John Sheridan was in a fury. He paced his office like a caged animal. Number One was sat across from the desk he was pacing behind. This was one of the worst moods, she'd ever seen the President in and she'd wished that Delenn was here to calm him down a bit.
"That proves it then," he said pointing to the screen. "Ark Royal isn't the only one!"
Number One said nothing. In her experience it was better to let the Sheridan work off his anger before telling him the more important news. She'd just shown him a second intercepted film. As before, it was taken through the gun camera's of a White Star and it showed an encounter between two of these corvettes and three white stars.
Initially, the white start vessels had the upper hand, destroying one of the corvettes. In return, they had received little damage. However, the last corvette had fought light a demon. It only took a couple of minutes to destroy the alliance ships. Sheridan had watched the proceedings with outright anger that these vessels could slice through the galaxy's peacekeepers so easily.
He stopped pacing and stared at her. He recognised her behaviour.
"Oh, please tell me there isn't any more of this." He's calmed his voice extensively but Number One could still hear a simmering linger of rage in his voice.
"I have an unconfirmed report from Babylon 5…" Number One started hesitantly, "that Ark Royal paid them a visit."
"WHAT!" Sheridan turned almost purple.
He turned to the comm unit on his desk.
"Get Me Lockley!" he roared.
There was an arkward silence as the link was established.
"Lockley here, Mr President." The link was audio only and Lockley sounded very tired.
"Did we wake you?" Sheridan looked at the timepieces on the far wall and looked horrified as realisation struck.
"Yes Sir, I'm afraid you did. It's 3am here and I've only had two hours."
Maybe it was the fact that he'd just woken his ex-wife up at three in the morning or even the fact that they'd been so close in the past, he managed to let his temper go.
"Well, I'll be quick then. I hear you've had an extremely odd visitor lately."
"Ah." There was a pause, "Which one?"
"The one with the Ark Royal."
"I was wondering when you'd get to hear about that."
"I'd prefer to hear directly from you in the matter."
Lockley made a quick explanation, which made both Sheridan and Number One's head spin. A Lost Human Colony with technology on par with the most advanced the Alliance had to offer. It sounded like something out of a bad science fiction story or, even worse, out of Universe Today.
One thing that Lockley did leave out was any mention of Ivannova.
"So they're on Epsilon Three Now?" Sheridan asked.
"And Draal didn't fire on them?"
"Not that we were able to tell."
"Very Well. Sorry to disturb your Sleep Captain."
"Good Night Mr President." And with that the link ended.
"Well, it should be a simple matter from here on." He told number one as he keyed in a code to the comm. unit.
"Draal. This is President Sheridan of the Interstellar Alliance. Can we talk?"
There was a pause. No response. Sheridan frowned as he spoke next.
"I repeat, this is President …"
A Voice came over the speakers.
"Much apologising. Draal, Zathrus and Zathrus and Zathrus and all the other Zathuses can't take this call at the moment. We're to busy contemplating the nature of the universe with correlation to the hyperspace matter curve to be of any help. If you leave a message after the beep, then we can get back to you."
There was a pause.
"Erm… Zathrus, which one is beep?"
Another quieter but similar voice "This one?"
There was the sound of what could only be described as elephant flatuance.
"No No No…. This one?" The voice sounded more optimistic.
A ships foghorn sounded so loud that both Number One and the President had to cover their ears.
There was the sound of Zathrus tutting to himself, "Wrong. Wrong! Aha!"
John Sheridan had the look of someone who'd just been asked for a boiled hamster. He recovered well, after clearing his throat.
"This is President Sheridan of the Inters…."
"Zathrus thanks you for your message. Talk Soon. Bye."
It took all of Number One's self control not to laugh out loud. Sheridan now had the look of a man asked for a boiled hamster, with fries and a large coke to go. The silence was deafening. Sheridan sat down in his seat and entered a new code in the comm unit.
"What are you doing?" Number One asked.
"Something I should have done straight away." He replied, "I'm going looking myself."
Draal had put some rooms aside and after a pleasant night's sleep, the six guests met in a large conference area near to their rooms. It was unbelievably spacious after the cramped conditions on the Ark Royal. All six of them gathered around a table in the centre of the room to discuss their next move.
"So is that it?" asked Clanwellin. "Have we failed?"
"It does look like our options are limited," admitted Douglas. "It appears that Earth Force have ordered extreme sanction against any commonwealth vessel. I would say that avenue has been cut off."
"Well, if Lennier is willing to wait here, we could make a run to Minbar and talk to Delenn?" Suggested Ivanova.
"We've had to shoot down white star vessels. Do you think we've got a better chance than with earth?" said Smith. "Personally, I feel we'd really be putting our heads in the Lion's mouth."
"Just before it's had breakfast!" muttered Kelly under her breath.
"OK. What about this Garabaldi person? Can he help?" Douglas suggested.
"Well, he might," Ivanova looked pained, "you he has issues with Psi Corp…"
"We're Ex Psi Corp," said Clanwellin.
"That might not matter to him, your all telepaths." Ivanova explained.
"Never do anything easy, when you can do it backwards with a half summersault and twist." Kelly said, showing her irritation.
Douglas gave her a dirty look. "That's not exactly constructive."
"Well, you might be in some luck." Boomed Draal's voice as he appeared in the Room.
"Will you stop doing that," Kelly yelled. "You'd give me a feckin' heart attack!"
Drall looked at her strangely for a second and then smiled.
"According to the medical scan I just took of your body, you have no need to worry about your Cardio-vascular system."
"Oh! That's a relief." She said sarcastically.
"However, you're liver is more of a concern."
"Kelly, Cool your thrusters!" Douglas' voice had just enough edge to it that it stopped Kelly from exploding with anger. He turned his attention back to Draal.
"Some luck you said?" Douglas tried not to sound too hopeful.
"Well, I've received two messages," Draal explained. "The first was from President Sheridan…"
"Relax," soothed Draal, still smiling. "He left a message with Zathrus, so it will probably take him a little while to calm down."
"Oh!" Ivanova looked pained. "That was just cruel!"
"Yes, I thought so." The glint in Draal's eye was back, and then his face took a more serious expression. "The second was from Delenn. It's a distress message."
Lennier's expression turned anxious.
"The signal is very weak and I've just found out why," explained Draal. "Are you familiar with this world?"
In the centre of the table a map of the Galaxy appeared. It zoomed into a group of systems not far from Babylon 5.
"That was the Markab home world." Said Ivanova.
"Was?" asked Douglas.
"A Plague wiped out all the Markabs." Explained Ivanova, shuddering as she remembered what happened to those poor people on Babylon 5.
"Ouch!" Kelly actually looked pained.
"Ouch indeed." Agreed Draal, "However, where we're interested in is ten light-years spinward to a …"
"That's a binary system," interrupted Smith. "And from the layout of those stars closest to it, I would say that there's a quantum singularity there."
"You'd be right!" All these interruptions were irritating Drall. "There is a black hole within that system."
The hologram shifted to zoom in on the system in question. There was a single bright yellow star with only two planets around it. Further over to the left, a large blue sphere denoting the black hole.
"The distress signal is coming from the second planet from the main star, but as you know, you'll need quite a lot of thrust to manoeuvre in that system."
"Can you pull up the Vas-Stone border please?" asked Douglas.
A second sphere appeared, expanding out from the Black Hole. It stopped expanding perilously close to the second planet. There was a hissing intake of breath from Smith.
"What's a Vas-Stone line?" asked Clanwellin.
"It's the point where you can't open a jump point. Your effectively trapped by the black hole." Explained Ivanova.
"And the Lagrange points?" asked Smith.
Several more points of light appeared, one very close to the second planet and practically on the Vas-Stone line. Kelly was shaking her head, Clanwellin just gaped opened mouthed and Smith turned to Douglas as if to say something and grimaced instead. Douglas just looked thoughtfully at the display in front of him.
"And that's your idea of luck?" Kelly said to Draal.
"But I didn't say whether is was good luck."
"Can I hear the message?" It was the first thing that Lennier had said all day.
"This is Entil, to any Ranger or Alli shipping. We are marooned at quadrent 19, 17, 28 in a black hole system and we need evacuation of almost 1000 personnel. Please Assist."
"A thousand?" Douglas looked shocked, "We'll be able to manouver round that system without a problem but we'd only be able to evacuate 10 to 20 at a time."
"Has anybody else received this message?" asked Lennier.
"I doubt it," said Draal, "This machine is incredibly powerful and even then we only just managed to pick it up."
"Well, I know where we can get the ships to pick them up." Ivanova was grinning, "That's if you're willing to come along for the ride."
"Why us?" asked Kelly
"Because someone will have to ride shotgun for those transports and I don't have anybody else I can trust."
Douglas pondered on the situation.
"Ok, Captain." He said after a pause, "You run the mission and co-ordinate the rescue party. Tactical command of Ark Royal will remain with me. This is on the condition that this Delenn person can do something to stop the attacks we've been facing."
"Deal." Said Ivanova, "Lennier would you be willing to go to Mars and convince Mr Garabaldi into lending us his test ships for the new Victory class destroyers."
Lennier nodded, "As long as I can get to Babylon 5, I should be able to get to mars quite quickly."
"Good. Ark Royal and I will secure the system."
"You're thinking a trap?" Douglas asked.
Ivanova turned to Draal, "Could you send a message to Delenn, saying that the message has been received and her hairdresser is putting together a rescue package?"
Draal looked puzzled by this but bowed and left.
"Here's my plan." She started to explain.
Colwin was sitting at his station in C&C on Babylon 5. The excitement of the last 48 hours had faded and he was now faced with the usual dull shipping control. He was just about to start clearing traffic through when his control panel pinged. He stared at it for a second.
"Captain to the Bridge, Ark Royal's making a move." He called.
But it was too late; Ark Royal had somehow evaded their sensors to the point that they were practically at the jump gate. Colwin keyed the reject code to the jump gate.
"You're going nowhere." He said with a smile.
Even though the jump gate had been keyed to reject any open request, a Jump point formed in it anyway and with a flash of Psuedo Motion, jumped to hyperspace.
"Colwin Report." Lockley's voice.
He looked where the ship had been and closed his eyes. He knew what was coming. The lieutenant turned to face the captain and prepared to face the worst.
However, in all the excitement, nobody had noticed the small capsule that had attached itself onto Brown 2's main airlock. It's single occupant smiled as they ejected the pod from inside the station.
On the black planet, Delenn was staring up at the starless side of the sky when she heard running footsteps. She turned to see Soran running as fast as he could, holding a piece of paper.
"We've got a reply." Soran was out of breath when he handed her the paper, "but I have no idea what it means."
Delenn read the message over twice and then realised it's meaning. She smiled for what felt like the first time in an age.
"Ivanova's coming." She said, "We're going to be just fine."