Chapter thirty-Six part two
After two restless hours, Lady Ladira was finally sleeping.
The ordeal at the Moika Palace had left her tired and irritable, but racing mind drift away from the day's activities enough to go to sleep. However, she wouldn't find rest even in sleep.
In her mind, she found herself standing in the main street connecting the Royal Palace complex and the Centaurum building. The capital city was in ruins, smoking. Bodies were everywhere. Ladira saw that she was hurt and bleeding from a gash in her head. An oddly shaped shadow stalked her….
She now found herself standing at the edge of a city built within a bowl-like valley. All the streets seemed to lead to a twisted organic-looking tower rising into a pulsing purple sky that flashed with lightning. Impossibly a piece of a mountain appeared to be floating near the tower. A sun shone through the purple sky, revealing the silhouettes of other similar cities on floating mountains.
As Ladira touched the side of a small obelisk, strange hieroglyphs glowed. In the shadow of a doorway, she could see what appeared to be a short alien who was descended from a bird-like species. The alien appeared to be surprised to see her. Out the corner of Ladira's eye, she saw what seemed to be a tentacle reaching for her. Ladira turned away from the vision of the Dark City and fled from out of the tentacle's reach. Suddenly, she was in orbit over a world with two moons. Centauri Prime, her home as she knew it, except that the green parts of the continents were slowly but visibly turning grey and the lights of the cities on the night side were winking out.
Moving closer, now she could see what was happening on the surface: buildings, flora and fauna were being broken down into their component parts by some type of nanotechnology. Psi-sensitive people dressed in priestly garbs lead wretched masses in worship of 'new gods' that dwelled in the seas. Many, willingly and unwillingly, were sacrificed to the new gods' hunger.
She was back in orbit and she heard a Human-sounding voice grimly saying, "The Yonji Sinhindrea have total control. There's only one choice. Remove the foothold now while there's still time."
A jump point opened and disgorged a huge sphere composed by slowly spinning rings arranged like a gyroscope, or a celestial globe straight out of the visions of a mad watchmaker. Red circles glowed wherever the moving rings intersected. The sphere was escorted by two Federation starships that appeared small beside the sphere. Even as she stared at it in horror, she knew something wasn't right. Maybe it was the design of the sphere or maybe she was seeing an object that was in place of something would be, but it didn't matter. She divined its purpose easily enough.
The sphere slowed to a stop as the moving rings seemed to converge at a prearranged organization and all of the red circles glowed brighter. The two starships moved away into the distance. At the side facing Centauri Prime, a massive beam of burning energy shot forth and struck the sea near the bay of what used to be Imperial City. For a moment, the sea boiled and steamed, and then the tectonic plates of the planet visibly began to crack and spew magma and lava, further boiling and steaming the seas. As the cracks spread across continents, the magma spread dark dust clouds, darkening the planet's atmosphere, as the land were pushed up to become new instant mountains alongside the new volcanic cracks. Ladira saw the entire planet was crack like a flaming egg until Centauri Prime shattered and blew apart. The united screams of despair and defiance mixed with undiluted hatred poured itself upon her, attempting to crush her soul.
Ladira woke with a yelp.
Panting, she got up from her bed and put on a bathrobe over her nightgown. She knew that the Home world's fate that she saw in her dream was only a possibility. The future was always changing and people create the future with their words, deeds, and beliefs. But she knew that the time for changing the future she saw was fast running out.
Ladira could have been the Prophetess Supreme of Tuwain, capable of advising emperors. She was more than qualified for the prestigious post because she was a seeress and a telepath combined, which was very rare. However, she preferred to be simply Lady Ladira because she knew that in Centauri society, the heights were paved with daggers.
She activated her vidcomm screen and began to dictate a video-letter to Lady Morella.
Turhan's widow would know what to do.
Terrell Drake was getting used to it, the transporting. Only twice now and it felt almost natural. 'Quite amazing, really' he thought. The first time he was transported, he could almost feel it, a sense of, of eternity. Everyone of the Starfleet personnel that he mentioned to about the experience to had told him that he shouldn't have felt anything, although there had been reported incidences where some few people 'had' felt something not unlike what he experienced. With this latest transport, he'd felt it again but subtly different than the first time. Obviously, the transporter on this ship was different than Picard's vessel, but whatever it was that gave him that feeling before was present here as well. When he got back he'd had to do some research. Terrell stepped off of the transporter pad and did a crisp salute to this Captain Archer. The man was a bit younger than he had thought but he wore the same uniform as Garrett and Sisko, well, maybe a little different.
"Permission to come aboard," Drake said.
"Permission granted, Captain," the man called Archer responded enthusiastically.
Drake could see that he meant it, too. The man was ecstatic, like someone being rescued from a deserted island. That was an accurate description.
Archer sobered quickly. "I heard about what happened to Earth. I am deeply sorry." He stared straight at Drake. "I know how you must feel," he said with absolute conviction.
Drake froze. He had almost pushed it back far enough. He should have been there helping defend Earth. So many ships had been lost; many of the cream of Earthforce officers and crews had been gutted. The Earth was in ruins. The Evanston should have been there, on the line fighting against the creatures that tried to commit genocide on Humanity. He might have made a difference, or his ship most likely would have been cannon fodder for the Sinhindrea. Either way with the Federation ships coming to Earth's aid, they stood a better chance than his Omega. And in the final analysis it had been the better deal. Earth was hurt but the enemy had been pushed back. Because of the subspace/tachyon relays Picard and company had place all over the region, his ship was able to stay in constant contact with ISN and Earthforce Command even in hyperspace. That was a marvel really even if the news was oppressive, enough so that it had hit him hard and he was coming to the realization that he had also changed.
Two and half years had changed him. His stone-cold hatred for Picard had withered to mere irritation. He'd probably never like the man but he could tolerate him now. The humiliation by Picard and the Enterprise at Babylon Five; the firefight than made him and Earthforce look impotent; the damage to his ship and loss of so many crew members; no, he'd always remember that. That debacle was seared into his soul. However war was war. If he could accept the Minbari, why couldn't he deal with Picard? It had to do with his stubbornness, he knew that.
He also knew that jealousy played a role here as well. It was almost like an addictive drug he would crave, but one that left a sour aftertaste after it lingered. As he listened to the battle, almost cheered like everyone else on the Evanston when enemy ships were blown to Hades, and then it happened. The Rantoul was destroyed.
Part of him, a dark part, was ecstatic that the glorified Federation ships weren't invulnerable. Another part was terrified because the glorified Federation starships weren't invulnerable. It was clear now as the nose on his face. Earth Alliance 'needed' their help if they were going to survive. It was time to suck it up and deal with the situation. He may not like them but in his heart, the Starfleeters were allies in blood as of this moment.
"Earth's been hurt, but it's still there," Drake said stoically.
"I know how hard it is for you to be out here, on a rescue mission when you planet is in danger. You had to have wanted to be there."
Archer was totally sincere. He could tell. "Yes," Drake admitted. "It's hard."
"When my Earth was attacked, I did everything that I could to keep my world being destroyed by the Xindi."
Inside the elevator, Drake stared at Archer in surprise. "I didn't know that your Earth had been attacked by aliens."
"We came this close to losing it all," Archer explained. "They fired a prototype of the weapon and killed seven million people. They had planned to use a much larger version. My ship Enterprise had to stop them."
"Your ship was named Enterprise?" asked a dubious Drake.
The man smiled. "It's a long story but my Enterprise was the first starship christened Enterprise long before the Federation came into existence. We were temporally displaced."
Drake shook his head in amusement. "You're Federation alright."
It was Federation alright but like none he'd ever seen before. More advanced than anything Earthforce had but at the same time somewhat primitive as compared to the other Fed vessels. Despite the overall cleanliness of the Bozeman, he could clearly see that it was a ship in distress. Supplies and then the engineers beamed over from the Evanston and proceeded to swarm all throughout the ship much to the delight of Archer and his crew. Commander Tucker was following, half giving orders, half admiring what they were doing with the ship.
There were obvious makeshift repairs throughout the vessel indicated that the crew had survive whatever had happened, but just barely.
"Captain Archer, what happened?" he asked as he waved his hands. The elevator opened and the two men entered the bridge. It was remarkably similar to Garret's ship but, but he also noticed it looked like it was built a generation or two earlier than the Ambassador. Despite the damage the bridge still looked well organized and more than functional.
"You can call me Jonathan," started Archer. "My ship, the Enterprise was the first warp five capable ship Earth had built," he said with more than a hint of pride. "Our job was to explore space. We wanted to see what was out there." He smiled. "We had good times, and some bad and we learned a lot. But during our second year out, Earth was attacked by a then unknown adversary. The weapon used killed tens of thousands of people. Enterprise was recalled from our mission of exploration. It had been discovered that the enemy weapon was just a prototype and that the enemy was readying a much larger weapon. Enterprise was the only ship that we had that could use to find this enemy and stop them. We had a quick refit and off we went. The quick version is that we found the aliens called the Xindi discovered why they attacked and with the help of the Andorians and a few of the Xindi stopped the weapon from being used on Earth." He shook his head. "It's a long story."
"I bet," Terrell muttered.
"We were just within sight of home when a subspace disturbance appeared in front of us. My ship was already badly damaged, barely space-worthy, when we lost power. A ship came through the rift and crashed into us. The Enterprise was severely damaged," he told Drake. "We were losing life support, the hull had been compromised. I lost three members of my crew. The other ship was in even worse shape. Both our ships were still caught in the gravitational eddy of the rift and we were pulled through. We all lost consciousness and we were apparently inside the rift for more than two years, although only about three hours passed for us. We re-entered normal space. The crew of the Bozeman was able to transport my people onboard. This ship had lost more than half the crew including their first officer and Captain Bateman. That's when we discovered that this was a Federation starship. When compared to my ship, it's so advanced, it still amazes me."
"But, you're Federation, aren't you?"
"In a way," he started. "You see, my ship was designed and built a decade before the birth of the Federation. During my time, our neighbors were distrustful of each other during my time."
"So, no one trusted anyone," he couldn't help but let out a small grunt of amusement. "Sounds familiar."
"That was the reality, but I had hopes and I think we were making progress. The presence of the Bozeman affirmed my hopes. It's a deep space surveyor, what is called a light cruiser comparable to my vessel for the time but much bigger. Anyway, we salvaged everything we could from the Enterprise before we destroyed her. The Bozeman had only one fully functional warp nacelle and couldn't travel faster than warp three which was okay because that was the standard cruising speed of Enterprise. We spent a week surveying the stars, took an educated chance and plotted a course in the direction of where we hoped Earth would be."
"And you've been travel ling almost three years."
"Yes," confirmed Archer. "Our crews joined to work together which I admit was easier than I first thought it would be. My crew and I studied and learned how to use the new technology. All of us supported each other. Even with the damage we sustained, we never gave up hope."
Drake was nodding. The man's optimism was infectious. He couldn't help but like the man. "The name's Terrell, Jonathan. Let's get you to Laberra." His mood darkened. "It's not safe out here."
"So, I've heard."
Later that night, a wave of darkness swept over Centauri Prime. Seeress, telepaths and psi-sensitives all over the planet woke up screaming, paralyzed by the terrors of a great evil touching them, several by dreams of the Dark City and the horrors it contained. Screams echoes through the streets and blood ran from the walls.
The number of suicides in that one night was more than double that of the last year. In the city of Sphodria, a major trading port and the site of an ancient military victory over the Xon, the governor of the city spent three hours writing the words, "Death is coming" all over the walls of his house. The words were written in the blood of his wife, children and servants. He then threw himself from the roof of the house.
In the great mountain city of Camulodo, renowned as a seat of great learning, the curator of the Great Imperial Museum burned the building to the ground. He remained inside it as it burned. He had already clawed out his eyes and was in the process of eating his fingers as he burned to death.
In the resort city of Centallus, the people had thought that the madness sweeping Centauri Prime was a legacy of Cartagia's legacy so they razed the palace in which Cartagia was born.
Gallia, a prominent market town, saw its governor dragged from his bed in the middle of the night by a crazed mob led by three telepaths. Claiming to be heralding in the coming Doom, they threw the governor into an ancient well and began to pile it full of stones. His feeble cries ended as the last stones were thrown on top of him.
In Remarin, the small capital city of the island of Selini, a maddened but powerful telepath roamed the streets, murdering children in order to 'spare them the pain of losing their parents in the coming ordeal.'
All this was reported to Regent Denarri when he was roused from bed and dressed.
"Lord Durano, is it really necessary to tell me everything happening on Home world?"
Durano, the Minister of Intelligence, was not offended. Very little could put him off. "I must be as detailed as possible for you, Regent. In my experience, if you can't say what you mean, you can never mean what you say. The details are everything."
Denarri sighed and nodded for Durano to continue.
"The fires in Camulodo are rumored to be getting out of control," reported the dry voice of Lord Durano. Denarri knew that he had always been dispassionate and dedicated, which was the reason Durano was one of the very few men of Cartagia's court that he kept. It may also explain how he managed to survive the late emperor's madness. Now it seemed more as if Durano were reciting the results of this week's fencing contests. "Apparently some of the fire servicemen have tried to deal with the situation, but they are being hampered by the mob, and several of the firemen have fallen prey to…" and here he groped for the right words, "whatever is happening."
"Has the whole planet gone mad?" Denarri asked. "What in the name of the Great Maker is happening?"
"We cannot say," replied Durano. "Some sort of psionic backlash perhaps. We know from reports that the Sinhindrea are entirely telepathic, so this may be a…shall we say a foreshock of their approach. It is my belief that only a fraction of those afflicted by this…madness are actually experiencing anything abnormal. The others are in all probability merely responding to the charisma or madness of their leaders. The Telepaths Guild is reporting disturbing dreams of a…city in an alien realm or atmosphere. The descriptions of the city lead me to conclude a relationship with the Sinhindrea notion of their home dimension."
"How is it that we are not affected?"
Durano cleared his throat, signaling that he thought this to be a sensitive subject and that the Regent should not be offended by his upcoming answer. "We are not psionically sensitive enough to be affected by the Sinhindrea telepathic influence which I am inclined to believe is a form of attack, possibly to weaken or resolve or to instill fear among the population."
"So would you say that this…madness is a signal that the Sinhindrea are close to Home world?"
"That conclusion would appear to be inescapable, Regent."
"Is there any response to the distress call we sent out earlier?"
Durano's arched eyebrow showed how little he thought of the powers beyond the Republic's borders. "No one is answering the call."
Denarri pursed his lips. "So be it. We offered assistance to the Minbari. They refused and they fight alone. They fight alone because of their pride. Their pride forces their choice. Earth has suffered a horrendous loss and is unwilling and unable to help. For us, we have no choice. We are Centauri. We will fight. We shall fight alone, and die alone, if need be. But we will not simply bare our necks to be slit like cattle."
Durano was silent at that but the Regent somehow got the feeling that the minister was mentally mocking him. It did not bother him as long as Durano remained efficient and loyal in his work.
The vidcomm unit in the Regent's study beeped for attention. Denarri feared this to be more bad news but he pressed a button nevertheless to answer the call.
It was Lord Trego, a valet for Lady Morella. His very high hair-crest spoke of his very high status in the aristocracy and the Royal Court.
"Regent Denarri, you have a message from the Lady Morella."
Denarri was surprised. Morella rarely, if ever, initiated contact with anyone at Court. "May I speak with the Lady?"
Trego arched an eyebrow as if he thought the Regent to be presumptuous. Perhaps that was his opinion. "Lady Morella has already departed for Immolan Five on her private liner."
Denarri's earlier fear proved to be correct: this was bad news. If Morella did not feel safe to remain on Centauri Prime in the face of the coming Sinhindrea attack, then the future did not look promising for the Centauri home world.
"The Lady requests that you pay heed to her message as soon as contact with you is established." Without further ado, Trego pressed a button somewhere off-screen below.
The view changed to the visage of the widow of Emperor Turhan. Without preamble, she spoke.
"Regent, it is neither pleasant nor welcome, but the future reveals itself only reluctantly, and only to a chosen few, and never without reason.
Our people hang suspended over a precipice. One person, one word can pull us back from the brink or send us toppling over. Our doom is upon us, but it may yet be averted, even in the few hours we have left.
There shall be fire, bloodshed and chaos, and the fulfillment of a dream's ending. The Centauri people have sinned. We have consumed worlds for our vanity, enslaved peoples for our service, destroyed dreams for our own whims. Now, our punishment for these deeds is at hand.
For good or for ill, it will end soon. Our world will either die in fire, beneath the shadow of Death, or it shall rise from the ashes like a phoenix to become something new and refreshed, the sins of the old world cast off and atoned for. The bitterest of enemies could be allies if we could only look.
"As the man holding the reins of power in the Centauri Republic, the choice rests with you, Knonto Denarri and you have seven days to decide"
The vidcomm screen deactivated.
"Well, that is interesting," commented Lord Durano.
Denarri thought that to be an understatement.
Babylon Five- War room
John Sheridan tried his best not to flinch at the screen against the fury evident in the face Satai Coplann.
"Sheridan, what you ask is impossible! We will not delay!"
Once more John tried to match the glare that the Minbari was giving him. Showing weakness at this point would be disastrous. The subspace-tachyon relay again allowed real time communication across the light-years, allowing them to speak without the seconds of delay that was common a mere three years earlier.
"We checked and double checked. The fleet that split away from the main fleet that attacked Earth is now confirmed heading straight for Minbar territory. If you attack now, the Minbari fleet will be laid waste!" He paused for a second, trying to gather himself for the coming argument. "Your fleet will be destroyed, Minbari will be destroyed, and everything we're trying to achieve will be lost. If Minbar falls, we all fall. We've transmitted what happened on Earth. We barely fought them off."
"Earth is not my concern," said Coplann. If possible, he became even angrier. "We asked them. They denied our request," he hissed. Those words slapped Sheridan like a brick. He had no idea how much it had cost them to ask for help. And Earth Alliance had denied them. "Their world was threatened. I understand that," the Minbari leader said in somewhat softer tones. "Minbar is threatened and we are doing the same thing. We will not allow those abominations to continue to defile out world. We would rather die as a race than allow Minbar to be taken over."
"If that's your choice, then you condemn all of us to extinction," Sheridan countered. "Is that to be the final legacy of the so-called greatest of the young races?" There was a quick pause as he let those words sink in. "I know what's happening on Minbar."
"You know nothing of what's happening there."
"Yes, I do," he said, letting 'that' sink in. "We have intelligence real time on every ship in the system. They have four times the numbers they used against Earth just waiting for you to attack. They're there to hold and break your ability to resist, not destroy Minbar as they tried to do to Earth."
"We know what they're planning, but we can't allow them to succeed without doing something. This is my world you speak of! We can no longer abide their presence on our world than you would have on Earth."
"I know what I am asking of you and your people, but we are developing a plan, one that will involve everyone coming to your aid. We all know what the stakes are if you lose. What I am asking you to do is wait."
"We are not a people given to waiting, Sheridan."
Again, John had noticed that that Coplann had used his name, not 'Starkiller'.
"Delenn is on Minbar," said Coplann. "My wife is on Minbar. Our families are on Minbar." Now the glare redoubled itself. "Those creatures are on Minbar. What you ask for is beyond my power to grant."
"Then give me two days and I will let you know exactly what we plan to do," said John. "You are not in this alone and even if I have to steal a Starfury from my own station and join you, I promise I will. But give me two days and I will give you Minbar."
"You are Delenn's beloved, Sheridan. You have as much to lose as we do. But- I will hold you to your promise. If you fail, then your life is forfeited. It will not by my choice," he explained, "but others will not stand for another betrayal and I will not be able to stop them from taking your life in recompense."
"I understand. But know this, Satai. I can't stand by and watch you people do something foolish and doom us all!"
"Saving our world isn't foolish," Coplann hissed. "How dare you…"
"The Centauri are about to go to war with the Sinhindrea and you know what will happen," Sheridan said cutting him off. "Losing the battle for your world and everyone else because you rushed into battle when you could have waited for better tactical advantage 'is' foolish," Sheridan countered. "All of us are threatened by a mutual enemy. We need to fight together if we are to win. Z'Ha'Dum is months away our best projections say that the Sinhindrea can't receive re-enforcements for at least three months. Every ship they have in the area is either at or heading to Minbar. If we can break them now we'll have time, some time to prepare a proper defense instead of breaking out the big guns and destroying worlds."
"Satai, trust me on this," he said in deadly earnest. "We have our own planet killers."
Coplann's eyes burned into his. Pride and defiance gave way to concern and then possibly fear. His people wouldn't hesitate to destroy a world to keep such a dangerous enemy from establishing a base so close to home. Would Starkiller and the Federationists do the same?
He already knew the answer.
"We need you to keep us from using them as a first line of defense instead of the last."
"You wouldn't…" The defiance had turned into a plea although only part of him realized it.
"You have a clue about the weapons the Feds have. If you're gone, there won't be a choice. Help us," he implored. "Give us a choice so that they will be last choice, not the first."
The implication was there. Coplann remain silent as he considered. "I will give you four days to come up with your plan. Then, we will have no choice. May Valen help us all."
"Four days?" and John was forced not to openly smile although he couldn't help the small smirk of relief. It was far more than he'd expected. "Thank you. We will not let you down," he promised.
"John, for everyone's sake, I will hold you to your promise. The cost is high for everyone. Do not, as you say, let us down. Four days."
With that Coplann closed the transmission from his end.
With that he placed a call to Captain Picard.
Hermann Woloski, the senior representative of the United Interstellar Unions: Babylon Five chapter, along with Darius Gregory sat, waiting patiently in Commander Ivanova's office waiting for her to arrive. It had been hard scheduling time with her, but there was no time like the present and further the way things were going, they might not have the opportunity to speak to her at all for months. However since she was the designated speaker for Babylon Five it was her job to deal with this situation. She came in looking haggard and somewhat tired he thought, in other words her usual self. She barely sat down before started speaking or maybe growling was a more apt description.
"Okay, I have several major diplomatic envoys coming in today more or less unannounced. The refugees are getting restless seeing all of these warships around, the new weapons systems we're installing is behind schedule, and the Proxima delegation is about to jump into the system, so please make it quick. What do you want?"
"Commander Ivanova," Hermann started. "As you know we just finished negotiating the latest contract with B5."
The woman almost jumped up. "Don't you dare tell me that you're trying to change our deal! We negotiated in good faith and you got a pretty good deal, so we will not hold to any blackmail attempts by the unions especially now."
"Calm down," Hermann said. The woman was a great negotiator he thought. Very intimidating when she wanted to be. Well so was he but this wasn't time for intimidation. This was survival he was thinking about. "Our contract is binding and more than fair. Absolutely no complains."
That was true. In fact the entire negotiation had taken less than an hour to complete, some type of record in his opinion. The pay was increased by ten percent, hazard pay by twelve on top of that. They had free health, free life, free housing, free food (and not that synthetic stuff they were serving almost three years back, either) and those were just the basic perks. Work time increased by one hour but with everything they were getting, absolutely no one complained. Well, a couple of people did but some fast, hardcore 'discussions' cleared that up real quick. No one wanted to mess with the cash cow unless they wanted out. And frankly no one wanted out, which was the cause of the current situation.
"You're right, we don't have the time. I'll keep it as simple as possible. When we came to B5, everybody here including you didn't think we'd make it the first year, what with what happened to the other four stations. No one wanted to come here for the fear of well, death." He smiled –as did Susan, conceding the point. You know how it was, we had to come. It was in the contract. Five years. When the Feds came everything changed. The jobs are safer, the perks are amazing, and we like it here. You know what happened during our last contract negations. We contracted for the next three years. No problem."
"Then, what's the problem?"
"The UIU wanted to remove us and put new people in. They wanted to send us home, said we were using unfair practices by keeping others from coming here. In other words, our benefits are too good. We fought them off."
"Now they're demanding that we come home and be replaced with new workers. Said we were too stressed out and shouldn't have signed off on the new contract. It was too dangerous and we had to come home. The point is we don't want to go back home."
"A contract with us is a contract," Susan said. "Your work here is exemplary. We don't have a problem with you staying here."
"But B5 was still Earth Alliance at the time," he said. "Now we're not. They claim the contract is for EA unionists, not non-Earth Alliance members."
"In other words, they are full of it," supplied Darius. "According to them, we lost membership when we didn't pay the dues to them during the crisis which we couldn't at the time. We paid later but apparently that didn't count. So, they want to replace us with their people."
"Of course they said we can be re-instated but only if we come back to Earth and work in, in…where was it again, Dar?"
"The AMRED Ship Builders yard in Somalia."
"These people have lost their minds if they thing we're going to do that, and for regular pay?"
"Bottom line, commander, we're not going to do it. They've had the Clark mess, the plague, a couple of wars and with what's happening now, they've got food and water shortages, disease, and pollution. Plus they have those Eaters of the Dead aliens trying to glass the planet and we all know they're coming back. Now, I love Earth but I ain't going back there until the situation stabilizes and they can't force us. But they will try because they want to get off as much as we don't' want to go back. I don't really blame them but if they do then, the UIU B5 branch will break off and form our own union. We just wanted to let you know."
"Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait," growled Susan. "Do you know how many problems that that will cause?"
"Most of us came here to work because we wanted a better life for our families. All you have is to look at down below and how it used to be to see how desperate we were to come to this death trap in those days. Now, most of our families are here and the kids have free education all the way up to college level from the Feds. My oldest boy, he's seventeen came home talking about his latest class over there on Laberra. High energy physics as related to subspace transportation harmonics, an introduction. He was using words I never heard of, let alone could spell, like it was just every day stuff. Wants to join the Feds science division academy they're starting in two months. My daughter's interested in medicine and they'll teach her. Ralph over there on Dock Twelve got cured of a cancer he didn't even know he had with no side effects. And it's for free. You think we're going to give that up? If we break we're going over to the Feds. I know they'll take us. Proxima, too. They need people and we're trainable and so are our kids."
"Although I can see the reasons why, you can't just abandon us like this at this time."
"We'd never abandon you," Darius answered with what Susan knew to be utter conviction. "You people have made us rich, and we and our families are safe here, better than on Earth. We're all contributing to something here. And if we do break, we will be here to help in whatever unionized capacity you need us for. And we will put that in the, I mean 'our' contract. We'll even train the newbies. But we won't go back."
"We've kept B5 running throughout the years and that hasn't changed. We all want to live and that means keeping her safe and sound and running smoothly. But we will not be rotated back so some of their cronies can come here and wallow in stuff we worked for so long and so hard."
"We just wanted to let you know what might be coming down the pipeline."
"Thank you for the new headache," Susan snapped.
"We all have battles to fight and we ain't letting some bosses' retarded nephew take over our jobs, especially not now. Now I know you have to go and so do we."
"Thanks for giving us the heads up. I will inform Sheridan of the situation and get back to you with his comments as soon as I can."
"Thanks," he added. "Thanks for keeping us alive."
"Babylon Five control, we are in transition in ten seconds. Estimated time to arrival, thirty one seconds."
"Confirmed, Proxima Force One," Lieutenant Mercer said. "Traffic control has you on docket. Be advised that jump gate traffic will be twelve thousand klicks two-five zero of your emergence point."
Standing behind her, Colonel Griffin watched the view screen intently, not wanting to miss transition. Commander Ivanova had just entered C&C, barely making it in time to witness the arrival of the Proxima III delegation.
"Colonel Griffin, twelve seconds."
Three ships appeared in a small burst of light, in a manner not unlike the arrival of the Federation ships. But there was a subtle difference, less of an abruptness. The transition from hyperspace into normal space by the three ships could be compared to a dolphin barely breaking the surface of the ocean.
"Proxima Force One, welcome to Babylon Five. Your assigned positions are being transmitted to you."
"Thank you, C&C. We're vectoring to our assigned positions."
"We live in wondrous times, don't we?" Mercer said. "I was just getting used to warp drive transitions, now this."
"Wondrous times, indeed," Griffin confirmed. "They're doing the same thing in hyperspace as Starfleet ships do in warp, just submerged a little deeper." Like everyone else he watched the three saucer ships heading to their assigned stationary positions some fifty miles from the station. Two of the saucers were identical, copies of the original United Planets ship C-57-D with a few improvements such as the improved hyperspace engines. The original ship took a year to travel twelve light years. Now they could travel the same distance in three days. The transition from hyperspace to normal space still required the crew and passengers to enter the deceleration pods, but they were working on that. Soon the next generation of ships would have full inertia damper capability. However it was the third vessel, Proxima Force One that had caught everyone's attention. It was five times bigger, carrying a crew of one hundred twenty plus thirty passengers. And all of the technology was Human designed from another reality similar to Starfleet.
"They still look like Vree ships." Ivanova said. She whistled. "Look at the power readings coming from them."
"They're small, but according to Earthforce threat analysis, those little ones could take on two Omegas each and come out on top. And those were just the prototypes. These are the actual production units. They're building twenty of them."
"Nice little fleet," Susan said. They'll need them."
Space Station Laberra
The entire experience of meeting and visiting her extra-universal counterpart, Captain Garrett had been an experience that surpassed surreal. Her husband Charles, bless his soul, maintained his composure, but he had been as shaken as she had been, but not in a bad way. But Elizabeth did see him ogling the woman a couple of times and later when she playfully mentioned it to him in the confines of their suite, he had admitted that it was like looking at his wife of ten years earlier except as a brunette instead of her as a graying red-head. She could have hurt him but it wouldn't have been dignified for the former president of Earth Alliance to beat the First Husband half to death on a starship commanded by her younger-looking twin. However it was all in good humor and it was a joyful trip that helped to alleviate some of the horrific things that had happened.
Alicea, and Jamie and his family had also accompanied them to Laberra. No one had called it for what it was, an evacuation but people knew. But Levy didn't really care. As former president she felt it her duty to return to Earth as necessary in the performance of her duty. But as a woman and mother she was relieved that her children and their families were safe from what was happening on Earth. The injuries and loss of property was one thing, the environment disaster was another. Those were just a few of the ongoing catastrophes. Disease was beginning to rear its ugly head.
It also helped her to concentrate on the upcoming meeting with Picard and the Federation Board of officials. Still in light of everything that had happened, coming to the Feds on these terms made her feel like a starving woman begging for scraps. She shouldn't have felt that way, she knew, however it felt like a humiliation after Earth Alliance had treated the same people who had consistently aided them in their times of need. Ruefully she smiled as her husband had told her that she was in great company. Most of the world had originally felt the same way when the Feds had shown up and Clark had went out of his way to antagonize not just them but everyone else including just about everyone on Earth. He explained what she already knew; it was the result of greed and plain jealously. Throw in a bit of envy and covetousness and there you have it he said.
She couldn't disagree, not completely.
Now they had to depend on this small but enormously wealthy group of neighbors they had tried to beat up at every given opportunity. Even when relations were improving, jealously and greed had reared its ugly head and Earth Alliance had suffered for it. Then the Proxima III debacle happened only adding to the humiliation. That colony was as wealthy as anything on Earth and getting richer by all accounts. There were senators and officials including some in Earthforce strongly inclined to forcefully bring the breakaway colony back into Earth Alliances. Luchenko had been brutal in the suppression of those in the senate and the corporations who had pushed for a military response. Besides, little Proxima had a small but extremely powerful navy and some very powerful friends. The last thing Earth needed to do was antagonize anyone else further.
So here she was, hat in hand asking for help. It galled her a bit but the price –the survival of her people and Earth was more than worth it. Besides to her surprise, the Feds were more than receptive because the bottom line was that they were caught up by the same situation. Everyone had their reasons and they were coming together because they had to and as she thought about it, it really was the best of all possible situations. Earth Alliance had the manpower. The Feds had the technology and as cautious as they were around one other. Each needed the other. A shotgun wedding at its best, with the Sins holding the automatic pump action aimed at not only them but the whole audience with the intentions of killing everyone in the church, or more likely trying to stop the reluctant wedding in the first place.
What she hadn't expected (and neither had Captain Picard or Commander Sheridan) was that this meeting between the EA and Federation was turning into a conference of unimagined proportions. The Narn had heard about the meeting and asked to participate. The Narns brought with them the Drazi, Brakiri and the Proxima III independent world coalition. The Centauri asked to participate, no strings attached. Then the Non-Aligned Worlds wanted in, in what was being dubbed the super conference.
It was too bad the Minbari weren't available to participate as well, but they had problems of their own and she understood their reasoning perfectly. But the rest came as a surprise although it shouldn't have been. There was nothing like a blood-curdling enemy intent on destroying all life and eating what was left over to get people to come together. Briefly, she wondered why the Sinhindrea were so hostile but she pushed that behind her. Now was the time to make sure she did her part to help secure the safety of her world and her people.
"Throw on some lipstick, woman," she whispered to herself. Her younger twin was out there and no way did she want to look less than her best when there'd be people undoubtedly comparing the two of them no matter how hard they'd try to not to notice. "That's better," she said to a couple of her aides as they headed for the door. These next few hours were going to be tedious especially with ISN and the others looking at every wrinkle.. "And thank God for gravity on both of these stations. Hair and weightlessness don't agree."
At first, Lyndisty found it hard to believe this was real and not a nightmare. The fires, the screams, the cries of madness.
The madness sweeping Centauri Prime had gotten worse by the hour. In Imperial City, the Royal Guardsmen were fighting each other in the streets, shops were being looted, people cut down, and women and children murdered. The whole city seemed to have gone insane.
Amid the sirens and a mob of people heading for safer parts of the city such as bomb shelters, the temples in which people were already appealing to the fifty main gods of the Centauri pantheon for mercy, and the spaceports where transports, freighters and liners were lifting off, filled with fleeing passengers.
Lyndisty could see some people ripping open manholes and tomb-like entrances throughout the city through which they had access to the series of catacombs beneath the city that led out to outlying regions. Emperor Olion had the catacombs constructed as a means of escape during Earth's 4th century. According to legend, Olion was absolutely paranoid that his people might turn against him. The only person aside from Olion who knew the layout of the maze was the catacombs' architect whom the Emperor had murdered to keep the secret.
Lyndisty found Lady Ladira standing in the middle of a street. She tried to get the seeress to leave, but she appeared to be in a trance, intoning, "Fire, death and destruction. The Lords of Death have come for Centauri Prime. They have come for us all!"
Giving up, Lyndisty ran, her dress hitched up in a most undignified manner. If her aunt, the Lady Drusella, could but see this, she'd be having a double heart attack. Lyndisty did not care.
She navigated the crowd in the street. No one stopped her. She saw fighting, saw those she knew standing still as statues, saw comatose bodies drooling, chewing on their lips, blood flowing down their chins.
Still she ran. Finally, she reached the spaceport and skipped a line full of jostling citizens, waving a ticket that indicated herself to be of the privileged aristocracy. To reinforce the ticket, she had a document signed by her adoptive father, the Lord-General Marrago. If anyone defied that document, he'd be facing the military might of the Republic itself. So no one dared bar her way into the spaceport. Soon enough, she stepped through a hatch into a passenger liner called the Carbo.
Just in time, for a mere minute later, the hatch closed and the liner's engines rumbled. Soon, the skyline of Imperial City could be seen in the pre-dawn hours through the liner's port windows.
In front of her, a young couple hugged each other in relief. The young man said, "we made it, Aria."
"Yes, Kiron. And soon, we'll be married. But…" The girl looked out a port window at the fires burning in the capital city.
Kiron shushed her as he hugged her more tightly.
Lyndisty sighed. She hoped that her father would survive the coming attack.
Babylon Diplomatic suite
Senator Peterman's residence
"…ISN reports-the aftermath. And we're back, Robyn Kelley reporting. In a move that is sure to shock most people to Earth Alliance, President Luchenko's newly appointed liaison to Starbase Laberra and Babylon Five former President Elizabeth Levy and signed not only a non-aggression pact with the leadership of the stranded group called the United Federation of Planets, but has also signed a mutual protection-defense agreement with them. This means that anyone who attacks Earth Alliance or the Federation people will automatically draw the other into the conflict. Not only does this include Earth Alliance and the Federation and Babylon Five, but in a surprising move, the Centauri have expressed a strong interest in not only supporting but wishing to join in the agreement. And in a even more stunning move, in light of what has happened to Earth, the Narn, Klingon, Drazi, Brakiri, Proxima Union has proposed a the mutual defense pact to include the Federation, Earth Alliance and Babylon Five as core members . In what was initially a closing of ranks between the Federation and Earth Alliance has turned into a full declaration of war against the species called the Yonji Sinhindrea. Despite the significant and sometimes heated differences of opinion between the different governments, all of them are putting aside those differences and coming together in the face of what is considered by just about everyone as the greatest threat ever of our time. We'll be back in just a moment.
…In other related news, Professor Amir Rajiv Khali, PhD of Xenopsychology and Xenopolitics, noted author and outspoken critic of the Federation in an interview had this to say. "Despite the misgivings I have concerning the intimate relationships that the Humans of the Federation have with aliens, and the ultimate ramifications of what it means to their very Humanity mixing with other species, I can see potential benefits of mutual cooperation between Humanity and other Humanoid and non-Human species. I am firmly against the creation of hybrid children as I fear what Humanity would become if this was to happen with the people of the Earth Alliance. However, as an enlightened being of intellect, I see these agreements and the coming together of various species against an irretraceable and genocidal foe a necessity that outweighs my long-term concerns, at least for the foreseeable future. If we are to determine the future and direction of Humanity and our relationship and interactions with the other species, we must first survive to present our arguments and concerns. I have seen here on Babylon Five first-hand the depravations of this deadly, and I would say evil species intent on destroying us and in light of this I believe that not only is this pact a wise decision but the right thing to do in light of the dangers that threaten us all."
"You know if we live through this, he's going to write a book."
Senator James Peterman nodded once. He was in total agreement with his aide and he'd probably read it. "Dr. Khali is brilliant, no doubt about that even if we don't agree with everything he says. "He does have some valid points. We need people like him, if we're to survive. He just needs to be a bit more circumspect. Did you see the debate between him and Ambassador Guinan on the qualifications of xenobiology and romance between alien species?"
"I have a recording of that, Senator," answered Frank Nelson, who was smiling at the memories. "She really put him through the ringer. But I still wonder if that's the future for us."
"It's one possible direction," Peterman conceded.
He yawned. It had been a long day with the signing of several agreements with the Federation and all of the attention. He didn't know how Levy did it, and her hair was perfectly straight throughout the entire ordeal. However, the day wasn't over yet. It had gone great so far but now like all good things, it was time to pay the bill.
The bell to his diplomatic suite rang.
"Your fifteen hundred thirty hour appointment is here."
"Of course it is," Peterman said. "Let them in."
Four people in business suits each carrying identical briefcases had arrived much to the senator's chagrin. All of them were smiling; however, the predatory gleams in their eyes didn't escape the senator's notice or that of Frank.
These were people that you did not want to inadvertently antagonize. Peterman greeted them warmly; shaking each one's extended hand in turn. It wasn't often that the heads of the Pro Zeta Corporation and Pharasol Incorporated, along with SynthaCorp Unlimited, came to visit.
"Good afternoon, Senator," said Alecia Phillips the CEO of Pro Zeta. "She was perhaps in her late forties, with immaculate graying hair and eyes that missed very little. He felt, no he knew that he was being sized up like a side of beef.
Peterman returned the greetings. "How was your trip to Babylon Five?"
"Harrowing," she answered honestly as she rolled her eyes. "To say that the journey here was draining is an understatement. Our ships of course have the latest gravity systems installed but if the situation hadn't been so dire, it's safe to say that we wouldn't have come," she said as she and the others sat in the seats offered. "We've heard the reports, but how bad is it really?"
"The sun is barely seen through all of the haze and dust. The plant life of course has taken a hit and we're having trouble feeding people all over the world," he said. "The Feds say they have a way to clean up the atmosphere in the future, but resources everywhere are being stretched to the limit."
"That is why we're here," the CEO said. "Those commodities will not be available in the amounts that will be needed by Earth. We at Pro Zeta and SynthaCorp Unlimited are aware that food on Earth as well as drugs and medical supplies because of the devastation are in critical need. Our factories on Ceti Gamma II and Earth Colony Three have remained untouched by this incident and we want to help as much as we can with all of our products we make. This includes our synthetic meats, nutra-paste products, and pharmaceuticals that all of Earth Alliance's colonies are provided with to sustain themselves. As the largest food suppliers other than Earth, we offer our services and are willing to supply Earth with as much of our product as we can safely transport here in your time of need."
She stopped and opened her briefcase. Inside was a proposal which she handed to the senator.
"This is a proposal of what we can do within specific time periods depending on production, safety and transportation. If we push it, the average bulk freighter will take three weeks to travel from our facilities in Ceti Gamma II to Earth, provided that we're not assaulted by pirates or those things that tried to destroy Earth," she grimaced. "We have security forces that can defend against any pirate raids , that that there are many these days, but the freighters coming through hostile territory would require dedicated Earthforce escorts to prevent any mishaps. Please, Senator, take a look at this."
He took a quick glance at the paper and turned to Alecia. "Earthforce military is stretched from one end of our territories to another. We may not have the resources at this time to place a dedicated force to protect your freighters."
"We, at Pro Zeta understand," responded Alecia. "But in order for us to help you, you have to help us do so. Now, I realize that Orion and Ceti aren't in the projected regions of enemy traffic so far, but you do understand our security concerns."
"We're speaking of logistics," said Rupee Shinga, head of the Pharasol, speaking for the first time. Pharasol's main facilities were located on Earth Colony Three located in the Orion Theta star system, some twelve light years from the Epsilon Eridani can supply Earth with what it needs to continue surviving as an effective viable entity. If Earth can't adequately feed and treat its people then millions will die on top of everything that's already happened. I'm sure when the treaties with the Federation are in full effect; Earthforce technology will improve significantly allowing for more protection for everyone across the board. Once everything is in place I'm sure EA's economy will rapidly adjust to the situation at hand."
James Peterman considered himself a pretty good politician and a great poker player all of which served him well right now as he read the proposal set forth by the three of the biggest corporations located outside of Sol system. Their price quotes – which included a so-called fifteen percent discount for the first three years, bordered on blackmail.
"Your prices are somewhat steep; two Omega escorts for each freighter? Considering what's happened to Earth, our fragile economy we may not be able to pay these prices."
"I understand your predicament," Alecia said. "We've seen Earth's credit rating take a dive and have adjusted our prices accordingly. We need warships to protect our investment to make sure it arrives safely at its destination. Earth is our home, but nevertheless, we do have to make a profit, and please consider that those profits will help us to help you in the long run because we will put our profits back into our factories and employees for Earth's benefit of course. I'm sure we can set up a line of credit with Earth Alliance that can be paid over a period of years and I think that the interest rates are reasonable considering the current environment."
"What you're proposing to send in bulk is quite an impressive undertaking, however what about the colonies that are your primary source of income?" Indeed James thought. What they were proposing to send was just as impressive as the prices that they were asking for. It was nothing less than pure extortion, something that Earth Alliance would be forced to pay. "With the amount of materials' projected to come to Earth, how can you supply the colonies with the resources that they need?"
"Our stockpiles will be sufficient to supply all of our customer's needs in the short run. However, overall prices will increase somewhat and resources being sent to the colonies will be slightly limited until the market adjusts. Then the prices will adjust according to supply and demand."
Senator Peterman was impressed that the woman had the balls to say that with a straight face. "Thank you very much for your concerns and proposals. Your assistance to Earth Alliance in its time of need is much appreciated. Time is of the essence and I will give these proposals to President Levy today. She will forward them directly to President Luchenko. You should receive our answer within forty-eight hours."
"Thank you for your time," Ms. Phillips told him. "I look forward to delivering our services to Earth as soon as possible."
With that the executives, stood up and another round of hand shaking commenced.
The immersion of the Bozeman in hyperspace was an amazing experience to Captain Archer and his crew but finally they had arrived at Babylon Five. They didn't feel anything as the inertia dampers countered any of the stresses associated with suddenly being thrust back into normal space. The Evanston and proceeded first through the tunnel-like opening that appeared when the transition started. The next moment two pairs of kilometers' long struts appeared and they were in open space. The Evanston initiated its emergency deceleration protocols while the Soyuz class vessel simply matched speed with the huge Earthforce warship.
Throughout most of the journey his crew had taken thousands of readings in red space as they called it. It was similar yet again different from the FTL mode that the Xindi used. It was hoped that the readings taken in red space of the gravitational eddies and gravitational 'reflections' of planets and stars in local space could be used for navigation without the use of hyperspace buoys, but it would take years of research before that could be done with reliably and accuracy. Jonathan thought that his old ship's experiences with subspace vortexes might shed light on the uniqueness of red space.
Both Federation ships, the Cobra Hawk and the Peregrine were docked to the Bozeman for the return journey and during that time Archer learned a wealth of information concerning local politics and the state of the local sector of this part of the galaxy. It was an interesting place.
"This is Babylon Five to Evanston. Welcome back on a job well done. Laberra control has cleared a docking area for you. Please proceed to Laberra."
"Good to be back. We've brought company."
USS Bozeman, welcome home. Please follow the Evanston to Star station Laberra. Switching to Laberra traffic control. They will guide you in."
"Thank you, Babylon Five."
"You're welcomed. Looking forward to meeting you in person. Colonel Griffin, out."
Lieutenant Sato had an open mike, allowing the entire crew of the Bozeman to listen in. She was specifically targeting BabCom traffic control.
Archer and the rest of the crew were watching the stunning amount of traffic situated near the huge five mile-long rotating space station. Both ships cruised past the Babylon station and clearing it Laberra came into view on the screen. It was some four hundred kilometers distant close enough to defend the impressively defensive Babylon station.
"Captain Drake to captain Archer."
"This is Archer. We're following you to Laberra whenever you slow down that monster you're driving."
There was a small grunt of amusement. "We don't have all of your fancy inertia dampener doohickeys so we do it the old-fashioned way, pure power. Enjoying the view?"
"Yes. I haven't seen anything like it. Traffic is somewhat heavy around here," Jonathan said somewhat dryly. "We're having trouble counting the number of different type of ships on station."
"Traffic as increased somewhat since I left a week ago. I just wanted to point out to you those two giant blue fish ships over there. Those are Minbari, the same ones I told you about."
"The ones Earth Alliance went to war with," he said.
"The same ones," he confirmed. "Avoid them if you can. They're touchy when it comes to folks with better technology than theirs. But what I wanted you to see were those saucer ships over there next to them."
"We see them. The battleship grey models as opposed to the lighter colored ones."
"Yes. Those are ship designs knockoffs from the United Planets cruiser that was displaced at the same time you people were. They're small but tough. I just wanted to mention them because like you, they have a like-minded design mentality. Apparently, dimensionally displaced Humans have a thing for saucers."
"What can I say?" was his amused retort. "It's a nice design."
Drake's voice turned serious. "Be aware that you're upsetting the locals. They've never seen Fed ship damaged like yours before. Bad for morale, especially now. Thought you'd like to know."
"We'll try to innocuous as possible."
"Good luck with that. We're diverting to Laberra dry Dock two. See you onboard, Drake out."
The Evanston began to change vectors towards the Laberra one thousand klicks from the Babylon station. All of the crew of the Bozeman drank it in.
"Looks like one of our standard stations," said Ensign Argrum, the Andorian sensor officer and one of the original surviving crew members of the starship. "One of the smaller ones. There are some modifications, but not that much different
"They're still building," observed Commander T'Pol. "Apparently they are enlarging the station."
"Are those weapons systems?" asked Commander Tucker asked. "They sure look like it to me."
"To me, too," said Jonathan, "a lot of them if I'm seeing this right."
"Will you look at that!" Reed said.
"Err, which one?" asked Tucker.
"Both of them," the tactical officer said. "Look at the size of them. And I thought this ship was big."
"It's bigger than the Excelsior-class," stated Argrum, impressed by what he was seeing. It appeared a bit top-heavy in the saucer section, but he made allowances. "That was the largest craft that we had built in my time."
"Is anyone looking at the one they're building in that dock over there," asked Hoshi pointing to the left of the screen. "It's smaller, but I think she is beautiful," she said of the Intrepid class ship.
"Nice lines," Trip commented. "I can see the family pattern. Love to get a look at her engine room." He shook his head, half in dismay, half-excitedly. "I don't think we'd understand half the systems over there, though."
"No doubt, it's back to school again," the captain said.
"Sir, Laberra is contacting us."
"Put them onscreen."
"Greetings, Captain," the Vulcan traffic officer said. Noticing T'Pol, the officer gave her a barely perceptible nod, which the commander returned. "Coordinates are being transmitted to docking bay three."
"Acknowledged Laberra control. See you in a few moments. Bozeman out."
As damaged as the Federation vessel was, it accelerated smoothly, literally leaving the Evanston in its wake as that ship continued to decelerate as it lumbered towards the Federation dry dock two. It was time for the ship's upgrade.
Archer didn't know it, but Captain Drake looked on with envy as the Bozeman slowed down moments later and stopped perfectly next to docking bay three like a driver parking an automobile. It would take the Evanston almost another hour to meticulously maneuver its way into the dry dock.
Of course, the Bozeman crew didn't hear the soft cursing coming from the captain of the Evanston either…
Charles Vincent, the elected President of Proxima colony sat in the waiting area for his appointment to see Senator Peterman. The two men were not friends by any stretch of the imagination and the fact that the senator was several minutes late for the meeting didn't help to improve his attitude. However as irritable as he was, Charles was a patient man and when he saw the group that interfered with his time with the senator, several things became clear. As the group of CEOs and executives left, he and the head of Pro Zeta locked eyes.
"Mr. President," Alecia said. Her voice was ice cold.
"Mrs. Phillips," he acknowledged as the group swept past. His colony had cost her company money. They were still angry even more so since Proxima wouldn't share their technology with them.
"So what?" he muttered softly.
There was little lost between the heads of the corporations and Proxima. When Proxima declared their independence, not only was Earthforce property removed but also the corporations that Proxima once depended on for their consumables, medical supplies and equipment and other materials necessary for the survival of the Proxima colony. Being one of the largest established colonies in Earth Alliance outside of the Sol system, all three of the corporations had taken significant hits in their financial markets. The split with those organizations had been as tense as with Earth Alliance. Several major corporations packed up and left fully expecting to come crawling back.
Not all of the corporations left. One of them, Synthadyne, a small nutrient-based supplier, stayed. That turned out to be the best decision the CEO and stock holders ever made. Now called Proxima Synthtec, the company had grown tremendously, with sales and revenues being made not only on Proxima but, Narn and the home worlds of the Drazi and the Brakiri and they were looking to expand in ways the threatened the ousted corporations to their financial cores.
Now with its new allies, Proxima was a potential competitor, a threat that none of the other companies wanted or needed. All of them would gladly slit their mother's throat for a competitive edge. One of those corporations tried to kidnap Robby while it was visiting Babylon Five. It wasn't IPX as previously assumed by most people. Yes, IPX and Earth Alliance desperately wanted the robot but they weren't the ones that had financed the operation as his secret service discovered.
The President's smile was grim. They had underestimated Proxima and their allies believing that the union would fail. Those assumptions didn't pan out, he thought as he and his aide was allowed entry to Senator Peterman's suite.
The pleasantries again lasted only for a few moments.
"First of all, again, on behalf of Proxima and our allies you have our most heartfelt condolences and sympathies. Despite our political differences, we would not have wanted anything like this to happen to our mother planet."
"I'm glad to hear this coming from Proxima," the Senator told him. What was said was the correct thing to say but Charles could still hear the lingering hostility in the senator's voice.
"Did you lose anyone?" he hesitantly asked.
"My family was based on the east coast of North America in the Boston area. They're safe and out of the states now, but I lost a lot family in the Midwestern sector," he answered.
"I am truly sorry to hear that and I am sorry about your loss. We would have never wanted Earth to experience those things that happened to us when the Centauri bombed us. James, despite our political differences, I am here to offer Earth Alliance our help," Vincent said. "As a gesture of good will, we will allow Earthforce full access to the space docks left in our system and Earthforce ships can reenter our systems through several corridors that we have established for civilian and Earthforce military use. In addition, you will be allowed full unrestricted access to the Proxima Two Beta jump gate. I would have spoken to Levy about this however she's is busy with the Feds and Babylon Five officials in a closed meeting. In exactly two hours and thirty minutes, I will attend that meeting and offer the full services of the Proxima Union for this upcoming war. When that meeting is over I expect our small star navy to assist Earth Alliance in securing and protecting your space dock and the star system in general."
"I appreciate you coming to inform us but you could have told President Levy this yourself."
"Yes, that's true," he admitted. "But I needed to speak to you first. We have a proposal for you," and with this said, the aide pulled out a set of documents for his briefcase. "I couldn't help but notice the Gamma Orion Syndicate's gang of three leaving your office," he smirked. "I can imagine what they wanted." There was a comfortable silence as Peterman waited for the President to continue. "To smooth the way between the EA and the Proxima Union, we're making this proposal. In the light of certain technologies now on my planet, we can offer you supplies, including food medical supplies, parts equipment and textiles sufficient to help supply Earth with many of her needs. I'm sure that you've heard of our technological gains."
"Everyone has." He couldn't smother the hint of envy that was evident in his voice. "Proxima has become a jewel crown of Humanity almost overnight. I've heard about your technologies that you wouldn't share."
"You mean wouldn't give to Earth Alliance, don't you?" countered Vincent. He waved it off. "For now our technologies are ours. We don't owe you anything. But understand that this may not be as much of a sore point as you may imagine. When we acquired the technologies, the cultural impact on our colony was significant. But we were in the throes of massive reconstruction and we adjusted, and we're still adjusting. I believe that Earth would have suffered even greater upheaval if it gotten this technology. Certainly the gang of three not to mention the rest would have stripped it dry and the only profits anybody would have seen would have gone into their coffers. But all of this is mote. Earth is in a critical state right now. My proposal is simply this. We have synthesizer technology that while isn't as fast as Federation replication, is just as good. With it, we can create food and supplies in any shape, texture and flavor in massive quantities quickly and easily."
"Are you saying that you would do this for us?"
"Yes that's exactly what I'm saying Senator. We can set up our synthesizer units on Earth and start turning our significant quantities of anything you want within a day. This includes fresh water, base materials, metals, plastics, just about anything. If you will supply large enough facilities we can start supplying these materials on Earth. We have our own fusion generators to supply the energy for the synthesizers so power coming from your power systems won't be necessary." Half glaringly he added, "those systems of course are protected and any outside interference or unauthorized tampering will cause the system to melt down and disintegrate and I mean that literally. There will be nothing left to examine. However with it we can avoid mass starvation and thirst."
Peterman had to sit down. "How many systems would you want to place on Earth?
"Twenty six of our factory systems will supply enough to feed just about any region on Earth that needs what we offer. The units are not huge and if necessary they are self replicating. But as you can see this comes with several concerns. Food, textile and other industries will suffer if this technology is introduced to Earth in a haphazard way. Eventually Earth farmers will not have a need to grow food to feed the masses unless they choose to. Construction and related supplies and demand would fundamentally change the way you look at everything and that's just the tip of the mountain. The Narn are adjusting to it and the Drazi are slowly implementing synthesizers and some of the Klingon technology into their society. The Brakiri are watching carefully and taking a wait and see attitude but that won't last long. That's why for now, we will only loan you this technology. Granted Earth is in the midst of the greatest upheaval it's ever seen. We don't want to make it any worse than it is already, but there may not be any choice in the matter. Like you, I do have faith in Humanity weathering this crisis."
"Mister President, how much are we talking about?" there he'd said it and he assumed that the Gamma Orion syndicate's, as the President so quaintly named them, quote would pale in comparison.
Vincent saw that behind the excitement, behind the potential, the senator was cautiously waiting for the other shoe to drop. "The price is this. Earth Alliance formally acknowledges the Proxima-Narn-Klingon-Drazi-Brakiri Union, acknowledges Proxima as an independent state of that union and signs mutual defense pact with us, similar to the one the EA has signed with the Federation. This is in all our best interests and we will start sharing some of our technology with you immediately. For example, the fusion generators we will sale to you at three thousand credits each. You couldn't buy standard transport auto for that price. Each home could have its own personal energy supply. From there we will see how it goes." He smiled. "I see the wheels turning. You're becoming aware of the problems here. But it can work.
"Senator, if you respect us, we will respect you. I believe that is will be in the best interests for Earth as well as us. This war is going to tax everyone and we need to come together. We can't afford to lose Earth and its resources. You need us and our resources and together we will survive. We will also upgrade some of your smaller ships at the dry dock using your specs-if you wish. That's my proposal to Earth Alliance. Are you interested and Earth Alliance interested in this proposal?"
"I will send the proposal to Levy and she will forward it to Luchenko along with Pro Zeta's. I can make no promises but, I believe that between the two of you, your proposal will carry more weight in the eyes of Earth Alliance." The senator paused quietly contemplating everything that had happened.
"Call me Frank," he corrected. "This could change everything," he whispered. "Our whole society would be affected."
"Humans stretch out, we destroy and we build, too. Maybe this just what we need, something to affect us get us moving along."
"I admit it is – disconcerting," he said searching for the right word.
"Yes, it is. Moving forward in the darkness searching for light always is."
"Mr. President would you care for a drink?"
He smirked. "I guess that I can tolerate one in the spirit of cooperation." Peterman made sure that the senator saw the cold calculations in his eyes as he asked the question, "what are you offering?"
With the umbilical and docking clamps safely attached to the Bozeman, it was time. The pressure doors opened and the crew began their journey to the first place other than their ship for the first time in what felt like almost three years. Compared to the NX Enterprise, the Bozeman made the crew feel like as if they had all the freedom of the world. It was an illusion of course but initially it had helped immensely. A year later it felt cramped. Now it was over and a new adventure was about to begin.
. A few crew-members that had been injured during the initial 'incident' had to be placed in sickbay via transporter. The Bozeman's medical technology was beyond anything that Dr Phlox had imagined when he first boarded her, but there was still only so much he could do given that he was now the chief medical officer of two surviving nurses and one medical technician that had survived the collision. Much of the equipment was along with the chief medical officer and the other two doctors on staff. Much of what he learned in those first hectic days had saved the lives of more than a dozen crew members, however for some of the critically injured the damage had already been done. At Laberra, all of that could change for them and he was eager to make sure his patients were taken care of. His talks with Doctor Crusher and her staff had been encouraging. Again the technology was far more advanced than even what was found on the Bozeman and he wanted to see it and learn more, much more about it.
Captain Jonathan Archer stepped over the threshold, his journey for now complete. There was a sense of satisfaction, mixed with a kind of definable joy of a job well done. He had gotten his crew to safe harbor. True, it was very likely that this Earth and surrounding inhabited worlds were most likely in just as much danger as his Earth had been, but this time he and his ship wasn't alone. He had to smile at that thought as the irony struck him full force. He and his crew were surrounded by fellow who were just as stranded as he and his people were. Still however they were stranded together with support.
The first thing that caught his attention was the sheer size of the station. It was smaller than the Earth Alliance station, but he didn't really notice the comparison. What he had noticed were all of the aliens he was familiar with. Andorians, Vulcans, a few Tellerites, they were familiar. His eyes wavered for a second as he spotted a small group of almost familiar yet different-appearing species.
"Are they Klingon?" asked Tripp who'd seen them as well. "I don't think so," he said answering his own question.
"I don't think so, either," Archer stated.
"I believe they're Efrosians," T'Pol clarified. "They may share similar physical characteristics; however they are a separate species and are not as aggressive as the Klingon."
"Have the Vulcans ever encountered them in our past?"
"Yes," she confirmed. "First Contact was uneventful. Despite their superficial appearance to Klingon, they are not the same. There are quite a few differences to be noticed if you continue to observe them."
"Well," Archer said to the bridge crew, "let's get this started."
"Right behind you," said Trip.
Despite the huge number of people in the bay, three prominent figures stood out from the crowd. Two were in uniforms almost but not quite identical to those the Enterprise crew wore. The third person was in a dark burgundy uniform, sporting a more severe military cut and demeanor.
"Captain Picard, I presume," asked Archer as he shook the man's hand.
The captain broke into a smile as he nodded in the affirmative. "Captain Jonathan Archer. It is good to have you onboard Star base Laberra." He pointed to the woman next to him. This is Captain Rachael Garrett ship's captain of the USS Ambassador formally known as the Enterprise-C." He nodded knowingly at Archer's raised eyebrows. "To my right is Captain Benjamin Sisko, Strike Commander of the Sixteenth armored MACO division."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Captain," said Captain Sisko. There was a gleam in his eye. "You know that you are considered an icon, one of the greatest if not the greatest explorer of the 22nd century." Jonathan blushed. "I read the history," he said. "That was someone else. I didn't get chance to do what that Archer had done. Another time and another place."
'Another time and place. Temporal mechanics. The technology locked on Deck Five, Section Four, Room Three-A. The technology there from another time and universe, would it be useful here? The imaging alone and the technology behind it could easily help us survive here. The question is, should I reveal it to these people?' "It seems that I won't be able to repeat that here."
"None of us will," Rachael said. "Things have changed so much and some of the rules we live by have to be changed if we're to survive."
"You're referring to the Prime Directive?" She nodded as did Picard. "When I started exploring, I had no concept of that, but it became clear that there had to be some guidelines set with our interactions with other species."
"It changed from guidelines to rules, something that needs to be readjusted."
The dinner was majestic but subdued. With the loss on Earth and the sacrifices of Earthforce and the Feds had put a damper on the affair. Emotions were still raw, the wounds still open.
"Where did it go so wrong?" asked Trip.
Picard was the one who answered. "That question has been on that we've pondered for a long time. It is my belief that we treasured our ideals so much that we forgot the tenants on which the Federation was founded."
Captain Archer, it was founded for mutual economics 'and' defense," Garret said. "That was the core of your agreement with the Vulcans, Andorians and Tellerites during that Romulan incursion. The defense portion was downgraded and slowly becoming ignored as exploration began to take its place."
Picard continued. "In our expansion and desires to explore and believe in the best the universe had to offer. We were somewhat arrogant in our civilized attitudes. We forgot that a strong defense was needed to preserve our way of life. When we went to war with the Klingons, we found out that we weren't ready. Our ships hadn't the firepower and our leadership was 'lacking experience' with real combat situations. By the time we learned from our errors and improved, it made a difference but it was too little and too late. From that point on, time was our enemy. It was that innocence that hurt us the most. We had forgotten that the galaxy was a bigger and more dangerous place than we imagined."
"We're all victims of a temporal war," added Sisko. "We've come together as a unit but there are some differences. You've been briefed our time line and the war with the Klingon Empire. Captain Garret was pulled into our time line and we all were pulled here. Captain Adam's ship was pulled here, into this universe as were you. There is some compelling evidence that these acts were done by design and we are stuck here. Our ships and our bodies have changed quantum signatures to match the native signature here. For better or worse, this is our home now."
"Captain Archer, we have no authority over you, your crew or your ship, Picard said. "However we would like for you to join us," said Picard.
Archer had been expecting this and frankly he was pleased that they weren't trying to draft him into this. He didn't know these people well enough. At the same time, there was a kinship here, as sense of history past and present that he understood perhaps better than they did. Deck Five, Section Four, Room Three-A, history of the Federation. Captains Picard, Sisko, Garret. Captain William Riker, now deceased. Historical analysis, Known temporal incursions by said individuals.
He and T'Pol had spent long hours in that room ever since Laberra had contacted them. The amount of information was staggering. They had discovered massive amounts of information and were still going over the data. One thing was that they hadn't any references to this particular universe which was unknown even in the twenty-ninth century, which was disturbing because it implied that this history was being written from one microsecond to the next. Maybe an update would have covered it but, self updates wouldn't appear here, not in this universe. What had been detailed were the aliens called the Yonji Sinhindrea and their wars with the United Galactic Federation in his home universe. If even a small portion of that happened here…
"Thank you, captain, for making such an offer. But I'm not sure what I can my ship could do. Even if the ship was in top form, its primitive compared any of the ships you have here. My people would be on a steep learning curve."
"Captain Archer, every ship will help, but it's the people that are our most valuable commodity," Sisko told him. "You and your people are core Federation. You or should I say the future you would have become the Federation's first president. That won't happen now, not the way it did in our own universe but your potential is there."
"I would have to speak to my crew but if I were to personally say yes, what would I do?"
"You would become the ranking officer of Laberra and the liaison between Earth Alliance and the Federation."
"Because there is little history between you and Earth Alliance. We believe you would help to create a smoother transition than any of us. Ambassador Guinan will remain as our ambassador. But you will become our link between our two governments if you agree."
"The choice is yours, Captain Archer," Rachael told him.
"I'll have to think about this," he said, "talk to my crew."
"Yes," Sisko said. "We understand perfectly how you feel."
"Jonathan smiled as did they all and the festivities continued. He already had his answer, but he'd talk to the crew so that they could make their feelings known. They hadn't signed on for this. They hadn't even been able to say goodbye to their families and friends. Now they were embroiled in another war, one that would determine the fate of this galaxy.
T'Pol looked at him knowingly.
July 25, 2263
Personal log: Susan Ivanova, Commander, Executive officer Babylon Five: When I accepted this job, I had no idea as to what I was getting into. To sum up everything that has happened in the last year would take me another year. It's been insane and the year is only half over. The 'grand conference', and that's what I'm calling it no matter what anyone else says, has concluded with more than a dozen races signing treaties and agreements with each other. Earth Alliance and the Federation camp started it all. Some of the legislature on Earth were hesitant saying that they were getting a raw deal, but were quickly shouted down by the young mavericks whose who have suddenly been thrust into the political limelight. It's true that Earth Alliance won't be getting everything they want, however what they are getting is far more than most people expected. The Feds will get some peace and quiet when it comes to Earth Alliance, about time, too.
Half the races panicked and tried to flee when a group of Soul Hunters arrive. One of them entered Babylon Five and gave Earth Alliance one hundred of their jump drives as they promised and some invaluable Intel on the Sins. Many of the Soul hunters are being drawn to distant systems by the scent of death and what they've seen has appalled even them. All but one of them left as soon as they delivered their packages. For some reason he and Captain Lockley have almost adapted each other. Don't ask me, I have no idea why but they seem to enjoy each other's company like Corwin and Knona. Wait, I didn't mean it that way. That should be amended. It's different. They have a – an understanding of sorts. The mind sees what it needs to see. The soul sees what the soul sees. At least that's what she said when I asked her. Sounds profound. I don't know what it means. Maybe I'll understand later.
The Proxima Union also signed agreements with both Earth Alliance and the Feds and have already started providing their synthesizer units on Earth. I've tried some of their products and they are as good as the replicators of the Feds. I hope that this works out. There's a love hate relationship with my own personal unit from the Feds. I love the way it works, hate the way it forces me to exercise. The units only took a day to install on Earth. Those Proxima saucer ships are something else. Their speed in equal to or better than the standard warp drives but as with everything they have their limitations. But it's great to see another Human civilization develop technologies that are unique, and not stifled by the interference of the Vorlons.
Pro Zeta, Pharasol, and SynthaCorp, just to name a few of the super corporations are absolutely livid. They all see the writing on the wall and are going over backwards to keep Proxima Synthtec from bankrupting them in the future. Already there have been lawsuits filed concerning the quality of the Proxima products saying that there hasn't been enough testing, or quality control. On fact they're suing the Feds for exactly the same thing. The Unitron Fusion LTD are suing both parties, citing unfair competition, trying to stop Earthforce from buying the water-fusion generators for their ships and weapons systems that we so desperately need. The stupidity of these people makes me want to throw up. All the money and power in the world won't keep the Sins from killing everybody. It's a good thing is that the Feds could care less right about now and Earth Alliance has the same attitude.
I'll admit they do have some legitimate qualms although the Feds have had this technology in one form or another development for more than eighty years; however the EA is most certainly going ahead with both Fed and United Planets technology.
Speaking of which, the Feds and UP technologies are both so similar despite their differences. If I didn't know better, I could easily believe that one is just an earlier version of the other. That is something that I will look into when, if I ever have the time. Amazingly, the Narn and Klingons have signed a separate non-aggression agreement with the Centauri which give an idea as to how seriously everyone is taking this. I still can't believe what the Centauri did in their fight against the Sinhindrea fleet that attacked their system. It was cold and ruthless and I approve of everything they did. They survived, but the overall situation is worse. The Sins have turned their eyes towards Minbar. Even the Non-Aligned worlds have sat up and taken notice. There's still squabbling but they are really scared and they've been talking to each other like never before. No one wants Minbar to fall. We all know what happens if they do, so a plan has been devised and sent to the Grey council. Shai Alyts Aalann and Shaka were heavily involved in planning the liberation project and they've presented to the Grey Council. It is radical and we don't know if the Minbari will accept the proposal, However they have to, because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. Sheridan and Picard haven't mentioned it to me directly but I know what they must be thinking. The Feds, Klingons, and I suspect the Proximans can do it if they have to. I pray it doesn't come to that. Now I have some idea how the First Ones felt when they destroyed entire planets in their war.
Again, I've been witness to the evolution of Babylon Five from a simple station trying to keep from being blown up at any given moment to achieving the purpose it was created for. Now it has become something new yet again. It is becoming core of a new alliance, a symbol not only of peace but now of resistance, a bastion of defense and protection, a rallying point where neighbors are coming together to unite against an enemy that frightened the Vorlons and Shadows enough so that they ran. The Fed station is growing. They're continuing to build it up at a rapid pace; and something's happening with the Great Machine as well. Draal and Lieutenant Crusher are coming up with something, some type of defense station. Draal started the project months ago according to Zathras, or Zathrās, whoever. I don't even want to think about what they are building but I'm glad it's on our side.
Babylon Five is no longer a station but something else. I'm starting to think of it as the Babylon Complex, the core unit of something that I could have never imagined four years ago. As they say, we live in interesting times and I'm sure that the Sinhindrea are going to be as pissed as we already are when we start kicking their butts. This is Susan Ivanova, Commander, Executive officer, Babylon Five.
Finally Allies in Blood is over. It will be continued but first A Thin Veneer is next on my list of things to do. I thank you all for your patience. Questions, comments and corrections etc are welcomed. I want to thank Ed, Ash, and Ren, specifically for all of the advise and help they've given me.
You've noticed that the Centauri section wasnt complete. That's because I am saving that for the next story which Ren has already written concerning the Sinhindrea attack and redirection to Minbar. As you can see I've introduced several new things including the new technology Earth Alliance has been scheming, stealing and begging for. Now that they have it, be careful what you ask for...
Thanks again everyone for reading.