And now, on to the continuation of "Five Things..."
Segment III takes place in early 2260 after the fall of Narn and the escalation of hostilities between the Centauri and other LNAW members, but the point of divergence is actually earlier than that. You'll see what I mean when you read it. *g*
This segment has been driving me crazy, so concrit will definitely be appreciated.
Lord Nicco Donato was in a foul mood.
As Senator and head of the Local Court of the Beata Colony, the responsibility fell upon Donato to ensure the timely export of medicinal plants grown in his dominion. War and repressive regulations, however, had delayed several critical shipments beyond the period of viability. For some time now, he had been attempting to arrange a meeting to discuss such matters with Ambassador Londo Mollari, but he had been repeatedly and vigorously denied.
It left a bad taste in Donato’s mouth, groveling before that pathetic excuse for a Centauri.
Donato was well acquainted with Ambassador Mollari and knew him to be a frivolous, incompetent drunkard with a talent for offence. How, then, had Mollari been able to assemble a military force capable of utterly defeating the Narn? Donato couldn’t begin to guess. It insulted his pride to accept Mollari’s newfound prestige, but Donato was pragmatic enough to read the writing on the wall.
As he sat in his dining room and stewed over his predicament, a germ of an idea began to form in the back of Donato’s mind. Perhaps he was taking the wrong approach communicating with Mollari’s aide over subspace (this aide being the sixth to fill the position in three years). Perhaps his entreaties would carry more weight if they were delivered in person.
The entry of his personal aide, Vir Cotto, interrupted Donato’s train of thought and he felt a twinge of annoyance. The clumsy boy seemed completely incapable of entering a room quietly.
For the hundredth time, Donato wondered why he had agreed to take in his ally’s nephew. The elder Cotto had contacted him when an arrangement to send the young man to the Human space station fell through at the last minute. Donato supposed he should’ve guessed that Vir Cotto would be less than impressive based on the desperation in his friend’s voice, but House Cotto and House Donato had been allied for several generations and it was difficult to deny the request. Several times in the past few years, Donato had attempted to rid himself of this particular burden, to no avail.
“I’ve finished the reports you asked for,” said the young Centauri, holding out a small pile of printouts.
Donato took the proffered papers and nodded curtly. “Thank you” was not a phrase Donato used with his help. Such courtesies tended to foster a troubling sense of self-importance- and with self-importance came eventual disobedience.
And Cotto seemed particularly inclined to independent thought when it came to matters of Centauri tradition. It was, unfortunately, Donato’s responsibility to see that Cotto was raised in the proper way and while it brought him no joy to do so, Donato often had to resort to more corporal methods to assert his authority.
Cotto began to exit the room when Donato stopped him. “Wait one minute.”
Cotto turned, anxiety flickering across his round face. His features were marred by an angry red and purple mark, the consequence of an earlier rebellion regarding the conquest of Narn. The boy harbored a sickening compassion for those creatures, something Donato was determined to drive out by any means.
Cotto stood with his chubby hands folded before him and his back hunched as if he expected another blow. Donato found that satisfyingly pathetic.
“I require that all my meetings scheduled in the next two weeks be rescheduled.”
Cotto released a small sigh of relief, something that did not escape Donato’s notice. “Yes, sir. May I ask-“
Donato cut him off with a wave of his hand. “You will be accompanying me to Babylon 5. I grow weary of being rebuffed by Ambassador Mollari and I intend to confront him in person. My brother will attend to matters here. I trust him far more than I trust you.”
Cotto bowed slightly and hurried off.
Vir sat in absolute silence as his superior raged, stalking about their rented quarters like a caged liati. Donato’s meeting with Ambassador Mollari had not gone well and Vir had learned the hard way that when Donato was in one of his tempers, it was best to approximate invisibility. Fortunately, Vir had had a lifetime of experience avoiding notice.
Eventually, Donato cooled and retired to bed, leaving Vir alone in the sitting area. He didn’t have his own quarters. Donato was unwilling to spend the money on the extra room. Instead, Vir was expected to sleep upon the suite’s sofa. He shifted about for a time trying to find a comfortable position, but the piece of furniture was far too small. Sighing, Vir removed the sofa’s cushions, preparing to sleep on the floor, then decided he just wasn’t tired.
Several minutes later, Vir stepped out of the transport tube and into Babylon 5’s commercial hub.
It was an amazing sight. Though it was relatively late in the evening, the Zocalo teemed with life, thousands of people from countless different races perusing the merchants’ wares and filling up the bars and restaurants. Foreign smells assaulted his nose, trinkets gleamed on nearby kiosks, and his ears filled with the roar of hundreds of conversations. There was an earthiness and vibrancy here that reminded Vir of some of the more raucous corners of Homeworld.
Vir didn’t know where to begin. Feeling a little lost, he sat down at a nearby bar. A blonde Human waitress hustled up to him and asked for his order.
“Well… um… I don’t really know what I want,” Vir said, blushing. “I’ve never been here before.”
“Where’d that bruise come from?”
Vir touched the side of his face with his fingers. During the trip to Babylon 5, the mark from Donato’s fist had begun to fade to a sickly yellow-green. “An accident.”
“Ah. Well, why don’t I surprise you with my own special recipe?”
With impressive efficiency, the waitress mixed a drink and poured it into a long narrow glass, then set the glass before Vir. With some trepidation, Vir raised the glass to his lips and swallowed a mouthful. The liquid burned on the way down and Vir coughed. “Wow… uh, that’s… pretty strong,” he said to himself. He took another sip, then put the drink down. He was starting to feel uncomfortably dizzy.
Paying the bill, Vir rose and began to walk somewhat unsteadily to a neighboring kiosk. But before he could travel more than a few meters, an arm caught him in the chest, toppling him to the deck.
Vir lay there for a moment holding his forehead and attempting to clear the fuzziness in his vision before a passing Human with a receding hairline grabbed his arms and hauled him to his feet. Vir recognized the man’s uniform as that of Earthforce Security.
Once Vir had been attended to, the security officer turned his attention to one of the bar’s other patrons, an older Centauri wearing what appeared to be the trappings of high office. His clothing, however, was rather unkempt- his coat was unbuttoned at the neckline and his crimson scarf was hanging free. The Centauri was swaying slightly, his face darkened by an anger that grew even fiercer when the security officer took hold of his arm. “Unhand me, Mr. Garibaldi,” the Centauri said in a pronounced northern provincial accent.
“No, I don’t think so,” Garibaldi said quietly but firmly. “Go home, Londo- unless you want to spend the next few days in a cell.”
The Centauri Vir now recognized as Ambassador Mollari glared at the security officer. Then, with a suddenness that made Vir jump, Mollari slammed his glass down on the counter top. The glass shattered on impact and Vir watched in shock as blood began to trickle from Mollari’s hand. Everyone within hearing distance stopped and stared.
A tense moment passed. Garibaldi tightened his grip on Mollari and several other security officers rushed in to back him up. But before the arrest was made, Mollari spoke in a voice so low Vir barely heard it. “That will be unnecessary. I will leave voluntarily.”
Transfixed, Vir looked on as Mollari yanked himself free of Garibaldi’s grasp. As the Centauri Ambassador stumbled passed, he shot Vir a glance. What Vir saw in Mollari’s eyes made his blood inexplicably run cold.
Only later as he lay on the floor in Donato’s suite did Vir finally understand what it was he had seen: