Actions

Work Header

On Minbar, Three is Sacred

Chapter Text

2260

"Thanks for this," says Ivanova, holding the data crystal with the video of what happened to President Santiago.

"You needed assistance," says Draal. "That was foretold. I saw it, too."

"We need assistance from everybody. And a lot of the League Worlds aren't pulling together." She reflects. "But even the major powers aren't pulling together. The Centauri Republic and Narn Regime are fighting each other. We've got problems back home. Apparently, so do the Minbari."

"There is a saying among our Warrior Caste," says Draal. "When a warrior fights a warrior, only the enemy may win."

"Try telling them," says Ivanova. "Delenn's going to have to go back and talk to them. The White Stars are great, but we haven't got that many. All those nice, big, speedy ships they've got in the Warrior Caste. We could really use 'em right about now." She purses her lips, dissatisfied. "Wish there were a data crystal for that."

"You could have one," offers Draal.

"I wouldn't even know what to look for," admits Ivanova, "I don't know anything about Minbar."

"But I do," says Draal grimly. "And I don't like what I see. You understand, of course, that I haven't physically been present. I cannot leave the Machine. But with the Machine - of course, I watch. I see many things. I see... infinities..." he trails off and becomes distant.

"Did you see anything that could help us?" Ivanova asks.

Draal continues his musing. Typical Minbari. Sometime soon, Ivanova hopes he'll answer her actual question. "Worlds... and universes... of different choices... Some a simple, single, switch. Some a vector of features, another direction. In some, a solitary difference percolates to a change years down the line. In others, the difference creates a wealth of new possibilities. Some universes were utterly alien to me. Who the Minbari could have been... I did not recognise us. I confess, I took great interest in watching the activities of my own race. But I knew I must not be partial, and therefore I watched you all. I watched us all. I watched who we became. These... worlds... they passed in the blink of an eye for me, but in them, we lived out whole lives. Dynasties."

Draal turns to her. "Would you like to see one? I think it'll have the answers you're looking for."

"Is that allowed?" asks Ivanova.

He waves a hand, dismissive. "I cannot show you futures. But the path we could have taken to such a place has already been passed over. The waveforms, probabilities... these have already collapsed. Though the people and the events bear some resemblance to our current events, we can no more alter our future to match what you will see than we could sprout wings and fly. We have no longer the genetic capability. No, I don't think it would do any harm. But it may explain much."

"Well," says Ivanova, "alright then." He hooks her back into the Heart of the Machine, and then hooks himself with a secondary conduit at his temple, and the hall fades from her view.

--

2254

Branmer comes upon Neroon in the Alternate Bridge of the Ingata, reading a report. "Do I need to find a second executive officer?" he asks.

         Where are we? asks Ivanova. When are we?

         Watch and see, says Draal.

         That's ... He's younger than I thought he'd be, says Ivanova. Handsome, too. You know - for a Minbari.

         Mm. Branmer was not old when he passed, says Draal.

"Good luck finding someone better than I am," says Neroon. He does not bother looking up. His tone is haughty, but he is not wrong. During the war, Neroon's talents as second-in-command on the Ingata, which became the flagship after the loss of the Drala Fi, were invaluable. After the war, they are largely wasted. They both know this.

         Why are they speaking English? asks Ivanova.

         They are not, says Draal. For the moment you shift in and out of perception like this. Here and now, we look through Branmer's eyes. We hear with his ears, and we understand with his language. It will not always be so. The Machine calculates what is best for the narrative.

         Neroon has an accent, says Ivanova.

         No, replies Draal. Neroon is not the one with the accent. Branmer is.

"Are you thinking of leaving?" says Branmer.

"What?" Neroon puts down the report and gives Branmer his full attention. "No. Why?"

"I hear you've been elected to the Council of Caste Elders," Branmer explains. "You did not tell me about this."

To his credit, Neroon appears a little sheepish. "I did not see how I had to," he says. He is evasive, finding other things to look at than Branmer. He flips through the report he is clearly not reading. "I had planned to stay. Meetings are only once monthly. By my current calculations we are every two weeks back in Tuzanor Port, and we shall maintain this frequency for the rest of the cycle. And they were flexible when Teraal left four cycles ago to carry twins. I am not even courting."

"But that is different. Children are a joy, and twins are rare. You are spreading yourself thin." Which likely has something to do with Neroon not courting, but wisely Branmer holds his tongue. Hunting Norsai klerow - with their two sets of teeth and three sets of claws - is more fun than than talking to Neroon about the courting he should be at least trying to do. Wounded klerow do not lash out with Neroon's ferocity.

"It's my decision to keep busy," says Neroon defensively. "I have to think about my career. As Caste Elder, I become one of the heads of our Clan. This takes time. Nothing I cannot manage."

"Well... then, good work." Neroon smiles more to himself than anything, for it disappears as quickly as it came. Congratulations are in order, Branmer supposes. "It is no mere feat to be appointed at your age. I know it is not that there was a lack of candidates. A number among the Fire Wings. Or Katrenn of the Star Riders, who outranks you in experience. You must have impressed the Clan Mothers. I imagine you spoke with great eloquence."

Neroon is clearly flattered. "Do I ever speak otherwise?"

"Always," says Branmer, grinning. "How did you convince them you had the wisdom as befits a Caste Elder, when you are consistently impudent to me!" But Branmer is not without his own brashness. "Well, my friend. Is this what you wanted?"

"It is," says Neroon. "I like politics. Law."

"It is messy," Branmer warns.

"Yes. But I like it. I am good at it. I want to feel like ..."

"Like you have power over others?" he guesses.

"Like I have some ability to change things," says Neroon instead. "Our people change so seldom."

"Is that what we are meant to do? Change?"

"If it's necessary? Yes. The war was good for us." Although Neroon does not say so without some wistfulness. "Our losses notwithstanding," he adds.

"We did not lose anyone. Their souls have returned to the void whence they came," says Branmer. "A projection of the universe."

"Mm. Whatever helps you think about it all," says Neroon.

Though Branmer had never met him, he knows the name of the fallen friend of whom they're both carefully speaking. Neroon had reported the debrief of that particular mission directly to Branmer. Unbeknownst to Neroon - who specifically asked that the information be passed to the Grey Council - Branmer did not report the findings to anyone else. It was withholding that information that helped in part to stop the war. Thus Branmer has never told Neroon that he withheld what he did from the Grey Council. It was the right choice to do so, and Neroon would probably - in time - agree. But Neroon would, unquestionably, despise him for it. And Branmer would spare him that cognitive dissonance.

It is as well, for Neroon has also made it clear he has permanently severed this portion of his life, his memories, and does not want to pursue the subject, ever again. So Branmer can extend him no more comfort than these allusions. Sometimes Branmer wonders if that is so by construction. Neroon has never liked to be comforted, never liked acknowledging that he needed it. Ignoring pain isn't a solution to pain. But ever-stubborn Neroon will not hear him on this.

"You have never been a believer," says Branmer.

"You have never held it against me," mutters Neroon. "You were the High Priest another life ago, not I. Besides, I still keep our ways and traditions."

Yes. Those, and those alone, are important to Neroon. He is happy to ritualise traditions into a distilled and meaningless pattern to pay as little attention as possible to underlying meaning. Theatrics is practically his second trade. No wonder he likes law and politics. "Do you truly not believe? Not at all? It is still our faith," Branmer argues. "Not some guarded secret of the Religious Caste."

Neroon says nothing. He turns half-hearted attention back to his report.

"Of which they have many," says Branmer. He is trying for a casual, lightening tone, but now that he is thinking of secrets, he is thinking of one in particular, and it weighs so heavily on his conscience that he cannot keep the ominousness out of his voice.

Again, Neroon says nothing.

Branmer changes the topic. "Our faith is intended for the warriors, as well. That's why when I became High Priest I requested a posting to Star Riders, instead of in some Religious Caste fane where I might more properly devote myself."

"You were born to Star Riders, your mother's mother was one of our greatest heroes." Neroon smiles. He looks relaxed like this, genuine. A momentary break in his posturing or brooding. His dark eyes are friendly, and sparkle. Neroon's friendship has been a hidden blessing, Branmer thinks. He knows that Neroon doesn't grant this closeness to many. He feels selected, chosen. "I am glad for it. We were stronger with you."

"Because I thereafter formally joined your ranks and became Shai Alyt," supplies Branmer.

"Because you made objectively correct decisions and were a brilliant tactician," says Neroon. "And in that, it was probably your Religious training that helped." He rolls his eyes as he grins. "There, I admitted it. Tell no one."

Branmer smiles and mimes the locking of a key at his lips.

"Well," says Neroon. "Did you come up here only to admonish me for my secrecy?"

Secrecy, Branmer thinks.

Does he tell Neroon? That he, alone aside from the Grey Council, knows why the Minbari surrendered on the eve of victory? That he, as Shai Alyt, knows why the victory was torn from the Warrior Caste? Why they were stopped before they could finish? Why he, as war leader, agreed, and let the gaping wound in the honour of the Warrior Caste bleed freely without being cauterised, where to this day, it festers?

No, he cannot. Neroon - like most of the Warrior Caste - distrusts and dislikes the Religious Caste too much still. It has been less than seven cycles since the last ships fell. If he tells Neroon, he may as well openly say he never really accepted the calling to the Warrior Caste. A full warrior Shai Alyt would grant them their victory. Branmer, a turncoat priest who switched, did not. That is what they would say. And Neroon hardly believes enough in their faith for their own people, let alone for the sake of any other race, let alone for the sake of a race he openly considers dishonourable. Not without good reason.

Yet something of Neroon's manner strikes Branmer as ... a possibility. Neroon is not quiet, he is not contemplative. He is not given to meditation, and he lacks patience. Neroon could never be Religious Caste. Neroon would barely possess the ability to sit still for an apprenticeship to adept-level of any Worker Caste craft. But he is clever, passionate, and reliable. And but for his occasionally duplicitous sense of humour, he is genuine. He loves their people. He would die for them. Branmer has never doubted this.

Would he live for them?

         This is the universe where he answers yes, says Draal.

There is a possibility... and given his interest in politics...

Branmer could act on it.

         This is the universe where he does, says Draal.

"The Humans are starting work now on the fifth station," says Branmer. This utterance seems almost pulled from him; he surprises even himself as he says it. Well, it's too late to turn back now. Something seems to have shifted.

Branmer casts a quick eye over his shoulder, but as watched as he feels, no one is there.

         Can he see us? asks Ivanova.

         Branmer was highly perceptive, says Draal. Even by the Religious Caste's standards. His mother is one of our stronger telepaths.

"Mmm. They keep doing this," says Neroon. "I have a theory about the Humans - I think they cannot stop until they have finished something. They would not stop during the war."

"Nor would we. We did not allow them to surrender."

"They were without honour," says Neroon simply.

"Sometimes, yes," agrees Branmer. "The Grey Council has elected to grant them assistance in building. The fifth station will be Earth-governed, but it will be built at least partially with Minbari technology."

"What?" Neroon is baffled. "Why? Three stations were sabotaged. One, they lost! And now you mean to tell me -" Neroon throws his report down onto the nearest flat surface - a communications station - and gets to his feet, where he begins to pace. Every time he turns, he does it so sharply that his coattails spin out. Neroon and his drama, thinks Branmer. "Who knows of this?"

"The Grey Council does not intend to tell anyone until after the station is complete," says Branmer. He sighs. "It is a good idea, Neroon. The Humans want to use it as a meeting place. That we may meet and talk. That we no longer make mistakes with other races. This could have been our first contact with them, instead of all that fruitless death."

"Do you know who on the Grey Council it was that voted for this?" snaps Neroon.

"I am not privy to such vote casting. I am not Satai."

"Naturally, but you know of this. How did you find out?"

Branmer is uncomfortable. "Satai Delenn," he replies.

"Oh," says Neroon acidly. His posture stiffens.

"She raised the motion, and voted for it."

"Of course she did," Neroon growls.

"So did all three of the Worker Caste Satai."

"What - really? They do not consider it a waste of their time? Or resources? An astronomical amount of quantium-40 would be needed for such a project."

Branmer concedes the point. "Apparently it is worth the investment."

"Well," says Neroon, clearly floored. "That's four. I take it Satai Delenn found sympathy in her own caste for the deciding vote?"

"No," says Branmer. "Those came from Satai Coplann and Satai Irlit."

"What?" Neroon exclaims.

"That appears to be your new favourite word," mutters Branmer.

"They are both Warrior Caste!"

Branmer tries for sympathetic. "And they too, knew Dukhat. Satai Irlit less well. But Irlit is, like Dukhat was, a Night Walker. Satai Delenn's argument was largely on the basis that this is what Dukhat would have wanted. Irlit agreed. Her consensus came, I am told, immediately."

"Hm." Neroon is silent and frowning a moment as he thinks. He begins to pace again. "Well, what thinks Satai Morann?"

"Satai Morann retired from his post three cycles ago," explains Branmer. Why was a tetchier issue still. "He will always be Honoured, but he has no further say in the Grey Council."

"Who has replaced him?"

"That, you will have to find out for your own," Branmer replies flatly. Neroon is taken aback. "Well, you seem upset enough. I assume you want to bring this up with them? We will intersect the path of their ship in two days. You can ask them for an audience then to complain."

Neroon's answer is blessedly quick. "No," he says. "No, no. If it is the decision of the Grey Council, I can and shall respect this."

"Hah! and if I had told you it was the Religious Caste who had tipped the scales on the vote?"

For they did vote for Satai Delenn's motion. In fact, it was unanimous.

"Don't test me," says Neroon. "I am not your pupil."

"Not anymore," says Branmer. "I am still your elder."

"By a mere fifteen cycles."

"And I outrank you."

"For now." Neroon's ambition is well-known. But his tone in this is jocular, so Branmer is unconcerned. It is no threat, only levity. And there is only truth in it - Branmer has every notion of suggesting Neroon for his position when he prepares to vacate it. There is no one Branmer thinks better suited.

But Neroon could use some broader experience. "I'm sure, then, you have put together that they will want ambassadors for the completed station," Branmer adds.

Neroon nods. "Assuming it doesn't explode or disappear."

"With the help of our technology, it will not."

"Mm."

There is more silence as Neroon works it through. Once he does, he stops tapping his lips in contemplation and fixes Branmer with a sharp, dark look. "You can't be serious," he exclaims. "You are Shai Alyt! Though I agree, there is presently no conflict in which we are immisced, how do you come to talk to me of being stretched thin? You cannot think to do this!"

"I was not thinking of volunteering myself for the position," says Branmer, neutrally.

"Then, who -" This takes him much less time. "No," Neroon says, vehement. "No, Branmer. No."

"I can find a second executive officer," says Branmer. "None would be as good as you, as you have said. But, as you have also said, there is presently no conflict in which we are immisced. It is therefore not a priority."

"This - isn't - but... no -"

For once, eloquent silver-tongued Neroon is lost for words, especially after Branmer has used his own against him. Branmer will admit it, this is very satisfying. "The High Priestess, Presiding in Spirit for the Religious Caste has already authorised Satai Delenn for ambassador," he says.

Neroon latches onto this like a lifepod. "Good! Good, yes - she can go. That is perfect. Not I. I am too busy."

"So is Delenn," says Branmer dryly. "She is, after all, Satai."

"You know, you are correct, perhaps I shall take up courting," says Neroon, lying through his teeth, "finding a lifemate will take up much of my time."

"The last time you courted I had to rescue you from it," says Branmer.

"I did not need rescuing," claims Neroon.

"You would have landed yourself loveless for a lie."

"The sake of someone else's honour."

"Which is not even the first time you have done such a thing," reminds Branmer, a warning.

"No - don't - don't bring that up. That is not fair, I was fourteen cycles -"

"In any case," Branmer says, interrupting Neroon's burgeoning diatribe, "they may not even listen to me. But this conversation has decided it in my heart." He approaches and gently puts his hands on Neroon's shoulders; from the way Neroon twitches, he aches to shrug Branmer off, but Neroon is better disciplined than that and allows himself to be talked down to, as befits someone his rank by someone above his rank. Branmer carefully looks into his eyes, imploring his understanding. "How are we to meet with other races if we cannot even meet with each other? We would have only one voice on Babylon 5 - we must have three people deciding it. One of each caste."

"This is why you asked me to plot the course I did, through the trajectory of the Grey Council ship, isn't it," mutters Neroon. "You want to bring this up with them. You wanted that all along."

"No, that was because they will seek the voices from the Shai Alyt, the High Priestess Presiding in Spirit, and the A'va Riaal, for when they make their decision. This was just an idea," says Branmer.

"Then it is just an idea that you can drop."

"It was not until you said it yourself that it struck. You like politics. You like law. You're good at them."

Neroon is shaking his head. "Shai Alyt, respectfully, you are mistaken. I did not mean -"

"I agree with you," says Branmer. "You are good at them. You have an insight into machinations that feels so automatic and natural that if I didn't know you ... but I do. You're as good as - no, probably better than - Satai Delenn. Her true strengths lie elsewhere."

This frank praise shuts Neroon up, because though he dislikes Delenn, he can't help a grudging but intense respect for her. Branmer lets him go and Neroon, clearly uncomfortable, folds his arms over his chest. "I am not exactly diplomatic," he says at last.

"But she is," says Branmer. "Imagine - the two of you, working together. You would complement each other." Branmer has always thought this.

"We would destroy each other," says Neroon flatly. "And the fifth Earth station. Not necessarily in this order."

"This is what Dukhat would have wanted," Branmer says. "Search your heart on that. You know I'm right."

Neroon's mouth twists. That means Branmer is winning. "And the Worker Caste?"

Branmer suspects he already knows what the A'va Riaal will say. "If the High Priestess Presiding in Spirit will send an ambassador for the Religious Caste, and the Shai Alyt will send one for the Warrior Caste, the A'va Riaal will find someone for the Worker Caste," he says. "Do I have your permission? Even tentatively? Otherwise they will vote and the person who is sent will be sent by mandate of the Grey Council as a whole, and that person will almost certainly be Religious."

"It is the function of the Religious Caste to play diplomat," Neroon argues.

"Then the Warrior Caste will lose all representation on the Earth station."

"We do not need representation there," says Neroon, but his voice now contains an uncertain tremulous quality. "We go where we are needed."

"As will the Worker Caste," adds Branmer.

"They freely tolerate the representation of the Religious Caste."

"Do they?" Someone should ask them. "On Minbar, three is sacred."

"I don't believe like you do," says Neroon. "I have not your faith."

"I don't need your faith," retorts Branmer. "What I need is your service."

"My posting is upon the Ingata!"

"To be revoked at my command if I need." Something like ire flashes in Neroon's eyes. Come on, thinks Branmer, meet me in the middle. "Listen to me," he says, "I am not commanding you." But he could, and Neroon is beginning to try his substantial patience.

"Then I can refuse -"

"I am asking you, Alyt Neroon," Branmer interrupts. He draws himself up to his height - perhaps a hand's breadth taller than Neroon's - and squares his shoulders under the thick reinforced spaulders. He has gotten used to a warrior's uniform, and he has gotten good at using it. "For the good of our caste. For the good of our clan." This makes Neroon shrink a little more. The thought of bringing honour - or dishonour - to his caste and clan always does. "Star Riders have always made excellent leaders. And - this is not incongruent with your own ambitions."

"Living among aliens isn't incongruent?" Neroon says. "Shai Alyt..."

"Your experiences on the Earth station Babylon 5 will give you a stronger voice in the Council of Caste Elders," says Branmer. "You wanted to effect a change? You would be at the very centre of one! Is that not why you applied to the Council of Caste Elders in the first place?"

"Caste Elder and Ambassador are two very different things," complains Neroon.

"What change could you achieve, captaining a ship? Drifting from place to place? The last lead on the Trigati was valstas ago, and it was a dead end. You have been in charge of monitoring that, so you well know. You're meant for more than a captaincy. I know it. You know it. And after the war, the frictions between the Warrior Caste and the Religious... this will change our people. This will heal them." Branmer sighs. He's said his bit. The rest is up to Neroon. "Well? Do you accept?"

Neroon is quiet for a long moment. At last he replies, grumbling darkly, "The next time anyone says anything about my unpleasantly overt ambitions, I am going to send them to find you. Yours are so much worse. Fine. You have my permission. But if the Grey Council says no, you must not push -"

"Of course not," says Branmer. They won't say no.

         They wind up being delighted, says Draal.

         Interesting, says Ivanova. But would it really have changed so much?

         Watch and see! Draal sounds a good deal more excited than she is. Some things, yes. Others remain much the same. What is important is that the flow of information is drastically altered.

--

2257

"Commander," says Takashima by way of greeting, as Sinclair enters Command and Control. "The Warrior Caste ambassador is scheduled to arrive here at oh-nine-hundred hours. That's in fifteen minutes."

         Oh! says Ivanova, delighted. Man, I've missed Jeff. What's he been up to, lately?

         That's a story for another time, says Draal. And that time draws near. In the meantime, keep watching this.

Sinclair smiles and joins her by the window on the dais, looking out of Observation Dome 1. "Thank you, Lieutenant-Commander." Then he frowns, puzzled. "I still don't get why he didn't come with the other two. Would've saved on fuel."

"There's much I still don't get about the Minbari," Takashima says. "I don't see why they have to have three of them. They're only going to get one vote when it matters."

Sinclair acknowledges this with a nod of his head. "I'd rather they bicker with each other than pick fights with us again. We almost didn't survive the last one. Fine. I'll be there to meet him. Notify the Religious and Worker Caste ambassadors of his arrival."

"I'm sure they already know," says Takashima.

"Our due diligence, so they can't claim we didn't tell them," says Sinclair. "Then I'd like you to have someone set up meetings with the other ambassadors and the three of them. Now that they're finally all together they should start meeting with the others."

"Well, alright," Takashima replies, "but the Religious Caste ambassador has been meeting with the Centauri ambassador, the Narn ambassador, and many in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds for months now."

"And we'll be keeping that to ourselves unless she decides to tell our new Warrior Caste friend." Sinclair smiles, friendly.

"Hah, I get it." The light on the terminal board below her, the one that had been solid, now starts to blink, which reminds her. "There's also a gold channel transmission waiting for you. Priority ultraviolet."

"What's the source?"

"By our calculations, just outside Vorlon space."

Sinclair's face grows immediately serious. "You don't think they ...?"

Takashima shrugs. Who can tell what the Vorlons are thinking? Communication with them is entirely new. But it's farther than the Minbari usually get, if the rumours can be believed. They tend to wait for visits. Maybe ask and ye shall receive was the right framework. "We could hold off on the meetings of all the ambassadors," she says. "Way it's going, you might get another."

--

The Warrior Caste ambassador's ship is punctual, and from the tracking vector, he's piloting his little shuttle pretty expertly. No complaints there, thinks Sinclair. They did say he was a captain of some sort. The weapon ports on the shuttle are kept open all the way until he establishes radio contact with Takashima for docking, however, and that's a nasty thought until Takashima reminds him that they do that as a sign of respect and friendship.

Respect and friendship, thinks Sinclair, like a mantra, as he waits in the passenger lounge on the reception side of customs. Respect and friendship.

But then the ambassador comes aboard and Sinclair's hopes wilt.

From the moment he lowers his hood, the ambassador is sneering, looking around apprehensively or judgementally at the station. He doesn't seem to want to be here. Little wonder, then, why he is. Surely Minbar could do just as well with one ambassador? There's really no need for three of them. And Sinclair knows Delenn so well. She's kind, and she's moved from a contact to an acquaintance to a friend over the past decade since the end of the Earth-Minbari war. As far as Minbari go - so Sinclair takes it - she's downright chummy, though she maintains the usual cryptic ambiguity that he's come to expect from the Minbari.

As for the Worker Caste ambassador, he mostly keeps to himself, which suits Sinclair fine. When they have to interact, Racine is polite enough, though distant, and equally cryptic.

Neroon, on the other hand, is neither friendly nor polite. At least he isn't cryptic about it. Small mercies.

"You must be Alyt Neroon," says Sinclair. He bows the way Delenn has taught him. Neroon doesn't bow back. He barely inclines his head forward and continues to keep his nose held high enough that he can look down it at Sinclair, despite being shorter than Sinclair. So much for respect and friendship.

         He's so rude, says Ivanova.

         This is, as far as I can tell, a universal constant, adds Draal.

         He's this rude in every universe? That's got to be exhausting.

"Am I... pronouncing that correctly?" Sinclair asks, hoping for a reaction, anything that is more than the cold, hard look in Neroon's dark eyes and the equally frozen set of his jaw.

"No," says Neroon, without offering an alternative pronunciation. He has a deeper voice than Sinclair would've thought for a man only that tall. Stocky. Doesn't look like all that much, but the armour conceals a lot of what heft there might be. It's hard to tell, and Neroon isn't exactly forthcoming with details.

"Why don't I show you to your quarters," says Sinclair, eager to get this over with.

As he leads them to Green sector, where all the other ambassadors are, he explains the basics of the regulations to Neroon, who remains silent unless Sinclair asks him an explicit question. Then he answers with as few words as possible and they are all dripping with sarcasm.

"No guns," says Sinclair, "in fact no weapons at all. Is that clear?"

"I myself am a weapon," drawls Neroon. "Perhaps I should leave."

"And no drugs, I won't have that dust nonsense on my ship. Is that clear too?"

"Dust is an Earth chemical?" asks Neroon. "Then it is an Earth problem."

At last they get to Green sector and they stop outside of Green 9, compartment 23. "Well, this is you," says Sinclair, and keys open the door. He smiles pleasantly and extends his hand forward in an 'after you' gesture. Neroon looks at his hand like it is made of so many insects and cautiously steps through, avoiding contact.

Immediately Neroon notices the change. He bounces very lightly on the balls of his feet. "The gravity has shifted. This is Minbar's," he says.

"We thought you'd appreciate the homey feel," suggests Sinclair.

"I do not," says Neroon coldly. "Are these quarters outfitted with permanent gravity settings?"

"They're - all integrated with the rotational motion, of course," says Sinclair, "but it's Minbar's gravitational instruments that have been designed to simulate her precise pull." He's careful to mention that it's definitely Minbari technology. Maybe that will appease Neroon.

It does not. "I am inquiring whether can they be adjusted manually," Neroon snaps.

Ah. So that's the problem? "Not by the occupant. I'll - I'll have my head of security handle it," Sinclair offers.

Neroon's glare is withering. "Do so," he says.

Yes sir, thinks Sinclair, just trying to be polite. "It was Ambassador Delenn's idea."

At this, Neroon curls his upper lip. So this is what disgust really looks like on Neroon's face. It's pretty poorly masked, if he's even trying to conceal it. "Are her quarters near?"

"Oh, yes!" says Sinclair. "Hers are right next door. Number 22."

"Find me other quarters," Neroon commands.

"There... are no other units in Green sector available with this breathable atmosphere. The next best would be just inside Red sector."

"That will do."

"Red sector is where the pak'ma'ra are staying."

Neroon thinks it over. Judging from his face he is weighing how much he really dislikes Delenn against how much he likes the pak'ma'ra. "And the Worker Caste ambassador?"

"Ambassador Racine is number 21," says Sinclair.

"On Delenn's other side. The universe revolves around our Religious Caste, I see," says Neroon, scowling. "Red sector it is. Show me the way." He turns on his heel and walks out the door, past Sinclair. Guess the pak'ma'ra won. That's a first.

We have not one but three high-ranking Minbari officials on this station, thinks Sinclair, this is what we have been working toward since day one. Let's not mess it up now by shooting this one in the face, no matter how much you'd like to.

         I'd really like to shoot him in the face, says Ivanova. Can I do that from here? Just a little?

         Draal smiles and says nothing. Anyway, I'll move forward a bit. Little happens until the Vorlon Ambassador arrives.

         Ms Alexander was there too, wasn't she? Ivanova took some time to read about Lyta Alexander, in the wake of ... what happened with Talia. She hasn't forgotten Alexander. She hasn't forgiven her, either. What's her role in all of this? she asks.

         An interesting one, says Draal. When the Vorlon Ambassador is poisoned, she sees into his mind. That, you know. Allow me to expound upon the rest.