A/N: I rewrote one of the paragraphs of the first section of chapter 5, to make it less confusing. See the end for more notes.
Chapter 6: The Players, Part III
Garibaldi watched as the Doctor arranged a handful of trinkets on the shelves. His quarters weren't large, compared to Ambassadorial standards, but the Doctor had said they were comfortable enough. They came with a standard bathroom and a relatively small bedroom, but had only a few basic kitchen appliances and no decorations. It's usually the Ambassadorial staff's role to decorate the rooms and add the necessary furniture according to their needs. The Doctor hadn't asked for a bed, and that was strange, but when Garibaldi asked about it, the Doctor swiftly changed subjects.
"You didn't bring much, in terms of mementos from your homeworld."
The Doctor frowned. "I don't need much. And the diplomatic courier couldn't carry much."
He'd offered to show Garibaldi around his ship, but the chief of security declined, for the moment. The scan of the ship hadn't shown any weapons, though there had been some brief, odd readings. Nothing worth raising the issue, though. Not yet. The Commander was certain the Doctor was from a more technologically advanced civilization, and Garibaldi had to agree. So he wanted to keep the option open for later, when he had a better idea of what he was looking for.
The Doctor continued, "What I've brought is enough for the moment. I'll get some more things from the ship later."
"And a bed?"
The Gallifreyan laughed. "Maybe I don't need as much sleep as humans."
Garibaldi smirked. The non-human was being friendly, but also evasive. It was clear he was keeping secrets, but then everyone did. And Garibaldi suspected part of it was just some friendly teasing. He was there as chief of security, though it normally wasn't his job to escort new Ambassadors to their rooms and help them move in. The Doctor seemed to be aware of that, but wasn't bothered, on the contrary. Garibaldi found that he didn't mind the other's attitude.
The last things remaining in the bag were some changes of clothing, which seemed almost identical to what the Doctor was already using, well, the only clothes Garibaldi ever saw him using. He'd think it was some sort of uniform, except that they looked too similar to an anachronistic human suit. The Doctor picked them up and went to put them in the closet.
"Where are your formal clothes?" He had to ask.
"Formal clothes? What's wrong with these? I like wearing them! They're comfortable."
"For the reception. Where you're going to present yourself, and your planet, your culture, to the other ambassadors. You look just human in these."
The Doctor sighed. "I have to, haven't I? It's been too long since the last time I was an ambassador. I've forgotten."
"You don't seem old enough to have forgotten that. What are you, thirty-five?"
"Appearances can be deceiving, Mr. Garibaldi. I'm older than I look."
"How much older?" The Doctor just grinned and didn't answer.
Garibaldi walked around the main room of the Doctor's quarters, poking curiously at what little the new ambassador had brought in terms of decoration. It all seemed somewhat impersonal, like the guy had just picked a bunch of trinkets without much care about what he was getting. A handful seemed to follow an abstract motif, decorated with lines and circles, but for the rest, there was no rhyme or reason to them. Maybe they were as he said, things he'd collected through his travels. Though there was that small circular rug, a bit plastic-looking, but with a fancy spiral design on it.
"What about this rug? What's this symbol?"
The Doctor glanced at it, before going back to inspecting the cabinets. "It's one of our Seals of government."
"But in a rug? You step on it?"
Laughing, the Doctor turned to him, "Maybe it's a transmat pad. You know, for an emergency!" He winked, and Garibaldi laughed with him.
The doorbell rang. "It seems Ambassador Mollari is here, for your welcoming tour. You know the Commander would like to give you one too, later."
"Yes, but now I can do two things at once, get to know one of my fellow ambassadors while he shows me around! Sinclair said he doesn't mind."
"Beware Mollari, though. He can be sneaky."
"We're all more than we look, my dear Garibaldi." The Doctor stopped before reaching the door and turned to the security chief, at his side, fixing him with a serious look. "And if you ever need something, know that maybe I can help you."
Garibaldi didn't know what to make of that, much less how to respond. "Yeah, thanks," he said. The Doctor nodded, and they left.
Garibaldi found Ivanova at her desk, shuffling papers. When she saw him, she leaned back in the chair and stretched her arms and back.
"Where's our new ambassador, Garibaldi? I need him for the last details for his reception tomorrow."
Garibaldi ignored the other chair and leaned on the desk instead. "He's getting an exclusive tour, courtesy of our very own Centauri Ambassador. He asked me to tell you he'd come by later."
"I hope you've given him some tips. I don't want to wake up tomorrow in the middle of an interstellar war between the great Centauri Republic and these mysterious Gallifreyans over some misunderstanding."
"Nah, Mollari is smarter than that. And our new ambassador, he's definitely smarter than him. We'd be more likely to find our dear Londo dead in the morning, with no clue as to the perpetrator."
"Do you think so? He seemed a bit, uh, scatter-brained earlier."
"Try sitting with him in an interrogation room for hours. The man has hidden depths. Very deep, well hidden ones."
"You don't trust him, then."
"You know me, Lieutenant Commander. I trust no one. Well, except for the Commander. And you, of course," he said, grinning.
She laughed for a moment. "I'm serious, why do you think he's here?"
"You haven't bought his story of cultural exchange, either."
"After what you and the Commander told me, about him and Kosh? No, I don't."
"I'm not sure what he's up to." He fiddled with a pen on her desk for a bit, then amended, "But I'm cautiously optimistic."
"Optimistic, you?" She frowned at him in fake disbelief.
"Hey, I'm not Russian! I can be optimistic sometimes." He straightened up and started to turn away, only to turn back a moment later. "Anyway, I think we've reached an understanding. I'm keeping an eye on him, and he seems fine with it. I don't think he's flat out lying. Well, he may simply refuse to give a straight answer to some questions, but then, here, who doesn't?"
The Doctor found that the Centauri Ambassador was very entertaining company. Londo was a rich source of extravagant snippets of information about Babylon 5, and he seemed to know almost every corner of the station, or at least the public areas, as well as a lot of interesting characters. It was fun, letting himself be dragged around and sharing jokes. They soon hit a subject that was an inexhaustible source of amusement for both of them: talking about the Humans, how wonderful and mystifying they are. But he couldn't relax fully, because, all that time, the other was subtly trying to probe his opinion on a vast range of subjects in which he seemed interested. Which was all right, because the Doctor was doing the same. It was certainly a much better way to do it than sitting in an office or the like.
When they passed through the casino, however, he had to play down his mathematical abilities, because Londo seemed very keen on a few rounds of gambling.
"No, but you have to try it! The Humans have so many interesting games! It's also a very good way to observe and learn about them."
"All right, Londo, if you insist-"
"Hah, great, I'll just-"
"-but not today! I still have to meet Lt Cmd Ivanova regarding the reception tomorrow, and I don't want to have her angry at me. Or, rather, us both!"
"Oh, all right! Yes, she can be a right terror when she is not happy with us."
Finally they were back at Londo's quarters, and the Centauri stood to prepare their drinks.
"You don't have a problem with alcohol, do you?"
The Doctor laughed. "No, I really don't."
"Good, very good! A word of advice, don't offer alcohol to a Minbari."
"Why not? Is it dangerous to them?"
"No, it's dangerous to your health!" While the Doctor made a mental note to look it up later, Londo sat in the chair facing the Doctor's and offered him the drink. "Cheers! As the Humans say!"
"Cheers!" He took a sip, noting down all the exotic components of the drink. "You seem to want to ask me something, don't you?"
"Ah, it's nothing important," the Centauri tried to dismiss it. He seemed nervous, and the Doctor was curious.
"I'm here. You can always ask, even if it's personal. I might not be able to answer, but that's another thing."
"Have you ever been to Centauri Prime?" The question came rushed, and Londo tried to explain, "Because you said you've travelled around this sector, and you've visited Earth, probably more than once, right?" The Doctor hummed his agreement, and the Centauri continued, "Your clothes, they're clearly Human in origin, and-"
"Not you too!" The Doctor complained.
But Londo wasn't about to be diverted now. "They're not even from this time period, so you must have visited Earth some time ago. I've been there for a while, enough to learn a bit about their history. There's no record of visitors from other planets before we Centauri found them. But you could easily walk among them and no one would be the wiser that you weren't Human." The same would happen in Centauri Prime, Londo didn't have to add.
The Doctor took the time to sip his drink. "Yeah, I've been to Centauri Prime. It's been a while, though. Before your time. Mollari, that's your House, isn't it? Centauri have a thing about Houses."
"Our House is our family," Londo said.
"I've met another Mollari, there. Gemaldo. Maybe your grandfather?"
"My grand-uncle. That's why I wanted to go see the Humans, once we found them. I thought, maybe one of them... I was his favourite. Before he died, he told me a story." Londo was contemplative. "He was just a child, but a Doctor came to his house. He looked like any Centauri, though his hair was unkempt." The Doctor made a face but didn't interrupt. "But this Doctor wasn't Centauri. His father was the Head of House then. There was some kind of problem. My grand-uncle didn't know what was happening, but the Doctor asked him things, then reassured him and went to help his father. He never learned exactly what had happened, except that many people died, but the day was saved."
"That was me, yeah."
Londo seemed relieved. "He made me promise, before he died. I promised to look for you. To thank you for him."
"Can you tell me what's happened?"
"It's a long story. Maybe another day," he replied, somber.
"Can it happen again?"
"No, I don't think so. Those guys won't ever try that again, I'm sure."
"As I said, you're welcome."
"That's what you do? Go around helping people?" He laughed, disbelieving, as if it was a joke.
The Doctor smiled. "Not really. I'm just a traveller. Well, a bit more than a traveller. I've met many of the people that's out there to meet. Though I prefer to pass unnoticed. Sometimes, like now, I have to play the ambassador. Official duties," he said with a grimace. "But mostly, I like to see people, wander about, and observe things."
"It's not a bad life, I think," Mollari said.
The atmosphere that followed was comfortable. Of course, it didn't last.
"Have you seen G'Kar already? No? I'd say don't bother!"
"Why not?" The Doctor asked. "They're your neighbors, I'd think you should cultivate peaceful relations with them."
"Peaceful relations? Bah! Uncivilized, the lot of them are! That's impossible!"
"They'll probably have a few choice remarks to say about the Centauri as well."
The Doctor sighed, leaving the subject of the Narns for another time. He didn't really expect that the hostility between the Narn and the Centauri would be easy to overcome, but it seemed Londo wasn't even trying. With G'Kar unavailable for the day, he'd have to try again after the reception. At least there he'd have a chance to observe both of them together, in a neutral setting.
Soon after, Londo was back, trying to give some Ambassadorial advice.
"I don't understand why you came alone. You should send for someone else to assist you. You won't be able to handle ambassadorial duties if you're busy with the details."
"No, that's not how we do things."
"But you'll need someone. Even if it's just to keep your schedule. There are plenty of other ambassadors here, and they'll all want to talk with you." The Doctor was shaking his head, so Londo made a suggestion, "Hire a Human, then. I had a Human assistant once, they can do the job well."
"Humans are complicated," he grumbled. He really didn't like the idea of putting another Human companion at risk. But if they were just to work as an assistant... "All right, I'll look into it. But don't go spreading the word around! I have my own method for finding assistants."
"Of course, of course! Who do you think I am?"
'A very shrewd politician,' he thought, but didn't say. He only narrowed his eyes at Londo's innocent-looking face. But Londo wasn't finished with his tips yet.
"Tell me, is it just you, or do all your people dress just like Humans?"
"Not again... Yes, I know it, Garibaldi already gave me the spiel."
"Look at my glorious clothes! I'm telling everyone how glorious the Centauri Republic truly is!"
The Doctor scrunched his nose. "It doesn't say 'glorious' to me."
"Pompous, rather? Yeah, I agree. But this is part and parcel of being Ambassador. Otherwise people will look at you and dismiss you as a member of a rogue Human colony."
"Ugh! That's not better."
"You're an ambassador. You should know about this."
"Yeah yeah, it's been too long, I've forgotten, and you already know I'm older than I look. I'll have to go back to my ship and get some more clothes... Then you'll see who's more 'glorious'."
"Don't tell me you also have an Empire?"
"We had, Londo. A very long time ago. But we've learned that an Empire is more trouble than it's worth. An illusion of safety, power and strength. But there's always a day when illusions are shattered. We don't need it, and we're much better off without it now."
"How odd. Don't you have enemies? People who envy you? Who desire your homeworld?"
"Plenty," he said somberly. "But most know better than to try."
"Ah! You're powerful, then." Londo pointed at him, his eyes glinting.
"Nah. We don't like to meddle in the affairs of others. And the others repay us the favor."
"But you're here, now, Doctor."
"Yes, yes I am."
"Are you going to meddle?"
"It's not meddling when we're trying to build relations, is it?"
"You said your planet is too far away for regular trade or travel. What kind of relations are you here for, hm?"
"Curiosity. Exchange of experiences. Maybe we can learn something from you. And maybe we can teach you something." Londo was looking at him doubtfully. "But that's enough about me! What about you? The great Centauri Republic, who's governed by an Emperor, so should be called an Empire, perhaps?"
"One day, sure. We're no longer an empire." Londo grimaced at his empty glass and took the bottle to refill it. "There was the day when we controlled most of the region, and the others respected us. Now, we're just a shadow of what we once were."
"And you're not happy with it."
"We're the laughing stock of the galaxy. Come visit the great Centauri Republic. Open 9 to 5. Bah."
"There are other powers than military might and political strength," the Doctor tried. "There's much your people could achieve, and become glorious again, now for a much better reason."
"Nah, my people are fixated on the past. We live off memories. We delude ourselves. What would I do to reconquer the old glory."
"Be careful what you wish for, Londo. There lies the path to madness and loss of yourself."
"And what else could I do? We're a traditional people! See our clothes, our legends, our ceremonies. That's what we are!"
"No you're wrong, Londo. Maybe one day you'll understand, and maybe one day I can help you, as I once helped your grand-uncle."
After he left Londo, the Doctor went back to his quarters, where he spent some time looking at himself in the mirror. The Centauri was right. The design of his suit was from 21st century Earth. For the Humans on the station, they marked him as eccentric and out-of-time, which was, after all, part of the original intent. But for the others, they screamed 'Strange Human'. Few of them had the knowledge to link his clothes to Earth's past. But they were distinctive enough that the weak perception filter he normally used wasn't enough to prevent many of the station's inhabitants, with the psychic abilities common in this galaxy, from noticing him. He was forced to admit his choice of clothing was inadequate to the situation.
He could try a stronger perception filter, but that had its own risks. Or he could make the best of the situation and accept some fashion changes. He spent some time browsing current Human male fashion through Babylon 5's catalogs. Yes, there was a way to adapt his clothing to a contemporary style, while still retaining that distinctive sense that was his own. The shoes were harder, but there were still trainer equivalents in this era, and those wouldn't look as out of place as his current ones.
The TARDIS would have an adequate suit and shoes for him. His overcoat, strangely enough, was perfectly acceptable to Human contemporary tastes, and that helped make him less uncomfortable about the change. But he'd have to bring Gallifreyan clothes as well. He could dress himself as Human with the new suit, when he wanted to avoid attention, but he'd have plenty of official business. He couldn't carry through them without some Gallifreyan formal wear. He hated the idea, but the First Ones here would know enough to be able to recognise if he wasn't using appropriate clothing, and that would raise questions he'd rather avoid.
He went to the TARDIS, still snugly parked inside the courier ship. In the wardrobe, he quickly found the old grey robes he'd used in his first, and last, official mission before he left Gallifrey and became a renegade, all the way back in his first incarnation. That mission had been important in making him what he was now, so, for him, using them here would carry some secret amusement and satisfaction. It would also help him remember who he was, even though they'd belonged to an older, stricter version of himself. Yes, they could serve as everyday Gallifreyan formal clothing. Now, for the ceremonial wear, he had decided on the robes he'd used at his last official function on Gallifrey. They were blatant enough to fit the purpose, even though he'd rather turn his nose at them. But the TARDIS was being difficult, and no matter how much he asked her, he couldn't find them. He sighed, resigning himself to look again the next morning.
Now, if only the Minbari Ambassador would reply to his message. Commander Sinclair would be unavailable until after the reception, and that was all right. He already had the measure of the man. G'Kar's assistant had sent a brief reply claiming the Narn Ambassador was busy today. And Kosh, well, he didn't need his reply, he'd go visit him anyway. But he wanted to see for himself how far the Vorlons had gone in their manipulation of the Minbari, and how much they knew of the Vorlon plans. The Vorlons had the disgusting habit of passing themselves as gods to the younger species, and it seemed Minbari religion was at least in part based in Vorlon manipulation. He had no doubt Kosh would have advised Delenn on how to speak to him, by now.
Delenn paced in her quarters, worried. Since the moment she'd received Sinclair's word that the new Gallifreyan Ambassador had arrived and wanted to speak with her, she'd been trying to contact Kosh, but the Vorlon wasn't replying to her requests. She knew something had happened between him and the new ambassador, but Kosh had left Babylon 5 soon after, and had returned only the previous day. Now he was shut away in his rooms, and refused to see everyone. Even her. She could only assume he was busy with something that was unrelated to the newcomer. So she'd sent Lennier to find the Gallifreyan Ambassador and give him her reply in person.
Lennier finally found him with Ivanova, and returned with the new Ambassador in tow. As they came into her quarters, she could see that he was not dressing in the Human clothes she'd heard of. Instead, he wore a grey open cloak, in a soft fabric that seemed to shimmer under the light. The cloak had a trim inscribed with beautiful circles and spirals that could well be a form of language. Underneath, he had a patterned dark grey robe that reached down to his thighs, over wide dark grey trousers and a high-collared maroon shirt. The robes were closer to the usual Minbari religious caste style than to most Human clothes she'd seen, so she assumed they were his Gallifreyan clothes. They seemed strangely appropriate.
He thanked Lennier and turned to her expectantly. His face was blank and stern.
"Thank you for coming," she started. "I am Delenn, Ambassador for Minbar. It's so good to welcome a new civilization's representative to Babylon 5."
He nodded, acknowledging her welcome. "And I am The Doctor, Ambassador for Gallifrey, Special Envoy from the High Council." Very formal, the way he said it, as if he expected she'd recognize it. But she didn't. Maybe he assumed Kosh had said something to her. Did he know about the special relationship between the Minbari and the Vorlons?
"Forgive me, but isn't 'Doctor' a human rank?" She tried to break the tension, but it didn't work.
The Doctor smiled, a tight smile. "Perhaps they learned the term from us."
She was uncomfortable. He wasn't acting as friendly as her reports had said. "Forgive me if I've offended you. Your message said there was something you wanted to speak with me about?"
He softened his stance somewhat. "Valen," he said.
"What about him?" She was nervous, now.
"A Minbari not born of Minbari. The founder of your current society. He reformed the ancient Minbari, led you through the Shadow War, united your various clans. Founded the Grey Council."
"Yes. That's recorded in our history." But very few non-Minbari were allowed to learn even that much about him.
"Why did you fight the Humans?" He pressed, and she frowned at the new question. What did he mean? His stance didn't mirror the subject change, as if the question was just a follow-up.
"They killed our leader, Dukhat. It was a misunderstanding. But we were angry." Perhaps his kind was connected somehow to the Humans he resembled. That could explain his apparent hostility. "It wasn't our brightest moment. We regret that."
"Not all of you." His eyes were focused on her, as if he was seeing into her soul. She shivered. This was not a friendly talk, this was an interrogation. But she was Grey Council. She wasn't easily intimidated.
"They'll do as they're ordered to," she replied bluntly.
"You almost committed genocide." He was dispassionate now, and she was even more wary. Was this some sort of test?
"Who are you?"
"Ah." He smirked, as if she'd finally said something he was expecting. "Who are you? What do you want? Those are the questions, aren't they?"
Delenn focused on him but, unlike the Human that had come to her quarters many weeks earlier, this Gallifreyan wasn't carrying the Shadows' taint. "You come asking questions, you could answer some of mine. Why are you here?"
The Doctor shrugged, and the pressure she was feeling receded slightly. "I'm not your enemy. You have nothing to fear, unless you've done something wrong. Have you?" The Gallifreyan Ambassador had a presence, not unlike a Vorlon themself. She felt measured, and found wanting.
"And who are you to ask this? To pretend to judge others?"
"Don't you know?" He asked, quirking an eyebrow. "Haven't you talked to your master?"
"Master?" The Human word was strange, and it took her a moment to place it. The Gallifreyan didn't intend 'master' to mean the teacher-disciple relationship, so there was only one answer possible. "The Minbari have no masters."
"You defer to the Vorlon." It was a statement of fact, not a question.
"I don't know you," she said through gritted teeth. "I have no idea what you want. You don't know me, and you have no right to say that. If that's all you wanted to say, you may as well leave."
The other, surprisingly, backed down. The ominous sensation that she'd been feeling disappeared, leaving her dizzy. With difficulty, she pushed the dizziness down. Her visitor was dangerous, and she dared not show weakness.
"Very well, I'll leave," he said, nodding to her. "Call me when you're ready to tell me what I need to know."
"And what do you need to know?"
"Everything." He smiled, then bowed respectfully, before retreating. It was only after the door closed that she allowed herself to breathe again.
A/N: I hope you liked this chapter! It took me a while before I was happy with this last dialogue. Tell me what you think!
Next chapter shouldn't take as long. I hope.
Thank you so much Almadynis Rayne and JeannieBird for helping me as betas!
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