Category Archives: MUSHes

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Unlikely Rescue #amwriting #storytelling #otherspace

One moment, Robert Colclough is aboard a shuttle that’s
plummeting toward the uncaring sands of Demaria. The next, he’s light years
away, emerging from a swirling blue portal onto the deckplates of a Consortium
Intelligence outpost hidden among the wrecked hulls of the Line of Pain.

He links his HUD to the local computer system and data
archives to confirm the location, then mumbles to himself: “Well, at least
it’s not Nalhom.”

Whiptail stumbles through the portal, a bit confused.
“Where in tarnation are we now?”

The Cliffwalker rises from the deck where he landed, one paw
going to a queasy stomach. He looks around at the walls, and any screens
thereupon. “A Consortium station,” he says, shaking his head to get
his bearings.

“Listening post, to be precise,” Colclough replies
with a tight smile as he looks around their arrival chamber – a rather cramped
place, dimly lit, with no windows in the bulkheads and just one hatch leading
deeper into the station.

A disembodied voice speaks via intercom: “Um, welcome
aboard?”

Colclough offers a feeble wave at the ceiling.
“Hi.”

“Heard you might be coming,” the voice says
wearily.

“Sorry, unannounced and all.”

“Yes,” the voice agrees. “Visit won’t be
long, I’m afraid.”

“Oh?” He looks toward Razorback and Whiptail.
Sheepish smile. Then back at the ceiling: “Not even time to hit the head?
Long trip, after all.”

“Won’t need to worry about your bladder in the vacuum
of space,” the voice replies.

“Ah,” Colclough says.

“Let me get this straight in muh head here… so we
done survived bumbler herdin’ and assassins, managed to escape a buncha
zombified folks, and now we’re gonna get spaced?” Whiptails says, looking
over to Razorback. “I shoulda charged muh standard rate.” he says, a
bit of a toothy grin. “Well, I’ll say one thang, if this is the end of the
road, I cain’t say it was borin’.”

Razorback watches the exchange between Colclough and the
disembodied voice with a growing lack of patience. “We shall see,”
the Cliffwalker says Whiptail with a growl, storming towards the hatch.

The hatch remains shut – and the bulkheads pull apart and
upward around the chamber, exposing the trio inside to the vacuum of space…

…and into a tractor beam that hauls them aboard a waiting
Nall warship, just before it opens fire on the listening post, destroying the
base.

Colclough, Whiptail, and Razorback soon find themselves
gasping for air and shivering to regain heat as they spill onto the damp
deckplates of a misty chamber illuminated by green plasma lanterns.

Whiptail finds himself blown into space, his face thrown
into a rictus of surprise, with just enough consciousness in those valuable
seconds before suffocation to notice the tractor beam. Once they are deposited
into the Nall ship, he collapses to the floor, gasping heavily for breath, his
ears throbbing from the attempt of the pressure inside trying to blow out his
ear drums. As soon as he is able he struggles to one arm, and looks about the
room. He takes a deep sniff of the air, and frowns with a low growl. “It’s
been a spell, but I know the smell of Nall.”

The Cliffwalker seems even more frustrated when he feels the
deckplates beneath him, more so when his lungs first new breath of air is
filled with the scent of Nall. He is too busy trying to oxygenate his
bloodstream to say much, but a certain level of impotent rage seems building
behind his eyes.

“That’s…lucky,” are the first words Colclough
manages to rasp out as he finds his breath again, rolling onto his back on the
deck and staring up at the ceiling.

Whiptail collapses to the floor again, painfully rolling
onto his back. “I dunno what book yer readin’, but gettin’ captured by
those scaley sonuvabitches ain’t what I’d call lucky.”

“Luckier than dying in space,” Razorback growls,
struggling to rise to his footpaws. His ears are laid flat, his tail brushed
out to twice its normal width. He takes measure of their surroundings, knowing
that there are enemies aplenty nearby.

A hatch opens. Into the chamber steps a reptiloid warrior in
black metal armor, cradling a plasma rifle. She’s accompanied by four more
warriors, similarly armed.

“We did not expect you quite sssso sssssoon,” the
lead warrior says as she glowers down at Colclough. “If we had arrived ssssecondssss
later, you would be dead.”

He pulls himself slowly to his feet, brushing droplets of
water from his pant leg. He glances toward Razorback and says, “Perhaps I
*did* know where that portal would lead.” A thin smile, then he returns
his attention to the Nall. He bows his head in deference. “Ur’Huluth Iktha
of Hatch Kavir, allow me to introduce my companions: Whiptail and
Razorback.”

Whiptail narrows his eyes a bit. “Just what in
tarnation is goin’ on here?” he says, quite confused.

The Cliffwalker does his best to keep his claws sheathed for
now, and his paws decidedly away from the short swords at his waist. He glances
over at Whiptail, his ears flicking back and forth a bit. “I am certain
that all will be revealed in due course,” he says, straightening up. He
doesn’t intend to tower over their new “hosts”, but …

“We are even now, you and I,” Ikthakavir replies
to Colclough, before shifting her gaze between the two Demarians. “The
debt issss paid once I have delivered you to…where, exactly?”

The human answers: “Odari, if it wouldn’t be too much
trouble. I have resources there that could provide further assistance.”

“Odari,” the Nall repeats. “Very well. Go no
further than thisss chamber. Thessse guardsss will open fire if provoked.”

With that, she turns to depart the chamber through the
waiting hatchway. Her contingent of warriors remains with Colclough and
friends.

Whiptail looks even more bewildered. “Ok.. so.. we
ain’t dyin’. Yet..” he says, glancing to Razorback. “But this ain’t
no wranglin’ mission now, so what’s the story here, Colclough?”

Razorback nods to Whiptail. Satisfied that he does not need
to enter combat just this second, he moves to the wall opposite the guards and
slides down into a seated position. He keeps a wary ear on the Nall as he looks
expectantly at Colcough. “Indeed, he growls, “I am most interested to
hear just what debt a Nall Captain incurred with you. And why someone on a
Consortium installation would eject you into space.”

Colclough leans against a bulkhead before regarding his
companions and offering a reply. “Ikthakavir was implicated in the
defection of a Nall physicist who worked in the Clawed Fist Fleet weapons
division. I helped extricate her from that particularly dangerous
situation.” A brief silence, then: “As for your other question, I
truly hope to gain some clarity after we arrive on Odari. But if what I suspect
is true, something has gone horribly wrong in my agency.”

Whiptail nods slowly. “I kin see how that thar would
get ya on her good side.” he says, finding a bulkhead of his own to settle
down against. “If this here adventure we’ve bin sucked inta is any sign,
this problem yer talkin’ ’bout is gonna put the hurt on the whole dang
Consortium.”

The Cliffwalker opens his mouth to ask more, then glances
over at the guards and thinks better of it. “For now,” he says,
“It would seem that there is no need to further belabor the point of how
we still live, nor discuss in too much detail our plans for the future. I’m
sure that when we reach our destination, all will become more clear.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Diverted #demaria #storytelling #otherspace

Razorback steps out of a hover-vehicle and onto the pavement near the hub of the Demarian government. He looks around, rubbing his tongue against the roof of his mouth in disgust. He steps aside to allow the others to exit the vehicle, his ears cautiously sweeping the city noises for signs of danger.

Moments later, Colclough emerges from the vehicle to stand next to the significantly taller Demarian. He seems relatively untroubled as he taps a glowing blue node under his right ear, activating a shaded holographic lens across the upper half of his face. The display serves a dual purpose: protecting against the glare of Demaria’s twin suns and presenting Colclough with a cascade of vital data.

“Down this street,” the agent says, “and then the third left. We’re looking for Brownfoot’s Saucer in the western market district.”

Whiptail looks around in a bit of awe at the capitol city. “This place shore has grown up a bit.” he says. “Use’ta know it like the back of my paw, probably couldn’t even find the spaceport now.”

The Cliffwalker looks about him with a twinge of memory. “I know the feeling,” he mutters to Whiptail before he sets off down the indicated street. For whatever reason, he might seem to Whiptail to be more on edge than he was out in the wilderness.

That edginess might be justified by the handful of small drones skimming the edge of the market district as the busy afternoon crowds move to and fro. Particularly when cylinders affixed to the bellies of those drones give a soft hiss, releasing their contents in a fine, pine-scented mist that begins a descent toward the unsuspecting citizens below.

Whiptail twitches an ear as he hears the hiss, and looks towards the drones. “What in tarnation? That some new fangled, fancy schmancy city folk deal, sprayin’ air freshener in the market?” he says, looking totally bewildered.

Razorback looks over at Colclough, jerking his muzzle towards the tiny aircraft. “Yours?” he asks tersely, sniffing gently at the air.

“My what?” Colclough’s hearing isn’t quite as highly attuned as the Demarians. He follows Razorback’s snout-pointing. He adjusts the HUD implant via a subvocalized command, zooming in on one of the drones. “No. No ops planned in this area today. Certainly none that involve airborne deployment of…” His voice trails off as something flashes red in his sensor display. “Biological agent. Possibly viral. Unknown origin and lethality.” He activates his commlink: “Colclough to Catnip. Scramble an extraction craft to my location. Fast.” He scans the HUD, checks the wind drift speed. “Wear your hazmats.” He then looks at Razorback and Whiptail, saying, “Bad things afoot. How long can you hold your breath?”

Whiptail widens his eyes. “Ok… so it ain’t air freshener…” he says. “I kin hold mah breath for a while, but I ain’t gonna be able to do it forever.”

“Not much longer than you,” Razorback mutters to Colclough. He glances rapidly around him until he spots an office building with a helipad stories above the street. “There’s your extraction point,” he says, pointing up to it, “And your people must notify the local authorities, start an evacuation immediately.”

Not soon enough, it seems. As Colclough follows his Demarian companions toward the indicated office building, the first victims fall prey to the strange mist. A Demarian female coughs, sneezes, and her bright eyes fill with blood as she becomes enraged. She turns and lunges toward her mate, a male Demarian who *also* has become crazed and bloody-eyed, his jaws frothing. They tear at each other with fangs and claws. Blood splatters sandstone walls.

The violence continues to spread outward, as combatants sneeze and send infected droplets in all directions.

The Consortium Intelligence dropship settles onto the helipad, awaiting the arrival of Colclough, Razorback, and Whiptail.

“Whatever that stuff is, it’s makin’ ’em act like they bin possessed!” Whiptail says, running as fast as he can with what breath he has managed to pull in towards the dropship.

“Lock that door!” Razorback roars to the building receptionist as he races past the desk. A quick glance at the building’s directory points him to the stairs. If the door to the stairwell is locked, he merely tries to blast his weight through it.

Colclough is through the main door as the receptionist and a pair of security guards move to secure it. He turns to watch through the tinted glass wall as homicidal mayhem erupts on the outskirts of the Market District and begins to spread inevitably outward. He sees more drones whirring overhead and decides to stop gawking. He runs after Razorback and Whiptail as they ascend the stairs.

“I hope that there ship is fast, or we’re in fer ah heap o’ trouble!” Whiptail says as he climbs the stairs as fast as possible.

The Cliffwalker keeps glancing back at Colclough to check his progress, perhaps concerned that without him, none of them will leave the rooftop helipad. “One thing at a time, friend,” he calls to Whiptail as he glances at the nearest sign to ascertain what floor he has reached.

About the time they push through the door to the roof, far below the Demarians in particular can hear the shattering of glass and roars of intruders tearing into the lobby of the building.

Colclough’s HUD gets a message that reads: “LOCATION BREACH.” He motions to the waiting craft on the helipad and says, with overstated calm: “We should go.”

“Ya don’t have to tell me twice.” Whiptail says, darting into the dropship as fast as possible. “We better git this thing movin’, or we’re about to have a lot of company and they ain’t gonna be lookin’ to chew the fat with us!”

Razorback slams the door shut behind them once everyone has reached the pad before turning to board the craft himself. “This seems an unlikely coincidence,” he says to Colclough as they climb into the ship.

“The timing does seem rather suspect,” the CIS agent agrees as the dropship lurches from the helipad and arcs away from the building, above the violent chaos in the streets below.

The pilot, a Castori, burbles: “Weapons lock!”

Colclough catches a similar warning in his HUD, turns his attention to a rooftop about a half mile distant. “Evasive!” The Castori tries, and effectively dodges the first rocket-propelled grenade as it roars past the dropship.

But neither the Castori nor Colclough notice a shooter on a different building – a tower not far from the Alhira spaceport, wielding a shoulder-mounted plasma skylancer.

The beam pierces the dropship on a perpendicular, directly into the cockpit, setting the pilot ablaze. Despite his agonized screams, the pilot is still trying to navigate the dropship (poorly) when he slumps over dead from shock. Safety klaxons wail inside the dropship.

The ship starts a gradual descent, passing the outskirts of the city and easing out toward the dunes of the Sandmother.

Whiptail shields his eyes from the blast, but then training from times past kicks in, and he dives for the controls, trying to avoid the burning pilot as much as possible as he tries to wrangle the controls. “It ain’t no bumbler but I’m gonna do what I can to wrangle this thang!”

The Cliffwalker’s ears fold back into his mane as he braces himself in his seat. He marks the land as they pass, trying to keep their position in mind. “You might want to turn off your trackers,” he shouts to Colclough over the wind and fire.

The CIS agent almost doesn’t hear Razorback, so distracted is he by the task of trying frantically – and to no avail – to subvocalize commands across every known agency channel in the hopes of raising assistance. No response is forthcoming, which sparks some alarm in Colclough. When he finally registers what Razorback is saying, his first instinct is to say: “But if we turn off the trackers, no one can find us!” But then that alarm in his head grows a little louder, competing with the one blaring in the cockpit.

He deactivates the trackers in his implants, the green pulsing dot in his HUD goes to a steady, pale blue.

Of course, it all might be moot if the ship crashes and burns in the desert. He gives a nod to Razorback, glances toward Whiptail, genuflects for the first time in about 30 years, and finds a porthole to gaze out of for what might be his final seconds of life.

Whiptail works the control panel frantically, throwing switches as he maintains a grip on the controls. “Damn shot knocked the bumbler shit out of the stabilizers..” he grunts, fighting against the yoke which wants to go in any way other than that which Whiptail is trying to move it. He switches the descent thrusters to manual, and attempts to fire them as needed to maintain course as an augment to the damaged controls.

The Cliffwalker has by now strapped himself in as well as possible, bracing his body against what surfaces he can find. He watches the Sand Mother rushing towards them with a defiant glare. “Take me if you will,” he mutters quietly, “It is long past time.”

Colclough tilts his head as the dropship continues its unsteady descent, then turns his head toward the rear of the passenger cabin. Another quick twitch of his head brings the HUD back up. “Maybe,” he mutters aloud. Subvocally, he transmits: “Activate.”

The vessel’s engines suddenly go silent as the power is rerouted to what appears to be a hexagonal vortex of swirling blue energy.

“Not sure where that goes,” he admits to his fellow passengers, sliding out of his seat and into the aisle. “But it has to be better than what’s waiting in the desert. Or anywhere else on Demaria right now.”

With that, he passes through the portal with a hiss and a pop. The vortex swirls as the shuttle deepens its descent, threatening to spiral out of control.

Whiptail is taken aback at this turn of events, but he knows a useless situation when he sees it. Letting the yoke fall back to neutral, he heads for the vortex. “Without them engines, this thang is gonna fall faster than a freakin’ brick.” he says, looking back to the vortex. “Best take m’ chances in thar..” with that, he dives through the vortex.

The Cliffwalker just stares at the vortex for an excruciatingly long few seconds, almost as if contemplating just going down in the crash. “Sands,” he spits finally, then looks out the porthole at the approaching desert, “Another time, then.” And he jumps through.

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Back to the Farm #storytelling #demaria #otherspace

As promised, a herd of bumblers comes rolling into the village of Fakalienstadt on the third day. Razorback dismounts as soon as he is in sight of Greenwater’s home, looking around carefully and scenting the air in search of a potential trap.

Whiptail follows along keeping the herd in check. As they reach the village, he brings his mount to a stop and surveys the village in a similar manner, his eyes looking for anything out of the ordinary.

Fluffpaw follows the herd from the rear, her namesaked fluffy paws looking a little droopy and dusty. Her ears flick back and forth anxiously, every now and then turning to look behind her but instead just urges the bumblers onward. Once they’re all milling around lazily, she slowly nudges her mount forward, toward the rest of the group.

Whitepelt tracks along a short time later, tossing one of his daggers skyward, catching it by the hilt, over and over. He has little to say.

Razorback approaches Greenwater’s home and gives the door a knock, his ears canted alertly forward.

The door opens just a crack. Greenwater peeks through. “Yes?”

“Mr. Greenwater…” Razorback says, gesturing behind him towards the bumblers, “Your herd…”

The farmer opens the door further, looking out at the bumblers munching on the dusty grass outside. He looks at Razorback, then at the other wranglers. His eyes return to the Cliffwalker. Tears glisten. “You saved my family. My village!” He looks at the ground. “I can never repay you.”

“Well, t’weren’t nothin'” Whiptail says. “Anythin’ to put that Coldstar in her place, I’m all fer it.”

Fluffpaw’s ears flick back and forth as she inches forward. “What’s gonna stop them from coming and taking the herd again as soon as we’re gone?” she wonders aloud.

Razorback still seems agitated and alert, his ears swiveling around. He nods in agreement with Whiptail. “Some of us could use a warm meal and a bath, most likely,” he says, “But nothing beyond that.” Glancing behind him, he turns towards Fluffpaw. “The original herd was sold to compensate for higher taxes from the Coldstars,” he says, “And if that continues and the underclassers do not push back, and the surrounding nobles do not aid them,” he glances over at Whitepelt, “this will all fail.” (edited)

Greenwater opens the door further to grant entrance to the group. “You are welcome in my home, of course.” He bobs his snout in the direction of a human male sitting on a hide-covered couch in the common room. The man wears a dark suit that seems untouched by so much as a grain of sand. “I think you know Mr. Colclough.”

The Consortium Intelligence agent nods at Razorback. “Indeed.”

Whiptail looks between the human and Razorback. “What in tarnation?” he says, his tail twitching a bit in anxiety. “Somethin’ goin’ on here I should be knowin’ about, young feller?” he says to Razorback.

Fluffpaw is last one in and so she’s trying to peer between the furry bodies of her comrades to see who is getting gestured to. And her gaze goes between Whiptail and Razorback, tail lashing anxiously based on the tones going around. “What’s wrong?” she queries of the older Demarian.

The Cliffwalker is taken aback by this, his eyes narrowing, somewhat. “So it would seem,” he says to Whiptail in Demarese, a faint hint of a growl in his voice. “Mr. Colclough,” he says, switching to his heavily accented Terran, “I feel now as though I should have expected you. What draws your attention to this small village.” He scents the air more carefully, searching the house for evidence of any further surprises.

Colclough gives the faintest of smiles to Razorback. “This small village may well be the epicenter of recent problems in this planet’s capital.” He looks toward Greenwater. “I have been associated with this fellow for some time. He has provided significant information about the activities of Lady Coldstar and her minions.”

Whiptail raises an eye ridge at this. “So… you sayin’ we’re all on the same side here?”

“Who are they?” Fluffpaw queries. “Are they going to hurt the herd?” She clearly has her priorities and they have very little to do with the people inside.

“Of course you have,” Razorback rumbles to Colclough, “Two of my comrades died fighting something you could have put a stop to at will.” He glances over at Whiptail with a nod. “Indeed. For the moment at least,” he says before turning back to Fluffpaw, “Mr. Colclough works for the Consortium Government. He likely has no interest in the herd.”

“True enough,” Colclough replies. “My interests are of the bigger-picture variety. Specifically, I have reason to believe that Lady Coldstar and her allies played some role in the recent plot against the Consortium president.”

“Say what now?” Whiptail says. “I thought we were jes gettin’ a herd, what’s this all about tha President?”

A low rumbling growl builds up in Fluffpaw’s chest. “Why would anyone care about your President here? All we cared about what finding the herd.” She pins her dark stare on the client. “Why would you get mixed up in things that don’t matter?”

“There is some sort of effort being made to destabilize relations between Demaria and the rest of the Consortium,” Razorback explains to the others, “Including a conspiracy to use a Demarian assassin to kill the President.”  He looks to Colclough, his ears tightening a bit. “Though what Coldstar has to do with that, I know not.”

“Her brother with the scar might’ve been able to tell us more,” Colclough replies. “He had some communication – encrypted, we’re still trying to break it – with the agent who assassinated our friend aboard Galactix. And funds from a Coldstar-owned offworld company may have been transferred to the agent’s family after her death. Hoping to confirm that soon.”

Whiptail listens to this, and his eyes narrow. “Sounds like Coldstar jes ain’t our problem…. that pile a’ bumbler shit is a bigger threat than even I figgered.”

“I do not believe the scarred one survived,” Razorback rumbles quietly, “Though I doubt this is new information to you.” He sighs, glancing out at the herd for a moment as his tail twitches faintly behind him. “I do not suppose you would be interested in helping me compensate my companions,” he says, gesturing towards the other Demarians in a way that includes the biker outside, “If what you aim to do will help rid these farmers of their oppressor, I will aid you. But I can ask no more of these folk than they have already given.”

The Consortium agent quietly studies the companions for a few moments before returning his attention to Razorback. “Up to them,” Colclough says. “If they’ve got an interest in working against Lady Coldstar, I can see that they’re paid.”

“Ye got my support, young’un.” Whiptail says. “It’s time ta clean house.”

“Indeed,” the Cliffwalker says in agreement with the wrangler before turning towards Colclough, “How can we be of service in this matter?”

“You won’t like it,” Colclough assures Razorback. A taut smile, then: “We need to return to Alhira. The inspector wants to follow up on that interview.” He regards the others, adding: “And, of course, Senator Sandwalker should meet you all.”

“Been quite a spell since I’ve been to tha big city.” Whiptail says. “Wonder how it all looks now.”

Razorback’s ears flatten at Colclough’s pronouncement, a faint growl of irritation escaping him. “You are correct,” he grumbles, “I do not like it.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Babylon 5: The Jemisin’s Captain

“It’s quite an honor,” Captain Ashwood Gaines says via the face-to-face video screen as he settles into the thin-cushioned chair behind the desk in his quarters aboard the SS Jemisin, a glass of iced tea waiting atop the desk as he offers a taut smile to Earth President Luis Santiago. “Your vote of confidence, I suspect, made it happen. I won’t soon forget that, sir.”

“The Jemisin is a fine ship,” Santiago replies, returning the smile. “Normally, yes, this posting would go to an Earthforce commander. But you’ve proven yourself a capable leader as a member of the intelligence community. It was not so difficult to argue in favor of your value as an asset as we continue to map the unknown and encounter more alien races.”

“Well, she’s almost ready to go,” Gaines says. He takes a drink from his tea glass. “Babylon 5 engineers have a couple of final system stress tests they want to perform. Meanwhile, I’m going to start building the crew. I have the list supplied by Earthdome. I may see what else the station has to offer along those lines.”

“Good luck, Captain,” the president responds. “I look forward to your reports.”

Having been aboard the Jemisin for only a couple of hours, Ru’Toth has little time to settle in. He makes his way up to the captain’s cabin, as instructed to upon arrival, to report for duty. Though the Narn had studied the schematics for the Explorer-class ship, actually being aboard definitely gives the appearance that the schematics didn’t do the ship justice.

Ru’Toth meets his escort outside his quarters, and they follow him to the captain’s cabin – all the while getting glances and stares from the human crew. As he stands in front of the captain’s cabin, he takes a moment the get his thoughts in order before pressing the door chime. While he’s not a member of Earthforce, or the Earth Alliance, he feels it important to respect the ship’s chain of command – regardless if he’s on a special contract for this assignment. “Captain Gaines, this is Ru’Toth. May I enter?” He says after tapping the door chime.

The captain glances toward the door after hearing the chime. “Come,” he says.

The door opens with a swoosh, and the Narn takes several steps in allowing the door to close behind him. His red eyes look towards the captain, offering a polite nod. “Ru’Toth, xenoarcheologist, reporting aboard.” He says, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a datacrystal. He holds it up, takes several steps forward and places it on the desk. “All my documents should be in order, Captain. I am on contract with your government for the duration of your mission.”

“Ah, yes,” Gaines replies, picking up the datacrystal with his left hand as he stands. He extends his right hand to the Narn. “Welcome aboard, Ru’Toth. Glad to finally meet you in person.”

The Narn looks at the captain’s hand, and after a moment extends his own to shake it. “A pleasure, Captain. Your government was rather vague on the details of your mission, other than that my skills may assist at some point.”

“Yes, well,” the captain gestures to a chair opposite him. “Have a seat, if you’d like. I’ll tell you what I can.”

Looking at the chair, then the captain, then back at the chair, the Narn eventually complies and sits as requested.

Gaines sits in his own chair. He pops the datacrystal from one hand to the other. “The mission is fairly simple, really. We’re scouting unknown territory for potential threats and…well, potential advantages. It’s an old, expansive universe full of horrors and wonders in equal measure. So, yes, your skills are liable to prove invaluable.”

“I spent the last few years working for the Earth megacorp InterPlanetary Expeditions, and before that with a number of Drazi and Brakiri xenoarcheologists. I have seen my fair share of alien worlds, it would be exciting to see what the unknown has to offer.” Ru’Toth replies, leaning back as he becomes more comfortable. “You are assembling a diverse crew for this expedition?”

The captain nods. “My experience is primarily around Earth, Mars, the moons of Jupiter.” A slight laugh. “Babylon 5 is about as exotic a port as I’ve ever seen. Really kind of overwhelming.” He shrugs. “In any event, Earthdome picked a lot of the base crew – including, to my surprise, some Minbari. I’ll fill out the rest of the ranks myself, but I could certainly use your input on the xenoarchaeology team. That’s a pretty significant area of study for our mission, after all.”

Ru’Toth nods, pondering what the captain is saying. “Minbari, you say? I’ve worked along some of their Religious Caste in the past. They are very capable. I am surprised, though, that Earth would want Minbari working on an Earth ship… with the war and all.” He offers a slight shrug.

Gaines tilts his head, eyes narrowing as he considers his response. Finally, he answers: “Might not be a matter of *want*. Or, maybe more accurately, what *Earth* wants. We’re going to have priests and warriors on the crew. Multiple governments are investing in this mission, including the Minbari. Let’s just say those investments come with certain conditions.”

“May I ask what conditions those are, captain?” Ru’Toth asks. “As far as I know, the Kha’Ri have no interest in this mission. I am here on my own accord.” He pauses, grinning, “I can only hope the Centauri are not interested in this mission, either.”

The captain clears his throat, sets down the datacrystal, and crosses his arms. “The only race that seems to have no interest in this mission is the Vorlons. They know what we’re doing. They don’t want to tag along. They don’t want to help us. All they want to do is insist that we’re not ready and…” He scratches his chin, pondering. “What was it Ambassador Kosh said? ‘You will not know what you know.’ Which, really, super-helpful.” His smile fades then as he says, “We’re going to have at least five Centauri on the crew, though.”

“Well, I assure you, captain, I will have no issues with any members of the Centauri delegation,” Ru’Toth says. “As for the Vorlons, they rarely become involved in any issues. This comes to no surprise. Even my own government has had little dealings with them over the years.”

“I’m counting my blessings, honestly,” the captain says. “I feel like the Vorlons would create the most blatant sort of nanny state. That’s something I can do without when we’re off in some strange territory where the usual rules don’t always apply.”

“Sometimes rules, regulations and process are good things to fall back on. Especially in regions where none may exist.” The Narn says. “But, I would agree, it is no loss not having the Vorlon here. I suspect that if they were, and we stumbled upon some new technology, they would come up with some excuse for us to hand it over to them. The spoils will be our own, and not to share with them.” Ru’Toth allows for a brief pause. “Is there anything you require of me before the ship departs, captain?”

Gaines thinks about it for a moment, then says: “Send me any special requests for crew and supplies that you’d like for your team. Other than that, enjoy some R&R on Babylon 5 while you can. Once we leave port, we’re gone until we need a resupply.”