There was a pause.
"Jon, can you read me?"
Sheridan was speechless. He couldn't believe his ears. He tore his attention away from the battle. He'd noticed the Earth Alliance cruiser only a couple of moments ago but hadn't been able to identify it. He noticed that the Commonwealth's big ships had started to move.
"Delenn?" he said gaining his voice back, "Where are you?"
"I'm on the Agamenon!" she replied. "Ivanova has managed to stop the jamming."
"Jon, these people can be our friends…"
"They seemed determined to pick a fight Delenn."
"Please Jon, The Captain of the Dreadnaught is on board the Agamemnon, they have good reason to believe we hostile because someone else has set up this conflict. You need to get our forces to disengage."
"Delenn, I need evidence and quickly. I can't just turn our back."
All of a sudden he was no longer in the command centre of the Minbari vessel. He was in the presidential office in earth dome, or rather two of him were. It was like walking round a hologram at Disney planet. There was himself, standing at ease, in the corner. The joint chiefs were there and about five or six other Admirals, Generals and Captains. The president, herself, was sat behind her desk; she'd aged visibly from the time he remembered from before this.
He quickly glanced at the clock, and had to catch himself. The time and date told him that it was two hours after the end of the Battle of the Line. He's been, actually he couldn't remember what he had been doing. He had no memory of this meeting. However, he couldn't put his finger on it but this felt more real to him than the work he'd though he'd been doing at the time.
He looked around the room again. Something told him that not all the people who should have been there were. The clock began to tick and the room slowly came alive like someone had just played the play button on a video.
"Yes Madam President, most of the Minbari fleet has gone."
"Thank God it's over," said the President.
"It appears that way," said one of the joint chiefs.
"What were their terms?"
"There are to be no demands for reparations, diplomatic links are to be established, the leader of squadron 101, Jeffery Sinclair is to be mind wiped of his contact with the Minbari. His Starfury will be returned in approximately 20 hours. There is a proviso that no harm is to come to him because of this incident."
"Three years and how many lives, for that?"
"I don't want to think about what this Sinclair must have said to them but it must have been good," another of the joint chiefs commented.
"What about the evacuation plan?" asked the President.
"We've managed to stop most of them but one group executed the plan and have escaped."
"Can we get them back?"
"Ma'am, we've tried all the passwords on all the frequencies. There's been nothing. They've gone."
"Hide their numbers in the line casualties. I want no leaks on this."
The president turned her attention to the other officers in the office.
"Thank you for all your efforts," she said, not quite looking any of them in the eye. "And for what it's worth, I'm sorry. Dismissed."
The officers, including this version of him, left the office and he glimpsed several figures in black waiting for them in reception outside. Psi Cops?
"Oh My God!"
Sheridan was trying to stay on his feet. His stomach lurched but he held it down. He'd been a part of the greatest cover up in earth history. Sinclair, the evacuation of an elite few, maybe a million people out of the billions awaiting death from the Minbari guns. He realised who the Commonwealth was.
"Open a broadcast wide link to the Commonwealth fleet." He said, regaining his composure.
"Attention Commonwealth Fleet. This is President Sheridan formally of earth force, serial number 0678576478. The passwords are Gibson, Rowling, Feituch and Adams."
He instructed the communication system to repeat the message until he got a response. Suddenly, a video link was established with the Commonwealth Flagship.
"This is Admiral Canonizado aboard the CNV Invincible. Your very late reporting in, Captain."
"Admiral Canonizado." greeted Sheridan. "It's been a long time."
"Indeed, I'm receiving a communication from one of our ships, the Dreadnaught, regarding this situation we're in."
"I'm willing to call an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal Admiral, if your force break off as well."
"Very Well." The Admiral turned to his aid and issued the disengage order.
"All Ships, this is Sheridan. Cease Fire and return to base."
"Captain or rather, Mr President. We'll be retrieving the damaged and the dead and then we'll leave." His face was full of distain for the Human on a Minbari vessel. "We'll send you co-ordinates of our territory with a buffer zone. Passage to all non commonwealth ships is denied until further notice."
"Admiral, surely we can talk about this?" Sheridan was confused by the Admiral's abruptness.
"That's for our leaders to decide. Invincible out."
The waves of fighters parted, the flashes stopped. He could make out the Agamemnon approaching this vessel. A small ship detached from it, probably the Dreadnaught, and disappeared with a green flash. This madness had finally stopped but he didn't care, in a few minutes he was going to be reunited with his wife.
"So the puppet masters were thwarted again."
Anybody who was watching the Centari Emperor would have thought he was talking to himself. Londo would have given all his riches just to be talking to himself.
It is a setback I'll admit. However, all we lost was a Jammer, a capture ship and a redundant penal colony. The Alliance lost a lot more.
"Maybe so, but you were beaten back again."
Lando felt his keeper smile.
But we have eliminated one of your potential rivals for the throne. The Admiral could have become a threat in time and as long as you are in charge, we are in charge.
"You can't have organised this entire escapade just to get rid of a Centari Admiral?"
You'll never know Lando. You haven't paid to see those cards.
The Keeper laughed at him, sending shivers of ice cold down his spine.
"If it hadn't been Susan telling me, I never would have believed it." Sheridan was in his old office in Babylon 5. Both Delenn and Lockley were there, with Garibaldi on the link.
"How is she?" he asked with concern.
"Shaky," said Delenn. "I'll go down and see her soon."
"How are you?"
"Having discovered what I was up to during the Battle of the Line?" Sheridan asked.
He snorted, "As well as to be expected. Secrets and Lies sure as well eat at with you."
"Still," Garibaldi interjected. "A major war was averted, shadow technology destroyed. We can now work on a way to stop that corruption of the White Star Fleet. Surely we've got some positives here."
"Yeah," sighed Sheridan. " I know but there's always a price to pay for it."
"Any luck with establishing communications with the Commonwealth?" asked Lockley.
"None, they've laid claim to twenty star systems as their territory. There isn't anybody else even near there so that's not going to be a problem."
"Well Captain Ivanova shouldn't have to worry about the extreme sanction," said Lockly. "All orders regarding the Commonwealth have been rescinded. She's safe."
"After all she's been through, she deserves at least that." observed Delenn.
She stood watching the mist roll in off the sea. Here where the three sea lochs met the Isle of Skye, Susuan Ivanova stood looking over the Castle of Eilean Donan. She let the quiet of the place settle the turmoil of the last few months. There had been the hearings, the promotion to Fleet Captain and the memorial services. They'd given her plenty of leave but she didn't know what to do with it, so she visited a couple of the places that Douglas had told her about.
It was a strange feeling, up to a couple of weeks a go, she'd been throwing up nearly every day. She was that worried about it that she'd gone to see Stephen. First of all he thought she was pregnant but tests had proved she wasn't. He put it down to the stress she was under and then signed a document allowing even more leave on medical grounds.
Everybody else was busy, Sheridan and Delenn on their Diplomatic runs. Garibaldi running his company, Stephen was run off his feet in the medical facility. She was kind of used to the loneliness now. She might even like it. The ancient castle in front of her seemed to symbolise that. For hundreds of years it had stood here alone, a lonely sentinel watching the sea and sky.
"The problem with Eilean Donan," came a voice next to her, "is that it's been alone for so long, it wants you join it."
Her blood ran cold; she slowly turned, mouth wide open, to stare at the voice's owner.
"What's this? Guppy Fish at feeding time?" Captain Philip Douglas said with a half grin on his face.
"What? Where? And mostly how?" was all Ivanova managed to splutter out.
"Ah, did you forget that our bridge section is also a life boat?"
Realisation dawned on her face. She smiled, drew back her fist and punched him in the jaw. There was a very satisfying crack.
"Ohya!" came the involuntary yell from Douglas.
"That's for putting me in the life boat." She screamed.
She grabbed him again.
"And this is for coming back."
She kissed him on the lips and they held each other for a little while. She broke off first.
"Lennier and Smith?"
"All fine." He said, as they walked away from the castle towards a nearby village. "In fact, we're thinking of making Lennier the Minbari Ambassador. Best not tell your Rangers that through, he is under our protection."
"Jon has been trying to establish contact."
Douglas smiled, "Yes, we know. When you've caught us up with our technology, we'll be in touch. We've got to sort out a few things ourselves before we're ready to talk to Earth or the Alliance."
"Oh, the hatred of the Minbari. The feeling of abandonment by Earth." He explained nonchalantly. "Lennier's a lot of help with the Minbari situation, so you never know."
"So what are you doing here?"
"Well, I didn't want you to think it was a permanent rain check." He said, producing a bottle out of his jacket. "And I had to come home to get a supply of the 'good' stuff."
He reached into his pocket and gave her a data crystal.
"It's occurred to us that there might me some un-registered telepaths that might not want to be part of the psi-corp. They're perfectly welcome to join us anytime they want, as are you."
She grinned, "How long can you stay?"
"For tonight only. I fly the new Ark Royal on a shake down cruise in a couple of weeks."
He reached into his pocket again and produced a hologram. The ship looked very big, angular and aggressive.
"Nova Class, not to be confused with the old Earth Force ships though." He explained, "Makes the Danube cruisers look like broken down wreaks already, and they've been in service less than six months."
"I'm happy for you." She said, it was like a huge weight had lifted. She reached into her own pocket "Here, take this."
She handed over her communicator from Garibaldi.
"You never know when I'd like to chat."
Douglas looked down at it and smiled.
"You ever been to a Ceilidh?" he asked.
"No." Ivanova smiled at him as they approached the village.
"Right, follow me." He said, grinning like an idiot, "I'm going to teach you how to dance like you've never danced before. But watch out when they start 'Strip the Willow', it's going to hurt!"