Fandoms: Battlestar Galactica/ Babylon 5.
Disclaimer: characters and situations owned by J.M. Straczynski, Ron Moore, David Eick and various production companies. Title stolen from Raymond Chandler.
Timeline: A few weeks after In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum, season 2, for Babylon 5; during and after s4 for Battlestar Galactica.
Spoiler Warning: See above. If you haven’t watched BSG in its entirety, you will be spoiled. There is some foreshadowing for later B5, but no more explicit than the show itself does it, so really, you only get spoiled until mid-s2.
Characters: Michael Garibaldi, Ellen Tigh, Morden, various Cylons, Shadows and Vorlons.
Original Prompt: BSG/B5: “Ellen Tigh, what do you want?”
Summary: Michael Garibaldi meets a woman with a past. And what a past.
Rating: PG 13.
Thanks to: resolute, for the beta.
The Big Sleep
The Third Age of Mankind
Garibaldi knew she was trouble from the moment he first saw her. Blondes who walked on stiletto heels through a space station, had a throaty laugh and managed to hold on to their glass of martini in the middle of a bar fight invariably tended to be. Ordinarily, that would have just meant he’d take care to stay the hell away from her, or, depending on the trouble she was causing, took steps to make sure she’d leave the station as soon as possible, under arrest or not. He had some rules to avoid falling of the wagon again. Staying away from her type was one of them. So when station security was called to the Dark Star and he spotted her calmly sipping her cocktail while humans and aliens were going at it left, right and center, Garibaldi’s first instinct was to tell Zach to handle it, so he could get the hell out of here. There was, however, one factor that made all the difference. One of the human men involved in the bar fight was someone Garibaldi had had in his custody not too long ago. It was also positively the last person Garibaldi had ever expected to end up in a pub brawl. Not him, thought Garibaldi, and resisted the temptation to wipe his eyes. No way. Never.
But there he was, throwing punches with the best of them, and obviously trying to get to the blonde who sat on a bar chair, drinking and watching: Mr. Calm, Smooth and Oily Himself, only not so calm right now . “Zach,” Garibaldi said to his second-in-command, “tell me he’s really there.”
“Chief, I don’t know who – oh,” Zach faltered. “Wow. Isn’t that the guy the Captain had it in for last month? The one all the ambassadors raised such a fuss about and wanted freed? The one you, err, took a leave of absence about?”
“Sure is,” Garibaldi returned, still staring at the unbelievable sight but glad to have proof that he hadn’t started seeing things when sober now. “Mr. Morden.” He shook his head, then snapped into action, ordering his men to stop the fight and get statements. For a second, he considered ordering them to arrest Morden immediately. He hadn’t threatened Sheridan with his resignation last month because he believed Morden was such a nice, deeply misunderstood guy. That man was scum, no question about it. But the way the Captain had gone about things had been wrong, and in the end, he had admitted it. Garibaldi for his part had decided to keep an eye on Morden and hope the guy would do something, anything, that would provide a legitimate reason to get him back into a cell. Sadly, getting into a barfight didn’t qualify as one, unless people would testify Morden had started the whole thing, which Garibaldi severely doubted. But there was a mystery here, and it had to involve the blonde Morden was trying to reach. Maybe, just maybe, they had finally come across someone who’d be willing to give them the low-down on Morden, someone willing to dish the dirt instead of handing out cryptic hints, secret conversations with the Captain or diplomatic threats.
We’ll see, Garibaldi thought, and while his people jumped into the thick of things, he went for the blonde at the bar. Up close, he could see she wasn’t as young as her party dress had suggested. Some undefined point between 40 and 50, was his guess, which meant the hair was probably dyed, though she was smart enough to allow some grey between the blond curls instead of making it all uniform. Whatever age she was, though, it suited her. Her figure was still in nice shape. Was it ever.
“If you’ll follow me, Ma’m,” he said, deliberately not addressing her with “Miss”. She looked him up and down, and her mouth curved in the type of smile Garibaldi knew from loan sharks, cheating gamblers and the occasional Psi Cop.
“That depends,” she replied. She put her glass of martini aside. He hated his ability to imagine the taste of it. Not that he’d have gone for martini back in the day. Garibaldi had been a whiskey kind of man, all the way down to the floor and vomit on it.
“No, it doesn’t,” he said shortly. “Station security, if you haven’t noticed. I’ve got a few questions.”
She gave him a look. “Sure you do,” she said. “But believe me, dear, you don’t want the answers.”
Not you, too, Garibaldi thought. No more cryptic talk. Not this time.
“Listen, sister, you can either come with me on your own, or I’ll carry you,” he said. “Think you can run in those heels?”
“You’d be surprised at the things I can do in these heels,” she purred. By now, his men had largely succeeded in calming things down, which meant that they could both hear Morden’s voice calm and confidently declaring this was all a misunderstanding and that he was on his way to see the Centauri Ambassador, who still had extended diplomatic immunity to him. The expression in the blonde’s face altered. It just lasted the fraction of a second before she was back to her teasing, flirtatious look, but Garibaldi was a good observer; he caught it anyway. Just for that brief moment, she had looked deeply sad and weary, the type of bone-deep depression no good time girl would ever let you see. On an impulse, he decided to switch tactics. If it didn’t work, he could go back to strongarming her anyway.
“Look,” he said. “Maybe we can help each other. Call me crazy, but I think you need help.”
She tilted her head and got up from her bar chair.
“Now who am I to say no to a man in a uniform?” she replied lightly. “Just promise me you’ll provide the booze.”
Trouble with a capital Troub, no kidding about it. He was tempted to hand her over to Zach after all, but then he saw that Morden was looking at them both. Not smugly, not smirking, no; the man had pure frustration written all over him. No, Garibaldi decided, he needed to keep an eye on the mystery woman himself.
“No promises before you tell me your name,” he said to her.
“Oh, we’re already at the name-calling stage?” she asked back and lifted an eyebrow. “And we haven’t even frakked yet.” He gave her an exasperated look, and surprisingly, she relented and stopped her act for a while. “It’s Ellen,” she said, suddenly sounding serious. “Ellen Tigh.”
The Second Age Of Mankind
“Is that what you want, Ellen?” Cavil asked her. He didn’t have Boomer with him, which indicated that he actually wanted a conversation instead of an opportunity to display his avenging act in front of his acolyte. “For all your flawed creations to die because you don’t want ever to admit what you did to us?”
Her oldest son, wearing the face of her father. Maybe that had been a mistake, giving him this particular countenance, but she had thought the body of an older man would get him started with a natural restraint and caution. He was the first, after all. If you create a new artificial life form, you don’t start out with someone who can whip the floor with you in a single fit of temper; she had wanted as much a physical contrast to the centurions as possible, and the others had agreed.
She had also missed her father, dust now on Earth along with the rest of the Thirteenth Tribe.
“You don’t have the slightest idea what I want, John,” Ellen said in a mixture of grief and exasperation. All those years, and still the same conversation with him, over and over again. “That’s not what you said on New Caprica,” he said, voice pure poison.
The destruction of the Resurrection Hub must have made him truly desperate, Ellen decided. He usually avoided talking about what had happened between them on New Caprica. It wasn’t something he could make himself feel superior about, like blinding Saul, or duping Sam, or making Boomer into his personal toy. That he brought it up now told her a lot. “John,” she said, giving him her most charming smile, “blame me for what you want, but the fact you were still a virgin after decades of existence and had to take prisoners in order to get laid is really your own fault. We did give you the right equipment to figure it out on your own.” She let her smile deepen and added pity for pure acid when she ended: “Considering that you didn’t even know how to use it properly after instructions, though, I shouldn’t be surprised.”
When Cavil slapped her, she projected Saul, just to make his humiliation complete. She did owe him some payback for New Caprica, after all. It wasn’t the sex as such. Back then, without her memories, Ellen had hated it, but she had meant what she had told Saul later; she’d have frakked anybody, done anything to get him back. She’d had sex for worse reasons. With her memories, though, things were different. Because the eight models they had created were their children. Even more her children as Ellen had never procreated otherwise, not on Earth, not on Caprica, not during that long time in space when a millennium had passed as months. There weren’t many things Ellen held sacred, but that was one of them, and the first of her children had known that.
“I do love you, John, you know” she said now, and wasn’t lying, even though she said it to hurt him, as he had hurt her and hers. “With all your failings.”
He was absolutely livid, but after the slap he had regained enough restraint to step back and put some distance between them as he leaned against the railings.
“I wonder how that will look like when Simon opens your skull,” he said. “Your love. Does it have different colours for each of us, Ellen? One for each seven models who survive, and one for the Mister?”
“You forget Sam, Tory and Galen,” she said mildly, refusing to be intimidated by the threat she knew quite well he was capable of carrying out. He’d go to some lengths to keep her alive because he had never given up hope that he could make her admit she was wrong, and beg for his forgiveness, but he wouldn’t sacrifice his own existence for it. If he thought he could only survive by forcing her to reveal the knowledge of resurrection technology, he’d have her vivisected, no question about it.
Cavil threw up his hands in frustration. “This is pointless,” he said. “You are insane. That’s it, really. Something must have happened during the download.”
“And in such a nice new body, too,” she said, letting the fingers of her left hand run over her right arm. “A perfect copy. I know I didn’t make it before you staged your little coup, John, which means you must have. Congratulations, dear. That at least is a technique you mastered perfectly.”
This time, he refused to let her provoke him. “Ellen,” he said, “Ellen, you have to admit there is no logic in this, even based on your own pathetic self delusions. If you love us, as you say, you must want us to live. We will not live without resurrection. We will die, each and every model, sooner or later. You will die, in this body. He will die, that one eyed drunk you claim to love so much. He’ll die for good, and you won’t ever see him again, because you can bet there are no spare bodies for him around. But if you give us resurrection back, then I promise you we’ll make a copy of him before anyone else’s model. Think about it. You got your memories back when you downloaded. Right now, he still doesn’t remember anything but what I let him remember. But if he dies and downloads, he’ll remember everything. Don’t you want that?”
In a way, she did. If only because it might drastically reduce Bill Adama’s importance to Saul. Put it in perspective. Tempting. It was more tempting than Cavil could know, or perhaps he had gained that much understanding of her. Still, there was something that eluded him.
“For Saul to download, even if all the resurrection technology was in place again, Saul would have to die,” Ellen said. “I’ve died recently, John. So have you. It doesn’t matter if we come back. It is still death, every time. I don’t want to put Saul through this just to make things easier for myself.”
Her father’s face with the eyes that were never her fathers but always and forever her sons looked at her intently.
“You’re lying,” he said finally.
“I’m not telling you the complete truth,” she said with a serenity she did not feel. “Would it make you feel better if I tell you that I don’t want any of you to die forever? That I really can’t give you resurrection technology right now, on my own? Both things are true.”
“I’ll tell Simon to get ready,” he said disgustedly, and left her.
She wondered if they were watching, and if so, if they would intervene at the last moment. She had made a deal once, after all, and running away for more than a millennium to get out of it might not have been enough. That was her last secret, the one no one had ever known about, not Saul, not Galen, not Tory, not Sam. And she most certainly could not tell John, or any of the children. It was an unsolvable dilemma, though; deciding what would be worse, revealing the full truth, with all the consequences this would bring not just for her but everyone else, or to die forever.
She remembered the taste of death the last time Saul’s arms had been around her, and made her decision.
The Third Age of Mankind
“So, what’s the story with you and Morden?” Garibaldi asked. By now, they were in his quarters. A holding cell would have been more intimidating, but putting her in one without having a genuine reason would have put him in the same boat the Captain had been in with Morden last month. Besides, she appeared to be cooperating, in a fashion, and he didn’t want anyone to walk in on them.
Considering that she made herself at home on his sofa, kicked her shoes off and curled her long, shapely legs up, it was possible that he needed to rethink his approach.
“Morden?” Ellen asked. “Is that what he’s calling himself these days?”
Garibaldi was all ears. He had checked Morden’s ID himself; citizen of the Earth Alliance, xeno-archaeologist working for IPX, shipped out on the Icarus, it was all there, and because of the Captain’s reaction, he had checked and rechecked it a dozen times. Still, it was possible, unlikely, but possible, that a masterful forgery had fooled him. “What’s the name you know him under?” he asked.
“Morden,” she repeated, not in reply to his question, smiled, and shook her head. “Well, boys will be boys, I suppose. Next time he’ll probably go for something like Redrum. Or Samael.”
“And his real name is…?”
“What he wants it to be,” she said with a shrug. “I’m the last person to stand in the way of anyone’s fresh start.”
With a supreme effort at patience, Garibaldi returned: “What about your own? He seemed kind of interested in getting his hands on you to down there.”
She smiled coyly. “Well, you know what men are like.”
“You bet. Which is why I know that whatever he wanted from you, it wasn’t sex. So why don’t we cut down the banter and move forward with the fact sharing?”
“And here I thought we’d share some… alcohol. Have you ever heard of ambrosia, Mr. Garibaldi?”
“Have you ever heard of the rule not to piss off the local lawman who is trying to help you for some god forsaken reason?”
Her eyes widened. With another of her mercurial mood shifts, she grew serious again. “I didn’t realize,” she said, and he suspected she didn’t mean the rule about not pissing off the local lawman. “Look,” she continued, “I wasn’t kidding when I said you don’t want to know. My type of answers aren’t going to help you in any way.”
“Let me decide that,” he said, and sat down next to her. “So. Morden.”
She closed her eyes. It was only then that he realized that she had to be a genuine blonde, given the lashes. “I met his associates,” she said, “a long time ago. A really long time ago. Have you ever wanted something so badly that you were prepared to do anything, Mr. Garibaldi? Anything at all?”
He thought about Frank’s death, and the need to escape that guilt. He thought about Lise. He thought about Jeff, and second chances, about Jeff on Minbar and the sweet promise of oblivion lurking in every goddam bottle on the station.
“Sometimes,” he replied.
“Well,” Ellen said, “so did I. And so did they. So we made a deal. But then something happened they really hadn’t counted on.”
The First Age of Mankind
They would die. All of them would die. This would be the end of the Thirteenth Tribe; a bloody, pointless war, which no one would win. Not the lifeforms who had once been artificially created but had long stopped to download, having reached organic reproduction; not their own creations, the artificial intelligence made of metal. There would be nothing left of them but their bones and a poisoned planet.
Saul would die.
She wasn’t willing to accept it.
Trying to recreate resurrection technology lost ages ago, so far back that there wasn’t any documentation in the books brought from Kobol, had been a wild shot. Nobody had been willing to fund the project, let alone provide a ship or cloning technology for whole cities, which had been their original suggestion. A large-scale evacuation plan which had dwindled down from attempt to attempt, until they had to face the facts: they could, at best, clone themselves, which left them with inanimate copies. Sam was their sponsor, his music so popular that hit had made him a billionaire before the war had gone in its final phase, so they could even manage a small, very small space ship of their own. But the central mystery, the transfer from body to body, transfer not just of memories but a full consciousness; this proved elusive, and not even Galen, who was the most gifted engineer any of them knew, could solve it.
When she told them she had finally found the solution, they didn’t believe her. “But how?” Tory asked, sounding both incredulous and somewhat jealous. She was the methodical thinker, the one able to organize and put together all the fragments about their artificial origins they had manage to decipher out of the old writings; Tory knew the book of Pythia by heart.
“I have my ways,” Ellen replied and smiled.
“That you do,” Saul said, and by the way he kissed her breathless she could tell that he had started to believe her.
If he ever found out what she had done, he would never forgive her.
“What do you want?” they had asked, lifeforms unlike any she had ever seen before. They had ships; ships that were able to cloak and disguise themselves from all technology available on Earth. First she had asked them to help with the evacuation plan, which they had declined. “All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again,” they had told her. “This is evolution. Progress.”
Frak you, she wanted to reply, but couldn’t. Ellen was an expert in getting under people’s skins, but these creatures didn’t have any skin she could touch, and they were her only hope. They did want something, too. They were familiar with one form of organic technology that allowed containment of consciousness, but what they were woefully lacking in were servants that could interface with it. They had experimented, but all life forms they had plunged into their ships had proved to be incompatible with it, and had died after some sort of overload. The Thirteenth Tribe, though, was different. It was artificial in origin and yet by now organic in nature. It also was busy wiping itself out, which meant the evolution these creatures to devotedly believed in meant for it to fall at the wayside. It was proving to be unsuitable, except for the ones who were trying to escape from their doomed planet. The ones trying to rediscover organic download technology. The ones planning to flee to the other colonies.
“They, too, will develop artificial life,” the creatures said, and at first Ellen started to reply that this was by no means certain, but then she understood it hadn’t been a question. It had been a commandment.
“When you arrive there,” the aliens said, “you will teach them how. You will create hybrids, a race of hybrids suitable to our purposes. Worthy. Not like this one.”
What do you want, Ellen? they had asked her when they made contact, and though she later told herself that she had asked for complete evacuation first, this was not what she had said. What she had said, out of the truth of her heart, was: “I want Saul to survive. I want us to live. I want my people to live.”
But she had named Saul first, and then herself, and they had seen in her heart.
This was the deal, then. They gave her the secret of organic download technology, that key to near immortality which they and their enemies otherwise guarded jealously from what they termed “the younger races”. She would save Saul, and her friends, and herself, and go to the other colonies, ostensibly to warn them about the dangers of civil war should they, too, develop artificial life. And then she would make sure that of humanity and artificial intelligence, an entire race of servants for the aliens would come into being.
The Third Age of Mankind
“Don’t tell me,” Garibaldi said after Ellen’s pronouncements of having made a deal with Morden’s associates, whoever they were. “You tried to weasel out of it and cheated.”
Ellen opened her eyes, sat up, and the aura of gloom that had settled around her lifted. “Why, Mr. Garibaldi,” she said. “Do I look like a cheater to you?”
“Yes,” he replied honestly.
“You are good at your job,” she declared, eyes sparkling, and relaxed back into his sofa.
“So let me get this straight. Given the ruckus all ambassadors here raised the last time we had Morden arrested, his backers must be powerful. Really powerful. We’re talking not just about power in one system or one empire, but some galaxy-wide network, right? The crime syndicate to end all crime syndicates. So if you made a deal with them, then cheated and are on the run, why the hell are you still alive?”
Her gaze wandered from his face to the Daffy Duck poster on his wall, but she didn’t comment. “I told you there was a lot I can do in high heels,” she said.
“And I’m unbelievably sexy on an Earth antique motor cycle. Details, please.”
“Are you?” she said, sounding genuinenly interested, God help him. Maybe sitting down on the sofa next to her hadn’t been that good an idea. He could smell her; some perfume, sure, but also traces of martini on her breath, and above all the scent of a woman.
“Not while I’m working,” Garibaldi said, and she shifted slightly. He noticed that the bra she wore wasn’t of the artificially enhancing type; she didn’t need that kind.
“Seems to me we’re both experts in running away,” Ellen returned. “Though I usually don’t use work as a method. Anyway, let’s just say Morden’s associates aren’t the only galaxy-wide network around.”
Just what I need, Garibaldi thought. Conspiracies on Earth that get me shot in the back and I’m sure as hell the freaking Psi Corps is involved, a slimy bastard who gets the Captain to behave like Attila the Hun and represents some kind of überpowerful scum, and now there are yet more sinister supermen around? Whatever happened to every day thugs trying extortion from the poor bastards in down below?
“Talk is cheap,” he said and decided that in the interest of proper interrogation, he probably should get up again. Somehow, his legs did not obey. “If you just cough up some names already, we don’t have to stay here all night.”
“Well, you must know all about your stamina,” Ellen said demurely.
He wondered what would have happened if he had met her a few years back. They probably would have gotten drunk together already. He’d have taken her up on her invitation. And would wake up feeling like hell the next morning, because Ellen was just the type to first screw you and then screw you over.
But the hours before that would be fun.
“You know what I know about?” he asked. “The working schedule of our local telepath. The way I remember it, she has some spare time right now.”
He waited for the usual protest about civil rights, or her telling him, correctly, that he was bluffing. Talia Winters was a commercial telepath; she wasn’t allowed to use her powers on someone who wasn’t even an official suspect of anything, which was a fact everyone knew, especially shady characters with great legs. You had to be deaf, dumb and blind, or from another world, place and time altogether not to know the human rules for telepaths.
“You’ve met them already,” Ellen said instead, without further hesitation or another attempt at distracting banter.
“Met who?” Garibaldi asked, more than surprised.
“The other guys I also made a deal with. The competition for Mr. Morden’s associates. The ones who kept me alive.”
“Lady, I’m starting to believe the jokes about blondes, because if you haven’t understood yet that I want names…”
“In this day and age, you call them Vorlons,” said Ellen.
The Second Age of Mankind
“Who are you?” the creature had demanded, so blindingly bright in nature that Ellen was grateful the baseship’s communication system provided automatic shielding for such things. Cavil really should have remembered there was no design here that was unfamiliar to her, and none she could not interface with.
“The one,” she replied. “The one who’ll help you bring the age to come.”
That got their attention, alright.
Ellen was many things, and a great deal of them not admirable, but she had no intention of handing her children over as better steering systems and servants to a race of aliens. Though she had put the spidery design of the aliens’ ships to good use already. Ideally, her children would have reconciled with the humans, now that they had human shape, they’d have become one people, and able to fight the aliens off if they came to collect. When Cavil killed her, Saul, Galen, Tory and Sam, boxed them, and altered their memories before releasing their new bodies, and then enthusiastically started a new war, he changed everything, of course. Once she regained her memories, she could only assume the evolution-worshipping aliens had decided to sit the second Cylon war out and collect the survivors. There was no way either the fleet or the colony would be able to fight them off, not in the shape they were in now. And she couldn’t even warn them, because if she told either party the truth, they’d kill her.
But she did have her ways. And a good memory, if it wasn’t falsified by her first born. The aliens had mentioned others, another race, their competition, who insisted on order and law, not evolution, as the guiding principle of life, and was very invested in getting younger races at their side as well. If you were backed into a corner, fighting fire with fire sounded like a good idea. Besides, Ellen had ample spare time at her hand from the moment Cavil resurrected her after New Caprica and let her life in a luxurious imprisonment. She used most of it trying to find that other group of organic-technology using aliens, and finally, not a moment too soon, she succeeded.
As it turned out, they wanted something, too. They had been observing Cylons and humans, and the religion of the one true god fascinated them. Religion in general did, and the system of order and law it imposed. If every race had a firm belief system, communication of the hierarchical type they were fond of would be easier. They simply needed to make sure someone tampered with humanity’s genetic code in a way that would make every human recognize them as a divine being, should they choose to reveal themselves.
This did not sound much freer than the servants and steering system type of existence their enemies had envisioned. But for one thing, it sounded like something far less urgent and more long term, and for another, Ellen remembered the myths from Kobol. These had definitely involved the gods fighting with each other, and at least one of them getting killed by a human. People could turn recognize the divine and still turn against it, that was the loophole her new allies didn’t consider. But then, they didn’t have first hand experience of their own creation killing them, frakking them and locking them up, in that order.
That was the new deal, then. The second alien race would make sure the first one would leave them alone. They, too, would stay away from humans and Cylons… for the time being. In return, Ellen, provided she made it back to the fleet, would make sure that children born from this point on would have the genetic code responding to the aliens as divine.
“Absolutely,” Ellen promised with all the conviction she was capable of.
“You will see your promise fulfilled,” the aliens replied, which in retrospect should have sounded more ominous than it did at the time.
She made it back to the fleet. Where there was enough turnmoil already; nobody needed to know about deals and doublecrosses with aliens. The last thing humans and Cylons needed was to have both mighty alien races pissed off at them, though, so she made sure to keep her word and put something in the water supply. Then it looked like Cavil and his kidnapping scheme in conjunction with Adam and his suicidalness would get everyone killed anyway, which wasn’t nearly as surprising as Saul being willing to hand over resurrection technology to their patricidal firstborn.
“We could have avoided all this if you had just given me what I wanted when I first asked,” Cavil murmured to her when they started to set up the transfer. “But don’t worry. There will be resurrection for you, too. Though not for him.” He looked at Saul. “I hope the thought that ‘God’” - he held his fingers up in quotation marks – “has a plan will comfort you when you watch him die forever and know that you never will, Ellen.”
Ellen looked at him and made another decision. She had never been good in sticking with the plan. But she was really, really good at improvisation.
The Third Age of Mankind
“No way,” Garibaldi said. “No way you’re working for the Vorlons.”
She had finally overdone it. He’d been willing to put up with a certain amount of obfuscation and lies if she delivered truths as well, but this particular lie was so unbelievably bad that he concluded she didn’t know anything worth knowing at all. Thinking back, he realized she hadn’t even known Morden’s name before he, Garibaldi, had brought it up. Her presence at the bar had probably been just a stupid coincidence. He’d been played for a sucker by a scam artist.
“If you think the Vorlons have such high hiring standards, you’re in for a big surprise, honey,” she said. “Sooner or later. Though I really hope they won’t send that prick Sebastian here. He still yells ‘American whore’ at me each time we meet. Trust me, Mr. Garibaldi, I’m not American.”
“This stopped being cute an hour ago,” Garibaldi said, feeling tired and vaguely disappointed, though he should have known better. After all, he’d pinged her as a fraud from the moment he met her. “Look, why don’t you…”
“How old do you think I am?” she asked him.
“Sixty,” he lied, in his rudest tone.
“You know how to flatter a girl,” she said. “Look, infant, with the exception of the Vorlon Ambassador, I’m the oldest person currently on this station, and the oldest one you’re ever likely to meet. Which you don’t believe, of course, and that’s why I’m telling you.”
She put her left hand under his chin. Her fingers were unexpectedly strong, and not soft, as he had expected; he could feel the calluses of someone who had actually worked.
“Sometimes I do nice work,” she whispered. “Child of Hera. I wonder whether you have Galen in your ancestry as well. Sometimes, they keep me frozen through centuries before they let me out again, so I really couldn’t keep track.”
He still thought she was scamming him. But he also remembered what had happened last year, when a woman claiming to have found the key to immortality had arrived at the station. And there was something that raised the hair at the back of his neck in the way her gaze explored his face right now, probably because there was nothing flirtatious in it anymore. “So if you and I went to Ambassador Kosh right now,” he said slowly, “would he admit to knowing you?”
“Have you ever known a Vorlon to admit anything?” she returned. “He won’t deny knowing me, either. He’ll tell you something enigmatic and ultimately useless.”
“Utterly unlike you, huh,” Garibaldi said wryly.
“Ah, but you’ll sleep better that way,” Ellen replied, and let go of his chin. “If you want to tell yourself a bed time story, though, just imagine this: there is a war, a terrible war, and there is a woman who makes deals that keep catching up with her, sooner or later. Once it ended with her dying. Usually someone else does, though. Once it’s her son, who kills himself in front of her, but she knows him, she knows he wouldn’t do that if it meant permanent death, because that is what he is most afraid of. But there is technology around, active at that very moment, something where he could have stored the essence of his being, in the hope someone would retrieve it later. He gambled on the fact she would, that she’d figure it out and that even though he was her enemy, she wouldn’t want him to die. Except that he threatened his father once too often in her presence. Still, he was her son, and he had always complained about the existence she had shaped for him. And that technology he had stored himself in was about to end up destroyed in the most final way possible. And the woman’s two deals were about to catch up with her again.”
A part of him still thought she was trying to pull a fast one. Another part wondered whether she was simply crazy. Yet every con had a reason, and he hadn’t figured out yet what exactly she wanted from him; why she was going to the trouble of telling him all of this.
“So what did she do?” Garibaldi prompted.
“She kept that bit of technology which stored her son and didn’t tell anyone about it,” Ellen replied. “Made into an amulet and hung it around her neck for a while. But you see, she hadn’t read the fine print of her second deal. She thought after she, her husband and the rest of her people had ended up on a new planet, it was over and done with. She’d live out the rest of her life there. The Vorlons had other ideas. They let everyone else settle down, but they took her and froze her and didn’t revive her again until much, much later, when her husband and everyone she had ever known was dead. And then they expected her to continue to fulfil their bargain and do her work, every dozen generations or so.”
If it was a fantasy, it wasn’t a pretty one. In fact, it was damm close to Garibaldi’s own personal nightmare scenario, except his involved surviving after getting everyone he cared about personally killed. He didn’t want to dwell on it, so he asked: “What about that amulet with her son in it?”
“Oh, she still had that,” Ellen said. “And she was pissed off at the Vorlons. Also, her son had always complained about whom she didn’t let him be, you know? Plus he couldn’t hurt her husband any longer. So all in all, she thought someone deserved each other. She waited, and when she finally met the people she had made her first deal with again, she handed over that amulet and told them they should download what was in that amulet into the most spectacular shape they had available. She thought it would be a spaceship so he’d finally shut up about limited perception, but no, we’re talking man-shaped body again. In any case, the Vorlons didn’t take too kindly to that type of dealing with the opposition, for some reason. So our heroine instead of going back to her cyrosleep started to go on the run, and wouldn’t you know it, ended up on Babylon 5. In a bar. Where a nice lawman arrives just in time to stop a really awkward family reunion.”
“So you’re telling me Morden is your son. And also somehow able to download into storage devices. And that amulet around his neck is where he used to be in. While you’ve been playing Snowhite and the seven Vorlons, and get taken out of your glass coffin every once in a while. Look, I’ve seen things on this station that really defy belief, and I’m an open-minded kind of guy, but you do see why I have trouble believing a single word of this?”
Garibaldi had started out in a low, controlled voice, but by the time he had come to an end, he found himself nearly shouting.
“Told you you didn’t want my answers,” she said, and had the audacity to pout a little.
“Ellen,” Garibaldi said tiredly, “why don’t you just tell me what you really want, and we’ll call it a night?”
“A foot massage would be nice,” she said wistfully. “My feet have been killing me all day. Other than that, well, a star fury. And the exact coordinates of where Babylon 4 showed up last year.”
“Babylon 4,” Garibaldi repeated flatly.
“That’s why I came here,” she said. “Because I heard there is a part of this sector where you can travel through time.”
Which meant she was able to hack into confidential reports. He and Jeff hadn’t exactly made them public knowledge, though undoubtedly the brief reappearance of Babylon 4, which couldn’t be hushed up, had caused all kind of rumours. He remembered the eerie flashes of visions, and the sense of someone walking over someone’s grave, not necessarily his.
“If you’re looking for a getaway,” Garibaldi said slowly, “that’s a bit radical. Even for a woman who claims to have scammed two mighty races.”
Stealing a star fury was at last something tangible, which he could understand, though why she hadn’t simply seduced one of the pilots like Warren Keefer to achieve her aim was beyond him.
“I don’t want a getaway,” Ellen explained patiently. “I want to go back.”
“The past, Mr. Garibaldi. I want to go back to my husband. That’s all I ever wanted.”
The fact that she had never sounded more passionate or sincere the entire evening made Garibaldi automatically go on red alert, and he found his suspicion confirmed when she finally made her move and put her arms around his neck, pushing him down on the sofa.
“If you’re trying to pull the old kiss-and-knock-out manoeuvre,” he warned, “forget it. You’re not getting out of this room without my authorisation code, sister. It’s sealed.”
She started nibbling at his ear and whispered: “I don’t need to knock you out now, dear. I did that thirty five minutes ago.”
Garibaldi, who was a dedicated fan of rich variety of classic cartoons, recognized the quote immediately, but it was too late. The drug she had liberally dosed her skin with, which had rubbed off on him every time she touched him, finally did its work.
He awoke to the incessant ringing of his Babcom. Given his past, Garibaldi had lived through worse headaches then the one whatever Ellen had used left him with, but he still cursed out loud when he saw that she had managed to crack his code and had written herself an authorisation to use a star fury, in his name. She must have managed to interface with the computer somehow. Which lend some credence to her outrageous story about downloads with its obvious implication that she and her “son” and “husband” were some kind of artificial life forms, except that he still didn’t buy it. Garibaldi’s left hand went through what remained of his hair and ended up on his earlobe, which felt like it was still tingling. No way that woman had been an android.
Logs showed the star fury she had used had departed the station already. He gave the order to get one ready that would allow him to pursue her, and was about to go to storage to get himself a space suit when his least favourite man in a suit showed up, evidently headed for customs and about to depart the station as well.
“Mr. Morden,” Garibaldi said, trying to decide whether he really suspected what he thought he suspected.
“Mr. Garibaldi,” Morden said. “Another time, perhaps? I’m afraid I’ll have to cut this particular visit to your hospitable station short, but I’m sure to be back.”
“Any reason in particular?” Garibaldi asked. Morden just smiled. Enigmatically. It looked really familiar right now.
“Why, I didn’t think you’d miss me.”
“Just out of curiosity, why did you get into that bar brawl a few hours ago?”
“A misunderstanding,” Morden said. “A simple misunderstanding. One of that establishments more inebriated customers misunderstood my intentions towards his companion. What can I say, Mr. Garibaldi, we’re both men. Such things happen.”
“No kidding,” Garibaldi replied, and had a word with customs, telling them to make sure to slow Morden down enough to make him miss whichever flight he had booked. Then he got into his star fury, and headed towards the coordinates where he and Jeff had found the ghost of Christmas Past.
He arrived just in time to see her disappear in the same type of bright flash he remembered. It left him feeling… frustrated, Garibaldi told himself, as any cop would when a thief had made a successful getaway. Those star furies were government property and expensive. Of course, the woman had been utterly crazy. There was no guarantee as to where she would end up, the future, the past, how far in either direction, if she survived that thing at all. How desperate did you have to be to run in order to take that kind of risk?
But she hadn’t been afraid, that was the thing. He knew when criminals were afraid. He could smell it. Whatever else she was, she had not been afraid. Just determined. Yes, desperate, but not to run. Maybe at least one part of her story had been true; maybe she had been desperate not to go, but to arrive. To reach someone.
Enough is enough, Garibaldi told himself. Best head back to the station, report a stolen star fury to the Captain and hope Ivanova wouldn’t ridicule him too much for letting a floozy pull a fast one on him. If he remained out here alone, he could get all kind of crazy ideas. Like how desperate you had to be to reach someone, and whether a star fury could make it all the way to Minbar. That the Vorlons really put people in storage and brought them to life every few centuries to do their bidding. Or that there were cyborgs walking among them.
“Nah,” he said out loud. “No way.”
She had been a really good con artist with much imagination and some messed up past. Trouble, but then he had known that from the beginning. All the same, he found himself wishing her luck, wherever she had ended up. She’d need it. And so would the next guy who crossed her path.