"Prepare FTL for transmission." Ordered Captain Clay.
"Admiral, as per your orders, we've been patrolling the systems nearest to the Quad System." He reported.
"So far, " he continued. "Of all the systems we've encountered, none have been able to support life. However, out initial scans show a great deal of natural recourses which we could utilise at a later date."
"There has been no contact with the any other of the known or unknown races and in my opinion, these systems are unmapped by any of the known galactic powers. There is the possibility, that the have been left alone for some reason but we haven't determined what that could be."
"We will complete our survey of the final system and report back to Portsmouth on or about three days time. Dreadnaught Out."
Clay signed off, sat back at his command console and hit the send button. He mused over the situation. As opposed to Douglas, he preferred a quiet bridge, so conversation with the rest of his officers was kept to an absolute minimum. He needed the silence to think.
As soon as Douglas and the Ark Royal had jumped system, the attacks had stopped. This had shocked the Admiralty just as much as the attacks did in the first place. So they called in Clay and the Dreadnought and ordered him to patrol the surrounding star systems. His orders said survey but both he and admiralty both knew that meant spying.
As all they had come across had been lifeless, but rich in minerals, rocks he hadn't had to do any of the latter but there were times he'd wished that something interesting would happen.
He also knew why it had been Ark Royal that had been selected for the first contact, or should that be re-contact, mission. Douglas was less aggressive and would only shoot if required to. In Clays opinion, that would put a ship in too much danger, and with the current situation he was convinced that his approach was right. Still, He knew deep down he was a little resentful of the fact that it was Douglas and the Ark Royal that had been sent out there and not his ship.
"Navigation, have we completed the la-grance point scan?" he asked.
"Yes sir, " replied the helmsman at the front of the bridge. "I've got eight and the closest is ten minutes away by LDS."
"Good." Clay grunted, "I want a quick exit if we need it."
"Aye Aye Sir!"
"Sir?" The Engineer required his attention. "I've got a contact at 12/3/22. I think it's a jump gate?"
"Aha!" exclaimed Clay, "Something interesting to look at people. Navigation set a course and kick the LDS."
"Aye Aye Sir."
Half an hour later, Dreadnought was floating a few Kilometres off the side of a huge jump gate. It looked ancient and alien, not anything like the old earth designs that the Dreadnought's crew was expecting.
"That, Gentlemen," explained Clay, "is what the older vessels used to jump to hyperspace."
"I don't recognise any of the markings, "said the gunner. "Do you think it still works?"
"Let's find out." Said Clay as he sent the command signal.
The gate began to vibrate and spark. The Navigator moved the ship slowly backwards. Finally, as if a great effort had been expended, the blue swirling vortex of a jump point formed within the gate.
"Bit shaky," observed the Engineer. "However, it is stable. Probably hasn't been used in years."
"Anything more to report on this system?" asked Clay.
"The nearest planet from here, is the last on the list," explained the navigator.
"One of the probe scans reported the possibility of Quantium 40." Said the Engineer.
"Helm, set course and engage LDS."
They were about halfway there when both the gunnery and command consoles bleeped urgently.
"Sir, we're going to have company." The gunner reported, "Lots of company."
Clay stared at his readouts.
"General Quarters." He ordered, "Prepare to run all power through the Engines."
"Ten… No Twelve jump points forming." The Engineer reported, "Looks like ten white star vessels and… Oh Lord."
"Two Minbari Cruisers." Finished Clay. So the Minbari were connected to those attacks.
"Sir, jump points are disrupting our LDS, we're going to have to go to thrusters." Said the Engineer.
"Gunnery, Enemy Position?"
"Dead Ahead Sir."
"Engineering, Balanced power spread. We're not going to be able to outrun them."
"Course sir?" asked Navigation."
"Straight through the middle of them!" ordered Clay.
Sheridan stood in the command centre of the Minbari Curiser, Diagaina. Once again, he couldn't help but be impressed with the Minbari technology that allowed this level of tactical awareness. He felt dangled in space with a full view of the surroundings. He'd used those moments to contemplate.
He was worried about Delenn, but not overly. He knew that, due to the time trip he took on Babylon 4, Delenn was at least safe until the visit Centari Prime sometime in the far future. However, the fact that their adversary had been able to make entire fleets of White Star vessels disappear wascause for seriousconcern.
They'd been hanging in hypespace, sending out patrols to act as bait when the Cruiser had detected the activation of a jump gate that had not been registered before. He went with his gut and plotted a jump point between the nearest planet in the system and the gate.
There hanging in space in front of him was one of those corvettes he'd seen in the recordings. He allowed himself a small smile.
Clay looked over his options. He remembered that due to the nature of Minbari Society, they would always carry out their last orders, unless that was countermanded. It was very rare for a Minbari to show initiative.
"Launch Squawker!" he ordered.
Dreadnought shuddered as something detached from the left wing.
"All ships are approaching firing range." Reported the gunner.
"Helm, corkscrew and then take course 150 by 27." Clay barked. "Stand by LSDI Mine."
"Targets two and three, locking on," replied the gunner. "Shield arrays are tracking."
"Engineering, Take over defence. Gunnery activate Squawker."
Sheridan ordered two of the white stars to close but not fire. The rest of the fleet began to spread out in an enclosure manoeuvre. He watched as the fleet began to close in like a giant claw grabbing prey.
The two white stars flew past the corvette without firing. However, the corvette just ignored them and held its course. The white stars locked in behind the corvette. It was at this point; Sheridan knew that something was wrong. No ship captain would ever let an opponent get onto they're six that easily unless there were very inexperienced.
"Fire Magnetic Pulse." He ordered.
There was no response.
"White Stars eighteen and nineteen. This is Sheridan. Fire your magnetic pulse."
There was still no response. The corvette was taking evasive action now but the white stars stayed on his tail like previously ordered. There was some kind of commotion behind him. He turned to see a ranger enter the control room.
"Mr President!" he called, he was out of breath. "We can't use communications."
"Internal or External."
Sheridan turned to the view screen and then back to the ranger.
"Quickly, get all non-essential personnel. Line them up between here, the bridge and the engine room. They'll have to relay my orders."
The ranger turned and left at speed, that kind of manual relay will take time to set up, and looking at the situation, it was time he didn't have.
"Sir, we have two bogies on our six," reported the gunner, in a matter of fact voice, "They have locked on but have yet to fire."
"LDS is almost ready sir. ETR less than two minutes."
"Helm, shake them loose."
The Dreadnaught pitched and yawed, in a variety of manoeuvres. However, the White Stars stuck like glue.
"Did Ark Royal get the easy ones?" Clay commented out loud.
"LDS Ready." reported engineering.
"Drop the Mine."
Sheridan's order line was almost ready. He'd seen the corvette's attempts to evade the White Stars but it seemed that the White Star could match the corvette for manoeuvrability. He was analyzing as much of the vessel as he could. Equal in manoeuvrability, slightly faster and lighter armed. He couldn't see how these vessels could have taken the missing task force.
Then it happened, there was a flash from behind the corvette. The two chasing white stars, lost their pitch and elevation. They continued on course but obviously out of control.
"Aww Hell!" he muttered.
It wasn't his fault. He didn't know that the LDSI mine had also knocked out the squawker dropped by Dreadnaught earlier on. He didn't know that full communications had been restored to his ship and to every ship in the fleet. However, it was only afterwards did he remember that 'Aww Hell' when translated into Minbari means 'fire all weapons'.
That's what the fleet heard and that's what the fleet did. The Dreadnought disappeared in a flash of green light. That struck Sheridan as odd, but he didn't know why.
Clay looked round his crew.
"Close call people." He said.
"LDS running smooth." Reported the engineer.
"Right, quick pass at the forth planet and then use it's La-grange point."
Clay knew what this meant. A Minbari fleet had enclosed and fired on him, he'd even gone out of his way to use the non-lethal weapons in his arsenal. He would have to report that the Minbari were close to finding the location of the Quad System and they would have to prepare to meet them. He had no doubt that this would lead to war, regardless of what Ark Royal discovered. Only this time, Clay knew that the commonwealth's "Battle of the Line" would go very differently.