Ark Royal floated though hyperspace. She was still close to the huge engine test vessels as she escorted them to Minbar. Douglas viewed them despondently out of his cabin window. Ark Royal was lucky; She'd only lost three of her crew, two crewmen and Kelly, destroying a huge amount of enemy vessels in a single engagement.
The funerals had been performed, the good words said and the feeling of duty returned. He'd explained to the crew the situation and his reasons why they were heading to the home world of the enemy they'd prepared for, for so long. There was not one protest. He got the impression that the crew realised that there was someone else pulling the strings, and that they wanted revenge against the puppet master.
As he mused on these feelings, he thought of Kelly. He knew why she'd been important to him but he also knew why he'd kept the distance as well. It was so difficult for an old timer like him when faced with the younger generations of the commonwealth.
He hated this feeling, the loss of crew, which after a time had become family. Clanwellin was back at his post, still in shock over the loss of his crewmate but Douglas had no choice, otherwise it would just be Smith and himself pulling 12 hours shifts.
He looked over at the cramped cabin, which had been his home since the ship had been built. One small bunk, a locker, a fold away desk and some small pictures was all he had to show for the last twenty years.
He walked over to his locker and pulled out a small case. Opening the case revealed a dusty half full bottle of an amber liquid. Up until a few weeks ago, he thought he was in possession of the last bottle of Glen Morangie in the galaxy. He used to savour it sparingly. Only himself and Smith sampled it once in a while, for a calibration or to toast absent friends. He uncorked the bottle, he promised himself that if he ever got out of this situation alive that he'd visit the distillery in the highlands himself. There was a knock at the door.
"Enter." He called.
The door was opened to revel Captain Ivanova.
"Captain, come in," he said. "I apologise for the lack of space but, as you've seen with your quarters, space is a premium with these vessels."
"I must admit, that for once I'm happy that I'm not taller." Ivanova observed.
"Yes, personnel over six foot normally develop 'Dreadnaught Hunchback'," he explained with a smile. "These corvettes are great fighters but aren't known for their comfort."
He took two glasses out of the locker.
"Care to celebrate our success?" He gestured to the bottle.
She smiled and nodded. The desk was unfolded and the drinks poured.
"So what's the plan now?" Douglas asked.
"Well, We get to Minbar. Delenn sorts out the rangers to avoid those capture ships, we put together a taskforce to stop the attacks on your system and then we get earth to stop the termination order on me or anybody from the commonwealth. I hoped we could share some intelligence to help each other out."
"Well, there is one sticking point before we start."
"Lennier." Ivanova sighed. "I have no idea what he's going to do."
"Well, I've offered him sanctuary as long as he's within commonwealth territory. I don't think it would be wise to mention that he's with us."
"That's a no brainer." Ivanova replied with a smile.
Douglas poured the drinks and raised his glass to Ivanova.
"The Warlock!" he said.
"Lt Kelly and the Ark Royal fallen." replied Ivanova.
They downed the drinks in one. Ivanova was expecting the rough shot of bourbon whiskey that Sheridan was fond of. However, this stuff was a lot smoother and a warm glow settled in her stomach.
"That's not what I expected." said Ivanova.
"That's why we call it the 'good stuff'. Normally you go onto the gut-rot after the third because the tast buds can't tell the difference at that point." Douglas was refilling the glasses.
"What's earth like these days?" He asked.
"Different from before you left. The Minbari war, the Shadow war, the Earth Civil war. They've all taken they're toll. You get a feeling that earth isn't the power it was but in some ways that's better. "
"Yeah, Earth needs to work more with it's Allies than try to always do things it's own way."
Ivanova took another shot.
"Apart from that, it's still the same green and blue little world you left behind, sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same."
"I guess. I'd like to go back. It's just having to dodge the Corp. and having to deal with the questions from any family I'd have left."
"Anybody else?" Invanova asked.
"Heck no. Never had the time or could find anybody who could handle the navy life." He explained, "yourself?"
"There's no-one left now. My brother died in the war and my father died about ten years ago. It feels like I've been by myself for so long now."
"The loneliness of command." Douglas grunted.
"I know about that." she grimaced.
She grimaced. "Lennier told you?"
"Actually, I knew him from the Earth-Minbari war. We worked in intelligence before I shipped out on cruisers."
"What was he like back then?"
"A foppish idiot," he said with a smile. "But he was good foppish idiot. He just didn't know when to shut up."
"He didn't change, " Ivanova also smiled. "He was just too... erm... well..."
"Marcus." Douglas finished. "We all thought that he batted for the other team."
Ivanova laughed, "I can see why."
"He was always complaining that there was never any interest from women," Her eyes then widened and then she laughed harder. "Oh goodness, he would have been gutted if he'd ever found out."
"Were you and Kelly close?" Ivanova asked.
Douglas smiled sadly, "Not as close as I would have liked. You know, fraternising with the crew etc."
"There's more to it than that isn't there."
Douglas sighed, "There always is."
"You have me curious now," said Ivanova, drinking another shot.
"It was age. You want to know how old Kelly was in Earth Standard time?"
"Twenty, Twenty two?"
"Six standard years old."
"There are millions of us now. There were only fifty thousand of us to begin with."
"Wow! It's a wonder you can stand!" said Ivanova, "What ever happened to no sex please, we're British?"
"It's about the same really." Douglas said. "Everybody deposits they're genetic material and it's used at a facility."
"Your all Clones?"
"No. It's artificial insemination. Embryos are created using our erm... deposits. Two years later and out walks a new citizen of the commonwealth who's technically 18."
"How's that possible?" Ivanova.
"The Quad system consists of three stars and many planets. We found that at the LaGrange point of all the planetary bodies and the stars, there was some strange effect of the space time continuum."
"You know how relativity works. The closer to the speed of light you get, the slower you age?"
"Well imagine that reversed, the slower that you travel in relation to the speed that earth travels at, the faster you age. Don't ask me to explain why this occurs at this lagrange point because I don't understand the physics myself. Nut the upshot is that time runs a lot quicker there."
"People are born there, grow normally, receive they're education, telepath training and leave, never to return, on they're eighteenth birthday. For them eighteen years have passed, everywhere else it's only been two."
"Oh Lord!" Ivanova was horrified.
"We have no concept of family, any natural conceptions are extracted and then passed to the facility. We thought we were the last humans in the galaxy. All ethics went out of the window just to keep the human race going."
Douglas knocked back another drink and refilled it.
"For the original fifty thousand, it's always been difficult to form any kind of intimate relationship with any of the others. You don't know if you're even related."
"Did Kelly remind you of anybody?" Ivanova asked, not sure how to broach this delicate subject.
"No, " sighed Douglas. "But I was hiding behind duty."
"What was the kind of thing she did?"
"She was a rebel!" He smiled.
"What she'd do?" asked Ivanova joining Douglas with a drink.
"There was this one time she got into a fight on New England. She said she got jumped and was just defending herself. The tribunal found her guilty and fined her 200 Credits. She gave them 400 Credits, turned round and punched the guy that attacked her."
Ivanova laughed, " I would have loved to taken her to Airharts, the bar on Babylon-5."
"They'd be clearing up the ears and eyeballs when she'd finished."
"Marcus did that once. Delenn had gone missing and he took apart a bar trying to find information."
Ivanova smiled, realising that the alcohol was hitting her system. She found that, for once, she didn't care. Douglas himself looked abit unsteady as discarded the empty bottle and got another bottle from the locker.
Ivanova woke with the taste of sandpaper in her mouth. The surroundings were vague and fuzzy. She suddenly snapped awake when she realised where she was. She was still in Douglas' quarters.
"Oh-oh," she thought as she looked around. She was in the bunk. She spotted a two completely empty bottles on the desk. Looking down on the floor, she saw her clothes lying in an undignified heap on the floor. With a slow rising feeling of dread, she glanced under the sheets.
"Oh God! This gets worse!" she thought as she bit her lip, "Naked!"
As the fogginess in her mind cleared, she realised that she was not alone, turning she looked over at Douglas. He was sleeping quite peaceably. How she hadn't noticed before was beyond her.
"Oh Hell," she muttered.
"Oh Thanks," came Douglas's voice as he slowly woke up. "Good morning to you too."
"Sorry, It wasn't meant like that."
"This isn't what I meant about joint intelligence," she said.
Douglas smiled. "That's ok. If you want, then it never happened."
Ivanova looked pained, "It happened?"
"That's a problem?"
"You mean getting drunk as a skunk and the jumping into bed with the first man that comes near me?"
The embarrassment seemed almost overwhelming.
"Well, if it's any consolation, "Douglas replied, "I can't remember much."
There was something in his voice that Ivanova caught.
"You're lying," she said.
"Remind me never to play poker against you. C'mon, is it really that bad?"
"Well, it's not just that," Ivanova admitted. "It's typical that its the first time in ages and I can't remember what happened."
"Ah," said Douglas, trying not to laugh.
"It's not funny!" Ivanova gave Douglas an evil stare. Douglas was desperately trying not to laugh. She couldn't help it, she picked up the pillow she was lying on and whacked him in the face.
"Ouch!" came a muffled mock yell, "So much for a serious discussion."
"I'm Russian, we're always..."
"Serious," Douglas finished
"Mind you I could just enter your mind and wipe the memory because you'll remember in your drunken antics soon enough." he continued.
"Nobody gets into my head and lives." She growled.
"Look, I'm sorry that we ended up in this situation but I'm even sorrier that this is the way you feel about things the next morning. Personally, it's not something I'm going to forget about in a while."
"You've got some nerve coming out with a line like that." Ivanova sounded determined to be remote.
"Can't help it." he sighed with regret, "Two days ago, I buried someone who I shouldn't have turned away. It kind of makes you look at things in a different light."
It was Ivanova's turn to look regretful, "After all that's happened to me I should at least feel grateful for the attention."
"Look, I'll offer you a deal, we get up and pretend all this never happened..." Douglas offered.
"With it so far..."
"But after all this is over, we meet up somewhere and see what happens."
Ivanova mulled this over for a few seconds.
"Ok. It's a date, ermm, deal!" She hurriedly corrected herself.