Ivanova sat in a holding cell and stared at one of the walls. It was a small grey walled box of a room with two small bunks, a table and the chair she was sat on. There was one small light in the ceiling, which seemed to add to the gloom and depressive nature of the room. The designers had never intended it to be an uplifting place.
Lying on the bunk across from her was Douglas. He'd left his black and white cap on the table as soon as they'd been put in here. Zack had explained that there wasn't much in the way of room at the moment and they would have to share. He also wanted to explain something, but one glance at the guards; he shook his head and pointed them in. She knew procedures well enough to know that the security office was monitoring them.
Can we talk?
She noticed Douglas was looking at her and realised that he was talking to her telepathically. Nobody had done that to her since her mother. She shook her head in answer and he sighed.
Sorry. I meant, could I talk to you like this? They will be able to monitor anything we say.
Look, sent Douglas, There's not a telepath for at least a mile. We'll have privacy.
But will I have any privacy? She shot back.
I know your secret. You are very good at hiding your ability. You would know if I tried anything like even a light scan. Or worse.
How the hell do you know? Ivanova stood up and glared at him.
Douglas sat up and looked at her from across the room.
You cried out when you woke up in the Med Bay. I think it almost blasted half the minds out of my crew.
You're all telepathic?
Down to the lowest crewman. Confirmed Douglas, We have a booster program. The higher you're rank, the more boosters you get. I'm currently rated at a P12.
Currently Rated? You mean you can go higher?
The highest natural limit we have discovered is a P15 and not many people can achieve that.
Were you a telepath when you were in Earth Force?
Yes. He confirmed, P7 rated spy for the Corp. That BG group was an escape attempt just before, what your Mr Lennier told me, was the Battle of the Line.
You Ran! Ivanova glared again. Others died on the line and you ran.
We were ordered out. Douglas replied, letting the anger boil over in the telepathic link. Ivanova winced.
Sorry, apologised Douglas. He took a deep breath and composed himself
I'd just had my old cruiser shot from under me. I didn't want to go. The Psychs call it survivors' guilt and it's not easy to live with. Smith has it worse that I. On one of the outer colonies, he lost his whole family in a Minbari raid that had obviously missed its target. We both wanted to take out as many of those Minbari bastards before they took us down. Living was not an option. The orders, however, seemed to come through from the president herself.
Look, I didn't mean… Ivanova tried to interrupt.
These days I don't even know if those orders came from the president. We just went. Half of us were glad to run, the other half were wanting to stay and fight. It was Douglas' turn to glare, his anger still bubbling in the link. I've never run from something. It took me years to get over the fact we did.
Sorry. Sent Ivanova, I never was in the war, but three of my best friends were. They don't talk about it much, only when they have to really.
She could feel his anger subside and then realised something.
How old were you when you left?
I don't get that. You don't look 50.
Douglas smiled. Trade Secret.
So your people have found a way to look that good at that age…
Douglas stared at her quizzically, sending nothing, just raising an eyebrow.
Erm, Ivanova seemed to stutter for a second, and you've found a way to give and increase telepathic ability. No wonder they want you badly.
Nice to be appreciated She could feel some quiet amusement emanating from him.
Are you laughing at me?
A little, I haven't found someone as optimistic as you, since reading Winne the Pooh!
She sighed as she realised what he meant,
Which character? She knew the answer even before he answered.
I'm Russian. She explained.
That explains that. He continued. I'm Scottish myself and I haven't seen home for twenty years because I though it would have been destroyed. I've got half a bottle of good whiskey left on my ship and I can't get to it because I'm in a prison cell. Ironically, I'm being held by own people who I thought were all dead. I'm not really having a good day.
Ivanova couldn't help smile at that.
How were you able to do all that in twenty years, you have ships at least as advanced as the Minbari, the telepathic advances and the ageing stuff. She paused. How?
Can't tell you. He smiled without humour, All I can say is, for us time isn't what it used to be.
Lord No! Even we wouldn't mess around with the time line. It would really screw you up.
Ain't that the truth! Thought Ivanova, trying to repress images of Babylon 4.
She changed the conversation.
Once they find out who you are, the corp will come here.
I'm not worried about the corp, he replied, I'm worried about the way Lockley reacted to my ship. It was if Deathwalker had just walked into her office. No commonwealth vessel has ever left our system. We have so many sensors scanning for jump points that everybody would know about a ship leaving or arriving in system.
I don't know about Lockley, but Zack Allen wasn't happy about all this. Ivanova wondered, I wish there some way to find out what's going on.
Douglas smiled. That's what I'm doing at the moment. Lockley is in that office we were taken to and Allen's approaching it.
Can I see it?
I could let you if you want?
Ivanova was not the most trusting of people, but Douglas seemed genuine. He was telepathically rated as high, if not higher, than a psi cop and he had not once tried to scan or invade her privacy. She wasn't sure that she could keep the same level of composure under the same circumstances. She hadn't really been able to trust anybody with her secret since leaving Babylon 5. Still she'd have to try.
Ok but no Scans.
Fine, you'd know if there were scans anyway.
For a second her vision blurred and then she found herself floating in the corner of Lockley's office. She looked down but there was no body. She began to panic. She felt like a ghost. A disembodied spirit forever doomed to float in space. Then she felt Douglas' presence next to her.
Don't Panic. Your body is safe and well back in the cell. He reassured, It is a bit disconcerting to start with but once you get used to it…
I've done something like this before. She remembered her experience on epsilon three, Just give me a moment.
The panic subsided and she relaxed. Lockley was sat at her desk, looking at her monitor at her desk. It was obvious that she was tense. She was hunched over the desk, gripping her pen as tightly as a drowning man would grab a plank of wood. Allen appeared at the door. She continued looking at the screen. He coughed and she looked up.
"Zack. You'd better come in." She said. There was a strange quality to the voices, as if they'd turned wavy, not completely tangible.
You can never hear things totally clearly, explained Douglas, But it'll do for what we need.
"Captain…" Allen Started.
"If you're going to tell me that you are not happy with this then you're not the only one." Interrupted Lockley.
"Can you at least tell me what going on?"
"Take a look at this." Lockley turned the screen round.
On the screen was a blurry picture of a ship, looking very similar to the Ark Royal. Its weapons were at full flow, blasting straight at the camera.
"This is from Earth Force Intelligence along with some standing orders. The record itself was placed in the archives about five years ago and this is only the third time it's been accessed. There is no countersign and none of the usual validation checks out but the orders were confirmed once I tried to query them."
"That's their ship type alright." accepted Allen, "What are the orders?"
"These ships are to be considered extremely dangerous. Lethal force is to be used when in contact. No warnings or challenges are to be given."
"Meaning that you've broken those orders by letting her dock." Observed Allen.
"There's more. 'Any Earth Force Personnel that has been captured by these ships is subject to immediate liquidation to prevent becoming a liability to Earth Force.' It's signed by President Clark."
"We'll we should just ignore those orders then." Urged Allen, "See what this Douglas wants. I've already had a DNA check back from Earth. That is a Captain Douglas, who disappeared during the Minbari War, and that's OUR Captain Ivanova. What's more, I've had notification that the Psi Corp is sending it's entire Black Omega Squadron here to take custody of Douglas. Something is not right."
"These orders have been confirmed, Dammit!" Lockley lost control, "I either get court-martialled for disobeying orders or Ivanova gets 'Liquidated'"
"Executed, in other words. You won't find an officer on this station who do that." Allen shouted back.
Ivanova herself felt sick. She was now subject to what was called extreme sanction, a threat to Earth Force security. Fate seemed to like the fact that the man who she'd fought against in the civil war had signed the order that would still take her life.
Five years ago, she reasoned That's right at the height of the shadow war.
We were fighting huge black ships at the time, added Douglas, Could those be these shadows they're referring to?
Big, Black. Looked like a huge crab with spines everywhere? Asked Ivanova.
That's sounds about close.
Yes! You fought the Shadows as well and I know that Earth, at the time, was kind of allied with them.
That record could have come from these shadows. Douglas reasoned, meaning Earth Force is against us.
We have to get out. Lockley has a reputation for following orders. If she can find a way out of these orders she would. She did that through the civil war, but they've confirmed them. She's got no choice, and liquidation does not sound like something I want to happen.
Ivanova's vision blurred again and then she found herself back in her body, in the prison cell. She saw Douglas. He was sat on the edge of the bed. Looking closer she noticed a slight sheen of sweat was visible on his face.
Smith! Ordered Douglas.
Yes Sir. Smith's presence was felt close by.
You get all that as well.
Yes Sir, We can blast the station with the mines we've got.
You can't do that Ivanova called, there are a quarter of a million people on B5, civilians.
It would already add to our bad rep. countered Douglas, Nope, Plan B Mr Smith. Raise the fusion to 110, in two 5 increments two minutes apart and make sure they notice. I'll call you soon.
Aye Aye Sir.
Has he been there all the time? Asked Ivanova.
Yes, I've been feeding him everything we heard.
What's plan 'B'? Asked Ivanova, feeling Deja vu.
Once again she was an outcast from Earth, wanted and on the run. She was beginning to get used to it.
Don't know yet Replied Douglas but I'm working on it.
Oh Joy! Was Ivanova's sarcastic reply.