Title: The Thin Grey Line: Breaking the Oath (0/?)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.

Rating: Nothing worse than on the shows, except maybe language.

Spoilers: After the end of one and before the beginning of the other.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to other people. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: As the Earth Alliance fights desperately to hold off the Minbari's genocidal rampage, humanity plays a desperate gamble for survival.

Author's Note: Beware the vorpal plot bunny.

Cmdr. John David Sheridan, EarthForce Navy, waited.

He'd been to Earthdome before, but the secrecy behind this meeting was unnerving, especially considering how badly the attempted peace negotiations had gone.

"The president will see you now, Commander."

That, too, was another reason he was anxious. It wasn't every day a commander met with the president of the Earth Alliance, even one who had scored a major victory... not that killing the Black Star had had any actual impact on the war.

He nodded to the aide, "Thank you."

He walked into the office and saluted, but before he could speak, President Elizabeth Levy of the Earth Alliance spoke, "Ah, Captain Sheridan, welcome."

"Commander Sheridan, ma'am," he corrected.

"Not anymore," she said, picking up a small velvet-covered box from her desk and handing it to him. "Congratulations, Captain. Go ahead; put it on."

He accepted the box and opened it, revealing the captain's insignia on it. With a mental shrug, he complied and pinned the insignia on his collar.

He waited again as she wandered over to the window and stared outside. There had to be more to this than that. A mere promotion would hardly be reason enough to require the president's presence... and even if it did, it wouldn't have been so informal.

"For a fifth time, Captain, the human race faces extinction," she said quietly. "The history of our planet is the widest-known and best-kept secret in the galaxy."

"Yes, Madam President," he nodded solemnly. The secret she spoke of was known -- in one form or another -- by practically every human being in the galaxy... but if any non-human had heard it, they weren't saying. After the last time, humanity had risen from the ashes, lessened in some ways, but strengthened in that this time, they did it on their own.

And now all of it was about to be destroyed again.

"What you don't know, Captain, what very few even on Earth know, is that we didn't destroy all our old ships," she said. That struck Sheridan as a surprise. Even with the lead-in... that they would risk breaking the treaty...

"Now, Captain," she said, turning to face him, "I'm asking you -- asking, not ordering -- to break the vow our species made over two hundred years ago."

"But, ma'am," he protested, "if we do that..."

"We have to survive the Minbari before we can start worrying about them, Captain," she pointed out. "We've already got a task force assembled, one hundred thousand of our best and brightest. We have a fleet of the old ships and fighters, hidden in the Pegasus galaxy. We have a ship, one of the old line; she's been in storage on the moon until she was needed, and she's ready to fly. All we need now is a mission commander. Do you accept, Captain?"

Sheridan thought about it. Considering what would happen if the Children of Shadow were still out there...

...was exactly what was happening now, they really didn't have a choice.

He stood at attention, "Yes, Madam President. I accept."

Captain Sheridan resisted the urge to drum his fingers on the arm rest, tap his feet, do something to pass the time and bleed off nervous energy while he waited for the report from Engineering. It was amazing what a difference two hundred years made. The ship was huge, almost as large as an Explorer-class, and the design was amazingly spacious.

Her drives were already up and running by the time Sheridan had arrived, but even so, she still felt deserted and gave off a tomb-like feel whenever he walked her corridors, despite the task force of 100,000 people aboard. She had been the first of her line, originally built as a colony ship, minimally armed but able to defend herself. She had been pressed into service in the last war of that era, though, and had undergone extensive refits before being mothballed as a last-ditch resort.

Now she would truly live up to her name.

If they succeeded and returned in time, she would be an Angel, saving humanity from the brink of extinction.

And if they failed or were too late, she would become an Ark for the task force aboard her... who would be the last of the human race.

"Captain, Engineering," the comm unit built into his arm rest burbled. "Final systems check is complete. We're as ready to launch as we'll ever be."

That was Cmdr. Karen Leeds, his Engineering officer. Her record spoke for itself, but Sheridan had never actually met her before coming aboard. Earthdome had begun recruiting the task force as far back as the disastrous attack on Sh'Lekk'Tha; in twelve seconds, forty EarthForce ships had been annihilated by a mere dozen Minbari war cruisers. While he understood the need, Sheridan had felt a little leery about working with a crew he hadn't gotten a feel for yet, but they were trying.

"Thank you, Engineering," he replied. "Take us out, Lieutenant."

"Aye, Captain," acknowledged Lt. Steven Hunter, helmsman and navigations officer, as he eased the Ark Angel out of the lunar bunker for the first time in over two hundred years.

"Comm, give me ship-wide."

"You have ship-wide," said Specialist Erin Lynn.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Sheridan spoke into the comm in his arm rest, "all of you know why we're here and what's on the line. Each of us was chosen for a reason, even if none of us on this ship know what that reason is. Earthdome has placed its trust in us, so someone there thinks we're damn good at our jobs. We all know what we hope to find on the other end of this trip, but two hundred years is a long time. Whatever we find, whatever happens, I have my faith in you."

"We're in position, Captain."

"Engineering, Bridge," Sheridan said. "Is the fold system ready?"

"Yes, sir. Fold system is operational."

"Commence fold."

On a planet circling a distant star, the Awareness stirred.
Author's Postscript:

Yes, yes, I know. I shouldn't be starting yet another WIP, but notice that I'm broadening my horizons. I don't usually write non-Xander/non-Ranma 'fics.