believed in. The security of this station's dream, and the safety of the people on it."
James sighed, suddenly weary. "It's just these past few years have seen an awful lot of sacrifice. One wonders if it'll be worth it, in the end."
Brother Theo eyed him speculatively. "Are you yourself a religious man, Captain?"
"Arisia branch Anglican," he answered automatically. Then that taste in his mouth like ashes and he thought about correcting himself and decided not to and just tried to not say anything.
"I'm sorry," Theo said after a pause.
James nodded, and shoved his hands into his pockets, because there wasn't anything else he could say.
"It's not a test, Captain."
He looked back at Theo. "Sorry?"
"God is not testing you with this. There is no passing or failure. It just is. It is tragic, but it is not meant to temper you or plumb your depths of character. God knows your character. Do not think He expects more of you than you can give."
James was having trouble swallowing. He nodded, shortly, was relived when Brother Theo let the subject drop.
Garibaldi didn't stay for the ceremony. It was brief; Delenn spoke, then another Ranger who had trained with Mendoza, and then Theo and Lennier traded readings. James could catch some of the Minbari, but for the most part he let the words roll over him.
He hoped he wasn't sending Sheridan to his death.
That was, he admitted, why he was really here. He wanted to promise this Ranger, who he had never met, that his death wasn't in vain. He wanted to stare that death in the face. He wanted to think about what would happen if things went wrong and it was Sheridan lying there tomorrow. Would life go on, because he had died while dedicating himself to his dream?
The service ended. James slipped away as quickly as he could, hoping against hope that the night would remain quiet enough to sleep.
The inauguration was over by noon. Moments of panic after hours of mind-numbing preparation.
James had watched from C&C, wanting an overview of the entire process and to be patched in to all the information he could get his hands on. The live stellarcom feed was on one console, and his desk was doubling as a rotation through security cameras. He was still unable to find Clemens before the telepath boy, Simon, stumbled through the doors and projected--James could only assume he projected something about Clemens, because in the next instant the Gaim ambassador pulled a concealed weapon and fired.
One of the men in security took the hit. James watched, two miles removed, cursing as civilians ducked and screamed and Security returned fire. Clemens-as-Gaim got off another round before his weapon arm was hit; he went the next available route and grabbed a hostage.
An all-points bulletin was already up on the system. Clemens backed out of the room with the hostage until he was out of direct sight, then dropped her and started running.
James watched him until he ducked into a maintenance hatch into a cameraless zone. Security had men already covering the area. Sheridan and Allan were relocating the VIPs to the observatory platform for the rest of the ceremony.
Foolish, brave. James sighed in relief. Clemens wasn't going to get another shot. He raised Allan on the link.
"Zack Allan, go."
"Mr. Allan. What's your situation?"
"We've got the one down, doc thinks he'll be okay; we're moving him to medlab. The telepath kid is dead."
"Mr. Clemens has a lot to answer for."
"Yes, sir. We'll get him."
"I'm certain of that." He closed the link and went back to staring at the securecams, waiting for Clemens to come out into the open. The budget shortfalls plaguing the station since its opening and the war had taken their toll on the network, but surely Clemens couldn't have mapped the location of all the black spots...
He stopped his search on an exterior view, stared as the Cobra Bays swept by. "Lieutenant, did we authorize a Starfury launch?"
"Uh," Corwin said, "No, sir. No launch authorized, no launch recorded. Why?"
"Because one just occurred, our authorization or not." He watched as the 'fury glided around the station, synching with rotation. "Damn! That's Clemens. Can we train the defense grid on him?"
Corwin shook his head. "Not at that range. He's too close."
An alert sounded for a Starfury launch request. Corwin froze, then reached for the toggle. "Who is this?"
"It's Garibaldi. I'm going after him."
Corwin looked up for confirmation. A dozen things raced through James' head. 'How did you know where he was going? Why are you trying this grandstanding? I don't trust you with a sharp spoon, much less a Starfury. Your license for operating this station's fightercraft has been revoked.'
What he said was "Godspeed." Because the truth was, Garibaldi was at worst the third best fighter pilot on the station, after himself and Sheridan, and at the moment their only option.
Garibaldi's Starfury crept closer to Clemens', like a stalking cat. James listened to Clemens' threats with half an ear and watched the slow approach of the fightercraft. 'Come on... come on...'
With a burst of blue flame, Garibaldi's 'fury ripped free of the station's orbit, pulling Clemens along. "Tracking, five-by-five!" Corwin exclaimed.
The grapple for a Starfury was meant to tow damaged or otherwise unpowered spacecraft. It was not designed to hold another full-powered Starfury fighting actively to disengage. There was a scattering of metal and the claw of Garibaldi's grapple was no longer attached to Clemens' Starury. A second after that, the defense grid made short work of the ship, and by extension, John Clemens.
James collapsed back into his chair. On the other monitor, he could hear the Stellarcom broadcast of the ceremony, still running.
"Do you want to be President?" That was G'Kar.
"Yes." A slightly surprised Sheridan.
"Put your hand on the book and say 'I do.'"
"Fine. Done. Let's eat."
And that, James supposed, was the new Interstellar Alliance.
A few hours later, he and Sheridan were glaring at each other across Sheridan's desk.
"The arrangement, as I understood it," James said angrily, "Was that I was to be responsible for all decisions that affected the administration and safety of this station."
"This was a political decision."
He'd asked Sparrow to come to his office. He'd expressed his condolences for the death of Simon. He'd given his answer.
Sparrow had taken the news with surprising equanimity. "You don't think we're worth putting your neck out for."
"I think that I can't knowingly harbor criminals under Earth law while I'm serving Earthforce."
"That's what I said."
"No. If it were just me, just this station? Yes, we could take you. But I am an officer of Earthforce. Bound by duty to uphold the laws of Earth Alliance. How can I do my duty if I'm letting you stay here, if I'm a willing accomplice in your escape from Psi Corps?" He shook his head. "No. You may leave without interference. But you cannot stay."
He sighed and had to force himself to stay still, to not stand and pace. "The decision had already been made. You can't just take any order of mine you don't like, claim it's a poltical situation, and reverse it. This is a political station, Mr. President. It always has been. And I represent Earth Alliance's part in that."
"I can see where you'd be concerned--"
"Concerned? I'm furious. You promised me authority."
Sheridan sat back in his chair and sighed. After a long pause he said, "You're right."
James took a moment to get his anger under control. "Thank you."
"But the telepaths have to stay."
It was his turn to sigh. "You'll reap the whirlwind on that one."
"What will you do if the Psi Corps comes looking for them?"
That answer was as easy as it was painful. "My duty to the station, and to Earthforce."
Sheridan stared at him. "I'm surprised at the order that came in."
He smiled. "That's the way it always is, John," he said. "And we're fools if we pretend otherwise."
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