HORROR FROM WITHIN (I)
And another one is rolled out for your reading pleasure (or not, as the case may be). Characters known are Joe's, unknown (or unrecognisable) are mine, plot mine (I don't think B5 would have made it to the pre 9pm slot with this one). There's some violence in this one, though usually we see after the event. Sex (and this is a surprise?), but not sex and violence!
Thanks to a whole slew of people for suggestions, betaing, comments and corrections, not all of whom are in this group (though by damn some of them ought to be!!!) Any remaining mistakes feel free to yell at me for!
Summary: People are dying aboard Babylon 5, people with every reason to live. Is it suicide? Is there something else going on? And what has Michael Garibaldi got to do with it? J&D.
Franklin sighed as he pulled off his gloves and mask, dumping them into the recycler. "I'm going to see the Captain," he told the nurse on duty. "Finish up here, will you?"
"Yes, doctor." She hesitated, looking at the cloth-covered body on the slab. "What are you going to tell him?"
Franklin shrugged, undoing the neck of his gown and stripping it away to join the rest of his scrubs in the recycler. "That some people are really fed up with Babylon 5." He shook his head sadly and walked out.
The nurse turned to fill in the rest of the forms and then gave the instructions for the orderlies to wheel the body away.
"Another one?" Sheridan stared at Stephen as the doctor nodded. "That's three in two weeks. A bit excessive, don't you think?" He paused and sat down before continuing. "Any chance of foul play?"
Franklin shook his head. "Suicides, every one. No sign of external trauma indicating they were forced. No sign of alcohol, dust or any other drugs..."
"I know. I know, dammit! I don't like this any more than you do. And it's not like these were typical of suicides we've had here in the past. I mean, look at this..." He turned to the console and called up the records. Sheridan stood and walked over to stand beside him. "First one, David Stewer. Age: twenty-two. Was studying law and, by all accounts, he was a good student."
"Exam pressure?" Sheridan offered.
Franklin shook his head. "Exams aren't until next year, and he was doing just fine. He'd've walked it." He pulled up the next record. "Amanda Hodgkinson. Young mother, recently married, everything to live for."
"Maybe married life didn't agree with her? What's her husband like?"
"Devastated. I've got him on anti-depressants and I've arranged for counselling, but he's too stunned to take it all in right now." Another flick of the screen. "And today's: Matthew Harris, aged fifty-four. Businessman. Head of a successful company, good home, no family but, from what I've been able to ascertain, well liked even by his board of directors."
"No mean feat," Sheridan muttered.
"Exactly." Franklin turned, throwing up his hands in disgust before resting them on his hips. "I can't find any connection between them at all. Harris was a regular visitor here on business trips, but for Hodgkinson and Stewer it was their first time on the station. Hodgkinson is from Io, Harris and Stewer from Mars, but nowhere near each other. They arrived on different transports over the past month. They didn't even stay in the same part of the station. I've got Zack checking everything he can but so far he's come up with zip."
Sheridan was still looking at the faces, flicking between them on the console. At last he switched the screen off and turned to Franklin. "Maybe it's just coincidence?" Franklin turned and gave him a look. "I know. I agree with you, but still..."
"I've signed the death certificates. I'll give you the paperwork on Harris later this afternoon."
"Thanks for letting me know, Stephen." Sheridan watched his Chief Medical Officer for a moment. The man was clearly exhausted with stooping shoulders, lines of fatigue on his face and surrounded by an aura of defeat. "When was the last time you got some sleep?"
Franklin ran his hand over his head. The grey hairs were starting to outnumber the brown ones, but then Babylon 5 had a way of ageing you prematurely. "Too damn long ago. I'll wrap up Harris and then I'm off duty. Doctor Hobbes can watch over things for the next shift."
Sheridan nodded, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Glad to hear you say that."
"I learned my lesson, thanks." Franklin smiled briefly and then looked down, the nagging frustration and sense of waste clear in his demeanour. "Well, if you'll excuse me...."
Sheridan nodded. "Of course. Keep me up to date, Stephen. Any more of these and I think we'd better start checking the air recycling."
Franklin sighed. " I already have, believe me. See you later Captain."
Sheridan nodded to the retreating back of the doctor and then returned to the console, switching it back on and gazing once more at the faces of the three suicides. When the universe could dish out death with such an apparently zealous air this method seemed all the more tragic.
"I wonder what made them do it?" he muttered to himself.
"Do what?" The voice with the familiar accent made him smile briefly and he turned to see Ambassador Delenn standing behind him.
"Another suicide," he provided, returning to sit behind his desk.
Delenn walked over to the console and read the report, shaking her head sadly. She turned and regarded Sheridan. He seemed to be taking this personally.
"It is not your fault, John."
He leaned forward on his desk, his hands locked together and his forearms supporting him. "Is living on Babylon 5 that bad?" he asked, though there was a measure of the rhetorical in his voice. "I mean, I know it's been tough since the embargo, but this?"
"For Lurkers I think the answer to your question is probably yes," Sheridan looked up sharply and she shook her head. "I know you have been trying to better their conditions, John, and things *are* better, but the poor and disillusioned and desperate will always be with us. But these were not Lurkers, were they?" He shook his head, staring down at fists now clenched in frustration. She moved towards him, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I have no complaints," she smiled softly.
Sheridan snorted. "Thanks for that." He shook his head. "Still doesn't make sense, though."
"I am sure Dr. Franklin or Mr. Allan will find out anything there is to find. It is sad, yes, but it is not your concern for now." Sheridan hummed in his throat, a vaguely depressing sound. She decided to change the subject, although the list of viable topics was depressingly short. "How are things with President Clark?"
"Hmph! Same as ever. He wants my hide but can't find a good way of getting it."
"I have ordered more supplies from Minbar and its colonies. They should arrive the day after tomorrow. Do you need anything else?"
"How long have you got?" he sighed, staring into the middle distance as though a list as high as the wall was materialising in front of him.
Delenn smiled sadly and let her hand move down his arm to cover his. He looked up. "As long as you need," she assured him.
He nodded and then sat up, freeing his hands to pull at his collar, straightening it. It was a compulsive movement: a physical reminder that his job and his life contained more than this. There was no point in dwelling upon that which he could not change -- at least not yet -- but there were other things he could affect. Pleasanter matters, and right now he needed a change of pace. He turned in his chair to look at her properly. "How about dinner?"
"If you can."
"I would be delighted. Where?"
"Fresh Air? I could book us that quiet corner table you like." He reached out and took one of her hands in his, rubbing his thumb over the back of it lightly.
"Assuming it is not already taken," she chided lightly.
"Then I'll order a reallocation of restaurant resources. Can't have you disappointed." He grinned but there was a hint of sadness still in his eyes. She held his gaze, forcing him to be honest. "I'm good at reallocations." He looked down. "Getting a lot of practice lately," he added quietly.
She placed her fingers under his chin and raised his eyes to hers. "Minbar, Centauri Prime and the League support you, John, as does Narn as far as they can. We will get through this."
"I know. I'm just tired. Sorry."
"Perhaps you should have an early night?" she suggested softly, stroking her fingers over his cheek.
He shook his head. "And turn down dinner with my favourite Ambassador?"
"I thought G'Kar was your favourite?" she teased. He put his head on one side and raised an eyebrow. She chuckled. "What time?"
"Sounds perfect. I will see you then." She moved away slowly, reluctant to remove her hand from his face. He turned and kissed the palm before her fingers finally released him. With a last look and a swirl of her skirts she left the office.
Sheridan smiled at her retreating form, but the smile slowly faded as he turned back to the console, still flashing up the faces of the three suicides. He shook his head. "What a waste!" He pressed a button on his link, killing the console image before returning to his paperwork.
"Here's the paperwork, and my bill. I expect prompt payment," Garibaldi said, handing over the folder to his client who sat, beaming with delight, opposite him.
"You shall have it. I can't thank you enough. This is wonderful news! I'll transfer the balance to your account by seven this evening. Will that be soon enough?"
They were sitting in one of the Zocalo cafes, a cup of coffee going cold by Garibaldi's left hand. People milled around, going about their business in the usual manner. Garibaldi was eating high off the hog with the business he was drawing, cold coffee notwithstanding. His reputation had already spread far and wide by word of mouth and he no longer had to advertise his talents. His books were full, his bank account healthy. Life was pretty good. He could afford to wait a few hours.
"That'll be fine." He stood up, extending his hand. His client stood and returned the handshake, pumping excitedly.
"Thank you, once again, for everything. This is fantastic!" The man was practically jumping for joy. Despite his worst fears, everything dear to him was safe. He would gladly pay twice as much to hear that news. Tonight, after he'd transferred the funds, he was going to celebrate. It didn't get much better than this.
Garibaldi smiled as the man trotted away, grabbing a passer-by at random and showing him the source of his delight. The stranger nodded and smiled, shaking his hand and congratulating him on his good fortune before moving on. Garibaldi turned back to his papers, sorting them and placing them in a briefcase. Another satisfied customer. He had four hours before his next meeting. He checked the time and decided he'd shower, change and then grab some dinner. Yep, life was pretty good.
As Garibaldi left another man turned and watched him, smiling to himself. Then his eyes rose to the client who was still accosting strangers in his excitement. Yes, he would be ideal. Just what he was looking for. So much more satisfying to get people when they were high. This Garibaldi fellow was evidently good at what he did. He'd have to follow him more closely. So many targets in just the right frame of mind.
He paused and frowned. Then again, maybe not. He didn't want to establish a pattern. Of course, Garibaldi would probably be blamed, and with the souring of relations between him and the station commander it would be so easy.
It was an idea. He decided to dwell on it a little while he soaked up the thoughts of those around him, reaching out to the still jubilant client. Within a moment he had all the man's residential details, as well as a strong sense of his mind. Yes, he would find that pattern again anywhere on the station. Absolutely perfect.
Life was very good.
Sheridan called for Delenn at seven forty-five and together they entered Fresh Air. The waiter led them to their table and Sheridan frowned slightly as he saw Garibaldi was also enjoying a meal at the restaurant tonight. Delenn squeezed his hand, drawing him back to her. He nodded and pulled back her chair, seating her before taking his own and making himself comfortable. From where he sat who could see Garibaldi and the frown returned. Delenn reached up and pressed her fingers to his jaw, redirecting his gaze.
"He is allowed, John."
"I know, I know. I still can't work him out..."
"And it frustrates you."
"Am I that transparent?"
"To me, yes. Come, let us talk about better things. Mr. Garibaldi has chosen his path and we must let him live it. He is not any of your concern now."
"He was a good friend, Delenn. I miss having him around. But when I try and tell him that we just end up shouting at each other. He's a changed man." He shook his head, scowling slightly as Garibaldi's glance touched him and then passed over as if he was of no importance whatsoever. "I shouldn't let him get to me, but he does."
"Would you like to change places? At least then you will not be able to see him."
He chuckled and shook his head. "No, it's not that bad. Sorry. I'm being rude."
"Yes," she returned simply. "Now, what would you like to eat?" They bent together over the menu chatting quietly, but Delenn noticed that John's eyes still wandered to Garibaldi's table from time to time.
Garibaldi bit into his steak and chewed, taking a mouthful of a non-alcoholic Drazi drink to wash it down. He'd seen Sheridan and Delenn enter and wondered about leaving early. Then he decided he had as much right, if not more, to eat at Fresh Air and if Sheridan didn't like it (and from the frowns he was getting that was a fair guess) he could stick it. Sheridan was not important enough to worry about right now. If he upped his war against Clark, then would be the time to react, but for now Garibaldi was satisfied with the status quo he'd achieved.
He glanced at the chronometer. His account should have been credited by now. He put down his fork and reached into his pocket, drawing out a data pad which he accessed. After a while he frowned. There was no sign of the money. OK, the guy was probably still celebrating. If the account didn't show the new credit by the time he finished the meal he'd go and give him a reminder. He didn't want to get the reputation of being a soft-touch. He left the pad on in front of him, eyeing it occasionally to see if it had been updated. By the time he finished his meal and coffee there was still no sign of the credit. He sighed. He hated it when he had to get heavy, and he had got a kick out of seeing the man's thrill when he had delivered the good news about his family. Still, a debt was a debt. He summoned the waiter, paid the bill and stood up. Sheridan glanced up from his meal and, for a moment, the two held each other's eyes, then Garibaldi shrugged and left.
"You're grinding your teeth," Delenn chided gently.
"Hmm? Sorry." He sighed. "He's gone at last. Maybe now I can enjoy my dinner without getting indigestion."
"John, you have got to stop this. You are letting the situation get control of you." She reached out and covered his hand. "Such anger does no one any good."
"I know. I'm sorry." He brightened. "How's your food?"
"Very good, as usual. Yours?"
"Great." He took a mouthful of wine and swallowed, pausing thoughtfully. "Is this OK?" he asked, indicating his glass.
"As long as you don't want me to drink any."
"I mean for later."
Delenn turned her head to one side, her eyes sparkling with amusement. "You would have to get very drunk for it to upset my system under those circumstances, and if you were that drunk I doubt we could do anything anyway."
He laughed. "No. You're probably right at that." He leaned forward conspiratorially. "Though in the past I've been known to achieve great things while under the influence."
"Not that much," she chuckled. "In any case, I do not think either of us needs to be under any kind of influence to achieve great things when we are together."
"Just each other's," he agreed. He held her eyes until she put her hand to the back of her neck, a sure sign she was starting to feel nervous. "What's wrong?"
"People are watching us."
"Let them." He caught her hand and raised it to his lips, kissing the fingertips. He saw her eyes dart to a table to his left and smiled mischievously, sucking one finger into his mouth. When he had finished he kissed the back of her hand chivalrously and placed it back on the table. He then turned and glared at the diner to his left.
"Something you wanted?" he asked pointedly. The diner shook his head vigorously, returning his attention to his own partner.
Sheridan turned to his right and saw another couple redirect their attention, pretending they had always been so absorbed with their salads. Turning back to Delenn, Sheridan grinned.
"They're only jealous," he assured her. "After all, I am flirting with the most beautiful woman on the station." She smiled coyly at the compliment. "Of course," he added quietly, "if you'd like me to do more than just flirt we could go back to my place...?"
She leaned on her elbows, her chin resting on her fists. "There's more, is there?" she whispered, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
He nodded, leaning forward to mirror her position. "Oh, a lot more."
"And do you think I would like it?"
"Well now, that all depends on how much you're willing to put into it," he murmured, winking at her.
"Hmm. It takes two, then?"
"Perhaps you should show me what you had in mind?" She looked at her plate. "After dinner?"
He placed his hand briefly over hers and nodded, returning to his own plate with gusto.
She laughed. "Do not eat too quickly. I do not want to have to call Medlab later this evening!"
He shook his head. "There's no danger, I assure you!" He took another mouthful and Delenn laughed lightly and returned to her dinner, shaking her head. He was utterly incorrigible!
"Come on, come on. Open up," Garibaldi muttered, leaning on the door announce. The door remained stubbornly closed and the comm panel silent. Looking from side to side he made sure there were no security teams in evidence and then slipped a card from his pocket. A copy he had kept in another name that no one knew about. It paid to be paranoid even when he was head of security. Now it was paying out dividends he could never have imagined.
For a brief second a twinge of conscience made him pause and look at the card. A small voice in his head asked why he was doing this. Why was he working as a Private Investigator instead of running the station's security? Then the louder voice reasserted itself. 'Because Sheridan's getting out of hand, that's why.' The retort was so swift, so certain, and he did not question it. Perhaps once he would have wondered at how smoothly he accepted that inner voice; perhaps once it would have made him suspicious, but not now. Instead, he nodded at the assertion, satisfied that his actions were beyond reproach by any but those blinded by the 'cult of Sheridan' and inserted the card. The door cracked open and he peered inside.
"Mr. Walters? Are you in there?" There was no answer from the darkness. He stepped inside and closed the door. Slipping slightly he placed one hand on the wall and steadied himself. Somebody must have spilled something. "Look, I know you wanted to celebrate, but there's still the small matter of my outstanding bill." Silence. Garibaldi sighed. The guy would be angry at being woken, but time was money and Garibaldi was fed up with being polite.
Walters was slumped in his chair, his left arm slit on the inside from the wrist to the elbow, the right slit across the wrist. Looking down he saw the source of his earlier slip: blood pooling at his feet. He moved forward carefully. Walters was staring at the ceiling, his face an odd mix of horror and resignation.
A thought occurred to Garibaldi and he looked down.
His own incriminating footprints were now all over the floor. Not that he had much choice in the matter when he'd stepped inside, unaware of what awaited him, but this was not going to look good. He sighed. There was only one thing for it.
He walked to the Babcom and called up Medlab.
"Garibaldi here. I'm in Blue Three. We've got a suicide."
"Another one?!" a female voice cried, and the face of the tech who had answered the call was replaced with the stunned one of Dr. Hobbes.
"I don't know about another one. All I know is the guy is dead."
"Stay there. We're on our way. Don't..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know the procedure," Garibaldi interrupted. He raised his hands. "Not a thing, I promise. Hurry up, will you? This is ruining my shoes."
Hobbes gave him a disgusted look and signed off. Garibaldi checked the chronometer. In less than three minutes the place would be crawling with security. No way he'd get his pay now. He frowned. Was he always this callous? The guy had everything to live for. His wife and family had been found alive despite all the evidence to the contrary, and he'd been jubilant and full of life less than four hours ago. Now he was about to become an addition to the morgue freezer. What could possibly have changed his frame of mind so completely in so short a time?
Garibaldi looked at the console. It was dark, but a quick glance alerted him to the fact that it had been put in standby mode rather than shut off completely. Activating it fully he registered the presence of messages waiting to be sent. With only a moment's hesitation he played them back. One was to Walter's wife, the address having been supplied by Garibaldi himself. The other was a confirmation of the transfer of funds to Garibaldi's account. Apart from that there was no indication of any other activity. Had someone disturbed Walters? Arrived out of the blue and so devastated him that he felt his only option was suicide?
Garibaldi frowned. This just didn't make any sense. What could be so bad that a man would take his own life after learning he had everything to live for?
The door opened and Zack Allan entered, eyeing Garibaldi briefly before letting his gaze fall on the dead man.
"Watch your feet!" Garibaldi warned, pointing to the blood. Zack looked down and side-stepped the spill, coming up the side of the chair to look down at the dead man. As others arrived he ordered one to stand by and warn people to be wary of where they stepped.
"You know him?" he asked Garibaldi.
"Yeah. Robert Walters. He was a client of mine."
"A kinda dissatisfied one from the looks of it. What happened, Michael? Losing your touch?" Zack's voice was dripping with sarcasm.
Garibaldi frowned, stung by the comment from someone who had once been his ally. "No more than you with people turning up dead all over the place." He turned away before Zack could retort. "No, I came here to get payment. I found what he was looking for."
"And what was that?"
Garibaldi indicated the console. There was no point in hiding the nature of his contract as Walter's last message explained it all.
"Computer, play back messages." Zack listened and then turned to Garibaldi. "A bit steep, but not enough to warrant killing himself over. What else did you want from him?"
Garibaldi bristled. "Hey, you think I've got anything to do with this you're out of your mind. I came here to get my money, that's all. I walked in, saw this, called you. End of story."
"Yeah? And how did you get in?"
"I have my methods," he replied evasively.
"Hand it over, Michael." Zack held out his hand.
"What?" He gave Zack an innocent look.
"Don't give me that. The identicard you used to get into this room. Hand it over. Come on, you know you're not allowed those. Captain's orders."
Garibaldi snarled. "You want to know what he can do with his fragging orders? He damn near got me killed!" Zack put his head on one side, raising an eyebrow. He wasn't going to argue this all over again. Garibaldi hesitated, trying to stare Zack down. When the method failed he pulled out the card, his eyes never wavering from Zack's face, and slapped it in his hand. "Happy? Now you can go running to Sheridan like a good little soldier and tell him you've caught me again. I'm sure that'll win you lots of Brownie points."
Zack refused to rise to the bait. "Any others you want to tell me about, or do I come over and search your quarters later?"
"You do that and I'll lodge a complaint. You've got no right."
"Hey, this is a murder investigation. Right now I can do anything I damn well please and you know it!" He was losing patience. If anyone had behaved like this to Garibaldi when he was in charge he would never have tolerated it. As far as Zack was concerned he was being a lot more patient with his predecessor than his predecessor would ever have been with anyone else.
"Yeah? Well I didn't do it. All I did was spend several months trying to find his wife and family. Now you can have the pleasure of telling them he's dead. I've had it. You know where I am if you need to find me. I've got nothin' to hide." Garibaldi about-faced and stalked out, hands in his pockets.
"Michael, come.... Oh, what's the use?" Zack sighed and turned back to Walters as Hobbes came in with two technicians and a gurney. "Mind the blood!" Zack called out. Hobbes nodded, having already been warned, and side-stepped the slick pool of crimson. "Another one for you, doc." She nodded and bent over the body. "Can you leave everything where it is until we get the cameras in here? After that, he's all yours." Hobbes gave Zack a withering glance. "Yeah, I know. Just making sure we carry out procedure. I'll get the forensics boys in here and leave you guys to it. Let me know what you find."
"From the looks of things, exactly what we've found on the other three 'suicides'. You'd better let the Captain know."
"You don't think it is suicide?" Zack asked, noting the derisory way in which Hobbes had said the word.
"Four identical ones in two weeks? No. I don't know what's going on here, or how, but I'd bet my retirement that there's someone or something behind all this." She pulled back, her hands on her hips. "Even if we don't have an outright murderer I'd say we've got an accessory who's setting these people up. What or who I've no idea, but I intend to find out." She bent over the body again, her scanner in her hand as she wafted it over the corpse and then checked the readings before making an adjustment and doing a second pass. Zack nodded and moved away. "Good luck with the Captain," Hobbes threw over her shoulder. "I don't think he's going to like this one bit."
"Nope. I think he's gonna hate this a whole lot."
"ANOTHER one?!" Sheridan stared at the comm panel in his quarters. He and Delenn had returned there for a night-cap and Sheridan was not pleased at the interruption, but when he heard the nature of it all other thoughts fled his mind.
"Yep. Sorry, sir, but the MO's exactly the same."
"Where did you find him?" Sheridan snapped and then relaxed slightly as he felt Delenn's reassuring touch on his arm as she came up beside him.
"In his quarters. Actually, Garibaldi found him and called us."
"Michael? What the hell was he doing there?" Sheridan looked at Delenn who shrugged. Michael was a lot of things, but a serial killer was a bit much even for him.
"The guy was a client of his." Sheridan raised an eyebrow but Zack shook his head. "Walters left a couple of messages. Assuming they're genuine, they confirm Michael's story. So far as I can see there's no reason to think they're faked."
"Where's Michael now?"
"Went back to his quarters I think."
"What do you mean, you think? This is a murder investigation Mr. Allan, you don't let suspects walk away."
"Captain, I know where he is. I can get him whenever I want him." Zack was frowning. Strictly speaking, Sheridan was right, but given it was Garibaldi this hard-line stance was excessive.
"I want him questioned, Zack. I want to know his movements at the time Walters died. If that comes up with anything, cross check with the other deaths. See if there's a pattern."
"Uh, Captain..." Zack was shuffling his feet. This was getting ridiculous. True, Garibaldi had been acting a little odd of late, but this...
"I mean it, Zack. Go over those quarters with a fine-tooth comb. If you find anything, I want to hear about it. Understood?"
Zack was shaking his head as Sheridan switched off the comm panel. Delenn reached out but he shook her off, pacing the floor irritably.
"I swear, if he's got anything to do with this I'll tear him apart!" he muttered, turning sharply.
"Whatever problem he's got with me I can handle, but if he's turned to murder..."
"What kind of a man did I have as my head of security?"
Sheridan stopped pacing suddenly as Delenn shouted his name to snap him out of his distraction.
"John, this is ridiculous and you know it. Mr. Garibaldi did not murder that man."
"You can't know that."
"Yes I can, and so do you. Michael is a lot of things, but he is not a cold-hearted killer. Not like this. As for his whereabouts, you know where he was tonight. He was in the Fresh Air restaurant. Remember?" Delenn was standing firm, staring him down. Sheridan opened his mouth and then paused. The tension went out of his shoulders and his former anger was replaced with a rueful expression. He nodded.
"You're right." He raised his hands. "You're right, OK? I'm sorry." He turned to the comm panel and contacted Zack. "Zack, have you got a time of death yet?"
"Yeah. Doctor Hobbes says somewhere between an hour and a half and two and a half hours ago."
Sheridan sighed. "Then cancel my last order. Mr. Garibaldi was in the Fresh Air restaurant at that time."
"He's got a witness?"
"Yeah. Me. Check other leads."
"Will do." Zack looked visibly relieved.
"But keep an eye on him," Sheridan added, not willing to surrender on the matter of Garibaldi's innocence just yet.
"OK, Captain. Whatever you say."
The screen went dead and Sheridan turned to find Delenn giving him one of her 'what was that all about?' looks.
"I just...need to be sure. OK?" Delenn continued to eye him. "Look, he's changed. We've all seen it. He's just not the man I knew. I don't know what this beef is he's got with me, but he's making me nervous."
"The only person making you nervous right now is you. He was your friend for several years. You trusted him with your life. No one changes that much."
Sheridan grunted and sat down heavily, rubbing his forehead. "Am I getting paranoid?" he asked at last, looking up, his face open and questioning.
"Where Michael is concerned? Just a bit," she replied, smiling to take the sting from her words.
Sheridan snorted and put his head back on the couch, covering his face with his hands to blot out the light before rubbing his eyes briefly and letting his hands fall back to his sides. "Ahh. I think this is all getting to me. Clark, Michael, the war..." He shook his head and then looked at Delenn, giving her a small smile. "Sorry."
She sat down next to him, moving closer when he lifted his arm. She relaxed against him, feeling his arm heavy and immobile across her shoulders.
At last, when he showed no signs of further comment, she drew a breath. "You cannot do anything about this tonight. Tomorrow, when Dr. Hobbes hands over her report, perhaps you and Zack will have more to go on."
He eyed her. "Not if it follows the patterns of the others."
"Then we are missing something. There has to be a reason. A method. A means. From what you have shown me, none of this makes any sense at all."
"Exactly. All of the victims were happy. There's no reason for any of them to do this."
"Which means they didn't," she supplied.
"But there was no sign of external coercion. No drugs. Nothing."
Delenn considered for a moment, speaking her thought processes aloud. "People who are happy do not kill themselves. Therefore, there must be someone or some thing else. But there is no physical sign of coercion, so whatever is doing this does not need to use external methods. Somehow, they work from the inside. There are no drugs, so either it is some being of energy of which we are unaware..." She considered the option, then shook her head. "So far it has only attacked humans. If it were an alien life form it would hardly be so species-specific. So what else that we know about could get inside someone's head and persuade them to kill themselves?"
Sheridan nodded absently at her analysis and then stopped, staring at the wall.Her final words and their implications sinking in. As one he and Delenn turned to each other.
"A telepath!?" they said in unison.
Sheridan stood up, moving so suddenly that Delenn was jerked from her position. He was too wrapped up in the idea to notice and she just shook her head and smoothed her skirts once more.
"It could explain everything. But someone who preys on people who are happy? Forces them to commit suicide? What kind of a sick person would do that? Why would they do it?"
"I do not know, but I would suggest you speak to Lyta Alexander. If anyone has any ideas about telepaths it would be her."
"You don't think....?"
Delenn gave him a look and folded her arms.
"No, of course not. I wonder if she's still awake?"
"John, it's past midnight."
"So? This is a murder investigation for god's sake!"
Delenn stood up, placing a gentle hand on his arm. "And one in which we are making guesses. Contact Dr. Hobbes and let her know what we think. She might be able to find some corroborating evidence. If she does, tell Zack and then talk to Lyta. You cannot make an accusation without some evidence."
"But if we wait someone else may die."
"The killer does not seem to strike more than once in twenty-four hours. So far there have been several days between attacks. I think this can wait at least until the morning." She stepped in front of him, forcing him to look at her. "John. Please."
He looked down, his face contorted with emotion. "Have you any idea how this makes me feel? It's my station, Delenn. People here are under my protection. Every time this killer strikes I've failed."
"I understand. But you cannot work alone and you cannot go off.....how do you say it? Half-cricked?"
He smiled in spite of himself. "Half-cocked," he supplied. He placed his hands on her arms, emphasising his words with a small shake. "You're right. As usual. It doesn't make me feel much better, though." He looked around the quarters, his eyes roving across the consoles, the furniture and up to the ceiling before coming to rest on her once more. "And it's ruined our evening. I'm sorry. I truly am. I had a lot planned for tonight, but I can't do anything with all this going on. Forgive me?"
A small smile played across her lips and she shook her head. "I would be disappointed in you if you could carry on. It would mean that you did not care, and that is not the John Sheridan I fell in love with." She reached up to place her hand on his chest and he covered it with his own, smiling softly. "There will be other nights. You need to rest."
"I know. But we both know that's not gonna happen."
"Would you like me to stay?" He raised his eyebrows. "Not like that. Merely for the company."
"Would you? I know I'm not the best company right now and it wasn't what you were expecting..."
She placed a finger over his lips to stop him from making any more apologies. "I would be happy to."
He smiled and pulled her into his arms. "Oh god, what a mess!" he muttered, the frustration at his own perceived failure putting a catch in his voice. He held her tightly and she returned it, ounce for ounce.
"You will find the killer, John. I know you will."
"I hope so." He stared at the wall even as he kissed her hair, his mind elsewhere. "I hope so," he muttered again.
Saul Sorenson leaned back on the bed in his quarters, tasting and reliving the last moments of Robert Walter's life as it seeped through his mind. The joy, the surprise, the horror, the anger, the pain...everything that had made him such a perfect target. Everything as he slipped beyond, trying even at the last moment to fight against the compulsion as Sorenson smiled and watched him complete his final act.
It was exhilarating and exhausting. It would be several days before he would need to strike again, and given the amount of effort he expended each time that was just as well. He thought back to when he had first discovered this thrill. He had been working for Psi Corps then. Strictly speaking he still did, but despite his rating they rarely called on him. He had managed to make them nervous. That, in itself, was something of a bonus. Who among the Psi Corps could make the Corps nervous? Very few. Bester, of course, but in many ways Sorenson was a twin. They both followed people to the edge. It had even been Bester who had asked him to get his first deathbed confession and shown him the thrill of seeing into the other side, albeit briefly. Of course, Bester never saw what Sorenson did. Never went so far as to feel the glory that sat just on the other side of the gate. Bester always claimed he saw nothing, but Sorenson knew. He'd seen it, over and over again. Bester's problem was he didn't go far enough and never with the right people. Hardened criminals were simply not in the right frame of mind. You had to pick your targets carefully. Sorenson knew this. He worked hard at it, and the payoff was worth the exhaustion.
Tomorrow he would eat and then rest some more. The next day he would begin his search again. He knew, from past experience, that the high would leave him before many days had passed, and he could not bear the depression that always followed. He had to find another victim while he was still filled with the fresh memories of the last. Before they grew stale with use and their sharp edge softened from exposure to his admiring consideration.
He rolled over, smiling to himself as he replayed the images once more. Yes, it had been good.
Sheridan had left a message for Dr. Hobbes and she filed her report based on her analysis early the next day. Sheridan called her to his office, together with Zack, to review what she had discovered.
"You're sure about this?"
Hobbes nodded. "I had Dr. Franklin double check the reports. When someone is scanned there's an elevation of brain activity. It leaves a trail if you know what you're looking for. I won't go into the technical stuff..." Sheridan rolled his eyes, nodding gratefully. As if he'd understand a word of it anyway. "But basically, I'd say your guess is right. At some time at or near the point of death Walters was scanned. I went back and pulled the other victims out of cryo. The evidence isn't obvious if you don't know what you're looking for, but once you'd given me the idea I found everything we needed. There are significant levels of catecholamines, particularly noradrenaline and dopamine. There's also a fairly massive release of enkephalin, which suggests the victims were in a lot of pain and their bodies were struggling to cope. While suicide can be painful, the method used here actually isn't too bad. As you lose blood you just fall asleep, yet these people seem to have been in pain until the last moment. Seratonin, of course...' She cocked her head looking down her list and nodding to herself. She was completely absorbed in her recitation and did not notice the looks Sheridan and Zack gave each other. 'The neural pathways..."
Sheridan raised his hand, loudly clearing his throat at the same time. Hobbes looked up. "Am I going to understand the rest of this?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
The doctor paused, her enthusiasm having got the better of her. She snorted. "Probably not. Anyway, the point is, I'd say there's an ninety percent probability the murderer is a telepath."
Zack looked up. "Ninety percent? You're not certain?"
Hobbes sighed. "The symptoms could be caused by other factors. They're rare, but not unknown. But so many in such a short time? And there's no sign of disease, which rules out at least four straight off. The victims didn't know each other, didn't have similar backgrounds or origins..." She turned and looked Zack in the eye. "Medicine is not an exact science, Mr. Allan. What I'm telling you is that, in the absence of any other connection between these victims, that's the only one that fits the facts we have so far. If I come up with anything else..." at this point she turned back to Sheridan "...I will, of course, let you know. Right now the only other idea I could suggest is some kind of alien influence by something we've not previously encountered, but I'd say that's far-fetched. Something closer to home sounds much more reasonable."
Sheridan nodded. "Any idea why the victims have all been human so far? Not that I object. The last thing I need is a horde of alien ambassadors breathing down my neck, but still..."
"That's another thing that supports your hypothesis. Alien minds can be very hard for telepaths. They work differently. I'd say your killer has fine-tuned himself to such an extent that anything but a human mind, or one that works along similar lines, would be beyond him. This also suggests the killer is a human, since I'm told it's easier to read members of your own race. I could be wrong, of course."
"Let's hope you're not." Sheridan stood. "OK, Zack. Check on all human telepaths who've come to Babylon 5 in the last two months."
"Two months? That's gonna be a lot, Captain. Even with the embargo we still get a lot of traders who need telepaths. And then there're those who're escaping the Corps and don't show up on the paperwork."
Hobbes shook her head. "The person you're looking for is a P-10 at least, probably Psi Cop level. Anyone below that you can ignore."
"Why do you say that?" Sheridan asked, curious.
"Because of the level of control we're talking here. Whoever it is they're managing to subdue a strong urge to live. Given the mood the victims were in, an even stronger urge than normal. I'd say this guy gets his kicks from the power he has over them. The harder it is, the more he likes it."
"You're sure it's a he?" Zack asked.
"Almost. It could be a woman, but as a matter of historical fact there aren't too many female serial killers. Not on this level anyway. Of course, this could be one of the exceptions."
"Check them all, Zack," Sheridan said, standing up from behind his desk and coming around to stand in the middle of the room. "Everyone from a P-10 and above, male or female. If you don't find anything officially, check unofficially." Zack nodded. "Dr. Hobbes, if you find anything else contact me immediately. I'm going to have a word with Lyta Alexander."
Zack looked sharply at Sheridan. Surely he couldn't think that she....? But Sheridan had already dismissed them and, whether he liked it or not, Zack had to admit Lyta certainly qualified in the power department. No one knew just how high she registered, but it was a lot higher than the official P-5 rating on her file. He shook his head and made his way to his office. He had a lot of paperwork to go over.
The door-announce disturbed Lyta in the middle of a good book. She snorted in agitation, marking her place, and then cheered with the thought that maybe this was a client. Right now she could use all the work she could get.
Rising from her chair she smoothed her jacket and turned to the door. "Come in."
As Sheridan entered, ducking to avoid hitting the doorway, she winced. The last time he'd called at her quarters it was to give her a dressing down she'd never forget. What had she done this time? Swiftly she mentally reviewed everything she'd done in the last few weeks. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She pasted a smile on her face.
"Captain. To what do I owe this...visit?" She had been going to say pleasure, but after their last encounter that would hardly have been appropriate. Sheridan considered her expression for a moment and then tilted his head briefly.
"Miss Alexander. I'll come straight to the point. I need your help."
Lyta raised her eyebrows. "Really? I'm surprised." He was still standing half in the doorway. "Won't you come in?" He moved forward and the door swung shut behind him. "Would you like some tea? I just made it."
"No. Thank you all the same. May I?" He indicated a chair and Lyta nodded, settling herself opposite him. When he hesitated she prompted him.
"You said you needed my help?"
"Yes. Uh, look. We've got a problem."
"When don't you on this station?"
"Quite. But the problem appears to be a telepath."
"We have a serial killer on board the station and it seems he or she is using telepathic pressure to force the victims to suicide."
"Then what makes you think it's murder?"
"Because the victims all had plenty to live for. Dr. Hobbes and Dr. Franklin have done some tests and come up with evidence of telepathic involvement at or near the point of death."
"I see. So why did you come here? Or do you think I did it?" She raised an eyebrow, waiting to see Sheridan's response. He shook his head.
"No. Not that you don't fit the criteria, but it's not your style."
"Thanks for that," she muttered.
Sheridan ignored her. "No, I wondered if you could help us track down the person doing it."
"Well, I was rather hoping you might be able to suggest something. I've got Zack checking all the records of telepaths coming aboard in the last two months. We're looking for a P-10 or higher, or so Dr. Hobbes tells me. Probably a man but..." he raised his hands indicating he was at a loss. She nodded.
"Well, I can go take a look at what Zack's pulled up. I haven't met anyone recently who struck me as dangerous, but of course that means nothing." Now it was Sheridan's turn to raise an eyebrow. "You know what I mean. Half the people aboard this station are dangerous, but not in that way."
"Perhaps you could scan...?"
"You know the rules. I can't!"
"You're not a member of Psi Corps. Why not?"
"It's the principle of the thing. If I do it for you I have to be willing to do it for others as well, and one of those might want me to scan the ambassadors, the crew, even you!" Sheridan looked up sharply. "You see? I can't, Captain."
Sheridan sighed. With so little to go on he'd been pinning his hopes on Lyta being able to shed some light on the whole affair.
"Look, I'll do what I can but..." she hesitated and he looked at her.
"Well, I need to be paid. I'll work with you, scan anyone you convict -- though I can't say I like the idea -- but I can't break Psi Corps rules, not even for you, and I can't do it for free. I have to eat." She tensed, waiting to see if he'd simply up and leave. He considered for a moment and then nodded.
"We haven't much, but I'll make sure you get something."
"Rental on this room for a couple of months would be nice," she muttered.
He looked around. He wasn't happy, but she had a point. "I'll see what I can do." She nodded. "Can you go over to security now?" She nodded. "Then I'll walk you there. That is, if you don't mind."
"You think whoever it is will try and attack me?" she laughed, not at all a humorous sound. "They'd have their hands full, I assure you."
"I don't doubt it. No, I just thought since we were going the same way..." He seemed to be struggling for words. Lyta sat patiently waiting for him to say whatever was on his mind. "Look. I'm not taking back what I said before. You were in the wrong. I can't let people bypass the chain of command, especially not now. We're living in dangerous times and I have to keep a tight grip on what's going on. I just want you to understand why I did that." His face was stern but there was something else there as well. He needed her help and was prepared to give a little to get it. She decided not to push her luck.
"I can see what you mean and I understand. But frankly?" He nodded. "That hurt!"
"It wasn't meant to be a pleasant experience. You were out of line."
"We all make mistakes." Not that she considered that occasion one of hers, but in the spirit of peace...
"Hmmm." He rose. "Shall we go?"
She sighed. The topic was closed, but there was still a tension in the air. Still, she'd got as close to an apology as she was ever going to get. It would have to be enough. She nodded and preceded him through the doorway.
Side by side they walked to Zack's office, Sheridan dropping her off and then excusing himself with an instruction that Zack was to contact him the minute they found anything of interest. Lyta sighed and nodded, watching him go, then turned to Zack who was grinning.
"Gonna give us a hand here, huh?"
"Hey, it's not so bad. At least we get to work together."
"Thanks. I think." She took a deep breath. It wasn't that she didn't like Zack, and his affection was written all over him without any need for a scan, but he really wasn't her type. Still, at least he treated her well, which was more than could be said for some. "So, what have you got?"
He indicated a panel and ordered the computer to list the names he'd already got. Lyta settled down to check them out.
"John? How are you?" Delenn had entered his office quietly and he looked up, startled from his reading.
"Surviving," he answered, the weariness plain in his voice.
She walked over, politely averting her eyes from the report he was reading. He smiled and dropped the flimsy on his desk.
"Nothing important." He picked up the pile still awaiting his attention, dropping them one by one. "Water reclamation, air recycling, energy consumption, the usual stuff. I'm just trying to distract myself."
"You have heard nothing from Zack?"
"Not yet. He and Lyta are checking through the docking reports for the past two months. Takes a while." He sighed, leaning back in his chair. He gazed through the window over the gardens. "Looks so peaceful, doesn't it?" He stood up to stand by the window, Delenn joining him and standing quietly while he admired the view. "I always did love this view. Makes me think of home. But somewhere, maybe down there right now," he pointed at a group of people passing through the gardens "Is the killer. You feel like they ought to have a sign on them, don't you? Something that makes them stand out from the crowd, but they never do. They always look so normal."
Delenn looked down and saw Garibaldi pass below them. She tried to steer Sheridan away but it was too late. He ground his teeth as he watched his ex-head of security meet up with someone. There was a brief exchange of greetings and then the two walked off together.
"And then there's him. And I can't figure him out at all."
"John..." she said, warningly.
"I know, I know. I wonder what he's up to though?"
"Something that is none of our business. Have you had lunch yet?" she added, trying to change the subject.
"Hmm? Ah, no, not yet. I didn't want to leave the office."
"If they need you they will link in. Come. I am hungry and it will do you no good starving yourself."
Sheridan held his arms out. "I'm hardly in any danger of wasting away!"
"No, but I would still like to eat. Unless you object to my company?" She was grinning.
"As if I could! Where would you like to go?"
"A cafe will do fine."
"All right." He tapped his link. "Ivanova."
"I'm going to grab some lunch. Contact me if anything comes up."
He held out his arm, which Delenn took, and together they left his office.
"So, have you heard anything?" Garibaldi was chatting to one of his contacts from Downbelow. The Walters business bothered him more than he liked to admit. It wasn't so much that the man was dead, it was that Zack had thought him capable of having anything to do with it. Had he changed so much in the past few months that they thought him capable of killing an innocent man? It was ridiculous. But still it nagged at his mind and he was determined to find out everything he could.
"Rumours. Nothing more," the contact replied.
"Better than nothing. What have you got?"
"Maybe nothing. There's a guy, keeps to himself, doesn't appear too often, but when he turns up he makes people nervous. Just doesn't fit in, you know?" Garibaldi nodded. "Nothing you can pin down, and apart from a minor altercation a couple of weeks back he hasn't caused any trouble."
"What kind of 'altercation'?"
"He crossed Deuce. You know what he's like. Doesn't like anyone on his patch he doesn't know about. Anyway, this guy wasn't prepared to give Deuce his due and, well, he sent out his goons to teach the guy some manners. Next day, one of the goons is dead and the others refuse to work for Deuce. Wouldn't say why so it might be nothing, but the guy's still walking around Downbelow and no one'll go near him."
"Did Deuce himself talk to him?"
"Well, that's the really odd part. They ran into each other in a hallway. Deuce started to say something and the guy just sort of looked at him. Next thing you know, Deuce is apologising for being in his way and offers him any help he needs."
"Doesn't sound like our friendly neighbourhood crime-boss."
"Exactly. Like I said, no one can pin it down but there's something about this guy, you just don't want to piss him off."
"Empath?" Garibaldi muttered, more to himself than his contact. He was remembering Talia's ex.
"Nothing. Thanks. Where does this guy hang out? You got a name?"
"There's a bar down in Brown Six. Harry's Place. You can sometimes find him there. As for a name, not sure. Something like Smithson or Saxon...No, Sorenson. That was it!"
Garibaldi handed his contact a credit chit. "Thanks. Here. Should keep you in pocket money for a few days. Longer if you stay away from the tables."
"Hey, you know me. Always got another system worked out." The contact grinned, quietly pocketing the credit chit.
"Yeah, right. Whatever." Garibaldi walked away, his mind turning with the information he'd gathered. It was all so familiar. But an empath couldn't do what this Sorenson was doing, assuming he was the killer. He had to have something else. "Probably a teep as well," he murmured, ignoring the looks people gave him as he walked past, talking to himself. "Or even a telekinetic. And with a high psi-rating. Damn. I hate teeps!" He stood, torn between going to investigate on his own and telling Zack what he'd found out. "Like he'll trust me now!" He shook his head.
Once again he was flooded with self-doubt. What had happened? When had he suddenly ended up on the wrong side of everyone? It wasn't him, he assured himself. People just couldn't see what had happened to Sheridan. Garibaldi was the only one still seeing straight and everyone else was caught up in a cult of personality that scared the hell out of him. It was up to him to keep it up. Not give in to the temptation of trusting Sheridan. Sooner or later they'd come around. Sooner or later everyone would see what had happened and then they'd be sorry. They'd apologise for ever doubting Michael Garibaldi. He nodded to himself, but the little voice still whispered that he was missing something. The louder voice overcame it, reassuring him it was just this magic spell Sheridan was weaving on everyone else. The more he felt Sheridan might be right, the harder he had to fight otherwise everyone would be lost. He had to remain firm.
Still, he could remain firm and help them by finding this murderer. Perhaps they'd start to see his side again: realise he wasn't the bad-guy in this. And then maybe, just maybe, they'd listen to him when he warned them all about Sheridan. Just for that it was worth it. But in any case he didn't like losing clients, not like this and especially not before they paid their bills. He made his way to Brown Six.
Sorenson groaned and rolled over. His stomach growled. Whether he liked it or not he had to eat. He considered the food available in Downbelow and shook his head. No, he needed something a little more identifiable right now. A trip to the more up-market dining places was in order. Anyway, he could scan the people up there while he ate. He'd have more chance of finding someone with the right mindset up top. People down here carried around an habitual air of dejection and hopelessness. Hardly suitable to his needs. The only thing that would cheer them up was money and lots of it, and he couldn't afford to pay his victims. Anyway, sooner or later transfers on that scale would be traced back to him. No, somewhere in the Zocalo would be much more appropriate. He got up, grabbed his jacket, checked for his credit chit, did a last look around to make sure there was nothing untoward about his quarters, and left, disappearing quietly around a corner.
A few seconds later Michael Garibaldi appeared at the opposite end of the corridor. He'd managed to talk the barman at Harry's into telling everything he knew which, to be honest, wasn't much, but it had sent him in the right direction. A few careful checks from people who were happy to supply anything if there was money involved had finally given him an address.
He stood outside the door wondering what to do next. If this was the man they were after, and he was actually in, Garibaldi wasn't about to become his next victim. If he wasn't the killer it was going to be a little difficult to explain himself, especially if the man scanned him. He shuddered. Just the thought of having someone in his head made him feel sick. Still, the guy would hardly kill him in the middle of the corridor, so if he rang the bell and he was at home, so long as the conversation could be kept in the open Garibaldi should be safe.
He took a deep breath, not entirely convinced by his own logic but determined to at least try and get to the bottom of things. He'd wing it. The old Garibaldi luck had served him pretty well of late. He just hoped he hadn't used up all his lives. With a compulsive gesture he straightened his jacket and pressed the door announce. Sweat sprang on his forehead as he waited for a reply and he took out his handkerchief and wiped it away, smiling at a woman who glanced at him with barely veiled curiosity as she walked past.
When no answer came he rang again, feeling slightly bolder. With any luck the man was out and he could check his quarters quietly. When the call remained unanswered he looked around and then pulled a pencil-like object from his pocket. Zack may have got his last pass, but he could make as many of these electronic lock-decoders as he liked. Not as subtle or as quiet as inserting a key-card, and he did rather stand out if he didn't move fast enough, but no one would question him in Downbelow. The light on the door lock went through several combinations before turning green allowing him entry. With a final look around he stepped inside calling out as though looking for an old friend.
"Hey, Sorenson. You in here?" The door shut behind him. "Lights," he ordered. In the subsequent glare he released a breath when he realised the room was completely empty. Being low-level quarters there wasn't a separate bedroom and, after a quick scan of the bathroom, Garibaldi was satisfied he was alone. He started to explore. He didn't know what he was looking for, but he was certain if he found it he'd know it.
"Wait a minute! Run that back again," Lyta said, sitting forward in her chair and staring at the computer screen.
"See someone you know?"
"Someone I'm surprised to see. There! Stop it right there." She stared at the image, shuddering visibly. "What the hell is he doing aboard Babylon 5?"
Zack zoomed in on the face from the video footage taken at customs. They'd already gone through every registered telepath aboard the station. Now they were checking through customs recordings in the hope someone's face might ring a bell. The computer clarified the face and then cross-referenced automatically, supplying the details from the customs forms. "Steven Peters. Businessman."
"Bull. That's no businessman. That's Saul Sorenson."
"Can you get into the files from Psi Corps HQ?"
"With the embargo? Fat chance! Not that Psi Corps ever made them available to us anyway."
"Well, I'm telling you that's Sorenson. He's a Psi Cop, but he hasn't worked in years, unless he's undercover, of course. These days I'm not privy to those sorts of details." The look on her face was not lost on Zack.
"Hey. You didn't like working for those guys anyway," he said in an effort to console her.
"I liked working, Zack! And I used to know so much about what was going on. These days I might as well have died for all I find out." She sighed. "Anyway, even if he's not your killer you might want to check out what he's doing here. He's just too high up to sneak in on a fake ID. I'd say he's up to something at least."
"OK, I'll send some of the guys down to check on him."
"Zack, I'd send down more than that. If he is up to something and you don't send a full squad you might end up short a few guards."
"Deadly," she assured him.
"I think I'd better let the Captain know."
The beep interrupted Sheridan as he was about to take a mouthful of spaghetti. He sighed and put his fork down, tapping his link. "Sheridan, go."
"Captain, we might have found something. I think you'd better get down to security."
"What is it?" Sheridan asked, wondering if it was serious enough to warrant skipping the rest of his dinner which, truth to tell, he was enjoying.
"We've got a high ranking teep on a false ID."
Sheridan looked up at Delenn who frowned, putting her own fork down. "I'm on my way!"
"Do you want me to come with you?" Delenn asked.
"No. Finish your lunch. Tell them to put it on my account. I'll let you know what they've found later." He rubbed his forehead, running his hand over his head and scratching the back of it. Odd sensation: as if he had an itch inside his skull. He shook himself.
"Are you all right?"
"Hmm? Fine, fine. I think I needed food more than I realised. Feeling a little weird. I'll come back and finish this if I can."
"John. Be careful," she warned.
He smiled. "Always."
As he walked away Delenn sighed and set about her meal once more. Her mind was torn. On the one hand she wanted them to find the killer as quickly as possible. On the other, she was terrified they would. What could a man like that do if he was cornered? She shook her head. John would be surrounded by security people. The killer never attacked more than one at a time, and no matter how strong he was he couldn't handle an entire security squad. John would be safe.
Behind her, sitting at another table, Saul Sorenson stiffened. He had felt the strong emotions from the two people sitting nearby when the Captain's link had gone off and had little trouble lightly scanning Sheridan. He'd stopped when he saw Sheridan react to his telepathic touch but it didn't matter. He knew they were onto him. The question was, how could he escape? And did he really want to?
For a moment he considered Delenn. She was Minbari, which made her harder to scan, and all Minbari had some telepathic ability. She'd know instantly if he tried anything and she might be stronger than she looked. Of course, she was only half Minbari, but Sorenson couldn't risk being found out. Any of the lower ranking personnel would merely be another victim to add to his resume. No, the more he thought about it the more it became apparent that the person he needed to deal with was Sheridan. Somehow he had to stop him. But if he just killed him they'd lock down the station so tight he'd never get out. He had to give himself enough time to escape. That meant luring Sheridan away on some pretence or other. If he could get the station confused, running in circles in search of their commander, he might have a chance.
He paused, considering his options. If he killed Sheridan they'd try to take him down whatever the cost. But the way things were headed his time was nearing its end anyway. He might be able to stretch it out a little longer; catch a shuttle off the station before anyone noticed. He shook his head. His face must be all over customs by now. He might be able to talk his way past a human, but the video cameras and other checks would catch him and he couldn't fight his way past them all. He could hang out in Downbelow but they'd find him eventually. His options were narrowing. He could try and lie his way out of it, but why should he? Why go out with a fizzle if he could go out with a bang? And what better way to end his career than...?
Yes, there was another way of tackling the problem. He could misdirect them. Get them so caught up in their self-righteous fury at his actions that he could feed off the emotions for years even if he never killed again. Wherever he went he'd be labelled the man who killed Sheridan. Of course, once Clark won the war he was presently waging against Babylon 5 Sorenson would be a hero. And that war would be won sooner if the leader were dead. He snorted. Like he cared about Clark or anyone else. If he did this it would be for his own satisfaction. For the look in people's faces and the pain in their minds when they saw what he had done. Their hopes turned to ashes at his hands. Their shining beacon brought low and snuffed out by a telepath who acted because he could. And not just humans. All those alien races who relied on Babylon 5 and its commander would react in so many different ways.
The smile curled broader on his lips. With just one act he could burn the joy and hope from the hearts of millions. He could experience their daily minor pleasures as he already did, then revel in their pain when they knew who he was. And once they caught him he'd be turned over to Psi Corps. Mundane courts weren't allowed to deal with telepaths...they couldn't, anyway, and certainly not one of his level. Psi Corps would go through the motions but it would all be a show. He knew too much about them and had too many friends in high places or, if not friends, people who were scared to death of him, which worked just as well if not better. He would be free again within a year at most, everyone knowing what he had done and yet completely impotent when it came to revenge. Oh, they'd try, but that would be even better, for each time they did he would have another victim he could kill with impunity under the guise of self-preservation.
It was so perfect he had to smother the laugh that rumbled through his chest. Then his smile faltered. Not quite perfect. It was too soon. While the news had galvanised him he doubted he could maintain the level of telepathic activity that would be required. Still, that could easily be resolved. Whatever you needed aboard Babylon 5 could be had, if you knew where to look, and he had an edge over most. He didn't have to ask questions that might attract unwanted attention.
He called the waiter, handing over his credit chit. With the meal paid for he took a last mouthful and stood up, nodding to Delenn as he walked past. He joined the throng of the Zocalo crowds for a minute, making sure he wasn't being followed, then ducked into a hallway and followed it until it connected with the one he'd found in Sheridan's mind. He quickened his pace slightly until, turning a corner, he saw Sheridan in front of him. He followed at a distance, going over things in his mind.
Someone had tipped them off. Someone who knew who he was. Curious, he reached out and touched Sheridan's mind, finding the image of Lyta Alexander. He considered her for a moment. He hadn't heard anything about Lyta for a long time, but if he remembered correctly she'd gone rogue. She was a P5 and so not any risk to him, but still someone who would sense him if he got too close, and certainly not someone he wanted around while he was fiddling around inside Sheridan's head. Not yet, anyway. That meant he had to work fast and plant the idea before Sheridan reached security. He had enough in reserve to do this task quickly before he'd need a little medicinal reinforcement.
He concentrated. When he was done he made his way swiftly towards Medlab. It was the closest source for what he required.
Sheridan reached security scratching his head. Damn! If this itching didn't quit soon he'd have to visit Franklin and see if he needed some kind of vermin control. That reminded him, he was supposed to be seeing the doctor about something, now what was it? He frowned and then finally shook his head. Franklin would know. It was urgent, that was all he could remember.
Entering security he found Lyta and Zack discussing a man whose face was on the screen in front of them. Zack, who was sitting on the edge of the table, stood up smartly as Sheridan entered.
"Captain," he nodded.
"Zack," Sheridan acknowledged. "What have you found?"
Zack indicated the screen. "According to our customs' logs this guy's name is Steven Peters, a businessman. According to Lyta he's a high ranking Psi Cop who is either undercover, a burnout, or just up to no good."
Sheridan turned to Lyta. "You're sure?"
She nodded. "Positive. He also fits the description of the sort of man you're looking for. He's registered as a P-12."
"You don't sound too certain."
"Captain, in Psi Corps there's nothing higher, officially, than a P-12, but that doesn't mean such people don't exist. Sorenson's rating is up there in lights. He used to be used a lot for deathbed confessions. Most people turn those down because they drain you, but he used to volunteer for the things. I know he worked with Bester for a while but even he eventually decided the man was unstable. I don't know what he's doing here, but whatever it is I'd be careful."
"A P-12 huh?" Sheridan considered the image for a moment and then turned to Lyta. "Think you can handle him?"
Lyta looked from Sheridan to Zack, who raised his eyebrows, and then back to Sheridan. "You want me to try and take him?!" she asked, stunned.
"No, I want to make sure we can distract him while security takes him. If security goes in there without some kind of telepathic support there's no telling what sort of havoc this man could wreck before we manage to bring him down. We just need him distracted long enough for them to stun him. Maybe shoot a tranquilliser into him. Once he's out we can get him to the brig and Stephen can knock out his telepathic abilities long enough that we can deal with him. After that..." he sighed. "Look, I know the idea isn't appealing, but if we find evidence that he's the man we want, and can prove it in court, then you're going to have to scan him before Franklin does a mind wipe."
"Captain, you can't mind-wipe a telepath, and certainly not a P-12! That's not a memory it's an ability. As much as I hate to admit it you need Psi Corps to take him. If he's getting his kicks from using his telepathic abilities to kill, then removing his memory isn't going to make any difference. As soon as he starts to use his talent again he'll go straight back to it. For this you need Psi Corps. They can keep him under supervision and loaded with sleepers."
"Why not take away his talent altogether?"
"You can't do that without killing him. He has to be handed over to the Corps."
"I'm not letting that bastard off this station until I know he's going to pay for what he's done! If I release him into Psi Corps' hands they'll just cover it up. He'll disappear for a few years and then pop up somewhere else."
Lyta shook her head. "Even Psi Corps doesn't like mass murderers, and I can assure you that once they're satisfied he's a killer his life won't be worth living. I've seen what they can do, Captain. Believe me, it's not a pretty sight."
"I still want to know how many he's killed before he leaves here."
"Now you know I can't do that. If you find evidence linking him to the murders aboard Babylon 5 I can scan him afterwards and confirm those, but only those." She jabbed her finger in emphasis. "I can't go on a hunt in his head for whoever else he's killed. In any case, I'm not exactly flavour of the month with Psi Corps right now. They're not going to pay any attention to any evidence that comes from me."
"The man's a killer!" Sheridan protested.
"You don't KNOW that!" Lyta shouted back, standing up. "And even if he is, Psi Corps rules..."
"To hell with the rules! I want that bastard nailed!"
"You think I don't? But I can't break the rules, no matter what. They're there to protect people. If I start violating them when it's convenient to you then what's to stop people from doing it when it's convenient to them?"
"Sorenson's doing it!"
"And if he is, you want to make me as bad as him? I told you what I could do when I started this, Captain. Don't make me regret helping you."
The tension in the air was thick as Sheridan and Lyta squared off, each trying to stare the other down. Sheridan had righteous indignation on his side; Lyta had the law. Of course, it was a law that barely applied aboard a station that had seceded from the Earth Alliance, but strictly speaking she was right. At last Sheridan sagged and Zack released the breath he'd been holding.
"All right," Sheridan said at last, his voice a barely controlled snarl. "Will you at least help security catch him, or does that violate the rules?"
Lyta tensed and then looked at Zack.
"Please?" Zack said, spreading his hands. "If this guy is what you say he is I could lose some of my men. I don't want to have to shoot him before we know he's the killer."
Lyta chewed her lip, seeing the sincerity in Zack's face. At last she nodded. All right. I'll do it. But I won't break the law, Zack. Not for the Captain, not for you, not for anyone."
"Zack, get a squad and go find him. I've got to go and see Franklin but I'll be along as soon as I'm finished. Keep me informed." With a last look in Lyta's direction he turned on his heel and left. Lyta, who had been holding herself upright by sheer strength of will, now sagged into a chair, shaking her head.
"Why can't he understand?" she moaned, shaking her head.
"People are dying -- people who had every reason to live -- and it's happening aboard his station. He feels responsible," Zack replied gently. He hated to see Lyta at odds with Sheridan, but it seemed like it was happening more and more these days.
"I know, and I sympathise, I really do. But the rules are there to protect people like you and the Captain. If Sorenson had followed the rules, none of this would be happening." She paused and considered her last sentence. "That is, assuming he's the killer." She shook her head. "Oh Zack, you know what I mean!"
Zack smiled gently. "I think it's because Sorenson isn't playing by the rules that the Captain feels you can relax a bit."
"Two wrongs don't make a right," Lyta muttered.
"Look, I'm sorry. The Captain's on edge right now. You just have to cut him some slack."
"He doesn't do it with me!" she snorted.
"Two wrongs?" Zack grinned. Lyta looked up and saw the look on his face. She shook her head and chuckled. "That's better. Think you can deal with this now?"
"Since you asked so nicely...yes." She took a deep breath, all business again. "Any idea where he might be?"
"Well, his quarters are down in Brown sector. I think we'd better start there."
Lyta nodded and Zack called up a security team, making sure they were armed with tranquillisers and PPG rifles set on stun, with a few set to kill just in case. When everyone was ready and understood what was happening they set off towards Brown sector.
Sorenson entered Medlab quietly, checking to see if there were any senior staff in evidence. What he needed was a nurse. Someone easy to sway who wouldn't be suspicious and still had access to what he needed. He quickly identified a target and walked up to him.
The nurse turned around. "Can I help you?"
Sorenson used everything he had to implant his requirements in the nurse's mind. 'Medicine required for a chronic condition,' he sent, 'Dr. Franklin cleared it if you recall.' His head started to throb with the effort but he could sense he was getting through. After a moment the nurse nodded.
"Ah yes. Of course. If you'll wait here." He disappeared and returned shortly afterwards with the stim packs. "I'll need you to sign for them."
'Already done,' he sent. 'Franklin has the paperwork. Had to do it in advance.'
"Of course. Just follow the instructions and don't overdo it." It was a friendly warning and Sorenson nodded.
'You've got work to do. Why don't you go and get on with it?' He prayed this last would get through. He wasn't sure how much more he could manage and he was in a hurry.
"Well, if you'll excuse me." The nurse returned to his station.
Sorenson made it to the corridor, burst open a stim and injected it with shaking hands. A few seconds later he rubbed his wrist and leaned against the wall, waiting for the medication to work. Energy poured into his system and he sighed. He tested his abilities and found he could sense the nurse quite easily even though he was not within a line of sight. A few more seconds and his system felt completely rejuvenated. He turned and walked swiftly away.
He waited quietly in the corridor he knew Sheridan would have to take to reach Medlab. It was some time before Sheridan turned the corner, and when he did his mind was a seething mass of anger and frustration. Sorenson had done his reconnaissance while he awaited Sheridan's arrival and knew there was a maintenance room not far away. One to which he didn't have the code but his victim did. Quietly he planted the idea in Sheridan's mind that there was something wrong. Something that made him think maintenance. He then gently pushed Sheridan's attention towards the room and hinted that the key to the problem, whatever it was, might be found in there.
A part of him wondering what made him think there might be something of interest in a maintenance room, Sheridan keyed in the code. It would only take a second and would put his mind at rest. As the door swung open he felt a hand on his back propel him forwards. He staggered, stopping himself just short of the wall at which was stacked an assortment of maintenance equipment. Grabbing up one with a long handle and a heavy end Sheridan swung it around. He stopped in mid-swing, staring at his opponent. The man had entered the room behind him and stepped aside, letting the door close. Now he stood, smiling and looking at the Captain in an odd way. If Sheridan had to put a name to the expression it would have been hunger. Hunger and curiosity. Sheridan went cold, staring at his hands as they slowly uncurled and let the makeshift weapon fall to the ground.
Zack looked at Lyta. "You ready?"
"As I'll ever be," she replied, nodding and pasting a thin and nervous smile onto her face before allowing it to settle into a determined grimace.
Zack leaned forward and operated the door lock on Sorenson's quarters. It opened and Zack pointed his PPG, only to find himself face to face with Garibaldi.
"Michael? What the hell are you doing here?!" Zack half lowered his weapon, but his suspicions wouldn't let him drop it completely.
"Following a hunch and a lead, same as you I suspect," Garibaldi answered, hands in his pockets. He nodded over his shoulder towards the room. "You can take a look around but you won't find anything. I've already checked."
Zack motioned for his men to lower their weapons and he holstered his own. "Philips, scan the area. See if you can find out where he went. If you find anything, yell out. Don't try and take him alone. Davies, Claude, Ahmed, go with him. The rest of you, fan out and be ready if anyone calls." He turned back to Garibaldi. "Michael, I'm afraid you're going to have to come with me to security."
Garibaldi laughed. "Now don't tell me you're gonna arrest me!"
"It's exactly what I'm doing. That's twice you've shown up in this investigation, and that's one more than you're allowed." Garibaldi stared and then shook his head, apparently too amused to take any of this seriously. As he tried to walk past Zack grabbed his arm. "Don't force me to use the cuffs, Michael. I don't want to do it but I will if I have to."
Garibaldi stared at Zack's hand and then looked up slowly. "You're making a big mistake, Zack," he muttered, shaking himself free.
"Maybe. But like you said, I guess we're all allowed at least one almighty screw up in our lives." He moved his head sharply indicating Garibaldi was to walk ahead. "Lyta, you wanna hang around here a bit in case they find anything?"
Feigning insouciance Garibaldi shrugged and strolled along the corridor. "If I was up to something, do you really believe I'd've allowed myself to get caught in there?" he said at last, looking over his shoulder at Zack.
"If you didn't know we were coming, yes. If you really are innocent then why didn't you tell me what you'd found out?"
"Because I needed something concrete. You've already got me judged and condemned. You wouldn't listen to me unless I had something solid and you know it. I was hoping Sorenson had left something in his room to link him to the murders."
"Or to link you to them with him?"
Garibaldi turned around suddenly, fury burning in his eyes. "All right, that's enough! I wanted to clear my name -- prove to all of you I'm not the asshole you seem to think I am. Maybe I didn't find what I was looking for, but you know damn well I've got nothing to do with this! I want this guy nailed, same as you. I may not be head of security any more, but I still live here and I still care about what goes on."
"Tell that to the Captain."
"Fuck the Captain! Zack, this is me! You know me. You know I wouldn't have anything to do with this!"
Zack stared long and hard at Garibaldi. Finally he shook his head. "I did know you, Michael. These days I can't figure you out. You know what Clark's doing is wrong, you stood by the Captain when he seceded from Earth, but now you're turning your back on all of us."
"Yes what Clark's doing is wrong! But does that make what Sheridan's doing right?! Jeez, Zack, just think for cryin' out loud!"
"I have thought. I took a long time to come around to what you and Sheridan were doing, but I don't think I made a mistake when I joined up with you guys. Seems to me you're the one who's stopped thinking. I don't know what happened to you when that Shadow ship took you, but whatever it was I don't like it. And right now, we've got a murderer on our hands and you've turned up twice in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now maybe you're tellin' the truth and you're just tryin' to help out, but if you are the best way you can do that is to come back to your job and stop this private-investigator shit."
Garibaldi shook his head. "I can't. Not while Sheridan's acting this way."
"Then we've got nothing more to say to each other."
Garibaldi opened his mouth to respond and then shut it again, realising it was futile. Zack's link beeped.
"Allan here, go."
"Chief, we've checked out the area. Seems Sorenson was seen in the Zocalo about half an hour ago. Should we go check it out?"
"Yeah. I'll let the Captain know. Allan out." He pressed his link again. "Zack to Sheridan." He waited for a reply and then pressed the link again. "Security to the Captain." Again there was silence. He frowned. Garibaldi turned and waited to see what would happen next. "Zack to C&C."
"C&C here, go," came Ivanova's voice.
"Commander, you any idea where the Captain is? I can't get him on the link."
At Sorenson's command Sheridan had removed and deactivated his link, placing it on the floor in front of him. He was still shaken by the way the man could control his actions. Even though he knew what he was doing Sheridan was powerless to stop his limbs from obeying. He had become a stranger to his own body. A distant observer who happened to be able to see through eyes that were not his own as the body went through motions over which he had no control. Once he'd placed the link on the floor he stepped back and watched Sorenson grind his boot heel into the device, crushing it.
"Much better. I'd hate for our little tête-à-tête to be interrupted. I have to say you're good. It usually takes a lot longer for people to figure out how I'm doing it. I've gone months before I've had to move on. Yet you have me sussed before I've even got into my stride."
"I have good people here," Sheridan got out through clenched teeth.
"Oh, don't sell yourself short, Captain. I've been rummaging around in your head. I know it was you and that Delenn who figured out the telepath angle. I doubt your Mr. Allan would have even realised they were murders by now."
"Don't count on it. Like I said, they're good people, and they'll hunt you down no matter what happens to me."
"I don't doubt it. And once they find your body they'll have even more incentive. But then, that's the point." He turned his head to one side, considering Sheridan as though he were an interesting artefact. "Now, I prefer people to be in a good mood when I take them."
"Then I guess you'll just have to be disappointed." His bravado was forced and they both knew it. Sorenson wasn't the least bit concerned as to the consequences of his actions, and that made him almost invulnerable. How do you stop someone who has no reason to stop?
"I don't think so. I was in your mind when you were talking to Delenn. You like her, don't you?"
Sheridan smiled; a grim, humourless grimace that had nothing to do with pleasure. If he was going to drag Delenn into this he was on a losing streak. He felt that strange itching inside his skull again and knew Sorenson was reaching inside his mind trying to drag out pleasant thoughts.
"Forget it you murdering son of a bitch!"
"Tch, tch. Wouldn't you rather die happy?" Sorenson probed deeper and frowned. "Ah, I see. Some kind of terminal illness? Well, look at it this way, at least you'll cheat the prophecy this way." He looked around, searching for something sharp. His eyes fell on a glass vase, clearly something collected from one of the more salubrious suites. There was a large crack in the side of it. It could be repaired quite easily if need be, but that wasn't what he had in mind. Reaching past the immobile Captain he pushed the vase off the shelf with the tip of his finger and smiled as it shattered on the floor. He drew Sheridan's attention to a particularly large and jagged piece that now lay on the floor between them. "The means of your demise, Captain." He eyed Sheridan's uniform. "Ah, no. That won't do at all." He concentrated and Sheridan watched as his hands reached up and unfastened the hooks on his uniform jacket.
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