I’ve barely made it in time for Fanfic Friday, but in my defense, it’s Thanksgiving weekend here, and that means we’ve all been spending time with the relatives, getting some good quality time in. 😉 If you’re just joining the story now, I strongly recommend going back to Chapter 1 and working forward.
THE THREE-EDGED SWORD
A Babylon 5/Highlander crossover
“Understanding is a three-edged sword.”
-Kosh, Vorlon Ambassador to Babylon 5
CHAPTER FOUR: The Unforgivable Act
‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!-
Why look’st thou so?’-With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
It was a quiet morning in MedLab, affording Dr. Franklin the opportunity to search the station records for Miranda. He didn’t find much; she wasn’t renting quarters and was probably living Downbelow. And that was odd, because she didn’t need to rent quarters; in the wake of the Korolev accident, the survivors had all been offered temporary free housing until they got back on their feet. Miranda hadn’t been one of the lucky few to have come off on a shuttle, and doubtless had lost most of her belongings in the mad dash to the lifepods.
Franklin considered what Carson and MacLeod had said last night. They had been unwilling to go into detail, but it was clear the woman was in some kind of trouble. He was reluctant to pry too much; if he found out about legal difficulties, it might be something he’d be obliged to report, so it was probably best not to find out in the first place. It was entirely possible, however, and indeed likely that Miranda knew someone would be looking for her. So perhaps she had refused the offer of free housing not because it was cramped and spartan but because it was traceable. So the simple searches wouldn’t work. He didn’t need to involve security, however. He’d ask his contacts in Downbelow. He ran periodic free clinics Downbelow and had developed a good rapport with some of the people there. They wouldn’t rat somebody out to security, but if he explained that he was concerned about a patient from the Korolev, no doubt someone would be willing to help.
A bell chimed, reminding Franklin that Garibaldi would be stopping by soon to see the autopsy results on Matthew Sorenson. Franklin closed down his search on Miranda and pulled up the autopsy notes for review. It wasn’t complicated. The man had been killed in a fairly straightforward fashion — someone had made a single deep cut into his abdomen, slicing neatly through muscles and organs. It was probably a blessing that the killer had also bisected the descending aorta. The rapid blood loss had probably rendered Sorenson unconscious in seconds.
It wasn’t a knife wound, though. It was all done so cleanly that it had to have been done by a weapon that was very sharp, very long, and probably heavy. That better described a sword than a knife. Franklin shook his head as he considered the implications of that. Humans almost never used swords in this day and age, but several of the alien races aboard the station did, most notably the Centauri and the Narn. If Sorenson had been killed by an alien, it wouldn’t sit well with the Human community.
Fortunately, Franklin wouldn’t have to deal directly with any of the fallout. That would be Garibaldi’s problem.
The door to MedLab slid smoothly open. “Well, well, well,” he said as he looked up. “I was just thinking about you.”
Garibaldi stepped into MedLab and grinned broadly. “Should I be flattered or offended?”
Franklin smiled back. It did him good to see the security chief back to his old self. “I’ve finished the autopsy on Sorenson.”
Garibaldi’s demeanor immediately changed to pure business. “Yeah? What’d you find?”
“Not much, I’m afraid,” said Franklin. “Time of death was fourteen-hundred hours, plus or minus fifteen minutes. The cause of death was pretty obvious. Someone practically gutted him. There were no signs of other trauma, so I don’t think he had a chance to fight. Whoever did it took him by surprise.”
Garibaldi nodded. “Can you tell me anything about the murder weapon?”
“It had to be a sword, machete, or other long blade,” said Franklin. “And I would bet that the killer was experienced.”
Franklin turned and led Garibaldi to his workstation. A few keystrokes brought up graphical imagery from the autopsy report. He zoomed in on the diagram of the incision. “The blade entered through the left abdomen and cut a swath in towards the spine in a single stroke. This person knew how to use the weapon.”
Garibaldi nodded. “I’d figured as much. Any evidence of drugs or anything?”
Franklin shook his head. “He was clean as a whistle. There was one thing, though. You probably already noticed this, but he had a tattoo on the inside of his left wrist.”
“Yeah,” said Garibaldi. He became pensive, tapping his left index finger on his chin. “That’s another thing. I’ve found three different stories about that mark, none of them consistent.” He shot Franklin a worried look. “Somebody’s been hiding something, and for a long time. I don’t like it.”
“What do you mean?”
Garibaldi began circling restlessly around the room. It was a habit of his when he was preoccupied. Franklin wondered whether Garibaldi was even aware that he was doing it. “I’m not sure what it means, but I have a gut feeling about this. It’s got the smell of a secret society, and I hate secret societies.”
The doctor couldn’t suppress a chuckle. “I’d never have guessed.”
Garibaldi stopped circling. He shook his head ruefully. “You know me, doc.” He smiled. “Look, I need to check on some other things. Thank you for the autopsy results. And do me a favor,” he said. Franklin perked up to listen. “Keep an eye out for weird stuff. People with suspicious injuries. Whoever did this is still out there.”
Deep in Downbelow, Miranda woke oblivious to the investigation. She had her own worries, and being pursued for the death of one possible stooge was the least of her worries. She was more concerned with whoever had sent him. Samson hadn’t known anything about it. That left Psi Corps.
She stood and stretched, working the kinks out of her spine. The new spot wasn’t as comfortable as the last place she’d squatted, but it sufficed. More to the point, it was nowhere near where she’d eliminated the stalker. She had no idea how long it would take Psi Corps to pick up her trail again. She knew Downbelow wasn’t well patrolled, and furthermore, she knew Psi Corps would be reluctant to openly acknowledge that the man had been one of their agents. Of course, would they even need to? It was possible to rewrite a person’s mind. Rumors claimed they could even plant a hidden personality in a person, lurking below the surface until the appropriate information had been gathered. The stalker might not even have known who he was working for — and if he’d had partners, Miranda would have no way of knowing.
That was a chilling thought. Perhaps confronting Talia Winters would not be the wisest course of action, as it would put her directly into the path of a known Psi Corps agent. If Winters had sniffed Miranda out, she would already have reported it. Killing the teep might be satisfying, but wouldn’t really accomplish anything. It would only delay her. Perhaps the best thing to do would simply be to flee again. But they had tracked her to Babylon 5; where could she safely go from here to avoid their scrutiny? It would be insane to move outside of Earth’s sphere of influence, to an alien world. It was hard enough concealing her immortality when there were thousands of other humans to provide camouflage. But the other colonies were all infiltrated by Psi Corps. So was Babylon 5, technically, but officially their influence did not extend past the one commercial telepath on board. There was no Psi Cop stationed here. It would take time for them to come to the station. And they would come.
No, she would not visit Talia Winters today. While revenge had a certain appeal, it would be foolish to overtly threaten the telepath. It would be wiser to simply prepare to leave, even though she had no clear destination in mind.
The decision made, Miranda began packing her meager belongings back into her rucksack. It was impossible to leave anything behind, even just to visit the public restrooms; anything left unattended would most likely be stolen immediately by other Lurkers. She pulled on her coat, settled the weight of her sword in its concealed harness, slung the rucksack over one shoulder, and set out.
As she boarded a transport tube, Miranda considered her options. Part of her desperately wanted to return home to Earth. She was a child of the interplanetary age, and yet she could not shake her sentiment for the homeworld. But that was far too dangerous. There were small colonies scattered around the region, some more appealing than others. But if she first eliminated those with an open Psi Corps presence, the list became considerably shorter and considerably less appealing. Populations were small on those worlds. While that made it less practical for Psi Corps to be directly involved in the colonies, it also greatly reduced Miranda’s options for cover.
But what if there were another possibility? Something neither Miranda nor the Corps had ever considered. She abruptly remembered the strange experience during her last Quickening. Cassandra had spoken to her. At the time, she had largely dismissed it as wishful thinking, but the memory was persisting a little too well for that. The incomprehensible images and voices that came from a dead Immortal’s memory tended to fade exponentially, and within a week were all but forgotten. But she remembered seeing Cassandra as clearly as if it had really happened — which, Miranda realized, it probably had.
A sense of resolve settled over Miranda. She still didn’t know exactly where Cassandra was, but it had given her the first real hope she’d had in months. She knew where to start. As the doors of the transport tube opened, she stepped confidently out on a new mission.
First, she had to check the balance on her account. Then she had to see a man about a spaceship.
“I can’t believe you did that,” said MacLeod, fuming. He paced restlessly across his quarters while Ted sulked on the sofa. “We can’t afford too much attention from the authorities, and now you’ve got an Earth Force officer helping out.”
“Yes,” Ted said quietly. “And with his resources, we should find her in a fraction of the time.”
“And a doctor, no less!” said MacLeod, barely acknowledging Ted’s remark. “I looked up this Doctor Franklin last night. Do you know what I found out?” Ted wisely said nothing. “He’s an exobiologist. One of Earth’s biggest experts in alien biology.”
“So?” Ted said, resentment edging out over prudence.
“So!” said MacLeod, a trifle louder than he’d intended. He toned his voice down quickly. “So he’s probably the one person in the entire station most likely to take an interest in Immortal physiology.”
“He let Miranda go.”
“Yes,” said MacLeod, “because he didn’t know what she was, or what she was responsible for. The doctor obviously thinks she’s got some mental problems, which means that if he finds her, he’ll probably ask her some very probing questions. And he’ll want to examine her. We all got lucky with that cursory exam he gave her last time. What if he finds something different next time?” He stopped his pacing and towered deliberately over Ted. “We cannot afford this, Ted. Miranda could be the biggest threat this station has ever seen.”
“Only because we’re on board,” said Ted. MacLeod said nothing. “Oh don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it, MacLeod. What do we do if she challenges one of us? Pray to win, run her through, and then tie her up? What after that? Try to smuggle her off the station in our luggage? I’m sure that’ll go over really well with station security. And what if she challenges one of us and wins? What then?”
MacLeod sighed. “We can’t let that happen. It’s the Game, I know, but we have a responsibility to protect the mortals around us.”
Ted rolled his eyes. “Oh don’t give me that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ garbage. You’re starting to sound like Cassandra.”
“At least she understood responsibility!” snapped MacLeod. “You’d think her students would have at least learned that.”
Ted glared at MacLeod. When he spoke, his voice was quiet but dangerous. “I understand responsibility. You don’t need to talk to me like I’m a child, just because I’m a fraction of your age.”
MacLeod stopped his pacing, abruptly deflated. Ted was right. He was talking down to him. “I’m sorry,” he said. “That was uncalled for. But I still don’t think you understand the danger.”
“No,” said Ted. “I don’t think you understand.” The Highlander started to respond, but Ted held up a hand. “Just hear me out. We think that Quickening destroyed the Korolev. It’s not safe to challenge her here. We shouldn’t even be thinking about it. I know Miranda. I know she wouldn’t want innocent bystanders killed. I need to talk to her before she jumps ship.”
“If she’s even still on board.”
Ted acknowledged MacLeod’s pessimism with a nod. “And if she’s left, I need to know so I can follow and talk to her. She’s an old friend. She won’t kill me.”
“You’ve been saying that since Paris,” said MacLeod. “I’m still not sure.”
“That’s because you don’t know her!” said Ted, leaping out of the sofa. He shook his head in frustration. “Look, you know what a Quickening could mean for the station. That’s why you spend so much time poring over those stupid wiring diagrams every night, trying to work out if there’s a safe place for a Quickening. You’re obviously prepared to kill her. What if there isn’t a safe place? We need to talk to her as soon as we can, before she gets any more nuts. Not kill her. Talk to her. And we should be using every lead we can find.” The Highlander did not respond. MacLeod probably understood, Ted realized, but was refusing to admit it. “All right,” he said. “I’m sorry I got that doctor involved. I’ll do my best to keep this quiet. But I can’t wait around for you to do this the slow way. And I’m not waiting around for you to take my best friend’s head.”
Ted did not wait for MacLeod to answer, but turned on his heel and left.
MacLeod, seething with rage, watched him go and did not follow.
Hours later, Garibaldi was sitting in the nest of computers, terminals, and security monitors that was his little home away from home during the work day. It had taken him longer than he’d wanted to get back; Franklin may have had a quiet morning, but Garibaldi’s morning had been all work. He’d met with several of his favorite informants, but despite all the best intimidation he could throw at them, not a single one had given him a lead. Nobody knew who had killed Sorenson. Nobody would even admit to knowing him. When he’d asked about the tattoo, all he’d gotten were blank looks.
Normally, a weird tattoo wouldn’t be such a big deal. But it was an identifying mark, and Garibaldi had run it through the system as a matter of course. It was a damn good system, too. It wasn’t often that it came up blank. Even that wouldn’t be so weird, but what had caught Garibaldi’s attention was the fact that the three hits the computer did find were inconsistent in crucial details. A blank result would’ve been less suspicious. But in the past fifty years, three men had turned up with tattoos like this, all on the inside of the left wrist. On the surface, the men had no relationship to one another, and no relationship to Matthew Sorenson either. But two of them were involved with gruesome murders involving edged weapons. That was enough to make Garibaldi extremely suspicious.
The first was Mark Lorenz. He’d been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder forty years ago. A high-society heiress had turned up headless in her own vandalized home. The killer hadn’t taken anything; simply smashed out the windows and fried the electrical system. The police thought this was to keep the security system from responding, but it hadn’t been set. Maybe the killer hadn’t known that. She’d been found by firemen responding to a neighbor’s call. They’d also found Lorenz. They’d asked him about the tattoo and he’d spun them a yarn about teenaged indiscretions, claiming he’d belonged to a club that took its logo from a long-defunct automobile manufacturer. Garibaldi had to smile at that. He was fond of the internal combustion engine himself, as archaic as it was, and that meant that unlike the police officers who had booked Lorenz, he had cared enough to look it up. There was no such car logo.
The second was Per Thorsson, an elderly gentleman who had lived his entire life in Trondheim, Norway, passing away just a few years ago. The police report made it sound as if he’d led a blameless life, which made Garibaldi laugh out loud. Nobody lived a truly blameless life, and Thorsson had apparently proved that when he was caught stealing books from the city’s ancient cathedral. They weren’t just any books; they were old and extremely valuable on the black market. One of the officers who had questioned Thorsson knew him from way back and had been surprised to see the tattoo when the old man was searched. It seemed Thorsson had gone to great lengths to hide it. Thorsson’s story was that he’d gotten it in college to mark him as the member of a club for bibilophiles, claiming the symbol had originated as the maker’s mark on an early printing press. The police bought the theory because one of the books had been embossed with the same symbol. But when Garibaldi looked, the printing press seemed as fictitious as the car company.
The last and wildest story came from Francois Depassant, a very young man arrested on suspicion of murder. His story was eerily similar to Mark Lorenz, except that this headless victim was found on a desolate stretch of the shores of Normandy. Depassant had been found bloodied and incoherent and claiming to have been attacked by a sword-wielding maniac who had just beheaded another man. But the sword was quickly found, and it had Depassant’s fingerprints on the hilt. There had been some doubt as to whether he’d actually wielded the sword or merely picked it up afterwards. He’d clammed up during questioning and remained silent up to his arraignment, when he finally started talking about living corpses, swordfights, and world domination, claiming his tattoo marked him as a spy and put him and the court in terrible danger. The court found him incompetent to stand trial, and he was committed for mental treatment. But he’d somehow disappeared on the way to the hospital and was never seen again.
Two men charged with murder by swords. One disappears mysteriously. Another man charged with grand larceny. A fourth man is murdered with a sword on my station. The only thing they have in common is this tattoo. Garibaldi scowled at his computer screen, frustrated. The stories explaining the tattoo were too dissimilar; they had to be fabricated. But the swords made for an interesting connection. Perhaps that was the next place to look.
On the Zocolo, Miranda smiled tightly. She had a ship. It had cost her nearly all of her savings — everything she’d earned as a bodyguard plus the more traceable savings that she’d been avoiding using — as she’d expected it would. The Drazi who had sold it to her was gone and good riddance. This ship had already been renamed and registered under a pseudonym. She would file a fictitious flight plan, and then once through the jumpgate, she would redirect herself to a planet where she could trade the rust bucket for discreet passage elsewhere.
There were just a few last-minute things to take care of, chiefly her questions about hyperspace. She had asked a few people here and there, but none had had the background needed to answer her questions. One cocky young fighter pilot had suggested she speak to Warren Keffer, a wing commander with an apparent obsession for finding something hidden in hyperspace. The pilot obviously meant it as a joke; Keffer’s obsession was apparently not shared by his colleagues. But Keffer was on patrol and therefore unavailable.
Miranda was considering how best to get in touch with Keffer when all thoughts of hyperspace were banished from her mind by the unmistakable sensation of another Immortal. She looked around hastily. It had been two weeks since she’d last felt one of her kind. She had assumed that the other had left the station. Had he found her again?
It didn’t take long to find the other. He was standing at a food vendor’s stand, looking nervously around. She recognized him at first glance. It was Ted Carson, Cassandra’s latest student. For a moment, she felt a thrill within her at the thought that Ted had survived despite Cassandra’s disappearance. She wondered how he’d survived, as trusting and idealistic as he was. It would have been all too easy for Psi Corps to have suborned him. Her eyes narrowed at that thought.
Ted spotted Miranda and their eyes locked. His face lit up with the same endearing grin she remembered from when they’d first met. But something had changed. His grin had lost a lot of its charm. She suddenly realized that there was a strange desperation behind it and she wondered again whether Psi Corps had found him. She didn’t have long to wonder, as Ted wormed his way through the press of people to meet her.
“Miranda!” he said. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
Her eyes narrowed again. “Why?” she asked.
He seemed genuinely taken aback. “Because I was worried. And then when I heard about the Korolev….”
“You knew I was on the Korolev?” Miranda asked, shocked.
He nodded. “I saw you on ISN’s coverage of the accident. You looked pretty shell-shocked. Are you okay?”
Miranda did not allow herself to relax. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Ted shrugged. “The thought of being trapped for eternity in hyperspace, maybe?”
She shook her head. “I’m fine,” she said. “I got to a lifepod and a Starfury towed it to B5. No problem.”
Ted leaned in close. “There’s another reason I’m worried, Miranda, but we probably shouldn’t talk about it here.”
Her gut turned to ice. “No,” she replied crisply, “I think we should discuss it in public. Or holy ground, if you prefer that.”
He laughed nervously. “Where would you find holy ground where there isn’t any ground?”
“What,” she said, “don’t you think a chapel on an orbiting platform would count?”
He looked at her for some time, clearly weighing it. “All right,” he said. “Let’s talk about it here. There’s probably too much noise to be overheard anyway.” He cast about, obviously looking for a spot. “There’s a bench over by the side.”
Miranda nodded and followed him to the bench. In all honesty, she preferred public spaces to holy ground. Ted would respect holy ground, but she had no such guarantee from mortals and she didn’t know whether he’d come alone. And of course if Psi Corps had done something to him, he might not have any conscious choice in the matter. “So,” she said as she sat. “What are you worried about?”
He looked around nervously. “Well, right before I saw you on ISN, they showed an amateur video of the accident. I know I’m not the only to have put two and two together.”
She met his eye, startled. “No one saw the fight,” she said.
Ted looked away as if somewhat embarrassed, which puzzled Miranda. He couldn’t be embarrassed for her sake, could he? “It wasn’t a video of the fight. Just stuff in the cafeteria. But it’s pretty hard to mistake a Quickening.” He examined one of his hands closely, unwilling to look at Miranda again. “I’ve been trying to reach you, but you wouldn’t answer my messages. So I tried to find Cassandra.” He dropped his hands in his lap and gazed unseeingly across the Zocolo. “I looked for months. MacLeod helped.” Miranda examined his face for clues, but all she could see was agitation. “We finally came to the conclusion that she must’ve lost a fight. She’s nowhere.”
They shared a long silence together. She had been over the same ground, but she knew more than Ted. She was possibly the last Immortal to have seen Cassandra.
Miranda’s heartbeat pounded in her ears as she ran ahead of Cassandra through a cold, dark, Scottish forest. It was December, an inauspicious time of year. Her leg muscles screamed for want of oxygen. They’d been running for hours. She wanted to stop and rest, but they didn’t dare.
Her breath clung about her face and the cold air seemed to slice through her lungs with every breath, leaving them raw and unsuited to the exertion. Miranda spared a moment to glance at Cassandra. Her green dress was muddy and torn, and her face was streaked with blood. There were twigs and dry leaves in her hair. But what really bothered Miranda was the look of desperation on Cassandra’s face. Her confidence was gone.
And then it didn’t matter anymore. A mortal in dark camouflage rose up out of the thin, scraggly brush, a PPG in hand. Then more commandos rose up. They’d been driven into an ambush.
“Run, child! Run!” Cassandra screamed at Miranda, her voice ragged from exhaustion. But Miranda didn’t run. She couldn’t, transfixed by concern for her teacher. She watched in horror as the commandos raised their guns and pointed them at Cassandra. She used her Voice, but just as before, it had no effect. The mortals opened fire, gunning Cassandra down while the PPG burst fitfully illuminated the dark forest. Miranda saw her teacher fall in surreal clarity, her head, torso, and arms bouncing as her body hit the ground, lifeless. Miranda stepped back, ready to finally run, but it was too late. The mortals turned their weapons on her.
Miranda died instantly.
Later, Miranda revived to harsh morning sunlight, ineffectively filtered by the bare trees and the scattered tufts of mistletoe. To her great relief, she was alone. But when she rose, she realized just how alone. The men were gone, but so was Cassandra. She searched and found many footprints. Cassandra had taught her basic tracking skills, and the damp winter made it easy to spot prints. Many large, booted prints had tramped the area down, but a single smaller pair, clearly in the wrong sort of shoes for hiking in the wilderness, was on top of them. Cassandra had revived after the commandos had left. Miranda breathed a sigh of relief that they hadn’t taken Cassandra’s body. But it didn’t explain why Cassandra had left without her. Perhaps she was trying to draw searchers away from the spot?
Miranda hunted for hours, but found no further trace of Cassandra. The footprints had led onto stone, surely to confuse any pursuers. All she had were a few footprints and the memory of the commandos storming Cassandra’s tiny cottage, The only emblem on their uniforms had been the Greek letter psi.
She rubbed her hands together briskly, dismissing the memory. It wasn’t the first time she’d thought about that. It wouldn’t be the last. Maybe in a few decades it wouldn’t matter anymore.
She glanced at Ted out of the corner of her eye. If he had noticed her mental trip into the past, he was polite enough not to mention it. She wondered whether she could trust him. He had been a dear friend once, and they had seen some difficult times together. But he was Immortal, and he had come to Babylon 5 looking for her. She wasn’t sure whether to believe his story about seeing her face on ISN.
“So,” she asked, “how long have you been on the station?”
He shrugged. “About a week.” So he wasn’t the Immortal she had felt upon arrival. He did not notice her calculating look. “I was in Paris when I saw you on TV. I came as quickly as I could, but you know how slow interstellar travel can be.”
“And lonely,” she said.
“Oh, not at all,” said Ted. “I came here with Duncan MacLeod.”
Miranda’s eyebrows rose. Whatever company she was expecting to have followed Ted, she had not been expecting the legendary Highlander. She had never met him, but his reputation preceded him. Her best hope would be that he was just as unfamiliar with low-gee as Simon had been. She had a brief and disquieting feeling that Simon had known MacLeod, but then it passed.
She could not afford a fight. The Quickening could be devastating to the station. She would have to avoid MacLeod at all costs. But it was too late to avoid Ted. She sighed as she looked out at the tide of station residents and visitors. Ted was an old friend. But the Game was calling and there was nothing she could do about it. She knew who she was: Immortal. It didn’t matter what she wanted.
“You said you were looking for Cassandra?” she asked, by way of conversation.
Ted nodded. “Yeah. We looked everywhere, and I mean everywhere. We even went offworld, and you know how much she hated space travel.” Miranda smiled faintly. They had both laughed about how Earthbound their teacher was. That had been just two months before the Earth-Minbari War. Cassandra’s reluctance had seemed a lot wiser after that. But now Miranda thought it was just plain tragic. Earth was no place for Immortals these days.
“I looked for her too,” said Miranda. Ted looked up in wonder, hope glinting so obviously in his eyes that she hated to crush it. “And I found her. But that was a year ago.” She gazed down at the buttonholes on her coat. They were starting to look a bit frayed. It was a cheap coat and had never been meant to carry the weight of a broadsword. “I tried to find her again, but eventually I gave up looking.”
Ted nodded sadly. “I think she finally lost in the Game. Hard to believe, isn’t it?”
An impulse struck Miranda. Her esophagus knotted with tension. “I don’t think she’s dead.”
Ted blinked in surprise. “Not dead? How? What makes you think that?”
Miranda shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “I think I saw her in hyperspace.”
Despite himself, Ted burst out laughing. After a moment, he realized that Miranda was serious and sobered. “Really?” he asked.
Miranda nodded. “Yes. On the Korolev, during . . . during what happened, I had a vision. It was no hallucination,” she said, anticipating Ted’s complaint. “It’s stayed much too fresh in my mind. I think hyperspace did something to the Quickening. Made it bigger. Or maybe it was just that space is so much more compressed in hyperspace, it just seemed bigger.” She shook her head. “I don’t know. But I saw her. She spoke to me in my mind, trying to calm me. She asked why I had come, and I think it was a way of asking if I’d come to help her.”
Ted scoffed. “She’s never been able to do that.”
“Not before,” said Miranda, “but I think hyperspace may amplify her abilities too.”
“Wow,” said Ted. He was clearly overwhelmed with the revelation.
Miranda watched him closely. “There may be a way to contact her again,” she said.
“Yes?” said Ted. He leaned forward as he spoke, nervous excitement plain on his face.
“I have a ship,” she replied. “We can fly out into hyperspace whenever we want and try to contact her.” She stood and Ted stood with her. “I was planning on leaving this afternoon. Would you like to join me?”
Ted bit his lip as he considered. Miranda refused to let her hopes get up too much. It was an enormous gamble, and she hadn’t been planning on this. But they were both looking for Cassandra, weren’t they? It made perfect sense for him to help her. Finally Ted nodded. “I’ll do it,” he said.
“What about MacLeod?” asked Miranda.
Ted shook his head. “To hell with MacLeod. He just wanted . . . .” Ted bit off the words, visibly angry. Miranda knew what MacLeod must have wanted. Her head. What else should one Immortal want of another? Ted got himself under control. “Let’s just go,” he said. “MacLeod can figure out for himself that we’ve left.”
Meanwhile, MacLeod was out searching. Ted’s biting remarks about wasting time had hit too close to home. He still didn’t feel comfortable contacting the doctor, but there was nothing stopping him from prying into whatever passed for an underworld in this giant tin can. As he walked down its endless steel corridors, he found himself placing a hand on one wall, wondering how much separated him from the endless black void beyond. It took a moment of disorientation for him to realize that the wall wasn’t an exterior wall. None of the walls were. It was the floor that faced the outside.
This is no place for man or beast, he thought to himself. But men and beasts there were aplenty. After a week, he was growing accustomed to seeing the aliens, but there were always still moments of culture shock when he realized exactly where he was. It was an uncomfortable feeling, and part of him briefly wondered whether Immortals were meant to follow mortal explorers out into the cosmos. But then he dismissed that notion as absurd. It was not so different from the transatlantic voyages of his youth, when sailors braved the unforgiving sea in a speculative quest for distant and unmapped shores. In fact, it was arguably much safer and certainly much more comfortable. Maybe he was just getting old.
In many respects, he could understand why Miranda had come here. It was an exciting place, like Paris or Berlin two hundred and fifty years ago. He found himself pulling the dog-eared photo of Miranda out of his pocket. Yes, if she was as tired of killing as Ted claimed, this would be exactly the right place to come.
Then MacLeod felt a curious tickle at the edges of his consciousness. It felt very much like another Immortal just at the very limits of his range, trying to go unnoticed. It was a difficult skill to master, to follow another Immortal without being felt, and the confined space of Babylon 5’s corridors would certainly make it even harder. He concealed his interest, pretending to notice something wrong with his shoe. After a moment to readjust, he noticed that the sensation had faded, so he stood again and began moving in a slow circle to pick it up again. It didn’t take long; the other had moved only a little ways down the corridor, presumably to remain out of range. MacLeod continued in that direction and the sensation continued to move ahead of him, staying just out of his reach. He kept following, around a corner, past a junction with another corridor, down a long hallway, around another corner, and MacLeod began wondering just what was going on.
Then suddenly the sensation faded to nothing. MacLeod spun around and did another slow circle, but it was gone. The other Immortal had either tired of the game or decided he didn’t want to face MacLeod after all. Either way, it did not inspire a feeling of confidence. It could be Miranda. It could even be Ted, although MacLeod didn’t seriously think that either youngster knew the art of sneaking around just past sensing range. More likely, it was an entirely different Immortal, a wild card who could easily pose a threat to the station if he felt like challenging somebody. If that was the case, was the other Immortal trying to avoid detection, or to send MacLeod a message?
Maybe Amanda was right, he thought. Maybe I shouldn’t have come.
In his distraction, MacLeod didn’t even notice when he plowed into a Drazi. Both he and the Drazi fell down in a tumble of arms and legs and paperwork. “Watch where you’re going!” said the Drazi, the English words incongruous from his scaled lips as he bent down to try to collate his scattered papers.
“I’m very sorry,” said MacLeod. “Here, let me help you.” They worked together, the Drazi moving hastily out of irritation while MacLeod carefully stacked papers. Then the alien picked up a paper which did not belong. It was MacLeod’s photo of Miranda. MacLeod smiled. “Oh, I’m sorry, that’s mine. It must have gotten mixed up with your things.”
The Drazi straightened up, examining the photo. “I know this Human,” he said.
MacLeod came to full attention at that. “You’ve seen her?” he asked.
“Yes,” said the alien. “She bought ship from me today.”
“When?” asked MacLeod. In his excitement, he grabbed the Drazi by the shoulders. “Do you know where she’s going?”
“Why should Drazi tell Humans anything?” replied the alien, nettled. “You barge into me, you mess up documents, and now you harass.” MacLeod quickly released him. “I do not care what Humans do, except when doing business.”
He turned to leave, but MacLeod grabbed him firmly by the elbow. “You’re not going anywhere,” he said with a smile. “Let’s do business.”
“Business? What business would I have with you?”
MacLeod’s smile grew. If the Drazi had known MacLeod he would be getting worried; this was MacLeod’s dangerous smile. “You don’t care what humans do unless you’re doing business with them. So do business with me. I need to know when Miranda bought the ship, what kind of ship it was, when she’s planning on leaving, and where she’s going. Can you help me, or should I take my business elsewhere?”
The Drazi appeared to consider the offer. “Business, eh?” He gave what he probably thought was a gracious smile, but with his reptilian skin, it only made him look more like a snake. “She bought small freighter a few hours ago. It is very small freighter, meant for small cargos. Special cargos. She made generous offer. I sell it to her and keep her name off records. It is small, but has lifepod. Human was very particular about lifepod. Ship is docked in Bay 9. She did not say when she is leaving. I did not ask where she is going.”
MacLeod smiled back at him. “Thank you,” he said. He released the Drazi’s elbow. “And now we’re done doing business.”
The Drazi’s mouth dropped open. “But you will pay me?”
“I said we’d do business,” said MacLeod. “I didn’t say anything about paying for it.” He grinned smugly and turned, abandoning the furious Drazi. He had little time to waste now. Miranda might leave at any time. He left immediately for the docking bays.
But it was already too late.
A woman’s disembodied voice came over the small freighter’s comm channel. “Freighter Pandora, Babylon Control. You are cleared for departure.”
Miranda cleared her throat before replying. “Babylon Control, Pandora. Acknowledged. Thank you for an enjoyable visit.”
“Come back anytime, Pandora.” She could almost hear the smile of the C&C officer. They probably didn’t get thanked very often. “You are cleared for jump.”
In the right-hand seat, Ted shifted to get a better view out the small freighter’s window as the jump gate opened. Miranda couldn’t bring herself to do the same, and concentrated on her instruments while the mind-bending corridor into hyperspace opened up. She burned the main engine for several seconds to nudge them through the jump gate. There was a brief impression of speed as they rushed out of normal space, and then no sense of speed at all. As always, it was impossible to visually judge one’s velocity vector in hyperspace.
A friendly light blinked blue on the console to indicate that they were safely on the beacon. According to her flight plan, they were bound for the Fomalhaut system. But she had other plans.
Inexorably, her eyes drifted to Ted. He was staring out the window at hyperspace with a strange expression on his face. “What are you thinking?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Just wondering how Cassandra could be hiding out here. There’s no ‘here’ to be hiding in.”
Miranda shook her head. “Of course there’s a ‘here’,” she said. “It just doesn’t map directly onto normal space.” She turned back to her controls. When she judged they had gone far enough but not too far, she fired attitude control thrusters to pivot the ship ninety degrees to the beacon. Then she fired the main engine. After a short while, she reoriented the ship again and fired the thruster one last time, theoretically to cancel their motion, although she’d trained in normal space and wasn’t sure what hyperspace drift would do to that. She then set the autopilot to stationkeep. She wasn’t sure how well that would work either in the circumstances, but hoped it wouldn’t put them immediately back on the beacon. They needed a little time being lost first.
Ted was staring in fascination at his floating hands. Had he never experienced true weightlessness for any period of time? It was oddly shocking to realize that he was too young to have travelled long distances in zero gee. He turned in his seat to look at Miranda, his eyes wide in amazement. “We’ve stopped. Why?”
Miranda looked away, then undid her straps. She gave a gentle push and drifted up out of her seat. Ted’s gaze followed her unerringly. “This is where I last saw Cassandra,” she said. She reached the aft wall of the cockpit where her rucksack was strapped to the wall. She imagined she could feel Ted’s eyes burning into her back, but she forced herself to ignore the feeling. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know it would be you,” she said.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I need to make contact with her again,” she replied. “I’m just sorry it had to be you.” She drew her sword out of her rucksack and pivoted back to face Ted. She couldn’t avoid seeing the sudden look of horrified understanding in his eyes. He started to speak, but then Miranda swung her sword and silenced him forever.