Title: The Thin Grey Line: Breaking the Oath (6/6)

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. I would also like to thank Drake the Archr for his outstanding beta work and fact-finding for this story.

It was the eve of the Third Age of mankind, after the Great Oath was broken. It was the year we repaid our debt.

The Sentinels would stand with the humans once more, and victory seemed possible now, where before there was only the certainty of destruction. One ship would lead the charge to defend the humans.

One mighty flagship, never alone, even in the darkest night.

It is the Earth year 2247. The name of the ship is Pioneer.

G'Kar brooded. He was aboard G'Lan, a G'Quan-class heavy cruiser, the only ship he had been able to acquire, despite calling in every favor owed him. They were currently en route to the humans' home star system. The crew was a skeleton crew made up of volunteers who knew what they were going into: almost certain death.

He had not, despite his best efforts, been able to convince the rest of the Kha'Ri to bring the full might of the Narn Regime in on the humans' side, but they were prepared to let him have one ship. They probably intended to declare him rogue if the Minbari won, while taking advantage of his presence if the humans won. His failure at arranging a peace negotiation between the humans and the Minbari still bothered him, and a part of him was afraid that all his talk of earning the humans' aid against the Centauri was merely a smokescreen... that he was dooming this ship and her crew for the sake of a guilty conscience and not for the sake of Narn.

Officially, they were carrying a shipment of weapons sold to the humans and were to offer to help transport civilians away from Earth. Unofficially, they were there to lend one more ship and a few more guns to the humans' struggle for survival.

"Sir, we have a sensor contact coming in low on our starboard side."

"What?" he turned in surprise. "Can we identify it? Is it Minbari?"

"It's a Drazi Sunhawk, sir."

"The Drazi?" G'Kar blinked. "Why would they be heading for Earth? Contact them."

"This is Drokan, captain of the private yacht Flameseeker," came the deep rumbling voice of the Drazi captain.

"Private yacht"? G'Kar thought, his brow shooting for the ceiling. That must be the most blatant lie I've ever heard told.

How anyone could calmly claim a 350-meter-long cruiser was a "private yacht" was beyond G'Kar. It certainly took courage to make such a ludicrous claim. Then again, courage was one thing the Drazi were known for having little shortage of.

It seemed someone else had chosen to skirt treason in order to do what was right.

"This is G'Kar, aboard the, ah, Narn Regime armed freight ship G'Lan. Might I invite you aboard, Captain Drokan? I believe we have... much in common."

"All hands, prepare for fold," Sheridan said quietly, glancing out the bridge viewports to the blue sphere that he was fighting to protect. As soon as they'd arrived, they'd been challenged, and the president herself had called him on Gold Channel, informing him of the situation at Cyrus III. "Have all the Sentinel ships maintain position within the fold sphere. Navigation, plot a fold to the Cyrus system."

"Bridge, Engineering," came Cmdr. Leeds's voice; Sheridan could hear the fold drive powering up over the comm. "Sir, I thought Doctor Nichols made it clear we'd fry the fold drive if we folded this quickly."

"She did, Commander," he replied. "But the president has just informed me that a massive Minbari fleet has a third of EarthForce tied up at Cyrus III, and the prospects there don't look good. That's a day and a half, two days away by hyperspace at best."

"Understood, Captain."

"All ships are maintaining position."

"Commence fold."

When the Sentinel fleet arrived, it threw the Minbari fleet into confusion.

During Col. Edward's attempted coup d'etat, Pioneer's forward twin reflex cannons had been heavily damaged and replaced by a pair of synchro cannons. They had not actually been removed, however, and had in fact been repaired to operational capacity. During the following Haydonite War, Admiral Hunter had ordered power to the synchro cannons manually disengaged and reactivated the long-dormant reflex cannons, tearing the ship's bow apart. Repairs had been made, and the synchro cannons had never been reinstituted, even after they had found a counter to the disruptor wave. That was the incarnation of Pioneer that had been waiting for the Pegasus mission in the cache.

Massive twin beams of pure destruction slashed a deadly swathe through the Minbari fleet, destroying dozens and damaging hundreds of Minbari ships with a single volley.

A split-second later, the rest of the Sentinel fleet added their own voices to the chorus of devastation. Karbarran mass drivers belched fractional-cee transuranic sabot shells, and Tirolian particle beams lanced out in a deadly storm of fire. Garudan mindbeams channeled pure psionic power into deadly lances of energy that slashed the Minbari formation, even as the Spherian guns spat crystalline shards that struck the Minbari ships, then morphed and attacked with primitive minds of their own.

And here and there, a Perytonian ship would dart around, occasionally lashing out with a single purple beam that would slice through Minbari armor like a hot knife through butter.

Captain K'Don of the SAS Hayes felt his ship shudder under another impact and resisted the urge to unleash a savage laugh. His people may have been builders, but this was where he belonged, in the heat of battle.

"We've lost pressure from Layers One and Two, Bands Nine through Sixteen, Sectors Three through Five!"

"Casualties?" he demanded.


"Return fire!" he roared. "Maximum barrage! All secondary weapons, fire at will!"

"We have three Minbari cruisers approaching, sixty degrees relative, ten degrees below the plane!" reported Inze.

"Helm, hard to starboard, sixty degrees, down plane ten degrees! Guns, ready the mass drivers for salvo fire!"

As the gun cruiser spun like a top, it briefly lined up its bow with the lead Minbari war cruiser and spat out two salvos of two tiny, transuranic sabot shells at a significant fraction of light speed, penetrating the Minbari ship with ease and emerging out the other side to smash into the war cruiser behind it.

Shai Alyt Branmer watched in amazement as the attack fell apart within minutes. After the two human ships had fled, the battle had taken a turn for the better. Just before they left, the humans seemed to have difficulty targeting the Minbari ships once more, and while their fighters were no easier to detect, the capital ship battle had swung back heavily in the Minbari's favor.

And then these new ships arrived. There were no jump points. Just a sphere of light like the one that had replaced that one human ship with the other, only much larger. And the ships that appeared were unfamiliar and disparate, obviously a coalition of some sort that had chosen to aid the humans.

He glanced down as the penultimate Shargoti crumbled, punctured through and through by the new arrivals' weapons. Only one Shargoti remained, and that was his flagship.

No, they would not win this battle.

"All ships," he murmured regretfully. "Retreat."

Sineval watched gloatingly the human ship drifted listlessly, shedding lifepods in all directions. A lucky shot had touched off one of Kratos's fighter fuel bays, breaking her back, and the mighty dreadnought writhed, dying, some of her weapons still firing in a lethal death spasm as the most loyal, the most foolhardy gunners remained at their posts until the bitter end.

And then the order to retreat came.

President Levy looked up in shock, "They attacked Sinzar?"

"Yes, ma'am," Admiral Alexander nodded. "Refugees just came through the jump gate. They just wiped it out and kept moving. They've probably already hit Proxima and are on their way to Earth as we speak. The Cyrus assault was a diversion. They'll likely be here within hours."

"How many ships?" she asked.

"It's unclear," he said, "but judging from reports, I'd say there's maybe two, three hundred war cruisers, plus three of the new big ships, all with their accompanying fighters. No indication of any other support ships."

"What do we have in system? And what can we bring in in time?"

"Not enough," Alexander shook his head. "Maybe five thousand starfuries, a hundred cruisers, and fifty dreadnoughts, and only a handful are refits. We do have one SuperNova, though, EAS Macross, but that's it."

"The Grand Cannon?" she asked, looking over at General Lefcourt hopefully.

"Not even close to operational," Lefcourt replied, shaking his head. He heaved a sigh. "And even if it were, it would only cover a fraction of the planet."

"A fraction still would have been better than none," she said quietly. She turned to the admiral, "Bring them in, Hamish. Bring them all in. If we can hold them off long enough, maybe the Cyrus task force can come save us all."

Drokan was an old Drazi. He remembered the Dilgar War, and he remembered what had happened to his people when the Dilgar came. More than that, he had been an aide to the Drazi Freehold's ambassador to the League of Non-Aligned Worlds at the time, and he had witnessed how the League had fallen apart when they had needed to unite.

He was seeing the same self-serving reactions from both the leaders of his own world and the rest of the League, now that the Minbari marched on the humans. Oh, certainly, they argued that it was different this time.

"The Minbari are not like the Dilgar," they had said. "They are a peaceful people," they had said. "It was the humans who had started the war," they had said.

But the humans had also attempted to make reparations. They had tried to turn over the human who had started it. They had repeatedly offered an unconditional surrender.

And the Minbari did not listen. The humans may have started the war, but it was the Minbari who were continuing it. Just as they had against the Garmak six hundred and fifty Drazi years ago, though at least they hadn't intended to exterminate the Garmak then. They were genocidal maniacs, just like the Dilgar were.

And if they could be driven to such madness once, then they could be driven to it again. And when that happened, who would feel their unstoppable wrath then? The Narns? The Centauri? The Brakiri?

The Drazi?

And if the pattern held true, then the fate of their next victims would be even worse. First, the Garmak, their military crushed, left helpless against the Centauri. Now, the humans, to be exterminated as a species, wiped out until they are nothing but a memory. Then... what next? It was an escalation that could only lead to a level of horror that would rival the Dilgar.

No, the Minbari had to be stopped now, and if the only way to get his people to unite with the humans was to drag them into the war, kicking and screaming, then he would do it.

Besides, his people owed the humans, and the time to repay that debt was now.

There were others who agreed with him, though perhaps not quite understanding the level of thought he had put into it. It was they who now crewed Flameseeker. The other Drazi in the crew did not understand what Drokan did, how stopping the Minbari was best for all Drazi and all civilized people, but they did understand right from wrong, honor from dishonor, courage from cowardice.

There was a saying: "If you cannot do something smart, then do something right."

Only about half the crew was actually Drazi. The rest were about evenly divided between Balosians, Brakiri, and Markab, with a handful of Hyach and even Abbai filling the gaps. The Balosians were already risking the Minbari's wrath by accepting human refugees, and Drokan could not, in good conscience, ask them to risk more, but they had caught wind of his suicidal plan and insisted; had he not been short on crew, he would have refused. These others understood what Drokan did, and while they all feared going the way of the Garmak, stripped of their defenses and at the mercy of their neighbors, they also knew why they were doing this... why they must do this.

It was apparent to Drokan that the Narn, G'Kar, felt the same way, and so it was that they had devised a plan by which they would approach the humans and offer their aid... and battle plans should they arrive too late for words.

"His name is Tirk," he overheard one of his crewmembers -- who was it? Ah, yes, Tuzak -- exclaim proudly. Tuzak was an unusually large Drazi. Shipboard duty did not suit him, really, but he had a love for space that would not be denied.

"That's not a Drazi name, is it?" frowned Flameseeker's executive officer, a Brakiri woman named Resha Ak-Habil who had once hunted raiders on one of her corporation's Avioki-class cruisers, which gave her valuable combat experience. Her father had died on board the dreadnought Corumai during the Dilgar War.

"It isn't," Jumar interjected. "His wife named the boy. It means 'Don't touch me, I'm not having another child after this, ever!'"

Tuzak coughed in embarrassment.

Cmdr. Jeffrey David Sinclair -- he had been promoted for his role in training the EA's small corps of veritech pilots and devising tactics and strategies for them -- sat in the cockpit of his Shadow Alpha. In some ways, the shadow fighters weren't actually as good as starfuries against the Minbari, since their heavy missile payloads were largely ineffective against Minbari stealth, but he had grown comfortable with the durable craft, and he had a few surprises in mind.

He was going to be launching from Macross's hangar bays. The SuperNova-class dreadnought's fighter bays had been built to be flexible, able to accept either veritechs or starfuries, unlike the other ships in the fleet.

The president's voice echoed over his radio. It was being broadcast on all frequencies.

"This is the president. I have just been informed that our mid-range military bases at Sinzar and Proxima III have fallen to the Minbari advance. We have lost contact with Io and must conclude that they too have fallen to an advance force. Our military intelligence believes that the Minbari intend to bypass Mars and hit Earth directly, and the attack may come at any time. Once, we would have surrendered and begged for mercy, and we tried, many times, but now, we understand that the Minbari have none. In order to buy more time for reinforcements to arrive, we ask for the support of every ship capable of fighting to take part in the defense of our home world. Help is coming, but we need to survive until they get here. We will not lie to you. We do not believe many of you who fight will survive. We believe that most of the people who join this battle will never come home. But for every ten minutes we can delay the military advance, our reinforcements are that much closer to home. No greater sacrifice has ever been asked of a people, but I ask you now, to step forward one last time. One last battle to hold the line against the night! May God go with you all."

"The truth points to itself."

Satai Delenn wondered what that meant as the Valen'tha, mobile home for the Grey Council, followed in the wake of Alyt Neroon's advance toward the humans' home planet. Suddenly, a great light flared from ahead, though she could not see what caused it.

While the Valen'tha was too far back for the Grey Council to see what caused the light, the Minbari warriors in the forward elements of the fleet could see it clearly. A great being of light had arrived, bringing with it a fleet of ships, including one massive ship that measured a full four kilometers long.

When the war ended, there would be a great many warriors who would forsake their caste and joined the Religious Caste.

When the ships surged forward to engage the Minbari, unleashing the fury of literally hundreds -- if not thousands -- of weapons, even the most ardent of the Warrior Caste began to have doubts. Within minutes, the van of the Minbari fleet crumbled under fire from weapons that could decimate a continent.

Sinclair wasn't aware of any of this. He had acquitted himself well, even managing to rip one Minbari fighter apart with his veritech's bare hands, but he had lost. His missiles were spent, and his gun pod was a molten lump of slag half a kilometer away. Determined to stop the Minbari at any cost, he brought his fighter around to face the nearest Minbari war cruiser and hit his afterburners.

"A prisoner? Very well. Choose quickly."

Delenn looked around and saw the human fighter heading toward them, accelerating rapidly, apparently intent on ramming them. Kosh's words echoed in her thoughts: "The truth points to itself."

"That one."

G'Kar held a stoic expression as G'Lan was hammered by the Minbari. Their sensors could not detect the Minbari ships, and they were being forced to target them manually, an effort that was almost futile. The smaller and more agile Flameseeker was faring somewhat better.

"Jump points opening! It's the Centauri!"

"Whaaat?!" G'Kar sputtered as he turned to stare at G'Lan's sensor operator, who simply looked back at him, shrugged, then turned back to his console.

"Primus-class battlecruisers... Vorchan-class attack cruisers... it's the Imperial Navy!" He blinked, "They're attacking the Minbari!"

G'Kar digested that and leaned back into his seat. He had a decision to make.

"It... physically... pains me to say this," he ground out through gritted teeth, "but... do not fire on the Centauri."

Destiny is rife with moments of great change, when a single decision could determine the course of billions of lives.

One such moment had just passed.

Captain Diane Phillips clutched her armrest in a white-knuckled grip as another attack broke through Macross's defenses. The SuperNova-class dreadnought was a powerful ship, easily capable of facing a Minbari war cruiser one on one, but they had been caught in the middle of the Minbari formation and were now taking attacks from all sides as the Minbari sought to finish them off before moving against the reinforcements which, moments ago, had arrived in a flash of light like a personal delivery from God.

"Captain, we've got more incoming," her sensor operator reported. "They're attacking the Minbari."

"The Cyrus force?"

"No, ma'am. I'm reading... a Drazi Sunhawk... a Narn heavy cruiser... and two Centauri battlecruisers. They're taking a beating."

Diane frowned. What were they doing here? And why and how in the nine billion names of God were Narns and Centauri working together?!

She shook it off and opened her mouth to order a course change, when suddenly, the Minbari stopped firing.

"Captain," whispered her communications officer. "It's... I don't believe it. The Minbari... they're surrendering."

Diane slumped back into the captain's chair, "Well, I'll be damned. Three miracles in a row. Someone's lookin' out for us."

"This is President Elizabeth Levy of the Earth Alliance. We have been forced to reveal many of our secrets in this war. The Minbari are not the first to threaten the survival of the human species, and I suspect they will not be the last. Five times we have faced extinction at the hands of others, and five times we have survived. As we did before, when we faced the Children of Shadow, while standing in the twilight of oblivion, we have learned who our true friends are. And we will not forget.

"This war began out of a misunderstanding, one that nearly led to the extermination of our race. In the interest of preventing such a catastrophe from happening again -- to anyone -- the Earth Alliance and our allies in the Sentinel Alliance would like to announce the Babylon Project. The Babylon Station will be located in neutral space between several major governments. It will provide a place for us to work out our problems peacefully. It is, we believe, our last, best hope for peace."

"And so, it begins," the redhead murmured as she watched the broadcast of the president's speech.

A young man with unruly greenish-blond hair and reddish-brown eyes walked up behind her and placed an arm across her shoulders, "Thank you, Aunt Ariel."

"I did what I had to, Rick."

Author's Postscript:

Another long chapter, but that finishes up this part of the story.

Credit must go to LightningCount, aka Lord of Misrule, since it was his fanfic, The Dilgar War, that inspired me to come up with Flameseeker and her crew.

By the way, just out of curiousity, who do you imagine speaking each of the monologues that begin each chapter?