“Is that something the Psi Corps should be concerned about?”
A fatigued Garibaldi craned his neck. “Do you know why I’m not wearing pants, Mister Bester?” Another awkward pause. “We’ve got a rogue Psi Cop running loose on the station, probably higher than P-12.”
“We don’t have any P-12-”
“Let me finish. Five days ago, a telepath came by as our new ‘liaison’ with EarthGov. The next day, five lurkers were admitted to med lab with severe wedgie burns.”
“The perpetrator couldn’t be identified, because none of the victims recalled their attacker’s face, almost as if it had been... wiped from their minds. So we had your ‘liaison’ trailed by three station guards. And guess what, pal? They’re all in med lab right now, severe wedgie burns all around.”
“This is insane!”
“I’m glad you appreciate what we’re going through, Bester. After the confrontation, your Psi Cop went completely rogue...”
“We never assigned a Psi Cop to Babylon 5.”
“This isn’t a game, Bester. Earth Force has already lost twenty-six perfectly good pairs of pants. Do I need to make that twenty-seven?”
“This has got to be a joke.”
“Do my sweaty knees look like they’re joking to you, doc? Sheridan had to ban pants in the name of public safety, and we had to crank up the furnace. This place is hotter than a crate of dust. What’s wrong with you people?”
“I want to talk to Sheridan!”
“He’s just gonna ask you the same thing: what’re you doing? What’s EarthForce doing about this? Is EarthForce even up and running back home?”
“Of course it is!”
“Then you’d better go catch it!” I laughed, slamming the viewscreen against its cradle like an aluminum baby.
Various inanimate objects within earshot rippled in delight as my isomorphic generator powered down and Garibaldi exploded into artifacts; another successful prank phone call!
“Why don’t you have any real ambition,” my self-portrait asked coyly. Fixed to my cherry-coated bunker wall, he was an unpleasant holdover from my Dorian Gray days. Back when I thought a mere — scoff! — painting could guarantee my immortality. Instead of a repository for my age and disease and disfigurement and decapitation, I’d accidentally created a two-dimensional doppelgänger! “The universe is begging to be conquered. There’s a real market for global domination.”
“Do I look like I have four right angles? Ambition is for squares.” I tore my eyes from the accusatory canvas.
“Now who’s being two-dimensional?”
“I seek neither your council,” I froze to accentuate the tensitude, “nor your fashion sense,” my subvocalizer roared as I scooped up the phone faster than you could gut a trout. “I am a prank caller. My father was a prank caller, and his father before him, all the way back to my great grandfather. That guy was awesome.”
He strained against the inlaid frame: “Then prove him right. I’ve got a boarding pass here, you see.”
My interest spiked! “A boarding pass, you say, you say? A boarding pass, you say?”
“Yes, oh yes, a boarding pass, you see! A boarding pass to the Plaza Station.”
“Where is that,” I asked absent-mindlessly, packing my puce pantaloons in pear-shaped pods. “The Hinterlands? It isn’t safe to travel to those places, they say, not until Lord Vista has broken the resistance.”
Marble swirls formed on the wooden mantle beneath the belligerent portrait. I heard the chimney cough, but I was powerless to help it; the disease was viral, it would have to heal on its own. Weep inwardly.
“Hinterubbish! Macintrash!” it spat, “Lord Vista is nothing. Six centuries, and he still can’t mount an insurmountable offense.”
“I call blasphemy.”
“What you call it is inconsequential, you three di-moron! What I’m saying is...” he reached from the canvas and placed a boarding pass in my front pocket. “...you could do better. How now, go down! The flying machine awaits.”
Each letter on the pass was golden, and handwritten — not printed. “And once I’ve become a super-villain...?”
No words, no thought, no signs of intelligence past or future; the simulacrum was silent against the wall.