Ivanova slowly opened her eyes and took in a deep breath. Looking around, she could tell that she was lying in the medical bay she remembered from before. The two men she didn't recognise had gone, but sat in the corner was Lennier. He stood up and walked over to the bed she was on.
"Well, you've been through worse." He said.
"You don't look so good yourself." She replied noticing the bruising around his face.
"Where are we?"
"We're on a Commonwealth vessel called Ark Royal." He answered.
"It seems that they're a lost colony of human telepaths."
"Lost!" Ivanova could not control her astonishment in her voice, "But the Psi-corp wouldn't loose a single telepath, let alone a whole system of them."
"They were sent away during the Battle of the Line and didn't know of the Minbari Surrender." explained Lennier. "The man you met, Captain Douglas, was there at the time."
"So they think Earth was destroyed?" she asked.
"They have grown into quite a large colony, full of telepaths. They also seem to have developed ships that at least match a white star's abilities. "
"Lennier, if it was anyone else but you, I'd think you were space happy." She commented.
The Minbari appeared a little taken aback by that remark.
Ivanova's expression turned urgent.
"White Stars." She said, "They attacked us. Only the colour and the tactics were all wrong."
"Yes, they have been attacking our hosts as well, but they're not being used to their full potential." Lennier tried to calm her, "Captain Douglas's mission is to stop this. They need you to inform Sheridan of the situation. I can't."
"Lennier, what happened?" she asked. "One minute I hear that your part of Delenn's honour guard, next there is an Alliance wide alert for you. "
Lennier looked away and Ivanova could tell he was trying not to let some emotion cover his expression.
"I don't want to talk about it." He said, "But can I have your word that you won't tell anybody I'm here? I have something I need to know before I can go back."
Ivanova nodded. There had always been tension between Lennier and Sheridan. Mostly over Delenn, Ivanova had guessed. This was a different Lennier to the one she remembered. He gained a brooding side to his personality and he seemed more withdrawn than the helpful, and sometimes a little naïve, Minbari he'd been. He seemed edgy and his eyes always seemed to look at the door every once in a while.
I suppose four years on the run can do that to you. She thought.
"OK. I'll help." She said, "However, I will tell Sheridan once this is over, so you need to be gone by then."
Lennier smiled and looked a little relieved.
"Can you tell me anything about these hosts of ours? " She asked, changing the subject.
"Well not much. Perhaps Captain Douglas could explain more. I don't know how to call him?"
"Captain Ivanova?" A voice said from behind Lennier.
She sat up to see past the minbari. The brown-eyed man walked into the room. He was wearing a dark blue uniform, with three gold bands around the sleeve of the jacket. He walked straight up to the bed.
"Captain P.H. Douglas." He introduced himself again and stuck his hand out in greeting. Ivanova looked at it and then at him.
"Lennier says that you are a telepath." She said.
The hand was withdrawn.
"I don't mean to scan you. If I wanted to that I wouldn't need to touch you." He said, "It was just a gesture of greeting."
Ivanova noted that his attitude had cooled.
"I didn't mean to offend you." She said.
"I didn't mean to frighten you." He said, "However, I still did. I'd forgotten that kind of reaction."
"Lennier says that you need my help to talk to Sheridan. It seems that we have been attacked by the same advisory."
"That's if you'll co-operate." He said, "Otherwise we'll drop you off and try some other way."
"I have to report in." She replied. "I've just lost my ship and her crew. Earth dome has to know otherwise…"
"I understand." replied Douglas. "We did run a scan for survivors after we picked you up."
Hope stirred in Ivanova. "And?"
"Sorry. Yours was the only intact life pod we found." He said, "If it's any consolation, they took out their hostiles. We counted four Blackstars."
"Blackstars?" Ivanova asked.
"Their nickname." Douglas explained, "As Lennier has explained to us, normal White Stars are white blue in colour. These ships, although the same shape, are black to navy blue. "
"My crew performed above the call of duty." she said. "Their families must know what happened."
She started to get up and would have fallen straight to the deck if Douglas and Lennier hadn't grabbed her.
"Your suffering from exhaustion and a lack of food and water." explained Douglas.
"You should rest and regain your strength." said Lennier.
"I don't want to be nannied." growled Ivanova.
"He wasn't nannying, " replied Douglas, "just concerned. But we have extra supplies and a spare cabin for you. You can rest there. I'll order the ship to set course for the nearest Earth Alliance outpost and we'll take it from there."
She nodded. At that point another man walked through the door. He wore a similar uniform but with only one gold ring around the jacket sleeve. Not as tall, wiry and with heavily gelled hair, he came to stand at attention as soon as he was through the door.
"Ensign. Take Captain Ivanova to Guest Cabin 2 and then report back to the bridge."
"Aye Aye Sir." He said, "This way Ma'am."
Ivanova struggled to get to her feet and followed the man out of the door.
"I seen what you mean about feisty." observed Douglas.
"Yes, She doesn't let much get to her." replied Lennier.
Ivanova let herself be guided down the various cramped corridors until the young man came to a halt by a door. The door opened and he stood aside to let her in and came to attention. She peered in. It was a small cabin by the standards she was used to. Two metres by four, with a bed on one side, a wardrobe and a dresser and small computer like terminal on the other. On the bed was an Earth Force uniform.
"Where did you get this Ensign?" She left the question drag off.
"Clanwellin Ma'am." He replied, "The captain had one made up especially, after you were taken on board."
"I see." Ivanova said.
"And what are your orders?" She continued.
"I've to wait until you're conformable." He confirmed, "Answer any questions you have and if you require, give you a guided tour of the ship. "
He stayed at attention.
"Are all of you Telepathic?" She asked.
He has to touch to read minds thought Ivanova, but no-one has tried to read mine yet.
"Ensign, Stand Easy."
Clanwellin relaxed his posture. He reminded her of Lieutenant Colwen on B5. Young, eager to please and looked like a startled rabbit when you gave him an order.
"What do you think of the Psi Corp?" she asked.
"I don't know, I wasn't even born when the exodus happened. I never knew about the corp." he replied, "But the oldsters didn't like it."
"Sorry Ma'am. People who were part of the exodus, everybody at the academy calls them oldsters."
"I see and you've never seen Earth?"
"Only in history books Ma'am."
"How old are you?" She was a little confused to hear her home world being referred to like that.
"Nineteen Ma'am." He said, "This is only my second patrol. Captain Douglas is vastly more experienced than me. As is Commander Smith and Leftenant Kelly."
"Leftenant ?" She noticed the difference in rank title. "That's the same as a Lieutenant right?"
"Yes Ma'am." he replied, with a slight smile, "But not as French."
Ivannova tried not to smile, recalling a similar comment made by Marcus Cole.
"OK Ensign. I'll let you know if I need you."
He saluted and closed the door. She counted to sixty and tried the door. It was unlocked so she locked it. She picked up the uniform and walked over to the cupboard. It was empty. She hung it up and lied down on the bed. She toyed with the idea of having a little unofficial tour of her own but rejected it. They've probably got monitors all over the ship.
It was a strange turn of events. Last week she'd been bored out of her mind, stuck in the shipboard routine which seemed to go on forever. Now her ship was gone, she'd found Lennier and what looked like a lost colony of Earth. It was a lot to take in. The irony was that, last week she was wishing that something exciting would happen.
May you live in interesting times. She thought.
She'd grieved in the lifepod, for Brooke, Davidson and the others. She'd gone over and over again the different ways she could have handled the situation, but no other solution had presented itself. She couldn't work out an alternative to what happened. Now there was another crisis. Those 'Blackstars' as Douglas called them, were the problem.
The last thing she decided before slipping off to sleep again was to make those black ships pay dearly for what happened to her ship. She owed it to one of the finest crews she had ever worked with.