Title: The Grass is Always Greener
Summary: This is an Enterprise/ Babylon 5 crossover. Commander Tucker takes a little trip.
Rating: PG-13 (Language, Mild Violence)
Time Line: Babylon 5 (season 3, two week gap in ep. 4), Enterprise (season 1, where ever it fits) - it isn't AU or anything, I hope.
Author's Note: I haven't been a fan of either show long (B5 = January, ENT = September). I just felt like writing a crossover. The techno-babble may not be the best, but we all know how much effort goes into terminology and science-y stuff, right? But so long as the plot holds water. Reviews? Please?
Special Note: Since I primarily wrote this for myself, it is posted as a complete story instead of chapter-ed out.
The Grass is Always Greener
Commander Tucker glanced at the estimated time of arrival again. Six more hours alone in the shuttlepod before the scheduled rendezvous with the Enterprise. Those six hours were like an eternity, especially after being alone for two days while doing a survey of gravimetric phenomena in an otherwise empty sector of space. Malcolm Reed had volunteered to come along on the mission, but Tucker would have done anything to prevent a repeat of their last trip together in a shuttlepod. Doing the survey alone had seemed like a good idea at the time, but after two full days and the better part of a third, the boredom was wearing on the commander.
The survey mission was rather routine, except for a bit of research that the commander was conducting on his own. Trip had rigged to the shuttlepod to emit a simulated warp field in order to perform a few theoretical tests regarding the local phenomena.
After reviewing the data that he had collected and configuring a few additional models of how he believed the phenomena would affect the warp field of an actual star ship, he decided to get some shut eye.
The jarring sound of red alert klaxons awakened him several hours later.
The shuttlepod shimmied and the lighting flickered as Tucker made his way
to the controls. For a moment Trip thought it was an ion storm or a related
occurrence, but then there was a muted roar and a flash of light detected
by the sensors. The shuttlepod lost attitude control and spun wildly, throwing
Commander Tucker around the cabin. When the craft stabilized, Tucker was
face down and unconscious on the floor of the shuttlepod.
"Commander Ivanova, there's a small, unidentified vessel near the jump gate, but I don't think it came through the gate." Lieutenant Corwin informed her.
"Where did it come from then?" she asked.
"I don't know, commander. It appears to be adrift."
"Is it damaged?"
Corwin shook his head and told her, "I don't think so, but it seems to be operating on emergency power. Its communication system appears to be down and it may have damage to other internal systems."
"Is there anyone on board?"
"Yes, commander, one ... human."
"Human?" she questioned, frowning at him. "This thing doesn't match any ship in our database. It looks like a one or two man vessel of some kind, but the technology ..."
"Orders?" inquired Corwin.
"Scramble the fighters and bring it into docking bay six." said Commander Ivanova. "And have Dr. Franklin meet them down there."
"And a security team?"
Mister Garibaldi took a good look at the shuttlepod while two of his security men forced the hatch. The words on the side were in English: Enterprise, Shuttlepod One, NX-01. It appeared to be an earth vessel, but it carried no Earth Force insignia nor any of the usual markings. But then, perhaps it was a private vessel of some unfamiliar type. It could be anything really, which also meant that the passenger inside could be anyone. That bothered Mister Garibaldi.
"Chief, we've opened the hatch!" called one of his people.
Garibaldi glanced at Franklin, who was waiting nearby, gestured for him to wait, and said, "I guess we had better have a look inside."
The interior of the shuttle was only half lit as Mister Garibaldi stepped inside with his weapon drawn. A few panels were flashing, but the alarms had ceased earlier to conserve power. Garibaldi glanced at the floor and saw the sprawled form of Commander Tucker. He poked him with the tip of his boot and signaled to one of his men in the hatch.
"Dr. Franklin!" the security officer called outside.
Garibaldi holstered his PPG and knelt next to the passenger of the shuttlepod.
"He's human looking enough, and he's still alive." thought Garibaldi. He also took note of the uniform and felt a momentary twinge of kinship with a fellow soldier. "But what is he doing here?" Garibaldi took a deep breath and moved out of the way as Franklin entered the cramp pod. "I just don't like this." he thought.
"Do you have a light?" asked Franklin as he began making a cursory examination of Commander Tucker.
"Sure." answered the security chief. "Where do you need it?" he questioned after switching on the light.
"That's good." replied Franklin.
"That's my guess, but I won't know for sure until I've performed some tests in Medlab." answered the doctor.
"Are you ready to move him?" asked Garibaldi.
"I believe so." nodded Franklin, standing.
The first thing that Commander Tucker was aware of was a light shining in one eye and then the other. He was lying on a flat, moderately hard surface. His head began to throb as he opened his eyes. The room around him was very bright and blurry for a few minutes, but he blinked away the haziness.
"Take it easy." a firm, but kind voice told him as he attempted to sit up. He was aware of at least three people standing in immediate proximity.
"Where am I?" Tucker questioned. His voice sounded hoarse.
"You are in Medlab One, a medical facility on Babylon 5." Dr. Franklin informed him.
"Babylon 5? What is that?"
"It's a space station." said the doctor, rather surprised that his patient didn't know the name of the place.
Tucker squinted and looked at the doctor for several seconds before he said, "You look human."
"That's because I am." said Stephen, smiling.
"Where is this again?" questioned the commander, looking around.
"Captain?" questioned Franklin, deferring to the station's commanding officer, who was near at hand, watching the scene with his chief of security.
Tucker turned, half expecting to see his own captain, Jonathan Archer of the Enterprise, but he was disappointed. A tall man with a goofy smile and wearing a blue uniform was standing there. His eyes were very keen and discerning as he looked down at Commander Tucker.
"I am Captain John Sheridan. This is the space station, Babylon 5. Do you remember how you got here?"
"I'm still not really sure where here is, sir." said Tucker, adding the 'sir' out of habit.
The goofy smile was tugged just a little wider as he said, "Do you remember your name or where you came from? Maybe we could start there."
"Commander Charles Tucker III. I was on a shuttlepod a few hours away from a rendezvous with the Enterprise." he told them. "I originally came from earth, from Florida." he added.
The three officers all exchanged glances before the captain asked, "Enterprise? Is that an Earth Force ship? If so, then I'm not familiar with a space going vessel by that name."
Commander Tucker frowned and asked, "Where is this space station? Under a rock? It's the first deep space mission launched by Star Fleet."
The smile was quickly fading as Sheridan asked, "What is Star Fleet?" For a moment he thought of the Homeguard and related movements.
Tucker's jaw dropped and he said, "There has to be some kind of problem here. Everyone knows about Star Fleet. I mean, captain, you're wearing a uniform. All of you are. What kind of service are you in, if you're in space and you're not in Star Fleet?"
Both the commander and the captain were having the same thought: "This cannot be happening."
"We live in suspicious times ..., commander. If you're withholding information or playing dumb, you had better cut it out right now, because the only place it's going to get you is into a holding cell." Mister Garibaldi told him.
At this, Commander Tucker sat up and said, "Look, I don't know how I got here, and I don't know who you are, but I can tell you this: I haven't lied to you. And I can only hope that you'll do me the same courtesy." But he thought, "Damned Yankee. My grandfather was right about them."
"This is Mister Garibaldi, my chief of security." said Sheridan, trying to diffuse the situation, which was already mind boggling without throwing in random allegations of this or that.
Tucker chuckled to himself when he heard that. Security officers, whether British or of the Northern persuasion, were out to get him no matter where he was.
"Nice to meet you." managed Trip, trying hard to keep a straight face.
"Captain, can the rest of your ... questions wait until morning? My patient has a concussion and some bruised ribs. I think he's had enough for tonight." interjected Dr. Franklin.
"Of course." said Captain Sheridan with a thoughtful frown.
When the security chief and the captain had left, Franklin looked at Commander Tucker and said, "I have a theory."
"You don't say." said Tucker, perking up a bit.
"Can you tell me what year it is?"
"2151, of course."
Franklin looked rather surprised and said, "But that's almost one hundred and ten years in the past."
"The Vulcans say that time travel is impossible." said Trip, shaking his head.
Commander Tucker took a deep breath and said, "If you don't know them,
then I must have traveled through more than just time."
"What do you make of him, Michael?" asked the captain as they stood some distance down the corridor.
"He has an honest face, but that doesn't mean anything these days. I plan to look through the files for him. Maybe something scrambled his brains out there. It's happened before. I'll let you know about anything I manage to turn up." shrugged Garibaldi.
"Question him as soon as Dr. Franklin discharges him."
"Oh, I plan to, believe me."
"I imagine it will be an interesting conversation." chuckled Sheridan.
"And I would settle for boring any day." sighed the security chief.
Franklin released him the next morning, but instructed him to return if any symptoms of the concussion returned. The doctor was very curious about his strange, yet human patient, but he was also very busy. A man in uniform named Zack Allan was waiting to take him to see rude and suspicious Mister Garibaldi as soon as he stepped out of the Medlab.
"Am I under arrest or something?" questioned Trip as they walked down a long corridor. Commander Tucker was just beginning to get a sense of how large the station was, and it made him more than a little apprehensive.
"No, sir, the chief just wants to ask you a few questions. It's nothing personal, it's just ... the times." shrugged Allan, adjusting a black band on his uniform.
"I guess I understand, but if I don't get back home soon, my commanding officer is going to have my hide."
Zack cracked a smile at the idiom and said, "Some things must be the same everywhere. I don't think Mister Garibaldi will hold you long."
"I hope you're right." said Tucker, shaking his head.
The room where Tucker waited for the security chief was dimly lit, but then, much of the station seemed shadowy and dark compared to the Medlab area. He had a hunch that a guard was posted at the door. His stomach growled, reminding him that he hadn't eaten in almost twenty-four hours. He also thought that he could use a shower and a shave too.
The door opened with a peculiar mechanical gurgling noise. Tucker, always a good engineer, almost got up to see what was wrong with it, but Mister Garibaldi came through it before he had the chance. The Chief looked at the commander for a moment before taking a seat across the small table from him. Tucker, if he had known, had received two courtesies from him already: he had only been waiting ten minutes instead being made to stew for a while and Garibaldi deigned to sit with him instead of pacing the room like an inquisitor.
"Good morning." said Tucker.
"Morning." nodded Garibaldi. "You know, you aren't listed in any database anywhere. I think you're clean, but I still have to wonder what you're doing here."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence." said Trip with a half smile.
"I had a couple of friends of mine look at your ship." Garibaldi told him.
"If you want any information, I would be glad to share, especially if it gets me back to the Enterprise sooner."
Garibaldi considered that for a minute and said, "Yeah, thanks." Then he made a peculiar face and said, "They said your propulsion system is a joke."
"I'm sorry? I know it only does impulse, but it is just a shuttlepod. It wasn't meant for warp speed travel, you know." said Trip, insulted and incredulous at the same time.
"No, you don't seem to understand. The propulsion system doesn't work."
"Dammit! One more thing to fix before I get home."
"Fine, but you see, the problem is that where I come from, E really does equal mc squared. You can't travel faster than the speed of light." Garibaldi told him.
"That's what they said in the late twentieth century, but Zephram Cochran proved them wrong."
"The inventor of the warp drive?" questioned Trip.
Garibaldi rubbed his eyes and said, "Tell you what, we can just drop this. If you believe that you can travel at the speed of light, then, whatever makes you happy."
"Fine by me." agreed Tucker.
"In all fairness, I think you are either one of the best con men I have run across in a long time, or you have some kind of seriously weird story to tell."
"The same could be said for you people, but I think your doctor down there was on the level. That means that you probably are too." said Tucker.
"Maybe there's some test that Doctor Franklin could perform that would tell us where you came from or what happened to you."
"I already told you where I came from and I don't think anything has 'happened' to me." he said. Then he sighed and added, "But if there was some kind of test that would answer those questions conclusively for you, then I'd be glad to take it."
"Fine." said Garibaldi, bringing his hand up.
Trip frowned, pointed to the silver square on the back of his hand, and asked, "What the hell is that?"
"It's a link." answered the chief, giving him a look that said, "What? Are you stupid or something?"
"Sorry." muttered Trip.
"Garibaldi to Franklin."
"Yeah?" answered the doctor, sounding moderately stressed.
"Is there some way to verify who ... Commander Tucker is? Medically?"
"I don't have time for this. Look, it is my opinion that he is not ... from our dimension, from our universe. I did some reading. It's a 'classic' case of inter-dimensional travel. Can I prove it? The lab should know conclusively in eight to ten hours." said Franklin hurriedly.
"You mean you're already on this?"
Commander Tucker was grinning from ear to ear as Garibaldi looked at him.
"I was right: that is a seriously weird story." said the Chief.
"My only concern is how ... I'm going to get back to where I belong." said Commander Tucker, the smile slowly fading.
Garibaldi nodded and said, "Yeah, well, you got here, right? So you probably have a way back."
"I certainly hope so. I'm the chief engineer on my ship, on the Enterprise. They won't know what to do without me."
Garibaldi raised an eyebrow and said, "So that's why you're so protective of your propulsion system."
"I suppose I am." said Tucker. Just then his stomach growled. "Say, Mister Garibaldi, they don't serve meals in here, do they?" he asked.
"No, but since we're done, for now, I could escort you down to the Zocalo. You could have something there." suggested Garibaldi. Remembering that Tucker had no money or credit or anything else really, he added, "My treat."
Trip grinned and thought, "I guess I had him all wrong." He told Garibaldi,
"I'm in your debt."
As the security officer and the newcomer walked through the busiest area of the station, Garibaldi watched Tucker's eyes widen as they walked through crowds of aliens that were undoubtedly strange to the commander. Babylon 5 was a unique place. Garibaldi knew that for certain. It was quite apparent that Tucker was of the same mind. When they reached the Zocalo, Garibaldi spied Captain Sheridan eating at a table alone.
"Let's join the captain." said Garibaldi, pointing Tucker in the right direction.
Sheridan looked up from his meal as the two men joined him at the table. He was surprised to see Commander Tucker. Knowing Mister Garibaldi, he had anticipated the security chief questioning him for some time, perhaps even hours, before releasing him. But instead, it appeared that the two were on friendly terms.
"This is unexpected." said Sheridan as they seated themselves.
"I'll say." said Garibaldi, watching Tucker watch a group of Minbari walking past.
"Commander Tucker, you must be an exceptional man. Mister Garibaldi doesn't trust people easily." said the captain.
"I don't think he necessarily trusts me, but Dr. Franklin believes me and he does trust him, so he believes me, or rather he believes the doctor's theory about me." explained Trip with a grin.
"Theory?" questioned Sheridan, who was quite impressed by the commander's astute assessment.
"Stephen thinks he's from another dimension." filled in Garibaldi.
"Great." said Sheridan, thinking that a guest of that nature was the last thing that they needed on the station.
"You make it sound like a bad thing." protested Tucker.
"Commander, when strange people show up on this station, it is seldom a good thing." Sheridan told him.
"I will try to be out of your hair as soon as possible." said Trip.
"What are we going to do about him until then?" Garibaldi asked Captain Sheridan.
"We are short on space, but I would hate to stick a fellow officer in hole down in Down Below." said the captain.
"Down Be-Where?" questioned Tucker.
"The bad part of town." said Garibaldi. A smile spread over the chief's face as he turned back to the captain. "You could let him sleep on your couch. Your quarters are the most spacious on the station." suggested Michael.
"Spacious?" Sheridan began to object. Then he just shook his head and said, "Just for a few days, right?"
"Days? I'm hoping to be back home this time tomorrow. I don't know if I even need a place to stay. I need to take a look at my ship and check the damage." said Commander Tucker.
"He's an engineer." Garibaldi explained as Sheridan frowned.
"That's good news." said the captain.
"I bet I can repair it in just a few hours. Then I can go look for the
way I got here. It shouldn't be too difficult to find." shrugged Tucker,
Commander Tucker ran his hands through his hair as he looked at the forced hatch. He wanted to berate someone, but Mister Garibaldi was the only one around and Trip didn't think it would do any good. The shuttlepod looked undamaged on the outside other than the hatch. Inside was another matter. The security officer loaned him a light until he managed to get the interior lights working properly.
"How does it look, commander?" questioned Garibaldi, taking a seat to watch Tucker work. It was obvious that Tucker knew what he was doing.
"I think I might be sleeping on the captain's couch tonight after all. Think he'll mind?"
"Nah, he won't mind." said Mister Garibaldi, shaking his head. "What's wrong? If you don't mind my asking."
"I don't know yet. Some burned out circuits. A blown relay. And ... I think ... the impulse engine is ... damaged too." said Tucker as he rooted around inside a panel.
"And you can fix it?" questioned Garibaldi, looking doubtful.
"No reason why I can't."
"You know, I had a friend who helped me put together a motorcycle once. Maybe I could get him to help you with this."
"This isn't a motorcycle."
"I thought you might like the company. I mean, I can't stay here with you all day. I have a lot of work to do." said the security chief.
Tucker thought about it for a minute and said, "Sure, send him around. I suppose I can use the company and just about all the help I can get."
"Great." nodded Garibaldi. "Oh, and do you want me to keep calling you commander?" he questioned.
Tucker grinned at him and said, "All my friends in Star Fleet call me Trip. You're welcome to do the same. And I should call you ...?"
"Almost everyone calls me Garibaldi or Chief, but my first name is Michael."
"Garibaldi really seems to suit you." said Trip with a nod.
Commander Tucker had been fishing through burned circuits and other components for about half an hour when he heard a knocking sound coming from outside the shuttlepod.
"Hello?" he called, sitting up and looking toward the open hatch.
After a moment the head of a strange alien appeared at the entrance. He smiled when he saw Tucker. The commander stared with an open mouth at the bone that the alien had instead of hair.
"Hello, I am Lennier of the Third Fain of Chudomo. If you are Commander Tucker, then Mister Garibaldi said that you could use some help and company." said the alien with a smile.
"Um, I'm him. And you ... um, are an alien, right?" questioned Tucker, rather surprised and taken off guard. He had assumed that the friend that Garibaldi was sending him was a fellow officer. He had expected a human in uniform, not a Minbari in robes.
"I am from the planet Minbar. You seem surprised." said Lennier.
Commander Tucker managed a smile and said, "Garibaldi didn't tell me."
"I see. Am I still welcome to help you?"
"Of course." said Tucker.
As Lennier began sifting through the burned out components with him, he questioned, "Do you hold any grudges against my people because of the Earth-Minbari War, commander?"
"What war?" asked Tucker absently. He was looking at the tool kit for the shuttlepod and realizing its inadequacies.
"Approximately twelve years ago our two races fought one another. There are many on earth as well as on my planet who still harbor hostilities." Lennier told him.
"Then you do know something of it."
"I can't say that I do. You see, I'm not exactly from the earth that you know." said Tucker, realizing how strange that sounded only after he had said it.
"I don't understand." said Lennier.
"Barring the discovery of a more plausible explanation, it seems that I am not from this universe. I'm from another one that is very different from what you people have going on here."
"A parallel universe?"
"Hardly. I am beginning to think that the only things that the two places have in common are humans and space travel."
"Ah, an epochal divergent-convergent dimensional universe, how fascinating."
"A universe that took a course divergent from the one this universe has taken, but has some or at least one commonality with this universe."
"Yeah, something like that."
"You must find this universe very confusing."
Tucker smiled at him and said, "You understand pretty well. I bet it doesn't surprise you at all that I want to get back to my universe."
"No, it does not." said Lennier. "And I shall endeavor to help you to
return, Commander Tucker."
It was late in the day when Commander Tucker and Lennier threw in the towel and made their way to the Zocalo. The engineer was beginning to have his doubts about repairing the shuttlepod. He would need parts, not to mention someone to weld the hatch back on properly. It was far from hopeless, but it wasn't as hopeful as it had looked that morning.
"I really wish I could treat you to a meal, but we don't use the same monetary system as you people use here." apologized Commander Tucker.
"You are a guest here. It is my honor to treat you to a meal, commander." said Lennier good-naturedly. "It is also very pleasant to know a human who has no memory or prejudice leftover from the war." he added.
Suddenly Lennier rose and bowed toward Tucker, or rather, toward a figure standing behind him. For a moment the commander was confused.
"I have been looking for you, Lennier. Who is your companion?" asked a feminine voice with a subtle, but agreeable accent.
Commander Tucker practically sprang to his feet. Turning, he beheld her for the first time: Ambassador Delenn of Minbar. He regarded her, dressed in the traditional garb of her people, for a moment in awe before bowing clumsily.
"Ma'am." he said, feeling his cheeks flush.
Delenn bowed as well and said, "You are very gracious."
"Commander, this is Ambassador Delenn. I have the great honor of working with her as her aid." he explained to Tucker. "Delenn, this is my friend Commander Tucker. He is a guest here from an epochal divergent-convergent dimensional universe." he told her.
"Really? Divergent-convergent? Are you certain that it isn't the other way around, Lennier?"
"Oh, no, Delenn, I am certain that is correct."
"In either case, commander, welcome to Babylon 5." she said, looking at him for a moment. Her gaze was much like that of Captain Sheridan: keen, shrewd even, but compassionate with hidden depths of both warmth and intelligence.
"Thank you, ma'am." he said.
"Might I join both of you?" she asked, looking from him to Lennier.
"Of course." they agreed in unison.
"What brings you here?" inquired Delenn after their meal had been served.
"Chance, I suppose you could say. One minute I was in some kind ... storm or something. The next minute I was lying flat on my back down in Medlab." he told Delenn, feeling suddenly quite comfortable talking to her.
She considered this for a moment and asked, "You are wearing a uniform, yes?"
"Yes, ma'am, Star Fleet issue." he said, smiling at her interest.
"He is from a ship of peaceful exploration." Lennier added for him.
Delenn smiled softly and questioned, "I don't suppose there are Minbari or a planet Minbar in your divergent-convergent dimensional universe, Commander Tucker?"
"Not that we've seen."
"Just as a warning, commander. Please, avoiding firing upon my people, if you happen to have Minbari in your universe." she told him. "It will save both our races considerable grief."
"So I've heard." agreed Tucker, glancing at Lennier, who had made a similar request in even more delicate terms.
When the meal was finished, Delenn excused herself to attend a meeting. Her two companions bowed to her and returned to their seats.
"Delenn enjoyed speaking to you. I could tell, commander." Lennier told him.
"I wanted to ask her a question, but I didn't know how to phrase it." said Tucker awkwardly.
"Please, ask me. I do not believe you will offend."
"Do all female Minbari have hair?"
"No, commander. Delenn is half Minbari, half human." replied Lennier.
"So her ... father was human then?" hesitated Trip.
"Oh, no, commander. Her parents were both Minbari of the religious caste. She was born a full-blooded Minbari. She underwent a change, a metamorphoses." he explained to Commander Tucker.
"I can't say that the results aren't ... attractive, but why did she do it?" questioned Trip.
"To forge a bond between our two races. It has not been easy for her. Neither our people nor yours are willing to accept the change. Some resent it."
"Because of the war?"
"Exactly." nodded Lennier. "But she is strong and determined."
Tucker contemplated that for a few minutes and said, "Good for her." Then he glanced around at the Zocalo, which was no longer so crowded. "I'm supposed to sleep on the captain's couch tonight. You wouldn't happen to know where his quarters are?" inquired Trip.
"Of course, commander. I would be glad to show you the way." volunteered Lennier.
"I would surely appreciate it."
Captain Sheridan was just removing his jacket and getting ready to pour himself a drink after a long, but rather predictable day, when the door to his quarters chimed. He laid the jacket aside and took a deep breath.
"Come in." he called.
The door opened with a mechanical gurgle to reveal Commander Tucker and Lennier. The human had an apologetic look on his face.
"I have delivered your guest, captain." said Lennier with a slight bow. John Sheridan smiled at the young diplomatic assistant.
"Thank you, Lennier. We both appreciate it." he said.
"It is all right if I bunk here for the night, sir?" questioned Commander Tucker hesitantly.
"Absolutely." said Sheridan.
"Then I must bid the two of you good night." said Lennier, bowing again and turning to go.
"Lennier, will I see you again tomorrow?" questioned Tucker.
"If Delenn can spare me again." he said with a smile.
Captain Sheridan ushered him inside and offered him a drink. Tucker accepted the glass and looked at it thoughtfully.
"You don't have a lot of this kind of thing aboard a star ship?" questioned Sheridan, remembering his days aboard the Agamemnon. Alcohol was not a rare pleasure, but often ran short on long stints far from friendly ports.
"No, not particularly, captain. I wasn't really a booze hound in my Academy days, but I enjoyed drinking from time to time with friends." Trip told him, smiling.
"Please, you aren't my subordinate. Call me John." suggested the captain with a friendly smile.
"Thank you, John. You can call me Trip then. All my friends back home do." he said. Trip cocked his head to one side and told him, "It's a funny thing. My commanding officer back on the Enterprise goes by Jon among friends."
"I suppose it's a good name for servicemen."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." agreed Trip.
"You want to tell me how the work on your ... shuttlepod is going."
Tucker shook his head and sighed before telling him, "It's not as simple as it looks. I thought I would be going back tomorrow, but ... even with Lennier helping me, it might be several days. It might even be a week, worst comes to worst."
"That isn't such a long time." Sheridan told him.
"But my ship ... they probably think I'm dead or something. Jon, that is, Captain Archer, is probably very worried."
"You sound like you know him pretty well, Trip."
"Jonathan Archer is one of my best friends. I ought to know him. He knows me, and if I miss that rendezvous, he will certainly be concerned."
"From what I've heard, you've traveled through both dimensions of the universe and a little time too. Maybe when you go back, you'll get the time back." suggested John.
"I hope so." agreed Trip.
Sheridan took a sip of his drink and asked Tucker, "What do you think of Babylon 5?"
"I can't believe something this big and man-made exists in space." said Trip.
"But?" inquired Sheridan.
"But I can't believe that it is without a gravity generator. I know that it spins and everything, but it just isn't the same."
"Gravity generator? I think there are Minbari ships with the technology, but we just don't have it yet."
"And they won't ... share?"
Sheridan chuckled, thought of the White Star, and said, "They have shared other things."
"I know the feeling. We have a race back in my universe that was very selective in the technology they shared with us. Some people even think they held our sciences back." Tucker told him.
"Bad feelings, Trip?"
"Nah, I don't suppose so. We have one of them as a science officer aboard the Enterprise now. I think her presence, which is annoying at times, has helped to heal the rifts." said Tucker, thinking first of T'Pol and then of Delenn and her mission.
John smiled as a similar thought occurred to him, and he said, "She must be very brave then."
"She is ... something rather special." admitted Trip.
Sheridan's smile widened and said, "Sounds like you have certain feelings for her."
Tucker looked away for a moment and said, "Well, I wouldn't exactly say that, but T'Pol is nice looking and all."
"T'Pol? I have heard some interesting names, but that one nearly takes the cake."
"That it does, but most Vulcan names sound that way. Of course, hers is a mite prettier than most and easier on the tongue than some." he said. He glanced around the quarters and said, "But I guess you've taken the route that's becoming all too common among career men in Star Fleet. You're not married, John?"
He knew the question was a mistake almost instantly. Sheridan's eyes seemed to glaze over and he downed the rest of his drink.
"John? Have I said something wrong?" questioned Trip, reaching toward the captain as his face grew stony. He laid a hand on Sheridan's arm and felt him shudder.
"Anna." Sheridan coughed, still, even after almost four years, very uncomfortable talking about his late wife. "Her name was Anna." he repeated, adding, "She died some time ago."
Commander Tucker felt like an incredible heel as he watched the older man bite his lip to hold in the flood of emotion, which he had not anticipated. John seldom spoke of Anna and never after having a drink. It just made it all too easy for him to drop his guard. And that was not something he wanted to do.
"Look, John, I'm sorry I brought this up. I feel just terrible. We don't have to talk about it." said Trip hastily.
"No, it isn't your fault, Trip. I just ... well, I don't ... I try not think about her. I still do sometimes. It's been a couple of years, but ... you know how it is." said John, rubbing his eyes to hide the tears that were threatening to flow.
"Yeah, of course I do." said Commander Tucker, setting his glass down and putting a reassuring arm around John's shoulders. "I understand." he told John, although he was sure that he really didn't understand at all.
"I think we should call it an evening. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day. Everyday is busy day here. And I imagine you want to get an early start on your ship." Sheridan told him, gratefully patting the hand Tucker still rested on his arm as he rose.
"Yeah, I think you're right." the commander agreed, rising too. John's
eyes were still a little moist, but he was certain that the worst of it
had passed. The glassy look was gone and replaced by a more somber expression
than before. John was going to be just fine. Tucker was glad of that.
Trip was awaken early the following morning by the sound of a shower being turned on. At first he was confused as he looked around the dark room. Then he remembered: the couch in the captain's quarters. He lay there in the rather pleasant darkness until he heard the water cease.
"A shower and a fresh uniform would be great, but I would settle for just the shower." he thought to himself as he stretched and yawned.
A few minutes later, Captain Sheridan opened the glass partition between his bedroom the front area of his quarters. He was in uniform again and looked ready to face the day. He grinned when he saw Trip.
"I don't have to be a telepath to know what you're thinking about this morning. You want a shower?" he questioned.
"You read my mind!" laughed Tucker.
"Help yourself, but don't take too long or you'll have to find your way to the officers' mess by yourself." he warned.
Hot water had never felt as good as it did that morning on Babylon 5. Trip had been grateful for the couch, but he was doubly grateful for the shower. When he put his uniform back on, he felt like an officer again and not like a man lost in the wrong universe. And that made a tremendous difference to him.
"Trip," he heard Sheridan call as he took a last look in the mirror, "if you want to have breakfast with Garibaldi and Ivanova, you had better hurry."
"What about you?" questioned Trip as he stepped out of the bathroom and went for his boots.
"I can't. I have a meeting already." Sheridan explained. "But I can show you the way before I head for the C & C."
"C & C?" questioned Tucker.
"Command and Control. I want to check in there before my meeting."
"Oh, the bridge." said Trip.
"Only if this were a ship." countered Sheridan with a smile.
"Lead the way then."
Commander Ivanova pursed her lips slightly when he first saw him. He didn't look like military personnel any more than Corwin did. She could tell with a glance that he wasn't Earth Force. He was gangly, and he smiled too much. He looked more like a barber or a grocer or a one of those monks. But everyone seemed to like him. So much for them.
"Commander Ivanova, this is Commander Tucker from the Enterprise." Garibaldi told her, gesturing for Tucker to have a seat.
"Everyone around here is so formal at first glance." thought Trip. "It's a pleasure." he told her simply.
"Commander." she acknowledged, wondering if he had worked half as hard to earn the rank, if he had earned it at all.
"She's a tough cookie, like me." Garibaldi explained.
"Where's the captain?" she inquired, looking around. Sheridan had pointed their table out before grabbing a transport tube to where ever it was he was going.
"Meeting." said Tucker.
"Ah." said Ivanova, returning her attention to her breakfast.
"How's the work on your ship going?" inquired Garibaldi, rolling his eyes in the general direction of Ivanova.
"So, so." sighed Trip.
"That bad?" chuckled the security chief.
"I will get it repaired. It just might not be in such a timely fashion." answered Commander Tucker.
"Would it be such a terrible thing to be stuck in our universe for a week or two?"
"It isn't that. I feel like a horrible inconvenience and all."
Garibaldi laughed and said, "You must think this place works like clock work or something. Let me tell you, Trip, it doesn't, and you are only a very small spanner in the works compared to what normally goes on around here. Don't sweat the small stuff, Trip. It isn't your job."
"Whose it is then?" asked Trip, cracking a smile.
"Ours." answered Ivanova.
"She speaks!" laughed Garibaldi.
Suddenly the link on Ivanova's hand made a small sound, causing her to suppress a sound of rage and answer it curtly, "Ivanova. Go."
"I'm needed in C & C, and it's not even my shift yet." she told them after a quick conversation.
"Bye." said Garibaldi.
"No sympathy." she sighed, getting up and walking away without another word.
After a few minutes of quiet eating, Trip worked up the nerve to say, "Garibaldi, I want to know something. I might be way out of line asking you this."
"No, Ivanova and I aren't an item. For one thing, I wouldn't touch a girl like her with a ten foot pole." he said with something of a smirk.
"That wasn't my question, but thanks for the info."
"Ask your question."
"Captain Sheridan's wife ..." he hedged quietly.
Garibaldi looked genuinely surprised when Trip said that. He knew about Anna. He knew that Sheridan was still ... troubled by the loss of her. But what Garibaldi could not believe was that John had talked about her with Trip after knowing him for just one day. That was not in character with Sheridan's usual somber stoicism on such matters.
"He told you about Anna?" inquired Garibaldi.
"No, I asked a stupid question."
"Can you tell me anything about her or about what happened?"
"I can, but I don't want you to bring her up with John again. Consider her a banned subject, all right?"
Garibaldi glanced around leaned over the table before speaking, "She was his wife, but that's stating the obvious. She died just a couple of years ago, not all that long before the captain came here. Anna was lost on ... a mission, I guess you'd call it. A ship was lost with all hands. Captain Sheridan took it hard. Hell, you could probably say that in some ways he's still taking it hard."
"Thanks for the information. You can be sure that I won't bother him about it again." Tucker reassured him.
"Good." nodded the security chief. He thought about tacking a threat onto the end of that, but decided against it. Tucker was reasonably sensitive for a man of his century. He wouldn't reopen anyone's old wounds on purpose. "Oh, Franklin finished up with your lab work. I didn't understand all of the medical mumbo jumbo, but something in your genes confirmed his theory about you." he told Tucker, suddenly remembering.
Tucker grinned and said, "Does that ease your doubts about me, Garibaldi?"
"You're a very suspicious person."
"It's my job." he shrugged.
"I really wish you could meet Lieutenant Reed on the Enterprise. The two of you would have so much to talk about."
"And why is that?" asked Garibaldi.
"He's our armory officer." explained Trip. Garibaldi dismissed the notion with a wave of his hand.
"I have work to do around here."
"Point me toward my ship and you can get to it."
The hours seemed to pass like minutes as Commander Tucker began making progress, repairing relays and rigging circuits that weren't burned out. The greater task, repairing the impulse engine, was still ahead of him, but he wanted everything else, everything the he knew that he could fix, in perfect working order before he moved on to that problem, which was surely the biggest he would face. In fact, Tucker was beginning to feel a nagging doubt concerning the engine of the shuttlepod. If faster than light travel were an impossibility because of the physics of this universe, then would he be able to repair the engine? What if he needed it to return to his universe? That was a very unpleasant thought, but Tucker mulled over the matter as he continued to tinker with the power system of the shuttlepod.
That was probably why didn't hear anyone come through the hatch or even notice their presence until they softly cleared their throat. Tucker banged his forehead on the panel he was working on as the sound startled him from his musings.
"Son of a ...!" he began, rubbing his bruising brow for a moment. He checked himself when he saw his visitor.
"Commander?" questioned the Minbari ambassador. "Son of a what?"
He clambered to his feet and felt his cheeks redden as he stuttered, "Excuse me, ma'am. I didn't realize it was you."
"Of course, commander. Have you seen Lennier this afternoon?" Delenn inquired.
"No, he hasn't been around today, ma'am. I thought he was probably busy with his duties." replied Tucker.
"It is possible. His duties are many. Perhaps I will leave a message for him elsewhere."
"If he stops by here, I'll let him know that you are looking for him, ma'am." offered Trip.
"Thank you, commander, and please, call me Delenn." she said, glancing around the interior of the shuttlepod. "Where is the crew complement of a vessel of this kind?" she asked him.
"Oh, this is just a shuttlepod, Delenn. It can hold up to six, I suppose, but in my opinion it functions best with a crew of two." he answered.
"I see." she said, nodding. "But you came here alone?"
"I thought some time alone might be nice and chose to take on a quick survey mission by myself. It was only supposed to last three days."
She smiled softly and said, "But you did not bargain for a mission of this nature."
"Seeing another universe? No, I never thought or even imagined that I would see a place like this."
Delenn was about to pose another question when she laid a hand on a nearby instrument panel. It crackled menacingly, and she withdrew her hand quickly.
"Careful there, Delenn." Commander Tucker warned. "A lot of this stuff is still broken and a little dangerous."
"You have many hours of work ahead of you. If Lennier and I can do anything to help you, commander, do not hesitate to ask." she said.
"Thank you, Delenn. I think I'll need all of the help I can get." he
That evening Tucker managed to find his way to the Zocalo without incident, hoping to run into someone he knew, particularly Garibaldi or the captain. He waded through the sea of humans and aliens that were a constant presence in that part of the station, feeling both a sense of awe and a sense of not belonging. Then he felt a hand grab his shoulder.
"Trip, you look like you're going to be sea sick or something." laughed Mister Garibaldi.
"No kidding. I still can't get over this place." said Tucker, turning and gesturing vaguely at the crowd.
"If you were working security, the nuance would wear off a lot faster. Trust me." he commented.
"I can only imagine." Trip told him.
"If you want to go somewhere a little less busy, you should take a look at the hydroponic gardens. It's the most peaceful place on the station." Garibaldi suggested.
"Lead the way." said Trip, glad to escape the overwhelming bustle for
a few minutes at least.
Garibaldi watched Tucker for a few minutes as he turned this way and that, looking at the gigantic garden that was the heart of Babylon 5. It was obvious that the young engineer was awestruck by what he was seeing. The enormity of it all made Trip feel even smaller than when he stood in the crowded Zocalo, and twice as out of place. He just shook his head as he turned toward the security chief.
"I don't think I understand something. Just how big is this space station of yours?" he questioned.
"Five miles long." answered Garibaldi, giving a measurement, a frame of reference, that had become a standard reply to that particular question.
"I don't believe we'll ever build anything this large in my universe."
"Maybe you won't need to, Trip. This place wasn't build for the fun of it. It was an answer to the problem of intergalactic war."
"Oh." he said quietly, taking a seat on a nearby bench.
"I have a security meeting in just a few minutes. The captain's quarters aren't that far from here." said Garibaldi, giving him some simple directions. "Stay here as long as you want though. It's relatively safe and quiet." he added.
"Not a problem, Trip." said the security officer. As he began walking away he realized that he was getting used to having Trip around and sighed. "Too bad he can't just stay here. He's too naive to be in security, but I'm sure he would make a great officer." he thought to himself.
When Garibaldi had gone, Tucker left the park bench and began wandering through the garden, careful not to lose his way. He couldn't help but to think of the hydroponics lab on the Enterprise as he looked around.
"They would never believe this is possible." Trip chuckled to himself
as he shook his head.
Zack Allan was waiting outside John Sheridan's quarters when Trip arrived about an hour later. He had roamed the corridors of blue sector for about an hour before finding his way there.
"Commander, the captain authorized my to let you into his quarters since he won't be in until later tonight." Zack told him, opening the door for him.
"That was considerate of him." said Trip with a smile.
"The captain's a very considerate man." said Zack. "Oh, he also suggested that I might want to treat you to dinner and listen to you talk about where you come from and all. Captain Sheridan is very impressed with you, or at least your storytelling." "The Chief is too, I think." he said as an afterthought.
"I would like that." nodded Trip. "But if I'm going to be here much longer, I'm going to have to find a job somewhere. It's getting kind of embarrassing, depending on the kindness of strangers and everything."
Zack laughed and said, "Good luck there. A lot of people come here looking for jobs, but not many of them find one."
Trip was struck dumb for a moment, but then he asked, "Wait a minute. You're saying that you people managed to build all of this, and you still have problems like unemployment?"
"And what, they don't have unemployment, poverty, all that goes with them where you come from?" he asked in slightly indignant tone.
"Not on earth. Not in a lot of places." he said, thinking not only of home, but of Vulcan and Denobula and the various colonies. "Not since my father was kid." Tucker added.
"Yeah, but at what cost?" queried Zack.
"Draconian legal system? Population control? There are worse things than being poor or even indigent."
"It isn't like that." Trip told Zack emphatically.
Zack looked at him for a moment with just hint of arrogant disbelief
in his eyes and said, "Well, commander, I guess I will have to take your
word for it."
Tucker was riveted as he watched the InterStellar Network news at a bar with Zack Allan. The security officer, who had gone officially off duty some time earlier, was nursing a drink and observing Trip's keen interest in the events of the day back home.
"So, commander, do they show the news in your universe?" he questioned to get his attention.
"On earth and Utopia Planitia, but we don't get all that much news on the Enterprise, and when we do get news from home it's two or three weeks late and nothing like this." Trip told him.
"Censored, or what?" questioned Zack.
Tucker looked at him and wondered if Zack had meant that as a barb. He wasn't sure, but the security officer seemed friendly enough. Trip had to admit that almost everyone he had met seemed pleasant enough, especially considering that he was a stranger from way out of town.
"Not that I'm aware of. It just seems ... less sensational and more informational."
"If it weren't at least a little sensational, then it wouldn't be ISN." commented Zack Allan, shaking his head.
"There you go." agreed Trip with a wide grin. He glanced at the screen again and asked quietly, "They referred to a war. Are you people fighting a war?"
"Nah, but the Narn and Centauri were until just a few weeks ago." answered Zack.
Zack nodded toward two groups of aliens keeping well apart as they walked through the Zocalo, and said, "Them."
"The ones with the hair. If I were you, I would stay away from the lot of them while you're here." advised Zack, more astute than usual.
"But they live here in peace, right?" questioned Trip uncomfortably.
"Hardly. It's primarily because of them that we security officers are so jumpy."
Commander Tucker gave him a questioning look.
"One of the Centauri tried to blow up the captain a month or so ago. He barely escaped with his life." said Zack even more quietly.
Trip felt a twinge of anger at that, but only asked, "Why?"
"I don't know if I'm exactly comfortable explaining local politics, commander. It gets really complicated." answered Zack.
"Understood." nodded Trip.
"You've already said that where you come from there isn't any unemployment. You act like you've never lived through a war before either." said Zack. Commander Tucker was beginning to feel like Zack was beating a dead horse.
"I haven't. I mean, I know that war still goes on in some places in the galaxy, and it's a terrible thing, but my experiences with it first hand are rather limited."
"You don't say?" said Zack, thoughtfully shaking his head and continuing to sip his drink.
Trip read his expression well enough: the security officer was wistful, maybe even a little envious of the good fortune that humans had in Tucker's universe. It sounded like something out of a fairy tale, even if Zack only half believed him.
"If I find away to repair my ship and go home, maybe you could come with me for a visit and see it all for yourself." Trip offered.
Zack laughed and said, "Yeah, that'll be the day. I serve happily aboard a space station for one reason: it never moves. It stays nice and still. No thanks, commander, I don't think I'm up for the voyage."
"I just thought I should make the offer."
"I'm glad you did. The very idea brought my head right out of the clouds."
he said, smiling and checking the time. "I had better take you back now
or the captain will think you got lost or something."
It was almost twenty-three hundred, station time, when Tucker returned to Sheridan's place of residence, and the station's commanding officer had yet to return. Jonathan Archer of the Enterprise put in long hours, but this was ridiculous. The captain had awakened around five in the morning and it seemed unlikely that he would get to bed before midnight. Did he really live like this? Trip had performed a hard day's work himself, and he was bushed, but he knew that he would be able to recover as soon as he returned home.
"What about this guy? Does he ever get a break?" wondered Trip as he moved his boots and got ready for bed, or rather for couch.
It required some minutes of searching to figure out how to turn out
the lights. Then Commander Tucker got some much deserved shut eye.
The sound of the door opening with a mechanical gurgle, to which he could not easily become accustomed, only partially awakened him from a deep and seemingly dreamless slumber. The next noise was unfamiliar to him, and possibly because of that, roused him from sleep. A split second later the room was alive with rounds fired from Trip could only identify as an alien plasma weapon. The rounds shattered the foggy partition between the captain's bedroom and the rest of his quarters. The dark figure firing the weapon was obviously aiming at the captain's bed where he presumed Sheridan was sleeping.
Commander Tucker, whose brain was quickly moving from sleep-addled to wide awake, leapt from the couch and, by virtue of catching the assailant by surprise, tackled him, which knocked the weapon from his grasped and somewhere into the surrounding darkness. Of course, Trip wasn't concerned about the weapon once it was out of the other guy's hands. He was only thinking about the wrestling match in which he suddenly found himself entangled. His opponent was smaller, but obviously no weakling. Whether through luck or some strange twist of fate, the commander felt a small, heavy object clatter the floor near at hand. Tucker grabbed for it and quickly struck his assailant about the face with it until he ceased struggling.
He breath came in ragged gasps as he clambered to his feet and absently returned his weapon to the shelf at hand. His lip had been busted in the struggle, but that was nothing compared to what he believed he had done to the would-be assassin. Tucker glanced in the vague direction of the bedroom and wiped his lip. For a moment he felt a chill. The captain couldn't possibly have come in without waking him, right?
"Of course not." Trip told himself, peering into the darkness. Then he thought, "I really should get Garibaldi or maybe Zack."
The Babcom system was easy enough to figure out once Trip realized that there was no other communications panel in the room. He glanced repeatedly at the Centauri on the floor and thoroughly appreciated Zack's warning about that particular alien group. The alien demonstrated no signs of returning to consciousness. Tucker was very glad of that.
"I need to contact Mister Garibaldi or Zack Allan." Trip told the computer, feeling slightly silly making such a complicated request of the machine. Normally, the most complex task he ever verbally asked a computer to do was to fill a glass with cold milk or take him to the bridge.
"Is this an emergency?" asked the panel in front of him in a pleasant, but unconcerned feminine voice.
"Yes." replied Trip affirmatively.
"The requested security officers have been notified. They will be at your location shortly."
"Thanks." said the commander with a sigh of relief.
"You're welcome." said the computer, shutting itself off.
Neither Garibaldi nor Allan looked pleased when they opened the door. Both had drawn PPG's, although they had obviously been roused from bed at two o'clock in the morning. Garibaldi pushed passed Tucker as he approached the entrance to the room. Allan looked at the Centauri on the floor, who was still both bleeding and unconscious, and he winced.
"You did that to him?" questioned Zack, his admiration of Commander Tucker increasing exponentially.
"I swear it was self-defense, Zack."
"No, I don't doubt it, commander."
Mister Garibaldi holstered his PPG and looked up at Zack and Trip before saying, "I got to hand it to you, Trip. I couldn't have done a better job myself. He's out for the count."
Tucker nodded toward Captain Sheridan's quarters and said, "I'm just glad I was the only one here. I didn't wake up until the shooting started."
"Tell me about it." said Garibaldi, looking at the shattered glass.
"Does he need a doctor or anything?" asked Tucker, looking at the Centauri with a frown.
"You worked him over pretty good. I think we might have to visit Medlab before Zack and I can take him to a holding cell." said the security chief. He didn't sound entirely displeased by the idea.
The door behind them opened with the usual noise.
"What the hell is going on here?" asked a very tired looking Captain Sheridan from the doorway.
Garibaldi and Zack were just beginning to hoist the unconscious Centauri up and take him for a brief visitor in Medlab.
"Um, captain, we just had a minor mishap here." Trip tried to explain, his Southern drawl becoming suddenly thicker.
"Don't believe him. He just single-handedly stopped a Centauri assassin. No small feat, right, Zack?" said Garibaldi, who was just a little proud on his new friend's behalf.
"Right, chief." agreed Zack as they began dragging the culprit away.
"We'll have a crew in here to take care of the mess in just a couple of minutes." said Garibaldi over his shoulder.
"But ..." began John.
"It can wait until morning, sir, can't it? You look absolutely awful. You should get some sleep or something." suggested the security chief as the three of them disappeared out the door.
"I think he's right." said Trip as Sheridan collapsed heavily into a chair, looking at the mess that had been his quarters. Tucker couldn't have guessed by looking, but much of the damage was superficial.
"I have a right to know what happened here tonight." argued Sheridan.
"I suspect that you do, John, but it isn't night. It's morning. They must run you ragged around this place."
Although touched by his concern, Sheridan warned him, "Don't change the subject, Trip."
"I heard the door open. It woke me up. Then that guy starts firing some kind of ray gun into your room over there. I jumped him and got lucky."
That made Sheridan smile despite the gravity of the situation, and he asked, "So you took down a Centauri assassin with your bare hands in the dark?"
"Not with my bare hands, John. I managed to grab something while we were wrestling." said Trip, looking around. He pointed toward the nearest shelf. "That piece of twisted black metal gave me the advantage."
"That's a piece of a Minbari ship called the Black Star. I never imagined that it would be good for anything practical." chuckled John thoughtfully.
"It sure came in handy." said Trip, not certain if he wanted to ask questions about the ship. He was reasonably certain that the story would have something to do with the Earth-Minbari War, and he had heard enough about it from Lennier to last him a good, long while.
"I think I may tell Commander Ivanova that. It was a gift from her."
"And you might want to change the lock on your door." Commander Tucker advised him.
"Mister Garibaldi will see to that without a doubt."
"You trust him a lot, don't you, John?" questioned Trip.
"He is my chief of security, and he hasn't let me down yet, so I guess I do, although I don't always know if the feeling is mutual. It isn't an easy thing to earn Garibaldi's trust especially not after ..." Sheridan told him, trailing off and coughing.
"I have a gift for finding sore spots, it seems."
"No, it isn't that." said Sheridan. He frowned and thought for a moment. "If I tell you what happened, you cannot mention it to anyone. I'm not breaking anyone's confidence, but no one likes to talk about it." he warned Trip sternly.
"Understood, sir." said Tucker, realizing the gravity of the situation and the grave look in Sheridan's weary eyes.
"One of his own shot him in the back a little more than a year ago. You can see how that might affect a person's ability to trust."
"That's terrible." said Trip, looking away and shaking his head. "Everyone on this station must be in constant fear for their lives." he thought. But there was something that he didn't understand. "Why does he seem to ... trust ... me then?" he inquired.
"Beats the hell out of me, Trip, but he does and that trust seems to be well placed." John told him. He could see it in the captain's eyes. He had wanted to tack a veiled threat onto the end of that.
"And, believe me, John, I won't let either of you down." Tucker told him firmly.
Sheridan smiled at him and said, "Good."
The maintenance people, and Zack Allan, arrived about an hour after the incident. They cleaned up the glass, and Zack took the Centauri's weapon with him. The quarters looked almost pristine by the time they were done. Sheridan dozed in his chair while they work, but Trip, perhaps infected by the local justifiable paranoia, watched the technicians while they worked. It was zero four hundred hours by the time they left, and Trip could hardly keep his eyes open.
As the door closed he shook his head to clear it of sleepiness. John looked half comfortable in his chair and more than half asleep, but Trip had slept in chair often enough to know how he would feel in the morning, or in his case, a couple of hours, if not less.
"John," said Trip, stifling a yawn and shaking the captain by the shoulder, "are you sure you want to sleep here?"
Sheridan jerked awake and looked around. Trip took a step back.
"Sorry, I was dreaming that I was falling asleep on the bridge of the Agamemnon." he explained with an embarrassed half smile. He rubbed his neck and said, "I guess my bed, or whatever's left of it, would beat this chair."
"That's what I figured." Tucker agreed.
"You almost make me long for the days when officers had roommates, Trip."
"I appreciate the compliment, but, begging your pardon, I think I remember those days a little more clearly, and I'm not ready to share your sentiments just yet."
Sheridan laughed and said, "Get some sleep or in the morning you're
going to look like an old man too."
Both officers were awakened the following morning by the Babcom unit. Captain Sheridan practically leapt out of bed to answer it, grabbing a pair of pants as he dashed toward the unit. Trip stretched lazily as he watched the commanding officer of Babylon 5 rub his eyes before pressing a button on the panel.
"Susan, what can I do for you this morning?" inquired Sheridan.
"It's 09:00, captain." she hedged. "I understand, from talking to Mister Garibaldi earlier, that you not only had a long night last night, but a rough one too; however, we have a meeting with the Drazi ambassador at half passed ten." Ivanova continued.
"Wait a minute. It can't be that late." interrupted Sheridan.
"The um ..., weapons fire must have knocked out your alarm clock." suggested Trip from the couch.
"Don't worry, sir. Everything else was covered this morning." said Ivanova.
"Thanks, commander. I will meet you at my office in an hour."
"Yes, sir." said Ivanova before her image was replaced by the Babcom
Sheridan turned and looked at Commander Tucker and said, "I don't keep a lot of food here, but if you like fruit, I have some apples and oranges. We could have breakfast after we hit the shower."
"Sounds great." agreed Trip.
Sheridan looked at the commander's uniform, which was spotted with ample grease, and said, "Your clothes could use a good cleaning. Do you want to borrow some civilian clothing for today?"
Trip grinned and said, "Thank you for the offer, but if I borrowed them from you, I would look a little silly."
"John, you're freakishly tall. I'd look like I was wearing a clown suit or something.
"Nah, you could just cuff the pants and the sleeves."
Tucker looked at his somewhat dirty uniform and said, "All right."
"Comfortable?" asked Captain Sheridan as he peeled an orange.
Tucker tugged at his shirt and nodded, "Surprisingly, yes. Thanks for the loan. I just hope I don't get too much grease and stuff on it while I'm working today."
"Don't worry about it, Trip." John chuckled. "I spend ninety percent of my time in uniform anyway."
Trip took a bite from his apple and frowned as he thought. He wanted to ask about the events of the previous evening, but he had the distinct feeling that John did not want to talk about it. And Tucker certainly couldn't blame him.
"It might not exactly be polite breakfast conversation, but do want to tell me what that guy with the hair fan had against you?" inquired Trip.
"Well, that's no surprise."
"The Centauri and the Narn were at war until recently. I suppose you could say that the station sided with the Narn, and some of the Centauri on Babylon 5 are still upset about that."
"Even though they won the war?"
Sheridan frowned and asked, "So you know something about the recent conflict?"
"Zack told me something about it." admitted Trip.
"It was terrible for the Narn. They had only been free of Centauri rule for a very short time."
"This kind of thing goes on a lot then."
Looking up from his breakfast, John replied, "Yes, unfortunately, it does, despite our best efforts to prevent it. And the future ..." Sheridan halted mid sentence and shook his head.
"Doesn't look as bright as it once did." he finished.
"But the war is over?" questioned Tucker.
Captain Sheridan looked at the curious young officer with whom he was sharing a frugal morning meal. He was unsure whether he wanted Trip to know what was in store for Babylon 5, for the galaxy, in the coming days. Sheridan was reasonably certain of the trustworthiness and integrity of Commander Tucker, but the secret that he wished to impart might be too terrible for the free-spirited engineer to bear or to understand.
"Are you sure you want me to go into all this, Trip? You would probably rather not understand the situation in our universe right now."
"Then I want to help, if I'm able."
Captain Sheridan laughed, not at the staggering naiveté of the young officer, but at his willingness to involved himself in problems that were not his own. Trip had a good heart. That could not be doubted.
"Only a few people know what's really happening. If I were to include you in ... these matters, commander, you would not be able to discuss it with anyone in this universe. The consequences of doing so could be, would be tragic." Sheridan explained.
The captain's face was solemn, even more so that when they had discussed other weighty topics. A storm front had moved across his eyes.
"I understand, captain, and I still want to help."
"Wait until you really understand before making any promises, Trip." John warned him.
Then Sheridan told him about the Shadows and the galaxy wide conflict that he believed was coming, the assassination of the president, the differences that were beginning to surface between Babylon 5 and earth, and even about the Rangers. The commander listened with unwavering attention as he spoke.
"So this is a battle between good and evil, right?" questioned Tucker when Sheridan finished speaking.
"You could put it that way."
"If I can find a way back to my universe, maybe I could send help. It wouldn't be much, but it sounds like you can use all the help you can get."
It was very quiet as the captain considered his offer. Then Sheridan just chuckled and shook his head.
"We aren't in any position to refuse here, but I don't think I'll bet on your ability to zip from one universe to the other just yet."
"I will do what I can." vowed Trip.
"I can only hope that everyone here will too."
"At least now I understand why so many of you people seem nervous. I would be too, if I was in this position."
Before that conversation, Trip had known that Sheridan seemed to carry
the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he did not know why. Afterward,
it was all too obvious: he was carrying the weight of the galaxy, of many
worlds, and secretly at that. Commander Tucker could not help but to admire
Much to Commander Tucker's surprise, Lennier was waiting for him when he reached the maintenance bay where his shuttlepod was located.
"My duties are light this morning, commander. I thought that I could perhaps assist you again." he said with a friendly, but cryptic Minbari smile.
"Always glad to have the company." said Trip. "But I don't know what I'm going to do today. I need parts in a bad way and a welding kit or something to replace the hatch. How I'm going to come up with those is a mystery to me."
"Then you are almost finished?" questioned Lennier.
"That's one way of looking at it, but then again, I still need to get the engine back on-line too."
"Then let us begin."
Hours later Commander Tucker was sitting in the floor on the shuttlepod by an open panel. Lennier, seated in the pilot's seat, turned and looked at the frustrated engineer.
"What did you say was wrong with it, commander?" questioned Lennier.
"Nothing. It isn't damaged. It has power and everything. It just won't work." explained Tucker.
"My experiences with space craft engineering are somewhat limited, especially with non-Minbari technology, but may I suggest that perhaps you have missed something?"
"I can run another diagnostic, but my gut says that it's going to come up with nothing ... again." sighed Tucker, holding his head in his hands.
"Perhaps your gut is being too negative. Instinct is not the best guide in some matters."
"Maybe, but I have a heap of problems that I've got to solve before I can go home." retorted Trip.
"And they all have solutions, I am sure." said Lennier, leaving his chair. "But, regrettably, I cannot find them with you this afternoon. My presence is required elsewhere."
Tucker smiled and clambered to his feet before telling Lennier, "I do appreciate your assistance. You're welcome to come back any time."
Lennier bowed slightly and said, "Thank you, commander. I will return
as my duties allow." As he began to exit through the hatch, he added, "If
I see Mister Garibaldi, I will send him your way. I have a feeling that
he can help you with your parts problem."
It was almost evening when Trip met up with the Chief in the Zocalo. Commander Tucker was exhausted and no closer to having his shuttlepod space-worthy again. The thought "what if I can never go home?" was just beginning to occur to him. And Trip was not very comfortable with that thought.
"You look like a man with a problem." the security chief joked, pressing a mug of synthetic coffee into his hand.
"I don't think I can repair my ship alone. I need someone to help me weld the hatch back on, not to mention that I need a few spare parts." said Tucker bluntly.
"Is that all?" laughed Garibaldi.
Tucker looked at him blankly for a moment. Of course it wasn't all, but those were the two most readily fixed problems that the commander was facing. He didn't even want to mention the engine. Garibaldi didn't seem believe him about it being a feasible means of propulsion anyway.
"Does that mean you can help me?" asked Tucker.
"I know some guys who could take good care of your hatch problem, and I think I know where you can get some components for your ship too."
"That's great news!"
"I'll meet you in the maintenance bay after twenty hundred hours tonight.
We can probably pick up your spare parts then."
"We impounded this thing from a guy smuggling contraband, so he won't be seeing it again for some time." Garibaldi explained as he led Commander Tucker to another part of the docking area.
"Is this legal?" questioned Tucker.
"You shouldn't ask so many questions. Okay, so it may be a little questionable, but technically, the cargo ship has been seized in accordance with the law, so no one owns it right now."
As they entered the small bay where the vessel was being held, Tucker's heart sank. It was a rust bucket. It looked almost fifty years old by his estimation. By comparison the shuttlepod seemed to be in good condition.
"Don't judge it by the outside appearance. It just had a hard life. The inside is still in top condition." Garibaldi assured him.
"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." said Trip.
Garibaldi opened the small cargo vessel and ushered Tucker inside. True to his word, everything looked to be in pristine condition.
"I hope you can make the two technologies work together." said the Chief as Tucker opened a panel and began looking around.
"The parts I need are very basic. I'm not too concerned."
"If you need some tools, I think there's some in a bin in the back.
Take whatever you need."
The components that Commander Tucker required for his repair work were substantial, and in the end Mister Garibaldi helped him carry a couple of small crates back to the shuttlepod. He could see a spark of determination and zeal for the task at hand in Trip's eyes as they began unloading the crates. Tucker looked very much like a professional.
"You aren't going to work all night, are you, Trip?" inquired Garibaldi.
"I just might. I've done it before, back on the Enterprise. There's a certain sense of reward to it." he replied.
"Yeah, well, good luck to you. I'm beat." the security chief told him.
Tucker looked at the crates, the components, and the open panels and decided that it could wait. Things were starting to look up again. No need to rush. After all, if he was only going to be there another day or so, why not enjoy it? Why not get a good night's sleep for a change?
"All right, Garibaldi. You convinced me. I suppose I could use some sleep tonight." he said.
"You want to join me at the officers' club first? It is Friday night, you know, and a lot of us get together there as our duties allow." suggested Garibaldi.
"I thought you said you were beat."
"I am that's why I'm going there. One of the best places to relax on
Commander Tucker had expected Earhart's, the local officers' club, to be crowded and really hopping, but considering recent events, especially those back home, many officers elected to spend their Friday nights at the Zocalo or the casino. Commander Ivanova and a few miscellaneous officers were having a few drinks. Garibaldi nudged Tucker toward Ivanova's table.
"Are you sure she wants the company?" whispered Tucker.
"Of course." said Garibaldi.
She looked up from her glass as the pair seated themselves, commenting only, "Guys."
"Commander." greeted Tucker.
"I thought you were only going to be here for a couple of days. You're still here." she said to him. At first Trip wasn't certain whether he should take offense, but then he looked her in the eye and saw mischief, not malice.
"I guess it's the climate keeping me here. Always sunny and all." he joked with her.
"Buy him a drink, commander. I'm going to go have a word with some of the boys." said Garibaldi, leaving his seat.
"You don't have to do that, commander." said Trip as she began to signal to the bartender.
"Susan. Call me Susan."
"Fine, and you can call me Trip."
"Trip? That's a nice nickname." she said with a bemused smirk.
"I've had it since my Academy days. I guess it sort of stuck with me, not that that's a bad thing. I don't think I could stand to have everybody calling me Charles or Tucker all the time." he explained to her. "That last name of yours is a tongue twister. Where you from, Susan?" he asked.
"The Russian Consortium." she answered, inclining her chin just a little bit. He could see a glint of pride in her eyes.
"Really? I can't remember his name, but I had an acquaintance in my graduating class that was from the Ukraine."
"So the Ukraine exists in your universe?" asked Ivanova.
"Of course, and Russia too, not that I've ever been there or anything."
said Tucker quickly.
Ivanova was quiet for a moment, sipping her drink and apparently considering something, a question. Trip wondered if he had offended her in some way.
"Do they have telepaths in your universe, Trip?" she inquired thoughtfully.
"Not that I'm aware of."
"But I suppose you've seen them here."
"No, I don't believe so, but how would I spot one?"
"Black gloves, insignia of the Psi Corps, sometimes a uniform too." she told him. Commander Tucker just shook his head. "Just as well, I guess."
"Why is that?"
Ivanova looked him in the eye with an expression that he could not pin down easily. He recalled the idiom 'still waters run deep' as he tried to understand.
"Trip, what would happen if a person in your universe developed the ability to read minds?" she questioned.
"I imagine it would be pretty cool. I know what you mean though. They would probably be studied and prodded at a lot by scientists. But nothing all that awful would happen to them."
"What if there were a lot of them, Trip?"
"Honestly, Susan, I don't know where you're going with this. Maybe Star Fleet could recruit them for helping out with first contact situations or for counseling." he suggested.
"What about the privacy of other people? Wouldn't you worry about that?" she probed.
"Well, I suppose I might if I had something to hide, but I'd figure that most people with this ability wouldn't want to look inside other people's heads. I know I wouldn't want to do it."
"You're a good man, Charles Tucker." sighed Commander Ivanova.
"I don't understand."
"On earth people were afraid of telepaths, so they were given three choices: taking sleeper drugs to inhibit their ability, joining the Psi Corps, or going to prison. None of those options are very appealing, are they?"
"No, I guess, but I still don't get it. All of this was done out of fear of these people, these telepaths, invading someone's privacy?"
"It was and is, Trip. It happened to my mother." she admitted.
Tucker looked at the table, avoiding the eyes of the commander for a moment, thinking to himself, "Well, at least she brought it up." When he glanced up again he questioned, "Which option?"
"The drugs. It was terrible."
"So was I. That's why I'm asking for a favor, Trip."
"Name it, Susan, just name it."
"Remember what I've told you. If a similar situation arises in your universe, put in a good word for the teeps, would you? I wouldn't want to know that this ... mistake has been repeated anywhere else."
"You have my word of honor, Susan. I won't stand by and see telepaths mistreated on my watch."
"Thank you. That means a lot to me, Trip." she said, smiling. Her smile widened as she glanced toward the door. Nodding in that direction, she commented, "Now there is something you don't see every day, at least not these days."
Trip looked over his shoulder to see Captain Sheridan entering the club. The commanding officer smiled his big boyish grin when he saw Ivanova and Tucker at their table. Garibaldi was nowhere in sight, having been called to help break up a fight in seedy bar not too far away. The two commanders made room for John at the table, welcoming the company.
"He kind of grows on you, doesn't he, Susan?" questioned Sheridan as he sat down.
"Indeed he does." agreed Ivanova.
"You guys are going to make me feel all guilty when I have to leave." said Tucker.
"Soon, Trip?" questioned Sheridan.
"It's either going to be soon or never, John. Garibaldi set me up with the parts and stuff that I needed. After that though, comes the hard part: getting my impulse engine working again. The more I think about it, the more impossible it seems."
"Explain to me how your ship operates, Trip." suggested Sheridan as the bartender brought him the usual.
"Well, I have maneuvering thrusters and an impulse engine, which is relatively slow, but normally quite durable. It is not exactly in perfect working order, but it should be by this time tomorrow. The shuttlepod isn't equipped with a warp drive, which is the primary means of moving a star ship."
"Impulse I think I understand, but warp? Is that a jump engine?" questioned Sheridan.
Tucker looked at him blankly for a minute and then questioned, "Jump engine, John? You're going to have to explain that one to me."
"A jump engine is, well, an engine that creates a jump point." Sheridan tried to explain. "The science behind this is ... complicated. I'm afraid that everything I learned theory-wise has been long forgotten."
"A jump engine creates a vortex that allows us to travel through hyperspace." said Ivanova.
"Hyperspace? Is that anything like subspace?" inquired Tucker, wondering how, if it were, one could travel through it. It seemed impossible.
Sheridan and Ivanova looked at one another and just shook their heads.
"Trip, never mind. Are you sure you will need the impulse engine? Couldn't you get back home with the thrusters?" Sheridan questioned.
"I'm not sure of anything." said Tucker candidly.
"Well, Trip, if you're going to be around for a while longer, we may need to start making provision for your room and board. You look thinner than when you arrived. I don't want to send you home malnourished, or sleep deprived for that matter. I mean, what would your people think of us?"
Tucker thought to himself, "They would think you were damn good sports for not locking me up as a mad man."
"Could we find a way to put him on the pay roll, captain?" questioned Ivanova.
"He does wear a uniform, but we would need to find something for him to do." said Sheridan, frowning and leaning back in his chair.
"Can you fly?" asked Ivanova.
"I'm a good enough shuttle pilot, if that's what you mean."
"If he could manage a fighter, we could put him in for flight pay. It would be less red tape than, say, maintenance."
"And it would give him more time to work on his ship." said Sheridan, liking the idea.
"Wait a minute! You want me to fly some kind of fighting ship? I don't have any experience at that kind of thing." objected Trip, despite the fact that the idea thrilled him.
"Not into combat." Ivanova clarified.
"Just once around the block every couple of days. Susan could check you out before her shift tomorrow morning."
"Me?" questioned Ivanova, who was very much not a morning person.
"Why not?" questioned Sheridan with a grin. Turning to Commander Tucker, he asked, "Would that be satisfactory, Trip? You could have a bed to sleep on in Red Sector and regular meals."
"Sign me up." said Trip, only somewhat reluctant.
Commander Tucker was up at what would have been called the crack of dawn on earth, but was actually zero five hundred hours station time. By the time he showered and put on his freshly laundered uniform, the captain was awake as well.
"Nervous?" John asked him.
Trip thought about it for a moment and said, "Suppose so."
"I was always nervous before this kind of thing too. But don't worry, Trip. Ivanova will get you through it just fine. It will be a piece of cake." Sheridan told him confidently.
"So now wouldn't be a good time to tell you that I wrecked my first Star Fleet shuttlepod, would it?" Sheridan looked up sharply from the cup of synthetic coffee he was drinking. Tucker laughed and held up his hands. "Only joking, John." he assured the commanding officer.
Sheridan relaxed and said, "Good, Trip. It's good to see you aren't that nervous."
"I want to know something before I go down there."
"How long do pilots normally train to fly these things?"
"Months." answered John.
"That's what I figured." said Trip, rubbing the back of his neck and looking uncomfortable.
"Just listen to Susan. That's all you'll need to do. She will get you through this, or neither of you are coming back."
"That's reassuring." said Tucker dryly as he walked to the door.
"Good luck to you, commander." said John quietly as the younger officer
left. Even if Trip wasn't especially nervous, the captain was. After all,
it was his ass on the line if anything happened out there.
"So you call this thing a Star Fury?" Trip questioned as they prepared to launch. He tugged at the restraints for a moment, wondering how secure they were and how much he would need them.
"That's right." answered Ivanova. "Maintain radio silence until we have cleared the station. Launches can be a bit disconcerting for uninitiated, commander."
At that moment Tucker's fighter began moving until it reached the end of the bay where it tipped forward and hurtled from the bay at a great speed. All of Ivanova's instructions, which she had given while he donned an Earth Force uniform and flight suit, rattled around inside his brain like small marbles. For a brief moment Commander Tucker was certain that was going to pass out at the controls. Then the acceleration decreased and he remembered to right the craft.
"That was some ride." commented Tucker as his fighter became clear of Babylon 5.
Ivanova's fighter appeared to his left. She glanced inside, grinned at Trip, and gave him a thumbs up.
"Not bad, commander. Almost half of the cadets that go for flight qualification throw up or black out their first time out of that gate."
"Thanks." said Tucker, who was attempting to hold the Star Fury on a stable course. "Now what?" he questioned.
"First we take the fighters around the planet so you can get a feel for the controls. Then we do some targeting and maneuvers practice." she explained.
Tucker, when the first portion of the training was done, would consider his flight around Epsilon Eridani Three a superlatively intense experience with few parallels in his own realm of existence. Ivanova, who had logged in more time in Star Fury than anyone else on the commander staff, recognized the commander as a gifted flyer and a quick study of the mechanics of their fighters, which certainly told the story of his experiences with various shuttlepods and other vessels in his universe.
"Do you enjoy this?" Trip questioned as he finally got the hang of it.
"Flying? Of course, I do. Isn't it everyone's dream to fly, at least when they're a kid, I mean?" she laughed.
"I reckon it is."
"But at our level in the command structure it's so hard to find the time, and a good excuse."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Lieutenants and ensigns get to have all the fun." said Tucker, thinking of Malcolm and Travis.
"You would think that rank would have more privileges." said Susan in a mock-serious tone.
"What? More than having single quarters? Are you arguing for mandatory flight time?"
"And why not? Although, at times, that might help move officers up through the ranks faster."
"Morbid! You're just being morbid now, commander."
"Fine, ready for target practice now?" she questioned.
"Sure. What are we shooting at?"
"I had practice rounds put in our fighters. You'll try to shoot me. Then you will try to avoid being shot." she informed him.
"Great. I'm going to suck at this." sighed Tucker as Ivanova's Star
Fury zoomed by.
Captain Sheridan was waiting for them when they exited their fighters some time later. Commander Tucker's legs were wobbly, but Ivanova seemed to have a spring in her step. Despite their equal rank, it was obvious who the superior pilot was.
"I'm impressed." said Sheridan, speaking not only to Trip, but to Ivanova as well. No novice flyer anywhere could have been put through paces like that and lived to tell the tale. Tucker had demonstrated promise.
"Thanks, John. That's always nice to know. I never would have believed that a woman would be able to fly like that."
"Sexist, isn't he?" commented Ivanova.
"So, do I qualify for flight pay now?" questioned Tucker, ignoring the remark.
"Congratulations, commander, you have qualified." Sheridan told him. "Mister Garibaldi is arranging for you to have a place to stay in the Red Sector. I would let you stay in crew country, but everything is full." he explained.
"Great. Then I had better get back to working on my ship, unless there's some kind of paperwork I need to fill out or anything." said Trip.
"No, that's all been taken care of as well." Sheridan assured him.
When Tucker entered the maintenance bay that morning, he stopped dead in his tracks. The hatch had been reattached and repaired. Mister Garibaldi had made a deal with a couple of maintenance technicians, and the job had been done during the wee hours of that very morning. The workmanship, Tucker found, was just as good as that of his own people back on the Enterprise. In all fairness the hatch looked as good as new.
"One down and two to go." he thought as he boarded the craft and prepared to finish up the repairs to the relays and circuits of the vessel.
But in the back of his mind, Commander Tucker was still wondering how he would get home, if he could get home, without the impulse engine functioning. It nagged at the back of his mind as he worked, keeping him ever-so-slightly unsettled, even though he was doing the job that he loved.
"I'm too old to make my living as a fighter pilot." he muttered as he reached for another tool.
"I'll say." agreed Michael Garibaldi from the hatch. He had been standing there, watching the commander hard at work for some time.
Tucker banged his forehead for a second time as he sat up, surprised by the reply to his muttering.
"You shouldn't do that." said Tucker.
Garibaldi laughed and said, "I couldn't resist."
"I got to thank you though for having that hatch fixed up for me. It gives me some peace of mind." Trip told him.
"It was nothing." he said. Taking a silvery, metallic object from a
pocket and holing it up, he said, "But this, this is something."
Trip wiped his hands on his uniform before taking from the Chief and asking, "What is it?"
"It's money. You use it to buy things." explain Garibaldi.
"I know what money is." said Tucker, examining the flat, rectangular object.
"I should show you how to use it and explain the local economy. This place is full of con artists, and, let's face it, you're a babe in the woods."
"I'm a babe?" questioned Trip.
"You're a babe, but it's nothing personal." Garibaldi shrugged.
"You want to do this now?"
"I have the time. Not that it should take too much. I'll just walk you
around the Zocalo and then take you to your quarters. I mean, no good having
a room if you can't find it, right?"
Commander Tucker, even if he spent the rest of his life on the fifth of the Babylon stations, would never become accustomed to the Zocalo, to the noise, to the crowd of different alien species, to the busyness in that part of the Red Sector. It was life as he had never imagined it.
"You want to buy some groceries, Trip?" inquired the security chief, nudging him forward into the crowd.
"I suppose so. Food is high on my list of priorities."
"I have to agree with you there." said Mister Garibaldi approvingly.
Garibaldi knew the Zocalo and the merchants there better than anyone. Just the presence of the chief of security kept them from trying to take Tucker for a ride. At first Trip had only wanted 'human' food that he recognized, but that was expensive. Garibaldi guided him toward choices that were almost as appetizing and far more economical. While he could not guess the Chief's level of education, he was hard pressed to think of anyone half as street wise as the man with the crew cut.
When that particular task was complete, with only a few interruptions where Garibaldi stopped or deterred a shoplifter or pickpocket or had to answer his link, he led Trip through the corridors of Red Sector to the commercial housing of the station. He removed a card from his pocket and gave to Tucker.
"And this would be ...?" questioned Trip.
"Identification. It will also open the door for you." Garibaldi informed him.
"Ah ..." he said, swiping the card and causing the door to open with that pronounced mechanical gurgling sound that was at last beginning to grow on the commander.
"After you." said Garibaldi.
Tucker had not expected spacious accommodations. In fact, he was certain that there was no such thing on the space station. He was not disappointed. The room was Spartan, containing only a bed, a table and chair, and a small, bathroom-like space with a sonic shower, the like of which he had never seen. All things considered, including the bargain Garibaldi had managed to get on the place, Commander Tucker was not displeased.
"I like it." said Trip.
"It's only temporary, right?" said Garibaldi, who personally didn't much care for Red Sector accommodations.
"No, seriously, it's about the same size as my quarters on the Enterprise." said Tucker, testing the mattress. He nodded toward the shower and said, "I know that thing's a shower, but it looks ... different somehow."
"It's not a water shower; it's sonic. You don't find water showers in this sector, only in the command staff and ambassadorial quarters. Water is precious commodity here."
"I see." nodded Tucker. "So do you have one?" he questioned.
"I worked a long time to become a chief warrant officer. I have a nice cold shower every morning and the ability to do favors for friends. Frankly, throw in an occasional steak, and that's all I really want out of life."
Trip grinned and said, "A man's got to know what's really important in life. I guess we do."
"I guess so." Garibaldi agreed.
Shuttlepod One was only one more day away from being ready, or at least as ready as it would ever be, and at the end of the day, Tucker was grateful to have a place of his own. He was beginning to feel homesick for the Enterprise, more so as he sat in the empty, unfamiliar room that he called his quarters than ever before. Tucker knew that he was only twenty-four to thirty-six hours away from making the attempt to go home. And he was still uncertain whether he would be able to return to his own universe without the main engines of the shuttlepod.
The homesickness and the dread of not knowing what the future held for him made Commander Tucker restless despite his long hours of difficult and tiring labor. Suddenly he thought of the garden and decided that he wanted to go for a nice, quiet walk to clear his head before he tried to sleep.
The hydroponic garden was quiet and almost deserted at that hour, but it was no less peaceful and amazing to the engineer. Trip found his way to an empty stone bench and took a seat. He could not help looking up at the core shuttles passing overhead and the vastness of the interior of the station.
"Maybe staying here wouldn't be so bad if I could come here every once in a while." said Tucker to himself.
At that moment he felt a presence and turned to see a hulking alien round the corner. He blinked and realized that it was wearing a brown, shell-like suit with a green orifice where the face would have been on a human. The alien seemed to regard Tucker with certain detachment and coolness.
"Hello." said Trip, trying to smile despite the strange sensation that he was being observed by the alien.
"You have never been here." the alien told him in a rasping voice.
"I was here yesterday." replied Commander Tucker uncertainly, but he thought, "Does it think I've seen something or is it trying to psych me out somehow?"
"You do not understand." answered the strange being, turning slowly to go.
"Hey," called Trip, coming to his feet, "did you want something?"
"I wanted to see." answered the Vorlon as it rounded the corner again and disappeared.
"Now, that's what I call right spooky." commented Tucker before stifling
a yawn and walking back to his quarters.
The next morning Tucker was awaken by the sound of the Babcom unit in his quarters informing him of an incoming transmission from Captain Sheridan. After a moment of fumbling with the computer, Sheridan appeared on the screen.
"Did I wake you, Trip?" questioned the captain with a chuckle.
"It doesn't matter. I should be up and working anyway, John. What can I do for you?" he asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"If you want breakfast at the officers' mess, meet me there in a quarter of an hour. Although, I imagine, you could find a more appetizing breakfast at the Zocalo."
"Nah, I'd rather eat with people I know." Tucker told him.
"Then you had better get a move on. Sheridan out."
Commander Tucker switched off the Babcom unit and immediately began the task of figuring out the mechanics behind the sonic shower. When it was all over, he wasn't entirely displeased with the results, but he understood why water showers were so coveted. It was more than just the sound and feel of running water or the smell of the steam. It was the ritual act of showering in water.
"I would certainly miss that." commented Tucker as he shook out and
dusted off his uniform. He eyed the shower and wondered, "Does it do laundry
too? I should ask someone."
Ivanova, Sheridan, Garibaldi, and Franklin were all waiting for him when he reached the mess hall. They had, in fact, saved a chair for him. Having spent the better part of a year eating at the captain's table on the Enterprise, he was aware of the significance of the gesture. It meant that he had achieved a certain level of belonging that did not usually come quickly or easily.
"Good morning." said Commander Tucker as he took his seat.
"How were your new quarters?" questioned Sheridan.
"Fine, fine. I slept really well down there." he said, smiling a little. Then Trip added, "But it did make me a tad homesick."
"Homesick?" questioned Ivanova skeptically.
"What? You've never been homesick?" asked Trip defensively.
"Here? Never." scoffed Ivanova.
Franklin leaned forward across the table and said, "But you should realize that between the four of us, we have probably had something like twenty to twenty-five assignments since we entered Earth Force and some of us did a little traveling before that. We have all learned to call a place home rather easily." Then he smiled and asked, "So which are you homesick for, commander: earth or your ship?"
Tucker grinned as he understood and answered, "My ship, of course."
"How long have you been chief engineer of your ship?" questioned Sheridan.
"I'm her first. It's been about eleven months now, but it feels like longer. Of course, it would have to. It takes me a long time, I guess, before I can really call a place home." answered Tucker.
"I take it that you haven't been posted at a lot of different places." said Franklin.
"Not for long periods of time. I was at Utopia Planitia for a while, Titan for some training, and, of course, San Francisco."
"San Francisco?" questioned Sheridan.
"The Academy is there, not to mention most of Star Fleet, excluding the ship yards, and some consulates. Everyone spends at least part of their careers in the city by the bay."
"Is San Diego still there by any chance?" questioned Franklin.
Garibaldi and Sheridan especially looked a little uncomfortable as he made his inquiry. Tucker did not like the question at all. It implied that the city was not there anymore in their universe.
"Yes, it's there." Trip answered.
"Give us a break, doc. We're eating here." interjected Garibaldi before Franklin could ask another question or Trip could formulate one of his own. Tucker just looked at the security officer gratefully.
"Sorry, Chief, but the rest of you have had the chance to question our guest. I've been too busy even to see him since he left Medlab." grumbled Stephen, not too seriously.
"Ask him a medical question or something then, but leave the more unpleasant things aside until after breakfast at least." said Ivanova.
"I'm not a doctor. You would need Phlox for that. If he were here, he'd be having a swell time answering you too." said Trip, throwing up his hands. Just thinking about the smiling alien doctor made him homesick for the Enterprise all the more.
"Phlox?" questioned Franklin.
"Our chief medical officer." replied Tucker, shifting his attention to the plate in front of him again. He wondered how these people would react to the idea of an alien doctor. He stifled a chuckle. Probably the same way he did: quiet, unvoiced disapproval at first, but acceptance later. It wasn't an easy thing, probably more so for a humanity who had already gone to war with aliens once, maybe more times.
"I don't want to ask any of the hard questions, commander. Just tell me which universe has the most advanced medical science: ours or yours?"
Tucker relaxed and answered, "I think you might have us by a country mile in the medical department, but don't tell anyone I said that." He resisted to the urge to tell the doctor that Phlox was still using leeches. Trip wasn't sure that the humor would be appreciated.
"Well, let me know if you want the take your CMO any of our medical journals. I have some back issues that you are welcome to have." said Franklin, who, despite the offer, seemed just a little smug or self-satisfied.
"I'll let you know." agreed Tucker.
Sheridan glanced at the time and told all of them, "It's about time for our shifts to start, and Trip is certain to have his hands full today. I suggest that we get a move on."
As they exited the mess hall, Trip caught the captain by the elbow and said, "John, I have a question I want to ask you."
"I saw an alien in the garden last night." he said, briefly describing Ambassador Kosh. "What's the deal with him?" Tucker questioned.
"Kosh? Well, he's the station's Vorlon ambassador. I'm surprised you saw him. He keeps mostly to himself. The Vorlons tend to be a secretive bunch."
"That explains a lot, I suppose, but I still have to wonder about what he said to me." Tucker told him, shaking his head.
"Kosh spoke to you?" questioned Sheridan, raising his eyebrows.
"Yeah, he said, 'You have never been here'. At first I thought he meant the garden, but now I think it was something a little more Zen than that."
"Will wonders never cease! He once told me that I had always been here." said Captain Sheridan, chuckling thoughtfully.
"Maybe he just likes to make people think." said Tucker, who was himself thinking of a strange statement he once heard: if you pass the Buddha on the street, kill him. It was supposed to make people try to reason differently or something.
"That is an adequate assessment." agreed Sheridan.
It was late afternoon when Commander Tucker finished his repairs. Shuttlepod One looked just as good on the inside as did on the outside. Everything had been patched up and all of the panels and consoles were closed. Of course, he would want to replace some of the borrowed components with standard ones when he returned home, but everything was in good working order and he hoped that would be enough. The question of the impulse engine still troubled him, but Trip could not formulate a plan with the pod sitting in a maintenance bay. It would have to be space for that.
"Commander Tucker?" called a familiar, but nonetheless alien voice from outside the shuttle.
"I'm inside, Lennier." yelled Trip in reply, grinning from ear to ear as the Minbari entered the craft. "I've finished!" he said.
"Congratulations, commander. Does that mean you will be leaving us soon?"
"I need to talk to Captain Sheridan, but I imagine I will be leaving tonight or maybe tomorrow morning." answered Tucker.
"I've been gone for a long time now. If I don't get back soon, my crew mates might have a funeral for me, and I wouldn't like that at all." said Trip with a smile.
"It would make your return more awkward, would it not?"
"Yeah, you could say that."
"Ambassador Delenn would like to see you again before you depart. Will you honor her request?"
"I would be delighted." said Tucker with a grin.
"Delenn will be pleased. She has been quite interested in your progress." Lennier told him with a slight bow.
"Thank her for me when you see her." said Trip, bowing a little too. He almost halted mid motion, realizing that Lennier's Minbari mannerisms were beginning to rub off on him.
"I will, commander." he said before making his way through the hatch
Commander Tucker realized that if all went well, that day would be his last aboard Babylon 5, so when he had closed up the shuttlepod, he made his way to the hydroponic garden again. A few people, mostly humans and a few Centauri, were wandering through the garden at a leisurely pace as Tucker took a seat on a bench in front of an ornamental Japanese Stone Garden. Tucker looked up at the expansive gardens high above him and shook his head. If they could build something like this, why couldn't they take care of the poor and less fortunate? It had taken a long time on his earth to do so, but they had done it. Were the possibilities so very different here?
It was some time before Trip dragged himself back to his quarters to have a meal that evening. But when he arrived he found a message waiting for him from Captain Sheridan:
"I heard that you finished your repairs, Trip. If you want to come over to my place, discuss your plans for leaving, and have one last drink together, I should be in my quarters by nineteen hundred tonight. Feel free to stop by any time after that."
"News travels fast around this place." said Tucker as he sat down. "Lennier told Delenn, of course, so she must have told the captain." he speculated.
He glanced at the time display on the Babcom unit and wished that he
had some civilian clothes of his own to wear after hours. Then he pocketed
his identification card and made his way up to the Blue Sector to see Sheridan,
wondering all the way, how exactly information passed from person to person
on the station.
Captain Sheridan had already removed his uniform jacket when Trip arrived at his quarters. When he had received the news that Tucker was ready to leave, naturally from Delenn, he had been slightly regretful instead of happy for the commander. Of course, the captain had more than enough problems already and if Trip stayed on, he would eventually become just one more, but he liked the engineer's spirit, humor, and wide-eyed innocence. All of it was so refreshing. But then he was glad that Trip had managed to repair his ship and John sincerely hoped that he had a way home.
"What should we drink to, Trip?" questioned Sheridan as he filled a pair of glasses.
The commander grinned, raised his glass, and said simply, "Home."
"To the Enterprise." agreed Sheridan.
"To Babylon 5."
"To earth." they said almost in unison.
"Now that's what I call a toast." said Commander Tucker with a wide smile after downing his drink.
The pair took a seat and sat there quietly for a few moments.
"Trip, it's best if you leave the station some time during the night or early morning. It makes it easier to keep it off the logs, and maybe you can slip out unnoticed." said Sheridan.
"The shuttlepod is ready. I can leave at your discretion." said Tucker. Then he remembered the Minbari ambassador. "I just have to see Ambassador Delenn before I go." he added hastily.
"She is impressed with you. Delenn has a knack for knowing people, if you understand me. Don't worry. That's taken care of already." Sheridan assured him, a goofy smile coming to his face.
"Thank you. I wouldn't have want to leave without seeing her again, especially since I told Lennier that I would."
"We're going to meet her at my office in about half an hour."
"Then pour me one more drink, John, if you don't mind. I think we have the time." said Commander Tucker with a half smile of his own. "Why didn't you just invite her here? I bet she'd enjoy a glass of this." commented Trip.
"Minbari and alcohol don't mix."
"So I've been told." answered Sheridan. "Does your Vulcan lady friend drink? I could send a small bottle home with you. She might like the present." suggested John.
"It's a very generous gesture, John, but she doesn't drink. I think it takes emotions to enjoy drinking stuff like this."
"Are you saying that she doesn't have emotions?" questioned Sheridan skeptically.
"None that I'm aware of. Her people suppress them really well, almost completely, you could say."
"Trip," he said, shaking his head, "how can you have feelings for a woman like that?"
"It's complicated. It's frustrating too. For every step forward I take, T'Pol takes two steps back." he said, sipping his drink. "But someday, maybe, we'll reach an understanding."
"And if you do, how will you know?"
"I suppose she'll tell me in that seductively monotone voice of hers, clearly and logically." said Tucker, smiling. Then suddenly he coughed and added, "Not that I see that happening in the near future."
"I wish you all the luck in the galaxy, Trip. I really do." said Sheridan.
"And I wholeheartedly appreciate it, John." he said, raising his half empty glass. He almost added, "And I wish you luck with Ambassador Delenn." But he thought better of it and kept his mouth closed.
Sheridan glanced at the time as they finished their drinks and asked Commander Tucker, "Do you want to say good-bye to Mister Garibaldi and Zack Allan tonight, or do you want me to drag them out of their quarters to see you off when you go?"
"I'm not one for long, drawn out farewells, but I'm not one for dragging crewmen from their beds at indecent hours either. If it won't take too much time, I would rather do it now." replied Trip, finishing his drink.
"I thought so." chuckled Captain Sheridan, reaching for his jacket.
The security office was empty except for Garibaldi and Allan, who appeared to be waiting when John and Trip arrived. The news was playing quietly on a screen behind the security desk, but neither of Zack nor the Chief appeared to be paying it any attention. Garibaldi rose as the pair entered, catching the faint scent of alcohol and trying with some effort to ignore it.
"Captain, did you get him all liquored up before you brought him down here? How's he going to pilot a shuttle if he's been drinking?" asked Garibaldi in at least partially mock-admonishment.
"Hey, it's going to be a couple of hours at least before he goes anywhere." defended Sheridan.
"I just came by to say thanks and farewell to you swell fell'as, but if you're going to be that a way, I guess I can go cool my heels in a docking bay." said Trip, throwing up his hands. He was well accustomed to friendly ribbing.
"That would be a shame, Trip, because I've got a present for you." said Garibaldi, shaking his head and holding out a clenched fist. He was holding something small in his hand.
"What is it, Garibaldi?"
"Don't let him spoil the surprise, chief!" exclaimed Zack, who was leaning against the desk and watching the trio with much amusement.
"Hold out your hand." ordered the Chief.
Tucker looked a little dubious as he did so. Garibaldi placed a crystal in his hand. Trip examined it for a moment, trying to understand what exactly it was that he was holding.
"Do you know what it is?" asked Zack, exchanging smug and semi-mischievous expressions with Garibaldi.
"A good luck charm?" guessed Trip, earning a few chuckles.
"That's a good guess, but, sorry, no cigar." said Garibaldi.
"You aren't going to make me guess all night, are you?" asked Tucker.
"I suppose not." sighed the chief of security. "It's a data crystal. We use them to store information."
"Oh, " said Tucker, slightly mystified, "and what's on this one?"
"The schematics of Babylon 5. I wanted you to have something to remember us by and seeing as how you're an engineer and all ..." shrugged Garibaldi.
Tucker was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of the gift as he clutched the data crystal in his hand. He had no idea how he was ever going to read the outlandish device, but the gesture awed him nonetheless.
"I don't know what to say." he stammered.
"Just say thank you before you embarrass the chief." instructed Zack.
"Thanks, Garibaldi. How did you know that I ...?" began Tucker.
"I saw the way you looked at the hydroponic garden. I figured that maybe you would want to try to build one of your own someday."
Trip didn't have the heart to tell Garibaldi that he didn't believe that his people would have the technology in his life time to do such a thing, so he only nodded mutely and slipped the crystal into a secure pocket.
"Our we ready to make the next stop on this farewell tour?" asked John, clapping a hand on his shoulder.
Trip nodded slowly and told Zack and the chief, "I'll never forget you guys."
"The same goes for us, commander." agreed Sergeant Allan.
Ambassador Delenn of Minbar was waiting for them when they entered John's office. If she had been waiting long, Commander Tucker could not tell. She seemed pleased to see them. As Tucker looked at her, arrayed in the colorful, yet dignified robes of the Minbari religious caste, he was struck by her beauty and gracefulness all over again and could not help to envy John when her eyes fell upon him.
"It's like they're made for each other, but I wonder if they know it. She certainly seems to, but John ... I don't know. He's too difficult to read." thought Tucker as he watched them for a fleeting moment.
"I am glad that you could make it, Commander Tucker." said the ambassador, bowing slightly.
Trip bowed in return and said, "You don't think I would have left without saying good-bye, do you? My mama raised me better than that."
"I'm sure she did." answered Delenn with a soft and somewhat amused smile.
Captain Sheridan cleared his throat before saying, "Delenn and I wanted to give you something before you leave. You offered to help us in the upcoming war against the Shadows." He lowered his voice as he spoke, almost as though he were afraid that some unseen and malevolent force could hear him. "And we appreciate that offer of assistance, commander. In recognition of it, we have something that we would like to present to you."
Delenn removed something from the folds of her robe and held it out to Commander Tucker. It was a rectangular green stone bound with two silver figures. It felt strangely heavy in his hand.
"Commander Charles Tucker of the Enterprise, we hereby name you an honorary member of the Rangers." said Delenn.
"If or when you return, we will expect you to enter training on Minbar, if you want to be more than an honorary member. We both believe you would be a very capable Ranger and excel in their ways of training. Of course, in your universe, you are free to display the insignia." John explained to him, smiling.
"I'm honored, captain. Rest assured that if I can find my way back here with some help for your war, I will bring that help and I will, pending my captain's approval of course, join the Rangers." Trip told them both.
"That's all we could ask, commander." said Sheridan.
"Thank you, sir."
"I am going to have your ship moved to a docking bay. In the meantime would you care to see the Commander and Control area?" inquired the captain.
"I would love to, John." said Trip with a wide grin, tucking away the green stone of the Rangers.
"I believe I would like to come along." said Delenn.
Trip had often admired the view of space from the mess hall of the Enterprise, but looking out of the big window in the nearly empty C &C took his breath away. Commander Ivanova pointed to the planet below the station.
"Looks different from this angle, doesn't it, Trip?" she questioned.
"It sure does. I wish the Enterprise could match the vista you have from here, but on our bridge, all we have is a screen, and the view from the mess almost never beats this one." Tucker told her, still overwhelmed.
"Not a lot of people are allowed come in here. I cleared the area before you three came up. It's nice to know that everyone will follow orders." commented Susan dryly.
"I heard you refer to this planet Epsilon or Eridani. Is that right?" he questioned.
"Well, it's generally referred to as Epsilon Three, or Epsilon Eridani Three." she clarified.
"Any related to the 40 Eridani star system?"
"I think it was called that a long time ago, before jump gate technology and so forth. Why?"
"There's a girl. Well, an officer." he stammered.
Sheridan, overhearing, laughed and told Ivanova, "He has his eye on her."
"And?" she questioned Tucker with a small smile.
"They call her planet's sun 40 Eridani, but looking down there I can't say that I see any resemblance." said Trip with a shrug. John stepped closer to the window and looked at the barren planet in a new light. "I guess this is why there aren't any Vulcans in your universe."
"Trip ..." he started to say.
"Nah, one universe with Vulcans is probably enough."
They were all quiet for a moment before Sheridan asked Ivanova, "Has Stephen checked in yet?"
"No, but I thought we had decided to meet here at twenty-three hundred hours. He isn't late yet." said Susan, turning from the window.
"Point taken." said the captain, hiding a smile. Turning to Commander Tucker, who had pried his eyes from the window, he said, "You didn't leave anything in your quarters, did you?"
Tucker frowned and asked, "What would I leave there, John? I've got my uniform and my boots. I didn't bring anything else from the shuttlepod."
"Then you wouldn't mind leaving within the hour?"
"No, I won't mind at all. It seems like you got everything worked out."
Trip wandered around the C & C for a while as they waited. Ivanova and Sheridan explained how some of the station's systems worked and were controlled from that area. Delenn stood rooted at the observation window, listening to them. Then the glass door to the C & C opened to reveal Doctor Franklin.
"Ready to go?" he asked Trip as the engineer looked up from the station he was examining.
"I guess I'm just about as ready as I'll ever be, doctor." he replied, glancing at the captain, commander, and ambassador as he rose from his seat.
"Stephen is going to escort you to the docking bay. Delenn, Susan, and I are going to stay here and watch." said Sheridan, gesturing toward the window.
"Someone has to clear you for departure." shrugged Ivanova.
"And we thought it might be ... interesting." said Delenn over her shoulder, smiling softly.
"That's understandable." agreed Trip, walking toward the door with Stephen.
He stopped short and took a last look at John and Delenn by the window
and at Commander Ivanova at her station. "I'll see you guys next time I'm
in town." he told them all.
As Franklin and Trip walked toward the docking bay where his shuttlepod awaited him, the doctor asked, "Did you enjoy your stay on Babylon 5, commander?"
"I did, doctor. It will certainly be something to tell my crew mates on the Enterprise. I'm starting to worry that they won't believe me though." he said, shaking his head.
"You have proof." said Franklin, passing him a data crystal.
"I suppose I do." laughed Trip.
"It isn't much. I didn't have all that much time to prepare it. Give it to your ship's physicians with my compliments, commander." said Franklin.
"Thank you, doctor. I will do just that. Phlox will certainly appreciate the gesture." Tucker assured him. "I want to ask you a question." he stated, sighing as they walked through the practically vacant corridors of Blue Sector.
"Sure. Go ahead."
"Why'd they send you with me?"
"Well, the captain felt that someone should see you off, so we drew straws. Everyone wanted to watch your ship leave. After all, your shuttle is pretty outlandish to all of us, among other things." explained Franklin.
"I'm sorry, doctor. You must have gotten the short straw."
"Actually, Garibaldi did, but we made a deal."
"Wait a minute! He wasn't even in the C & C."
"I imagine they were just waiting until the end of the shift or something."
shrugged Doctor Franklin.
"You are cleared for departure, commander. Have a good flight." said Ivanova over the communications system. Tucker was more than a little surprised the he could read her.
"Thank you, Susan." he said as his vessel was guided out of the bay by computer. His hands remained on the controls nevertheless.
Everything was up and running smoothly, and Tucker was proud. The shuttlepod had been in no condition to fly when it had been brought in, but, with a moderate amount of assistance, Tucker had made the craft space-worthy again. Not just any engineer could have done that.
Tucker took a deep breath as he cleared the station. He began scanning the area for signs of the gravimetric phenomenon that had brought him from his own dimensional universe to the one in which Babylon 5 existed. His heart skipped a beat as the sensors read such an occurrence not far from the thing that Sheridan had identified as a jump gate. Tucker set his course for the phenomenon.
In a matter of minutes Tucker had reached the phenomenon, but nothing happened. He brought the shuttlepod to a full stop and rubbed his eyes. He compared the sensor readings with the sensor logs. Everything was as it should have been, but the shuttlepod was still in the wrong universe.
"Trip, are you having a problem out there?" inquired Captain Sheridan over the comm system.
"I'm where I should be, John, but nothing's happening."
"Do you have any idea what the problem is?"
Tucker hung his head and answered, "I think I need to have everything like it was before in order for this to work."
The silence on the other end of the line, so to speak, was tangible.
"Trip, it's Garibaldi. Do you even have your ... impulse engine thing on?" asked the security chief.
"No, but the engine won't come on-line." said Trip miserably.
"Well, back it up and put it in gear anyway. Maybe, just maybe it will work for you out there." suggested Garibaldi.
"Wait!" said Ivanova. "We should try to recreate the circumstances of your arrival. I will remote activate the jump gate. Just remember to stay clear of it."
"Right." said Trip, reversing the impulse engines. When he was clear of the gravimetric phenomenon, he activated the small warp drive of the shuttlepod. Then he had another thought: the warp field simulator. He switched it on, grateful that it appeared to be operating properly. "I'm ready to give this a shot." he told everyone in the C & C.
As Shuttlepod One lurched forward, alarms began to sound and sensors recorded a flash of light outside the ship. This time Tucker was buckled into the pilot's seat and despite the loss of attitude control, he remained in the chair. It was a bumpy ride. Then Trip began to see spots as the G-force inside the shuttle began to have an effect upon him. In matter of seconds Commander Tucker passed out and slumped slightly forward in his seat.
His last conscious thought was, "I'm going home."
As John and Delenn stared out of the observation window in Command and Control at the unremarkable patch of space just beyond the jump gate where Commander Trip Tucker's shuttlepod had disappeared, he asked Delenn, "Why do you think he came here? What was the point of all of this?"
"The point? I don't know. Perhaps it was to allow us to laugh and to imagine better things before the coming days of pain and hardship. To know of a place where the shadows are not falling is a pleasant thing. And, after all, his universe is still part of the greater Universe that struggles to understand itself. Perhaps this was all a part of that search for self-knowledge and self-understanding, of which we can only fathom a small portion. Is it not also pleasant to think that through the collision of our two universes, some good has been accomplished?" replied Delenn.
"Even if no help against the Shadows comes from his universe?"
"I do not believe that Commander Tucker will be able or allowed to return nor will any aid come from his people. They may never need face the Shadows as we do, but they will have their own struggles, and no less desperate, to overcome." she explained.
"Still," said John with a smile, "it is good to know that somewhere in ... all existence, humans and aliens are living in peace and freedom, and without the fear we are facing."
"Yes, it is good to know that." she agreed as they continued to look
out the window in C & C.
Commander Tucker was first aware of a tapping or thumping sound outside the shuttlepod when he regained consciousness. It was familiar somehow, but he could not tell exactly what it was. He remained in his seat, feeling battered and tired, as the pod began to move slowly. It had been still for quite some time, but Tucker did not know this. The ride was relatively smooth, but compared to what he remembered of his previous voyage, that was hardly a fair comparison. The shuttlepod came to a halt again with a single thud and a good deal of noise.
Then he heard the hatch being opened and his heart pounded. Whoever was opening it knew what they were doing. Did that mean that he was home at last? Trip endeavored to raise his head as he heard voices.
"Commander? Commander, are you all right in there?" called an annoying, but concerned voice with an English accent.
Tucker struggled to raise his head and open his eyes, but found that he could do so with greater ease that he anticipated.
"I'm here." he answered as someone pushed him back against the seat and began unfastening the belts and restraints.
"We had ... or, at least I had given up hope of seeing you alive again." Malcolm confessed as he waved toward the hatch.
"Trip?" inquired Captain Jonathan Archer, entering the shuttlepod.
The engineer pulled himself up from the chair with a little assistance from Lieutenant Reed and smiled at his commanding officer.
"Now, you're a sight for sore eyes, Jon." commented Tucker.
"Why didn't you answer our hails?" questioned Archer as he helped Tucker to the hatch.
"I think the radio might be busted again. Someone really ought to look into that. Hell, I really ought to look into it." laughed Trip as his head cleared.
As they exited the shuttlepod, Commander Tucker found a large portion of the senior staff and bridge crew outside waiting to see him, including T'Pol and Doctor Phlox.
"Everyone was worried when you didn't make the rendezvous almost a week ago. We've been searching the sector for days and days, commander, and then you just popped up on long range scanners." Reed explained as Trip looked at his ship mates in amazement.
"It was like a miracle." commented Archer, squeezing his best friend's shoulder.
"I can just imagine." said Trip with a grin.
Then his eyes met those of the Vulcan science officer and she raised one eyebrow, almost as though in greeting. Tucker didn't like to admit it to himself, but he had missed those eyes almost as much as he had missed the rest of his universe entire.
"Commander." she greeted him, coolly, almost regally.
"T'Pol, do I have a story to tell you, to tell everyone." he said, laughing even though it hurt. "I was in another universe. Let me tell you, it was amazing!" he began, swaying a little dizzily.
"Now, now, commander, you can tell us all about it later, but first, you must go to sickbay." advised Phlox. "It seems as though you must have been deprived of oxygen for some time." he added.
"But ..." started Tucker as Reed and Archer began dragging him toward the exit of the shuttle bay and in the direction of sickbay.
"Later, Trip. You can tell us later. In fact, you can write a report on it." said Archer in a mollifying tone.
"I can prove it too!" he said for the benefit of those crew members
who were looking at him doubtfully, including one very pretty Vulcan science
officer who followed at the doctor's heels.
It was a full day later when Trip sat down in his own quarters to write the report. Setting on his desk were a data crystal and a green and silver emblem of the Rangers, which intended to wear on his dress uniform. He glanced at them before beginning to key in the report he would make to Captain Archer, who had been convinced by the trinkets he had brought back with him. T'Pol was still going over all the evidence, including the repairs made to the shuttlepod during his absence. No one who had examined the data crystals had been able to read them, including T'Pol and Phlox, who had one of his own to study, thanks to a fellow physician in a far away universe.
Trip took a deep breath as he began writing his report, "A self contained
world five miles long, located in neutral territory ..."
Author's Note: I hope anyone who reads this has enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.