"What's the word, Lieutenant?" Susan did not get out of her command chair and peer over Fong's shoulder, no matter how much she wanted to know what that damn ship was and what the hell it was doing this far out on the Rim.
"Readings still confused, sir," Fong said, and she certainly sounded confused, but she also sounded like she knew what she was seeing, and simply didn't believe it.
"I'll take your best guess," Susan told her, in a tone that made if very clear that she wouldn't take anything else.
Fong hesitated, bending close to her counsel as her slender hands danced across the controls, rechecking the numbers. "It looks–" She swallowed. "It looks Vorlon, Captain."
Susan sighed. "Oh hell." She'd been a lot happier when she'd thought Sheridan had kicked them out of the galaxy. It made life simpler.
"Captain, it's hailing us," Lt. Ali broke in from his aft station. "Audio only. It's in English, sir."
Better get this over with, Susan decided, and told Ali to put it through.
"EAS Titans," said an oh-so-familiar voice, "this is Shuttle Ulysses, requesting permission to dock."
The entire command staff looked askance when Susan started to laugh.
Frowning, Kyra turned back to the controls of her battered old Earth Force shuttle, and away from the Minbari in the passenger seat.
She'd been trying to keep herself from staring at him since she'd picked him up off the EAS Titans two days ago, but hadn't been having much luck. Something about him kept drawing her eye. Maybe it was that she'd never seen a Minbari this old, or maybe it was the classical Ranger emblem on his cloak–the one with two Minbari, and no humans, surrounding the green isil'zha, that Kyra hadn't seen outside of a memorial case.
He seemed to be meditating, anyway, and as far as she could tell hadn't noticed her looking at him. She hoped. She'd been told by Captain Ivanova to take him to the Edgars Industries complex on Mars, no questions asked, and that's what she'd done.
"Ever been to Mars, Anla'Shok O'Callahan?"
Kyra absolutely didn't jump, but she might have blinked hard. It was the first thing he'd said since he'd come on board. "No, sir; I'm a Proxima girl. What about you, sir?" Surely little questions were allowed.
"Would you believe that I was born there?"
"Not really, sir."
Lise loved many things about her husband, but his taste in twentieth-century children's vids wasn't one of them, nor his habit of watching them at all hours. At least he usually had the consideration to listen on headphones. Right now, however, the clock read 0435, and she could clearly hear the sound of Duck Dodgers' rocket failing to ignite.
In the old days, she'd have pulled pillow over her head and ignored it, but the baby was finally sleeping through the night.
When she got to the lounge, she was glad that she'd stopped to pull on a wrapper. There appeared to be a Minbari on her sofa next to her husband.
"Michael, sweetie," she said in a low voice. "You've got to stop showing cartoons to aliens. They never get them. Also, if you wake Mary, I'll wash the floor with your blood."
The Minbari chuckled–a startlingly human sound–but Michael paused the vid and said, "I activated the sound proofing on her room." He half turned to face her, throwing a familiar arm across the Minbari's shoulders in the process. "And Mavinn thinks they're hilarious."
"Mildly diverting," Mavinn said, but his deep voice was warm with amusement.
"Mavinn," Delenn said slowly, drawing out the syllables. "I think this is a name that Mister Garibaldi gave you." When Jeffrey didn't deny it, she ventured further. "Perhaps while watching television?"
"No comment." Jeffrey took a sip of tea to hide his smile. "It's good to see you, old friend. I didn't know how good until I heard your voice."
Delenn considered her words carefully. "If the need is great enough for Valen to at last return, I hope that you will forgive me for wishing that such times had not yet come."
Jeffrey hummed sympathetically. He was so patient now, so still. Like the arrow that springs from the bow, he'd said then, but perhaps now like the power of the bent bow itself, tense with anticipation.
"Yet," Delenn continued, "if those times are upon us, I am glad you are here to face them with me." She reached across the table to rest a hand on his wrist. "Like Lucy and Ethel."
"Ha. I'd forgotten that," he said, but this time the smile only turned up the corners of his mouth, and didn't reach his eyes. "But now, Entil'Zha, where do you need me?"
"John has a ship."
The Minbari had a mind like a deep well, still and dark and casting not even a flicker up to Matheson. He usually picked up a certain level of bits of chatter and emotional skip, whether he wanted to or not, but not in the case of this Mavinn, save perhaps for the barest ripple of amusement when he'd introduced himself.
"What brings you to the Excalibur?" he asked, trying to sound politely interested, like the whole crew hadn't been speculating wildly since they'd heard President Sheridan himself was sending a Ranger on special assignment: high priority, very hush hush.
"I go where I'm needed," Mavinn said, which was a Minbari answer if Matheson had ever heard one.
"And the President thinks we need your help to find a cure for the Drakh plague?" Maybe that was a little more pointed than it needed to be, but they'd had enough people trying to be helpful lately, and Matheson's new uniform still itched.
Mavinn stopped dead just before they got to the lift doors, which hissed open anyway, and turned to look Matheson over. "Ranger One does," he said sharply, "but I'm actually here to see a man about a box."