Today, we continue the fanfic I wrote for my husband, crossing Babylon 5 with Highlander. If you missed last week’s installment, definitely go back to the beginning and start there.
THE THREE-EDGED SWORD
A Babylon 5/Highlander crossover
“Understanding is a three-edged sword.”
– Kosh, Vorlon Ambassador to Babylon 5
CHAPTER TWO: Out of the Frying Pan
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
This much let me avow:
You are not wrong who deem
That my days have been a dream
– Edgar Allen Poe, “A Dream Within A Dream”
Earth had changed a lot over the last two centuries. It had survived the birth pangs of a world government, the discovery of telepaths, first contact with the Centauri, the Dilgar War, and most recently, the Earth-Minbari War. But Paris, as always, stayed the same. Duncan MacLeod reflected that perhaps this was why he kept returning. For an Immortal, there was a curious comfort in knowing that there was a place that also went through the centuries changing little more than its superficial style.
He smiled to himself as he leaned back in his chair at Le Blues Bar. He’d bought the place over two hundred years before from Amy Thomas, who had inherited it from her father, Joe Dawson. She hadn’t been interested in managing a bar, so when she had put it up for sale, MacLeod had arranged for an intermediary to purchase it. He’d kept it going ever since, funneling in cash when business was poor, and standing back when business was good. Today, business was good, and MacLeod didn’t need to involve himself at all in the bar’s operation. It had been maintained in its original 20th Century style, and today it was considered a fashionable period theme bar. It was still early in the day, but even so it was far from empty.
Abruptly, the unmistakable sensation of Immortal presence washed over him. MacLeod automatically snapped to full alertness, but wasn’t really worried. He was here to meet a friend, Ted Carson.
He turned to face the door and quickly spotted the other Immortal. But it wasn’t who he’d been expecting. Instead of Carson, a tall, seductive female Immortal was scanning the room. When her eyes settled on MacLeod, the disquieting sensation of Immortal presence faded to a more comfortable level and MacLeod shook his head, grinning. It was Amanda, a woman much older than MacLeod chronologically, although in attitude she was about twenty. Her changeable hair was currently dyed a fashionable auburn, worn long and straight. She had it tied tightly back at the nape of her neck; Amanda had never liked to be hampered by her hair, even when fashion dictated long hair for women.
She crossed the room with easy, confident strides. “Hello, MacLeod.”
“Hello, Amanda,” he said. “What did you do to your hair?”
She shrugged. “It was time for a change. So what are you doing in Paris?”
“It was time for a change,” he replied. His eyes twinkled. “I’ve moved back. I didn’t expect to see you, though.”
“I came back to visit Rebecca,” she said simply, some of the animation dropping from her face. Rebecca had been her first teacher, long ago. She had lost her head in the 1990s and was buried on the outskirts of Paris. “I’d heard you were in town, so I figured that since I’d missed so many of your birthdays, I’d stop in and wish you a happy belated birthday. I figured I’d find you here.”
“Amanda, my birthday was two months ago.”
“Well, I said it was belated, didn’t I?” She pouted. “This makes you, what, six hundred and fifty or so?”
“Worse,” he said ruefully. “Six hundred and sixty six.”
Amanda put a hand over her mouth in exaggerated alarm. “Oh, my!” MacLeod could see the corners of her mouth turned up in a grin around her hand. “Maybe a nice girl like me shouldn’t be hanging around a devil like you, then.”
MacLeod rolled his eyes. “A nice girl like you? Now I know you’re joking.” She stuck out her tongue, but did not otherwise respond. “So, what do you think of Le Blues Bar?”
“It’s just like it always was,” she said, smiling. “It’s too bad I let the Sanctuary fold. It’s nice to see a bit of the Twentieth Century still hanging on.”
“Why the Twentieth?” asked MacLeod.
Amanda shrugged. “I don’t know exactly. But coming here reminded me how happy I was then.”
“You aren’t happy now?” asked MacLeod.
“Everything seemed to fit then.” She sighed deeply. “I was fourteen hundred years old when we learned that the human race wasn’t alone in the galaxy. The world’s not the same, MacLeod. I come to Paris, I see you, I see Le Blues Bar, and I can almost pretend that it hasn’t changed.”
“You sound as if you haven’t been to Paris recently.”
She shook her head. “No. I’ve been around, though, visiting friends. Speaking of old friends who like Paris, have you seen Methos lately?”
MacLeod nodded. “Oh yes. I saw him in New York about, oh, eight months ago. You’ll never believe where he is now.”
“Scout’s honor,” said MacLeod. “He actually moved offworld.”
“It had something to do with his student disappearing.”
Amanda raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Methos, the guilt-free man, worrying about a vanished student?”
MacLeod shook his head. “There was more to it than that. I don’t know all the details, but his student was involved with something very hush-hush within EarthGov. Methos was worried that someone might come looking for him.”
“Ah,” replied Amanda, as if this explained everything. She opened her mouth as though to say something more, but then the sensation of another Immortal intruded on their conversation. As one, they turned to face the door.
MacLeod smiled broadly and stood. It was Ted Carson, an almost startlingly average person with mousy brown hair and drab clothing. He was the youngest student of Cassandra, who at three thousand was probably the oldest woman alive. A few months before, he had come to MacLeod, looking for Cassandra, and MacLeod had promptly offered to help in the young Immortal’s search. The two of them had gotten to know one fairly well in the space of six weeks.
“Ted!” he said, as the younger Immortal crossed to their table. “I’m glad you’ve come.”
But Ted’s subdued mood was out of proportion to MacLeod’s exuberant welcome. He looked very tired. He managed a small smile. “Thank you, MacLeod.” He gathered himself up and turned to Amanda. “And whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
“Oh,” said MacLeod. “Ted, this is Amanda. Amanda, Ted Carson.”
Amanda gave one of her famous smiles and offered Ted her hand. He gently kissed it. MacLeod couldn’t quite stop himself from rolling his eyes. He was saved from the temptation for sarcasm by the arrival of a waitress. They all sat down and placed their orders.
“So, Ted,” said MacLeod. “What’s new?”
Ted sighed. “Nothing, really. I’ve given up my search.”
“Excuse me,” said Amanda. “I hope you don’t think I’m prying, but . . . what search?”
Ted turned his tired gaze on her. “I’ve been trying to find Cassandra. One of her other students has flipped. I’m afraid she’ll do something stupid. I wanted Cassandra to talk to her, but I can’t find Cassandra.”
Amanda shrugged. “Maybe she doesn’t want to be found.” She had never really liked Cassandra, and Amanda was rarely inclined to conceal her likes and dislikes.
MacLeod shot her a look and she responded with a look of wounded innocence.
But Ted didn’t seem to have caught the vitriol in Amanda’s voice. “No,” he said, “I thought about that, but she didn’t go anywhere that I know about. MacLeod helped me look for a couple of months last year.” The waitress arrived with their drinks. Conversation paused and the table filled with an uncomfortably pregnant silence as they waited for the waitress to finish. He picked up his beer as she left and took a sip. “I have difficulty believing that we couldn’t find her if she wasn’t actually dead.” He sighed. “So I’m giving up the quest. I think she really did finally lose a battle.”
There was a moment’s silence between all three. MacLeod picked up his beer and stared into its amber depths. Meanwhile, across the room, a vidscreen near the bar disguised as a twentieth century CRT began playing ISN news. MacLeod found his eye drawn towards it. It was too early for the blues crowd, so instead of live music the bar was running InterStellarNetwork News, broadcast in EarthGov’s official English but subtitled in the local French. News networks had for centuries inclined towards news desks with one female and one male newscaster. This was no exception. They were discussing the explosion of Earth Force One that had claimed the life of President Santiago on New Year’s Eve. The event had cast a somber mood upon MacLeod’s birthday, and at the time he’d actually found himself wondering whether turning 666 wasn’t an omen after all. But that was silly.
Ted was also watching. “Who’d you vote for in ’58?” he asked MacLeod.
“Santiago,” he replied. “It was no contest. Mars needs help, and Crane would never have given it.”
They fell silent as they watched the newscasters rehash the sorrow of the past month and a half.
“There is still no word on the cause of the accident,” said the male anchor, “although investigators say they have already ruled out sabotage.”
“Oh there’s a relief,” Amanda said sarcastically. MacLeod waved her into silence.
The female news anchor was speaking. “Sadly, the accident may not be an isolated incident. Although investigators are currently not investigating any possible link to the loss of Earth Force One, another passenger liner, this time a civilian one, has suffered an accident.” The camera cut to stock footage of a conventional space liner, with its huge round rotating section. A shuttle drifted in, matched rotation, and docked with it. “The spaceliner Korolev was traveling in hyperspace when its core inexplicably overloaded. Three shuttles were able to leave the ship with passengers aboard, and the ship is believed to have jettisoned seventy percent of its lifepods before suffering catastrophic failure.” The scene shifted to stock footage of hyperspace. “The Korolev was in hyperspace, one hour out from the Epsilon jumpgate at the time of the accident, and Babylon 5 dispatched Starfuries to assist. All three shuttles reached the station, and thirty percent of the lifepods were recovered before the debris scattered too much and was lost to hyperspace drift. Preliminary estimates indicate that as many as five hundred people may have lost their lives.”
“Can you imagine what that might be like?” whispered Amanda.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t traveled interstellar, MacLeod,” said Amanda. “It’s hyperspace! Can you imagine being lost forever in hyperspace?”
MacLeod shivered unconsciously. “I’d try not to think about that if I were you.”
“He’s right,” said Ted. “The odds against it are astronomical. Cores aren’t supposed to overload so easily. This has to be a freak accident.”
The female anchor was still speaking. “ISN has acquired exclusive footage from a traveler on board the Korolev, who was recording a message to his relatives on Earth at the time of the accident.” The scene cut to hand-held camera footage, probably from a cheap single-use camera. The camera panned unsteadily around a cafeteria, then was turned around to face the person holding it, a twenty-something man obviously thrilled to be traveling in hyperspace for the first time. “Mom, Dad, we’re almost to the Epsilon jumpgate and Babylon 5. If it sounds pretty exciting, that’s because it is. In fact . . . .” The young man had no time to say anything else. The lights suddenly started to flicker. A lightpanel behind the young man burst, sending sparks in his direction. He whipped the camera around to capture the scene. People were screaming as more lights burst and then went dark. Strange electrical discharges fitfully lit the darkened room.
“Oh no,” said Amanda. “That isn’t what I think it is, is it?”
“Can’t be,” replied MacLeod. “It can’t. Nobody would be that insane.”
The scene had switched to a wide waiting area. Frightened people, mostly Human but with a few aliens in their midst, were shuffling through. A caption identified the setting as Babylon 5. The anchorwoman spoke again. “The survivors of the accident have been taken in by Babylon 5 and are being provided full medical care. Investigators have been unable to locate the ship’s wreck, and are considering it lost in hyperspace. The spaceline does not have sufficient funds for a full-scale search, and with no likely survivors, Earth Force is not willing to commit a large search team.” The camera zoomed in on the stunned faces of those rescued from the Korolev. They filed past, one by one, barely aware of their surroundings.
Suddenly, Ted dropped his beer. The glass shattered on the floor. “Miranda,” he said. “That’s Miranda.”
“Who?” asked Amanda.
“Another of Cassandra’s students,” he replied. “Oh, Miranda, what have you done?”
The rest of the afternoon was not pleasant. Ted had immediately resolved to go to Babylon 5 to try to reason with Miranda and MacLeod had seen no alternative but to offer to accompany him. Ted had spirit, but he was young and inexperienced – so much so that unlike most Immortals, he was still able to get by on his original identification papers. They’d eventually retreated to MacLeod’s new flat in the Latin Quarter. Ted was already packed; he had only just arrived in the city and hadn’t yet had time to unpack. But MacLeod needed to pack. Amanda took it as an opportunity to harangue him for his decision, hovering within inches of his elbow as he tried to fold shirts. “Would you sit down?” he said to her. “You’re making me nervous.”
Amanda huffed indignantly, but sat anyway. “So who’s Miranda?”
“The student Cassandra had before me,” said Ted. “In the past few years, she’s been getting . . . strange. Something happened to set her off. I’m not sure what. But she’s run amok, challenging every Immortal she meets. I’ve been worried she’d do something foolish.”
Amanda sniffed. “Well, if it’s any comfort, you don’t have to worry anymore.” Both men shot icy glares at her. “What?”
MacLeod frowned. “That’s not funny.”
She glared back at him. “So, knowing that she’s a headhunter, and knowing that she doesn’t care about the consequences, you’re just going to pack up your things and go gallivanting off after her? It’s not like you can bring all those people back.”
“Someone has to,” said Ted. “You heard the news report. She’s drawing too much attention. How long before she does this again?”
“At a guess, I’d say about as long as it takes you to get to Babylon 5!” snapped Amanda. “You said she’s challenging every Immortal she meets. What makes you think she won’t challenge you? As long as there are no other Immortals there, she’s can’t challenge anybody.”
“What makes you think she’s going to stay there?” asked Ted. “She has to be stopped. With force if necessary.”
Amanda rolled her eyes. Men. You’d think just once I’d meet a guy who didn’t feel the need to play hero. MacLeod had finished folding his shirts and was now packing them into a suitcase. Amanda knew he preferred to travel light, but it would take almost a week to reach Babylon 5. At least he was planning ahead in the clothing department.
“Look, I just think you should stay here,” she said, this time directing her comment towards MacLeod. He looked up at her, but said nothing.
“She’s got a point,” said Ted. “Miranda’s my friend. I should be the one to go. You should stay here.”
Amanda didn’t have much hope that would work. As she expected, MacLeod shook his head. “No. Miranda’s older and more experienced than you. You’ll need backup.” He added a few more items to the suitcase and then closed it, snapping the latches shut with a startlingly final click. “I’m coming with you.”
Amanda sighed. “I should’ve known better than to argue with a Scot.”
MacLeod bestowed one of his sparkling grins on her. It was one of the things that had always endeared him to her. “Yes,” he said. “You should’ve.”
“I’m just going to worry, you know.”
He kissed her lightly on the cheek. “Yes, I know.”
“Well,” she said. “All right then. But make sure you call when you get there, okay?”
He nodded. “I will.”
Miranda wandered unseeing through the crowded corridors of Babylon 5, unaware of the concern three Immortals light-years away had for her. She was aware of very little, and stumbled along with her rucksack on her back. It had been over a day. The Quickening was slowly fading from her mind, but the memory of Cassandra was like a red-hot ember. She could not forget seeing her. Her fight with Simon was slowly fading from her awareness, but she remembered seeing her teacher. It was seeming more and more real even as the rest of the Quickening faded from her consciousness.
Perhaps it was real. Could Cassandra be hiding in hyperspace?
She shook her head. It was an unlikely theory. Hyperspace was a dangerous place to linger, minimally mapped. A ship that lost track of a beacon would quickly become lost and the odds were against it ever being found again.
At least, that’s what they all said. What if there was a way? What if you could hide in hyperspace? It would be the perfect place. No one would expect it. And Cassandra had reason enough to choose such a desperate hiding place.
She wondered if one of the many aliens on the station would know how a person could hide in hyperspace. She tried to remember which ones were the most advanced, but it had been so long since she had really cared about mortals, human or alien. The Minbari, perhaps? But they had tried to wipe Humanity out of existence. She had no reason to expect they’d care enough to help her. Centauri? She was unsure. Narn? She knew too little of them. She vaguely knew that they’d sold weapons to Earth to aid in the Dilgar War. There were others, but she could not remember their names. She’d have to ask around.
She stopped dead in her tracks instinctively at the faint whispering touch of another Immortal, just barely at the limit of her range. She became abruptly conscious of the world again and strained to see over the press of aliens and humans bustling about their business.
Another one? Here?
She had little hope that it was Cassandra. That meant it was probably time to play the Game again. She shivered. It was much too soon. She hadn’t even been able to sleep since the Korolev. Simon was not yet fully integrated, his Quickening still uneasy within her, and she felt a brief stab of fear of the other Immortal. But the sensation of Immortal presence rapidly faded and Miranda was left standing in a cold panic, feeling slightly absurd as the crowd flowed around her.
Maybe I can avoid him, she thought. She felt a pang of shame at that. She was an Immortal. She wasn’t supposed to run away from fights. Then she reasoned that the other Immortal had fled first, so there was no shame. She’d encounter him again when fate dictated. Until then, she had an unexpected reprieve. She could go, get something to eat, find someplace to sleep, and then maybe start roaming the corridors again in the morning. Morning. She laughed out loud, startling a reptilian creature whose race Miranda could not recall. She was in outer space. There was no such thing as morning. There would never again be a morning for her. Just as there was no such thing as morning for Cassandra, whether she was dead or whether she was lost in hyperspace.
There weren’t many credits left in her bolt-hole account and she didn’t dare access any of her other funds just yet. She’d need a job of some kind. That brought Cici to mind and she wondered whether the insufferably cheerful mortal had made it onto one of the shuttles. Miranda shivered. The Game had destroyed the Korolev. If Cici was dead, she was a civilian casualty of the Game. An innocent bystander. Quickenings weren’t supposed to be so massively destructive. On Earth, she’d seen them start electrical fires and often shatter glass, but the damage was usually limited to the immediate environs. Wasn’t the ship’s circuitry supposed to protect it from this sort of thing? Could the Quickening really be that powerful?
She knew that if she met the other Immortal, she would have to fight him. And if she fought him on Babylon 5, and that reactor core went critical, it could kill many times more people. There had to be an answer. If fate placed another Immortal on her path, she would fight him. But perhaps there was a way to limit the damage. With luck, she wouldn’t meet the other Immortal again until she had a plan for the actual fight.
In the meantime, Miranda was hungry. She pulled out the rough map handed to her on arrival and located the Zocolo. She turned to point her feet in the correct direction and began working her way towards lunch.
Three days passed. Miranda did not feel the other Immortal again.
MacLeod and Ted Carson had managed to secure passage aboard the Chelomei, a deep space liner similar to the Korolev, and were still a few days out from Babylon 5. Anxious to learn how the Korolev had succumbed so thoroughly to a Quickening, MacLeod had called in a few favors and gotten schematics of the liner. He had them spread out across a table in his first-class stateroom when Ted returned from a trip to the ship’s compact but well-equipped workout room.
“Still trying to figure it out?” asked Ted.
“I might as well,” replied MacLeod. “We’ve got a few more days before we reach Babylon 5 at this pace.”
“Suit yourself.” The young Immortal disappeared into the bathroom and came out with a glass of water. “I’m not sure what you’re expecting to find, though.”
“Quickenings behave a lot like electricity,” MacLeod said. “I’m trying to figure out how powerful one would have to be in order to defeat the failsafes on a ship like this.”
“Why?” asked Ted. “I hope you’re not planning on taking my head.” MacLeod looked up sharply at the accusation, but Ted’s eyes were twinkling. “Only joking,” he said. “So what have you found so far?”
MacLeod shook his head. What he’d found so far hadn’t made sense. “It would take an enormous amount of power,” he said. “Too much. I think there’s something else going on. I’ve never seen a Quickening cause so much damage.”
Ted shrugged. “Maybe it was somebody really old and powerful.”
That gave MacLeod a chill. But his good friend Methos was safe on Proxima 3. It couldn’t have been him.
But what about another ancient Immortal? Methos was the oldest, but what about Cassandra? MacLeod knew only a handful of Immortals who dated to the time before Christ. Cassandra was one of them, and she had a connection to Miranda. “That’s a nasty thought,” he said.
“Are you thinking it might have been Cassandra?” said Ted. MacLeod nodded and Ted sighed. “It’s possible, but I don’t think Miranda would kill her. I think she’s about the only person Miranda couldn’t bring herself to kill.”
MacLeod nodded. “I suppose that’s a relief.” He looked at the numbers again. He’d spent the previous day tracing wiring and calculating how much it would take to blow out all of the circuit breakers and other protections built into the ship. It still didn’t make sense. The Quickening would have to have been unleashed right next to the core, and it was unlikely that Miranda had broken into such a heavily restricted part of the ship. Radiation was very high and so even on a civilian liner security was taken seriously. The hold seemed like the best place for a fight, but the wiring could not have carried such a massive surge to the core. He shook his head finally. “I just can’t see how any Quickening could have done this. It’s too powerful.”
Ted frowned. “But how do you know? I mean, do you even have any idea of how big Cassandra’s Quickening could be? She’s three thousand years old!”
MacLeod did not immediately answer. “I know,” he said softly. “Believe me, I know. But it still wouldn’t be enough.” There weren’t many older than Cassandra, but in 1996, MacLeod had met one of them. Kronos. They had fought, and ultimately MacLeod had won. It had been an unusual Quickening, and an exceptionally powerful one, but even that hadn’t caused enough devastation to suggest a Quickening could possibly generate a sufficiently large electrical pulse.
But what if there was another factor involved?
The rain misted down on the Eiffel Tower, making the floor dangerously slick. But as MacLeod fought Kallas, both managed to retain their footing. Kallas had a plan; in a hidden safehouse, his computer was set to upload information on all of the Immortals at the stroke of midnight. Kallas would cancel it if MacLeod gave up his head, but if it was Kallas who died, there would not be enough time for MacLeod to find the computer and shut it down. But in the end, MacLeod had decided that it didn’t matter. They would fight as Immortals had always fought, and whatever happened would happen.
The two Immortals paused in their fighting to catch their breath. “Hear that, Kallas?” MacLeod said. “It’s the fat lady singing.” Kallas did not answer, and threw himself at MacLeod in a rage. But it was too late. MacLeod had gained the upper hand. He disarmed Kallas.
“If you kill me,” hissed Kallas, “you’re finished too.”
“Maybe it’s worth if it rids the world of you,” replied MacLeod.
Kallas glared at MacLeod, still refusing to show fear. MacLeod drew back for the final strike, his eyes wild as he contemplated what was about to happen. Kallas was right. Kill him, and it would be over for everyone. Life would never be the same.
Thunder rolled around the tower. “Of course,” said MacLeod. “The Eiffel Tower. The world’s biggest lightning rod.” With that, MacLeod swung, connected, and followed through. Kallas was no more.
The Quickening began like many MacLeod had experienced before, although strong from the centuries Kallas had spent hunting. But there was something different. It seemed to speak to the thunderhead looming over Paris, and as the Quickening sent lightning up, the storm answered with natural lightning. Gigawatts of electricity lanced into the Eiffel Tower and thence into the Paris power grid. Boosted by the Quickening, it bypassed the circuit breakers and grounding cables meant to protect Paris from such an eventuality, and the power went out into the region nearest the Champs de Mars. MacLeod did not know it until later, but one of the places it went was into Kallas’ hideout, where it saturated every circuit of his computer, melting many of them. It sparked and popped and the CRT imploded and went black.
MacLeod suddenly realized that Ted was staring at him. He shook his head to clear it. “Maybe there was something else, something that boosted the power many times.”
“But what?” asked Ted.
MacLeod shrugged. “Lightning can augment a Quickening. Real lightning, that is.”
Ted scoffed. “We’re in hyperspace. How do you get lightning in hyperspace?”
“It doesn’t have to be lightning,” said MacLeod. “Just something that could somehow boost a Quickening.”
Ted laughed out loud. “What do I look like, a physicist?”
MacLeod smiled at the young Immortal. “No. There’s something we’re overlooking. I can’t help but think there must be a simple answer to this.”
They both stared at the schematics for some time. There weren’t any answers coming.
A few days later, MacLeod was no closer to an answer. He found himself staring out the window of his stateroom, watching the impossible patterns of hyperspace. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant. It reminded him of staring at the embers of a campfire after the flames had died away, twisting and rippling like a living thing. It was disconcerting to watch, because unlike the unfathomable deepness of normal space, hyperspace often seemed close enough to touch. The speed at which it shifted made it seem very near, and yet the liner seemed motionless within it. Therefore, those patterns were far away. It confused the eye. MacLeod found himself wondering what had possessed him to request a stateroom with a good forward view.
Then circumstances reminded him.
Far away in front of the liner, a jump point formed. It expanded into a brilliant blue tunnel towards which the liner ponderously turned. It was beautiful, and refreshingly familiar, for at the end of the tunnel, MacLeod could just make out the blackness of normal space. As the Chelomei approached, MacLeod realized he could finally discern speed of travel. The Chelomei passed through the tunnel and out into normal space. The light of Epsilon Eridani abruptly flooded the cabin for a moment before the window automatically adjusted itself. Sunbeams swept across the room as the liner rotated. MacLeod could see no stars; with Epsilon Eridani shining so brightly, they were all but invisible.
Then for a moment he thought he did see a star. It moved, and it took a moment before MacLeod realized that it wasn’t a star at all, but rather the running lights of a spacecraft. Then he saw another, and another. A brilliant crescent rotated into view; Epsilon 3. The view was breathtaking. MacLeod found himself watching the little lights flitting about in the darkness, tiny against the vast bulk of the planet. With each rotation of the liner, Epsilon 3 grew.
The door chimed and MacLeod felt the presence of another Immortal. “Open,” he said.
Ted walked in, his overstuffed backpack slung over one shoulder. “Ready to go?” he asked.
MacLeod nodded. Being a seasoned traveler, he’d never really unpacked. “I was just watching our approach.”
Ted grinned. “Is this your first trip to Babylon 5?”
“Yes,” said MacLeod. “Truthfully, I don’t travel in hyperspace very often. I guess it still has some novelty value.”
“Hey, don’t feel embarrassed,” said Ted. “I bet if I were traveling on one of those tall ships you were talking about, I’d probably spend the whole trip watching the guys up in the sails.”
MacLeod smiled. “It’s fun watching all the ships moving around. It’s a busy place, isn’t it?”
Ted nodded enthusiastically. “Babylon 5 is a way-point for a lot of shipping and commerce. People stop here to refuel, resupply, and stretch their legs. That, plus it’s a major diplomatic outpost. It’s an exciting place.”
“So you’ve been there before?”
“Oh yes,” said Ted. “I spent a week here not long after it first became operational. Mind you, there was some extra excitement at the time. Somebody tried to assassinate one of the ambassadors.”
That got MacLeod’s interest. “Which one?”
Ted shrugged. “Don’t remember. They handled it well, though. I was still able to conduct my business and leave on schedule.”
They watched quietly out the window. Soon, MacLeod noticed points of light moving about against the nightside of Epsilon 3. He quickly realized that they were spacecraft which, like the Chelomei, were in sunlight. He watched them in fascination. It was the first hint in several days that the liner was actually moving.
Then he noticed a spacecraft that was not moving so quickly. It seemed curiously immobile, and as the liner approached, it did not grow as quickly as he would have expected. It remained frustratingly remote. Abruptly MacLeod became aware of the true scale of it. It wasn’t a fighter, a cargo freighter, or even another liner. It was Babylon 5 itself, five miles of solid Earth technology, spinning gently against the blackness of space. Unlike the nearer vessels, it was still in Epsilon 3’s shadow and was illuminated entirely by its running lights. It looked magnificent. Then, as the two Immortals watched, it moved into orbital sunrise. Sunlight slowly spread along the station’s length, illuminating the ponderously rotating cylinder that comprised the station’s habitable section. The last to be illuminated were the banks of long, graceful radiator panels at the aft end of the station, dissipating heat from the station’s enormous reactor.
Ted was grinning. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked.
MacLeod smiled. “Yes, it’s very beautiful.” It was almost enough to make him forget the grim purpose of their visit. It was truly amazing what had been achieved in the span of his lifetime. From dreaming of living on distant islands, to distant worlds, to living in space itself. Was there nowhere that Man could not go?
The disembodied voice of the chief steward floated through the suite. “All passengers wishing to disembark at Babylon 5, report to the shuttlebay immediately. All passengers wishing to disembark at Babylon 5, report to the shuttlebay immediately.”
“Come on,” said MacLeod. “Let’s get down to the shuttle bay. We wouldn’t want to miss our chance to get off, now would we?”
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