This story takes place almost immediately after the last scene in "Exogenesis" which means two things. (a) There are SPOILERS in here! (b) This story will not make one bit of sense if you haven't seen that one. It's called "Messages From..." but has nothing to do with "Messages from Earth" The title will be self-explanatory once you start reading.
(This first appeared on the Babylon 5 fiction mailing list <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
As more and more of them had been, today had been weird. Ivanova took of her uniform jacket and tossed it on the back of the couch. "Computer, any messages?" she asked.
"One message waiting. Text only. Display now?" the computer intoned.
"Sure," Ivanova told it stepping over to the monitor. The following text appeared on her screen:
I just wanted to thank you for the flowers. It's nice to know you don't hate me completely.
"Computer, send the following text in reply: 'Excuse me? WHAT? - Commander Ivanova.' End and send."
Ivanova was on duty in C&C the next day when she got a reply.
"Commander, there's a text message for you, should I route it to your station?"
Corwin was being incredibly militarily-correct this morning, Ivanova noted, wondering why. "Yes, thank you."
She keyed up the message:
What do you mean, 'what?'?
This was getting ridiculous. She manually entered a reply:
What do you mean, "What do I mean"?
Only a few minutes later Corwin announced another text message addressed to her. He was trying very hard to keep his expression neutral, but Ivanova could see the confusion in his face. Very few people ever used text-only messages anymore. How archaic. Ivanova received it. This one read:
This really shouldn't be so difficult to figure
out. I was merely thanking you for the roses. Ok, so they weren't
entirely real, but it was the thought that counts. Even in this
"enlightened age" few women send men flowers. Thanks for the peace
Ivanova had had it with the text messages. Now she was pissed, and Marcus was going to know it. "Computer, reply to that message, audio/video format: Sent YOU flowers? What the hell are you talking about?!?! Those are the flowers you left outside of my quarters! END!"
She turned around and for the first time she noticed that every pair of eyes had turned to her as she shouted her response into the computer. Every pair of eyes but one. Full Lt. David Corwin was too busy regretting that Babylon 5 did not have a rock big enough to crawl under on board.
"What? Doesn't anyone have any work to do around here?" Ivanova yelled to the eyes fixed on her. Several junior officers cleared their throats nervously as they all found something absolutely fascinating on their own monitors. Ivanova strode purposefully to the door of C&C with the final announcement of, "Corwin you're in charge until I get back."
A mortifying non-sound was all Corwin could produce on his first attempt to respond. He coughed once and then managed, "Aye, Sir... Ma'am... Commander." David was quite certain he couldn't blush a deeper shade of red.
A collective sigh echoed around the Control center of Babylon 5 as the door whispered shut behind Ivanova.
Corwin's head was spinning. What was it that florist-guy had said? Something about flowers could only offend with their absence? He felt nauseous. He didn't know who Ivanova was blaming for this mix up... but it wasn't the poor guy's fault. He had just been telling Ivanova how important it was for him to be a "good soldier." Wasn't it essential for a "good soldier" to display honor? Didn't honor demand that he take responsibility for what he had seemingly done? Yeah right, his inner voice said, just walk up to Commander Ivanova and explain that you thought she was inviting you out on a date, so you got flowers. Then when you realized that you were wrong, you lied and now you've got someone you don't even know in a heap of trouble. "That should go over well," he muttered to himself. One of the techs next to Corwin glanced over at the murmured comment, but kept his peace. Smart man, Corwin thought to himself.
Ivanova's console beeped. Someone wanted to dock. David walked over and reached for the comm-button. That was when he saw a way out of this. The console beeped again. Corwin smiled. Ivanova had left in such a snit that she hadn't bothered to clear the message from her board. Corwin's face brightened as he realized that he could go to the person who was on the receiving end of Ivanova's tirade and explain to him. Another guy would understand. Right? Right. The panel beeped a third time. Corwin pulled the main menu up in front of the letter and answered the impatient Centauri cruiser.
With the cruiser safely on it's way to docking bay eight, Corwin pulled Ivanova's note up again. He entered the name and address of the Babcom panel it had been sent from into his link and began mentally rehearsing his apology and explanation. He'd go down there straight after his shift ended. Deal with this man to man, face to face.
By the time lunch came around Corwin thought he had worked up a decent apology and explanation. Feeling better, he set himself back into the the general mayhem that composed the daily life in C&C on Babylon 5.
Just after lunch Ivanova came back to C&C. "Things been quiet, Lieutenant?" she asked as she strolled to her console.
"Yes Commander. We've had one Centauri cruiser come in this morning. Nothing else is scheduled until 14:30." Finally seeing a light at the end of his particular tunnel, Corwin was able to address her with more confidence than he had had that morning.
Ivanova strolled over to her console and glanced down at it. "Lieutenant, did you use my panel to dock the Centauri?"
Play this cool, Corwin thought to himself. "Yes. Yes, I did. I left it just like I found it."
"Uh-huh," Ivanova muttered without inflection.
He couldn't tell if it was "uh-huh"-good or "uh-huh" if-you-saw-this-you're-a-dead-man. "Sir?" he asked hoping she'd clarify.
"Nothing, Lieutenant," she answered.
Corwin started to get nervous again. What if the guy she was yelling at was someone she was... Don't go there, David told himself, don't even go there. But what if he was and she went there after her shift. He wouldn't have time to explain and if she saw him...
He pulled up a blank text file and encoded the address he had borrowed from Ivanova's letter.
You don't know who I am, and if it's ok, I'd like to keep it that way. I'm fairly certain I don't know you. I sort of overheard Commander Ivanova blaming you for sending her flowers. It's my fault, I sent them - sort of. I thought you deserved something of an explanation.
About an hour later a text message came back to him.
Ok, I'm waiting.
Corwin's head hit his console with a thud. He was hoping he wouldn't have to go into details. He hit Reply and took a deep breath.
I'm honestly not sure how this got started, but the Commander asked me to have a private meeting. In her quarters. I suggested we meet in the mess hall or something but she was rather insistent upon meeting in her quarters. Honest, nothing happened! Anyway, I guess I thought it was a date, so I brought flowers. Then, I found out it wasn't and told her I... found the flowers by her door. I guess she picked you as her target.
He decided to erase the last sentence, it really wasn't like him to make nasty comments. He reached for the keypad, but before he could do anything a voice stopped him, "You seem to be concentrating on something awfully hard, Lieutenant. Something I can help with?"
"Uh...Sir... Ma'am.. .Commander..." Corwin pulled up a blank document as fast as he could to cover up his reply to Marcus.
"You're doing it again."
"Doing what, Sir...uh, Ma'am" Corwin was sure he was busted now.
"That," Ivanova answered. "'Sir' is fine, Lieutenant. Don't let my gender confuse you."
Very little doubt of that happening, Corwin thought to himself. Especially with the way you've been wearing your hair down lately. Corwin coughed. Where the hell had that come from?
"I'm just another commanding officer." She smiled at him and walked away, smiling.
Corwin just stood there and nodded. After he was sure she was busy again he finished his letter to Marcus.
I'm honestly not sure how this got started, but the Commander asked me to have a private meeting. In her quarters. I suggested we meet in the mess hall or something but she was rather insistent upon meeting in her quarters. Honest, nothing happened! Anyway, I guess I thought it was a date, so I brought flowers. Then, I found out it wasn't and told her I... found the flowers by her door. I guess she misunderstood. Really, nothing happened.
Lt. David Corwin
Without thinking David signed his name at the bottom like he did on all his other messages.
It was only five minutes later when he got a reply.
You're joking! That's HYSTERICAL! Susan will get a definite laugh over this. Good thing too, she needs one every once in a while.
>Really, nothing happened.
Why do you keep telling me this?
"No, no, no! You cannot do that, you cannot do that. Please don't do that." Corwin didn't notice that he was talking out loud until Ivanova looked up from across C&C.
"No Sir!" he snapped loudly and clearly. I'm just digging myself in deeper here, he thought to himself. I am a dead man.
"Lieutenant, can I make a suggestion?"
Corwin was certain he didn't want to hear Ivanova's suggestion unless it involved him and her - and a great deal of distance between them. "Of course, Commander."
"Lay off the caff at lunch."
He sighed, "Yes sir. I'll do that."
He pulled up a reply form.
PLEASE don't do that! Please don't tell the
Commander about this. I mean, I'd like to think I have a future in
EarthForce and well, you know what they say about ticking off the
wrong people. How they tell one person who tells another and pretty
soon you're serving on a garbage scow. Not to mention I do
like the Commander. I mean, as a C.O. not as... you know what I
mean, right? I admire her. I'd like to think that if I'm really
lucky I'll have as successful a career as she has. I just made a
mistake. I misinterpreted. PLEASE don't tell her I did
Corwin sent the message and silently wondered when C&C got so hot.
Fifteen minutes later two messages came into C&C at the same time. One was addressed to him, the other to Ivanova. "I'm toast," he whispered. Again, the tech next to him looked over, but wisely remained silent.
"Commander, incoming message for you. Shall I route it to your station?" Corwin felt like he was announcing his own death sentence.
"Mm-hmm," she said not looking up from her work. Corwin was thankful.
With her message shuttled over, he opened his.
Relax, I'm not looking to make anyone else her target. I appreciate your candor though.
After finally getting a glitch out of the duty roster she was working on, Ivanova opened up her message. Marcus again. She was beginning to wonder if the man was a masochist.
I figured out the phantom flower flub-up. It still wasn't me.
Ivanova hit reply as a few choice words came to mind. She settled for brevity over color.
You still make no sense. If it wasn't you, and you've figured it out, then just who the HELL was it?
It took about three minutes for a reply to come back. Corwin was seriously beginning to hate that return address. He knew they were talking about him.
Ivanova opened the latest letter.
Someone who wants to be just like you when he