A/N: Sorry for the late update. Writing in the current situation is far from easy. It's hard to focus, with all that's happening globally and locally. I hope you're safe, and that this may bring you a smile or two. See the end for more notes.
Chapter 5: A new Ambassador
The navy blue spaceship appeared from nowhere, in the outskirts of an uninhabited solar system, in the same place where an instant earlier a small blue box had been silently disappearing from normal spacetime. Slightly longer than the old NASA Space Shuttle, it was much sleeker, lacking a vertical tail but with relatively short delta wings with upward slanted wingtips. With silvery details, it looked like an artistic masterpiece. Inside, within a recessed cabinet disguised behind some wall panels, the blue box rematerialized, and the Time Lord known as the Doctor emerged from within.
He closed the door but, instead of moving away, he rested his head against it, momentarily overcome by second thoughts. He'd much rather do as he almost always did, and follow his curiosity while trying to stay unnoticed. Not that it often worked that way. But he knew himself. He liked humans, and from what little he'd already seen and sensed of the situation, he wouldn't have been able to stand aside and let them be manipulated as pawns by arrogant, nearly immortal beings who thought no one else's opinions mattered.
Through the old Compact between the Time Lords and the First Ones of this galaxy, his people had promised not to interfere in the local civilizations' business, as long as the others refrained from dabbling in Time technology. If he'd been found meddling with their business on Earth and its neighbors, they might have retaliated, maybe even destroying Earth. And he wouldn't have been able to stop them.
However, the Time Observatory had now confirmed the thousand-years-long closed time loop he'd sensed in his first visit to Babylon 5. It barely merited a mention in the Temporal Incidents monitoring panel, but it was the perfect excuse for his involvement.
He'd checked. The local future was still open. The Observatory held records of various different possible timelines stretching far into the future of this galaxy, but none of them was close to fixed yet, in spite of all the efforts of the First Ones native to it. However, as he'd initially sensed, this was a crucial period in this galaxy's history. What happened in the next few years would determine their foreseeable future. He loved those moments, he loved watching history unfold, seemingly small decisions cascading into turning points in the history of civilizations. Even though, or perhaps because, he often found himself dragged into them.
That human diplomatic station would be right in the middle of the approaching maelstrom. It was the best place to watch it unfold, and the best place to interfere from. He sighed. He'd acted as Ambassador for the Time Lords many times already. Some times he'd been forced into it by the High Council, some others he'd been manipulated into doing their bidding. In a few instances, he'd even found himself agreeing with their reasoning and doing it willingly. This time, for once, they were happy enough to let him do as he wished. Probably because that'd give them one more argument for the next time they needed him.
There were few Time Lords able to empathize enough with other civilizations, especially less developed ones, to do an Ambassador's job. None more capable than he himself, at least when he thought the goal worthwhile. He knew how to do it, though he didn't enjoy doing it. It required a lot of patience, staying put and dealing with the expectations of others. He grimaced. The younger races could be bothersome, but it was acting in line with the old ones' expectations that filled him with dread.
He felt the blue door hum against his forehead, as if expressing many complex emotions, but ultimately consoling and supporting him. He caressed the wooden hull of his timeship, murmuring, "Thank you, Old Girl." Then he closed the access doors and walked into his new ship's small but luxurious command deck. Or cockpit, he thought, smiling. Humans and the names they gave to things.
He stopped at the various consoles, turning them on and checking the readings, listening to the soft hum as the ship's central core activated. Nothing as expressive as his own blue box, but at least the little spaceship was also blue and had a smidgen of personality itself. Billy had done a brilliant job with it, he thought, picturing his Asshkefissh friend. Now he had a personal transport which could be recognized as such, and even dock inside Babylon 5, like the other ambassadors. If he was going to act as the Gallifreyan Ambassador to Babylon 5, he'd better look the part.
Yes, better to look as a mysterious, but not incomprehensible, 'Gallifreyan', from somewhere beyond explored space, more technologically advanced, perhaps, but not magical. There was no need to mention mysterious and likely terrifying Lords of Time. The younger civilizations here didn't need another ancient one pushing them aside and showing off with incomprehensible tech.
The High Council didn't care. As long as he didn't mess things up, they were happy to give him their nominal support. But he was effectively on his own out here. And the First Ones of this galaxy were powerful enough, and invested enough, to be dangerous to more than he himself. He had to be careful, or many others would suffer because of him.
He grinned. The Vorlons and Shadows considered the Time Lords to be on the same level as them, with similar motivations and methods, and he wasn't about to correct them. Instead, he'd turn their expectations against them. They thought they understood Time Lords well enough, from what few interactions they'd had through the eons, and in many aspects they did. They were all 'older races', after all. But he wasn't a regular Time Lord. He'd wear the mask of a regular, arrogant and overly formal, stuffy Time Lord in his dealings with them. It wasn't as if he hadn't had enough experience faking that after his graduation, he sniffed. But at least that experience would be put to good use.
He didn't even consider the possibility of acting superior towards the 'lesser' species, as both the Vorlons and Shadows did. His behavior might raise their curiosity and suspicion, when they saw him dealing with the younger ones as if he was one of them. Something they'd hardly endure themselves. But that's their problem. These First Ones would most likely conclude his real self was just a mask, since masks are a strategy they might consider sometimes. Oh the irony!
He sat down in the pilot seat and reached over to the comms console, activating it and sending the prepackaged message he'd composed earlier. He'd emerged from the Vortex in a remote corner of the galaxy, but close enough that the message would reach a Human comms buoy in time. He'd sent his credentials from the TARDIS, timed to arrive three days earlier, so they'd know to expect him. Now this message would confirm his arrival in a few hours. Just enough time that they'd be ready for him, he grinned. He activated a lever, and the small blue vessel opened a jump point and slid into hyperspace.
Sinclair entered Babylon 5's C&C, pausing for a minute near the doors, watching as his first officer guided a cargo ship into docking with the station. She made a point of handling that job for at least two hours every day, even though they have more than enough people for it. When Ivanova finally turned and acknowledged him, he grinned and approached her station.
"Good afternoon, Susan. Anything from our newest Ambassador?"
"We've only received an automated signal, he's still scheduled to arrive today, but we have no confirmation yet about the exact time. According to the message's timestamp his ship should already be within detection range." She frowned. "It's not as if we have a formal escort to arrange and a welcoming party to plan," she snarked. "The Sanctuary's already reserved for today and tomorrow, so he'll have to wait, or accept a smaller venue."
"I don't think he'll mind either way," the Commander replied, recalling the unusual man. He might even be relieved by the delay, he thought. "And the other Ambassadors, have they said anything about these Gallifreyans?"
"Besides Kosh, and he wouldn't speak to me, no one else admits knowing a thing about them. Not even Delenn. A couple of them asked what the Vorlons have said of them, and I answered truthfully, nothing yet. They quickly lost interest afterwards. They're curious, yes, but no one has shown any particular interest, or fear, about them."
Sinclair frowned. "I hoped someone else would have heard of them and told us something. I'm not sure I like it."
"We've had completely new people arrive before."
"Once or twice, yes." But this one, he thought, the Vorlon seemed to be afraid of them.
"Maybe he's really from so far away, that no one has even heard of them. By the way, Senator Hidoshi has left a message requesting an update on any information we learn about them. He mentioned that 'friendly human-like beings from beyond known space' is the shortest description of a new species he's ever heard. Our acting commercial attaché has also called, she'd like the same, and that we ask if the Gallifreyans would be interested in trading tech. The usual."
"Very well, tell me when-" He stopped himself when the main console beeped.
"It's our new Ambassador calling, Commander," Ivanova said, after checking it. "Do you want to speak with him?"
"Certainly. You should come too," he said. She nodded, and gestured to Lt. Corwin to take her place.
The two of them entered the adjoining office, and Sinclair accepted the call. The screen filled with the grinning image of his former guest, strapped into his seat and dressed in the same old-fashioned suit as in the last time he'd seen him. What could be seen of the background indicated a small control deck, a bit larger than would be usual on an Earth Alliance shuttle.
"Hello, Commander! It's good to see a friendly face! Do I have your permission to come to Babylon 5? I haven't received your reply to my credentials yet."
"Of course Ambassador Doctor-"
"Please, Commander, between ourselves, just call me 'Doctor'."
"Perhaps, Ambassador Doctor, if you'll call me 'Sinclair'," he chuckled. "But this is an official communication, so I must refer to you as 'Ambassador'." The Doctor didn't seem happy about it, but he didn't seem surprised either, so he continued, "This is my second-in-command, Lieutenant Commander Susan Ivanova, and she's in charge of preparing the official reception-"
"Oh no no, please, not today, can't I rest for a few days?"
"We can schedule it later, Ambassador," Ivanova replied. "But we need confirmation of your expected time of arrival."
"Haven't I told you that? I'm fifteen minutes away from your jumpgate."
Sinclair frowned. The new ambassador didn't seem to bother about the more formal aspects of his job. Or at least he wanted to look that way. Not that he'd be alone in that on Babylon 5. Still, it was rude to come so close before confirming he was welcome. He hoped the Gallifreyan wouldn't be that way during diplomatic meetings. He glanced to his side, and yes, Ivanova was frowning too.
"Ambassador Doctor," the Commander straightened and addressed the alien in the screen, "your credentials have been provisionally accepted, until you have the opportunity to present them in person. I'll instruct our comms desk to send you the package with the procedures and codes for using the jumpgate and approaching the station. If we knew where to send them, or if you'd contacted us earlier yourself, you might have already received them." He examined the alien's face, and the man looked blank, except for a slight smirk that suggested his reaction was completely expected. He scowled, and the Doctor sighed.
"I'm sorry if I've offended you, Commander," the Gallifreyan ambassador finally said. "I'm used to being just a traveller, and I'm not very fond of all the formality involved in this job. It'll take me a few days to get used to it again. And it's a pleasure to know you, Lieutenant Commander Ivanova," he nodded towards her. "I hope we can talk later about this formal reception. Are you sure it's really necessary?"
"Thank you, Ambassador," Ivanova replied. "And yes, it is necessary. The diplomatic corps on Babylon 5 would like to meet and know you. It seems no one has ever heard about your people."
"Well," he said, extending the vowel, "we're kind of an insular people. But all right, I'd like to meet them too. After all that's the whole point of this embassy. To meet and learn about the various civilizations in your arm of this galaxy. Though I'd prefer less formal settings."
"You'll have the chance, Ambassador," Sinclair said. "After the reception, I'm sure most of us would be quite happy to arrange other opportunities for sharing knowledge about our respective civilizations."
"It's good to know, Commander, thanks. But I'd like to ask you a favor. I've heard there's an Advisory Council with representatives of the five governments that supported the creation of your diplomatic station. Which is a brilliant idea, by the way, though I think I've already told you so. And you're one of these five representatives. If there's no problem, I'd like to meet the others, even before the reception. Since I'm new in the area, I'd like to exchange a few words, present myself, so to speak. If they're willing, of course. And you're welcome too, Commander, if you want, though you already know me."
"It'll be a pleasure, and I'll see what I can do, Ambassador. And one more thing," he said, raising his hand, before the Doctor could end the call, "I believe your ship is using some sort of stealth technology, because our hyperspace buoys haven't been able to detect you yet." He'd checked in the small console beneath the comms screen, and there was only the usual traffic, already expected and tagged accordingly.
"Oh," the Gallifreyan interjected, clearly surprised. "I can't believe I've forgotten it." He looked down for a few seconds, searching, and finally switched something off. Sinclair noticed that the sensor screen now showed a new, blinking signal. "I'm sorry Commander, Lieutenant Commander. You should have my ship in your screens now."
"Yes, it's here. Thanks, Ambassador."
"That's embarrassing," the Doctor said, scratching his head so his hair stood on end. "Please don't tell anyone. They mentioned it in passing, but I completely forgot about it. This is a new ship, you know, I had to acquire it so I can park it inside your station and satisfy your Chief Garibaldi."
"It's all right, Ambassador, I'm sure Garibaldi will be pleased. Ivanova, please see that the Ambassador receives our comms package and that the jumpgate is ready for his ship."
"See you later, Lieutenant Commander!" The Doctor exclaimed happily. She nodded back, somewhat stiffly, and left. "And I believe I have to pilot this ship now, so until later, Commander!" The Doctor closed the connection.
Sinclair shook his head. This Doctor was really an odd one.
The Doctor frowned, glaring at the blank screen. He'd thought it'd be a good idea to ask Billy to build him a personal transport, just provide specifications and technical details for the technology his people didn't already have, as well as some of the Quantium-40 their dwarf galaxy had so little of. Jump ahead in time, and the ship would be ready for him. The Asshkefissh were brilliant engineers, and this ship was a marvel. But they were also perfectionists, and had their own ideas of what a ship must have.
He sighed. Billy had described it as a long-ranged scout-transport, but he'd been annoyed, though unsurprised, to find it more like a one-man pocket battleship. He'd had to explain again that all he wanted was a diplomatic courier. They'd complained but eventually removed the largest weapons and disabled the rest. And he'd just spent most of the two-hour-long trip through hyperspace checking the systems in the vessel and studying the extensive manuals Billy had left him, looking for other things that he might need to take care of. But clearly he'd missed some.
At least he'd deactivated the stealth shield while still in hyperspace and beyond visual range of other ships, otherwise the problem could've been orders of magnitude greater. As it was, there was a kind of hyperspace stealth that could be built with contemporary human-level tech. He had no doubt they'd manage something in a few years, now that they thought it could be done. Luckily it seemed the civilizations in this galaxy weren't aware yet that energy shields were even a possibility. Therefore he could leave the emitters in place and just fix the master control, so it wouldn't be reactivated automatically when approaching another ship.
He spent the next few minutes triple-checking everything, especially whatever he might have overlooked before, to ensure that there wasn't anything else active by default, or way too powerful for such a small ship, that could bring unwanted attention afterwards. Then he commanded the onboard AI to keep all the controls for these functionalities locked, unless he himself countermanded it. Still, he'd probably have to keep his ship off-limits to everyone else. Billy had included a fairly complete anti-intrusion system, and that was something the Doctor would have to leave active by default, now.
The jumpgate beacon was already close when he finally looked up. There wasn't much time left to browse through the contents of the package detailing the jumpgate procedure, but it was basic enough that a few pressed buttons to send the codes were enough to activate it, and he was back in normal space, in a long decelerating trajectory towards the huge space station.
Garibaldi came into C&C, and saw Ivanova in her habitual post.
"I heard our new Ambassador is almost here," he said to her. "Aren't you going to join the Commander and meet him?"
"And you? You should be going too."
"Well, I'm ready!" He gestured to his full dress uniform. "I thought to come here and see that you wouldn't miss it."
"Thanks, Garibaldi, but I'm a bit busy. The Commander has asked me to ensure the Doctor won't crash his ship into the station or something."
"Is he that bad a pilot? Doesn't his ship have some sort of automated approach system?"
"That's exactly the problem, whatever system it has, it's not set to dock with a rotating station, and he only thought of checking that after coming through the jumpgate. So he's piloting it on manual."
"Great. What sort of people don't have rotating stations? Even the Minbari have some, and they have gravitic tech."
"You may ask him that later, right now I'm a bit busy. You can stay and watch for a bit if you want. He's still a few minutes away from docking."
"Well, thanks!" He peeked over her shoulder. "For a manual approach, it's quite smooth. At least it seems he can pilot it." She didn't reply, busy with her console, so he moved to a side one and called in the sensor data.
"Oh, beautiful thing!" Garibaldi exclaimed.
"It is, isn't it?" Lt. Corwin commented, passing behind him. "We've all stood admiring it for a moment, once it came from the jumpgate."
"Familiar too, nothing odd like those Minbari lobed shuttles, or weird like that Vorlon ship parked on Bay 13." He checked its dimensions. "Somewhat larger, but otherwise reminiscent of a Centauri personal transport. Smaller wings, but maybe it's enough for atmospheric reentry."
"The size is a problem," Ivanova commented, pausing her work for a moment. "It's a bit too long for the shuttle lift. We'll have to park it on one of the other bays."
"I hope he has the funds to pay the docking fees," he said, but she was back to coordinating her crew. "Hm, particle thrust engines, nothing unusual, except they seem too small for its size?"
"They may be small, but they're powerful enough," Corwin replied, since Ivanova was busy. "It was decelerating at over one G, just before you came in."
"Wow!" Garibaldi whistled. At that moment the engines reduced thrust and the blue ship graciously turned in place, aligning itself with the standard approach vector. A moment later it began rotating, in sync with the station.
"You'd better go, Garibaldi," Ivanova said, "if you want to be there before he disembarks."
"I'll meet you there later. Best make sure this ship ends where we want it, and without incident."
Sinclair was talking to the technician next to the gate near where the new Ambassador's ship was parking, when a loud voice called behind him.
"Ambassador Mollari, what are you doing here?" At his side, Garibaldi was shaking his head, exasperated.
"And Mister Garibaldi! I heard we're receiving a new Ambassador today, yeah?"
"Yes, Londo," Garibaldi said, "but you don't normally come to greet them as they arrive. There'll be an official reception later for that."
"Ah, but this one, your Lieutenant Commander Ivanova has said he looks just like us!" Mollari laughed. "Perhaps they're our lost tribe that we've mistaken you for!"
Sinclair sighed. He didn't believe that Mollari thought that, not for a moment. "You're welcome to wait with us, if you want. And I'm sorry but you should know that Doctor Franklin has already examined the Ambassador and confirmed that he's neither Human nor Centauri. Are you sure you've never heard of them?"
"That's a pity. No, the Centauri Republic has never heard of these 'Gallifreyans' before. Maybe they went by another name? Anyway, I'm very happy to meet him. Maybe I could give him the unofficial tour of Babylon 5, heh?" He opened his arms and spun around, as if marveled by what he saw. "Make sure he knows not to miss all the fun he may have in your station!"
"He did ask to meet with the Ambassadors from the Council," he said, and quickly added, before the Centauri could reply, "but Londo, please, at least wait until after the reception before you try to lure him down to the casino."
"Ah, but where's the fun in waiting?" Mollari exclaimed, pointing his finger at Sinclair. Luckily for him, at this moment the officer at the gate signaled the approach of the new Ambassador, and they turned to meet him.
"Is that him?" Mollari asked, watching the man dressed in an old-style pinstriped suit with a tan overcoat, that was crossing the scanner arch, dragging a small bag. At Sinclair's nod, he continued, "But aren't these Human clothes? Ah, I can see he'll need some tips! He's lucky I'm here!"
A/N: Ambassador Mollari insisted to be there, what could I do? And yes, the Doctor really had forgotten to call earlier to confirm he was welcome. Sinclair's interpretation was his own. As a rule, I try to let characters interpret the events according to their own experiences and points of view. That means they often won't agree with each other or with myself as the author. Just because one of them thought or said something, that won't mean it's the truth. Also note that, when talking to one another, they may say, or imply, something different from what they believe to be true, for various reasons.
For this chapter, and until the Doctor finally finds his next companion, we'll have some introspection from the Doctor, so you can learn a few things it'd be harder to tell otherwise. If you have questions, please ask, and I'll try to answer them through the story.
Thank you so much for all your favorites and follows, yugobob, Tursu, brielle17, Bookwyrm52, Noziaa, Black Duke, Gia Dinh Hang, Kalann, Zomvee and Shitburgersdelight! And your reviews, Kalann, Darth Reh, multiple Guests, Independent Dude and Almadynis Rayne! Virtual cookies to all of you who read and enjoy my stories, and know that your support is much appreciated. You gave me the push to overcome the current situation and finish this chapter!
Darth Reh: We'll have a bit more Sinclair before Sheridan arrives, don't worry! I have a couple original adventures drafted, though most of the first season has already gone by when the Doctor arrives. I'm not in a rush to get anywhere, rest assured. The TARDIS brought the Doctor, as is often the case, but he soon sensed the time loop and was hooked.
GUEST: yes, he won't be happy when he learns of it. Ten is different because we're in a crossover AU so I drafted a somewhat different story for the Doctor and Time Lords.
Independent Dude: To Boldly Go is how I named my crossover STxDW universe. There are a few To Boldly Go stories in my account, just check my profile. The latest, ongoing, is The Enterprise and the Doctor.
Almadynis Rayne: We'll see how the others react to the Doctor in the next chapter, when the Doctor finally meets with them! I had to have this chapter be a bit more about the Doctor so we can have some idea about his current mindspace. It'll be easier when he finally gets a companion, later. And we'll see a bit more about the Vorlons, after all the Doctor is purportedly 'investigating' them. I don't know when the Shadows will appear again but they're observing, in the background.