Make your own free website on Tripod.com
A Line in the Night
by Matt Delia (also known as Vorlon Nut)

Chapter 1: The Beginning

Hyperspace, July 5, 2267, 15:00est

        A modified Tinashi-X class frigate was cruising in hyperspace, when it received news of the Drakh attack on Earth, and Earth's subsequent quarantine.  The captain called a meeting of all the officers in the wardroom.  When the officers gathered, the captain explained what had happened on Earth, and what President Sheridan was planning to do.

        "So what will our awareness posture be?" inquired the weapons officer.

        "We will continue at normal alert status, unless fleet command orders us to do so," replied the captain.  The frigate, named Boojilon, was crewed by a mix of religious, worker, and warrior caste crew members, all of whom were devout Booji followers.  "I know that the Booji fleet only has 3 Tinashi-X class frigates and 1 Sharlin-X class cruiser left out of the 6 frigate/6 cruiser ‘gift' from the Vorlons due to our recent encounter with a Suit fleet outside Vorlon territory, but we will triumph, be it Booji's will.  For now, I want you all to return to your posts.  I will prepare a message to the crew explaining the delicate situation and what we will do in response.  Good day everyone, and Hail to Booji!"

        About two hours later, the ship received a distress signal.  Scanners indicated that it was from an Earth shuttle.

        "Jump immediately to normal space.  When we emerge from normal space, launch all fighters immediately!" ordered the captain, a member of the worker caste.

        As the ship emerged from hyperspace, all ten of it's fighter compliment, plus the two flyers it was carrying, exited the ship's docking bays and assumed a defensive posture around the ship.  But as they soon found out, it would do them little good.

        There was indeed an Earth shuttle, and scanners indicated there were no life signs on board, but there were 25 life forms on board.  This worried the captain, but the Drakh Mothership and accompanying Light Cruisers worried him much more.

        "Man battle stations!  Power up all weapons systems!  Tell the fighters to attack!" commanded the captain.

        A group of ten Drakh cruisers engaged the fighters and flyers, destroying five fighters and two flyers.  Two Drakh ships were destroyed, and three were damaged.  More Drakh ships broke away from the Mothership and attacked.   The Minbari/Booji'ist frigate fought back, and destroyed several Drakh ships, but in the end, it was destroyed by the Drakh fleet, but not before sending out a distress signal.

Orbiting Vorlon, July 5, 2267, 20:00est

        The President of the New Vorlon empire stared at his tactical displays with a deep sigh.
It seemed as if the galaxy had only gotten worse, not better, with the departure of most of the Vorlons.  The war of the Thirdspace jumpgate had been won, but at a disastrous cost.  Fleet reconstruction had been going incredibly slow.  His wife had left him for someone else.  And now, the Drakh were back.  The Vorlon Empire and the Booji'ists had always been at
odds over the Suits.  The President knew the truth, and had tried many times to tell the Booji'ists that the Suits were really good, but they failed to listen.

        But they would have to learn, and accept the truth.  If they didn't, then they would be exterminated, and there would be nothing he could do short of overt military action, which was, for that moment, out of the question.

        There was a way to tell them the whole story, but that would only occur if they would react in a certain way.  He would not try to relay this information unless they wanted it.

        Feeling a tug on his arm, he looked next to him and saw his adopted Pak'ma'ra daughter sleeping silently.  He knew that for her future, the future of the Vorlon Empire, and for Booji'ist, that this fight must be won.

          Animosities must be put aside, but for both sides that was easier said than done.

        With these thoughts in mind, he prepared to leave the system with his ship and daughter.

        The ship unfolded it's petals, and with a determined song, began the long journey that lay ahead.

Aboard the Salvation, July 5, 2267, 20:35est

        The war council had convened.  The war room was a frenzy, with people and data crystals and other things flying around with seemingly no pattern or destination.

        There was a mixture of anger, sadness, and revenge on the minds of all assembled.  They had only recently heard of the attack on the frigate in Quadrant 67, and all were furious.

        Hors d'oeuvres and drinks were passed out, and the noise level was finally lowered down to a dull roar, then to near silence.  The looks on the faces of those assembled could have defeated a square mile full of heavy Shadow Battle crabs in one shot.

        "You all know what has happened in Quadrant 67," began Garibaldi, "the Drakh were the perpetrators of this assault on our ship.  This means deep trouble.  In recent weeks, convoys destined for the Boojilon station have disappeared with no trace.  We haven't been able to find out who is responsible for these attacks, as nobody has survived them.  But now we
know.  The frigate that was destroyed ejected a beacon with vid recordings and sensor readings of the battle."

        The lights in the room dimmed, bringing with it an eerie quiet.  From the middle of the conference room a Minbari style display emerged, and for the next five minutes the battle was played out.  The frowns on the face deepened as much as could be allowed without tearing any muscles, and a few people even burst into tears.

        After the battle was replayed both in vid form and looking from the sensor suite, the lights turned back on and the display shrunk back into it's housing.  Any shred of anger fizzled into pure, raw hatred for the Drakh.

        "We can't take on the Drakh on our own," Garibaldi said, breaking the silence.  We can hurt them, but we don't have nearly enough resources to take them on alone."

        "Somehow," Lindaru replied, "I'm not sure how I know but I do, I think there is more to this than is apparent.  What is obvious is that the Drakh took out one of our frigates, and a darn good one too.  Now we have reduced fleet capability.  They're doing this for a reason, I'm just not sure why."

        "Of course they had a reason behind it," Gaidheil shouted back, "and if I could take a guess, I'd have to say that somehow, the Vorlons are involved somehow.  The New Vorlon Empire has constantly been a source of trouble for us, and they have to be involved somehow."

        "Possibly," Garibaldi replied calmly.  "We all know that the order has less than friendly relations with the Vorlons, for the most part.  But we can't fire off accusations at them without any provocation.  Even at their current state of military weakness, they could obliterate us 5,000 times over and still have room for more."

        "We need to draw the line sometime," Gaid replied, "and now seems to be a better time than ever before."

        "They do probably know something about what has recently been going on here," Lindaru replied, "and they probably aren't at fault.  They wouldn't enlist scum like the Drakh to do their dirty work.  The Vorlons as a race, and their new president in particular, don't strike me as the kind of people who would hire others to do a job for them, no matter how bad it would be.

        Even though they have lost around 95% of their forces in the War of the Thirdspace Jumpgate, they could spare enough ships to take out three frigates and one war cruiser."

        "We don't know enough about the Vorlons to make any sort of intelligent judgement," Entilzha Einat said.  "Someone needs to talk to them for us, so we can find out if they have any information that could help us."

        "That's absurd!" Gaid cried.  "They won't help us!  The grudges we hold against them, and those that they hold against us are too strong.  I put the issue of whether or not to send a representative to them up to vote."

        Each member touched a button on the panels in front of them.  It took fifteen minutes for everyone to think about their votes and cast them.  When the total amount was tallied, the majority voted against sending a representative.

        "That puts this issue to rest.  The order has been given for each of our ships to return to base and refuel and stock up on whatever items it needs.  I'm not sure what we will do with each of them after that, but we will think of something in the meantime.  Meeting adjourned!"

        With a knock of the gavel against the desk, everyone filed out of the room.   All wore less then pleasant looks on their faces, and those who had voted to send someone to Vorlon looked even angrier.  But those were very few in number.  Very few in number.

Hyperspace, July 7, 2267, 12:22est

        A modified Sharlin-X class cruiser, the Tuzanor, cruised at maximum power to the
jumpgate.  The captain paced the bridge anxiously, hoping that he would soon be home at the station.  He also hoped that he wouldn't run into any Drakh or Suit ships along the way.

        Suddenly, a shrill beeping sound pierced the stone cold silence.  Punching up a display, the captain saw a Drakh Mothership cruising in hyperspace.  He hit the battle stations alarm and ran to the control center.

        "Divert as much power as is safe to the main neutron cannon and stand by to fire," the captain ordered calmly.  The display showed the Drakh ship, seemingly unaware of the cruiser's presence.

        "Power diverted, ready to fire," came the reply.

        "Fire at will."

        The beam sliced out, and connected with the Drakh ship in a bright burst of flame.  At first, it seemed as if no damage had been done.  But suddenly, as the Minbari/Booji'ist ship prepared to fire another volley, the Drakh Mothership exploded into a mass of flames and debris which was quickly quashed by the currents of hyperspace.

        "Secure from battle stations, divert the power back where it's supposed to be," the captain ordered cheerfully. Cheering and applause reverberated throughout the ship for awhile, then things slowly died back down to normal.

        The ship turned and jumped to the Minbar jumpgate.  With them, they brought news that brightened morale for Booji'ist.

        The Salvation was a hub of running life forms and loudness.  It was cruising at the extreme edge of the Minbar system, and was prepared to jump.   With it came four Darkstar class ships and the only prototype yet built of the Fire Drake class heavy cruiser.

        The Fire Drake was the first prototype of it's class built before a Suit attack destroyed the shipyard where it had been built.  It's weapons compliment hadn't been completed, thus it only had it's defense grid operational, as well as a tractor beam for capturing ships.

        The 6 ships entered a jump point, and went into hyperspace.  They cruised at the extreme edge of the hyperspace beacon range, hoping to avoid detection from any unwelcome visitors.

        Aboard the Salvation, yet another meeting of the war council was being called.  This time, however, the mood was a bit more brighter than before, although it was still deadly serious.  Everyone aboard the ship with any clout whatsoever within the Booji'ist chain of command was present, or was communicating via tachyon enhanced Stellarton system.

        "Greetings everyone," Garibaldi opened, "the meeting is now commenced.  I'm sure all or most of you have heard of the recent clash between one of our Tinashi-X class ships and a Drakh Mothership.  Well, one of our Sharlin-X class ships has just encountered a Drakh Mothership in hyperspace.  It fired upon the Drakh ship and destroyed it before the Drakh ship could disembark any of it's light cruisers."

        As this was said, a chorus of cheers and shouts erupted around the room, almost causing a Llort waiter to drop his silver platter of champagne filled crystal glasses.  After he recovered, he passed the wine to anyone who wanted it.  It did take awhile, however, for the cheers to die down.

        "The ship in question, the Tuzanor, is waiting for us somewhere deep inside hyperspace.  The captain is going to communicate via Stellarcom link.  In the meantime, I would like to outline our agenda.  In no particular order, we will discuss the following: the most recent battle between us and the Drakh, anything and everything concerning the Suits, the destruction of our shipbuilding facility near Castor space, and the proposed diplomatic mission to Vorlon."

        "Good," Gaidheil replied with a smirk on her face, "we'll have our ‘bash the Vorlons and their idiot President' time.  This should be interesting!"

        "Gaid, no matter how much you say so," the captain of the Tuzanor, Trefal Maschok, chimed in, "the president of the New Vorlon Empire is a good person.  He does hate Booji'ists, and for good reason too.  I met him about a month ago, before my ship set sail.  We talked privately, and he sent to me a telepathic set of images.  I didn't know the meaning of them at first, and his response was ‘you will know when the time comes.'  That's it, then he left."

        "When will the time come," Lorien asked in his subtle, patient tone.

        "It came after I destroyed the Drakh ship.  I had retired to my quarters to meditate, and I saw the images again.  This time, I understood what they meant."

        "Well, continue," Lindaru ordered subtly.

        "I saw ships, lots of them.  Drakh ships battling against Minbari, Brakiri, Earth, and more.  Most of these ships were from ISA members.  The Drakh were attacking someone's home planet, though I'm not sure whose.  I didn't know what it meant.  Now I know: It was the battle of Earth, and it's subsequent quarantine.  He sent me one more image too, and that is probably the most relevant to our concerns."

        "And this image would be what?"

        "An image of the holy bucket being desecrated by dozens of Suit warriors.  During this image, I heard some sort of sinister laugh in the background."

        "And what would this sinister laugh have to do with the price of eggs on Melat, much less our current situation?"

        "Well," Entilzha Einat responded, "I think it would be proper to let him finish.  Besides, if anyone is misguided, it isn't Trefal, it's our own Gaidheil.  If anything is irrelevant, it's this talk about the price of eggs on Melat!"  This drew some loud laughter, and made Gaidheil flush bright crimson.

        "Thanks Einat," the captain replied, "I think we all needed that.  Anyway, back to the image.  There has been some contact with the Drakh before.  From what I can make of it, I think that laugh was of Drakh origin.  I know what it means.  It means that the Drakh and Suits are tied together somehow.  And we must do something now, before it's too late."

        A silence ensued.  It lasted for a few minutes as everyone digested this information.  It sank deeply into the hearts and souls of everyone listening, and it was awhile before anyone could recover enough to speak.  It was Lindaru who finally broke the silence.

        "The Drakh and the Suits working together.  We can stand up to the Suits on a limited scale, but there is no way in hell that we can fight the Drakh.  This is all the more reason to endorse the mission to Vorlon.  The president may or may not provide us with the information and support that we need.  Nobody can predict what he will say, but we must take the risk.  I call for a vote."

        Everyone voted, and in the end the mission was approved, although by a narrow margin.  Gaid had more support than was realized, and she was plenty mad when she heard the outcome.

        "Now, Lindaru, you are one of the select few who the President will actually listen to.  Most of the rest of us would get shot into little bits for going into Vorlon territory.  You know what you have to do, and I wish you good luck."  With this, and a hardy dose of "Hail Booji", the room was emptied and Lindaru went to prepare her flyer.

Beyond Hyperspace Beacon Range, July 7, 2267, 23:00est

        A lone Vorlon transport lay in hyperspace, well off the range of the beacons, but close enough to detect the Salvation convoy.  It's lone occupants, the President and First Daughter of the New Vorlon Empire, sat in silence.  They had been able to tap into the assembly of booji'ists with relative ease, and not be caught.

        "They are right about one thing," the President said without emotion, "there are only a few of them who could go into Vorlon space and live to tell the tale."  He knew Lindaru, and trusted her.  There was going to have to be an encounter like this, and he dreaded it's coming.

Chapter 2: Secrets Revealed

Edge of Vorlon Territory, July 10, 2267, 09:30est

        The lone planet orbiting the lone star had long since been dead.  The system's Vorlon name was roughly 897 English characters long, give or take a few for margin of error.  Thus, it was called Sigma Theta in Booji'ist type navigation systems.  Ships rarely jumped into this system, the since it's lone planet was uninhabitable and it was too costly to build an orbital
facility.

        It hadn't been the site of any major travel for the past 5 and a half years, when Shadow and Vorlon ships tangled around the system.  The Vorlon cruisers and transports were outnumbered by Battle crabs and Shadow Scoutships by a margin of 3.5 to 1, but the Vorlon forces still won, destroying 85% of the Shadow fleet before the rest withdrew.  The Vorlons
only lost a few fighters and had one transport that had a "petal" blasted off.  It was soon repaired.

        The Fire Drake jumped into the system, with scanners and sensors down to minimal power.  It orbited the planet, and disgorged a single modified Minbari flyer before jumping back to hyperspace and whatever was beyond.

        The flyer was occupied by a single person, Lindaru, and sat waiting in space for what seemed like ages.  This time gave Lindaru the ability to clearly think about the past events, and sort out her feelings.  This was a time of troubles, and would continue to be so for a long time.  There were tumultuous events occurring around the galaxy: the Battle of Earth, the
successful beginning of the Excalibur mission, and the trouble back on Earth and the state of disarray that Earth's military found itself in.  All these thoughts, and many more, occupied her mind for the next two and one half hours.

        Suddenly, an alarm sounded on her instrument console.  Looking ahead of her, she saw the blue circular matrix of a jump point forming, and two ships emerging: a Vorlon cruiser and Vorlon transport.  The transport settled in protective orbit while the cruiser hovered over Lindaru's flyer.  It fired a stun gun, which put Lindaru to sleep.  It then opened up it's hangar bay, which had no fighters in it, and took in the flyer.  With that, the two ships jumped back into hyperspace as quickly and unobtrusively as they had come in.

        She awoke about a day later in a large room.  The bed she was sleeping on was big and soft.  The room was richly furnished and decorated, mostly in Vorlon and Pak'ma'ra style but with a few pieces from other worlds.  She heard someone enter the room, and saw the shadow of a black encounter suit walking towards her.  There was a small person who had been standing next to her bed, but she had been too groggy to notice until now.

        "Good morning, and welcome to my little lair," the tiny voice said.  She recognized it immediately as Pa'sha, the adopted Pak'ma'ra daughter of the President of the New Vorlon Empire.

        "I'm sorry for all the secrecy and such," the president said in his encounter suit enhanced voice, " and for having to put you to sleep for so long.  We have our secrets to maintain, just as you do.  I assume you are okay?"

        "Yes, thanks.  If I may ask, what name would you like me to call you?"

        "Well, most of your order calls me less than nice things, if you get my point.  But I think your a pretty good person, and can look above all the hate and such looming around.  You may call me either VorlonNut, my more known name, or Matt, my real first name; only special persons can call me by my real name."

        "Ok.  You and Pa'sha are well, I hope?"

        "As well as can be expected.  We have been through hell lately, as you well know.  It has effected me more so than anyone else in the Empire, and thus Pa'sha also feels terrible, but we are doing ok lately."

        "I haven't seen you in a long time," Pa'sha said happily, "and I missed you."

        "I missed you too," came the reply.  Suddenly, Pa'sha rose in the air and was slowly let down into Lindaru's waiting arms.  "That was fun!" she squealed.

        "Thank heavens for telekinesis," VN replied.

        "But as you and I know, we have business to attend to.  I wish we didn't, but it's something we have to face."

        "Yes."  Using his telekinetic powers to heft Pa'sha off the bed, he told her to take a walk.  She sadly complied, but only after giving both of them hugs.  He then used his telekinetic power to bring them some Starbucks iced coffee and croissants.

        "As you suspected," VN said gloomily, "there is more to this recent problem than you know about.  The Drakh are behind this.  They want to undermine the New Vorlon Empire, and since you are one of the few groups who know about it's existence, they are trying to get to us through them, most namably you and the Suits.  If you had bothered to look, which I don't suspect you have, you would have noticed that most of the Suits have been in Shadow ships before; they have the scar patterns consistent with the neural nets needed
to interface a sentient with a Shadow ship."

        "We haven't exactly captured too many of them alive, and even when we did their life expectancy isn't the highest in the galaxy.  Most of our people have a nasty habit of shooting them into little bits.  Garibaldi is especially good at thinking up dark thoughts."

        "Yes."

        "Is that all you have?  Just a single word?"

        "No."

        "Then what do you have?  These one word phrases are useless.  I don't see what you are driving at."

        "Learn."  With this, the world went black before her.

        Lindaru awoke in a flutter of images.  The first set was the battle of the shipyard Eagle near the edge of Castor space.  This is where the Fire Drake class ships were supposed to be built.  2 Tinashi-X class frigates and 3 Sharlin-X class cruisers had been destroyed in this battle, but each had taken a large number of the enemy with them.

        The second set was of the Salvation and her four escorts.  15 Necktie class Assault Cruisers loomed in hyperspace running in stealth mode.  Beams lashed out and destroyed all of the ships in the convoy, with no survivors.  The sinister Drakh laugh was in the background, but grew louder.

        The last set was the same set that Trefal Maschok saw, with the desecrated holy bucket and the sinister Drakh laugh.  The last of the temples had fallen.  After this third set of images, the world went blank for her again, and she finally slept.

*                  *                  *

        Lindaru woke up again six hours later.  She had seen each of the images over and over again in her sleep, until they had become etched in her mind.  When she awoke, she was looking up at a small little Pak'ma'ra face, which she recognized after a moment to be that of Pa'sha.

        She hugged the little Pak'ma'ra child and smiled.  Just then, the door opened and VN walked in wearing a yellow lemon scented encounter suit, and carrying a tray filled with french toast, a human innovation he found to be too sweet for his taste.  There was also a large cup of orange juice.

        "I'm sorry for the forcefulness that I had to use, but it was necessary.  I hope you aren't too badly traumatized by what you saw.  Once you regain some composure, I will explain to you what you saw."

        He sat there, watching her eat and play with Pa'sha, and smiled grimly.  The truth would hurt more than anything, and the reaction to it would mean either the fruition or the end of Booji'ist.  Personally, he didn't think he'd mind if they were all exterminated.  He did have some good friends within the order, but most of them he disliked to no end.

        Looking at Lindaru and Pa'sha, he knew that he had to set aside his contempt for the order of Booji'ist.  He would give them the facts as they were, and if they chose not to regard them, then the outcome would be their own fault, not his.  There was little else he could do short of full scale military combat, but he had neither the desire nor the resources for it at
the current point in time.  He would do what he could, and hope that it would be enough for them to listen.

        Three hours later, a Pak'ma'ra butler took the tray out and served drinks, both of which were hazelnut flavored frappucinos.  Pa'sha left, leaving the two to talk alone.

        "What did I see?  There was so much fire, so much death," Lindaru said.

        "In order, you saw the battle of Eagle station, the fall of the Salvation, and the image that Trefal Maschok saw, of the bucket being desecrated and the Drakh laughing in the background."

        "I know that much, but what do they all mean?"

        "The battle of the Eagle station was meant as a reminder to you of what kind of power the Suits have.  The destruction of the Salvation can be avoided, if you can get word to them in time.  The final image is meant as a warning of what could happen if you disregard my advice and warnings."

        "How will I be able to get to them in enough time to make a difference?  The image that I got suggested, and I don't know how, that they would be attacked soon."

        "Yes.  That is why you will leave in two hours.  You will go in a transport with me.  The same cruiser that escorted you here will come with us loaded with it's fighters.  You will tell them what you know, and tell them to jump to the site of the Eagle's fall.  Pa'sha will fly your flyer with us."

        "Why do we jump to the site of the Eagle's fall," she asked.

        "Yes."

        "Fine.  I will be ready by then."

        In two hours she was ready.  She went into the transport, and it jumped into hyperspace, flanked by the flyer and heavy cruiser.  The trip took a day and a half, but they finally met up with the Salvation and it's 5 escorts on the edge of Earth Alliance territory.  The transport docked long enough to disgorge Lindaru and retrieve Pa'sha, then it jumped into hyper with the cruiser in tow.  Nobody noticed the 3 small globes that were deposited in the hangar bay.

        An urgent meeting was called to discuss her foray into Vorlon territory.   It took an hour to assemble everyone that was needed.

        "I have learned much," Lindaru opened, "from my trip to Vorlon."  She punched a button and the room darkened, and a Minbari display appeared, playing the fall of the Eagle.  "This is the first thing he showed me.  The second was of the Salvation convoy being destroyed, with the evil Drakh laugh in the background.  The third set was of the desecration of the holy red bucket with the evil Drakh laugh."

        "Typical for a Vorlon; short, sweet, and useless," Gaid said.

        "No."

        "Now you're starting to talk like him!  This is scary."

        "No," Lindaru replied with a smirk on her face.  "If I can finished without being so rudely interrupted," she gestured at Gaid, "I will attempt to explain what I was ‘taught' during my little visit."

        Silence engulfed the room, like a large shroud.  The lights dimmed, creating an atmosphere similar to one found in a horror movie.  From her hand emerged a crystal globe similar to one a technomage would use.

        "Now I'm not a technomage, but this globe will be activated when I order it to, and afterwards will have to be dumped out of an airlock because it will self destruct.  This will explain what needs explanation."  As she said this, she waved her hand over the globe, causing everyone except for her to lose consciousness.  In their state of unconsciousness, everyone gathered saw the images VN had sent to her.  After the images and an accompanying explanation were delivered telepathically, Lindaru went to the nearest airlock and dumped the globe into hyperspace.  She decided to get a special EVA suit so she could walk in hyperspace.  It would be at least an hour before everyone else gained consciousness.

        This was her first walk in hyperspace, and she thought it was immensely beautiful.  After about five minutes, she heard a song in her head.  It was a beautiful song, a song of peace, joy, and happiness.  She listened to the song for what seemed like ages, but in reality was half an hour.  Then the song disappeared.  An image shown in her mind, the seal of the New Vorlon Empire.  Then a voice, which she recognized to be VN's, sounded in her mind.

        "All or none."

        ‘What does this mean', she wondered.  But she heard it again, with an image of the Booji'ist council.

        "All or none.  All of you, or none of us."  With that, the voice ceased to exist.  Looking at her watch, she realized that she had about 10 minutes before everyone regained consciousness.  She quickly got out of her EVA suit and went to the conference room just as most of the people were waking up.  It was then that she realized what "All or none" meant.  She waited for awhile until everyone had their senses back.

        "I had another communication with the Vorlon," she said.  "He said ‘All or none' and at first I didn't understand what it meant, as usual.  But now I understand: All Booji'ists within reach must consent, otherwise the New Vorlon Empire won't commit forces to the final battle."

        "I for one don't consent," Gaid said without emotion, "knowing them, they'd probably stab us right in the back."

        "So you say," replied RES, "but if they wanted to destroy us, they could easily do so.  It would mean stripping their defenses to bare bones, but they could do it.  It wouldn't be easy, but it could be done.  On the other hand, they have the ability to defeat the Suits and Drakh.  I have friends in Earthforce command, and I can check and see if anything strange or unusual or covert has occurred at the site of the fall of the Eagle."

        "At the moment, we all need to clear our heads and think," Einat said, "so I suggest that we all retire and do whatever for the next four hours.  We can think as to whether or not we want the Vorlons to help us."

        "Einat," said Lnar, a Pak'ma'ra sympathizer, "not to be offensive or anything, but I'd say that you have some sort of hidden agenda or something like that."

        "Perhaps I do, but if I did I wouldn't tell you because there's no point in having a hidden agenda and telling everyone about it.  That defeats the whole purpose, which is to have said agenda hidden until the proper moment."

        "Meeting adjourned," Garibaldi said rather forcefully, "before any fistfights break out.  This isn't the Taiwanese parliament of 20th century Earth."  Those that understood the joke laughed, and those that didn't sat with blank looks on their faces and slowly filed out.

Chapter 3: Shadows on the Wall

Silesia VII, July 15, 2267, 12:56est

        The Pulsar left spacedock in the ship repair facility in a large asteroid field near Silesia 7.  It had been named Marcus Cole after the late Ranger.  Originally, the Silesia system, consisting of 10 planets, had sentient races on three of it's planets, Silesias 4, 6, and 7.  During the Shadow War, the Vorlons set up a massive base on Silesia 7.  The Shadows eventually attacked, and this was one of the few engagements that turned into a massive
battle between the Shadows and Vorlons.  It wasn't as big as the battles of Coriana 6 or of Sector 83, but it was pretty close.  The Shadows won initially, and had one of their Deathclouds take out Silesia 7.  After the Deathcloud did it's work and left, a small Shadow expeditionary force stayed behind in the system.  This was when the Vorlons sent in their major reinforcements, commanded by VN, and re-took the system.  They built a base in a large asteroid roughly the diameter of Tuzanor at it's widest point.  This housed a massive ship dock, and was about to be converted into a ship repair yard, but the withdrawal of the remaining first ones ceased those plans.

        That base had been located and converted into a backup repair facility/refugee camp should the need arise, and the need had arisen now.  The Pulsar mainly ferried refugees to the main camps on Minbar, and to the smaller camps within Minbari and Pak'ma'ra space.  Now the Pulsar had been given a defense grid capable of taking on massive amounts of fighters.

        Currently the Pulsar had no additional passengers aboard.  Only a skeleton crew remained to test the re-fitted systems.  The ship jumped out of hyperspace and was in the process of re-calibrating it's hyperspace beacon system when a large fleet of ships was detected in their proximity.

        "Captain," the sensors officer said, there is a large fleet of ships approaching, I count at least ten."

        "Very well."  He pressed the button on his armchair console that activated the ship's public intercom system.  "Man battle stations, this isn't a drill."  This command galvanized the ship's crew into action.  They were at battle stations in no time flat.

        "Captain, I've got an update," the sensors officer announced.  "I count ten ships.  I have five Cow Ships and five unidentified ships, but they're huge.   Scanners indicate that they are approximately 6,000 meters long, maybe longer."  He paused.  "Uh, I think they've seen us!"

        "Ok, engines all ahead full, give me all the power you can get.  Don't head for the base, I don't want these wretched Suits to follow us in."  He thought for a moment.  "Head deeper off the hyperspace beacon.  Go as far as you can while still maintaining the signal.  Maximum speed."  This sent the ship speeding for the depths of hyperspace.  It hadn't ever really been into deep hyperspace before, but there was a first time for everything.

        A chase ensued, with the Pulsar leading the ten suit ships farther and farther away from the hyperspace beacon in hopes of them breaking off the pursuit.  The Cow Ships had notoriously poor navigation systems, but nothing was known of the capabilities of the other five unidentified ships.

        "Captain, the Cows are breaking away.  The other five ships are continuing after us," the tac officer reported.  "Weapons sensors are powering up, they are tracking us but were out of range."

        "Compare the silhouette to all known vessels, see if you can get any similarities.  I've never known the Suits much for their originality in ship design."

        "Ok, I'm running a comparison."  This took about five minutes, in which time the five ships had closed the range to the Pulsar by half.  "The silhouette matches that of an Earth Alliance Explorer class research vessel by about 90 percent.  Visual range will be reached in three minutes."

        "Good.  Navigation, head off the beacon system, we'll try to lose them.  Head for the Geiger Wave."

        The ships continued heading for the depths of hyperspace.  The Geiger Wave was a massive hyperspace wave, and when a ship got caught in one, it could attain lightning fast speeds, but only a few ships had ever come out of the Geiger Rift alive.

        "Captain," the navigation officer called out from his plot, "we should be entering the Geiger Wave in about one minute."

        "Ok, here's the plan.  I don't know, nor do I really care to find out, if our ship can safely transit the Geiger Wave.  Those ships are five miles behind us.  I'm going to come up to the edge of the wave and break off at the last second.  The bogeys should be caught in the wave and we should be safe.  Unless, of course, we get stuck in the wave ourselves."

        "Captain, we will reach the wave in twenty seconds...  Ten...  Nine...  Eight...,"

        "Break off, now!  Maximum acceleration!"  The Pulsar broke off, and the five unidentified Suit ships sailed directly into the Geiger Wave.  Their destruction was never detected on the ship's systems.

        "Good job everyone.  Communications, send a distress signal to the Silesia base.  Navigation, prepare to jump.  Weapons, prepare to fire all guns when we get in range of those Cow Ships."  The battle with the Cow Ships was quick.  All five of them were destroyed, and the Pulsar sustained only minor hits.

        "Damage report!"

        "Docking bay one hit.  At least two atmospheric shuttles were damaged as far as we can tell.  One of the Defense grid pulse cannons was destroyed.  Casualties are light."

        "Very well," the captain said.  "Secure from general quarters.  Have damage control teams dispatched to boat bay one immediately.  Navigation, plot a best speed course back to base.  They will want to hear about this."

        "Aye, captain"

        "Communications, send a message to the Marcus.  Tell them we have encountered some Suit ships and are returning to base."

        "Yes, sir."

On board the Salvation, July 15, 2267, 15:00est

        Word reached the Salvation about two hours after the Pulsar returned to base.  This time, however, there wasn't another council meeting.  Only three people met this time: Garibaldi, Galin, and Trefal Maschok.

        Garibaldi opened the conference.  "I believe that it may be time to re-think our decision to go along with the Vorlon plot.  Nobody knows whether or not they can be trusted, and as such we need to decide, between the three of us, what we are going to do."

        "This rash of attacks signals a new beginning," Gailin said, "and the decision we make now will determine the outcome of said beginning."

        "True," ‘Baldi replied.  "Look at it from both sides: if the Vorlons are telling the truth, and heaven forbid that should happen, then we can finally defeat this darkness.  If they're lying, then our whole order is doomed to destruction.  It's one hell of a choice.  We're stuck between the proverbial rock and the hard place."

        "Yes.  But we need to make a choice based on everything we know up to this point.  Consider the fact that VN hates us with a passion.  I don't quite understand why he's all of a sudden taken it upon himself to help us."

        "I don't know either, but as Gaid would probably say, ‘it's probably for purely selfish reasons on his part; he'll use us and then discard us whenever he sees fit to do so.'  I can almost see the truth in that.  He hasn't used us for anything before except for selfish reasons, but consider something, why did he give us the 12 modified Minbari ships when he knew that they could possibly be used against us, that they were probably the most powerful weapon we had.  Why also did he let us have the co-ordinates for the asteroid base which we took and renamed Marcus Cole.  Why did he do all this?  If he went to all this trouble, there has to be something other then the normal selfish and annoying reasons."

        "Yes, but bear in mind another point.  The Marcus was the sight of a major battle during the Shadow War.  Many Vorlons died in the battle itself and in subsequent probes.  We all know that VN is a stubborn and obnoxious character, but considering his typical characteristics, why would he give us that base after so many Vorlons died for it, if he's only going to discard us again?"

        "A good point Galin.  We must take that into consideration."  He paused for a moment, gesturing in Trefal's direction.  "Trefal, you have said nothing so far, do you have anything to add?"

        "Only two things.  If you remember back when Lindaru went to Vorlon, she discovered a Drakh plot to undermine the New Vorlon Empire.  I won't go into the specifics ‘cause I'm sure you already know them."

        "I remember that," Galin said.  "What is the other point you wanted to make?"

        "Well, there were only two or three people who were sticking up for VN.  Lindaru and Entilzha Einat are both respected members of the order.  Now it may just be my paranoia, but there was something in Einat's voice that I detected.  As if she had some sort of ulterior motive, as I pointed out to her before.  I don't know what it is, and I suspect she probably knows more then she's letting on.  If she and Lindaru are defending him that strongly, then there is a possibility that his motives are true.  We have to consider that.  I'm not saying I favor his side or Gaid's.  I favor the truth, because it is the truth that I serve.  But we need to find out what's going on here, and we need to find out soon."

        "Ok," Garibaldi said, "we will take a vote.  All who favor supporting VN, raise your hands."  The vote was unanimously in favor of doing what VN said previously.  "Very well then.  Let's go into the fire."

Chapter 4: A Battle of Titans

Hyperspace, July 18, 2267, 13:30est

        The final battle group had formed up.  Every Booji'ist ship that could be spared was gathered around the Salvation and prepared to go into battle.  Aside from the Salvation and it's original escorts, the Fire Drake and four Darkstar class ships, the remaining Sharlin-X cruiser and the 2 Tinashi-X frigates were escorting the battle group.  Various personal flyers and other such ships were also present.  Two of the four completed Pelican class transports were also present, with the other two in dock aboard the Marcus.

        The leaders of the Booji order were still quartered aboard the Salvation.  All of them were in the main conference room for a light lunch before the jump to Sector 27, where the Eagle fell.  The main course was a Vree dish similar to Swedish meatballs.

        Lunch was eaten, and the battle group went to general quarters.  The 11 ships entered a single jump point and jumped into Sector 27.  When they exited, they were greeted by empty space.  No ships were in the area, only remaining debris from the Eagle and the ships that died trying in vain to protect it.

        When the council heard of this, they all convened in the ship's Minbari style CIC.

        "We have been betrayed yet again," Gaid began, "no big surprise.  Now we need to jump out before we are all destroyed."

        "No," Garibaldi said, "we agreed that we'd give the Vorlons the benefit of the doubt.  I don't know why, but we did.  If we leave now, to what end would we be served?"

        "If we don't leave, we're probably going to be blown to pieces!  The New Vorlon Empire could have told the Suits we would jump here, and the Suits are probably on their way with every ship they can scrape up!  We can't match their firepower, especially if they have any Drakh on their side!"

        "I don't expect that the Drakh will intervene," Einat said, "unless the Vorlons are here.  As we all know, they aren't.  But even still, I don't think they dragged us all out here for nothing, or to get shot up.  If they wanted us dead, they'd do their own dirty work.  They wouldn't have anyone else do it for them."

        "No, I don't suspect they would have someone else do it for them," Lorien said.  "They could, but I don't suspect that they are.  We know that VorlonNut is stubborn and favors blowing everything in his path to little pieces, especially us.  But we have to look at this from an unbiased point of view.  I know that this will be hard for some, no offense intended to any
of you," he looked at Gaid.

        Trefal, who had been monitoring the conference from his own ship's CIC, popped up on a holo display.  "I think we should wait for a few hours.  Six hours should be long enough for anything to develop.  If it doesn't by then, then we can leave."

        "Perhaps," Garibaldi cut in, "but what if this is some sort of a test to see if we really want his help?  What if he wants us to stay for a certain amount of time to determine if we have enough faith or whatever?  If that's the case....."

        "Excuse me everyone," RES, who was acting as the ship's commander while everyone was in the conference, said nervously, "we have jump points opening approximately ten miles in front of the battle group."

        "How many," Garibaldi asked with an edge on his voice.

        "So far, we have five.  We have 30 Cow Ships, 10 from each jump point, and 10 unidentified ships, HUGE ones, with 5 to a jump point.  They have a similar signature to an Earthforce Explorer class ship."

        "Very well, keep us informed."  Garibaldi made a sour face and continued.  "All ships launch fighters.  Send the Fire Drake to support the fighters.  We can take care of any fighters they may decide to launch.  All other ships, form a wall according to plan Zeta.  Fighters, assume attack formation.  All forces may fire at will."

        130 Booji'ist fighters and flyers went forward, with the Fire Drake close behind them, to take on the 260 Suit fighters.  The remaining Booji'ist ships formed a "wall of battle" which in effect meant that all of the ships would stretch out in a not so straight line.  The four Darkstar ships guarded the flanks, in effect making a shape similar to this: \____/ .

        "The Wall," as it was later known, held it's fire for fear of hitting any of their own ships.  The fighters beams lashed out in a mad fury, striking at each other.  Even though the Suits enjoyed a 2 to 1 advantage in numbers of fighters, the Booji'ist fighters had better weapons, defenses, and all around better quality.  The Booji'ists also had the Fire Drake, even though
it only had it's defense grid operational, it provided a massive amount of firepower.

        The Suit Furies wanted to get to the wall of battle, but they were stopped cold.  150 Suit Furies were destroyed, in exchange for 50 Thunderbolt-X fighters and 2 flyers.  They then battled amongst themselves, fighting until there were no more surviving Suit fighters left, and only 30 Booji'ist fighters and 2 flyers.  The Fire Drake was hit a few times, but it's
bio-armor and shields absorbed the fire and the ship took negligible damage.

        Each side's capital ships, which had previously been arranged in walls of battle, slowly advanced towards each other.  This time, the Suit advantage was about 5 to 1.  Beams lashed out from both sides, and in the first volley, 8 Cow Ships and one Darkstar were destroyed.  2 Necktie class ships and 1 Tinashi-X were damaged.  The ships continued firing all their weapons at one another, until all the Cow Ships and 4 of the Neckties were destroyed.  All that remained of the Booji'ist wall of battle was the Salvation, which hadn't yet been hit, the Fire Drake, which had sustained moderate damage and had half of it's weapons put out of commission, and the Tuzanor, which had incurred only minor damage.  The Booji'ist ships were out manned and outgunned.

        "All ships prepare to retreat!" Garibaldi ordered.

        "We can't do that," Trefal Maschok replied from the bridge of the Tuzanor.

        "I'm afraid we don't have any choice.  We can't repel firepower of that magnitude!"

        Trefal was about to protest again when an alarm sounded.

        "Jump points forming all around us!" RES shouted.

        As this was said, 11 jump points formed around the battered wall of battle.   From them emerged a total of 30 Vorlon heavy cruisers and 2 transports plus accompanying fighters.  The Tuzanor fired it's EMP gun at the Suit wall of battle, and they froze.  The Vorlon ships went in front of the Suit wall and used a massive telepathic burst of energy to stun the crews into unconsciousness.  They then boarded them.

        "Salvation, this is the President of the New Vorlon Empire.  Sorry for being so late, but we saw fit to invite ourselves to this party.  Some ground pounders are boarding the ships to put them under our control.  We will take them over until such time as we can take the keepers off the crew and rehabilitate them, then the ships are yours.  I will detach some of my ships to look for life pods from your respective walls of battle, and would like to seek an audience with you as soon as you see convenient.  VorlonNut and Pa'sha, out!"

Aboard the Salvation, July 21, 2267, 15:25est

        VN and Pa'sha walked down a passageway escorted by 4 Booji'ists with PPG rifles, and 4 Vorlon Marines.  They entered the main conference room, both clad in pitch black encounter suits like the 4 Marines that had escorted them aboard.

        "Hello everyone," VN began, "I will make this brief, because I know we all have duties to attend to and such.  I know Lindaru told you most of this, but I think it all bears repeating.  I'll start from the top.  The Drakh wanted to undermine my regime by using the Suits.  As you know, the vast majority of the Suits are good, but the ones that the Drakh put keepers on are the ones that have been giving you all this trouble.  We have removed the keepers from all of the remaining Suits and rehabilitated them.  They will be taken to Vorlon territory, and the remaining ships will be transferred to the Marcus Cole by Vorlon pilots and escort ships."

        "So in other words you are trying to say that this is all over," Gaid asked.

        "Yes and no.  There will be other enemies eventually, but the battle against the Suits is over."

        "What about the battle between the Vorlons and Booji'ists," someone asked.

        "We have gotten past all the lies, but the feelings and resentment still remain in many of you.  Whatever happens will be determined on if we can let those feelings slide away and start afresh, with a clean slate."

        "Aren't you forgetting something," Einat said.

        "Not that I can recall."

        "Well, let me help you remember."  Suddenly, the lights dimmed, and a Minbari type holo display showed fireworks going off.  "Happy Birthday, Mister President."

        A surreal glow lit up VN's and Pa'sha's encounter suits.  "And so it begins," he said.

**********