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Contents: Back Cover - Synopsis - Questions - Analysis - Notes - Author

Written by Lois Tilton
Released: April 10, 1995
ISBN: 0-440-22058-0 (US)
ISBN: 0-7522-0649-4 (UK)
Setting: Mid-2259, between "The Coming of Shadows" and "All Alone in the Night."

Ivanova is implicated in a murderous plot to steal supplies of a strategically important raw material.

Reader reviews, and online ordering, can be found at Amazon.com.

Back Cover

Friends Like These

He came to Babylon 5 from out of Commander Susan Ivanova's past. His cryptic, urgent message asked for an immediate meeting, but when Ivanova arrived to meet her old friend, Ortega was dead -- murdered -- and the word from Mars Colony was that the man had been a terrorist.


Dealing with an outbreak of hijacked shipments of morbidium ingots, Ivanova is caught by surprise when EA investigators accuse her of being in league with Ortega, then strip her of her command and threaten Security Chief Garibaldi as well. Now the once and future Babylon 5 loyalists must unravel a mystery of corruption and murder. Fail, and the price will be their careers, or their lives....


The scene opens on a busy day at C&C as Commander Susan Ivanova is monitoring the station's traffic lanes. The screens highlight a single crippled cargo vessel with failed stabilizers. She orders the Centauri transport to cut its engines and not to attempt to land under its own power. Ivanova orders some shuttles to tow the vessel into the docking bay and consequently must divert traffic to nearby lanes to leave plenty of room for the shuttles to grapple the freighter. As the shuttles grapple on, Communications reports that an "urgent and personal" message has arrived for her. Because it is tagged personal she chooses not to view it immediately.

Aside from a tense moment when Narn fighter leaves its assigned lane to cut off the Centauri ship's path, the procedure is both uneventful and tedious. Once the situation is fully resolved, Ivanova returns control to the technicians and queries the computer about the message. The sender is reported simply as "J.D." She figures out that it is from J.D. Ortega, her former flight instructor who had chosen to leave Earthforce and go back to Mars to work in the mines. Finally she views the message:

"Susan, I am in trouble. They say you're Number Two here on this station. I don't know anyone else who might be able to help. There's something I have to tell you. Please, meet me in the Alpha Wing ready room at 20:00 hours."

After nearly two hours of waiting, she finally asks the computer about J.D.'s arrival on the station. The computer responds that although there have been eight Ortegas arriving on the station since it first came on line, none of them have had the initials J.D. After doing some more queries about the origin of the message she asks for a search of all files containing the name "J.D. Ortega", to which the computer responds that it has found a restricted file.

The computer responds to her executive officer password and the screen is replaced by an image of his face, along with a fugitive alert listing him as a suspected terrorist. Ivanova contacts Garibaldi and, upon mention of the name, he asks her to meet him in Security Central. After explaining that she and J.D. hadn't seen each other or corresponded save holiday greetings since her first posting on Io, she insists that she still can't imagine him having been involved in any sort of terrorism or conspiracy.

A distress signal is received on Babylon 5 and Sheridan orders Ivanova to scramble Alpha Wing to protect the transport. Unfortunately, the transport is unarmed and the ETA to the transport's last position is nearly 3 hours. The fighter wing arrives, and long-range scans detect several raiders along with a larger ship. Ivanova splits her squadron in an attempt to cut the raiders off at the jump gate while also sending some fighters in towards the raiders and the transport ship. Combat ensues, and in the end two raiders collide, taking the jump gate off-line until repairs can be made. The transport's crew is dead and its hull is ripped open.

Back on the station, J.D. Ortega's body is found in the flight lockers belonging to Alpha Squadron. Dr. Franklin is called in to do the autopsy. He uses a compound to relieve rigor mortis, and with some new techniques, he is able to determine that Ortega was murdered around 20:00 hours and that the cause of death was a particularly unusual and hard to detect poison, chloro-quasi-dianimidine. The poison had been directly injected into the blood stream.

Garibaldi had previously asked Talia Winters to scan the workers who had found the body. The workers agreed and she performed the scans, to discover that they had told the truth and knew nothing about the origin of the body. Garibaldi insists on having Ivanova give a positive identification of the body, which she provides. He also shows her a message that was found on the floor of the briefing room, presumably from Ortega to Ivanova. It reads:

S I -- hardwired

They agree that "SI" probably stands for Susan Ivanova, but for the life of her Ivanova can not make sense of the word "hardwired". Sheridan offers to take Ivanova to breakfast, and she accepts. It turns out that the attacked transport was carrying a strategic metal called "Morbidium" which is vital for the production of phased plasma weapons. It is a material that has its price and trade strictly controlled by Earth Alliance, and consequently has a high black market value.

Ivanova notices that since they were cut off severely last year, raids seem to be on the rise. She decides to hunt for a pattern to the raids and receives Sheridan's approval. Because of the broken jumpgate, C & C is hectic and Ivanova does not find time to investigate while on duty.

Later that evening Ivanova begins sifting through the data. After several blind paths she finally tracks down a correlation: the increase in raids has occurred on transports out of Marsport, and further, all of them were carrying strategic metals. Worst of all, they were successful raids. The next morning Ivanova explains her findings to Garibaldi and he warns her to be careful of stepping on toes.

Their breakfast is interrupted by a call from Sheridan to Garibaldi asking him to come to his office. Sheridan orders Garibaldi to terminate his investigation into Ortega's death and prepare to turn over all files related to the matter to a special investigator from Earth Central.

Garibaldi watches the arrival of the transport and the disembarking of the special investigators. The investigators promptly arrive in Security and demand that he turn over his files, records and passwords. The investigators are led by Commander Wallace and his two assistants, Lieutenants Miyoshi and Khatib.

Garibaldi leaves them to their work, which includes taking some of his guards under their control and establishing their own lock-up facility and interrogation rooms. He goes Downbelow where he searches for leads from sources such as Mort the Ear and an old friend, Nick Patinos, who is from Mars. Neither is able to offer him any useful information.

Commander Ivanova is interviewed by Lieutenant Miyoshi who causes her to lose her temper after he insinuates that she destroyed the cards and letters of holiday greetings from Ortega to conceal her involvement with a terrorist. Miyoshi then makes a point of the fact that Ivanova waited so long after the arranged meeting time to contact anyone, and that she was unaware of the security notice about Ortega. He also points out that nobody but Ivanova saw the person leaving the area as she entered the ready room. Miyoshi also makes a point of wanting her to figure out the meaning of the note, and finally dismisses her.

Garibaldi discovers that Wallace has locked out files on some people, including Patinos, and goes to Sheridan to complain. Sheridan orders Wallace to release all files not directly related to the Ortega case and orders Garibaldi to steer clear of the Ortega case. Wallace then insists that Ivanova be put on restricted duties or arrested. Sheridan eventually relents, placing her on restricted duties.

Prior to this point, Ivanova had had an unblemished career record. Sheridan was aware that this flag in her file might ruin her chances of ever having a command of her own, but he also felt that it was better than having Wallace go over his head and perhaps having Ivanova arrested or even shipped back to Earth.

Garibaldi then goes back Downbelow only to discover that Mort has disappeared from the station. A comm link message informs him that part of a second body, a foot, was discovered in the in the recycling facilities. They are able to identify the DNA pattern as belonging to Fengshi Yang, who had allegedly already departed -- less one foot? Garibaldi carefully informs his next in command, Lieutenant Torres, that she is to investigate this matter and that there is no connection to the Ortega case, if she knows what he means.

Garibaldi returns to pump Nick for information, but his friend is even more tightly clammed up. Garibaldi does learn that people are being deported off the station -- presumably by Wallace and his assistants. Further, he finds out that a telepath is being used to scan the people being questioned.

Garibaldi makes a point of sitting down with Winters and prying information out of her about whether Wallace is using her services. She eventually acknowledges that he is, and Garibaldi points out that the people she is scanning probably haven't really consented. Later, Winters visits Sheridan and explains that the people aren't actually consenting. He informs her that he will talk to Wallace, but ultimately it is a matter between her and Psi Corps. Sheridan contacts Wallace and a heated discussion takes place in which Wallace refuses to budge, and Sheridan informs him that he will contact Earth Central about Wallace's conduct.

When Winters arrives at the interrogation room, Miyoshi is waiting and complains about her lateness. Miyoshi then informs her that she will confine herself exclusively to their needs. Miyoshi then pulls out a viewer card and hands it to Winters. In her hand, a glowing Psi takes holographic form (cf. "Mind War"), and she feels a message force itself into her mind:

Obey. No questions. Obey.

Meanwhile, Ivanova reports for duty, and Sheridan puts her in charge of escorting transports in an attempt to reduce raider attacks, and to give her something useful to do.

Garibaldi has kept all of the information about Yang's death out of the computer to avoid prying by Wallace, and promises Ivanova he will continue looking into things. Sheridan calls Garibaldi to view a high priority message direct from Admiral Wilson of the Office of the Joint Chiefs, informing Sheridan that he is to give Wallace every degree of cooperation with regard to the investigation.

Garibaldi finds himself called to the Casino to break up a fight between patrons that is breaking down along human-alien lines, concerning cheating. An alien has accused a human of cheating, and the human has accused the alien of being a telepath. Telepaths are, of course, banned from gambling (cf. "Voices"). Garibaldi ascertains that the human was cheating, and with Winters' help discerns that the alien is a telepath as well. With the fight broken up he turns his attention to the human who confesses without too much effort. The gambler also recognizes Yang's picture and explains that he was an enforcer for AreTech Mining. Garibaldi convinces the man to leave the station quietly.

Another day, and Ivanova finds herself back on escort duty once again. This time the ship Kobold is helped by them. They escort the ship all the way from the jump gate back to the station. Ivanova notices that the pilot seemed to be expecting a raid and the pilot agrees to discuss the matter further once back at the station. Raiders do attempt to get her to pull her squadron off escort, but she doesn't fall for it and the Kobold has a smooth escort all the way to Babylon 5.

Garibaldi goes back Downbelow to meet with someone, a meeting arranged by Patinos. The man does not recognize the picture of Yang, and Garibaldi wanders off realizing he has hit a dead end. He doesn't notice the man come up from behind, who then whacks him with shock sticks. When he awakes he is trapped in a locker, and he fights frantically to attract attention.

Lieutenant Torres decides to contact Sheridan when she realizes that Garibaldi is missing, and she explains the investigation that is going on. After Garibaldi is found and brought to Medlab, Wallace enters, rather aggressively, against the wishes of Franklin and a tech. Garibaldi mentions Yang's name to Wallace and realizes that, when he claims not to recognize the name, he is probably lying, but having said he didn't know the person, Wallace is forced by Sheridan to leave. Sheridan insists that this time things are going to be done his way, and that he will bring in Garibaldi's contact.

The Kobold's pilot, Mr. Pal, insists upon buying dinner for Ivanova as a thank-you gesture. He explains that they were expecting an attack, and that he thought that her ships might have been raiders until they identified themselves. Pal is on the union's central committee and he explains that when he left Marsport, their demands for better protection were still being studied. Ivanova explains, mindful of the trouble she is already in, some of her findings from her earlier computer analysis. Pal explains that they have started to think that Earth Central has a reason to be looking the other way. Pal also explains that they have started to wonder what they are really carrying morbidium, or perhaps just "slag", worthless mass.

The union thinks the plan would be to ship the rigidly price-controlled item and have it raided, then resell the product on the black market while also taking the insurance money. Or perhaps for each cargo there might be two ships: one for which they collect the insured value, and the other, which goes to the black market. In other words, pay raiders to attack ships carrying slag. Pal offers to have the insurance agent tell Ivanova the results of opening the crates at the final destination.

Later, Ivanova turns in response to her name being shouted across the Zocalo by a young businesswoman approaching. Luz Espada of the Universal Underwriters Corporation introduces herself and offers to buy Ivanova coffee. The two sit down to talk. Ivanova once again explains the results of her computer analysis of the raids, and Espada explains that her company has begun to reach a similar conclusion. She explains that ships and cargoes are generally separately insured, by different companies, and so it could take some time before losses would be noticed. Espada is able to provide some of the information about insurance companies that the computer couldn't provide Ivanova earlier. It turns out that shipments from AreTech Consolidated Mining Corporation of Mars -- headquartered on Earth -- have been the targets of a high proportion of raider attacks.

Their discussion is interrupted when Ivanova receives a request from Security to arrive at Docking Bay 18, where the Kobold is docked, to help with an incident. Torres explains the situation to Ivanova: Khatib has orders from Wallace to search the Kobold's cargo and the crew is refusing, claiming that someone arrested their pilot. Torres explains that Security does not have the pilot and that Khatib has ordered the security squads under his control to use force, but they won't without confirmation from Babylon command. The captain is unavailable, making Torres the highest-ranking officer.

Ivanova talks with the members of the crew and convinces them to just leave unless Pal is returned, and only to agree to a search if it can be observed. They resist initially, but after convincing them that she will do everything to get him free and that the station will not stop the launch, they agree to the bluff. Ivanova explains the deal to Khatib, who rebuffs it but eventually realizes he will need to relent when C & C refuses to take his order to stop the launch of the ship.

Pal is returned, drugged, and the cargo is searched. The cargo is in fact real morbidium ingots. Ivanova also realizes that the reason for interrogating Pal is that they wanted to see if she had passed information to him, information from Ortega.

Garibaldi finds out that Patinos is being held, on Sheridan's orders, and goes to him. Patinos explains that he had Garibaldi attacked. Garibaldi gets the name of the attacker and tries to track the man down, but his quarters are empty. Meanwhile he tries to track down information about Yang on Mars, and discovers that the records are now classified -- as of just hours after he told Wallace that he was investigating Yang's death. Garibaldi is certain that he has Wallace caught in a lie now. Garibaldi finds out from Patinos that the name of the attacker was really Josef Nagy, and he sets out to find the man before Wallace can.

Ivanova is again on escort duty and this time they receive a distress call from the transport Duster. They intercept the raiders before they have a chance to destroy the transport and even manage to capture one of the raiders alive. In the process, one of Ivanova's squad members is killed. Ivanova allows another pilot to fly her Starfury; the Duster takes the damaged Starfury on board along with Ivanova, so she is able to question the raider.

Meanwhile, back on the station, Garibaldi stops the launch of a ship and manages to search, finding Nagy aboard. Garibaldi questions Nagy about Free Mars, Yang, and Ortega. The questioning is interrupted by the discovery of Khatib's body.

Upon questioning her prisoner, Ivanova discovers that AreTech has been selling out information about its shipments to the raiders directly from their office on Mars.

Wallace attempts to interfere in the investigation of the murder of Khatib but Garibaldi gets microfilms off the body and away from Wallace. Franklin locks the films inside the biohazard area. This results in the rather funny situation of Wallace being knocked out by the biohazard security system when he later tries to go back and get access to the films.

Meanwhile, a near riot has erupted on the station as people were complaining of lock-ups of hundreds of people by Wallace and Miyoshi. Sheridan orders the guards back under his command and has the prisoners released.

Wallace and Miyoshi are arrested for complicity in Yang's murder, and Ivanova returns, with the connection to AreTech Mining becoming clearer and clearer. (Ortega had worked for AreTech.)

Sheridan has contact with the Joint Chiefs again. Admiral Wilson reveals that the problem involving AreTech was quite real and that Wallace was a special investigator for them. He also explains that there will be no reprimand for Sheridan or his staff, but stops short of reinstating Ivanova, saying her case will be reviewed, eventually.

As if realizing the depths of her plight, Ivanova finally decides to turn to Talia Winters for assistance. The two return to Winters's quarters, and a deep scan is performed on Ivanova. The scan reveals that Ortega had a view that a pilot and their Starfury should be "hardwired together", so to speak, and Ivanova realizes that this means that the information is on her Starfury.

Ivanova boards her Starfury and queries for a file by keyword "J.D." A file is produced and she downloads it onto a data crystal. As she leaves the ship, she is knocked to the floor. Miyoshi has attacked her and has taken the data crystal from her. The two become engaged in combat, with Miyoshi clearly trying to kill Ivanova.

Winters gets onto the communicator with Garibaldi and warns him that she thinks Ivanova is in danger; Garibaldi reacts. The security officer that comes upon Miyoshi attacking Ivanova is forced to kill Miyoshi. The data crystal is removed from Miyoshi's pocket and the scene shifts to Sick Bay where Ivanova is recovering, and Sheridan, Garibaldi and Franklin are examining the data crystal. Ivanova comes to, and insists on seeing the contents of the crystal, too..

Computer analysis reveals that it is a description of a new atom, number 156, supermorbidium. Its chemical properties are such that it will be a potent portion of a weapon system. Sheridan and Ivanova contact the Joint Chiefs in private with information about recovery of the plans.

The novel ends with Ivanova back at her station and things returning back to normal.

Unanswered Questions



The Author Speaks

Written by Erik Oliver <oliver@dolphin.upenn.edu>.

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