Spoilers for season 4..

Interlude

 

 

A Short Story

By

Patricia Colby

 

 

 

Michael Garibaldi tried to sleep in the dead, artificial night, but the hard seat of the transport was a poor substitute for a bed. No matter what position he took it seemed that the seat was designed to give him a stiff back. Still, he thought as he gazed at the scene around him, he should feel lucky that he had a seat. Most of the others were forced to find beds on the cold, metal floor.

Until recently this transport ship had been used to convey agricultural equipment and had been chos~n because of its inconspicuous appearance. No one was supposed to guess that it was now a mercenary vessel, its hold crammed with soldiers, Rangers and medics who were specifically trained for this deep space mission. They had all known that the ship would be no luxury liner, but, Garibaldi grumbled to himself, a few mattresses would have been nice.

He glanced over at Stephen Franklin who was slumped in the seat next to him, blissfully asleep. The good doctor seemed to be able to catch forty winks anywhere, Garibaldi mused, and he decided that the talent came with the profession. When you were on call twentyfour hours a day you learned to sleep when you got the chance. Still, he did not envy his friend. Even though Franklin looked peaceful now, Garibaldi knew the stress he had been under lately with the plague that threatened to wipe out humanity. Every available doctor had been working around the clock to find a cure, but none had worked harder than Franklin had.

Itus really aqed him, Garibaldi thought suddenly as he looked at his friend. There were deep lines around his eyes now and gray at his temples. Then again, Garibaldi didn't much like what he saw in the mirror these days, either. So much had happened in the last few years the Shadow War, Earth's civil war, the telepath war hell, they had all seen more war than anyone should in a lifetime. And now there was the plague and the quarantine on Earth. No wonder they all looked old.

Garibaldi shifted his position again and his knee brushed against the rifle propped at his side. He reached out and grasped hold of it, feeling the solid comfort of the metal beneath his fingers. At least he was doing something now that made sense to him something real. This plague that threatened them had been more like a nightmare, a spectral enemy that he couldn't see or touch or fight. It had made him feel helpless and useless in thescheme of defense and it had scared the hell out of him. The only thing more frightening was the fact that he had been severely tempted to drown those feelings in a good whiskey. That was one battle he had nearly lost. If not for this mission he didn't honestly know if he would be sober right now. In fact, as he thought back on the past three years of his life, he realized it was the first time he had felt truly focused in a long time.

 

Ever since resigning as chief of security on Babylon 5, Garibaldi had tried to find a niche for himself, something that felt right. It was more difficult than he ever thought it would be. First there had been his position as head of covert intelligence for the Alliance. It had been a good job, but after Sheridan and Delenn left for Minbar, Garibaldi had found himself virtually strapped to a desk. It was more than dissatisfying. Sheridan must have sensed it, however, because it wasn't long before he asked Garibaldi to come to Minbar to be his personal bodyguard and attache. Garibaldi had jumped at the offer.

It had worked for awhile. The job was Interesting enough and Garibaldi genuinely enjoyed working with Sheridan and Delenn, but Minbar that was a different story. He didn't think there was a more frustrating race of people in the galaxy, except for maybe the Drazi. But even the Drazi knew how to have a party. The Minbari idea of a rousing good time was meditating on the change in the seasons. And those damn beds he never did figure out how to get a good night's sleep on them. After a few months, Garibaldi was ready to climb the nearest wall. Sheridan had been disappointed in his decision to leave, but Delenn had seemed to understand his reasons. She had sent him off with her blessing.

Absently, Garibaldi reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out the small Minbari jewel that he kept there. Delenn had given it to him when he left Minbar, saying that it was a peace stone and that it was supposed to calm the inner workings of one's mind. It was a pretty thing, Garibaldi thought as he studied the shimmering blue~green surface. But, so far, he hadn't seen much effect from it. He carried it anyway, as a memento, but a small part of him hoped that it might help just a little.

After leaving Minbar, Garibaldi had decided to head for Mars and Lise. He thought that maybe it was time to settle down with her and make a life for the two of them. Hell, she had waited for him long enough. He smiled, remembering the look on Lise's face when he had shown up unexpectedly to sweep her off her feet. And afterward - well, to say that they spent the next two weeks in bed might be an exaggeration, but it did seem that they had made love every chance they got. It was even worth it when they got caught in the boardroom and had to apologize to several potential clients.

All too soon, however, the passion had cooled as the daily grind of running Edgar's Industries occupied most of their time. It quickly wore Garibaldi down. He had really tried to make it work. For over a year he had tried for Lise's sake, but he just wasn't cut out for the corporate life. Meetings, profit margins, dividends - it all made his head hurt. He still loved Lise and knew that she needed him, but when he found himself wishing for a way out - any way out - he knew he wasn't being fair to either one of them.

That was when Franklin had come to him. He had been authorized to take a team out to the Rim and try to find the Drakh. The battle against the plague wasn't going well and, as a desperate gamble, Franklin thought if they could find those who instigated the plague in the first place, they might also find a cure. But it was a mission wrought with uncertainty and unimagined parameters and Franklin needed someone he could completely trust to head up the team. Immediately he had thought of Garibaldi.

Lise had said she understood. She said she knew he was leaving because humanity was depending on him, but Garibaldi remembered the look in her eyes and knew she didn't really understand. She thought it should be enough for him to be with her and the life she offered. In her eyes, he was abandoning her again. He had wanted to explain, to tell her that if he didn't go he would soon abandon her in a different way - a more painful way. What words could he have used? Well, when he got back from the Rim he would try to make it up to her somehow - if he got back.

Strangely, the thought that he might not be coming back didn't frighten Garibaldi at all. Instead, there was an odd sense of peace settling into his bones. Maybe it was Delenn's stone at work, or maybe it was the realization that he was finally doing something that he wanted to do. The enemy was real and the rifle was real and he knew how to fight this kind of battle. It didn't matter how long they were gone or how far they had to go or how many Drakh they had to go through, Garibaldi knew he was finally where he needed to be. In the end, he supposed, that was all that really mattered.

It finally felt right.