And the Reviews Come In

Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.



Click.

Whirrr...

Click.

Activation Mode. Self-test in progress.

Video Scan: Operational

Audio Scan: Operational

Video Record: Unavailable

Audio Record: Operational

Facial and Voice Recognition Protocol: Active

Mobility: Disabled. Moderate Damage Detected. Not Self-Repairable.

Location: Internal Sensors indicate Zocalo, Babylon Five Station

Click.

Status: Limited Function. Implement Last Command Protocol. Use Voice Activation to Conserve Limited Power.

Click.

*******************************

Click.

Voice Recognition Positive. Commence Recording, Audio Only.

"That's about it, Commander. If there are any further problems, let me know."

The sound of papers shuffling was heard clearly as Captain Sheridan signed the last of a stack of forms, and handed them to Commander Susan Ivanova.

She took the papers, tapped them against the table top to square the corners, and said, "Yes, sir. By the way..." There was a hesitant sound to her voice, but she continued, asking "Did you see the final show, that '36 Hours on Babylon Five' nonsense?"

"Your prejudices are showing, Commander," said Sheridan sternly. "It was a good effort. Too bad it was disrupted by our Narn and Centauri friends."

Susan's voice was slightly incredulous, "You're kidding, right?"

With a half-laugh, Sheridan replied, "Maybe. I do hate that sort of thing, but it isn't a bad idea to let people back home know what we do out here, drum up some support. It's better than relying on selling souvenirs!"

Her disagreement clear, Susan replied, "Bad timing for a bad idea, in my opinion. Still, did you see it?"

"They sent me a clip with my interview, and I caught the end, with all the usual suspects answering the expected question. 'Is it worth it?'" Sheridan asked the question in stereotypical journalist fashion, his intonation weighted with meaning. He snorted and added, "I wonder what she thought the people who are working here would say? I think the complete version is still recorded for later viewing in my quarters; I just haven't got around to it. Why? Was there more misinformation than usual?" The chair creaked as Sheridan leaned back. There was only a hint of perturbation in his voice. "Is there a problem?"

"No, no. It was okay for what it was. Ended on a high note at least, except for Senator Quantrell." Susan's opinion of the Senator's contribution was evident. "Everyone did fine, well, except for Ambassador Delenn of course. That was pretty awful."

"Why?" Sheridan asked, surprised. "What happened?"

Susan said disapprovingly, "I just think it must have been embarrassing for her. To break down like that on camera. It certainly wasn't pleasant to watch, and the ISN woman seemed to have it in for her. Leftover grudge from the war, I guess."

There was a moment's silence, then Sheridan asked tensely, "What do you mean, broke down? And what in the world did the reporter ask her to get that kind of reaction?"

Shifting in her chair uncomfortably, Susan answered, "Reaction back on Earth to her transformation. The reporter made it sound as if people were upset. Honestly, I can't imagine it even made the news back home. We're not exactly front page material out here."

"I wonder," Sheridan replied thoughtfully. "Still, Delenn's an experienced diplomat; even if she stumbled a bit over a personal question, I'm sure she's over it by now."

A chair scraped on the floor as Susan stood. Papers rustled as they were placed back in the carrying folder. "I guess you're right."

Drumming his fingers on the sealed slate tabletop, Sheridan began, "Commander...."

"Sir?" Susan paused, awaiting his words.

"If that reporter...Torqueman, wasn't it? If ISN sends her back out here, let me know in advance, all right?" His voice was carefully neutral in tone. But the fingers kept pounding a persistent rhythm.

"Yes, sir," she replied. "Anything else?"

"No," he replied.

Susan replied, "Enjoy the rest of your lunch then. I'll see you back in C&C."

Scanning for Voice Recognition. Voice Recognition Negative. Cease Recording.

Click.

*************************

Click.

Voice Recognition Positive. Commence Recording.

"Hey, Stephen! Over here!" Security Chief Michael Garibaldi called loudly across the crowded restaurant.

Over the sounds of conversation and clattering silverware, the apologies and 'excuse me's' of Dr. Stephen Franklin were clearly audible.

"Michael. Thanks for inviting me!" A chair scraped against the tile floor of the restaurant. "It's not often we manage to get the same time free for lunch." There was a clucking noise, tongue against hard palate. "What are you eating?"

"Don't start. This is supposed to be fun, and fun, to me, involves food. Good food." The voice was muffled. "Better get your order in. They're pretty busy."

Recording Paused: Loss of Voice Recognition due to high background noise levels.

Whirrr...

Click.

Voice Recognition Positive. Commence Recording.

"What did you think of the final cut of our little docudrama?" asked Michael. "I thought it came out pretty well, considering."

"Considering what? The war going on right outside our door?" Stephen's voice was laced with sarcasm.

Michael replied cynically. "Made for some exciting footage anyway. Better than all the talking heads. I thought I came off pretty well, which doesn't happen often when it comes to PR exercises." After a moment's hesitations, he continued, "I'd never heard that story about your friend before. Pretty awful."

"Yeah," replied Stephen. "Still don't know why I told her that. Guess she was a better reporter than I thought."

"Guess so. She didn't get much out of Ivanova though," said Michael, sounding impressed.

"Did you expect her to?" The two men laughed comfortably together. Stephen went on, "The segment with Delenn concerned me. It's doesn't seem like her to fall apart like that, not in public. I wonder if I should ask her to come in; take a look at her. Might be some sort of hormonal imbalance or neurophysiological mis-adjustment." A spoon clinked into a cup. "You've known her longer than anyone here. What did you think of her reaction to the reporter's question about her transformation?"

"To be honest? I thought it was a good question. Why would anyone do such a weird thing? What was she thinking? It was a bad idea all around; no way it was going to make people back on Earth think better of the Minbari in general." A water glass slammed onto the table, as if in emphasis.

Stephen responded calmly, "Maybe she wasn't trying to influence us. Maybe it was something to do with her own people. Or maybe she was trying to understand us. Whatever the reason, she did it, and it seems to have gotten under your skin anyway. Why does it bother you?"

"I don't know," replied Michael in frustration. "It's part of everything that's gone on this year. I don't know what's happening anymore. I mean, I almost get whacked by my own guy, lose a week of my life, and wake up to a whole new world. President Santiago is dead. Commander Sinclair is gone. To Minbar of all places! Captain Sheridan, who I don't even know, is in command. Delenn spins herself a cocoon, and comes out half-human...and no one knows what that's about."

"When you put it like that..." Stephen's voice was light and teasing. It turned serious as he said, "You know, it was pretty much the same for Delenn. It was certainly a different world for her when she emerged." Changing the subject, he asked, "What did you think of Torqueman's interview with the Captain, the part about the war?"

Michael sounded exasperated. "None of us ground pounders ever figured out what happened to make the Minbari surrender. It didn't make any sense, and frankly we didn't care. We were just glad it was over."

Stephen said thoughtfully, "They must have had a reason. You know, it's not unusual for those defeated in war to re-make themselves in the shape of their former enemy."

Snorting, Michael replied, "Try telling that to Londo or G'Kar sometime! Besides, the Minbari weren't defeated. They had us on the ropes, and then just...gave up." There was one last rattle of cup on saucer, and then he said, "No, it's okay. I've got this. See you at the staff meeting."

"Thanks, Michael. We'll have to do this again, soon."

Scanning for Voice Recognition. Voice Recognition Negative. Cease Recording.

Click.

*************************

Click.

Voice Recognition Positive. Commence Recording.

"But why did you want to meet here, G'Kar?" Delenn's voice was strained and uneasy.

"When discussing clandestine ventures, it is always best to do it in public, and in plain sight." The Narn's silky voice was low, as if to avoid being overheard.

"I suppose you have a point. Here is the information you wanted." There was a rustle of silken robes and the creak of a leather glove as the data crystal was exchanged. "The list of names is as complete as we could make it. Some of the young ones..."

"Pouchlings." G'Kar's voice was tense. "Were there many on the last ship?"

"More than I liked to hear of." Delenn's voice conveyed a deep sadness. "They often knew only one name for themselves, no family or clan name."

G'Kar answered grimly, "Young Narns have only a temporary name until they come of age. If they are too young, they may only know their parents as Mother or Father, not by names or titles. It will make it difficult to reunite the families when this is over."

"I am sorry." Delenn's voice was so soft it could barely be heard over the chatter of the restaurant.

"No, no," said G'Kar. "It is good, what you and Sheridan are doing." Still, he sighed heavily.

There was no reply for a moment. "We do what we can do." There was another sound, an uneasy shifting noise.

G'Kar spoke again, "Delenn, may I ask you a personal question?"

"Of course, and if it is my power to answer, I will," Delenn replied.

"This...change you went through. I think I understand your motives as they have been presented, but I wonder. Do you ever miss who you were?" His leather armor creaked as he leaned forward.

"I am still the same person, I believe." Her tone was slightly defensive. "It was a necessary choice, and I hope it will prove to be a positive choice."

"That does not answer my question," G'Kar said, amused by her answer. "And this shows me that you are the same elusive Minbari as before."

A smile was in her voice as she answered, "I am as I ever was."

"Ah, but who are you really? Are any of us really certain of the answer to that question?" asked G'Kar. His chair scraped backwards as he stood. There was a thump of his fists against his chest. "I thank you again for the information, Delenn."

"You are most welcome."

Scanning for Voice Recognition. Voice Recognition Negative. Cease Recording.

Click.

*************************

Zack Allan whistled tunelessly as he walked through the Zocalo. A glint of silver and a red light caught his eye as he passed a bistro popular with humans and aliens alike. He saw Ambassadors Delenn and G'Kar leaving the place. He paused for a moment, wondering if they were together, but they went their separate ways without looking at one another. Stepping inside the restaurant, into a thicket of tables and chairs, he looked under and around them until he located a round silver robo-cam in the corner, wedged between the wall and a chair leg. Picking it up, he noted that although it wasn't on now, it was warm and had been operating recently. Better take it to the Chief. Might be someone listening in when they shouldn't be. He headed towards Ops, carrying the recording device.

*************************

Michael Garibaldi sat back in his chair. The little recorder was disassembled on the console in front of him, and he'd just finished listening to the recordings on the data crystal. He'd wipe it before he put everything back together and reported its recovery to ISN. Thinking over the snippets of conversation he'd heard, Michael felt slightly ashamed of his part in them. He'd been pretty friendly with Ambassador Delenn while Jeff was still there, taking his cue from their friendship. That had changed after the attack by his second-in-command, and after her transformation. He realized that aside from his instinctive recoil from her change, he'd also blamed her for having some part in Jeff's reassignment. After the message Jeff had sent him about the Rangers, it became apparent that Sinclair had gone willingly to Minbar, for his own reasons. It was also pretty obvious that Delenn was Sinclair's other contact on the station. Those two were working together, even if neither of them had acknowledged it to him. The appointment of a straight arrow like Sheridan to replace Jeff had also made him uneasy. Now Captain Sheridan was working against the politicos back on Earth who'd appointed him, and also with Delenn and G'Kar to help with the evacuation of Narn civilians. There was a lot going on; a lot that he still didn't understand.

The reporter had raised a lot of questions for all of them--hard questions, with no real answers. In these uncertain times, it was hard to know where to place your trust. Enemies could become allies. Positions and alliances could shift. People could change. There were only a few rock certainties in his life. Jeffrey Sinclair was someone he could rely on. Lise had been, at one time. Sheridan had potential, but he wasn't there yet. It might be a good idea to give Delenn another look. Meanwhile, watchful waiting was the order of the day. He carefully replaced the wiped data crystal in a rack of empties and began to re-assemble the camera. The show might be over, but the reviews were still coming in.