Douglas stalked the bridge. It was not his watch but he could not sit in his cabin. He completed his report and had sent it off to admiralty. He imagined the shock waves that would flow through the government. The prisoner, Lennier, had been very co-operative so far. None of crew could find fault with he'd said. Earth had not perished in the Earth-Minbari War.
Even Smith seemed satisfied. Douglas had made his report available to his second. He didn't know if it would help the turmoil that Smith was being put through, but he felt that Smith ought to know. It seemed incredible, the events on this EA Station – Babylon-5. First standing against a corrupt president, caught between a war of two huge powers and then uniting the galaxy into a relatively peaceful place. The problem was these ships that he'd been fighting against were supposed to be this Alliance's peacekeepers or policemen.
The prisoner thought that they were acting out of character. These Rangers were supposed to use Minbari tactics. Douglas knew that they weren't fighting as Minbari, so the logical proposition seemed to be that Rangers did not fly these ships. Also Lennier had kept a few details from him. It was something about his relationship with this Delenn and Sheridan, and it seemed to be very personal. Not hate, another negative emotion that Douglas could not put his finger on. He had time to figure it out.
Douglas looked around the bridge. It was Kelly's watch. That was another complication; he had always kept her close because he was very fond of her. His feelings were a lot stronger than just fondness but it was not proper for two officers on the same ship to be in a relationship. Too many accusations of favouritism could arise. Anyway she might reject those feelings and then that would be that. He only hoped that his shields were strong enough to stop her picking these emotions up.
"We have an incoming transmission Captain. Coded FYEO" she said her tone as cool as ever.
"Thank you Ms. Kelly." He made sure his tone matched hers and called up the document.
He glanced over the orders.
You are ordered to take Ark Royal to the alpha one Le-grange point. You will then take on supplies from the transport 'Cobra III'. Dreadnought and Hibernia will provide escort for you. After re-supply, Ark Royal will fire her jump engines in an effort to contact this Alliance and discover the cause of these attacks.
Easier said than done, he thought as he continued reading the document
You are to use any means necessary to contact this Interstellar Alliance and find out their engagement rules. Admiral Bentley who was the chief of fleet operations at Portsmouth Station signed it
. The statement 'any means necessary' gave Douglas a lot of options. He pondered on this for a moment.
"Ms. Kelly. " he said, "Could you please call Clanwellin and Smith to the bridge? "
She smiled and then turned to her station. Douglas glanced over at her. Long red hair, which was tied back at the moment, a flawless face with and impish smile, you couldn't help be attracted to her. It was, however, her defiant, fiery personality, the very disdain for authority that got her into so much trouble, that Douglas found so appealing. It had never been directed at him but if there was a rule that could be bent or broken, it seemed that Kelly made it her job to break it.
The other two arrived. Clanwellin looked very tired having only finished his watch. Douglas ordered them to their stations and put the ship on yellow alert.
"Mr Clanwellin. Would you go to the brig and bring Mr. Lennier to the bridge. As of this moment he is to be no longer considered a prisoner, but a guest and hopefully a consultant."
Clanwellin left the Bridge. Smith glared at Douglas.
"Captain Clay's going to be pissed that he missed this one." commented Kelly.
"Belay that Ms Kelly. I'm sure he would act the same way in this situation."
"Yeah Right." She muttered. Her sarcasm was overpowering.
"He would have walked that Lennier right out the airlock, after he'd finished with him."
"Ms Kelly, It's a good job I'm having a problem with my hearing because I almost heard something that you get you another demerit."
She smiled. She knew he was bending the rules for her, the trick was not letting her get away with too much. The door opened and Lennier walked in followed by a nervous looking Clanwellin.
"Lennier would you take a seat here next to me. I take it Mr. Clanwellin has explained your situation."
Lennier nodded and asked, "Does that mean I'm free to go?"
"Yes, but this is the Commonwealth. You might have gathered that most people will act with hostility to you at best. It's also a completely closed system. No Commonwealth ship has ever."
"You don't have jump technology?" asked Lennier.
"We do, but we don't use it because…" He paused, "I'll explain later, right now I'd rather have your co-operation that try to threaten you."
"I see. " said Lennier, "Co-operation with what?"
"I've been authorised to leave the Quad–system and contact the alliance to find out why your white-stars are shooting at us. So far there's been nothing we can't handle but you never know."
"I can't contact Sheridan or Delenn directly." Lennier replied.
"I see, that's your little problem is it?"
A flash of anger crossed the minbari's face before he regained his composure.
"Did you scan me?" he asked.
Douglas took a deep breath. He had to gain this Alien's trust. Normally that meant honesty, but with a minbari he didn't know if that was the correct way to gain his confidence. He made his decision.
"Yes. It was only a light scan. To find out if you were telling the truth. If you have millions of people threatened, I doubt if you'd take the chance either."
The Minbari considered this.
"Yes, that's my problem. If I approach them, I will be punished, maybe severely. I cannot until I've done something to remedy that."
"Is there anyway to contact them, without compromising yourself?"
"Yes, I could contact either Mr Garabaldi or Captain Ivanova. I'd recommend contacting Ivanova. She's likely to have the most influence with both Sheridan and Delenn."
Lennier continued to stare at Douglas.
"You mentioned someone during the interviews." confided Douglas, "Marcus Cole and I used to work in Earth Alliance intelligence before I got shipped out on cruisers. He was a decent enough chap, if a bit morbid. I'm a bit surprised that he fell for this Ivanova."
"Why?" Lennier looked surprised at the mention of Marcus Cole's name.
"I thought he was gay." replied Douglas.
"Incoming craft." announced Clanwellin.
With a slight flash, two more corvettes appeared. It was the Dreadnought and the Hibernia. Both ships had distinguished themselves in the trouble they had a few years back and were regarded as the best the commonwealth had to offer. Clay might be disappointed about the fact he, Douglas, was going out on first contact. The small communication frame appeared in the top left corner of the command workstation's screen. Both Clay and Seafort reported in.
"Good evening Gentlemen." greeted Douglas.
"I see you have your prisoner there." said Clay. The hate in his voice was hammering.
"Captain Clay. I'm convinced that Mr Lennier here is on our side for the moment. I'd like you to consider him a guest of the Commonwealth."
"That's your prerogative, Douglas. But on my ship…" He left the threat hanging.
"We await your orders, Captain Douglas." interrupted Seafort diplomatically.
Seafort was a lot younger than both Douglas and Clay, the youngest man ever to captain a vessel. His was the face that the recruitment posters used. Kelly used to fantasise about him until she met him in person, a few months ago. He'd lost his wife not long ago and was quite offended by her attempts at flirting, much to Douglas' relief.
There was awkward moment where Clay fought for control.
"We're to escort you to the Le-grange point, where you will take on supplies and then jump." Clay confirmed.
"Very Well, Prepare for LDS."
"Way-point calculated and transmitted." confirmed Smith.
"Engage." ordered Douglas.
"LDS?" asked Lennier
"The linear displacement system. It allows the ship to travel at up to a…" he paused, "Well, a very high speed in normal space. Very useful when you've got to fly around the quad system."
"I can see that, I didn't even feel the acceleration."
"We're full of suprises, Mr Lennier."
"ETA Ten minutes." Announced Smith.
"Can I ask you something captain?" queried Lennier
"You want some history or background on us?"
"Are you constantly scanning me?"
"Not intentionally, your thoughts are hard to shield against when strong emotion is involved. Like when I mention Sheridan for instance, there is always something there."
"I shall endeavour to keep my emotions more restrained if it causes you pain." said Lennier.
Douglas smiled, he found himself actually liking this Minbari, this enemy. He had the kind of no-nonsense personality that he liked in his crew.
"There isn't pain Lennier." He said, "Both Myself and Mr Smith there, served in Earth-force during the war. Both of us could have been described as spies for the Psi-corp. Anyway, from your description of the Battle of the Line, it was your impression that this was a last stand?"
"Well, there was a contingency plan. A lot of the telepaths, ranging from lowest Blip to a highest Psi-Cop, some remarkable scientists and some elite troops, disappeared while the battle progressed. We were told that the order came from the president, but these days I doubt it. We all packed into some Narn transports that we 'borrowed' and off we went. A year later we discovered this, our new home.
"The Quad system. Well, it was when we got here. Ironically, most of the refugees where descended from the British Isles, so we split up into the old home nations, Irish, English, Scots and Welsh. Each settled on a different planet, formed the Commonwealth. We then prepared ourselves for discovery by the Minbari."
"Nothing unites more than a common enemy." He added.
"And you've been waiting for the twenty years ever since." finished Lennier.
"Yes. We've had our successes over time. Our warships are vastly more powerful and manoeuvrable that the old Earth Alliance clunkers were. We have worked out how to enhance Psi. Abilities and we are still a fully fledge democracy. "
"But it's not been all good?" asked Lennier.
"No. Ten years ago, we lost New Ireland. Parliament had decided to give the Irish descendants the first choice of the habitual planets in the system. They choose their planet and everything seemed fine, until someone discovered that the planet itself was unstable. It ripped apart within two years and we had to evacuate thousands. We called it green glow because of the colour of the remains of the planet."
Lennier tried to change the subject. It was obvious to him that this seemed to cause Douglas pain.
"I will do my best to assist you." He said, "But I can't be found by any of the Rangers, not until I've done something worthy of them."
Smith motioned for the Douglas to come forward. Douglas locked his workstation and clambered through the cramped bridge.
"He seems fine Sir." Smith whispered, "Although as your first officer, I'd like to say that you shouldn't be telling him so much about us."
"I need his co-operation Smith." Douglas's voice had an edge to it, "Most of those things he probably would have worked out through observation anyway."
"Maybe Sir, but my objection still stands." Smith's voice matched Douglas.
"It's noted. Is that all?" snapped Douglas.
Douglas made his way back to his workstation. He'd noticed Lennier watching him all the way.
"Reverting to thruster power." announced Smith.
Ark Royal shook as the stars on the view screen reverted back to small dots. A couple of seconds later along side were both Dreadnought and Hibernia. Ahead was the large transport vessel 'Cobra III'. At six hundred metres long, it was twice the size of a corvette. Three long cylinders held in a triangular formation, with a stubby little bridge at one end and huge engines at the other.
"Cobra III to Ark Royal" blared the speakers, "Please dock so we can unload supplies. We don't want to be here a minute longer than we have to."
Douglas couldn't really blame them for not wanting to stay long.
"Acknowledged Cobra III." he replied and then looked at Smith, "Mr Smith. Docking Manoeuvres with Cobra III, if you please."
"Aye aye Sir."
Smith's hands guided the ship close to the dorsal of the Cobra. He was an excellent pilot in all the disciplines, but docking was his speciality. He seemed to have a feel for the ship and the vectors required to pull the right type of turn. There was a small bump and Ark Royal had docked with the Cobra. Douglas had been there when he managed to dock Ark Royal to Southampton station, manually.
It had been through that trouble five years ago. The black ships had come. These ships didn't attempt to communicate. They just attacked. Southampton station, the Navy's headquarters, had come under attack and Ark Royal had come in to evacuate the non-essential personnel. He still remembered it, as that day was burnt on his mind.
They'd lost the Telstar and the Glasgow. The three other corvettes, Hibernia, Dreadnought and the Tripoli, were harrying the first of eight of these massive black ships. Douglas had given the order to dock and Smith just flew in and killed velocity. There was a small bump and then they were docked. They took on their share of people and then broke free and ran. Hibernia and Dreadnought ran with them but Tripoli didn't make it. A black ship winged her and while she tried to regain control, another black ship fired and that was that.
At that point three of the new Bastille class destroyers dropped out of L.D.S. and piled in with every weapon they had and took out the lead two ships. The other black ships just hung there as if unable to move. Clay ordered the corvettes to counterattack and between them they took out another three. The others tried to make a run for it. You could see them attempting to move but they seemed to be held in place. The destroyers finished them off with their missiles. It turned out they were very susceptible to telepathic jamming. Ark Royal had lost her best gunner that day, but thankfully, not long after that the black ships stopped coming.
It wasn't until after the battle that Douglas realised that Smith had not used the docking computers. Not only that, he'd docked faster and safer than the machine ever did.
"Sir!" Clanwellin brought Douglas's attention the to present, "We have six contacts approaching, echo profile suggest more of those White Stars."
"Alert the Fleet." Douglas ordered, "Bring us to Red Alert."
Douglas swore quietly under his breath. Ark Royal could do nothing while being re-supplied, even the PBCs was offline. It was up to Hibernia and Dreadnought. He watched tensely on the command workstation as the Bogies and corvettes exchanged fire. There were two quick explosions as two of the white stars disappeared from the scope, however after that the situation seemed to deteriorate. Both commonwealth ships were hitting their targets but not doing any damage. Hibernia was being heavily hit. Douglas watched her shield levels fall.
"How long until we can join the fight?" Douglas asked Kelly.
"Not a chance sir. It's another ten minutes until we can break." She replied, tension evident in her voice.
There was a flash.
"Oh my God! Hibernia's down." called Clanwellin.
"Survivors?" Douglas asked
There were some tense moments.
"Sir we have one pasty and one BS on scope. They have life signs."
"Captain Douglas?" ask Lennier
Douglas turned his attention to the Minbari.
"White Star vessels have an organic hull, which rearranges itself to the energy signature of an energy hit."
Douglas immediately called Dreadnought.
"I'm busy." Clay's voice was calm but you could hear simmering anger beneath it.
"Clay, Cycle the PBC Freq. don't use the same freq. twice. Use missiles."
Clay terminated the connection. Douglas continued to watch the screen. Dreadnought danced about like a startled bird and then there was another explosion.
"Dreadnought?" asked Kelly, who didn't have access to the external scanners.
"No. That was a White Star." replied Clanwellin.
There was another explosion.
"There goes another one." said Smith.
The two remaining white stars seemed overmatched as the Dreadnought bore down on them. It weaved in and out of their shots and then the commonwealth ship fired again. There was another explosion.
"He is very good." observed Lennier.
"Whatever you say about the man," Said Douglas, as the remaining White Star crumbled under a hail of missiles, "He is the best there is."
"Hibernia's survivors reporting in." said Smith, "Seafort and half his crew made it out. "
Clay's face appeared on the command workstation.
"Excellent analysis Douglas. I thought we're getting close on this one."
"That information came from our guest here." replied Douglas.
Clay's image focused on Lennier. He waited a few seconds.
"I don't trust you and I don't like Minbari." He said, "But that saved my ship."
There was another longer pause.
"Thank you." He cut the connection.
"Well, that's a first." observed Kelly.
"Zip it Kelly." Douglas snapped, "You don't take the piss out of someone who just saved your life."
Kelly shrugged as if that meant nothing to her, turned and focused back on her screen.
"Still," He said under his breath to Lennier, "It must have hurt to say it."