The rescue fleet jumped into Minbar and almost immediately Delenn knew something was wrong. She'd ordered the fleet to go to complete radio silence until she'd contacted Minbar but hadn't been able to raise the headquarters since they jumped. Mr Garibaldi had been working with the crew to try and get communications working but to no avail. Now that they were in system, everything became clear when a message arrived on one of the communication system.
"Attention all shipping!" it announced in interlac. "The present communication crisis continues, we have been able to clear all channels on a system wide basis but interstellar transmitions are still being jammed either by natural phenomenon or unknown parties. We are working with all members of the Alliance to resolve the situation. Your understanding is appreciated."
"Call Mr Garibaldi to the Bridge and then get me a link to Alliance Headquarters." she ordered the technician at the communication station.
A familiar Minbari face greeted her as the communication link was established. It was the head of Ranger Training.
"Entilza," he greeted. "We're glad to see you back."
"Yes, I can see we have a new crisis on our hands, is John there?"
"No, he was last reported on Babylon-5. Hopefully he's working to resolve this present situation."
"Very well, prepare to receive us, we have several thousand white star crews on board, some need immediate medical attention, then get me the captain of every available white star that's in system."
"Entilza, we're detecting a ship with you that we have standing orders against. The President was involved in an incident with a craft of similar design, not long before the communication blackout."
"What are those orders?"
"Get the vessel to surrender or disable the vessel. The crew will be held for questioning."
Delenn grimaced; she didn't want to do this but it obvious that John didn't have all the facts at his disposal.
"Those orders are countermanded regarding the vessel that's with us."
"Entilza?" The Minbari looked shocked.
"This vessel is responsible for the fact we have thousands of survivors and not names to add to a memorial. She will be treated with the respect she deserves."
The Minbari nodded with respect, "Yes Entilza."
"What the heck have we missed?" asked Garibaldi, who just caught the end of the conversation.
"Too much, it appears." replied Delenn. "I hope we're not going to be too late to resolve this."
Lennier was looking out via one of Ark Royal's few viewports at his home planet. It was torture, he so wanted to jump ship and go home. However, he knew that the moment he stepped of this ship he would be seized and that was the last thing he wanted.
"Homesick?" asked Ivanova appearing behind him.
Lennier turned to look at her. He couldn't put his finger on it but there something different about the Earth Force Captain. He shrugged the impression away.
"I've always regretted what I did," he said, looking back out of the viewport. "Funny that going on the run seems more of a punishment than what would have happened to me, if I had stayed."
"Douglas has offered you Sanctuary?"
"Yes, and I'm grateful, It will be nice not to be checking over my shoulder all the time."
"Was there a bounty put on your head?"
"No, but my actions brought dishonour against the rangers. They're very good at tracking down a rogue."
"I'm sorry Lennier," admitted Ivanova, "After all you've done for the Alliance, you'd think you'd get better treatment."
"You ever talked to Lyta Alexander since you left?"
"Erm, No?" Ivanova was thrown by the sudden change of topic.
"She feels the same as me, both of us gave our all for Sheridan and the Alliance and look where it got us. Admittedly, my predicament is my own making but we both feel bitter."
"When did you meet up with Lyta?"
"She and G'Kar got me out of a sticky situation in Drazi space." He smiled sadly, "It was nice to see them but they move around a lot."
"Excuse me? I'm not interrupting?" Captain Douglas appeared from round a corner.
"Just some reminiscing," replied Ivanova.
"Well, I have to ask a favour of the pair of you."
Ivanova and Lennier looked at each other and back at Douglas.
"I'm two officers short," he said. "I'm asking if I can draft you two for my crew."
"What doing?" asked Ivanova.
"Well, I'm short of an Engineering officer, so I was hoping Lennier would fill in. Clanwellin isn't really up to his job at the moment, so if you would be willing to stand in and show him how to shoot."
"I don't think that will be a problem," replied Ivanova, after getting a nod from Lennier. "However, this is only until this situation is over. I want to get a new ship after this."
"That's good. The stations are similar enough to the old earth force layout, so I don't think you'll have any problems."
"Captain to the Bridge," called a nervous Clanwellin.
"Uh-ho!" said Ivanova.
"Yes, when he sounds that jumpy, you know there's going to be trouble."
Everyone was sat round the main conference hall in Alliance headquarters. Douglas admitted to feeling cold in the crystal structure. He looked around the table. There was Mr Garibaldi, who looked more bored than anybody here. Ivanova looked comfortable but it was Delenn who caught his attention.
It was obvious that she was Minbari but he found it shocking that she looked and acted so human. He did find it difficult to be here, he looked over at his first officer. Smith looked alright but he could feel the control that he was using to keep his anger repressed. Douglas wondered if he should have left him on the ship where he wouldn't be under that much stress.
He could understand the stress; they'd just been escorted under the guns of six white-stars and a couple of cruisers. He was quite relieved that it had been Ivanova at the gunnery station and not a nervous Clanwellin. They'd been escorted, under guard, until they'd reach this hall and if it wasn't for the way that Ivanova greeted her old comrades, he'd almost have considered himself a prisoner.
It had been quite emotional; he could feel the turmoil in her as she came across people she hadn't seen in almost five years. She shouldn't have worried. Delenn embraced her old friend like they'd never seen each other for decades. There was a release of the tension, as all the guards and escorts seemed to relax.
There were twenty Minbari, the commonwealth officers, Ivanova, Garibaldi and Delenn sat around the table a large circular table in the centre of this grand hall.
"I'd like to start this briefing by review the situation." said Delenn. "We have an unknown enemy who, in my opinion, appears to be manipulating a conflict between the Alliance and the Commonwealth."
"They have the capability to disable, capture and corrupt our white-stars. These captured ships have been used to attack the Commonwealth home system. In addition, either this third party or the Commonwealth, in response to hostile action, has instigated a galaxy wide jam of interstellar communications."
Both Douglas and Smith looked at each other uncomfortably when the last statement was made.
Another Minbari spoke, "We received this report from President Sheridan when he made contact with a Commonwealth vessel."
A holographic recording made by John was displayed in the centre of the table.
"It's with regret, I make this report. We successfully intercepted a Commonwealth vessel at the included spatial co-ordinates."
The view changed to show Sheridan's fleet surround a dreadnought class corvette.
"I ordered a couple of White stars to Sheppard her while issuing a challenge to the vessel." Sheridan continued the commentary as two white stars intercepted corvette and stayed in it's 'six' regardless of the extensive manoeuvres it was performing.
"At this point, the vessel dropped some kind of device which jammed all local communication." A small piece of the corvette's wing was seen to drop away. "I tried to set up a manual relay of orders but by the time it was in place, the vessel dropped a mine which appeared to disable both the white stars in range and the jammer."
A blue flash was seen emerging between the pursuing White stars and the two vessels went dead in space.
"It was at this point I swore using the phrase 'Oh Hell', which means 'fire all weapons' in Minbari. I hadn't realised that the communication system was working again."
The entire fleet opened fire as one on the single commonwealth vessel, which disappeared in a green flash of light. Both Douglas and Smith looked at each other urgently. Delenn, Ivanova and Garibaldi looked shocked, while the rest of the table shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
"Can we immediately apologise for the loss of your vessel?" Delenn looked crestfallen.
"Can we look at our ship's nameplate?" Surprisingly, it was Smith who asked.
Silently Delenn, looked at one of the aides and they rewound the recording. The nameplate revealed the legend 'Dreadnaught'. Douglas and Smith looked at each other for a second and then Smith nodded.
"And did you also get a recording of the wave form of the interstellar jammer?"
A couple of second's later, a 3d representation of the waveform appeared.
Both Douglas and Smith looked relieved.
"That's not the waveform we use for the jammer," Smith confirmed.
"Thankfully," continued Douglas, "We don't have to accept your apology because the ship in question wasn't destroyed. The green flash is what one of our propulsion drives looks like viewed from outside."
"That's a relief." said Ivanova.
"Not really, "said Douglas, "Things might have been easier if the ship had been destroyed."
Everybody was taken a back by his statement.
"The captain of that ship will have reported that he was fired upon by a Minbari Fleet and that would have put the whole Commonwealth on a War Footing."
"For just one ship?" asked Garibaldi.
"We've been waiting for a Minbari attempt to wipe us out for twenty years. Remember how the war was fought? No prisoners and no mercy."
Douglas noticed Delenn looked extremely uncomfortable at this point. He had to shift his focus away from her because the stab of guilt seems almost painful.
"I think that's exactly what our real adversary wants," she said. "If it was ever reviled that the commonwealth was an innocent party in a war, then the alliance would suffer greatly."
"We don't want a war." said Smith. "We've been dreading the return of the Minbari."
"However, I can't call home to report our discoveries because of the jamming," stated Douglas. "I'm sure the evidence we've gathered would countermand any mobilisation."
"I do think that the Jammer has to be our highest priority," observed Ivanova "And I have a hunch to where it is."
"The only problem is that we have no scout ships which will be secure against they're capturing technology." admitted Delenn.
Douglas sighed, he knew what was required. "Well, if Captain Ivanova is willing to come along, we'll recon the area. If we find anything then we'll take it out."
"Very well, Susan?" Delenn turned to look at her old friend.
"Don't see a problem with that. I haven't got much in my schedule at the moment. But I would recommend that a couple of cruisers stand by in Hyperspace so we've got some kind of backup."
"I'm afraid that I'll have to bow out at this stage," said Garibaldi. "However, there might be something in the R&D division back home which might be of help."
"Very well," said Delenn, "I'll take the fastest ship to Babylon-5 and brief John on the situation."
The whole meeting took less than half an hour.
Ivanova was leaving the hall with the commonwealth personnel when Garibaldi approached them.
"Quick word?" he asked Ivanova
Douglas nodded. He and Smith moved off in the distance to give them some privacy.
"Wish my business meetings were that fast," Garibaldi said, offering her a little black box. "Here, I want you to take this."
"Is it a portable acme sledgehammer as approved by Wil E. Coyote?"
Garibaldi gave her a sarcastic smile.
"It's a new kind of communicator; I'm hoping to call you through it when the eggheads get the signal carrier sorted out. It doesn't seem to be affected by the jamming."
"How does it work?"
"Oh, it uses carrier waves amplified by the yakked smacked phenomenon that uses what-do-you-call it to get the thingamajig."
Ivanova couldn't help but smile, "You were always one for technical explanations."
"Hey you know me, all I want is to push a button and it works. " Garibaldi smiled back.
"Got another one for Delenn?"
"Funny you should mention that."
"Well, listen, there's a favour to ask."
"You mean apart from lending you this communicator, my prototype ships, making me take time away from the office and robbing my wife of my charming personality?"
"You know who, was never sent to get you." Ivanova whispered.
"Who? I just decided to take my test ships out for a quick jaunt." He sighed looking over at Delenn. "They'll never sort it out you know."
"I know." Ivanova sounded just as regretful. She looked over at Douglas and Smith.
"Time to go."