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Smokin'

All alone in the night

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Missy cringes inwardly as Garibaldi uses her real name. "Gee, thanks Chief." She thinks to herself.

 

"So, Mr Handy, perhaps you're wondering what an Earthforce officer was doing in Red Sector, out of uniform, and under fire." She says, her 'fighter pilot's bravado' taking over, in an attempt to hide her true apprehension. "I'm here undercover to investigate a Dust smuggling ring which has become more than a significant annoyance to the bigwigs back home on Earth. I've considerable leeway in my orders, and until now my cover was as complete as it could have been given the circumstances."

 

Missy pauses for a few seconds to gather Mr Handy's responce, if any, then continues. "As you can probably guess, that's not especially airtight and so Mr Garibaldi will be providing me with a new one." She pauses, looking Handy over. "Which is where you come in. I'd like to hire you, both as protection and also as a kind of 'guide'. I've not been to B5 before, and would benefit immencely from knowing someone who knows the lay of the land, so to speak."

 

She pauses again, then smiles. "So, interested?"

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Lieutenant Summers, eh? That explains why she didn't panic under fire and how she knew to run broken-field to dodge shots, Jack thinks.

 

"Well, Lieutenant, normally I charge anywhere from 150 to 200 credits a day, depending on the situation, and how much danger is likely to be involved. If my clients insist on wandering around Brown Sector, for example, it makes my job a lot harder and so I have to charge more. Given that someone's already tried to kill you once and is likely to try again, I'd have to ask for about 250 credits a day."

 

"But --" Jack holds up his hand before Lieutenant Summers can react to the price, "if you're going after Dust smugglers, that changes things. I've got personal reasons to hate Dust smugglers. So I'll only charge you 100 credits a day. Heck, I'd do this job for free, except that I really can't afford to have no income at all, and this looks to be a 24-hour-a-day job if ever I saw one. I just have one condition: I want to be in on the investigation as well. I want to see all the evidence, help you plan your next moves, the works. And I want to help you take those f---ers down at the end of it."

 

Jack holds out his hand. "Do we have a deal?"

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Darius sighs as his shuttle exits the station and the full view of space is before him. He starts heading along the assigned route as instructed. When he gets to a suitable point to head for the co-ordinates instructed by his employers. Activating his comm system "Babylon control this is shuttle Floating Vagabond. I have a problem with my navigation thruster controls, I will head for co-ordinate X15-45 and try a restart on my systems. I will be in contact if I need more assistance." Then cutting speed he makes for the instructed point.

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"Deal. I was planning on playing it that way to begin with Mr Handy. I'm kinda new to this investigation stuff, and since you'd be my guide on Babylon 5 I'll be needing your input on pretty much everything we come across." Replies Missy as she extends her hand to Mr Handy. "And a hundred credits a day for a capable wingman is very reasonable."

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"Floating Vagabond, this is Babylon control. We copy. Advise status change. Assistance is available if required. Out"

 

"Congratulations, Mister Darke. A man who can follow instructions is a valuable commodity." The voice cutting in on the com channel is the same as was heard in Darke's office. "Head for section 15"

 

Darius does as instructed, piloting the shuttle easily to the designated location. It's well away from the usual routes of cargo loaders and shuttles and is fairly close to the rotating bulk of the station. Not close enough to spook him but close enough to want to maintain station-holding discipline. Ten minutes pass with no word and no other vessels coming close. Another ten minutes of silence and loneliness pass with only a solitary request from Babylon control for an update. It's close to the point where Darke is beginning to think someone is messing with him and that the promised credits will not be in his account when the com crackles again.

 

"Very well, Mr Darke. You may proceed to the jump gate. Set course for Sector 49. You will be contacted."

 

Darius checks his controls - the cargo doors haven't opened and no vessels have approached him. Thought I was picking something up?

 

*************************************

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"Excellent. Then once Mr. Garibaldi gives you your new cover identity, we can get you quarters. If you'd already booked quarters as Elizabeth Greenwood, you're going to have to ditch them; anyone who could have penetrated that identity will certainly be watching your quarters. And for your new quarters, I'd suggest thinking in terms of location. Pick something near a corridor intersection if you can -- avoid anything in a dead-end. The last thing you want is to be heading back to get some sleep and having an attacker come up behind you blocking your only way out. You always want to have a backup escape route, and intersections are the easiest way to guarantee that."

 

"Actually, about quarters -- the easiest way to catch someone by surprise is when they're asleep, and we already know that whoever wants you dead is resourceful. Now the locks on the visitors' quarters on Babylon 5 are pretty good, but there's never been a lock invented that someone hasn't figured out a way to pick. Usually three or four different ways. So we gotta worry about your security at night, too." Jack pauses, and for the first time since he walked into the interview room, looks a little embarrassed. "The best way would be for me to stay in your quarters as well, sleeping on the couch or a cot or something. Sorry, but given that someone's already tried to kill you, spending about eight hours a day alone is an invitation for them to try again."

 

"We don't have to do it that way, of course. You're the client, so it's your call whether to take my suggestions or not. But it would be much easier for me to protect you if we weren't separated for eight hours out of twenty-four."

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"Floating Vagabond to Baylon Control. Systems appear to be back online, thanks for your assistance heading for the jump gate."

 

Darius then sets the controls to take the shuttle to the jump gate, meanwhile concerned about what has just happens he starts to check around the ship looking for anything that doesn't belong in it, or any of his gear that has been moved out of place,

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"No need to be embarassed or bashful." Missy responds once Mr Handy is finished talking. "Aboard ship, men and women share sleeping quarters, so it's nothing new to me. And I agree, spending a quarter of the day alone wouldn't be a good idea, and it'd probably not be especially restful if I were watching my own back, so to speak."

 

Missy then walks to the door and as she opens it, she says "wait here a second, I'll go and see how Garibaldi's going on that cover identity."

 

Missy walks out into the main part of Security Control, and spotting Garibaldi she walks over to him.

 

"Okay Chief, Mr Handy and I have formalised our working relationship. I just need that cover ID, whenever you're ready, and the shoulder rig." She then steps closer and continues at a half whisper. "Chief, since you know who I am, and what I'm doing, and that Mr Handy will be working for/with me, would you object to him being armed on the station? It's your patch, so it's your call, but I'd feel safer with an armed wingman at my back."

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Garibaldi straightens up from where he had been watching a monitor screen carefully. As he does, Missy sees he is holding something in his hand, about a foot long, black.

 

"Well, I was about to give him his shock-stick back. He has a permit for it and he knows if he abuses it I'll put it somewhere most unpleasant. " He motions that they should return to the more private room. "And here, I got you your holster. You worn one before?" Assuming that she hasn't, he quickly advises her on how to fit it and the easiest way to draw her weapon. "There you are Jack" he says, tossing the shock stick gently toward him. "If the lt. hasn't explained, the only security who know about her are me and the Commander so don't think you got a free pass. For that reason, Lieutenant, I'm not going to allow Mr. Handy to be armed with anything stronger. My guys see a weapon, they will put him down - same for you so keep it in the holster unless it's an emergency." He pauses a few seconds to let his warning sink in.

 

"Here's a new identicard and creditchip. There's a good hairdresser in red 17 that'll cut your hair and give you a new colour - change your clothes too and that should be enough to prevent anyone spotting you in a crowd. I'm just about to remove any trace of that identity from Babcom so all anyone will get is a legally respectable citizen who's been here a few months and never done anything wrong. Any questions? Oh, and I can change your name to anything you like. What do you wish your parents had called you?"

*****************************************************************

A quick sensor check of the area around 'The Floating Vagabond' comes up negative, although Darius is confidant that the sensors are working perfectly. As the vessel moves slowly towards the approach vector for the jump gate he carefully scans the camera views of the cargo hold, again seeing nothing unusual or different.

 

"Floating Vagabond, stand by for jumpgate initiation" informs B5 control. Within a few seconds the familiar floating corona of amber and black spreads weblike between the functional arms of the jumpgate, spiralling toward Darke in the cockpit of the shuttle. To those watching from outside, the vessel seems to accelerate suddenly, leaping forward into the hyperspace transit. For Darius however, the transition is a gentle motion forward, little more than a nervous squirt of thrust which carries him over the threshold and suddenly he is floating in hyperspace. The flickering energies and eddies of this form of travel are all around him, beautiful but he needs no reminding of how deadly hyperspace can be. No ship lost in hyperspace has ever been found....There are ghosts between the stars....things move in hyperspace, things we don't want to know about The thoughts are as automatic as they are silly. Play it safe and you'll be OK. Instinctivly, Darius checks the hyperspace beacon again.

 

*****************************************************

HappyDaze is a real dive. In Brown sector the establishments aren't too classy anyway but this bar is probably at the foot of any pecking order. It's clientele are a mixture of scum, villainy and those who seek to get as intoxicated as possible in as cheap a fashion as possible. The lighting is low, not to create ambience but probably to prevent too close an inspection of what is in the glass in front of you. A lot of the more salubrious type of business goes on here - it's rumoured that you can obtain everything here, from assassination to prostitution and every other -tion between. For the unwary, it can often be an education although probably a short and painful one.

 

No-one is likely to trouble Jack and Frank though. Daw looks big enough not to worry and Frank has that wiry look that Zero-G operators often get. Besides, dockers aren't worth rolling over. Frank buys the drinks and they sit. "Probably best just to think of them as drinks, and not ask questions" smiles Frank.

"Phew! Despite the credits, I will be glad when this overtime's done. I'm exhausted. You know what it's all about? They don't tell us anything - just got us up there in the unused Cobra bays. Just between you and me, there's a couple of guys up there who should not be using those cutters, know what I mean?" and he takes a long pull at his drink.

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"Miranda Winters, Chief. And no problems on the firearms, I wasn't planning on showing it off in public anyway." Missy then pauses, thinking back a couple of minutes. "Chief, if I've been here for months, won't it look a little odd to go walking around red sector looking for quarters?" She then looks at Jack. "So a little help finding some midway down a corridor near an intersection would be good, and then I assume you'll want to do some data work to make them look lived in for 'months'."

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"Well, data work isn't exactly my forte," Jack begins to reply, then realizes that though Lieutenant Summers -- no, "Miranda Winters", don't even think the old name -- was looking at him, her comments were still addressed to the Chief. Ah yes, of course; he's the one setting up the new identity. Actually, better raise the point now before Mr. Garibaldi goes and starts putting data into the computer...

 

"Um, a point, Lieutenant. I think the name "Winters" is a little too close to "Summers" to be a good alias. If anyone's looking through station records for the name "Summers", "Winters" is just going to jump out at them. Might I suggest something completely unrelated, like Baker?"

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"No one outside this room and the Commander's office knows my real name Jack, my old alias was Greenwood. So while Winters and Summers are close, no-one should know of Summers. Greenwood and Winters are different." Replied Missy, after a few seconds of thought. "But you're the professional here Jack. I'm willing to go with something like Baker or Smith.... I just didn't want to be too obviously an alias."

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"We think nobody except Mr. Garibaldi and the Commander know your real name, but we'd better not assume that. Assumptions will get you dead fast. Whoever jumped you -- were they simply trying to kill Elizabeth Greenwood, or did they know that Lieutenant Summers was coming aboard under an alias?"

 

"You're right that Smith would be a bit too obvious as an alias. A good alias should be common, but not too common, which is why I suggested Baker. If you're not comfortable with Baker, then I'd suggest something less common but still normal, like Cartwright, or Fletcher. I used to know a guy named Fletcher; it's not uncommon enough to be noticed, but it's not so common that it'll jump out as an alias."

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"Okay, I see your point Jack, and it's a good one, a point which I can't really argue. Afterall, you are the professional and it is what I'm paying you for." Missy says as she shrugs her shoulders, conceding the point. "Fletcher it is then."

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