“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.”

By Brody

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