By Frieda W. Landau






   "Can you please explain what this means, Mr. Garibaldi?"

   "Huh?" The security chief briefly glanced up at the petite Minbari woman standing on the other side of his desk. "Oh, hi, Ambassador, just a sec. I need to finish this." He turned back to the data pad in his hand, punched in a few words and put it face down with a grimace. "Overnight reports, and my night chief never uses one word when he can use ten. Man's a bore, but he's good at his job. Now, what can I help you with, Delenn?" he said, taking the orange sheet of paper she handed him.

   "I do not understand this," she said, pointing to the elaborate black script.

   "It's an invitation to the Halloween party tonight at Earhart's. Oh, I don't know what Halloween is...."

   "No, I learned about it when I was studying your customs before coming to Babylon 5. Although I do not understand how a solemn, religious occasion meant to honor the dead became a holiday where small children extort gifts of food and money from their elders...."

   "Um...I'm not really the one to ask...."

   Delenn shook her head impatiently. "What does it mean here, 'fancy dress mandatory for admission'?" She stabbed at the offending sentence. "Are not my garments proper? No one has ever complained before."

   Garibaldi started to smile and thought better of it. "It's Halloween, Delenn. And people are supposed to dress up in costumes, you know, pretend they're someone else."

   "Oh." Her face lit up. "Like children playing. Thank you, I understand now."

   Earhart's was crowded. Delenn stopped in the doorway, assaulted by the noise. She adjusted the hood of the red cape she wore over her usual attire and shifted the small, straw basket to the other arm. She felt silly, dressed like this, it was so unMinbari. She surveyed the room. The oversize duck in the old fashioned space suit, Mr. Garibaldi, was laughing at something Londo, dressed as a Centauri emperor, was saying. G'Kar, an ornate sword at his side, swept the wide hat with the purple plume low across his body as he bowed to the barefoot Gypsy with long, flowing hair and dangling earrings. Ivanova looked so different out of her severe uniform! And there were at least five Vorlons!

   She heard the roar of some sort of machine above the din. Garibaldi's motorcycle. Someone in black leather studded with silver, with the word Harley on the back of the jacket, was sitting astride it, revving the engine. Lennier! Delenn shook her head. She would never understand his fascination with that machine.

   "Hi there, not afraid of wolves, are you?" Startled, Delenn turned quickly, knocking her basket squarely into John Sheridan's chest. "Oomph! I guess you're not. That's quite an effective weapon you've got there," he said as he rubbed the spot. "What have you got in there anyway? Rocks?"

   "I am sorry, Captain. I did not see you. But you should not sneak up on someone like that."

   "John, remember? You promised to call me, John."

   "John," she smiled. "And I don't know what's in the basket. It came with the cape and hood, to complete the costume the salesman in the Zocolo said." She shrugged. Then, with another radiant smile, she took in his fringed shirt and colorful bandana, and the two, old-fashioned slug throwers holstered on his low-slung belt. "I know who you are, you're a bovine herder!"

   "A...bov...what?" Sheridan sputtered. "Close, but no cigar. Never mind, I'll explain it later," he said at her quizzical look. "The correct term is 'cowboy'." He took off the wide brimmed, white hat and held it against his chest. "Shucks, ma'am, you sure are the purtiest gal here."

   Puzzled, Delenn looked at him for moment, then her face cleared. "Ah, you are play acting, to go with your costume."

   Sheridan grinned and replaced the hat. "Yes, but I meant it." Before she could respond, he took her arm. "Come on, you're just in time for the judging!"

   Sipping her orange juice, a virgin screwdriver Sheridan had called it, and nibbling at the dark chocolate cake with orange icing, Delenn sat fascinated by the parade strutting in front of the judges, two ombudsmen and the proprietor of Earnhart's. A shepherdess, complete with staff and crook, won the fairy tale category. Mr. Garibaldi sputtered as the judges handed him the trophy for 'most appropriate' costume, to the delight of the crowd. The Centauri ambassador won for the most accurate attire, which surprised no one since he wore the ceremonial garb of his illustrious ancestor.

   Sheridan started to say something, but Delenn shushed him as one of the ombudsmen stood up and held up his hand to quiet the crowd. It was the one who had rolled his eyes at the grey alien with the large head, a Star Fury pilot who was smaller than the others. The judge announced that there was one more prize to win, for the best Vorlon. He waved the contestants to the stage. There was much hooting and whistling as the five tried to imitate the gait and speech of the Vorlon ambassador.

   Once again, the judge held up his hand. "Ladies and gentlemen, the winner, by an unanimous vote, is number three!" He removed the head to reveal a blushing Vir. The revelers stamped and cheered. The shy ambassador's aide had fooled them all. Three of the remaining Vorlons, glad to get out of their confining costumes, pounded his back and told him no hard feelings.

   The fifth Vorlon, however, slowly raked the judges with the orb in his chest. "Impudent!", he hissed. And glided off the stage and out the door.





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