This is something I wrote for my husband. He’s a massive “Babylon 5” fan, and after hearing about my Doctor Who/Highlander crossovers, suggested I write a Babylon 5/Highlander one. It took a few years, but eventually this was the result. There are, of course, spoilers, but on the B5 front they’re pretty mild, as I’ve set this in Season 2. The year is 2259; Captain Sheridan is in command of Babylon 5; Garibaldi has returned to his duties; and the biggest news is still the sudden death of President Santiago on New Years Eve, when Earth Force One exploded. Garibaldi had uncovered evidence of a conspiracy to destroy the ship, and new President Clark (former vice president) has pledged to investigate this alleged conspiracy. Meanwhile, on the “Highlander” front, I am still accepting for continuity only up through the end of “Highlander: the Raven”, as I haven’t seen anything that followed that. Clearly, the Watchers have managed to keep the secret about Immortals, even with the appearance of natural telepaths. Naturally, it’s something that worries Immortals greatly.
You will find that, as on Babylon 5, there will be questions answered in this story as well as questions raised, and not all of those will be answered. 😉
THE THREE-EDGED SWORD
A Babylon 5/Highlander crossover
“Understanding is a three-edged sword.”
— Kosh, Vorlon Ambassador to Babylon 5
CHAPTER ONE: Things Fall Apart
Does any one know where the love of God goes
when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
if they’d put fifteen more miles behind ‘er.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
they may have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
of the wives and the sons and the daughters.
— Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”
Simon stared glumly out the window of his first class stateroom aboard the deep space liner Korolev, leaning his heavy frame against the windowsill. They were still in hyperspace, and instead of normal space all he could see was a bizarrely red-shifted chaos of twisting patterns — patterns which were seemingly impossible to touch. The brochure had tried to talk up the view, but Simon really didn’t like hyperspace. Centuries before, he’d been a sailor, traveling aboard a merchant vessel from one side of the Earth to the other. He knew how to read the constellations, how to use a sextant to measure the positions of the stars, and how to determine his position on the Earth with nothing more than that, a watch, and some paper.
But hyperspace was different. Dead reckoning would get you dead lost here, and Simon hated that. He only reluctantly stirred from Earth at all, and this was only his second trip through hyperspace. After centuries of boldly traveling around the globe, he’d found deep space far too unknown. Or maybe he was just getting old.
Or maybe it was the aliens that got to him.
Simon laughed quietly and bitterly to himself as he turned away from the impossible madness outside the window. He didn’t like to think of himself as a racist, but he still couldn’t get used to aliens. I really must be getting old, he thought.
But it didn’t matter if he didn’t like hyperspace or aliens. He was a businessman, and occasionally businessmen find they cannot delegate all of their business trips. So Simon was traveling to Babylon 5, the furthest he’d ever been from home in all his years, just to spend a week getting a contract signed. But the customer had insisted that a representative come to Babylon 5. Since all of his colleagues were either already assigned to other business trips or on extended vacations, the task had fallen to him.
He glanced at his watch. If the ship’s timetable was any guide, they were due to arrive at the Epsilon 3 jumpgate in just a couple of hours. Simon didn’t like hyperspace travel much, but he did enjoy watching the jump point form, a blossoming window onto normal, proper space through which the liner would pass. There was plenty of time to get some lunch at the ship’s cafeteria and return to his stateroom. He stood, picked up his heavy coat out of long habit, and left his stateroom.
The rotating section of the liner was structured like an onion, with each habitable deck nested inside another, with simulated gravity decreasing the closer each deck got to the hub. The outermost deck held most of the sleeping quarters, including all of the first-class staterooms and the flight crew cabins. The second deck held the cafeteria, positioned at the forward end of the liner to provide all of the passengers with a view into the liner’s direction of travel. Further inward was the command deck.
First Officer Dyson felt the term “command deck” was a little ostentatious for a purely civilian transport. He had spent many years serving as a navigation officer aboard Earth Force destroyers, and although running a passenger liner had its moments, the role of the command officers was almost entirely administrative. He felt more like a glorified clerical manager than part of a deep space crew.
“Dyson, estimated time to Epsilon jump gate?” asked the captain, a balding man named Kendricks who had spent his entire career in civilian service and doubtless didn’t understand the boredom Dyson had felt ever since the end of the war and his honorable discharge.
Nevertheless, Dyson straightened up to do his job. “Two hours, fifteen minutes, thirty seconds, sir.”
“Excellent,” replied Kendricks. “We’ve got a lot of passengers disembarking at Babylon 5 today. Keep an eye on the status reports from the shuttle crews. I want them ready for boarding before Babylon 5 even assigns us our parking orbit.”
“Understood,” replied Dyson.
The Immortal Miranda stirred in her bunk, but refused to open her eyes. Sleep was too inviting, and she’d only been napping a short while anyway.
“Miranda! Wake up!”
She groaned, then reluctantly opened her eyes to see her unwanted traveling companion, Cici. She groaned again. The younger woman was about twenty five years old, but sometimes acted more like twelve. She was a slim, petite woman with hair permed into an enormous mass of curls dyed a brilliant and totally unnatural red. Her hair seemed almost to have a life of its own and would vibrate as she spoke. She made a living as a motivational speaker. Miranda found herself wondering whether people really just paid her to make her shut up and go away.
“Oh good!” she said. “You’re awake!”
“Yes, I’m up.” Miranda pushed herself up onto her elbows. She’d left Earth in a hurry, and this tiny cabin shared with Miss Congeniality had been all she could get. “So where’s the fire?”
Cici tittered. Miranda rolled her eyes. “You have such a sense of humor!” she said. “We’ve only got a couple of hours before we reach the jumpgate. It’s your last chance to visit the cafeteria before we reach Babylon 5.”
Miranda sighed. “Why don’t you go without me?”
“Oh come on,” said Cici. “You’ve been moping the entire trip, either in here or off on the cargo decks.”
“Meditating, not moping.”
“And you’ve hardly eaten,” said Cici, barely aware of the interruption. “It’ll do you good to get something in your stomach before we reach the station.”
Irritating as it was, Miranda had to concede the point. Better to get there with a full belly.
“Oh, all right,” she said. “Just let me get my things, and we’ll go together.”
Cici laughed. “Oh, you’ll have time to come back for them before you have to get on the shuttle.”
Miranda shrugged. “I don’t like leaving things. Anyway, it’s all I have, so there’s not much point leaving it here.”
“Well, do whatever makes you happy,” said Cici.
And what would that be? thought Miranda, as she shrugged on her coat and put her few personal items back into her rucksack. She’d tried doing what made her happy. The trouble was, it never seemed to work. Miranda was young by Immortal standards, barely seventy years old, but that was old by mortal standards and she felt every day of it.
“Lead on,” she said to Cici. The young mortal left the cabin and Miranda followed out into the minimally decorated corridors of the economy-class section of the liner.
“So,” said Cici, “we’ve been sharing a cabin for the last three days and you still haven’t told me what you plan to do when you get to Babylon 5.”
“Oh haven’t I?” said Miranda.
“No. You always seem to change the subject.”
“Well, maybe it’s because it’s none of your business,” she snapped back, and immediately regretted it. It wasn’t Cici’s fault she was a chronically cheerful person, and it certainly wasn’t Cici’s fault Miranda didn’t want to talk about the future. “I’m sorry,” she said finally. “Look, the truth is, I don’t really know what I’m going to do on Babylon 5.”
“Oh,” said Cici. “Well, maybe we can stay together, then! I’m visiting relatives, you know, and maybe they have some ideas for you! I bet there are lots of jobs you could do on the station.”
Miranda shook her head. “Thanks, Cici, but no thanks.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” said Cici. “But remember, if it gets to be too much, you can always find me! Well, for a couple of weeks anyway.”
Miranda didn’t answer. She had no intention of seeking help from anyone, least of all Cici. She wanted to disappear. She didn’t want any more connections back to Earth than she absolutely needed.
The two women walked on in silence for the rest of the short walk to the cafeteria. She had to admit that Cici had a point about the moping. She’d tried to meditate properly; she’d even done low-gee katas in the ship’s hold, but she just couldn’t keep her focus. Her mind kept dragging up everything that had gone wrong over the last fifteen years, and particularly the last few months.
“We’re here!” said Cici, neatly slicing through Miranda’s thoughts.
“Oh good,” said Miranda, but her sarcasm was lost on Cici. In some ways, Miranda thought, it was nice traveling with somebody so obliviously optimistic you could say almost anything you wanted without them noticing.
“You’ll love the view, especially if we stick around for the jump back to normal space,” said Cici. She palmed the door open for Miranda. “There’s a big window. It’s the only forward-facing window you can get to on an economy class ticket.”
Miranda stepped through the door after Cici and gazed across the room. At a glance, she figured it could seat most of the passengers at once, maybe even all of them. It was dominated by a broad window on one wall, beyond which the lunatic patterns of hyperspace painted the sky. It made Miranda feel giddy.
It took a moment before Miranda realized that it wasn’t just hyperspace making her giddy. The uneasy sensation grew until she recognized the distinctive tickle of another Immortal’s presence.
Damn. The Game comes knocking. She scanned the crowd for the other Immortal. She soon located him, a heavy-set man with mousy brown hair and an unremarkable build, eating what was probably a ludicrously overpriced sandwich. He locked eyes with her and the uneasy sensation became tolerable, though it did nothing to ease the sinking feeling in her heart.
“So what would you like to eat?” asked Cici, oblivious to Miranda’s discomfort. “They’ve got a bit of everything. The salad bar is especially nice.”
Miranda sighed. “I’m sure it is. Look, Cici, I need to talk to somebody. Why don’t you get started on your meal?”
Cici frowned. “Are you sure? Would you like me to hold a seat for you?”
The other Immortal was frowning too, probably wondering what Miranda was going to do. He finally pushed away from the table and picked up his tray. He was leaving. Damn, damn, damn. The Game comes knocking, and it’s one of the reluctant ones. “No, don’t wait for me. In fact, don’t even wait for me to get on the shuttle. I’ll see you on Babylon 5 if I can.”
Cici looked uncertain, but finally nodded. “Well, if you’re sure. You’d better go talk to your friend, then.”
“Thanks,” said Miranda, and started crossing the room. The other Immortal was still watching her, and paused when he saw that she was coming his way. He sighed deeply as Miranda reached him.
“Hello,” he said warily. “I’m Simon Baudette, and I’m not looking for any trouble.”
“I’m Miranda, ” she replied. “And I’m afraid it’s too late for that.”
“I don’t want your head.”
Miranda laughed mirthlessly. “You might get it anyway.”
Simon shook his head in disbelief. “But why? What have I ever done to you? I’m just a businessman.”
“You’re Immortal,” said Miranda. “That’s all that matters.”
“You’re a headhunter?”
She shook her head. “I don’t need to hunt. The Game always finds me in its own time. Do you have your sword?”
He nodded. “Well, I suppose if we must fight, we must fight. But I don’t want to kill you.”
“Don’t worry,” said Miranda. “You’ll get over it, one way or another.”
She stared at him. “It wasn’t meant to be. Follow me. I know a place where we can fight.”
Miranda took Simon to the cargo hold, deep within the ship, closer to its rotational axis. Gravity was considerably lower here, which was why the non-living payloads were consigned to these decks while the passengers mostly kept to the outer sections.
Simon was uneasy. He seldom traveled into space and had only experienced zero-gee once. That had been decades ago, when ships hadn’t been big enough to provide useful artificial gravity through rotation. The low gravity felt unnatural. “You’ve picked quite a spot,” he said.
“The crew won’t check the hold until after the jump back to normal space. We won’t be interrupted,” replied Miranda. With her long, straight hair and sleek catsuit, she had an amazing grasp of style, Simon thought, except that it was about twenty years out of date. That made him think she was old, but something about her language and her brash devotion to the Game made him think she was actually much younger. He’d met plenty of other young Immortals convinced that the only thing worth living for was a Game whose very premise relied on a nearly 100% death rate. They sought fights, and tended to die young as a result.
It made Simon more confident. He was nearly six hundred years old, and certainly able to hold his own in a fight. He kept in excellent physical condition and had trained with some of the best. Only a month ago, he’d been sparring with his old friend Duncan MacLeod. The Highlander had had a few new tricks to show Simon, but he’d still ended up on the mat with Simon’s sword at his throat before they’d called it quits.
Miranda had tucked her rucksack into a corner and stood with her sword already out. It was a rapier, fast, agile, and deadly, ideal for a person of her slight stature. Simon drew his, a hand-and-a-half broadsword that was more functional than attractive. He’d been born when rapiers were in style, but had long preferred the decisive weight and power of a broadsword.
“We really don’t have to do this,” he said, hoping to dissuade the suicidal Immortal.
“Oh, but we do,” she replied. “Haven’t you heard? In the end, there can be only one.” And she lunged at Simon.
He dodged, then returned with a quick slash from the right, testing her reach. She blocked it as expected. “But why? Because someone tells us to? Is this really what you want?”
Miranda thrust again, but Simon easily diverted her blade with a deft swing of his own. “It doesn’t matter what I want,” she said. “This is who we are.”
Simon made an exploratory swing from below. Miranda blocked it too, but with difficulty. “It’s not who I am,” he said, and swung again.
Miranda jumped over his blade, a flashy but foolish maneuver because the laws of physics now constrained her to a predetermined course. Simon immediately took advantage of it and swung to intercept her.
His blade passed harmlessly under her feet because in the reduced gravity of the hold she had risen higher and fallen slower than Simon had expected. Furthermore, the ship’s rotation, much more noticeable this close to the hub, had carried the ground slightly to one side during her ballistic flight, and now Simon was overextended and off balance.
Miranda had clearly anticipated that, and she kicked him hard in the shoulder as she came down, rolling away as she hit ground. Simon fell over his sword arm, instinctively tucking into a shoulder roll. But he again misjudged the low gravity and instead of rolling, he landed flat on his back and bounced slightly, dropping his sword. He rolled over onto hands and knees to grab his sword, but Miranda was already standing on it.
He looked up at her. She seemed almost sad, which was unusual in these arrogant young pups. “You don’t have to do this,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “You’re not used to low gee; you probably could have beaten me back on Earth.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “Sorry? Why are you sorry? If you’re really sorry, let me live.”
But her eyes were impassive as she pulled back for the coup de grace. “There can be only one,” she said.
Simon couldn’t help but close his eyes before his world disappeared.
On the command deck, Dyson was still keeping an eye on the shuttlebay status reports. “Shuttles two and three are ready for boarding, Captain,” he said.
“Excellent,” said Kendricks. “What’s our ETA now?”
“One hour, fifty-five minutes…” Dyson broke off. “Captain, I’m getting some very strange readings.”
“Yes? What is it?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. Some kind of non-localized phenomenon. It’s doing something strange to the power in the hold.”
In the moment that Simon’s head separated from his shoulders, Miranda felt the sudden void where he had been, as the sensation of Immortal presence abruptly vanished. There was a heavy, smothering silence. Miranda stooped to pick up Simon’s sword and then closed her eyes, waiting.
A luminous white mist appeared around Simon’s body, expanding as it separated from him. Miranda felt it, a renewed Immortal presence, as it rose up towards the ship’s hub. All of the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she braced herself, firmly grasping a sword in each hand.
Electricity sparked and crackled along the floor of the hold as the cloud found Miranda. She could feel the energy begin to build within her, rising up and filling her brain with a giddiness that she had never liked. She imagined it was like being hopped up on drugs, although she’d never cared to find out. She shuddered as the energy built to more than she could bear. The hold’s lighting began to flicker as the Quickening induced currents in the ship’s wiring. Miranda briefly wondered if she should be worried about that, but then she was beyond any such considerations as the Quickening took hold of her completely.
This was the part Miranda had always hated the most about a Quickening. Impressions, feelings, and sometimes even incomprehensible images would come from the other Immortal. It was never enough to use or even to make sense of, but it would come anyway. She felt as if she were at the center of a maelstrom, which was normal, except that something was different this time. Her mind felt as if it were spiraling outward from the ship’s hold. There were Human voices and other voices as well, and they did not seem like memories. The part of her that was still conscious wondered whether hyperspace was having some sort of effect on the Quickening. It almost seemed as if she could feel the roiling eddies of hyperspace itself and the deep dimples created by massive objects in normal space. As she brushed past one deep pocket in hyperspace, a terrible scream sliced through her mind and although she couldn’t hear it, the scream was echoed in her own voice.
Then she became aware of something else, and the maelstrom faded from Miranda’s awareness. She was in a still place and she was not afraid. Nor was she alone. Miranda heard a voice she had not heard for many years.
“Why are you here, child?”
She turned. It was her first teacher, Cassandra. She was dressed as she had been the first time Miranda had seen her, when she had made the men go away with her strange Voice and taken Miranda into her home. She wore a long velvet dress the color of lodgepole pine needles, and her feet were bare. It couldn’t be real; hallucinations were rare but not unheard of during a Quickening, and hyperspace could be amplifying the effect.
“I can’t feel you,” said Miranda. “You can’t be Cassandra.”
“Yes,” said Cassandra, her face unreadable.
“I tried to find you,” said Miranda. “We all did. But one by one, it all fell apart. I thought you were dead. And then they came….”
“Hush,” said Cassandra. She stepped towards Miranda and reached out to touch her face. It was a gesture Cassandra had made many times when Miranda had been her student, and Miranda found herself responding despite herself, calming.
After a moment, Miranda pulled away, a tear forgotten on her cheek. “This isn’t real,” she said. “You’re not real. This is just a Quickening dream.”
Cassandra looked into Miranda’s eyes. “You wanted to see me,” she said, and Miranda wasn’t sure whether it was an accusation or simply a statement. “Why are you here?” she asked again.
But before Miranda could answer, a roaring sound intruded. Miranda felt her mind retreating away from Cassandra, who seemed to dissipate into a corporeal white mist not unlike the first transfer of Immortal essence during a Quickening. Again she heard voices, Human and alien, as her mind retreated back into her body. She didn’t know whether that was real either, but soon she became aware of the ship’s hold again, fitfully illuminated by the final spasms of the Quickening. Then that too ceased and the room was plunged into darkness.
On the command deck, all was chaos. Within moments of Dyson’s non-localized phenomenon, there had been a massive power surge, oscillating well beyond system tolerances. It had plunged the command deck into darkness for nearly a minute before the emergency systems had come on line. Now the entire ship was flooded with the sickly red glow of emergency lighting. Engineering was paging the bridge with frantic reports of cascading systems failures. Dyson spared a glance at the unified system status panel and was met with an ominous red nimbus surrounding the icon for the main reactor core.
He shook his head, briefly marveling at the fact that he wasn’t panicking, despite the fact that the rest of the command crew was. None of them knew how to deal with this. Liners didn’t suffer catastrophic systems failures, especially core overloads. But military ships certainly could, and Dyson knew what to do.
“Captain!” he shouted. “The reactor core is about to go critical. We need to abandon ship.”
Kendricks turned to him with wide, hollow eyes. “There won’t be time,” he said. “Lifepods in hyperspace? They don’t have propulsion. Hyperspace drift will take them. And only two shuttles are ready to launch. The core won’t last until all the others are ready.”
“I know,” replied Dyson, meeting the captain’s panic with a calm and authoritative determination. “Sound the evacuation anyway. We’ll get as many people off as we can.”
Millions of miles away in normal space, Babylon 5 spun placidly, unaware of the chaos that was approaching it. Its banks of running lights shut off, one by one, as the station emerged from orbital night, a jewel glimmering with the reflected light of Epsilon Eridani.
In C&C, Commander Susan Ivanova had just come on duty. She was a tall, confident woman with luxuriant brown hair that she’d taken to wearing down on many occasions. Today, however, she had it tied back in a severe bun. The crew often took this as a sign that she was in a cynical mood, and today this was true. Workdays had been extremely quiet and productive for the past week, and so naturally Ivanova was convinced that certain doom was imminent. She was rarely proven wrong.
“So what’s on the roster today?” she asked as she crossed to her workstation.
A eager young technician named David Corwin looked up at her from his own workstation. “Not much. A few liners, the usual assortment of cargo ships, a Centauri freighter with a special delivery for Ambassador Mollari….”
Ivanova interrupted him with a groan. “Londo. That’s what’ll go wrong, take my word for it.”
“Excuse me?” asked Corwin. His innocence would have been charming if Ivanova had been paying attention.
“Never mind,” she replied. “Let’s just get through this, and maybe the Universe won’t come to an end today.”
She called up the day’s roster of scheduled flights. Very little was arriving in the next few hours, so the maintenance teams were taking advantage of the opportunity to do some work around the station’s larger berths. The first flight due in through the jumpgate was a liner, the Korolev. To pass the time, Ivanova called up the manifest on Londo’s “special delivery”. Most of it turned out to be fine Brivari, a prized alcohol-based Centauri drink. She rolled her eyes. Londo’s fondness for the stuff was legendary. He’d even had a special climate-controlled safe installed in his quarters to store it.
“Commander!” said Corwin, cutting through her thoughts. “We’re picking up a distress call!”
Maybe the crisis wouldn’t come from Londo after all, she thought. “Origin of distress call?”
“Hyperspace. It’s the Korolev. They’re requesting assistance.” He looked up, his eyes wide. “Commander, their core is overloading. They’re abandoning ship.”
“What?” asked Ivanova. “In hyperspace?” She shook her head. “All right. Who’ve we got on patrol?”
“Beta Wing,” replied Corwin.
“Good.” Ivanova opened a command channel. “Beta Wing, we are receiving a distress signal from the deep space liner Korolev. They are abandoning ship. Proceed to the jumpgate for immediate jump. Home in on the distress signal and begin recovery operations.”
The Starfury wing leader replied. “Understood. Do you know the nature of the accident?”
“Negative,” replied Ivanova, “but we know their reactor core is critical, so don’t dawdle. They’ll be putting people on lifepods without propulsion. If they get their shuttles off, ignore them. They can take care of themselves. Concentrate on finding lifepods.” She paused to consider. “I’ll send Zeta Wing out to assist you.”
“Acknowledged,” replied the wing leader. “Proceeding to jump gate.”
The Starfuries’ engines were too distant from the station to be visible now, but they would soon arrive at the jumpgate. Ivanova keyed in the jumpgate activation sequence. As always, she found herself watching as the four sections of the jumpgate powered up and produced a jump point, which opened up into an impossibly redshifted tunnel stretching away at right angles to normal space. Beta Wing entered it and then the tunnel sucked back down into a point and was gone.
Dazed, Miranda staggered through the dimly red-lit corridors of the Korolev, dragging her rucksack behind her on the floor. An automated message was playing on the ship’s intercom system, instructing everyone to abandon ship. But the corridors she walked were devoid of people. Nobody was running to the hold in a panic.
She eventually saw a few people as she reached the aft end of the cargo deck. Three maids were heading for lifepods as fast as they could — the aft section was where the grunts of the crew were quartered. Miranda followed them towards the four-seat lifepods. Miranda wanted to be alone. She didn’t get the chance for solitude, however, as the three women bustled her onto a pod with them. She was dimly aware of them strapping her in and shoving her rucksack into the narrow space behind her seat. Then the hatch sealed with a gentle pneumatic hiss that was strangely anticlimactic after the dire warnings of the evacuation alarm.
“Hold on,” said one of the maids. She reached up and pulled a bright yellow handle with emergency stripes on it. There was a dull thump, followed by a violent acceleration as the lifepod was ejected from the doomed liner. Then all became eerily still as the lifepod achieved zero acceleration, receding uncontrollably away from the Korolev. Miranda stirred herself enough to look up and out the single clear panel in the lifepod. The liner already seemed absurdly small against the unfathomable depths of hyperspace. It was too soon after her Quickening, and she vividly recalled being able to feel the shape of hyperspace.
She looked at the other escapees. They all had a grim look. None said what they all knew. Hyperspace drift was not understood, but nevertheless it was all too real. Unless rescue came soon, there would be no rescue at all.
The others would die of oxygen starvation before long, Miranda knew. The liner had spacious lifepods to handle its large passenger manifest, but even so there could only be enough air for a day or so. What will become of me? she wondered. What happened to Immortals who died of oxygen deprivation? Would she revive only to die again? Or would she remain unconscious until she was rescued? And how long would that take, anyway?
Realistically, if no one found them before the air ran out, she would be lost, and her Quickening with her. Miranda shivered and turned her gaze back into the pod, away from hyperspace. On the plus side, at least she’d never be found. But that was the down side too. Abruptly, she wondered if Cassandra had found this escape too, if this was why nobody could find her. And maybe the dream wasn’t a dream….
Abruptly, there was a resounding metallic clang and the entire lifepod lurched. The youngest maid screamed, but one of the others calmed her quickly. A disembodied voice filled the cabin. “Korolev lifepod, this is Starfury Beta Sixteen. I’ve got you, and I’m bringing you in now.”