John Sheridan was woken by a knock on his stateroom door. Normally on these Minbari cruisers, he'd sleep in the dormitory with the other crewmembers but on this occasion he'd made a special request to the Ship's captain to have some privacy. He'd even managed to set the bed flat so he could get, what he'd hoped, was some restful sleep.
He'd been mistaken and the knock on the door was just the climax to a restless night. He'd been talking to Ivanova's wolf again. Groggily he rose and, half walking, half staggering, made his way over to the intercom.
"Yes?" His voice sounded like a gravel pit.
"Mr President," came a voice he didn't recognise. "You asked to be woken just before we jumped back into Babylon-5 space. We're ten minutes away from the jump point."
"Good." Sheridan hastily answered, "Thank you."
"One thing sir, we've been receiving information about an unusually high level of traffic flowing through grid epsilon. We might be stuck in a jam."
"I understand." Sheridan grimaced; he'd hate to be in Lockleys's shoes directing all that traffic. "Anything else?"
"No Sir. Good day." The voice signed off.
Sheridan turned to head to the shower, he didn't expect to be able to wash away the anxiety or the fatigue he was feeling but you never knew.
"My God." Sheridan muttered, "Did someone start a war and not tell me?"
His ships had just jumped into what must have been the biggest fleet he'd seen since the Shadow war. Narn, Centauri, Drazi, Packmara, in fact every race of the Alliance, including the humans, had a large contingent of vessels here.
"Attention Minbari Fleet," A very tired sounding Lt Commander Corwin was heard over the comlink. "As you can see we're very busy at the moment, any docking requests will be severely delayed."
Sheridan made a signal to the communication officer.
"Attention Babylon-5, This is President Sheridan." He paused to let the announcement stake hold, "Lt Cmdr Corwin. You seem to be having a busy day."
"You don't know the half of it sir," The younger man said. "I'm pretty glad your here, maybe you can help sort out this mess."
"The Centari Emperor decided to make a surprise visit to ambassador Vir yesterday, however he brought half of the Centari fleet with him for security. Then the Narn and the Drazi turned up with fleets of equal size just to 'keep an eye on them'. Earth then sends the 1st and 9th fleets out here to provide security for B5 and then the rest of the Alliance decides to join us."
"Corwin, get off that line and start directing traffic." Lockley's voice was heard in the background.
"Lt Commander?" said Sheridan, "If you can get me a high priority docking request, I'm sure I should be able to help."
"Aye Aye Sir. One purple docking request issued."
Sheridan smiled to himself, what was the point of being president if he couldn't jump the queue from time to time.
"My dear Mr President!" The voice boomed out from behind him.
Sheridan closed his eyes in exasperation; he'd put on his poker face and turned to face the voice's owner.
"Emperor Mollari, how are you?" He said as he turned to face longer.
Here in the diplomatic section of Babylon 5, it was not unusual for ambassadors or even heads of state to meet in the corridors. Half of the trade agreements seem to be worked out here, with a quiet word and a nod of understanding, instead of the more formal proceedings in the conference centres.
"As an old friend, I reach out with the arms of friendship!"
His entourage surrounded Lando, the guards, ministers, hangers on and flunkies. It looked like he dragged the entire Royal Court with him. Sheridan walked forward and grasped the emperor's arms and replied formal greeting.
After the greeting was over he looked at his hands. Lando looked at him quizzically.
"Mr President, what are you doing?"
"Just making sure they're all there." He replied with a slight smile.
There was a collective gasp from the hangers on. One of the guards would ready to break ranks and attacked him. Then a rasping chuckle from the emperor broke the tension. It turned into a roaring belly laugh.
"It's good to see that this job has not robbed you of your sense of humour!" He continued to laugh until a coughing fit stopped him. An aide rushed to his side but backed off after an angry glare from the Lando.
"It's only my cough!" Lando explained to Sheridan, weakly at first and then he recovered his strength. "I'll probably see you later, Mr President."
"Look forward to it." replied Sheridan, stepping aside to let the crowd pass.
However, he had the feeling that there was more to this than just a quick visit to Vir. He could feel it in the air; trouble was brewing.
"Captain Clay, you may sit!"
In a completely dark room, a single spotlight illuminated a chair in the centre. Clay marched forward and preformed a perfect right turn in front of the chair. He sat. This was his third time in the Star Chamber. He knew what to expect.
Although he couldn't see it, he knew the layout. The room was in the shape of a star and at each of the five points there would be either a high-ranking officer or a high powered telepath.
"The chair will be monitoring your life sign's Captain," said a disembodied voice. "Please relax."
"Yes, Relax before we pump you full of drugs and put your mind through a sieve." He thought.
"This won't be a erm…" the voice paused, looking for the right phrase, "a formal session. We just want to hear your report first hand."
Clay explained his encounter with the Minbari Fleet. He didn't deviate from the written report. He didn't have to. It was a pretty straight forward. He sat back and waited for the questions to begin.
"In your opinion, did you face a different enemy than we faced before?"
"No Sir. The ships we flew against were escorting the Minbari Capital vessels." Clay replied.
Even with his low P rating, Clay could feel the shock and fear when he made this statement.
"Were there any differences in the tactics used?"
"Yes sir. The escorting group appeared to be more tactically aware. However, they were using the standard Minbari formations we've been preparing for."
"I think they've been using they're weakest crews and vessels to soften us up. When the main fleet jumps in, they're better ships and tactics will be used to wrong foot us."
"What about the Minbari captured by Ark Royal?"
"I believe he's either a plant or an outcast."
"Captain Douglas appears to believe him."
"Captain Douglas believes a lot of things." came Clay's terse reply.
"I see, your suggestions?"
"I'd say that if we don't hear from Douglas in the next couple of days, then we mobilize the whole fleet and put it on war footing."
"A couple of days?"
"I'd prefer to do it now, but Douglas deserves the chance."
"I see, Thank you. Your opinions have been noted."
Lt Cdr Corwin stood at the communication terminal. It had been an interesting couple of weeks, almost as interesting as the old days. Lockley's had calmed down about the Ark Royal incident and now directing traffic, with the huge fleets in the area, was a challenging itself.
"Priority message to President Sheridan." Came a voice in his headset.
"Certainly, can I inquire who it is from?"
There was an awful screech and Corwin had to rip the headset away from his ear. Half of the bridge crew had to do the same. He looked over the console. There was a huge waveform across all the boards, blocking any incoming signal. He started to work on ways to neutralise the signal and after a couple of minutes the local channels became free.
He then tried to clean up the interstellar channels but had no luck. Babylon 5 didn't have the power to clear those. It was then the realisation hit him. This was galaxy wide. Someone had the capability to jam all galaxy transmissions.
"Erm! Captain?" he called Lockley's link, nervously. "I think we have a serious issue."
The council chamber hadn't been used for almost two years. So after a quick dusting off, all the ambassadors were assembled and, with usual predictability, by the time Sheridan had arrived they were in a full slagging match. He'd just got off the comlink with Drall, The great machine on Epsilon Three wasn't able to cut through the jamming eitherHe sighed to himself and took his place next to Lockley, who represented earth on these occasions, and as there was no sign of the shouting subsiding, he banged the gavel until there was.
"We all know why we're here, " He announced. "As of this moment we know that all galaxy wide communication has been jammed. The only way to send messages is by courier. We don't know by who or their motivation but we intend to find out. "
There was a small cough from Lando.
"The chair recognises the Emperor of the Centari Republic."
"Forgive me, Mr President. But I was under the impression that you already know who is behind this act of terrorism. Is it not true that your task force had contact with a vessel which used a weapon similar to the jamming which we are facing?"
"How the hell did he find out about that?" wondered Sheridan.
"The weapon was similar," he replied. "However, apart from the fact they used a jamming device, we don't have conclusive proof that the two incidents are linked."
"We don't have the luxury of waiting for conclusive proof," interrupted Lando. "I propose that a task force be sent to the last contact point to search for this jamming device."
There seemed to be general agreement from the rest of the Ambassadors.
"This is the equivalent of informational terrorism," Londo declared, "If the Alliance will not take action against this threat to us all, then the Centari will have to take the lead."
"No member of the alliance is going to be required to shoulder this burden alone. I will personally lead my task force back out to the sector and start searching for the jammer." He hoped this would be enough to placate them.
There was another small cough from Lando. ''Oh-ho!'' thought Sheridan. "What is he up to?"
"That is appreciated Mr President," replied the Centari Emperor. "However, I do feel that if you discover the source of the jamming, then your task force will not have sufficient firepower to defeat it."
Lando paused for breath.
"I propose that every race here contributes to the task force."
The Drazi Ambassador stood up.
''And how are we supposed to contact home worlds for approval for this force?" He demanded.
"Do you really need to?" countered Lando. "Look at all our fleets surrounding Babylon 5. I'm willing to authorise every ship I have here to this task. Are you saying the Drazi are unable, or even unwilling, to match our contribution."
"That hit a nerve," thought Sheridan as he observed the Drazi Ambassador's reaction.
The Ambassador turned to his aide and there was a quick consultation. "The Drazi will supply our fleet here to this task."
"As will the Narn!" announced the Narn Ambassador.
One by one, the ambassador's promised more and more ships to the task force. Sheridan could not believe it. How long had it taken to get everybody on board for the shadow war? How difficult was it normally to get everybody to move in the right direction. It was astounding how everybody was willing to work together these days when they were all threatened.
"I suppose its progress of some sort," mused Sheridan to himself.
"I will have a work to the fleet captain's of the fleet. I don't think they're going to have a problem agreeing," said Lockley.
"Thank you all for your support," said Sheridan. "But be aware, that everyone in the fleet will have to follow my orders. I can't have any outside interference with this operation."
This is the point where he expected to support to fall away.
"Done!" agreed Lando, although we weren't part of the Alliance at the time of the Shadow War, I believe we should re-instate the command structures that were in place back then. I place the entire Centari Fleet under the President's command."
Sheridan couldn't believe this from Lando, especially after the bitterness that existed after the fall of Centari Prime. Maybe the Centari were trying to get back into the good graces with the Alliance, Maybe Lando had another agenda that Sheridan couldn't see. However, it didn't take long. After an hour, all of the other races had agreed to the terms. After another hour, Lockley got word from the Fleet Captain's of both the earth fleets that they would follow Sheridan's orders without question. By the end of the day, President Sheridan had command of the largest fleet of ships since the Shadow War.
"I suppose that's us ready to go." Sheridan was observing the entire fleet from C-C on Babylon 5.
"Yes sir." agreed Lt Cmdr Corwin, "I know you said that you would try and help out with the traffic problem, but taking it away completely is quite an achievement."
Sheridan turned to look at the younger man, who he knew was deadpanning him.
"We aim to please," he replied with a smile.
Corwin looked troubled for a moment and then checked over his shoulder to see where the Captain was. As she wasn't anywhere in sight, he turned back to the President with a troubled look.
"Sir, about the incident with the Ark Royal..."
Ï'm sure you did your best but sometimes they get away," interrupted Sheridan.
"No Sir, that's not what I meant."
"There was more going on than the official report," he whispered confidently. "Captain Ivanova was aboard Ark Royal and working with them."
Sheridan looked at him with shock.
"Susan?" he asked with incredulity.
More alarm bells went off in his mind. Susan would never betray the Alliance, yet she'd be on the receiving end of an extreme sanction order from Earth Force.
"Corwin, everything ready?" Captain Lockley appeared in C-C. Corwin looked as if he'd just sold his first born into slavery. Sheridan realised that Corwin had probably disobeyed a direct order in order to tell him that.
"The Lt Cmdr was just bringing me up to speed on the Fleet's status." Sheridan interrupted. "We'll be leaving within the next couple of hours."
He left C-C and headed to the Minbari Command Vessel constantly wishing that Corwin could have told him the whole story.