Timov's first impressions of Babylon 5 were dismal, and not much improved during Londo's tour the next day. She eyed the bland Human designs picked out under excessively economical artificial lighting while waiting for the transport tube. An interruption to seek the missing Mariel had been a welcome respite from her husband's presence, even as Daggair wandered away, eyes on another stall's baubles.
On Centauri Prime, a woman of her status was expected to always be accompanied, guarded against improprieties by lady-servants and assassinations by the house guards. Here, she realized, she was completely unmonitored! She could not recall the last time... a vanishing memory, of a wisp of a girl too young to shave her head, scolded for disappearing at a summer villa for some hours, was lost in a tightening of her hearts. Timov fought off a flash of panic in the crowded Zocalo.
Well. If the tour was breaking up, she certainly could find her own way to Londo’s quarters. She made her way across the indoor market, tried to convince herself that really, the entire station was more like the ancient rambling compounds of the noble Houses than being alone in public.
She remembered to summon the lift tube with a press of a button, stepping between the automatic doors. “Green Three,” she called out - really, this would be much more dignified with a server to manage the tube, how did Londo manage? Two Humans also stepped into the transport tube, continuing a conversation. Women, she thought, though guessing across species lines was not easy. One wore the gloves and pin representing the Human’s telepath caste; the other was in the uniform of their military. The Human soldier carried a colorful bag, apparently the focus of their talk. “It’s for a diplomatic mission,” she said to her companion. “From Bruice & Vulich?” The Human telepath seemed skeptical. “I wish all my clients were so generous.”
The human woman sighed. “Let’s just say it’s an ongoing project to enhance Human-Minbari relations. Blue Two,” she finished.
Strange, Timov thought, to be… simply present. All her life she had been a noble lady of her people: sometimes ignored, sometimes the focus of fawning attention, always defined by the interplays of power and posturing. The rising tide of visitors and security that had followed her absent husband’s rising political fortunes had been a sharp reminder. She had read about the practices that grow up outside the Court’s strict protocols, but even when dealing with aliens, it had been on Centauri soil, as a Centauri. Others bent to her... or the rigid conventions she lived by, as narrow as this tube, now gliding to a stop.
“Green Three,” the alien voice announced.
Timov waited a moment, but neither alien moved. “Excuse me,” she said sharply.
“Oh! Sorry,” the telepath said, and both moved aside. “And how was your day?” the soldier asked. Timov could hear the telepath sigh. “Don’t get me start-” she heard, before the closing tube door cut the telepath off.
A chance remark at Londo's Ascension celebration revealed the Human soldier from the lift to be the station second in command. Timov's bemusement about the connection between a cosmetics purchase and high level Earth-Minbari dealings was lost in the chaos of Londo's collapse. A Human Timov had been introduced to as the station's chief medical officer rushed across the room, barking orders into a link and to other medical personnel at the celebration. As Daggair cried out and Mariel swooned excessively dramatically, Timov hoped they were medical personnel and not more assassins. "Mariel!" Timov snapped, iron in her voice to match the iron-tight fear gripping her hearts. "Compose yourself."
The personnel who swarmed to Londo's side and hastily prepared for a transfer to the station's medical facilities pushed all three wives out of the way, spouting nearly incomprehensible medical gibberish in Interlac and a Human language. Their professionalism and urgency translated as clearly as a court herald's proclamations as she, Mariel, and Daggair trailed Londo's gurney to Medlab.
"But Lady Timov-" Londo's aide gasped, wringing his hands. "What do we tell-" he jerked his head toward the crowded room.
Timov raised her chin as she passed him. "What an excellent question, Vir. I suggest you find an answer to it."
In Medlab, Mariel broke and fled the grim vigil as the staff's curt updates made clear the gravity of Londo's situation. Timov and Daggair watched her go in brief silence.
Daggair, characteristically, couldn't let it last.
“You do realize that he’s not made his divorce decree official yet. If he dies… our futures are secure.”
Timov said sharply, “you can face him in his bed or his deathbed with equal calm.”
“I am what I was made,” Daggair said, levelly. “By my father, by Londo… by society.”
“Breeding will tell,” Timov bit out. What a waste, she fumed. What a stupid, unprincipled, dishonest choice!
Unprincipled enough to attack Londo? She turned the question over as she took her leave of the medical staff and stalked out of medlab. Great Maker, all three of them had motive enough, tonight, but she thought the plot was not Daggair's: Daggair took advantage, reacting to events, not instigating them. She might let an assassination happen, but would not dirty her hands engineering such a thing. Mariel, now… Timov sighed. Mariel had always been a busy little viper. Timov sighed again. She had no righteous purity from which to assail Daggair’s choices, only her own embattled principles, older and more trodden-upon than the station’s cramped hallways. She and Londo broke enough plates over each others’ heads during the early wild disillusioning years of their marriage, Timov recalled. Metaphorical, usually, but sometimes literal, with servants, family, guards looking on in horror.
At least I look to a wider arena, Timov grumbled in her thoughts, as she tried to lie down in her quarters, adjacent Londo’s. Free of servants, attendants, fellow wives, she buried her face in the fine sheets, still dressed, and stared into the dark. As does Londo - in the most dangerous ways possible! Alliances with mysterious “associates”, meddling with Technomages - technomages! Timov shuddered - the recent salons and banquets of the nobility had been an uncomfortable thing for the shrewish wife of a rising star, irritable at the changes to her long-set ways. Better than being underestimated, she thought - Timov recalled her old friend Ladira’s haunted face at her nephew’s funeral. There are shadows on the move, my dear, she had said, pressing her cold hands into Timov’s. Let us hope they do not embrace you, as well. It was easy to weigh the merits of letting a man die, in the abstract, when it might be a strike for the Centaurum. But if it was Londo’s life might in the balance... she twisted again in the perfumed sheets. Was it politics or ease that truly weighed on her thoughts? She was not certain she liked the answers that waited for her in this lonely hour.
It was not right. Even to rid herself of Londo... no, she decided, pushing her tired body up and adjusting her skirts. No, the mere idea of keeping her tongue civil at the funeral brazier while her fellow widows played at false grief was enough to outweigh the irritation of Londo’s continued existence. And if Ladira had seen with a seer’s eye… well. With Daggair and the ravishing Mariel doting on his every whim, she was certain it would not be her sharp eye and hearts that Londo kept. She still would be rid of him tomorrow morning, without a scrape on her conscience. A woman recently free of a long association with the House of Mollari might do her bit to throw light into dark corners.
Once she had explained herself, the Human doctor took the blood with gratifying unfussiness, handing her drinks and a small snack once the transfusion bag bulged with its dark promise of Londo’s survival.
“Keep drinking water - no brevari or wine, okay? If you feel any dizziness or nausea, contact me immediately,” the doctor said, walking her back out of the medical facility. “Get some rest if you can - we’ll let you know the minute Londo’s condition changes.”
“I almost wish you wouldn’t,” Timov said, a little shaky. The donation had taken rather a lot of blood, leaving her lightheaded as well as tired from the long day. “If he lives, neither of us will wish to see each other, and if he does not…” she looked up at the Human doctor. “A little rest before dealing with Mariel or Daggair would be most welcome.”
She wished she could read Human expressions more clearly. “Let’s hope for the best, okay?” he said, stopping at the medlab door. “Keep our fingers crossed.”
She nodded curtly, stepping into the empty hallways. It seemed that even on a hectic space station, the hours before local dawn were slow.
Slow, but not utterly deserted. A… being waited near the lift tube. Its form was utterly obscured by the most elaborate encounter suit she had ever seen: broad shoulders, swinging curtain-like draperies, a single eye in a small headpiece. She hoped it was a headpiece as it swiveled toward her, aware all over again of her isolation. She squared her shoulders as their paths converged, the alien partially blocking the lift tube access.
“Are you Ambassador Kosh?”
A rumbling warble emerged from the depths of the draped suit. “Yes.” The translated voice was surprisingly musical, subtly inflected to Centauri ears.
“Good morning, Ambassador,” she said.
The Vorlon did not move.
“Is there something I can do for you?” she tried again.
Nothing. The headpiece’s iris widened, then tightened, but the Vorlon was silent. Timov sighed, and turned away, when the warbling harmonies began again.
“A voice cannot change the song, only the music.”
She looked back, just as the encounter suit pivoted, gliding ponderously away from her.
"A short nap," Timov said to her haggard expression, "just until the doctor calls."
She came to, groggy and disoriented, to the com station’s insistent chime. “Yes, who is it!” she shouted, “audio only!”
“Lady Timov,” a cultured voice said - not Londo’s nervous aide, or the Human doctor - “I am Lennier, aide to Ambassador Delenn.” The last grogginess left Timov in a rush. “The Ambassador sends her sympathies for your husband’s current state, and expresses her regret she was unable to speak with you at Londo’s Ascension party.”
“Well,” Timov said, still off-balance, “If she’s truly concerned about Londo, she’s a better person than he is.”
The voice paused, before continuing, “The ambassador hoped that, if you’re not otherwise occupied, she might be able to meet you. Perhaps at her quarters, at 1500 station time?”
She eyed the com station’s embedded timepiece. Had she really slept for six hours? “If my husband’s condition remains stable,” she hedged, “I would be pleased to meet with Ambassador Delenn.”
“In that case, I look forward to meeting you, Lady Timov,” the aide finished, and the com beeped as the line closed.
An update from Medlab - still unconscious, but stabilizing, likely awake this evening, don’t call us, we’ll call you, Lady Timov - a bath, a meal, and Timov felt much better when she located the Minbari ambassador’s residence. A younger male Minbari in the bland garb of their religious caste answered the door-chime.
“Lady Timov,” he said, folding his hands and bowing respectfully. “Please, come in.”
The bones of the suite might be similar to Londo’s, but an alien incense or perfume, as well as the delicate glass sculpture and windchimes scattered about, gave the suite a very different atmosphere. As did the welcome of the half-Minbari woman who turned to greet Timov.
“Thank you for making the time to see me,” Ambassador Delenn said, as they sat down near a table ornamented with crystal baubles. “How is Londo?”
“He isn’t dead yet,” Timov replied, eying the Minbari woman with new interest. “The doctors think that, if he has not died so far, he will survive the attempt on his life, perhaps even regain consciousness soon.” Curious to think the Ambassador might truly care about her husband's recovery, even after years of dealing with him.
“I heard an interesting rumor today,” the ambassador remarked, making a minute adjustment to a crystal statuette. “That Doctor Franklin despaired of Londo’s life, until a mysterious benefactor donated a rare blood type.”
Timov stiffened. “Most Centauri priests do not make an extensive study of alien physiologies. Your religious tutors must teach very interesting lessons.”
The Minbari ambassador smiled as she looked up from the crystals. “It is, shall we say, a recent interest.” Still smiling, she continued, “The rumor also said this person demanded that he never know who saved his life.” Her smile faded into that first intensity. “We Minbari believe that service to our people is the highest calling. It is perhaps the only principle I share with Londo.”
Timov lifted her chin as Delenn continued. “It is not the way of the Minbari to glorify the person who serves… but we do not hide our service. It simply is, a part of the universe, like the stars and the daylight. Those who dedicate their lives to service are honored and cared for by all the castes.”
Any Centauri who relied on the kindness or open-handedness of the nobility, let alone the populace, would soon learn their mistake. What to say to such nonsense? Timov remained silent.
“We also believe that life is sacred, and the opportunity to save a life is a blessing for both parties. It is a sad thing, perhaps a tragedy, that the choice to preserve a life, to enrich the universe, would be an intolerable burden. To hide such a thing…” the Ambassador shook her head. “Among my people, this would be a terrible thing. If a time should come when…” she hesitated, delicately, “when such recognition would ease your path… think of me.” The ambassador’s serious expression relaxed into another smile. “As a Centauri would say, you can call in a favor.”
Timov resisted the temptation of an unladylike sniff, impressed. This Ambassador Delenn had worked with Londo’s ego, and had learned how Centauri friendship and politics intertwined, sometimes symbiotic, sometimes as deadly as areda vines strangling a bracothli tree. Instead, she imitated the aide’s head-bow. “Ambassador. Twenty years of marriage to Londo have not left me utterly destitute. But…” the long night’s vigil and the Vorlon ambassador’s words flashed through her mind. “We Centauri say that the men serve our people, and our women serve their husbands. But there are many exceptions in the history of our people. Someday, perhaps, I will need an ally, to help my people.” Her likely soon-to-be-erstwhile husband might demand an orator’s rights in the Senate, but a right word from Timov to her old friend the Emperor’s third wife could reach Turhan in hours. Her throat tightens. “An ally, and a friend.”
Ambassador Delenn inclined her head. “Then I will look forward to that day, Timov of the Centauri.”
16th Year of the Reign of Emperor Mollari II
Many years ago, we spoke of favors. Now I ask one of you. The bearer of this message is Rella Jaddo, my ward. She has many excellent qualities: quick of eye and mind, patient with the old, playful with the young, unstinting in her service to others. Her only flaw is her judgment: she rashly wishes to study on Minbar “to better serve our people.” She could better serve them here, at home!
Have I ever told you, I have seen my death? It is not unpleasant, nor painful. But it is not far off. I know this in my hearts. So I write this now, giving the jewel of my courtiers my blessing and such protection as she will let me place on her. Your support would be one of them. Help her find her hearts’ calling.
By her own hand,
Empress of the Centauri Republic