Authors: Claudia Christian,Morgan Grant Buchanan
Tags: #Babylon 5 short story
“A dream,” she said. “You’re right, it’s just like a dream.”
“And now you need to wake up, Susan.”
The ship was trying to rekindle the feelings of anger within her, to get her to give it the spark that it could magnify into a firestorm.
“With this ship, I can take out Psi Corps as a threat, once and for all, won’t that be worth it?”
“Worth losing you? No. No it won’t. Come back, Susan. You have
to want to come back, you have to let go of all your anger, that’s what’s holding you there.”
The ship railed against his words.
“It’s alone, John,” she said. “If it lets me go it wants to know what will happen.”
He placed his hand upon the ship’s skin and spoke directly to it.
“I don’t know,” Sheridan said. “You want to go home, but no one
knows where the Vorlons and Shadows have gone. I can try to help you find them but you have to let her go now. This isn’t the right way.”
Susan was suddenly back in the cocoon of threads and Lyta was
there with her in her telepathic form, gently pulling at the red strands, drawing them out of her body. Susan felt the fire fade as each thread was withdrawn. Cool, clear currents trickled through her mind.
Suddenly the ship fired its engines and began to pull away. This was a trick! Sheridan had distracted it. Made a space for the telepath to penetrate its defenses.
“Lyta!” John called out in warning. It was too late. The ship sent a psychic shockwave into Lyta’s telepathic form, scattering it. Susan heard Lyta scream in pain as her mind was thrown back into her body without warning.
Susan’s mind and the ship’s mind began to blur together. There
would be no more humans. It didn’t need Ivanova’s mind, just her feelings. They provided a purpose, a focus. It would carry out its mission and then it would fly far away to the Vorlon homeworld, where it would live in isolation. Susan knew she couldn’t fight it, she could barely even tell which thoughts were hers anymore.
She shook with a sudden, violent intensity. Susan thought they
were under attack again but there was no weapon strike. The ship had responded to a signal of great power, a transmission beamed
out into distant space. The signal didn’t originate from Babylon 5 or
but it came from somewhere nearby. It carried information the ship considered priceless—the coordinates to where the Vorlons and Shadows had left the galaxy. Its need for anger dissipated, evaporated by a radiant hope. If it traveled there it might be able to follow its kind.
It would no longer be alone.
The Vorlon ship fired its engines in excitement and, almost as an afterthought, began to expel Susan Ivanova from its body. She was impure, not of Vorlon. When it arrived at the coordinates it might be rejected if she was inside it. Susan found herself suddenly ripped apart, pulled in opposing directions by the connecting threads.
Lyta was there again, inside the thread cocoon, hurriedly pulling strands from her body, knitting her mind and body back together.
Susan became aware that she was back inside her body the split second before a portal in the Vorlon ship opened and she was spat out onto the hard, metallic deck of the hangar bay.
She couldn’t move at first. She just lay there on her side, watching the ship as it broke free of the grapple lines and sped away, passing through the hangar bay force field with no more effort than a leaping fish breaking through the surface of a lake. It shot towards the jumpgate, activated it, and was gone.
“Thanks for nothing,” Susan said in a hoarse, worn voice. Hands
helped her sit up—John and Lyta’s hands. Her whole body was in
pain. She could feel her senses returning though, her mind clearing
and regaining a rational, human perspective.
“Oh, God,” she said looking at them. “What the hell was I doing?
What was I thinking?”
John smiled at her, his perfect, reassuring smile. The smile said that everything was going to be okay. But how could it? After what she’d done, after the damage she’d caused. Nothing could ever be okay again.
“Yeah,” he said, as if reading her thoughts. “That’s how I felt when I first had a Vorlon in my mind. Don’t worry, it fades with time and then you start to feel normal again. Well, mostly normal. Don’t worry, we’re here for you. We’ll sort this out.”
“What else are friends for?” Lyta said and Susan was sure the
comment was directed more at John than at her.
“There was a signal,” she explained to John. “Someone transmitted a signal that would allow it to follow the Vorlons and Shadows.”
“Then that’s the last of them gone,” Sheridan said. “I can’t say I’m sad to see it go.”
As they helped Susan to her feet she spotted Bester, standing beside his Star Fury at the other end of the hangar bay. He’d failed in his mission to get the Vorlon craft, he’d failed to kill her, but he’d played a dangerous game and survived, and that meant there’d be another day.
Another throw of the dice. Another day her friends would be at risk.
“There’s still something I have to do,” she said.
“It’s okay, John. I’m just going to talk to him.”
“Is that true?” John asked Lyta.
“Sure,” Lyta replied. “Absolutely. Basic communication.”
Susan Ivanova hobbled painfully across the deck, forcing herself to stay upright until she stood before Bester. He seemed perfectly unconcerned, still sporting his signature smirk.
“Captain Ivanova. Susan. I suggest you restrain yourself or I’ll be forced to...”
She slowly curled her fingers into a fist and smashed Alfred Bester in
the face with as much strength as she could muster. He fell backwards, landing awkwardly on his rear. He looked up at her in shock. He’d expected his psychic defenses to have repelled her, prevented her from raising a hand to him.
“You’ll regret that,” he said to Ivanova.
“Learn to like it,” she said to him. “I’ll be coming back for you when the dust settles.”
She walked back to her friends, making sure to give Lyta a quick, courteous nod for blocking Bester’s psychic defenses long enough for her fist to hit home.
“You said she wasn’t going to hurt him,” Sheridan said to Lyta.
“I said she was going to communicate with him,” Lyta replied.
“And I did,” Ivanova said. “With my fist.”
She limped past them, heading for the turbo lift. “I need vodka
before I can deal with this,” she said. “Lots of vodka.”
“You got it,” John replied. “Right after you receive medical
“Vodka is medicine. Vodka first.”
He didn’t argue.
“The only thing that puzzles me,” John said, as the turbo lift carried them to Earhart’s in Red Sector, “is who beamed the transmission with those coordinates? It came out of nowhere and just in the nick of time.
Who has access to that kind of information?”
Susan Ivanova shrugged and said nothing, but she had a pretty
good idea of exactly who it was she had to thank.
Garibaldi terminated the signal transmission beamed out by the
Great Machine. Only the Great Machine’s network was powerful
enough to track the Vorlons and Shadows to the precise point from which they had left the galaxy.
Draal, the caretaker of the planet-sized computer, had given
Garibaldi permission to choose the moment when the signal would
be activated and terminated, but only on the condition that he
not be permitted to know the signal’s end point—the knowledge
of those coordinates were to remain a secret until humanity
was ready to take its place with the galaxy’s advanced races.
Garibaldi removed the neural interface and stretched. He’d been up for almost a full 24 hours without rest.
“I’m getting too old for this stuff,” he said.
He’d analyzed the entire scenario, calculated where Sheridan and Lyta’s plan was most likely to fall over and then devised a strategy to pull their butts out of the fire before they all got burned. He had to save Bester, he couldn’t resist that compulsion, but he could shape the exact way in which the Psi Cop was saved. He could ensure his friends suffered the least harm in the process.
Garibaldi was used to working within narrow confines. Bester
had beaten him once. That would never happen again, even with the psychic block in his head. He would die before he ever betrayed his friends again.
Garibaldi leaned back in his chair, waiting. When the call came he answered at once.
“Mr. Garibaldi,” said Bester.
Garibaldi couldn’t keep the smile from his face when he saw Bester’s black eye.
“That was a close call, Mr. Garibaldi.”
“You’re safe, aren’t you? That’s the only condition. That I can’t
allow harm to come to you. There was nothing in there about letting the Psi Corps get knocked around a little.”
“You and your friends are going to suffer for this, Mr. Garibaldi.”
“Sure, sure,” he said dismissively. “Now listen, Al, here’s how this is going to play out. My friends in EarthForce are going to see that this whole incident is swept under the carpet. We’re going to say the Vorlon craft was unmanned—a rogue ship—the last remnant of the war and
that now it’s been destroyed. Susan won’t take any heat over this, not even a note on her record, and in return I’ll see that Psi Corps isn’t exposed for attacking an EarthForce destroyer and killing members of its crew, not to mention White Star 27.”
“You over-estimate your power, Mr. Garibaldi.”
“No. No, I don’t. You’re going to go along with everything, Bester, and you’re going to do it because this time you get to walk away scot-free—for Susan’s sake. Do we have an understanding?”
“Yes.” From the sour expression on Bester’s face Garibaldi knew
that one word of acquiescence had cost him dearly.
“Good. Now I want you to know the only reason I’m going to
make all that happen is because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that you walk on this one because your time is coming, Al. Psi Corps’ time is coming and when it does, I’m going to be there. I’ve already got it picked out, a Louisville slugger with your name carved into the side in big letters. And I’m going to be the one swinging it.”
“Keep telling yourself that Mr. Garibaldi. Just make sure you do your job like a good dog and keep me alive.”
The transmission cut out and Garibaldi smiled. Bester was full of his usual bluster and bravado but there was something he had never seen in the man’s eyes before—fear, uncertainty. “Not long now,” Garibaldi said to himself. “Not long at all.”
He opened up a channel to the kitchen.
“Yeah. Can you send me through that bagna càuda now?”
“On its way, Mr. Garibaldi.”
He opened another channel.
“Reynolds? You there?”
here, sir. What can I get you?”
“A problem-free galaxy?”
“Sorry, sir. That’s something you’re more qualified to handle.”
“Let me tell ya, you never even know you’re in the galaxy saving business until you’re saving the galaxy, and by then it’s too late to get out.”
“I’m sure it is, sir. I, for one, am glad you’re in it.”
“At least someone appreciates me. What did you think of the bagna càuda I sent you?”
“It was nourishing, sir.”
“Seriously? The greatest meal in the galaxy and that’s all you got?
Some things are worth making a meal out of,” Garibaldi said, and he couldn’t help thinking of Bester again with the black eye. “Man, I’m going to have to start up a food appreciation course. Did I ever tell you about my theory that if the Vorlons and Shadows had bagna càuda
then there wouldn’t have even been a war?”
“Yes, sir. On many an occasion.”
Garibaldi laughed as he stood up and walked away from his station.
Nothing could kill his mood today. Susan was going to be all right, his friends had survived the latest threat, a dozen Psi Corps bases were crippled and there wasn’t a god-damned thing they could do about it.
Best of all, Bester had a black eye. Nothing beat that.
He was just about to exit through the quantium door when his
security station sounded an alert.
“No. Leave me alone Reynolds. I’m going to eat and then I’m going back to bed.”
“Sir, you know I wouldn’t disturb you if it wasn’t important.”
“What? It’s been five minutes. The world’s in flames? In the last five minutes?”
“Not burning, sir. Not literally. Ivanova’s strikes to the Psi Corps bases seem to have given rogue telepaths something to rally around. It seems they were already congregating after Byron’s death and were just waiting for something like this. There are riots on Babylon 5, on Mars, across Earth. If it’s not brought under control it could spiral out into something much bigger.”