LAST EDITED ON Jul-18-08 AT 02:42 PM (EDT)
International Police Station Babylon 6
B'hava'el system, Centaurus sector
Wednesday, July 14, 2410
In the IPO office complex in Blue Sector, Janice Barlow and Xander Cage sat in a conference room and wondered what the hell they were doing there.
Well, Janice wondered, anyway. X didn't seem to be too concerned about it; he was sitting with his feet up on the table, his hands in the pockets of his disreputable old sherpa coat, and his shoulders slumped against the wall, his chair balanced on its back two legs. He might be asleep; it was hard to tell with his shades on.
That was all right. Janice was puzzled enough for both of them. It had been a hectic last few months; after the Klingon mess the previous November, requests for their services had come in from Tactical Division no fewer than five times, keeping the two of them, plus Janice's combat remote Mitra and X's dog Riddick, hopping all over the galaxy.
They were supposed to be on Tomodachi working support for an infiltration op for Criminal Investigations, but they kept getting pulled off for these run-and-gun Tac Div ops. This last time, they hadn't been back on Tomodachi for more than a day before the word came down - grab your gear and report to Babylon 6 for priority briefing. Twice in one week? The hell was Command thinking? Did they want that BTL ring in Beiwiru cracked or not?
The conference room door whined open. Janice glanced up, expecting to see a briefing officer from CID or Intel, and instead was startled to see a very tall, burly humanized Salusian in the dark green fatigues of a Royal Salusian Navy NCO.
She shot to her feet, almost overturning her chair. X didn't move - apparently he was asleep - so she did the only thing she could think of to rouse him.
"Attention on deck!" she barked. That woke him, all right, and nearly dumped him out of his chair before he realized what was going on and got to his feet. He didn't really come to attention, but he was definitely paying attention.
That was good enough for Master Chief Petty Officer John Spartan.
"As you were," he said with only the faintest touch of amusement in his rough voice.
"What's the deal, sir?" Janice asked. "Why'd they drag us back from Tomodachi so quick?"
"New assignment," the Master Chief replied. "By request, you two have been pulled off the BTL job, effective immediately, and placed under my command for a special mission."
Janice blinked. "Wha - ?! Who requested that?"
The Master Chief's weatherbeaten face was touched by a slight smile.
"I did," he said.
A woman who seemed be composed of purplish light and streaming numbers appeared on the conference room's display screen.
"What John means," Cortana said, "is that the pair of you handled yourselves so well on Kronos that he wants your help on another job."
The tips of the Master Chief's primary ears twitched almost imperceptibly. "That's what I said."
"So what's the job?" X asked.
"Chancellor Krojaar has asked the IPO to provide special forces support for his efforts to reclaim the Empire," the Master Chief replied. "He's amassed about 60% of the Navy, but the bulk of the Klingons' own special forces operators went to Klayvor's side. We're going to help the loyalists' remaining SF unit even the odds."
Janice arched an eyebrow. "... 'remaining SF unit'? Singular?"
The Master Chief nodded. "Cortana, I think it's time they met the General."
Cortana smiled. "I couldn't agree more."
Down in Green Sector, in the part of the diplomatic area reserved for the Babylon Foundation's executive offices, Chad Collier was doing his best not to yawn - A, because it was rude, and B, because some people tended to get the wrong idea when they saw a Kilrathi put the full set of ivory on display, as it were.
Not that that was likely to be a problem with the person he was here to see. In his centuries of life, most of them spent roaming the infinite reaches of both space and time, James Burke had seen things a lot more threatening than a Kilrathi yawn.
Not that Burke's actual job description was that adventurous-sounding; he was the Babylon Foundation's chief archivist, the person in charge of maintaining the historical record both for posterity and the Foundation's reference. He didn't look like an adventurer, either. Burke was a man just a bit on the far side of middle age, white-haired and scholarly, with a kindly face and tweedy clothes.
Chad didn't have the urge to yawn because Burke was boring. Far from it - the man was one of Chad's heroes, a historian and documentary filmmaker of the first order, and what he was discussing now was very interesting indeed. It was just that in the space of the last week or so, Collier had gone from Tomodachi to Babylon 6, then to New Avalon, then back to Babylon 6, then to Alderaan, then out to Ishiyama, then back to Tomodachi, and then back to Babylon 6. Granted, he'd made some of those trips by stargate, but even so, that was a lot of mileage for a guy to put on in a week, especially with some combat and a storyboard session with Sumire Kanzaki thrown into the mix.
He gathered his wits together and paid attention. Burke was offering him a job, and what a job - to ride along with a Klingon special forces unit expected to play a pivotal role in Chancellor Krojaar's effort to take back the half of his empire usurped by Klayvor vestai-Klavaar, chronicling their operations. The material would be classified during the war, of course, but once it was over, Burke assured Chad that he'd have full publication rights.
The Kilrathi was by nature a dramatic, not a documentary, filmmaker, but even so, this was a hell of an opportunity. Not only was an insider's look at the Klingon Civil War certain to be of great interest once it was over, there was also sure to be at least one great movie somewhere in all the experiences he was bound to have along the way...
... if he survived.
"Why pick me for this job, Professor Burke?" he asked. "There have to be a hundred real reporters who would jump at the chance to cover something like this, even for delayed publication."
Burke smiled. "That's true," he allowed in his calm, clipped English accent, "but not many of them could keep up with a Klingon special forces group led by a SPARTAN. After your performance in the Qo'noS incident last year, we think you can."
"Who's we?" Chad wondered.
"Myself, Chancellor Krojaar, and MegaZone."
Chad blinked. "... Oh."
He hadn't been aware that MegaZone, the legendary founder of the Babylon Foundation, even knew of his existence, but he supposed it shouldn't have surprised him. MegaZone seemed to know a little bit about everybody. He'd never have been able to start the Foundation otherwise.
"What can I take for equipment?" he asked.
"Anything you like, within reason," Burke said. "You'll be headquartered at an IPO safehouse in New Avalon at first. Once the time comes for you to enter the Empire, you'll be traveling aboard a Klingon B'rel-class destroyer, the type popularly known as a bird-of-prey, so space won't be abundant, but it should be adequate."
"Will I be under military orders?"
"Yes and no," Burke replied. "You'll be officially listed as a member of the IPO Signal Corps, so you'll answer to Master Chief Spartan, but he's been instructed to give you a free hand. In an emergency, you may be asked to do some soldiering, but most of the time your duties will be left to your discretion."
Chad nodded. "I've pulled emergency duty before," he said. "I can handle it."
Burke chuckled. "As you did on Qo'noS," he said.
"Which is why you tapped me in the first place," Chad added with a faint smirk. "Well, Professor, it looks like you've hired yourself a war correspondent." The Kilrathi filmmaker extended a paw, which Burke didn't hesitate to shake.
"Mission briefing starts at 1030 in the master situation room on Blue 2," the archivist said. "Good luck, Mr. Collier."
"Thanks," Chad said, gave a sketchy salute, and left the room.
In the corridor, on his way to the turbolift, he activated his wristcom. "Chad to Spark."
"Go ahead, sir," replied the voice of his master camera droid, 343 Guilty Spark.
"Prep the Train for transit, then meet me on Blue 2. We've got a new job."
"I don't think I like the sound of that," Spark observed. "I'll get right on it. 343 Guilty Spark out."
Chad grinned and thumbed the call button for the turbolift. When it arrived a moment later, it contained a young, dark-suited woman with short honey-blonde hair. She made no attempt to leave the lift when it opened; apparently she'd found what she was looking for.
"Chad Collier, right?" she asked as he boarded the lift.
"That's right," he said. "And you're Nanami Jinnai. I recognize you from the shows you do with John Trussell."
Nanami smiled. "Aren't you going to say you thought I'd be taller?"
Chad shook his head. "Nope. You're actually a little taller than you look on TV. So maybe it's Trussell I'd expect to be taller." He turned his attention to the lift computer for a moment. "Blue 2." With a beep, the lift started moving. He turned back to Nanami. "Anyway, I take it you were looking for me?"
She nodded. "You just met with James Burke. Are they going to send you in with the Klingon Special Forces?"
Chad blinked. "Uh... I wouldn't know about that," he said, but Nanami just made a dismissive noise.
"Please. It's no secret there's a Klingon SF unit here on the station getting ready to deploy into the Empire, or that it's getting backup from the IPO. You worked with the IPO contingent on the Homeworld during the Klavaar coup. You're the natural choice for a correspondent to go in with them."
"Well, I, uh... " Chad fumbled for a second, then said, "Computer, hold."
The computer beeped an acknowledgement and stopped the lift.
"Listen," Chad said, "I haven't even had my briefing or anything yet. I don't know what I can and can't talk about."
Nanami nodded. "That's fine. I'm not asking you for any information, anyway, and I'm not the kind of reporter who releases secrets during wartime. I want to see the Krojaar government win. If Klayvor vestai-Klavaar successfully defends his claim, it'll set Klingon relations with everybody back 500 years, and we're going to need them when the Earth Alliance and Zeta Cygni come to blows."
Chad scratched his chin, nodding. "So what do you want?" he asked.
"Nothing right now," Nanami said. "Computer, proceed." The lift started moving again. "I just wanted to make contact, introduce myself, and let you know that when you are allowed to share your footage, I'd be happy to carry it on Big Time News."
Chad grinned. "Just how much interest in the Klingon Civil War is there in the greater Bajor area?" he asked.
Nanami laughed. "Well, you'd be free to work out any galactic distribution deal you like, although I'd recommend Network 23. But if you make your own documentary, the big networks will be more likely to take it unedited if you run it with us first. We're small, but we've got credibility."
"Your alliance with Trussell can't hurt," Chad noted. "Everybody knows he's going to be 23's next news director."
"Probably. And working with him does help me," she acknowledged. "Professionally as well as from a business standpoint. He makes me a better reporter."
The lift stopped, doors hissing open.
"Think about it," she said as Chad disembarked.
"I will," he said, and meant it. "See you later, Miss Jinnai."
"When you get back," she said with a grin, "call me Nanami."
Then the lift shut again and he was alone in the corridor.
Chuckling, he turned and went in search of the briefing room.
The Master Chief led Janice and X through another door and into a briefing room. It looked not unlike the conference room they'd just left, but it was larger and the table was circular instead of oblong, with a tactical holotank in the center.
There was a bulky man in the metallic uniform of the Klingon Defense Forces sitting at one side of the table, his back half-turned to the door, looking something over on a datapad.
"General?" the Master Chief said as the door shut behind them.
The Klingon put down his datapad, swiveled, and rose to his feet, crossing toward them.
"Well, Master Chief," he said, his voice a raspy growl. "These are the ones you were telling me about?"
He was a wild-looking specimen, even for a Klingon, with long, slightly curly black hair worn loose and a snaggletoothed, bulldog-ugly
face that wasn't notably improved by a nasty expanse of scar tissue where his left eye belonged. Janice sized him up - the way he walked, the scars, the spark in his remaining eye, the bounce in his gravelly voice - and decided she was going to like hanging with him.
The Master Chief nodded in response to his question.
"They are," he said. "Sergeants Janice Barlow and Xander Cage: General Martok."
Janice opened her mouth to make some greeting, but Martok looked her up and down and pre-empted her, saying with a faint sneer,
"Hmph. This one doesn't look like much."
Before she could help herself, Janice replied with easy contempt, "Guess you haven't looked in a mirror lately, huh, General? You're no dabo girl yourself."
Martok stepped forward, lowering his face directly into Janice's, and growled, "Do you have something to say, human? Don't be shy; just come out and say it!"
"Okay," Janice replied, standing up slightly straighter so that her nose almost touched Martok's. "You're the ugliest son of a Klingon I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of 'em. Who did that facial reconstruction, your barber?"
Martok glowered down into her face for a couple of seconds, seeming almost ready to make his displeasure painfully known.
Then he reared back his head and laughed, deep, raucous laughter that set his wild black mane flying around his head.
"You're right, Chief," he declared, whacking her on the shoulder and almost knocking her into X. "This one's got spirit. I think she'll do all right!" He turned to X. "As for you, Mr. Cage, there'll be no subspace wake surfing behind my ship! No matter how bitchin' it would look on your website. Understood?"
X gave him a lazy grin.
"I only do that shit on vacation," he said.
Martok laughed again, not as raucously as before, but with the air of a man well satisfied.
"Has the Master Chief told you what you'll be doing?" he asked.
"Providing special forces support to the Krojaar government," Janice said.
Martok nodded. "My crew is the only unconventional unit in the Defense Forces to remain on the Chancellor's side in this miserable split," he said, "and we suffered losses in our last assignment, out at the edge of the Empire. Apart from the core of my ship's crew, the ones I have left are good soldiers, but green. They need experienced hands to guide them. Naturally, I would prefer those hands to be Klingon, but it seems the traitor Klayvor was especially persuasive in those circles." He snorted. "Still, the Master Chief's reputation precedes him even in the Empire, and if he vouches for you two... well, we'll see."
"You want us to help train your operators?" X inquired.
Martok grimaced as though he found the idea just as unsettling as Cage obviously did. "We don't have the time or the space to conduct proper training," he said. "They'll learn on the move. It'll make warriors of them, or kill them, whichever. You're here to do what you can to make the former outcome more likely."
The door opened again and Chad Collier came in, his muzzled face wearing the Kilrathi equivalent of the "is this the right room?" expression.
"And you," Martok went on, addressing him as though the Klingon had expected him to come in at that moment all along, "will try to stay out of the way, although with your furry bulk that will be a challenge."
Chad blinked. "And a cheery good morning to you too, General," he said.
"Taking the reporter along is part of the IPO's price for lending me the Master Chief," Martok said to Janice's questioning look.
"He's pretty good in a fight," Janice said. "And he doesn't eat as much as he looks like he does."
Martok chuckled. "That's fortunate," he said. "From the looks of him, he could tax a bird-of-prey's resources all by himself."
"Well, you'd better hope your ship has more than one head, that's all I'm saying," Chad observed casually.
Martok let that pass. "My crew and I will remain here for the next six to ten weeks, refitting the Rotarran for operations," he said. "In the meantime, I understand you four have business to attend to in New Avalon."
The Master Chief nodded. "We have our own preparations to make."
"Very well. Until then."
As they left the conference room, Janice asked the Master Chief, "What preparations?"
The Master Chief smiled. "Planning and rehearsing our first operation," he said. "Before the Rotarran is ready to ship out, we're going to show the skeptics in the Krojaar government - and General Martok - the way we get business done."
"Reassigned" - a Future Imperfect Mini-Story by Benjamin D. Hutchins
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