DISCLAIMER: I don't own Babylon 5 or any of the characters represented in the show. They're owned by JMS and other people who aren't me. I'm doing this for fun - I'm not making a profit, monetary or otherwise off of this. No copyright infringement is implied/meant/deliberate in any way, shape or form. If I've forgotten something, insert the usual disclaimer stuff here.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Fire and Ice
By Del Robertson
Dark brows furrowed, a set of blue eyes narrowed as she watched from the recesses of a darkened corridor. Talia Winters approached from a cross-corridor, this one better illuminated, her high heels click-click-clicking upon the metal deck.
There was a smile upon her lips, a laughing lilt to her voice. Shimmering blonde hair fell in a golden drape about her face, brushing the shoulders of a black and red business dress. She carried matching heels, the straps dangling from the fingers of one hand. Deep, husky laughter resonated from her throat.
She was not alone.
Commander Ivanova recognized the grey uniform, the insignia designating a rank in security. He strolled beside her, fingers laced comfortably behind his back. A PPG rested securely in its holster at his side. Masculine laughter joined Talia's, echoing far too loudly in the stillness of the corridor.
"And, then the chief grabs him by the collar and says, "He ain't Narn, he's my brother . . . "
Ms. Winter's laughter swept over Ivanova. It sounded rich and warm, soothing in cadence. The commander momentarily closed her eyes, feeling the comforting tones wash over her like a wave.
They paused in front of her quarters. She leaned with her back against the wall, gazing up at her escort as her eyes crinkled with mirth. He had an arm extended, a palm braced on the bulkhead above her head. And, he was leaning towards her, his eyes half-lidded.
Ivanova's calming wave abruptly dissipated. Her gut clenched with the surety that he was going to kiss her.
A plastic identicard suddenly appeared, flashed as it was quickly swiped through the locking mechanism. Then, the door was open and Ms. Winters was stepping backwards. Full lips were moving, speaking in lowered tones. Then, the door was closing and Zack Allen was left standing alone in the corridor, body still frozen in that pre-kiss position.
He held it for nearly a full minute. Then, shaking his head, taping his knuckles against the metal bulkhead, he then walked away.
He passed the darkened corridor, not two paces away from Commander Ivanova without ever realizing she was there. His hands were once again behind his back, fingers laced together as he slowly strolled past her. And, despite having the fair Ms. Winters bid him adieu, there was a goofy smile and a tuneless melody upon his lips.
Commander Ivanova stepped out into the corridor behind him. She glared at his retreating back, a sneer upon her lips. She started to go after him.
Then paused as she felt something - - pulling at her. Senses tingling, she turned around, feet unconsciously moving her forward until she was standing directly outside Talia Winter's quarters.
Her scent hung heavy in the air, assaulting Susan's nostrils. She breathed deeply, inhaling a mix of roses and Talia.
Her eyes were closed, her cheek pressed against the cool metal of the door. Even through that barrier of metal, Susan could feel her. Talia's warmth, her essence, her energy called out to her.
Fingers trembled as they hovered over the door chime.
A frustrated growl nearly escaping her lips with the effort it took, she wrenched her hand away. Fingers closed, balling into a fist as she fought the growing urge to ring that doorbell. Eyes squeezed tightly shut, she repeatedly beat her closed fist against her upper thigh as she willed the urges away.
With a cry of anguish, she tore herself away. Then, she was running. Fleeing through darkened corridors awash only in the dim glow from the emergency lighting system.
She ran blindly, not seeing, not thinking about where she was going. When she finally stopped running, her legs were aching, her lungs were burning, her chest was heaving with the effort it took to breathe. Heart beating rapidly, she gulped in great gasps of air.
Sweat poured off her brow, stinging her eyes as she turned in a semi-circle, regaining her bearings. There were rows of benches and lockers. Serenity swept over Ivanova as she recognized the familiarity of the pilots' locker room.
She saw her own name, stenciled on the door of one of the lockers. The locker beside hers was ajar, a flight suit hanging from the doorframe. Ivanova reached out, fingertips gliding over the shoulders of the uniform. Then, over the left breast pocket and the stitched-on nametag Harrington.
She turned, eyes spying the military-issue boots lined up neatly beneath the synthesized wood bench. On the bench rested a pilot's helmet, white with a stenciling of a red devil painted on the side, the word Dizzy emblazoned below the cartoon character.
Ivanova closed her eyes, breathing in deeply the smells of the locker room - and space. Dimly, her ears picked up on the sound of the sonic-vibe showers. A knowing smile caressed her lips.
She moved towards the sounds, her footsteps carrying her deeper and deeper into the recesses of the pilots' locker room. She passed several empty stalls, the tile walls cold and impersonal to her senses. Then, she felt it - the warmth emanating, calling to her, luring her like a moth to a flame.
The shower turned off. Susan stepped around the corner. Something collided with her and bounced back.
A woman was standing before her, a towel clutched to her naked body. A hand protectively cupped her throat.
"Oh, Commander." She nervously laughed. "You scared me. I didn't think anyone else was here." Then, realizing Ivanova was still clothed, she asked, "You're not planning on coming in dressed like that, are you?"
Ivanova didn't answer. She reached out, fingertips brushing over the pilot's shoulders in much the same fashion as they had her uniform. She traced the area where she imagined the nametag would cover, fingertips etching out the letters of her name against bare flesh.
The towel fell unheeded to the floor.
Then, Ivanova was upon her. Fingers closing fully about her upper arms. Her body pressing forward, pushing Harrington backwards, until her bare back collided with the warm tile wall. A uniformed thigh pressed firmly between her legs. :Lips covered a supple neck.
There was the warmth of a tongue, then suckling and light nibbling. Lt. Deidre "Dizzy" Harrington's eyes threatened to roll back in her head. She couldn't begin to count the number of times she'd fantasized about the brooding, sexy commander ravaging her in this very shower. She sensuously moved against the commander's thickly muscled thigh. A sultry moan escaped her lips.
Then, came the pain.
Unbearable pain as canines sank in, tearing tender flesh. She was ferocious, shaking her head side to side the way an animal would as it fed on its prey.
When at last the struggles slowed, then ceased completely, Susan relaxed the grip she'd maintained on the woman's upper arms. Stepping back, she allowed the body to unceremoniously fall limply at her feet.
She swiped a hand across her lips and chin. An electrical current sparked in sapphire blue eyes. Lifting her hand to her lips, she lasciviously licked, her tongue working to capture every last drop.
Indolently stepping over the fallen marionette at her feet, she stepped into the stall and turned on the sonic shower.
Susan Ivanova screamed.
The time is now 0600 chimed the computerized voice
Susan ran a hand through thick, disorganized locks of hair.
Today's scheduled agenda includes 0730 - duty shift. 1500 - medlab appointment. 1600 -
"Computer. Shut up."
Long after the computer-generated voice fell silent, Susan continued to sit upright in bed, covers pooled about her waist. Closing her eyes, she willed her body to calm itself. Slowly, her breathing and heart rate returned to normal.
But, no matter how tightly she closed her eyes, she could still vividly see the graphic images from her nightmare.
It was a more in control, slightly less flustered Susan Ivanova that sat in the Eclipse Cafe, sipping her morning coffee. The synthesized brew burned the nerve endings in her throat, but the illusion of caffeine euphoria infused the pleasure-receptors in her brain. Well into her second cup, she was finally beginning to feel human again.
"If synthesized caffeine can bring that sort of look, I wonder how you appear immediately after sex."
Ivanova jerked her head up and coffee spewed from her mouth. A bemused smile adorned Talia Winters' lips as she approached, a tray in her hands. Placing her platter of fruit and tumbler of juice on the table, she presented her cloth napkin to Susan with a flourish.
"Commander." There was definitely unrestrained mirth in her voice, "I believe you spewed."
Ivanova leveled a glare at the clearly amused woman. "Ms. Winters, did you not read the station guidebook when coming onboard Babylon 5? If memory serves, there's a paragraph and several subparagraphs that explain in great detail the reasons why someone should not antagonize the station's second-in-command over her morning coffee."
"Station policy? I'll have to reread that." Talia sat directly across from the commander, sipping her artificial orange juice. "Speaking of memories, that must have been a doozie of one to have you projectile hurling your morning brew."
Those words . . . such a crude description . . . combined with the sudden realization that Talia hadn't spoken aloud the earlier comment nearly made Susan Ivanova spew her coffee again. She didn't say it aloud. I heard it in her thoughts.
Eyes flitted over Talia's face, searching for any indication that Talia had heard her thoughts. There was none.
That's been happening more and more she thought, recalling two other recent occasions in which she'd distinctly heard Talia's voice. One one of those occasions, the telepath had not even been in the same sector of the station.
Ever since she'd woken up in medlab to find herself nose to nose with her, Susan had felt an . . . attraction . . . to Ms. Winters. Oh, there'd always been a physical attraction; that was nothing new. But this was . . . more. It was like she was being drawn to her. There was an ache, almost a pang like hunger, that demanded she spend more time in close proximity to the telepath. In the three days since she'd been released from medlab, she'd repeatedly sought Ms. Winters out.
The most flimsiest of excuses had come yesterday when she'd bypassed the command staff's usual table and under the guise of no other available seat had practically invited herself to breakfast. The blonde telepath had looked about the nearly deserted cafe with a bemused smile on her lips. Wisely choosing not to point this little detail out to the commander, she had merely inclined her head, indicating Ivanova should sit. This morning, she'd arrived earlier than usual and it had been Talia that had joined her.
Susan blinked. Talia held a piece of fruit suspended on a fork in front of her. "Bite?"
"What?" Mind finally catching up, Susan shook her head. "Oh, no thank you. I have to get to C & C."
"Must be pretty dull with all traffic coming into and out of the station suspended."
"Except for the occasional space-case that thinks the restrictions don't apply to his ship, yes." Susan pushed her mug away, dropped the coffee-stained cloth napkin onto the table as she stood up. "But, duty's duty. And, duty calls."
"Good day, then, Commander." Talia bid with a tilt of her head.
"Ms. Winters," Susan acknowledged, offering the telepath a ghost of a smile in return.
Susan paused at the doorway leading out of the cafe to allow two Narns to exit first. She glanced back at her table. Talia Winters popped a large piece of melon into her mouth. Excess juice squirted as she bit down, trickling from between her lips. Susan turned away, fighting down the bile rising up from her churning stomach.
"This isn't really about reaching a resolution between your races, is it?" asked Talia.
"Well . . . "
"I told you it would do no good to try to deceive the mind-walker, Mollari," G'Kar chided, "You can not lie to one of her kind and expect to get away with it."
"I did not lie," Londo objected. Then, catching the looks from both G'Kar and Ms. Winters, amended, "so much as withheld the truth."
"Gentlemen, I think we're done here." Talia stood up to leave.
"Ms. Winters, wait." Before he thought of what he was doing, the Centauri ambassador reached out and grabbed the telepath by the arm.
Ms. Winters looked at the offending hand, then Londo. "Ambassador Mollari. If we have no legitimate business to discuss, I have several paying clients who can benefit from my services."
"We'll gladly pay for whatever time we squander," G'Kar volunteered.
Londo shot the Narn a look before nodding his head in agreement. Talia suspiciously eyed both ambassadors before reluctantly sitting back down. G'Kar motioned for the server to bring another round of ground spoo.
"You see, Ms. Winters, we've come to accept long ago that there will be no peace between our races."
"Until the Centauri learn to respect other races," G'Kar amended.
Londo sneered. "And every Narn grows a full head of hair."
G'Kar and Londo glared at each other for so long that Talia was beginning to think they'd forgotten about her. An ill-timed squirm, however, soon had their dual attention again.
"As I said, we both know there will be no peace between the Narn and the Centauri. But, as ambassadors for our worlds, we must entertain the foolish delusions of Sheridan, Delenn, and the League that there can be a - how do you Earthers say - a fairytale ending. Even though our races must suffer, we don't like to unnecessarily involve others in our conflict." The arched brow advised Londo he'd been caught in another fib. "Our quarrel caused you distress."
"And, we wish to make amends," G'Kar added.
Talia was taken aback. And, truly touched. "Thank you, Ambassadors, but what happened at our last meeting was not your fault."
"But, we were both arguing when you collapsed." G'Kar flashed what he hoped was an endearing smile. "We caused you suffering and we want to take responsibility for our actions."
"You heard her, G'Kar," Londo swiftly interrupted, "This was not our fault." He wiped his mouth and threw down his napkin in haste. He had every intent of leaving before G'Kar could make him pay for their three-course spoo meal.
As he turned to leave, he bumped against something hard and bounced back. Dumbfounded, he stared at a metallic chest plate. Looking up, his eyes widened at the sight of the Vorlon encounter suit.
"Ambassador Kosh," Mollari bowed low, "My apologies."
The Vorlon ignored Londo's groveling and turned to G'Kar. It seemed as though the encounter suit nodded once in deference to the Narn ambassador before turning its full body to Talia Winters.
"Is there something I can help you with, Ambassador?" Without a doubt, the Vorlon made the telepath uneasy. But he was, after all, a previous - and very generous - client.
"You are wanted."
"It's always nice for anyone to feel wanted, Ambassador."
"Not for me." There was a pause, then, "You are wanted."
Talia smiled, not yet quite certain what the Vorlon meant.
"More than wanted." It seemed as though the Vorlon tilted his head to the side. His one large eye expanded, then dilated before he said, "You are - " there was a longer pause and another head tilt " - desired."
Talia felt a heat suffuse her cheeks as both G'Kar and Londo continued to speculatively stare at her long after Kosh was gone.
Fingers interlaced, palms rested against her blue uniform jacket. Legs were crossed at the ankles, feet propped up on her console. Blue eyes staring at the ceiling, she counted the rows of rivets.
When Ms. Winters had predicted Commander Ivanova's duty shift would be dull, she had seriously underestimated the situation. In the -- Ivanova spun around, checked the chronometer display on the wall -- three and a half hours since she'd been in C & C, there had not been a single transmission.
No vessels looking to dock in one of the stations' nearly forty available bays. No ships' captains demanding they be given clearance to depart. Nothing coming through the jumpgate. Not even idle space chatter on any of the communications channels.
Commander Ivanova's gaze traveled back to the chronometer. It had now been three hours and thirty-one minutes. Fingers gripping the armrests of her chair, she gave a long-suffering sigh.
When Captain Sheridan stepped onto the deck of C & C, the first thing he noticed was Commander Ivanova sitting at her station, repeatedly bouncing her skull against the headrest of her chair.
"Careful, Susan." One eyelid cracked open just far enough so an icy blue pupil could glare at him. "Do that enough and you'll shake your brains out your ears."
Both eyes opened at that point and, if at all possible, her glare increased tenfold.
"I take it things have been rather quiet this morning?" He asked in that charmingly optimistic way of his.
Ivanova didn't believe in optimism. She preferred pessimism. And, in her life experiences so far, pessimism was often the same thing as realism. It was a Russian thing. Something a boyishly naive American Midwest farmer's son would know nothing about.
"Quiet is a grievous understatement. I'd need to pass through three levels of Hell and have a bomb detonate beneath my seat just to get back to quiet."
"Chin up, Commander. Only - " He checked the time " - only three hours and seventeen minutes left on shift."
Ivanova suppressed a groan by burying her face in her hands. Sheridan good-naturedly patted her on the shoulder as he leaned in close enough to place something on her console. "Maybe this will help alleviate some of that boredom, Commander."
Ivanova waited until Sheridan had retreated to his office before retrieving the data crystal he'd left on the desk. With a shrug, she inserted the crystal into the console's drive and commanded the computer to "Play".
The screen went from black to grey before finally coming into focus. The picture was grainy, the images degraded. It was obviously old, like one of the history vids Ganya used to insist they watch as kids.
There were images of workers constructing the frame of a ship. Then the hull. And finally, the finished vessel. She looked like a huge, lumbering behemoth in her berth. Then, came the recording of the crew boarding and the ship being launched into space.
An ISN reporter appeared on the vidscreen. He was dressed in a suit that went out of fashion forty years ago. And, he adjusted something at his ear before turning and facing the camera. Susan adjusted the volume, turning it higher as he spoke into a mike pinned to the tab collar of his shirt. Even then, she had to strain to decipher the poor sound quality.
"The Anastasia was launched from a ship-building yard very much like this one."
The camera panned wide so the viewer could see other vessels being built on the premises, all in various stages of production. Then, the news anchor was back, adjusting his earpiece center screen.
"Named after Russia's youngest Romanov princess, the Anastasia was launched from St. Petersburg in the first part of the latter century. And, like its namesake, it went missing, never to be heard from or seen again."
The image of the news anchor distorted, then faded out completely to be replaced by time-recorded images of Docking Bay 13. The camera panned over the hull of their mysterious freighter. The maintenance crews had cleaned her up enough so that her lettering was visible, etched in red rust - Anastasia.
The vid monitors in the chief of security's office flashed image after image of various sectors of the station's interior. Zack Allen stood behind the office's single desk chair, palms resting on the top of the headrest. Fingers clutched at the imitation leather as he impassively viewed the repeating images.
The chair, of course, belonged to the chief of security. And, technically, that was him now. At least, according to the captain and the officer station logs.
But not to him. For Zack Allen, there was only one chief. And, as far as he was concerned, no one else could fill Garibaldi's big combat boots. Noticing the worn leather cushion, he smiled ruefully at the thought that no one else would ever be able to work Garibaldi's butt groove out of that seat, either.
"Damn it, Chief," Zack harshly swallowed against the lump in his throat. "What the Hell did you go and get yourself into this time?"
He heard the alarm come in over the security channel in the same instant he saw it on the vidscreen. A fight had broken out in one of the bars on the Zocalo. No - forget fight - this was a riot. He counted at least eight Narn warriors, dressed in full battle regalia brawling with a group of Drazi fighters.
He grabbed his PPG off the desk, checking that it had a full charge.
"Tac Squad Alpha!" Officer Allen shouted into his link, "I need all available security in Red Sector. Repeat; converge on Red Sector."
Zack nearly collided with Lance Parker in the corridor that opened up onto the main marketplace in the Zocalo. The man's uniform was torn, his security insignia missing from his sleeve. There were scorch marks on his face.
"Fighting's spilled out of the bar and into the marketplace," Parker offered by way of explanation, "And, both sides have weapons."
The marketplace was chaos. There were broken stalls and merchandise littered about. Two Drazi held a Narn securely by the arms while another beat him with a length of metal pipe. Another Drazi was locked in hand-to-hand combat with a Narn. Another Narn had a Drazi by the throat. The Narn hefted the Drazi off his feet and threw him a good twenty feet. The Drazi landed squarely on a table, the thin metal collapsing beneath his greater mass.
"So much for the captain's lockdown."
The acting chief signaled his squad into formation. Each of his security officers lined up, creating a solid wall. They advanced as a single unit with PPG's drawn, held at arms length, fingers indexed on the triggers.
"Cease and desist!" Zack Allen's voice rang out. Some of the opponents stopped, but most ignored his command.
"Cease and desist. Or, we will use force." He backed up his point by jerking the barrel of his PPG in emphasis.
As soon as the ultimatum left his lips, Zack Allen had a bad feeling in his gut. The Narn Commander turned and looked at the Drazi leader. Then, they both turned in unison to gaze at the Earthers.
"Oh, Spoo." Zack's eyes widened as a mob of unified Drazi and Narn charged the line of security guards.
His grip tightened on his PPG. "Fire! Fire!" He shouted at his second, his fingers reflexively squeezing the trigger. His PPG crackled, the discharge barely leaving the barrel before fizzling and dying. He squeezed the trigger again. Nothing.
A quick glance at the power charge indicator showed the energy cells were drained. He looked up just in time to see a Narn three times his size running straight at him.
"Oh . . . damn . . . "
To Be Continued
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