The three remaining crew of the Ark Royal sat looking at the Babylon 5 station through the view port. At this close range it practically filled it. Clanwellin fidgeted at his station whilst Kelly worked away at hers. Smith stared out of the viewport with an impassive mask on his face.
"Oh boy!" said Clanwellin, "There's another four fighters joined the patrol around us."
"How many is that?" asked Smith.
"Twenty Four." replied Clanwellin.
"They don't like us very much do they?" commented Kelly, "Not really the home coming we were expecting."
"I didn't think there was a home to go to." said Smith.
"It's not home to me." said Clanwellin, "and if this is anything to go by. I don't want it."
"How's the Captain?" asked Kelly.
"Worried, but fine." Smith replied, "The Reactor?"
"Running at 110." She said, "If they haven't noticed by now then they need new eyes."
"Maybe that's why we're getting more fighters round us." commented Clanwellin.
"Well, it could explain it I suppose." said Smith.
A light on Clanwellin's board came up.
"I think Mr. Lennier would like a word." he said.
"He'll have to wait until this is resolved, one step at a time."
Back in the cells, Douglas got up. He walked up to the door and hammered on it. He waited a few seconds and hammered again. A voice came from a hidden speaker in the cell.
"What is it?" Ivanova recognised it as Zack Allens.
"I have request to make to your captain."
Ivanova looked at him and raised her eyebrow.
This must be Plan 'B'. She thought.
"What?" Zack sounded grouchy.
"Any chance of a cup of tea. I haven't had one in about twenty years?"
"None, anything else?" He sounded very grouchy.
"Yes, one more thing." He paused.
"and …" Zack now sounded peevish.
"My ship runs has a full compliment of fusion warheads onboard, equivalent to about 500 megatons. My ship's computer has standard orders to detonate them when the reactor runs at 110 for about half an hour. As per standard orders, the reactor should have been raised to run at critical, a couple of minutes ago. That gives you about twenty minutes. My crew are locked out of the system and only I can deactivate it."
"Captain Ivanova, what would 500 Megatons do to this station?"
"You can't do that." Ivanova sounded shocked, "There are 250,000 people on board. Zack inform the Captain."
"Ah Captain." Douglas put a slight condescending tone in his voice, "I'm glad you can listen in. You'll have noticed the power fluxuations onboard my ship."
"Yes, Twenty minutes is not enough time to get your shuttle ready to get to your ship." Lockley sounded angry and something else Ivanova hadn't noticed before. It could be fear.
"With respect Captain, that's utter bollocks!" Douglas shouted, putting real anger into his voice, "Captain Ivanova here used to turn a ship round in ten. Now it will take ten minutes to launch, dock and disarm the system. That gives you ten minutes, sorry nine, to make your mind up."
"You'll die too" Lockley sounded.
"Personally I'm not bothered anymore." Douglas shot back "This isn't the home coming I expected or wanted."
"I'll consider it."
"Well while you are, you should be aware if you open fire on Ark Royal, she'll blow anyway."
"You can't be serious." said Ivanova.
"Deadly. My patience is running out, as well as the timer on the war heads. Remember, the crew are locked out."
"You ordered that!" Ivanova shouted, "You've got to be bluffing."
"What have I got to loose? A ship? You loose a whole station."
He shrugged. He seemed to be calming down but there was still something bubbling under the surface. Ivanova could feel it from where she was sat. She could feel the blood draining from her face as she realised he wasn't bluffing.
"If we weren't going to die, I'd kill you."
"Nice to be appreciated." Douglas shot back and smiled grimly.
"What do you reckon?" asked Zack
He was sat in the Captain's Office with Colwin and Lockley. Lockley didn't look happy and it was obvious that Colwin was trying to appear calm and collected, but underneath he was squirming like the rest of them.
"There has been a power build up in that ship." said Colwin, "If she did blow with that much power, she would take us with her."
"Ivanova sounded scared." said Zack as he looked over at Colwin, "You know, the quiet scared, when something looked really bad?"
Colwin nodded, "That's the worst kind of scared when it comes to Ivanova."
"Could they be in it together?" asked Lockley.
"They haven't spoken to each other while they've been in there, can't see how?" replied Zack.
"Right, we'll have to let Douglas go, but Ivanova is staying here."
"That got anything with the standing orders?" Zack looked at her accusingly.
Lockley didn't answer.
The door to the cell opened. There eight people all in full battle dress pointing guns at Douglas. He turned away from them and picked up his cap, which he'd left on the table. Ivanova stood up as well. She noticed that no guns were pointed in her direction, but wondered when they would. Douglas looked over to her.
"You coming?" he asked.
She nodded; the talk about liquidation was still fresh in her mind.
"Ivanova is not going anywhere." said one of the suited figures. She recognised Zack's voice.
"I'm a hostage." She blurted out, "They've got something inside me which will go bang if we're separated."
Douglas turned and looked at her quizzically. What are you doing?
Coming with you! Ivanova replied. You'll need me.
And that's the best you could come up with?
There was a pause. Zack looked between them.
"Thirteen Minutes." reminded Douglas.
Ivanova could feel Zack grimace from behind the helmet
"Right, both of you." He said.
They were matched out of the cell.
Two minutes later they were sat in the command section of Ark Royal. Ivanova had noticed there were burn marks on the door where someone had tried to break in. It was obvious that they hadn't managed to. Douglas sat at the command workstation and offered her a seat.
"This is Babylon Control, we will have a squadron of fighters escort you to your ship. Launch is in two mins." Colwin's voice.
"Rodger Babylon Control." replied Douglas.
"Looks like I'm on the run again." She muttered.
"Again?" he asked, "You make a habit of getting into trouble with your own side?"
"Oh! Only about once every five years or so."
The command section lurched as it was brought up to launch position.
"You'll have to talk me through the launch procedure." He commented.
They came out of bay 13 into the huge central launch bay. Out of the view port they could see the inner lock open.
"Nudge the ship through and stop before the outer door." She said.
Douglas's hands flew over his console. The outer door looked huge through the view port.
"If they don't believe you then this is where you'll get held."
"What are the doors made of?"
"Ok, if they don't open them in thirty seconds, I'll ram them."
"You'll ram a 5 metre durillium alloy wall?" Ivanova was amazed at that.
"I'd have to; we're running out of time."
She watched to clock turn down, at three seconds the door opened and she let out a breath she didn't realise she was holding.
"Thank God." Douglas whispered.
"What for?" she asked, "That they believed you?"
"Nope, So I didn't have to scuff the paintwork." He replied.
She turned to give him one of her trademark 'withering stares' but found he was perfectly serious. He started to manoeuvre the ship out of the docking bay. The transfer and the dock were done in minutes and the crew bundled into the bridge. Douglas called to Babylon 5.
"Ark-Royal to B5. We're moving to a safe distance." He announced, "Just in case I get this wrong. I'd recommend moving your star furies out of range too."
"Very well, but a Squadron will stay with you." replied Lockley, who terminated the connection.
Twenty-four of the Star Furies headed back to Babylon 5, leaving twelve in a ball formation around Ark Royal. Ark Royal fired her thrusters and the remaining twelve fighters stayed with her.
"Nice try." muttered Ivanova.
"Suggestions people?" asked Douglas.
"Take down the fighters and then run to the nearest la-grange point." suggested Clanwellen.
"I don't want to take on Earth Force fighters, yet." replied Douglas, "and I don't want them to see us jump either".
"Then we run for the Jump Gate." put in Kelly.
"They would have locked you out of the jump gate by now." replied Ivanova.
"We're not going to have much time. Have you got a fix on the la-grange points?" Douglas asked Smith.
"It's right over the Jump Gate." replied Smith, "The other ones are too far away to be much use."
"The planet!" Ivanova announced. "Can we make it to the planet?"
"Well, we can land if that's what you mean." replied Smith, "But we'll have to pass close to your Babylon 5 to do it. Surely Lockley will think we mean to attack."
"It won't matter, we'll have something on our side she doesn't know about." replied Ivanova.
She turned to Douglas, "Can you get me a tight beam transmittion to the planet?"
He altered some settings and passed her a headset.
"Draul? This is Ivanova! If you're awake, I could do with some help!"
There was no reply.
"Smith, Fire up the Engines." ordered Douglas, "We're running to the planet."
"No LDS?" asked Clanwellin.
"We're too near a Jump Gate Rookie." Kelly told him, obviously irritated, "Have you forgotten your basic physics already?"
"Enough." ordered Douglas, "Smith. Execute the planet run now."
"Ma'am," Colwin turned to Lockley in C&C, "Ark Royal has broken away from her escort and she's heading for us."
"What?" Lockley made a snap decision, "All Squadron's attack to disable. Bring the defence grid on-line."
"Aye Aye Ma'am!" Colwin acknowledged as his hands flew over the console. "Alpha Squad are in pursuit but their shots are having no effect. They've got trouble keeping up."
"With a ship that size?" replied Lockley.
"The other two squads are coming into range. They're firing."
"Doesn't seem to have any effect."
"Well, we'll see when the defence grid comes on line."
"Sir, I'm going to need more power to the LDAs." cried out Clanwellin.
"Kelly, take the PBCs off line and put the power into the shields." Order Douglas.
"You have shields?" asked Ivanova
"LDA. It's protects a small area of the ship from energy, plasma and particle weapons. Even old fashion bullets don't work." explained Douglas as the ship shook under the impacts, "The problem is that we have only two, one for the dorsal and one for the ventricle of the ship. You effectively have position the LDA to block the shots as they come in."
"We've got Star Furies coming in from ahead." reported Smith.
"Kelly, Take over the ventricle LDA."
Ark Royal lurched as the ship evaded more shots from the Star Furies behind.
"We're coming up on the station." reported Smith.
"They're in range of the outer guns." Colwin observed, "but …"
"They're not heading straight for us, they'll pass underneath!"
"Could they still make a course correction to impact?"
"I don't know Ma'ma. I suppose a White Star could but an Earth Force vessel wouldn't be able to change it's velocity in time."
"I'm not willing to take that chance. Time on target and fire!"
Colwin looked dismayed and then sighed.
"Time on Target Aye!"
He locked in Ark Royal to the targeting computer.
"Slight damage to the Port PBCs" said Kelly, "I'm assigning a repair crew."
"That's Station's been too quiet." said Smith.
Ivanova looked over Douglas' shoulder. The Defense grid was up, they had a total of thirty-six fighters pursuing but the station hadn't fired. Realisation slowly dawned.
"Oh Lord. Time on Target." She gasped.
"They're going to throw everything at you at once."
Ivanova looked at the tactical readouts. "Ten Seconds"
"Smith, Full Lateral Evade on Ivanova's mark."
"Aye Aye Sir."
Ivanova counted down.
The ship lurched.
The entire station opened up at Ark Royal but it was if the ship knew. She darted in and out of the streams of ordinance as if mocking the guns firing at it. Twenty seconds later she was passed the station and heading straight for the planet.
"How the hell did they manage that." gasped Lockley.
"Ivanova perhaps?" replied Colwin.
"Order the Star Furys to pursue…"
"Ma'am. Special Order 89."
Colwin sounded pained to remind his CO about the standing orders regarding Epsilon Three. Lockley looked back at him from C&C and for a moment he thought she would not confirm the order. Instead, she sighed.
"Order everyone home and stand down the alert." she said, "I'm going to have so much paperwork to fill out on this one."