Contents: Back Cover - Synopsis - Questions - Analysis - Notes - Author
Written by S. M. Stirling
Release date: May 1996
ISBN: 0-440-22234-6 (US)
ISBN: 0-7522-0163-8 (UK)
When Babylon 5 becomes the site of a peace summit between the universe's two warring super powers, Captain Sheridan and the EarthForce personnel have a security nightmare on their hands.
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When diplomats from the universe's two warring superpowers come to Babylon 5 for a peace summit, Captain Sheridan and the Earthforce Personnel know that security is paramount. But a brilliant con woman is making plans of her own - plans for the ambassadors of both Centauri and Narn - and in the belly of B5 the seeds of rebellion are being sewn....
A twin brother and sister, equally committed to their cause but divided by strategy, seek liberation for the planet, T'll. Then a T'llin exile is murdered, and violence erupts on Babylon 5, its internal communications hopelessly scrambled. With rebels threatening to bathe the peace conference in blood, and hostile warships approaching, Garibaldi must plot a rescue of Sheridan and the diplomats. But it may be too late. The T'llin have learned the art of destruction from masters, and for them freedom is worth any price: even self-annihilation.
The book opens in Sheridan's office with Garibaldi, Ivanova and Franklin in attendance. Plans are arduously being reviewed for the upcoming peace conference between the Narn and the Centauri. Sheridan expresses to Garibaldi some of the concerns that added security drills have had to the population of the station. The discussion is interrupted by Both G'Kar and Londo who separately are checking that both delegations have been given equally sized quarters among other important concerns. Privately, G'Kar expresses to Na'Toth a desire for peace, since he had always hoped that the battle could be fought at a time of the Narn's choosing. Both the Centauri and the Narn begin elaborate preparations of their respective delegations quarters.
Down Below, the T'llin where in hiding, but preparing for the visit of the Primes, a brother and sister who were the rulers of the T'll. T'llin homeworld had been decimated and dominated by the Narns using the techniques they had learned from the Centauri. The T'llin already onboard the station prepare to rent more suitable quarters for the arrival of their leader.
Garibaldi is training his new arrivals in hostage situations; Sergeant Kobayashi is one of the hostages. The recruits fail miserably, and the 'dead' Sergeant offers the advice that they should have used gas to knock everyone out before coming in. Back at Command and Control (C&C), the situation is tense as usual, Ivanova is finding that the new officer, Larkin who is serving C&C just can't hack the work. Larkin is somewhat mentally unstable from the internal monologue given and resents being talked down to and resolves to put Ivanova in her place. Sheridan continues to be besieged by diplomatic requests of various sorts. The Narn and the Centauri are discussing every issue from who should debark first to who should land first. While shopping for goods for their leaders, the T'llin encounter Na'Toth. Na'Toth attacks and ends up injured. G'Kar charges Na'Toth with investigating the situation since the Narn do not want their treatment of the T'llin publicized.
Garibaldi is preparing the new recruits for their first shift at the customs area. Each new recruit will be paired with an experienced security officer. After depositing his charges, he meets Semana MacBride, she is wearing a Minbari like dress and her attractive appearance is calculated to draw the interest of men. She is arguing with the security officers about entering the station with the sculpture that is to be donated to the station. Garibaldi assists her in getting through customs and also finds himself concerned about her. After she departs, he puts in a priority one request for her records from Earth Central. MacBride is similarly concerned, and grateful, that she was able to encounter Garibaldi so early on to warn her of the dangers. Ivanova is simultaneously relieved and more concerned by Larkin's clean bill of health. She had required him to get a physical, but not a psych evaluation because she did not want to subject him to a telepathic scan. Larkin returns to his quarters and sits down at his personal computer and resolves that it is time to put Ivanova in her place.
Garibaldi and Na'Toth argue about why she did not report the incident with T'llin immediately and explains that none are recorded as residents. The computer record does not indicate that any T'llin have come aboard the station, but this contradicts Garibaldi and other's own experiences of seeing families of T'llin around. In Semana's quarters, she feeds a bizarre plant-like creature named Tiko. Tiko seems to have ability to disguise itself as a variety of objects successfully. Na'Toth uses informers to try and get information about the T'llin downbelow, but in the process ends up their prisoner. The furnishing Londo ended up ordering for himself rather than the delegates arrives and he seems very satisfied since the accountants seem hell bent on preventing him from enjoying his new stature.
The next morning, Ivanova finds a data crystal outside her door. She immediately summons Garibaldi and they view it together. The crystal suggests that her brother was a traitor on Io and shows "him" meeting with a spy on Io during the Earth-Minbari war. The T'llin decide to release Na'Toth rather than kill her after some debate. And, from Earth, Sheridan receives a communique that the president's niece will be visiting as a reporter. At C&C, Ivanova arrives late, but composed, which upsets Larkin greatly.
Sheridan is selected to unveil Semana MacBride's statue. Garibaldi returns to security to find G'Kar on the screen demanding the Garibaldi come to his quarters immediately. G'Kar explains the assault on Na'Toth and demands that Garibaldi handle it immediately. After some discussion, Garibaldi resolves to look into this by going down below alone and in disguise. The T'llin manage to rent an office suite using a human agent to sign the deal.
Garibaldi gets attacked down below and is rescued. Franklin manages to patch him up a bit. Garibaldi explains it could not have been the T'llin who have all completely disappeared. Sheridan arrives in Medlab and says we have to talk. Ivanova sets up a private interview with Larkin to try and assess what might be the problem. Ivanova has no success in trying to get Larkin to talk in any significant way and ends up leaving him in tears. Larkin resolves that he must really get her for talking to him like that. Garibaldi brings the somewhat aggravated Captain up to speed on the situation with the T'llin.
Semana was all ready for the unveiling. Semana applies her charms vigorously to the Narn ambassador, much to Na'Toth's chagrin. Semana also dotes on Londo, also to Vir's chagrin. Na'Toth and Vir exchange knowing glances sharing for a brief moment the same thought. Garibaldi takes a moment to approach MacBride and inquire about her previous misunderstanding with the law over an earlier art deal. After being revealed, the statue has two T'llin sculpted on the side. This causes G'Kar to loose his temper and Semana promises that they will be removed. Sergeant Midori Kobayashi finally approaches Delenn and invites her to a tea ceremony. Delenn asks Lennier to make inquiries about the sergeant.
After the party, Semana returns to the site and loosens the T'llin from the statue, the Primes step free and Semana provides Minbari disguises for them and some credits. Lennier manages to get a hold of Garibaldi. In discussing the statue he notes that the disappearance of the T'llin figures was due to the fact that they probably walked away. Lennier advises Garibaldi to inquire with the lady, Semana, to find out more. Lennier then proceeds to ask about the sergeant and the tea ceremony. Garibaldi heartily endorses the sergeant, describing her as absolutely trustworthy. Semana takes a private moment with G'Kar to offer the Centauri Eye, see Signs and Portents. Semana shows G'Kar the Eye, actually it is her pet disguising itself as the eye. G'Kar returns to his quarters excited and Na'Toth is appropriately skeptical that it could be the actual eye.
The next morning, Susan found yet another data crystal outside the door. This one she did not view, but gave directly to Garibaldi. This one had a surprising ring of truth because it concerned actions of Vanya Ivanov during the war, and the ship shown was one destroyed in battle by the Minbari, but it could have been destroyed by sabotage perhaps. Londo is busy decorating his quarters with just two weeks left to the conference. At Vir's expression of concern, Londo explains the Centauri have no intention of negotiating peace. G'Kar meanwhile has obtained a diplomatic pouch with crystals showing Centauri attacks on Narn civilians.
Phina and Olorasin Primes, the brother and sister leaders of the T'llin, begin making their rounds of the diplomats aboard Babylon 5. Phina, the brother, would like to do something to show the Narns he meant business. At his sister's request, they are visiting the ambassadors. Delenn agrees to meet with them, but is unable to offer any help. When they leave, she expresses her regrets to Lennier. Lennier offers that he knows that if there is anything Delenn can do for them she will. They visit Captain Sheridan who can only offer to relay their request to Earth Dome, and then head towards the Centauri ambassador's quarters. G'Kar makes a call to a loan shark for money to purchase the Eye from Semana. The phone's privacy screen is out of order and Londo is able to overhear the conversation.
Back in C&C, Ivanova manages to piss Larkin off even further by thanking him for a job particularly well done. His internal psychopathy transforms this into a deeper insult steeling his resolve to send another crystal. Londo approaches Semana in a burst of energy, wanting to talk with her. She agrees to have cocktails with Londo just prior to her dinner with G'Kar.
Londo arrives on time, but Semana was already there. When Londo expresses his interest in the Eye obliquely, she is surprised since she can not understand how he would have found out about it. Londo still is not certain what Semana has for sale but, given the importance of the Eye and the asking price, the thought comes to him. A later call to Centauri Prime seems to confirm his suspicions that it is the Eye and that it was in fact perhaps missing from the Palace. Semana puts the squeeze on G'Kar for the money sooner than G'Kar seems to be able to obtain it. Prima Phina meanwhile was secretly trying to meet with the Centauri ambassador. While in the hall outside he removes his mask and Na'Toth comes upon him and kills him. Even Garibaldi feels he must concede that this situation does not seem to have been provoked by Na'Toth, e.g. Phina could have been reaching for a weapon.
The next morning, Ivanova finds a third data crystal in her office. Garibaldi arrives and expresses some surprise that she even uses her office. Garibaldi explains that they haven't yet proved the others forgeries, but something still feels wrong, scripted, about them. She insists on seeing this crystal, it suggests that her father together with the Psi Corps doctor conspired to kill her mother. Their discussion is interrupted by Sheridan who is upset that Garibaldi did not involve him in the T'llin death the previous evening. Upon finding out about her brother's death, Olorasin breaks down. The two were very closely linked twins, perhaps somewhat telepathically, and she collapses.
Londo and Semana finally meet so he can see the object, she shows him the Eye, cautioning against touching, allegedly for his own safety against being traced, but mostly to prevent the truth from coming out about her creature if it were to bite the Ambassador. The creature shows up properly even under a scan as the Eye. Londo immediately goes to Garibaldi and the two return to Semana's quarters with a search warrant. She shows papers for a miniature she had bought elsewhere and gets a good one over on Londo after she has managed to get Garibaldi convinced that at most she was trying to overcharge. Meanwhile the T'llin are discovered in the rented office and will have to return to Down Below.
The Japanese tea ceremony prepared by Kobayashi was no small feat. It turns out it is from a respect she gained for the Minbari when they spared her colony during the war. Kobayashi also explains that she probably would not have been able to approach Delenn had she not undergone the transformation to the human-like form. Delenn and Lennier leave feeling significantly lighter, younger and more refreshed.
Ivanova had spent hours going over personnel records looking at people who would have access to get at her office. She intentionally saved Larkin's record for last. She decides to check on whether any of the commanders who Larkin had previously responded to her message, she discovers that the messages were never sent. Further research indicates that two have had serious psychological problems and the third gives less than a ringing endorsement. The researchalso reveals that his hobby as a teenager was the creation of ultra-realistic vids, and that both of his parents were telepaths, but he wasn't. Both realize that being an untalented kid at a Corps school would be especially cruel. They decide that they must confront Larkin and Ivanova asks him to be present.
Cray who had previously helped the T'llin set up and was acting as G'Kar's loan shark, informed on the T'llin to G'Kar who immediately calls Garibaldi to round them up. Olorasin awakens as the other T'llin begin to try and move her somewhere safer. At that moment she resolves to carry out her brother's plan because she realizes that if they are to be turned over to the Narn eventually, the choice is to die now, or die later.
Wrapped in his own fantasies, Larkin reports to Ivanova's office. She confronts him with the changed recommendation from a previous officer as well as the various incidents. After he breaks up some about discussions of his parents, Ivanova orders him for a psych-evaluation and takes him off duty. Garibaldi tells Larkin that he will be watching and Larkin is sent on his way. Garibaldi explains that the suggestion of vid equipment was a security trick that Larkin fell for, and that there was no video equipment on the manifests. Larkin begins losing it further because he thinks Garibaldi actually looked at his quarters. Sheridan greets the president's niece, Chancy Clark. Chancy immediately buttonholes Lennier for a tour of the station relieving Sheridan of the rather unpleasant duty. While trying to deal with the T'llin, a call comes in of an officer down from PPG fire. A guy in an EA uniform fired upon the security guard.
From the description, Garibaldi recognizes it is Larkin and puts out an APB. Larkin is trying to get into the escape pods. Ivanova immediately heads towards the pods on a hunch that it would be the best way for a civilian unfamiliar with the Starfuries to exit the station. Ivanova and a technician arrive as Larkin gets himself into the airlock. She and Hal try to explain the lock has malfunctioned and no pod is present. No luck, Larkin eats the vacuum of space in just seconds.
After realizing that the various members of the press couldn't reach any sort of agreement on broadcast arrangements, Sheridan decides that it will be shown over video to the press from a remote camera. Sheridan encounters Lennier waiting outside the press room and Lennier explains that he finds Chancy Clark's behavior confusing and intriguing. Clark's niece ingratiates herself with Lennier and also observes to Sheridan that she will be attending in the arrival in person. Sheridan discusses the Larkin situation with Ivanova and Garibaldi; he is upset that he was not involved with the situation. Garibaldi explains the T'llin situation to G'Kar and says that they feel like they have gotten all of the T'llin rounded up into the brig. G'Kar insists on seeing Semana in spite of Na'Toth's attempt to cancel the lunch meeting they had. Up in C&C the arrival of a freighter with a friend brings an urgent message to Ivanova. The friend tells Ivanova of a Centauri "fleet" of sorts near the jumpgate the Narns will be using. Londo says he did not know of the "welcoming committee" and Sheridan has Ivanova take Alpha Wing to the gate to get the Centauri away from there. The remaining T'llin capture Cray and recruit him for their plan demanding maps and security codes for the station.
Alpha Wing arrives at the Centauri yacht fleet and attempts to contact them. They seem like a bunch of bozo Centauri looking for trouble or a good time. Londo's cousin Sodev is on board one of the yachts and Londo himself consents to having them blown out of the sky. G'Kar meets with Semana and explains that he has obtained most of the asking price, she rebuffs the offer because she does not want to be traced and wants to be off the station as soon as possible. Before they can negotiate further, Na'Toth drags the ambassador away. Mollari arrive immediately and Semana seems ready to sell to him. The Primes' plan is to conceal themselves in the docking bay in hibernation till the delegates arrive. Ivanova's group uses some trickery to get the Centauri to leave without a fight.
Garibaldi realizes that Olorasin is missing and sets off to find out her whereabouts as the reception is getting ready to start. Semana dupes Londo with a cake in a Chinese-style puzzle box and exits the station quickly on the last transport out. All of the ambassadors except Kosh are present for the reception and security is continuing to look around for any problems in the docking area. The two delegations enter the docking area simultaneously and head down to the platform to be greeted. In moments, the hull breach warnings sounded and air began escaping. The delegates and guests crowded into the hull breach area to wait out the problems. Additionally, breach doors came down sealing the docking area from the rest of the station. After keeping the camera out, they closed the breach area.
The T'llin had come out of hibernation in their fake Earthforce uniforms with PPGs in hand. Olorasin announces that they are her prisoners and Sheridan spots one with a bomb rigged to a dead man's switch. Garibaldi determines that the communications to the docking area have been disabled and readies his team for action. In the docking bay, the Centauri are confused as to why the T'llin do not consider them friends, but Olorasin explains that it is because they taught the Narns to be the way they are. Olorasin explains that they too have learned, but perhaps more quickly than the Narn and are willing to kill everyone to make their point.
Sheridan asks Olorasin what she wants, she explains they want the Narn to leave their world. Delenn attempts to intervene, with little apparent effect. Seeing that arguing was going nowhere, the delegations at Olorasin's insistence begin discussing peace as they sit waiting. Olorasin rather effectively cuts through the posturing between the parties as Garibaldi's team comes through the outer hull into the docking bay. Na'Toth makes a foolish attempt to change the situation which results in her being shot by a PPG. As Olorasin hovers over Na'Toth ready to kill perhaps because of the murder of her brother, Garibaldi's team becomes ready to operate and their charges go off on the breach door.
At that moment, Olorasin decides to surrender and orders her troops to give up their weapons. The T'llin with the dead man's switch lets it go and Midori throws herself against the T'llin, sparing the others' lives at the cost of her own. Sheridan expresses some thoughts to the Narn about the T'llin and getting out of their world. He also explains that the remaining Prime will be granted asylum and Delenn explains that the Centauri have agreed to be the second sponsor. Delenn and Sheridan leave hand in hand to discuss the T'llin situation suggesting that Delenn may be able to offer some aid.
As the officers make a toast to Midori, Garibaldi explains that Delenn had offered to write her family, calling it an obligation.