Commander Jeffery Sinclair was sitting in splendid isolation at a small table in the Blue 9 canteen when he caught sight of Garibaldi coming out of the food line with a tray. Somehow, half an hour before going on day shift, his uniform was already wrinkled.
"Garibaldi," Sinclair called, kicking out the chair opposite his. Garibaldi's head snapped up. He threaded his way across the crowded room. "Privileges of rank," Sinclair said as Garibaldi sat down. "I see you decided against the fresh fruit bar?"
"Don't get me started," Garibaldi grumbled, picking up a spoonful of the grey semi-solid the cooks were calling 'oatmeal' and then turning the spoon over to let it slowly glop back into the bowl. "Three million metric tons of construction materials, and they couldn't give us one freighter load of decent food? Space duty sucks."
"Now you see, Garibaldi, that's the problem with the Earth-born. All that free oxygen, fresh food and blue skies spoils them for real duty."
Garibaldi responded with a gesture that could get him knifed in certain sectors on Mars.
The corner of Sinclair's mouth twitched. He waited for Garibaldi to sip his tea. "So, any interesting gossip going around the station lately?"
"Oh," Garibaldi said, putting down his mug and leaning forward with a little smile. "I've got a good one for you. You know the Narn ambassador?"
"Yeah, that's the one. Apparently, he's trying out his very own live version of 'Earth Girls are Easy'."
Sinclair blinked. "Are you serious? Because if that's a joke, it's not very funny." He paused, and then added, "Unless it's true."
"Hand to God," Garibaldi insisted. "The working girls like him. They say he's not too rough, tries to get them off, and tips well. Speaking of which, they've formed a new religion."
"No, the working girls. And boys. They were getting hassled by the Brakiri, some kind of cultural taboo. So I had their guild register them all as priests and priestesses of the 'Church of Aphrodite'. That seems to have fixed the problem."
"I see," Sinclair said. His forehead creased. "Are they going to be expecting equal representation at that religious festival coming up next month? Or requesting reduced import fees on 'holy items'?"
"No, I'll make sure that Celestina has them keep a low profile."
Garibaldi manfully spooned oatmeal into his mouth while Sinclair contemplated the Church of Aphrodite and its potential holy items.
"Walk with me," Sinclair invited Garibaldi when he stared glumly down at his empty tray. "I hear that you spent an hour off the grid in Down Below last night," Sinclair said as they crossed over into Blue 19. "What happened?"
Garibaldi gave a wry half-shrug. "It's not really the kind of thing I should tell my commander about."
Sinclair stopped short. He looked up and down the deserted corridor before stripping off his jacket and neatly folding it, rank tabs on the inside. "In that case, I'll be sure not to mention it to him."
"All right, Jeff." Garibaldi leaned against the wall and stuck his hands in his pockets. "I've been keeping an eye on the in-fighting between the contenders for boss of Down Below. It got pretty bloody this past week. So I set up a meet last night. Let them know that I appreciate a healthy sense of competition as much as the next guy, but if any more bodies hit the floor I'm personally coming down on them like the Hammer of Thor."
"Think it worked?"
"Well, it took a little while to explain the metaphor to the praying mantis, but I think I made an impression. Leastways, any killing they do from now on, the bodies won't end up anywhere we'd find them."
Sinclair winced. "Pak'ma'ra?"
"I try not to think about it." Garibaldi's link beeped. He answered it with a clipped, "Garibaldi."
"Chief? We've got, umm, sounds like a riot breaking out in the casino?"
"On my way. Garibaldi out." He jogged off, tossing a quick, "I'll report in later!" over his shoulder.
Sinclair shrugged back into his uniform jacket and walked to his office. He stepped inside and sat down at his desk. There was a quiet hum from one of the lights, and a large pile of folders marked URGENT. He stood up and headed for the Zocalo at a run.
Sinclair skidded to a halt on the landing overlooking the Zocalo. There was a large crowd, human and alien, formed up around two combatants just outside the casino. The human was a 6'6 redhead, built like a tank, in a classic Earth Force fighting stance. His Minbari opponent danced around him, quick slashing attacks with a broken bottle that the human barely deflected. The man had defensive wounds on both arms. There were a number of humans being led away by security, but the crowd was balanced right on the brink of violence, and no one could get through to stop the fight.
No one except Garibaldi.
Sinclair marked Garibaldi's progress through the crowd by a wake of movement and the cries of pain from people who wouldn't give way. Garibaldi finally broke through. He hurled himself at the Minbari with the feral glee that had always made good security officers keep an eye on him, dirty ones avoid him, and the bad guys believe any crazy threat that came out of Michael's mouth.
The Minbari was disarmed, flat on the deck and being restrained, too fast for Sinclair to see what happened. The human stepped back, arms open wide in surrender.
"The floor show is over!" Garibaldi announced to the crowd. "Anybody still here in 60 seconds is volunteering to come down to Security and write out a witness statement." The crowd dispersed as if by magic.
Sinclair turned away, activated his link, and left a polite message informing Ambassador Delenn of the unfortunate event. By the time he looked back, Garibaldi was chewing out a young woman wearing the casino colors.
"- what he says, you never give a Minbari alcohol! It makes 'em nuts! And they're already nuts!"
"I'm sorry Mr. Garibaldi. It'll never happen again."
"Better not," Garibaldi said, dismissing her. "And you!" He swung around and glared up at the wounded 6'6 Viking trying to disappear into the deck plating. "You were on the construction crew! What the hell are you still doing on my station?"
"I had my return ticket," the man mumbled, "but there was this poker game …"
"Of course there was. Look, you go talk to Connally, down in Blue 14, level 2. Tell her I sent you. She can maybe get you into the Dock Worker's Guild so you can earn your passage back. But you keep your nose clean, no more scrapping with the freaking Minbari, even if they start it, or I will throw you out the nearest airlock. You understand me, trooper?"
"Yessir!" the man bellowed, coming to attention.
"Don't – just get your ass down to Med Lab so they can patch you up, and you check in with Connally before the end of the day."
The man started to salute, visibly stopped himself, and hurried away down the Zocalo.
Garibaldi glanced around, caught sight of Sinclair at the top of the stairs, and sauntered up to join him.
"Space duty?" Sinclair asked when he reached the landing.
Garibaldi grinned. "Still sucks. But I guess it has its moments." He leaned on the railing and looked out over the Zocalo, a king surveying his kingdom.