Ivanova sat in the escape capsule. It had been two days since the Warlock had exploded. She'd left her suit on and plugged it into the life support. That meant that the capsule's life support could be turned off and a SOS message could be sent for longer. It didn't matter to her that she'd be dead a long time before any rescue could come. She lost her ship and she felt it was her responsibility. It should have been her who died not her ship.
She didn't want to look at the counter, which told her how long she had. There wasn't much she could do about it anyway. Even if a ship did come close, she didn't want to know. All that effort gone into getting the crew on her side was lost. All the trial runs and little discoveries of how to get that little bit more power out of the engines was lost. One thousand families who'd had a daughter, son, father or mother had all lost someone. All except hers, there was no one to tell.
There were times when she was feeling alone, that she missed Marcus Cole. He was a pain in the backside for most of the time. Whenever there had been a crisis that involved the pair of them, he had a one liner ready. Not particularly funny, but just enough to take the edge off a situation. He was irritating, annoying and on top of all that, he'd always been there when she needed him.
Then he'd saved her life. She'd been dying in medical lab on B 5. The injuries were too bad and it was only matter of time they'd said. Then Marcus had stormed in, hooked himself up to some kind of healing machine and fixed her. The machine killed him to save her and Dr. Franklin had told her that Marcus knew that the machine would kill him. It was that fact which made it worse.
Ivanova wished that he were here. She could yell at him. Tell him he was the biggest jerk in the galaxy for doing what he did. Tell him to get lost, find his own life. Find someone that would appreciate him, even though deep down she didn't know whether she would want him to. Tell him that if he hadn't of saved her then all those people on the Warlock would still be alive.
If there was no signal soon then she probably meet him soon enough. She'd have to admit to him that she knew about his feelings, about how she felt about him and that always seemed to make her heart shrink. There was bleeping noise from the life support. She slowly turned to switch the alarm off. She'd had no food or water, even though there were emergency rations in the capsule. There didn't seem to be a point. She realised that it was getting hard to catch her breath.
She called up a small report on her stylus. It was a letter she'd been writing to John and Delenn, to Garibaldi, and to Franklin. Looking through it, she'd seen nothing but apology. She felt she'd made a mistake leaving B5. The Warlock was a good substitute but it now felt as if she had run away.
Still she had ended up captaining a ship, her ambition when she joined Earth Force. She knew her father would have been proud. She held onto those thoughts, as her eyelids got heavy. The last thing she could see was her father's face. His expression was the same as just after her mother had died. It was an expression full of sorrow, loss and love. She passed out.
"I feel sick." Said Clanwellin.
Smith looked back at Douglas and smiled.
"You do know barfing on duty is a serious offence, Ensign." Kelly said, with a slight smile
It was the old hyperspace disorientation. Douglas remembered the first time he'd been through hyperspace. The swirling eddies and currents of energy. There was no focal point of reference so it always felt like you'd had one too many Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters on shore leave. Clanwellin was paler that usual and maybe could looked slightly green. Kelly seemed to be holding up well, probably because she ignored the view port completely. She stared at her screen. Douglas' screen bleeped a warning.
"Lennier. We're approaching the co-ordinates you supplied. However I can't seem to fire up the jump gate. Is there anything else in the system? "
"Yes I believe there are a number of planets in that system."
"Good enough." Muttered Smith.
"Mr Smith, as soon as we're through, fire up the navigation sensors to full and find us a back door."
"Aye, Aye Sir."
"Mr. Clanwellin. You take over Helm functions."
"Transferring Duties. Aye, Aye Sir."
"Transfer to real space." Ordered Douglas.
A hole appeared ahead in hyperspace. Through it you could see the inky dark of space. It felt as if you were falling down a huge whirlpool into oblivion. The Ark Royal shot into real space and came to a full stop. The jump gate looked wrecked.
"At least we know why we couldn't use the jump gate." comment Kelly, "I'm also reading a lot of debris and level's of radiation a lot higher than the norm. Maybe some kind of fight happened here."
Douglas looked at his displays, zooming into some of the wreckage. There seemed to be a lot from the black ships he'd seen and some other type of remains. It looked distinctly Earth Force but he could not be certain.
"That's corrupted White Star debris." Said Lennier pointing to a lot of the debris.
"And that's the remains of a Star Fury." Said Douglas pointing to another part of the battle. "If something had happened here, it looks as if we missed it."
"Captain, I'd estimate that maybe three to four of the black stars and one larger ship had been destroyed here." Reported Kelly. "The larger ship is certainly of Earth origin but I can't put a type to it."
"The Warlock was an experimental vessel and didn't have any support vessels as far as I know." Replied Lennier.
"This Captain Ivanova put up a good fight and probably took them with her so, it looks like we're off to Mars to talk to your Mr.Garabaldi." Said Douglas
Lennier looked shocked at the cold disregard for the incident that had happened here.
"You're not going to look for survivors?" he asked.
"Where could we keep them?" Douglas replied." An old earth force cruiser had hundreds of people aboard. We can't carry that many."
"Sir. The computers will have mapped the system in half an hour." Reported Smith, "We could we look until then?"
Douglas sagged. His orders didn't cover this eventuality but if people were recovered they might start asking questions about where this ship came from and that was against his orders. There was no harm in looking and from the amount of blackened hulk around them; he didn't think there would be any.
"Sir I have one. One Hundred Clicks away."
He ordered Clanwellin to stop one hundred metres from the signal. He called up the pod on the command station's displays. It displayed a standard earth force escape capsule with one life sign aboard. He took pilot-age away from Clanwellin and started the docking manoeuvre himself. He turned Ark Royal slowly to match the Pod's rotation and then fired the belly thrusters. There was a small bump.
"Docking Hatch reports Secure." Replied Clanwellin.
"Smith, You have the conn." He ordered, "Mr Lennier, if you would come with me."
He got up and after gesturing for Lennier to lead, walked off the bridge.
Ivanova could hear voices and she felt herself slowly falling. She found herself falling down a tunnel with light at the bottom. The voices seemed to get louder the further she fell.
Perhaps, this is the start of my journey to hell, she though as she felt herself accelerate, I've been judged and sentenced for failing.
She tried to will herself, upward away from the noise, but gave up. She felt she'd been pronounced unworthy, why fight it. She fell into the light and then sat up with a gasp. She tried to look around but a wave of nausea hit her and she fell back down onto a bed. She couldn't see anything properly.
"I don't think she'll do that again, Sir." She heard a voice say from behind her.
"I might have to put her back under if she can't handle it." It continued.
"Captain Ivanova." A different voice addressed her, familiar but she couldn't quite place it. "Susan?"
She looked over at source. Her eyes were adjusting to the light and blob she saw in front of her began to rearrange itself into a memorable Minbari face.
"Where am I?" She asked, as Lennier seemed spin round the room again.
"You are on the CNV Ark Royal." That was a new voice, with maybe a soft British or Irish accent to it, "Welcome aboard Captain."
He appeared next to Lennier and everything came into focus for a second. He was tall, medium build, blond but it was his eye's that caught her attention. They were a soft deep brown, which seemed to radiate calm. She caught herself and brought her self back to the present. She was in what looked like a small medical bay. There were three people she could see, Lennier, the Brown Eyed man and a small man in a white lab coat.
"Ark Royal?" she found her voice was very weak. Her throat was severely dry.
"I'm sure the captain, here, will answer any of your questions." Said Lennier.
"Lennier, We were attacked by White stars." She said ignoring the man with the brown eyes.
"… But they were the wrong colour." She continued, "They were black."
"I know." He said, "I don't know who or why?"
The man in the Lab Coat turned to the brown-eyed man and muttered something she couldn't make out. She turned her attention to the Brown eyed man.
"Who are you?" she asked, her voice was getting weaker.
He leant forward.
"Captain Phillip H. Douglas of the Commonwealth Navy. We came looking for you, because of Mr Lennier here. My doctor here informs me that you are suffering from oxygen depravation and de-hydration. "
"Bad?" she asked.
"No, We'll have you sorted a few hours." Said the man in the Coat, "but you'll have to rest until then."
"Reactor failure… Sabotage… " She paused catching her breath, "could have been a possibility."
She passed out again. Douglas looked to the doctor.
"She'll be alright. " he said, "She just needs rest."
Lennier turned to Douglas, "I'll watch over her. It will be better if there is a familiar face."
Douglas returned to the bridge. The ship had been at yellow alert for six hours. The crew would be beginning to tire. Smith was the only one on the Bridge. Kelly and Clanwellin would be off in their bunks getting some well-deserved rest. Smith did not turn to him once he walked in.
"Sir." His tone was still formal, "I've got the systems position and plotted the Le-grange points. We have three in system and all seem clear."
"Very Well." replied Douglas, "Set course for the nearest and go to LDS."
"Aye Aye Sir."
Douglas sat in his seat. Ark Royal started to turn in space and once lined up, shot forward. Douglas once again marvelled at his ship. Ark Royal had three types of drive. The thrusters, which moved the ship like the old earth force cruisers used to. The LDS, or Linear Displacement System, which allowed her to speed at almost a third of the speed of light, a lot faster than most of the other ships he had seen.
The best of all was the Jump Drive. No other ships he had seen had a jump engine this small, apart from those White Stars. It did, however, come with limitations. The jump engine could only be used at a Le-grange point, an area of null or very low gravity. They normally existed between a planet and it's moon or a sun and it's planets. If Ark Royal jumped into a system that existed of only a star then, unless there would be a jump gate, she'd be marooned. They'd have to call in a jump ship, which consisted of one of the old transports from the days of the exodus. It would take on several smaller ships and jump back.
There were other advantages to this system. They had found, they could instantly jump from one Le-grange point to another in the same system, which was why they were so successful against the Black ships. If it wasn't for the fact that they could get their small, but powerful, fleet from one side of the Quad System to the other quickly, the outcome could have been very different.
"Sir, have you seen what ordinance we've been given?" Smith broke Douglas out of his train of thought.
"No. I haven't really had time." He replied.
"You should have seen Clanwellin's face." Smith's tone was light, although he was still staring straight ahead, with his back to Douglas, "He must have thought it was Christmas or something."
"Let's have a look then." Said Douglas and called up the manifest.
"Sweet Jesus! " He exclaimed.
"That's what I thought Sir." replied Smith, "Kelly's installed the new Plasma Beam Cannons. We have two forward and 2 aft. The crystals are rated 7.5 instead of 5."
"That's equivalent of three normal PBCs." Douglas was astonished.
"That's not all." Smith continued, "We have 32 homing missiles, 8 remote missiles, 14 disrupters, 32 flares and 4 tactical mines."
Douglas looked at Smith with a smile, "Do you think we've got enough room for the crew?"
"Lennon and his techs must be sucking in Sir."
The atmosphere between the two officers seemed more relaxed. Smith seemed less uptight about the way the mission was going, or it could have been because the Minbari was not present.
"Alex. Can I talk to you for a second?"
Douglas was informal. A signal that, the conversation was going to be off the record. Smith turned round and looked at him.
"Actually, I wanted to apologise. " Smith said.
Douglas looked at him with surprise.
"I will obey orders," he continued, "but I'm having problems with that Minbari on the bridge. I just feel that he's recording everything we're doing."
"I know how you feel and to tell you the truth I have a problem with him as well. I can't forget what we went through in the war but I need his co-operation. Do you think he would have helped us if we'd thrown in the brig? " Replied Douglas.
Smith didn't answer.
"Do you think there's some psi manipulation going on that I haven't picked up on?" Asked Douglas.
"You don't have to be a telepath to be manipulative. " Smith answered back, "But I'm not picking anything up."
"Well, We'll have to assume he's alright until he proves otherwise." Said Douglas, "It's difficult for me, so only god knows how it is for you."
"I'm managing Sir." Smith fell back into formality, "What do you think about those White Stars?"
"Well, based on their performance, we seemed to be evenly matched for manoeuvrability and they are faster than us using thrusters. "
"I've been examining the records of our encounter and I've noticed a few things."
"Go on." Prompted Douglas, when Smith noticed things it was normally important.
"Well, They don't use all their guns. There are three major gun ports that I can make out but they don't use one of them."
On the command workstation, Smith replayed back both the encounters.
"In each case. " Smith pointed out. "The gun ports on the wings could be seen firing but the forward gun stayed silent."
"Any conclusion?" asked Douglas.
"They don't know how to fire them or they're holding something in reserve." Said Smith.
"Our shields have been able to handle it so far, could they handle any more?"
"It would but a severe strain on them sir."
"At least we have shields and they don't. Thanks to Lennier we know their equivalent systems failing."
"Aye sir. Unless he made them blow up some how?"
Smith was still suspicious.
"Secure from Yellow Alert." Ordered Douglas.
"Aye Aye Sir."