The door chime sounded.
We've got company.
"Who's there?" Gray asked, through the intercom.
"This is security chief Garibaldi," came the reply. "I'd like to speak to Aaron Franks."
Gray looked over at Ben-Zion. The colonel gestured, and Gray understood him to mean that he "wasn't around."
"He's not in," Gray lied.
"In that case, I'd like to speak to you."
The colonel gave a non-committal shrug.
"One moment please."
Gray opened the door. The security chief stood there, as expected - almost bald, with a serious expression and an air of "you've pissed me off." To Gray's surprise, next to Garibaldi stood the two most senior officers on the station, Commander Sinclair and Lt. Commander Ivanova.
And none of them looked happy.
Well, colonel, Gray wanted to sarcastically quip. You've sure been the paragon of subtlety, haven't you? Any last words?
No doubt everyone thought they were "big time" weapons smugglers. Why else would the three highest ranking officers on the entire station had come to speak with the "corporate reps?" Gray wondered how many security officers stood out in the hall, just out of sight.
"Mr. Gray?" Garibaldi asked.
"Can I help you with something?"
"You're a business agent for Quartermaster?"
"Yes," Gray replied. "We're hoping to get a military contract."
"Why haven't you spoken to Sinclair? You've been here three days."
Gray was about to tell the security chief that such decisions weren't up to him - he was only the business teep - when the colonel came over to the door.
"Aaron," Gray began, "this is-"
The colonel cut him off, and that was the last word he got in.
"Mr. Garibaldi, very good," said the colonel, as if he'd been expecting him along.
"You know me?"
"Intimately. Fix you a drink?"
"I don't drink."
"Really? Good. It's a vile habit when abused. It makes a soldier weak. Gets him in a lot of trouble."
Intimately? Gray wondered, looking from one to the other. He'd read Garibaldi's file, just as the colonel had. If he knew Garibaldi "intimately," then why didn't he remember that Garibaldi was a recovered alcoholic? What was the colonel playing at?
"You're starting to irritate me," Garibaldi replied coolly, and Gray wondered if Garibaldi was ever anything but "irritated." "I don't like being irritated, Mr. Franks."
"The name isn't Franks. It's Colonel Ari Ben-Zion, Earth Internal Affairs."
Well, he's not brains, thought Gray, that's for sure.
"I'm an internal investigator. Mr. Gray is a military specialist from Psi Corps. We're here to make an investigation of Babylon 5 command staff. Recent events on Mars colony show a need for increased scrutiny of all off-world installations. Investigations are happening on all outposts. We must know who is loyal to EarthForce and who isn't."
All three senior officers bristled at the accusation. Sinclair spoke up. "As commander, I vouch for the loyalty of every member of my staff. I resent your tactics. You have no right to snoop around."
"I have every right. My authority comes directly from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I'm not here to persecute anyone. I want to ask questions and clarify a few details. It's all fairly routine."
Ivanova was glaring daggers at Gray. "Why is Psi Corps in this routine?" she asked. "Regulations prohibit the use of telepaths."
"Use of." Gray made a mental note of her usage.
"There are new regulations, lvanova. All staff must submit to telepathic scan as part of an investigation. Command staff as well."
"The hell I will!"
New regulations? Now that was news. Gray had never heard of any such thing. Was this some kind of bluff? Or did colonel intend to order Gray to conduct illegal scans? A chill went through Gray. If the order was legally ambiguous, the results could be very serious: if he followed the orders, Gray could be arrested, while if he refused, he'd be fired, with no chance of ever working for EarthForce again. Whatever happened, he'd have very powerful normals who hated him.
Ivanova was still shouting. "The hell I will! Psi Corps may be running the world..."
"Ivanova." Sinclair held up a hand. "I'll check these new regulations, colonel. I'll have someone show you to new quarters in Blue Sector."
"Garibaldi will escort me," the colonel barked, glaring at the security chief with his one good eye.
"Garibaldi has duties."
"Not anymore. I'm assigning him to my staff for this investigation."
"What?" asked Garibaldi, with undisguised horror. Gray wanted to ask the colonel the same thing. This wasn't an investigation - now he was screwing with them, just because he could.
"I like his style," quipped Ivanova, sarcastically.
"Garibaldi is essential to the operation of this station."
"Is there some problem with Babylon 5 security," asked the colonel, "that Garibaldi cannot take the time to escort me himself? You made no mention of any such problems."
"No, there's no problem-"
"Then Garibaldi's second can handle it. I need him to expedite this matter. I'll present you with an interview schedule shortly. You may carry on, commander." And just like that, the colonel went back inside, leaving Gray standing there alone with the command staff.
"A pleasure to meet you all," he managed weakly, as they all glared at him.
Back in training, the Corps had warned Harriman Gray about working with normals - now that he was no longer one of them.
"Business division, the courts, military specialists... it's all the same," his instructor had told the class. "There's a natural temptation, especially among laters, to get involved in disputes between normals, to take sides - they invite us into contexts where disputes naturally arise. You may think you're there to mediate. You may even think you have a duty to do so, because you know things they don't.
"But that's a fatal error. Never, never take sides between normals. Fulfill your duties, and say nothing more. You may cite the Psi Corps regs - to refuse to conduct an illegal scan, and the like - but to say anything more, outside of the scope of your duties... who you like, who you don't, who you think is right, who you think is wrong... you'd best keep that to yourself. You're a device to them, nothing more. Once you interject yourself, you can't get out. One side, maybe both, will hate you. You may even be attacked. And the normals who hate you may even take that out on future telepaths they meet. Whatever happens, say nothing."
"But that's not right," Gray had protested. "If I see something happen that's very wrong, I have a moral duty to speak up."
"Wrong. You owe them nothing. You may privately tell the Corps anything you wish, after the fact - but if you step between normals in a fight, you might as well be stepping between two grizzly bears."
Now, as Gray packed his belongings for the move to Blue Sector (why were they moving him, anyway?), he thought back on his training. So far, he'd done everything the colonel had expected of him, played everything by the book. Whenever he was around the colonel, he'd even dutifully recited rhymes to keep his mind occupied so he wouldn't accidentally see something the colonel didn't want him to know.
But what of it? Three days into their trip, he still didn't know what was going on. Yes, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were concerned about Sinclair. What did this have to do with everyone else?
He decided that he would have to look these new regs up for himself. The colonel was playing games. If there'd indeed been a drastic change to the Psi Corps regs, he had every right to know, as the telepath involved. What if it was true? What if he could be ordered to conduct "loyalty scans?" The colonel had no right to keep that from him.
Gray understood that there were many things that weren't his business, but a change to the Psi Corps regs was about as much "his business" as anything could be.
As Gray packed, Garibaldi stood outside his quarters, pacing back in forth in the hall, waiting to personally escort Gray and the colonel to the new rooms. Gray didn't like Garibaldi - the man seemed to leach paranoia and resentment into the ether around him at all times. The security chief walked back and forth, pissed off, mentally cursing both IA and the Psi Corps, ticking down his mental checklist - over and over again, over and goddamn over again - of all the work he had to do when he got back to his office. He worried about arms smugglers and about the commander, stewed in annoyance about his shoes still not fitting properly, thought about lunch, planned out in meticulous detail what he would order, and then returned to blaming the colonel and Gray (and Internal Affairs) all over again for messing up his afternoon.
Gray had been trained to keep out stray thoughts, but this man was too much. He'd step on your feet and blame you for standing in his way.
Gray startled to hum, to distract himself from the bile coming from the hallway.
"And quit that goddamn humming!" scolded Garibaldi. "Hurry up, I don't have all day!"
Gray packed as quickly as he could, wanting to be done with this odious man as quickly as possible. When the three of them finally got to the new quarters - much smaller - and Garibaldi had left, Gray breathed a sigh of relief.
The colonel got to work on his "interview schedule," and Gray went for a walk to clear his head.