Voice From The Past
by Jenny Hayward <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From the Dawn of time they came; moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the Gathering; when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known they were among us - or so we thought.
It was the dawn of the Third Age of mankind, eleven years after the Earth/Minbari war, the war which ended when, on the verge of destroying the Earth completely, the Minbari surrendered. Only a few people know why.
The Babylon Project was a dream given form, a place of commerce and diplomacy, where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. A self-contained world five miles long, located in neutral territory. A shining beacon in space, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last best hope for peace. The year is 2259. The name of the place is Babylon 5.
- COLLIN MAGILL, associate of the recently deceased Taro Isogi.
- TALIA WINTERS, licenced commercial telepath, friend of Taro Isogi.
- AMANDA CARTER, representative of the Mars Business Affairs Committee.
- MICHAEL GARIBALDI, Babylon 5 Head of Security. He has good instincts. His second-favourite thing in the universe is watching Daffy Duck with a comfy bowl of popcorn. He is a close friend of Jeffrey Sinclair.
- LOU WELCH, Babylon 5 security, trustworthy and reliable.
- ZACK ALLAN, Babylon 5 security second in command.
- DELENN, ambassador of the Minbari Federation. She is secretly a member of the Grey Council, the Minbari ruling body. Earlier this year she underwent a change to become half-human/half-Minbari, because of a Minbari prophecy, in defiance of the advice of the Grey Council.
- LENNIER, Minbari assistant to Delenn. Last year he helped Garibaldi to restore a 20th-century antique motorcycle to working condition.
- JOHN SHERIDAN, the second Commander of Babylon 5. One of his hobbies is collecting secrets. Another is orange juice.
- MORDEN, human agent of the ancient and evil Shadows. If he asks you what you want, don't answer.
- KOSH NARANEK, ambassador of the ancient and mysterious Vorlons.
- LONDO MOLLARI, ambassador of the Centauri Republic.
- Dr. FRANKLIN, head of Babylon 5 medicine.
- Dr. MENDOZA, one of the Babylon 5 doctors.
- JEFFREY SINCLAIR, Earth's ambassador to the Minbari, first commander of Babylon 5. He was a fighter squadron leader in the Battle of The Line, the last battle of the Earth/Minbari war. During the battle, he was captured, interrogated and mind-scanned. His memory of those events were erased, and he was released, but while he was commander of Babylon 5, some of those memories returned.
- JOHN KERRIN, religious guru.
- BANAVIR, a Minbari guard.
- UNAR, warrior-caste member of the Grey Council.
- RAY ALDWIN, an old friend of Collin Magill.
- THIRTEEN, [classified]
- METHOS, the oldest Immortal.
- Man With Tattoo
- Man with case
- members of the Grey Council
- Drazi liason
- Vundila liason
- Tcholk businessperson
- Guards, Rangers and other Extras.
Sooner or later, everyone comes to Babylon 5.
He wore his suit-coat as if it were a straight-jacket, and only convention prevented him from taking it off and swinging it over his shoulder. His fine, pale face and red-tinged curly hair betrayed his Irish ancestry. He handed his ID-card to Lou Welch, who had pulled customs duty that afternoon.
"Business or pleasure?" Lou asked. The scanner identified the man as ``Collin Magill'', born 12/12/2232 on Earth. Just too young to have been in the War, but old enough to remember it.
"Business before pleasure," Magill sighed. "Though this Mutai sounds interesting."
"You don't look the type," Lou commented, taking in his clothes that spoke money, and by corollary, sophistication. The Mutai tended to be a sport spectated by those of less refined tastes.
"Is there a dress code?" came the reply.
"Fancy threads cry out 'hit me! hit me!' in places like that," Lou said.
"Or 'beat me up and take my money'?" Magill returned.
"That too," Lou agreed.
"Fear not, sir," Magill grinned. "I was born and bred in a briar patch, Brer Fox," he quoted. "I'll be careful."
Not far away, a roving Garibaldi smiled at the redhead's comment, and followed him with his eyes as he continued to the end of the concourse. What he saw gave him a surprise. Someone was waiting for Magill. Someone that Garibaldi knew quite well. Talia Winters.
Greetings dispensed with, Talia and Collin walked through the crowds in the direction of the transport tubes. "I'm sorry about Taro Isogi," Collin said. "He was a friend."
"He spoke of you," Talia replied. "Said he couldn't have started Futurecorp without you."
Collin smiled sadly. "He had the ideas. I just had the money."
The faintest trace of a frown creased Talia's brow. "Funny, I thought you'd be -"
"Older?" he finished for her.
She looked at his eyes, the sadness in them. "You are older," she declared with an uncanny certainty.
"I grew up fast," he said by way of an answer to her unspoken question. It was true, but it wasn't the truth.
Garibaldi continued looking at the pair of them, wondering who the man was. But then he noticed someone else staring at them. The watcher wasn't much to look at - mousy hair, average height, ordinary clothes - but his interest seemed more than casual. Garibaldi's instinct prickled. As the telepath and the businessman entered the elevator, the other man actually ran up to the elevator in order to share it with them. That was enough to set Garibaldi's hackles rising. He started walking quickly towards the elevator area, activating his link as he did so. "Lou, this Garibaldi," he began.
"So how did you meet Taro Isogi?" The elevator was fairly full, and Talia wanted to distract herself from the closeness by continuing the conversation, even if it were in such a public place.
Collin turned his head to look at her. "I had an inheritance from an uncle -" he averted his eyes, "he died on the Line - and I wanted to make some long-term investments." He shrugged. "Futurecorp was one of them."
"But you could have invested without meeting him," Talia commented.
"One of the things I've learned in life," he said with a bitter twist to his mouth, "is that you can't trust institutions. You can only trust people." His stare made her uncomfortable.
"Even when the people are part of the institutions?" she asked, wondering if his comment was more than hypothetical. He wouldn't be the first person she'd met who distrusted Psi Corps.
The elevator stopped at a level and there was a fair bit of shuffling as someone at the back wanted to get out. The fellow standing in front of them, one who had gotten on at the last minute, was jostled, flinging out an arm to hold himself steady. Collin stared at him and frowned. He seemed annoyed, though Talia couldn't figure a reason for it. The man hadn't jostled him.
"Even when the people are part of the institutions?" she repeated, trying to recapture his attention.
He turned back to her. "Cogs in the wheels can't do much about the direction of the machine," he said. "Unless they try not to be cogs, and then they get crushed."
"I'd think you wouldn't have anything to do with any institutions with an attitude like that," she said dryly. "And certainly not negotiating on behalf of one."
He grinned at her. "I pretend to be a cog," he said.
Armed with information that Lou and the station computer had given him, Garibaldi made his best way to Red Seven. Magill was staying in suite 12, but Garibaldi was five or ten minutes behind him. When he turned down the corridor, there was no sign of Magill or Talia, nor of the man he suspected of having followed them. The corridor was empty. The direct approach, then.
Garibaldi stepped up to suite 12. "Mr. Magill?" he called. He was greeted with silence. "Mr. Magill, this is Security Chief Garibaldi. I have to talk to you." There was no answer. The silence rang hollowly. Considering what had happened to the previous person in Magill's shoes, this was not a good sign. Was he too late? Had Magill been killed like Isogi, having barely set foot on Babylon 5? And if Talia had been with him... Garibaldi went to the side of the door and overrode the lock. The door opened, and Garibaldi stepped cautiously inside.
The room was empty. No dead bodies on the floor, or even unconscious ones. "If I get any more jumpy, I'll start eating carrots," Garibaldi muttered disgustedly to himself. "Damn!" Garibaldi's instincts had run away with him. Magill hadn't even been to his suite yet.
So where the hell was he?
Collin Magill was toying with a drink at a bar in the Zocalo. He had parted company with Talia after confirming the time of the first meeting with Amanda Carter the next morning. He had pretended there was nothing wrong, but he had avoided his suite and gone straight to the Zocalo. As he suspected would happen, the man he noticed in the lift followed him. He sighed. He'd hoped to have left that behind, coming here, but it seemed that wasn't to be. At least he'd spotted who they'd assigned to him. This time. Must be a new one. They usually weren't that careless. Or was he simply getting better at spotting them? He sighed again, feeling old. Better forget about it. Get back to the everyday world, push the world of shadows and secrets aside for a while.
Now was the time to relax, before the work of negotiations began the next day. Not that there was that much to do with Amanda Carter; it was the alien business interests that were the next big step. He smiled, thinking how surprised some of the friends of his youth would have been if they could see him now. Business executive was a long way from breaking-and-entering. Then again, it was a long way from racing or fighter piloting - deliberately so. Less chance of being recognised by old friends - or old enemies. Except for his friendly neighbourhood watchdogs, of course. And they were perfectly safe - unless one of them decided to go feral.
He sighed. He was trying to forget that, wasn't he?
The place was fairly busy. More humans than others, but there were plenty of others; Centauri men with their electric-shock hairstyles, and their women with heads as smooth as eggs; Narns all brown and orange; Markabs looking like shaved earless teddy-bears; Drazi all iron-grey and scales; Minbari pale and solemn, and many more.
One of the Minbari caught his wandering attention. He'd been told that everything they wore was symbolic, that it meant something. Typical Minbari - to turn even getting dressed into something of spiritual significance. This one wore a tunic, the dark brown of War and tree-boles, pinned with a brooch with a large stone, green as the leaves of a fir in winter. Not something he'd seen before. He wondered idly what it meant.
Magill glanced up at the nearby video monitor. Some topical current-affairs-type interview. A dark-haired woman in a dark blue tailored dress stared confrontationally across at an older man with a rugged tanned face and hair that was either blond or prematurely white. The caption underneath the man said: John Kerrin, Children of Light.
The interviewer leaned forward. "And is it true that a number of aliens have joined your movement, Mr. Kerrin?"
The pale-haired man smiled. "We are all alien to each other," he said. "Love is the universal language. Why shouldn't our brothers in different skin seek the Light along with the rest of us?"
"You gotta hand it to him," Magill remarked, "he doesn't stop trying."
"That is one of the strengths of humanity," a voice commented to his left. It was deep, feminine, with an exotic accent, and it set up the faintest of resonances in his memory. "Your unparalleled capacity for hope," the voice continued, coming closer.
He turned to find the speaker. She stood a seat or two over, but the spaces between them were unoccupied. Her hair was long and dark, caught about an elaborate grey headpiece. Her skin was as pale as any Caucasian, but her facial bones were not quite right. Her clothes were almost ancient Japanese in style, long and flowing, straight and layered and padded.
"Hope?" he said wryly to her. He glanced at the screen where Kerrin was talking about forgiveness. "Maybe it's just a better choice than madness."
"Is that the only choice you see?" she asked, stepping up and sitting down in the empty seat to his left. She seemed genuinely curious.
He had an impulse to tell her to forget it, he was just rambling, but something stopped him. There was something about her, something about her voice. Something nagging him. He said the first thing that came to his mind. "It's all the same, you see," he said. "Madness, despair, apathy - they're all death. Death while you're alive." He waved at the screen. "He knows that. Knows that better than a lot of people. I still think he's crazy, but you've got to admire him."
"Is this so common, that humans call True Seekers crazy?" she asked, with a shade of disapproval in that low, exotic voice.
He looked at her again. An alien, was she? "Well," he drawled, with a twinkle in his eye, "why else do they call it divine madness?" And then it came to him what was bugging him. He'd heard her voice before, somewhere. "Have we met?" he asked her suddenly. "You seem familiar, somehow."
She inclined her head towards him. "Perhaps our souls met, in another life," she suggested.
"Souls?" he echoed and paused, staring past her at nothing, staring at a memory. A memory of pain. He clenched his right hand. "How can you tell the colour of someone's soul?" he murmured to himself, but not low enough that she did not hear.
Her eyes widened. "What did you say?" she asked him.
"I don't believe in reincarnation," he declared, looking at her again, too late to catch her troubled expression. He stared at her face, the long brown hair cascading down on one side, and gave a frown of his own. "I'm afraid I was mistaken," he said. "You aren't who I thought you were."
"That is strange," she said. "I was just thinking - how much you look like someone I... encountered once. But he is dead."
"Excuse me, Ambassador Delenn," the voice of Security Chief Garibaldi interrupted her thoughts, "but Mister Magill could soon be dead himself if he doesn't take a bit more care about his security."
"Ambassador Delenn!" Magill exclaimed, standing up. "I had no idea. I had no idea that you were... you don't look like a..."
"Like a Minbari?" she smiled, but her eyes held a spark of pain. "I underwent this change to be a bridge of understanding between our peoples."
He stared at her. "You - you are the..." his voice trailed off.
"Mr. Magill," Garibaldi interjected into the pause. "If you'll come with me..." He tapped Magill on the shoulder.
Magill whirled, grabbed Garibaldi's arm and had it twisted up behind his back before you could say "Vorlons eat rabbits for breakfast." Then his brain caught up with his reflexes and he let go, by which time Garibaldi's reflexes kicked in, and Magill ended up with his face on the floor and Garibaldi's knee in his back.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Garibaldi exclaimed.
"You startled me," Magill gargled from his place on the floor.
"I startled you," Garibaldi muttered, bemused. "That's original."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Magill said in a strangled voice. "Will you let me up? I promise it won't happen again."
Cautiously, Garibaldi let go his hold and Magill climbed to his feet. "You were planning on entering the Mutai, weren't you?" Garibaldi guessed, his heart sinking into his boots. Magill was fast, faster than almost anyone he'd met, but that wouldn't save him from a gun. The confident ones were the hardest to protect. They never thought it could happen to them.
"Now that Walker Smith paved the way," Magill replied, "I thought it would be a challenge." He shrugged.
Before Garibaldi could comment on that, Delenn spoke. "I will take my leave of you, gentlemen," she said, bowing her head slightly.
Magill returned his attention to Delenn. He placed his hand on his heart and bowed to the Ambassador. "Peace be on your House," he said in Minbari.
"And on yours," she returned automatically in the same language, before she even realised what she had said. Then she took a sharp breath. "How did you come to learn Minbari?" she asked Magill in English.
"A Minbari said something over my head once," he replied, gazing at her steadily. "I wanted to know what it meant."
"And did you?" she asked.
"Not until now," he answered.
Delenn opened her mouth and then shut it again. "Perhaps we may talk of this again," she said to Magill. "Good day, gentlemen." She nodded and left. Magill stared after her.
Garibaldi wondered what the hell all that was about, and filed it away to take out and puzzle over later. He cleared his throat to get Magill's attention. He wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. "For your own safety," Garibaldi said, "you're coming with me."
"My safety?" Magill echoed. "Why the sudden concern, Mr. - Garibaldi, isn't it?"
"How did you know?" Garibaldi asked suspiciously.
"The personnel information about Babylon 5 isn't exactly Top Secret, y'know," Magill returned. "I like to keep informed."
"My concern, Mr. Magill," Garibaldi continued, wanting to get this conversation back on track, "is that you don't meet the same fate as your predecessor, Taro Isogi."
This got Magill's attention, but not in the way Garibaldi had hoped. Magill merely smiled. "I won't," he said.
"And you're a prophet as well as a businessman?"
"A businessman calculates risks. And I assure you, there is no risk that I'll die at the hands of some half-baked assassin."
"Oh? You've rounded up the ones responsible and they'll never bother us again?" Garibaldi said sarcastically.
Magill's face darkened, and he turned to face Garibaldi squarely. "No," he said shortly. "Have you?" The two men were eye to eye, and both sets of eyes burned.
"That is precisely my point," Garibaldi said slowly and carefully. "Someone has already attempted to follow you."
"I know that," Magill said scornfully. "Fellow in the green and brown jumpsuit, second table from the left at the back, drinking an Olympus Mons. Don't look," he continued, barely pausing for breath. "He doesn't know he's been made, and I'd like it to stay that way."
Nevertheless, Garibaldi took a half-turn and flicked his eyes sideways to glance at the table Magill had indicated. It was the same man all right.
Garibaldi rounded on Magill. "You knew you were being followed and you're not worried? Are you nuts?"
Magill sighed. How was he going to explain this? "The only nut around here," he said, "is him." He jerked his chin in the direction of the watcher. "He's a religious nut. I recognised him by the tattoo on his wrist. They've been following me about for years."
"God knows," Magill shrugged. "They won't talk," he said with certainty. "Maybe I was born under a lucky star," he added sarcastically.
"You're going to need all the luck you can get," Garibaldi commented.
"I can look after myself," Magill said.
"Many a dead man said that before he croaked," Garibaldi said.
Magill raised his eyebrows and cracked a smile. "Why don't we discuss this somewhere a little less public?" he suggested.
Garibaldi rolled his eyes and bit back the retort he was tempted to make. "Yes, why don't we do that," he said between gritted teeth.
Delenn paced her quarters restlessly. The encounter with Magill had disturbed her. The resemblance was uncanny. And his way of speech. His very words. His parting ones troubled her the most. But it was impossible that Tandy should still be alive. She had seen him die. The memory was clear in her mind. Eleven years ago, it had been. At the end of the War.
He had eluded the chase far longer than anyone could have expected. The others had been caught soon after the escape. Yet this one was unexpected in many ways. To have worked his way out of his shackles he would have had to endure much pain: dislocated both shoulders and broken the bones in one hand, to judge by what was left behind. And then he had gone on to free the others that he could find. Such determination spoke of a force of will surely even rare among humans. Though perhaps not, considering how the war was going; poised as they were above the very homeworld of the humans, yet the Earthers still fought on, even though their cause was hopeless.
Somehow he had eluded the surveillance. There was not a flicker of him on the scanners - until he appeared in the main corridor near the docking bays. Within minutes guards were on the scene, but he just kept on running. Disheveled though he was, he seemed almost to have the endurance of a Minbari, if such a thing were possible. Humans were such frail creatures. But there was no sign of injury in the way he held himself; just weariness, stalked by despair. Soon enough he was cornered - trapped between two groups of Minbari.
But still he did not give up. Instead, he charged the nearest group and bowled one over with the suddenness of his movement. The two of them fell, rolled over with the quickness of those trained to falling, and stood up near the wall - but not before the human had pulled the ceremonial sword of the guard from its scabbard. As quick as thought, the human laid the blade across the Minbari's throat, pulling him close, and called out "One move, and he's dead!"
The guard struggled, and the human pulled him closer. A line of pinkish-red appeared on the Minbari's throat as the blade bit flesh. "Put down your guns!" he called out. "Throw them away! And back off!"
The leader, who understood English, repeated the order in Minbari. The guards complied - at least, those guards that were in sight. But one of them was bolder than the others. In the course of tossing his gun away, he dropped it - and then pulled his own sword out of the scabbard and threw it at the human. As a distraction, it worked. The human jerked to one side, and the Minbari jerked down, turned, leaped for the clattering sword, and brought it up in a blow that would have cloven the human in two - if it had connected. But the human parried it, in a welter of sparks. And the fight was on.
They circled each other warily, watching for an opening. Around the corner, a guard watched from concealment, holding his gun high, waiting for a clear shot. But there were too many people in the way.
From the first, the human seemed at ease, as if he were in his element - astonishing for one who ostensibly was more familiar with the point-and-shoot of technical weaponry than the feint-and-slash of swordwork. Maybe the mental probing had shaken loose the memories of a past life, for surely he fought as one born to the sword. As the minutes passed, it became clear that the Minbari was outclassed. Cut after cut he took, until the final blow that brought him to the floor. The human straightened up, over his foe, and fell himself as the blast of a gun caught him in the chest.
It was the guard around the corner. His opening had come at last. "He killed Banavir!" he cried, and raced up to the bodies crumpled over each other.
"Stop!" interrupted Unar, one of the warriors on the council. "He fought well. Put his body in the lifepod of his craft, and set it adrift. Let him rest in the arms of space. If his own people find him, let them do what they will."
Shadrach Tandy was dead. And it was only in children's tales that the dead came back to life. So why did this Magill haunt her so?
"You are not giving me an escort," Magill insisted. They were in Magill's suite, arguing while Magill unpacked his bags.
"I am not going to have you assassinated in my jurisdiction," Garibaldi said.
"Do you want these negotiations to go through or don't you?" Magill glared at Garibaldi. "Because if you give me a bleeding bodyguard you can say goodbye to any confidence my clients may have built up. You don't even know that anyone is after me, for goodness sake!" Magill balled up some socks and flung them in an open drawer.
"I would have thought one death would be enough of a warning," Garibaldi said.
"Look, I volunteered for this, knowing the risk," Magill sighed. "You can write it down in your fiddly reports that I refused an escort, and wash your hands of my annoying presence."
"I can't do that," Garibaldi grated.
"Come on," Magill said, throwing a pair of shoes into the wardrobe. "Wait until my life is really threatened, and then you can bring in the cavalry. Don't you have confidence in your own security measures? What's he going to kill me with - a bow and arrow?"
"Now, I hadn't thought of that..." Garibaldi drawled.
"Look, if someone does want to make another attempt - and we don't even know that - giving me an escort will just alert them that we're suspicious. I promise I'll be careful, okay? Just don't saddle me with a man in grey and I'll be happy."
Garibaldi's link bleeped. "Garibaldi," he answered.
"There's a disturbance in Grey five," the voice on the link said. "Fighting. There's at least one Markab involved."
"Got it," Garibaldi answered. "Have four people meet me there. Get Lou - no Lou's on customs - get Zack to come too." He looked up at Magill. "All right," he said. "Have it your way for now. But the minute it looks like you are a target -"
Magill nodded. "I don't think that will be a problem," he said.
Garibaldi had to be content with that.
"Search complete," the computer said. "Three matches found."
Collin Magill leaned back in his chair. Just these few things to check up, and then tomorrow would just have to look after itself.
"Display," Magill ordered, and looked at the screen. Three names. Himself, of course. After all, he matched the criteria. He'd better do something about that. Raymond Aldwin was the second name. He tapped at a few keys and changed the display to bring up more details. When he saw the face that went with the name - dark hair, the mid-tone complexion of an Indian or Spaniard, he smiled. "Ah, Ray, Ray, Ray, still can't resist using that name, can you?" He made a few notations and turned to the third name. He looked at the face - dark short curly hair, Caucasian, a plain but agreeable face. A face he had not seen before. He tapped in a few instructions on the keyboard. "Well, Mr. Morden," Magill murmured, "let's see what we can find out about you..."
"Well, Mr. Magill," Garibaldi murmured, "let's see what we can find out about you..." He set up his search program, and mused over why he was digging around in the first place. There was obviously more to Magill than met the eye, things he wasn't saying. Since when does a mere businessman have a fighter's reflexes - or a security man's skills? And what exactly had his conversation with Delenn meant? And why was Magill being followed by a man with a - Garibaldi broke off his musings and gave some swift orders.
An hour later, he called on Captain Sheridan. "Are you busy?" Garibaldi asked.
Sheridan snorted. "Does a chicken have wings?" He waved at the paperwork on the desk. "What did you want to talk to me about?"
Garibaldi pursed his lips. "About your hobby."
"Your collecting hobby," Garibaldi said.
"Ah," Sheridan said, got up and locked the door. He turned to Garibaldi. "What exactly do you want to know?" he asked warily.
Garibaldi held out a piece of paper with a design drawn on it, a double circle, where the inner circle was split evenly into three by a tapered 'Y' shape, and the space between the inner and outer circle was filled with a circle of dots. "Have you ever seen this in your collecting?" Garibaldi asked.
Sheridan took the paper and looked at it. "I'm not sure that I have..." he said, "but it does look vaguely familiar... What makes you think it would fall into my... interest?"
"It's the design of the tattoo on the wrist of a fellow who's been following the new negotiator from Futurecorp," Garibaldi began.
"From Futurecorp?" Sheridan interrupted. "But I'm sure it isn't - you know who. They wouldn't go in for tattoos."
"No," Garibaldi agreed. "Magill - the negotiator - claimed the fellow was from some religious cult, and they'd been following him for years. But I haven't been able to find anything on it. Which made me think -"
"That that I might have 'collected' it?" Sheridan finished.
"Any port in a storm," Garibaldi said. "It's not like I can arrest him for following Magill."
Sheridan shrugged, and stepped over to his desk. "It's a long shot - maybe it's just coincidence."
Garibaldi grinned at Sheridan. "You don't believe that any more than I do." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I'm sure that Magill isn't telling me everything," he said. "Too many things don't quite add up."
Sheridan raised an eyebrow inquiringly. "Such as...?"
Garibaldi shook his head. "Nothing that couldn't be explained away," he said. "I don't have all the pieces yet."
"Well, let's see if we can add another one..." Sheridan murmured, taking a data crystal from seemingly nowhere. He put it in the crystal port and started tapping through screensful of data. After about fifteen minutes he exclaimed, "Got it! I thought I'd seen it before..."
There on the screen was the image of a leather-bound book, branded with a symbol very similar to the one on the paper. They both pored over the screen, reading the data there.
Garibaldi snorted. "Seems like Magill was right after all. If that's not a religious cult I haven't seen them. Secret knowledge passed down through the centuries, battles of good and evil between undying heros - it's like a fairy tale." But even as he dismissed the information, he wondered. Too many fairy tales had a way of turning out to have a grain of truth in them, nowadays. Just consider Deathwalker, for example, and her formula for immortality. Vampires, anyone?
Sheridan frowned. "That doesn't mean they're harmless," he said. "Look here," he pointed out an entry further down.
"I see," Garibaldi nodded. "But you can't say it's very common - a group of violent fanatics splitting off from the parent group..." He raised his eyebrows. "Well, if Magill does end up with his head cut off at least I'll know who to round up and question..." he said half-humourously and half-gloomily.
"Let's hope you don't have to," Sheridan said.
The light was dim, but she could see clearly. She stood above the life-pod of an Earther Starfury, looking in the windows. It was cold, so cold. The windows were covered with mist. She put out her hand to clear away the condensation, and the canopy melted away. She could see straight into the capsule.
It was him. Shadrach Tandy, wearing not his Earth Alliance flight suit, but a full set of Minbari burial clothes, hands crossed over his chest in repose, eyes shut. He was dead. No sign of injury. No sign of injury. The bones that had been broken were whole. The bruises on his wrists, gone. A perfect specimen, perfectly preserved.
She bent over the capsule to get a closer look at his face.
The dead eyes opened.
Delenn woke with a gasp, terror making her heart thud loudly in her breast. "No!" she cried. "No, it can't be," she muttered. "Surely such a thing cannot be..." But it was far too long before she could sleep again.
The next day, the Futurecorp meeting with Amanda Carter went off as smooth as silk. Collin Magill commented on her resemblance to her grandfather, and other comments made it clear that he knew Martian history as well as she did, for all he was born on Earth. The Futurecorp proposal was essentially the same, still as ambitious and long-term as ever. Just dotting the I's and crossing the T's.
That afternoon, while Collin Magill was fully occupied, someone entered his room. No alarms rang as they punched in a code to the door. The intruder stepped swiftly over to the lamp by the bed and fetched out a small piece of cloth, perhaps a handkerchief. Nothing particularly extraordinary, a simple, plain cloth that no one would look twice at. Which was exactly the idea. The person poured out a liquid onto the cloth until it was soaked, and placed the cloth on top of the lamp. When the lamp was turned on, the liquid would rapidly evaporate. And the doctors would never know what killed poor Magill. Heart failure. How very true.
The person left as undetected as they'd come.
The air in Garibaldi's room was filled with the roar of motorcycles - not from the tuning up of his Kawasaki Ninja, whose Minbari power source didn't roar - but from the archival footage of the 2020 World Championships, which he was watching companionably with Lennier. The race drew to a searing finish. The trophy was given...
"Well I'll be... damned!" Garibaldi exclaimed. "Would you take a look at that?"
"It is the winner," Lennier remarked calmly. "Is there something wrong?"
"No, no," Garibaldi reassured him. "...just something odd." Garibaldi frowned, and said nothing more about it.
Magill didn't notice the cloth on the lamp at all, when he entered the room at the end of the day. He stripped to the waist and exercised, just as his first teacher had taught him so long ago. His sword glinted on the bed next to the jacket in which it had been concealed all day. His constant companion, closer than a lover. Smuggling it onto Babylon 5 hadn't been easy, but he'd done it. His routine finished, he sat on the bed, panting. All that sitting and talking wasn't good for one's health. His pulse was up far too high. And he had days of it still to go. He sighed, got up, showered, and prepared for bed.
The last thought he had when his head touched the pillow was that he ought to send a message to Ray. And see if he could find this Morden. Tomorrow.
The light was burning, searing into his mind. It was all he could do to cling to his mantra, the children's ditty that he hummed and murmured over and over in its original French. "Frere Jacques, frere Jacques, dormez vous?..."
He stood, bleary, arms fastened to a rod which lay across his shoulders. A circle of figures in grey surrounded him, each with hoods that covered their faces. Minbari. The enemy.
"He has the soul of a warrior," said one, perfectly comprehensible, the way people are in dreams.
"A Minbari soul?" asked another.
"I cannot say otherwise," said the first. "He has a strength only compared to the one called Sinclair."
"Then you see what this means!" said a third. Her voice. "Minbari do not kill Minbari."
"Minbari souls?" he gasped, startling them. "How can you tell the colour of someone's soul?" he added with contempt.
"Be silent!" said the one with the light, and he was shocked with a burst of pain which sent him to his knees. But it was only pain. He knew its face over the years, many times on this side of death.
He woke up, gasping for breath, his chest shrieking as if all the nerves around his heart were bathing in acid. Nature's emergency alarm system, telling him something was wrong. "Lights!" he gargled, and got no answer. He reached under the bed for his weapon, clumsy in his pain. "Shit!" he whispered, and thought, this can't be happening. He fell out of the bed, jerked once or twice, and was still.
He awoke with his face pressed to the carpet and a crick in his back. What a nightmare, he thought. I've never dreamed I had a heart attack before. He rolled over and sat up.
"Well, up and at 'em, I suppose," he muttered, rubbing his face. "Diplomacy-R-Us on the road..."
The Drazi liaison was polite but unhelpful. "This is not good time for new business," he said. "Choosing new leaders means new things not start. At end of cycle it is better."
Talia nodded. "It's true," she said.
"So I should wait until next year?" Magill queried.
"Next year," the Drazi agreed, his crenellated face breaking into what passed for a smile on a Drazi.
"A lot can happen in a year," Magill said.
Magill had lunch in the Zocalo, alone. He wasn't going to let Mr. Garibaldi's fears put him off his food. And he didn't think someone would try to kill him in a public place.
A brown-clad Minbari was sitting nearby, wearing the same kind of brooch that had caught Magill's eye the day he had arrived on Babylon 5. It was a different Minbari, but the style of dress was the same. Magill cast covert glances in his direction while he munched on his food. He had a good view from where he sat, and there was something about the brooch that seemed odd. Something about the style, but he couldn't put his finger on it. It had a large stone, bracketed on either side by two thin figures, but he couldn't see much more. He filed it away as an artistic curiosity and thought no more about it.
As Magill carefully speared a helpless length of fried potato, the hairs on his arms prickled. If he'd been on a planet, he would have thought that a cloud had just gone behind the sun. He looked up, straight into the affable face of the man he'd put on his list of things to do. Morden. That answers that question, he thought to himself. He isn't one of us. I would have noticed him coming, otherwise.
"Mind if I join you?" the man smiled. He carried a tray, but it was lightly loaded.
"Not at all," Magill said with empty politeness.
"Hearty lunch," Morden commented, noticing Magill's half-cleaned plate.
Magill just wished the fellow would go away. There was something about him that set his teeth on edge. And why had it gotten cold all of a sudden? He studiously attacked his meal.
"I haven't introduced myself. My name's -" Morden began.
"Orthan Morden," Magill finished.
Morden raised his eyebrows. "You're very well informed," he commented calmly, but Magill wondered if there wasn't an edge to that smooth voice.
"I'm a student of near-death experiences," Magill declared, lying casually. "Naturally I wanted to talk to you..."
Morden leaned his head forward. "You wanted to talk to me?" he smiled as if amused. "What a coincidence. I wanted to talk to you, Mr. Magill."
Magill's mouth went dry. Had he just invited an assassin to sit down at his table, or was Morden's purpose more benign? "It seems I'm not the only one who's well-informed," he said dryly. The familiar thrill went though his nerves, as his body readied itself for the possibility of sudden violence.
Morden smiled and shrugged. "You're an important person - in financial circles. I wanted to ask you a question."
The two men facing each other over the table were like mirror images, one a dark reflection of the other. Both were in casual business dress, both had short-cut curly hair, one dark, one muddy-blond with a hint of red. And both, for those with eyes to see, had an aura of secrets, of something dangerous hiding just beneath the surface. But if one was a leopard, the other was a snake.
"And what is that?" Magill queried.
"What do you want?"
"What do I want?" Magill echoed, relaxing slightly, his tension transmuting to annoyance. He raised a forkful of tomato to his mouth and ate it carefully. "I suppose this is a precursor to some investment that will solve all my problems?" he said sceptically.
"It's just a question," Morden said. He raised his hands placatingly. "You were pointed out to me, I thought I'd ask you... What do you want?" he asked again.
Magill's chin came up. "I don't think that's any of your business, Mr. Morden."
"Hey, no need to get annoyed," Morden smiled. "It's an important question to me."
"And you ask everyone this question, I suppose?" Magill commented with a distinct edge of sarcasm.
Morden smiled and shook his head. "No," he admitted. "Just the... interesting ones."
Magill wondered briefly if Morden knew just how interesting he was. "So you've taken up free-lance reporting in your spare time?" he asked bitingly.
Morden smiled again, and this time it was mocking. "In a way, perhaps," he said. He seemed amused, as if there was some kind of joke in his words.
"Then you've already got a story right there," Magill said, pointing to Morden.
"Really?" Morden said, oh so politely.
"About how you survived the Icarus disaster," Magill pointed out.
Morden did a double take. "I beg your pardon? Icarus?"
"I told you I was interested in near-death experiences," Magill said, wondering why Morden was demurring. "The records have you down as dead, along with the rest of the crew of the Icarus. Yet here you are, alive and well." Magill smiled a sharkish smile. Let him have some of his own medicine. "Would you like to tell me about it?"
"No," Morden said shortly. He composed his face in a mask of rueful regret. "I'm afraid I don't remember anything about it. I must have been outside - I was rescued, but it was a while before I could remember who I was, let alone what happened."
"What a pity," Magill said, not meaning a word of it. He wiped up the remaining gravy on his plate with the last of his potato, and paused, fork half way to his mouth, as he felt it. Someone was here, on the Zocalo, someone with the same long lifeline as himself. He forced himself to eat that last mouthful, trying to look around the open area as he did so. Too many people around. Damn.
"Well, I have to go," he said, standing. "Places to go, people to see - you know how it is, Mr. Morden," he continued, insincerely pleasant.
"Indeed," Morden smiled. He watched as Magill walked across the Zocalo, and then said, as if answering an unspoken question, "The other one? No, I don't think so. He doesn't have a price."
Talia was humming a repetitive tune when she entered the elevator. For once she didn't seem to notice Garibaldi's presence.
"You seem happy," he commented.
"What?" she jumped, startled. "Mr. Garibaldi, I wish you wouldn't do that!" She frowned. "What did you say?"
Garibaldi smiled. "I said you seem happy." At her blank look he added, "You were humming a song."
"Oh," she said, somewhat bemused. "I was, wasn't I? It's been going through my mind all day. I can't remember where I heard it. Some popular tune I suppose..."
"Popular?" Garibaldi tipped his head back and regarded her. "Not exactly. Unless you go in for camp-fire singing. It's a round. A French nursery rhyme."
Talia regarded him quizzically. "You're kidding," she said.
Garibaldi looked exaggeratedly hurt. "Who, me? Never!" And he started to sing, "Frayra Jaka, Frayra Jaka, donnay voo, donnay voo, sonnay lay matina..."
Talia smiled as he sang. "Well, you certainly can't speak French!" she laughed as he finished.
Garibaldi waggled his eyebrows at her. "You should have heard our rendition of 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat'," he said.
"I don't think I want to know," Talia laughed.
Luck was with Collin; he had wandered in the right direction and found the one he was looking for. That man there with his back to him, haggling with the pawn-broker. Matching build, matching height; he should have realised that the presence he sensed was likely to be only one person. The man turned his head slightly, restlessly, doubtless sensing Collin himself. Collin saw enough to confirm his surmise. Recognition plastered a grin across his face. "Hey, Ray, how's it hangin'?" he called out as he walked up. The man turned swiftly, hand hidden inside his black leather jacket, as if ready to pull out a weapon. The dark-haired coffee-skinned man gave a slow smile as he in turn recognised the redhead. He clapped the offered hand high, gripped it, and the two men hugged like brothers.
"Long time no see, amigo," Ray said. He turned back to the pawn-broker, "We will discuss this later, okay?" Then he looked Collin up and down and raised his eyebrows. "Business, conservative? That's not like you, Red."
Collin smiled wryly. "That's the idea." He sighed. "It didn't work though." He lowered his voice, "I think someone recognised me."
Ray raised one eyebrow elegantly. "Like that, is it?" He put his hand on Collin's shoulder and steered him towards the nearest exit. "Now why don't you tell your old Uncle Ray all about it?"
Collin rolled his eyes, but complied.
Ray leaned forward and put his cup down. They were both in Collin's suite. Evidence of the preparation of two cups of coffee lay on the bench. "I can see why you're concerned - if they found out about us, God knows what would happen. We've had a hard enough time keeping it secret from our own government..."
Collin pursed his lips. "Maybe we've had a little assistance in that department..." He sighed. "But that doesn't help as far as she's concerned."
"Even if she did recognise you, she has no way of knowing it's the same person she saw before," Ray said. "It was ten years ago."
"Eleven," Collin corrected.
"Same difference," Ray shrugged. "Time makes the eyes grow dim, and the memories wear away," he said in Spanish.
"And Murphy was an optimist," Collin returned darkly.
Garibaldi caught up with Collin Magill as he was hurrying to his next appointment. "I trust things are going smoothly?" he asked Magill.
Magill tilted his head. "I hope your men appreciate the practice you're giving them."
Garibaldi raised his eyebrows and grinned ruefully. "Better safe than sorry," he said. His forehead creased in a frown. "By the way, has anyone told you you look like 'Rocket' Ryan Norlind?"
Magill paused for a beat, and replied, "Mr. Garibaldi, has anyone told you you look like Bruce 'Die Hard' Willis?"
Garibaldi smiled. "Touche'," he said.
As they parted, Magill noticed a Minbari in a brown tunic go in the same direction Garibaldi had gone. They do get around, don't they? Magill thought. I wonder what caste these green-stone Minbari are?
Talia was late. He would have to go in without her. He picked up the first breath mask on the rack and put it on. Magill's current appointment was with the Vundila, carbon-dioxide breathers, and one of his best prospects. Mars would be a little cold for them, but the atmosphere was just like home. He didn't fancy so much negotiating with a mask on his face, but he had agreed to come to them, and not the other way around.
Talia came hurrying around the corner just as he was about to go in. "I'm sorry," she said, "there was a problem with the transport-tube." They entered the airlock together.
"And can you guarantee that our people would not be attacked?" the Vundila liaison asked.
"The situation on Mars is much more stable than it was," Magill said. "And your financial support will make it more stable. It's an ideal stopping-place for your people - where else would you get such civilized facilities outside your own colonies?" The headache was worse. He couldn't be coming down with something, that was impossible. He blinked as his vision blurred.
"Are you all right?" Talia asked.
Darn. I suppose I couldn't hide it from a telepath. "Just a headache," he muttered. Black confetti whirled before his eyes. Spanish dancers were doing the flamenco on his skull. It was dark, dark, dark, and voices dripped into his ear. Garibaldi was arguing with Bruce Willis about his haircut, and they were using him as a blunt instrument to hit each other with.
The next thing he knew, he was lying face up on a hard surface, breathing air instead of soup, with Talia hovering over him. He recognised the corridor outside the alien sector. "What happened?" he asked.
"There was a fault in your breather mask," Talia explained. "You were lucky." She placed her fingers against his neck, checking his pulse.
Luck had nothing to do with it, he thought. I should have recognised the symptoms. Idiot. Fool. Clod-brain.
"Don't blame yourself," she chided. "At least I noticed something was wr-"
He grabbed her wrist and pushed her hand away from his neck. "Don't scan me," he hissed, half sitting up.
Talia was taken aback. "I-I- I saved your life!"
He flopped back on the floor and closed his eyes, his face pale and his hair sticking out wildly. "I'm sorry, Talia. I'm sorry." He sat up and looked Talia in the eyes. "Thank you. I'm glad it wasn't you."
"It wasn't me?" Talia echoed, puzzled.
"If you hadn't been late, it might have been you who took that mask instead of me," he pointed out. "I'm not sure that I would have been able to save you..."
"I'd hope that I would have noticed the symptoms myself," she said. "After all, I have lived on Mars," she pointed out.
Magill raised his eyebrows. "And how often did you go Outside, hmm?"
Talia smiled wryly. "Point taken," she conceded.
"Time to go back in the fray," he said, standing up.
"But you should see Dr. Franklin," Talia said anxiously.
"I feel fine," he reassured her. "I can see him later, okay?" With that, he stepped down the corridor and entered the lock, checking his new mask much more thoroughly than he had before. "Come on, Talia."
She shrugged and followed. As she entered the meeting room, Magill was already speaking. "Well, now," Magill smiled. "There you have ample demonstration how little you have to fear from humans on the surface of Mars," he said cheerily.
"Ambassador Kosh?" Magill said, stepping through the double doors into the Vorlon's dimly lit reception chamber. The doors whooshed shut behind him. He peered through the misty atmosphere, saw a light dancing in the distance, and at the same moment he felt it. A feeling of Presence. Something akin to, but achingly different from, the sensation he had in the presence of his own people. It was the Vorlon. He knew it. And he was drawn and disturbed as he had never been before in his life.
The light drew closer, until it danced behind a translucent patterned panel at the far end of the room.
A sound like a quartet of flutes, bells and woodwinds tuning up came from behind the panel, and mixed in with it was one word: "Yes."
"I'm Collin Magill - of Futurecorp. I came to see you..."
The light stopped dancing, there was a sudden flash, the sound of clicks, shunts and hydraulics; and the sense of Presence that Magill felt was cut off like a hand amputated by a sword. Or like a heartbeat suddenly stopped. And Kosh, hidden inside its encounter suit, glided from behind the panel.
Magill pulled himself together and turned to face Kosh. He was supposed to be acting for Futurecorp, not jumping at shadows. "To be honest, I'm surprised you agreed to this meeting. I didn't think the Vorlons were interested in investing in Mars."
"The seed of darkness flourishes in the soil of hate." The voice had not changed. Still the sound of faery pipes intertwined with its words.
Wonderful, he thought sarcastically. I`m talking to a Kung Fu guru. Still, it's not as though I haven't done that before. It was like a riddle. "You think it's a lost cause?" he asked.
"The fruit is green," came the reply. "Sharpen your sword."
It's too early to tell, Magill guessed, and a dangerous place. But his heart jumped at the mention of a sword. "Then why agree to meet?" he asked.
"To see you." There was no emphasis in the cool, flat words, but a shiver ran down Magill's spine all the same. If he could sense the Vorlon, had the Vorlon then sensed him?
"Why?" he asked.
Kosh's next words tightened his tension one twist higher. "The Gathering is now. You must chose."
"What?" he said, dreading the suspicion that firmed in his brain. Kosh knew.
"What calls you?" Kosh asked.
"What do you mean?" Magill asked.
Kosh was silent.
"You know what I am," Magill said. It was half a question.
"Yes," came the reply.
"You know what the Gathering is," Magill said.
"You do not," Kosh stated.
"I don't?" Magill questioned, feeling as if he were floating in Space without a tether.
"The word becomes lost in the relay of many mouths."
What I've been told has become distorted over the years, Magill translated mentally. "If that's so, then the truth is gone," he said. "There's no way to check."
"Ask the oldest one," Kosh said.
"No one knows where he is," Magill said.
Magill's skin prickled as he heard Kosh's musical reply, as if he could almost understand it, if he could only listen a little harder. But the translation that followed on its heels caught his attention even more than the song. "He is on Minbar," Kosh declared.
"Where? How long has he been there? What name is he using?" Magill asked all in a rush.
The tinkling, chiming song seemed to bore right into his brain, past his ears and into his memory. "In the dungeon, a flower blooms," the translation came. But he already knew what it meant.
"Does Sinclair know where Methos is?" Magill asked. "But he won't remember me," he demurred.
"The light shines in both directions," Kosh declared. "You must decide." And with that, he glided back behind the panel. The interview was over.
Garibaldi frowned at the information on the screen. This latest piece of the puzzle had just come into his hands, and he didn't like the picture that was forming. Collin Magill, whatever he was, was not the simple businessman he appeared to be. But there was no clue as yet to whose game he was playing.
Minbari? That was one theory, perhaps. If one speculated in the gaps, one name came up that could possibly be a link between Collin Magill and Delenn. Shadrach Tandy. Died on the Line, left his worldly goods to one Collin Magill. No relation. That was fine, as far as it went, but it didn't go very far. Shadrach Tandy and Collin Magill looked alike. He hadn't been able to find any good pictures of Tandy - which was suspicious in itself - but one or two group photos did point to a close resemblance. Close enough to wonder if they could possibly be the same person? Just suppose. Delenn recognised Magill. Tandy was on the Line. Delenn was on the Line. Sinclair had not been the only human to have been taken by the Minbari - he was just the first. Could Tandy have been another? Could Tandy not have died on the Line? Could he have been what others suspected of Sinclair - a Minbari spy?
But no, that didn't make sense. Tandy was recorded as having died on the Line. If the Minbari had wanted a spy, they wouldn't have pretended to kill him, and then given him another identity. And Delenn had been surprised, he was sure. No, whatever the plot was, the Minbari weren't behind it.
Which raised another possibility which looked uglier the more he thought about it. What if Tandy had really died on the Line? Or nearly died. The Lazarus experiments were twenty years old. Eleven years ago, they could have done something. Not as sophisticated as what they'd done to Abel Horne, perhaps, but still... It could be another reason for them to want Taro Isogi out of the way. Putting their own man where they wanted him. It would explain why Magill was so certain he wasn't in danger.
Garibaldi tapped a few commands on his console and brought up the command set they had used to track down Abel Horne. All it needed was a few modifications, checking in the archives for the ID of the chip that was in use around the time of the War, and he should be able to check if the station had been invaded by another of the living dead.
Five minutes later, he had his answer, and the answer was no. Scratch another theory. It didn't make that much sense anyway. If Magill was Tandy, why give him another identity? And Tandy would be too old by now to look as young as Magill did, unless he'd been in cryo, and that didn't fit either. The fact that they looked alike could be coincidence. Or maybe Magill was just an indiscretion on Tandy's part? Literally a bastard? It would explain the inheritance, and the likeness. Delenn's reaction could be merely a recognition of the resemblance.
There was just one problem with that; the problem that had sparked off all these wild speculations. The information he had found earlier had one damning implication: that whoever that curly-headed businessman was, his name wasn't Collin Magill.
A curious restlessness possessed Magill. He was glad that the negotiations were nearly finished. Just a few papers to sign later in the day, and that was it. He wanted to be free of those encumbrances as soon as possible. Free to go. Free to go where? To Minbar, of course. To Minbar? he questioned himself. Why? To find out. But surely there was no urgency? But the Vorlon's words made that question sound hollow. The Gathering is now. You must choose.
He paced smartly from his room towards the elevator, scanning the area as always for tails or other hostiles. There was no-one. Even his security-assigned shadow seemed to have taken a holiday.
He frowned, considering his next meeting. Why did Delenn want to see him? He expected that the Minbari wanted to invest in Mars just as much as the Vorlons did; in other words, not at all. And considering what Kosh had said, he didn't know what he should tell her. Maybe she could help to smooth the way to Minbar. Oh, shut up, he told himself.
The doors opened, and he looked carefully inside, in case there was anyone there. It was empty. He relaxed marginally, and stepped into the elevator. Before he knew what was happening, his foot went through the floor as if it were a mirage, and he fell, and fell, and fell down the empty shaft. The station's spin buffeted him against the walls as he flailed wildly at nothing, a cry torn from his throat as he failed to halt his plummeting descent. His body came to rest at the bottom, in a broken and bloody heap, the cry cut off, and nothing left but the hum of machinery and the silence of the grave.
His first waking thought was, oh no, not again! His second, upon the discovery that he was lying flat, he couldn't move his legs or head, there was machinery humming and beeping nearby and he had a tube up his nose was, Uh-oh, I'm in deep shit. How am I going to get out of this mess? He listened, pretending he was still out of it.
"...any traces of a drug in his system?" A voice he recognised. Head of Security. Garibaldi.
"I'm not sure I like the way you think, Garibaldi," said another voice, one he didn't know. "Nothing turned up before, but then, I wasn't looking," the voice continued, coming closer. Someone stood by his bed, and from the sound of it, waved a medical scanner over him. A pause, and then "What the hell...?"
That's really torn it, Magill thought.
"What is it?" Garibaldi asked.
The doctor - presuming the unknown was a doctor - ignored the question and ran his scanner again. "This is fantastic," the doctor said. "I don't believe in miracles..." he muttered, "but not even J'hadur recovered like this..."
J'hadur?! He was so surprised that he nearly gave himself away. What did that hell-spawn Deathwalker have to do with it? The doctor had obviously met her, what did that mean? What side was he on? He kept his eyes closed, hoping to hear more.
"There's some kind of energy field..." the doctor muttered. And then, "No, it's gone." He could hear the doctor step closer to the bed. "Garibaldi, he's completely healed!" His voice was filled with excitement. Someone began taking the restraints from his legs. "Look. There isn't even a scar."
Magill opened his eyes. He lay flat on his back in what seemed to be Babylon 5's version of a hospital. A room, with a few empty beds and some equipment. His clothes were tossed on a table near the foot of the bed, and his sword lay gleaming on top of them. He himself was dressed in the usual shapeless gown they issued one in hospitals. A chocolate-skinned man in a medical uniform bent over his legs. Garibaldi was on the other side.
He felt around his neck and found a collar, some kind of neck brace. Blocks were keeping his head still. He couldn't lift it. Wonderful, he thought sarcastically. Normal procedure in case of death is to sneak out of the morgue in the middle of the night, and vanish, never to be seen again. But I'm not in the morgue. And I can't even sit up, let alone sneak out.
The doctor turned and noticed he was awake. He came up to Magill's head, the glow of discovery still in his eyes. "I'm Doctor Franklin. How do you feel?"
"Stuck," said Magill disgustedly. "How did I get here?" he asked. It seemed like a safe question.
Garibaldi came up on his other side. "When you missed your appointment with Ambassador Delenn, we started looking. We found you at the bottom of shaft three," he answered.
"Shaft three?" Magill echoed. "Now I remember. My foot went through the floor. It must have been a hologram. Someone set up the elevator as a booby-trap!"
"Have you any idea who would want to kill you?" Garibaldi asked.
"No idea," Magill said immediately. If in doubt, deny everything, admit nothing. "The same people who were behind Isogi's death?" he ventured. He stared up at the ceiling. "Would someone mind getting me out of this head-vice?" he complained.
"I think you should lie still," Dr. Franklin said. "You've been through a lot of trauma."
Deny everything. Bluff. "Well I feel fine," said Magill. "I can wiggle my toes and touch my nose - " he proceeded to do so - "and I really don't want to waste my time staring at the ceiling!" he finished.
"You should be under observation," Dr. Franklin said.
"What's wrong with me?" Magill asked, knowing that there wasn't anything.
"Well, nothing," Dr. Franklin admitted, "but -"
"There you are, then," Magill interrupted. "I don't need to be here." He pulled the tube out of his nose and the needle out of his arm before Franklin could stop him. "Now would you mind freeing my head?"
"But you had a cracked vertebrae," Dr. Franklin protested.
"I don't care what your instruments said," Magill said testily. "They're obviously wrong."
Garibaldi gave a half-smile. "Let him sit up," he suggested.
"Very well," Dr. Franklin said grudgingly, and undid the head-brace. Magill sat up and swung his legs around so as to sit on the side of the bed.
At that moment, Delenn entered the room. When she saw Magill so recovered that he was sitting up, she stopped like a broken automaton, her mouth open. The blood vanished from her face. Then before anyone realised her intent, she snatched the sword from the table, leaped and made a wild stab at Magill's chest, shouting "Zahakar! Zahakar!"
Magill curled over in pain. Garibaldi pounced on Delenn, grabbing her arms and forcing her to drop the sword. She struggled wildly, crying in a mixture of Minbari and English, "It must die! Zahakar! Kill it! Before it eats your soul! Kill it! Eh na Zahakar!"
Dr. Franklin tried to get Magill to lie down, but Magill brushed him off. Magill was trying to get Delenn's attention. "Uzahakar!" he said sharply, urgently. "Narakarr! Nan Narakarr!"
"Ambassador Delenn, what are you doing?" Garibaldi exclaimed, but she ignored him as if he was no more than a barrier in the way of her goal. All her attention was on Magill.
"Zahakar!" she spat. "Thou tricked us, Devourer of Souls!" she said in Minbari. "When we scanned thee, thou hid the souls thou had stolen! Thou tricked us with thy past! Thy so-called former lives!"
"You tricked yourselves!" he retorted in the same language. "You saw what you expected to see. It never occurred to thee that some souls are not reborn." He had to convince her that he was not a threat, or he'd never be safe in the presence of Minbari again. She had enough influence to ensure that; she was Setai.
"Because thou had devoured them, Drinker of Breath!" she spat.
"I Do Not Eat Souls!" he shouted, lapsing to English. At Garibaldi's startled expression, he realized what he had done, and continued in Minbari, "I would live the same if I were tossed on an island for a hundred years and never saw another living being. I am a soul of fire, not a follower of death. I will not harm thee!"
"Thou takest the souls of those thou killest, takest them in sky-fire and destruction," she hissed.
Garibaldi still restrained Delenn. What the hell had gotten into her? He could do with some fast-acting Minbari tranquilizers right now.
Magill realised that what she feared was a distorted version of the truth. Only the real truth would suffice to convince her. The truth in a form that a Minbari would understand. "Of my own kind," he said. "I carry the lives of those of my own kind. For us, to die the true death without the presence of one of our own to take our Quickening, that is the worst horror of all. The whole is diminished, the soul is lost forever."
Delenn stared at him, as if she'd been poleaxed. "The whole is diminished?" she echoed, remembering that very tenet from Minbari teaching.
She stopped struggling against Garibaldi, but he didn't dare let her go. Maybe it was a ruse. He sure as hell had no idea what was going through her head.
"I could not steal thy soul if I wanted to," Magill said wearily, still in Minbari.
"But thou hast a Minbari soul," she protested. But she was no longer in a fire of fear and anger. "A warrior's soul."
"How canst thou tell the colour of a soul?" he asked sadly. "Of course the soul of an undying would be strong! How could it be otherwise?" He glanced at the sword on the floor, and then back at her. "We are forced to be warriors. We fight each other. It has been that way since - as far back as we can remember." But he wondered, wondered if they had any reason to be so certain about the Game. If they were off chasing a goal that wasn't there. If the words had truly become lost over the years.
"But you kill each other," said Delenn. "You steal each other's souls."
"We do not steal -" returned Magill, "unless one can cheat in a duel to the death."
"Duels? Such as those of the Centauri?" Delenn asked.
"Duels," Magill confirmed. "The rules are our own. One of them," he added, glancing at Garibaldi, "is not involving mortals."
"I.. see..." Delenn said slowly.
"Are you going to be sensible now?" Garibaldi asked Delenn, seizing the moment of quiet. "Or would you prefer to be tossed out?"
Delenn stood like a statue. "You can let me go, Mr. Garibaldi. It was a - misunderstanding."
"The last time we had a misunderstanding with the Minbari it ended in a war," Dr. Franklin muttered.
"Let her go," Magill said. "After all, she was the one most responsible for the ending of the war."
Dr. Franklin stared at Delenn. Garibaldi stared at Magill, even as he loosed his hold on the Minbari Ambassador.
Delenn shook her head. "You are mistaken," she said. "It was not I."
"I suppose that from your point of view it would have been Sinclair," Magill said. "but different perspectives lead to different understandings - or misunderstandings," he added pointedly.
"Would you mind telling me what that was about?" Garibaldi glared.
Delenn said nothing. She appeared to be deep in thought.
"Like she said, a misunderstanding," Magill answered quickly. "She mistook me for someone else." For something else, actually, he thought. Oh, God, what a minefield.
"Someone like Shadrach Tandy?" Garibaldi suggested.
Oops. Oh hell, how much does he know? "What makes you think that?" Magill asked cautiously.
"The real Collin Magill died when he was two years old," Garibaldi revealed.
"Guess that was pretty careless of me," Magill said with irony. He shrugged. Half-truth time. "Okay, so I had to get away from it all. After the War, I didn't feel I fit in, I wanted a new start. I didn't want to be near any Minbari," he added with a sidelong glance at Delenn. "I wanted to get as far away from fighter-piloting as possible. I needed space." He looked at Garibaldi appealingly. "You can understand that, can't you?"
Garibaldi pursed his lips. "I guess I can understand that," he nodded.
Magill was relieved that he appeared to be swallowing this line. He turned to Dr. Franklin, "Well, I'm going to go now, unless you have any reason to detain me?"
"Your chest," said Dr. Franklin. "the sword -"
"Just a scratch," Magill said dismissively. "She missed." He opened up the tear in his robe, and showed Franklin his healthy chest with a streak of blood crusted on it. "I'm okay."
Dr. Franklin looked torn. "I'd like to run a few -"
"Am I sick? Am I dying?" Magill interrupted.
"Um, no. You're fine."
"Then I won't take up any more of your precious space and time," he said, and turned to Garibaldi, "unless you want to arrest me?" he said dryly. "I haven't harmed anyone, committed any crime, have I?"
"You've got a false ID," Garibaldi pointed out.
"I thought you were going to overlook that," Magill said, raising an eyebrow. "I thought I'd explained it."
"It's not the ID that's the real problem," Garibaldi said slowly. He bent down and picked up the object shining dully on the floor. "It's this sword." He shook his head sadly as if at an errant child. "I'm going to have to confiscate it. You know weapons aren't allowed on Babylon 5."
Magill looked unhappy, but there was nothing he could do about it. At the moment.
He turned to the third person in the room. "Have you any problems with me, Setai?"
Delenn's face was a study in blankness. "Only if you have them with me, Narakarr," she replied, and swept out of the room.
"If you'll excuse me, I'd like to get dressed, thank you," Magill said pointedly to the two men. Even a blood-stained suit was more dignified than a hospital robe.
Garibaldi and Franklin left.
"What's this Setai bit?" Dr. Franklin asked Garibaldi. "And what did she call him?"
"Narakarr," Garibaldi answered. "I don't know what it means. Yet. As for Setai, it's the title they use for members of the Grey Council - the leaders of the Minbari," Garibaldi explained.
"So that's what she did during the war," Dr. Franklin muttered. He cast a glance in the direction of the room they had just left. "There's more to this fellow than meets the eye," he murmured.
"You can say that again," Garibaldi said dryly.
As soon as he had washed and changed into something a bit less disreputable than his torn and blood-stained suit, Magill finished off the last of the paperwork for the Futurecorp deals. Amanda Carter was surprised to see him, but he brushed off the rumours of his accident as wildly exaggerated, and himself as very lucky. He felt twichy without his sword, but any jumpiness he failed to hide he hoped would be attributed to other things, like homicidal maniacs who booby-trapped elevators. Mind you, that was something to worry about anyway, not for the risk to his life, but the risk to other people's lives. His unfriendly creator of fatal accidents might not be so choosy who got hurt next time.
"She is expecting you." The voice of Delenn's aide was carefully neutral, as though he would obey, but did not approve.
"I will not harm her," Magill said in Minbari.
"You have troubled her greatly," Lennier replied, as if to say that the harm was already done.
"I cannot help being what I am," Magill replied.
Lennier made no reply.
The Minbari ushered him into a small room. As he stepped inside, a familiar feeling of peace settled on his shoulders. There were glass wind-chimes hanging from the ceiling, and niches with candles in them around about. Delenn stood at the other end, lighting a candle.
"Holy ground," he said. "How appropriate."
"Why is that?" Delenn asked, turning to face him. Lennier had vanished without him noticing it.
"Another of our rules," he answered. "No fighting on Holy Ground."
"Does this rule apply to mortals?" she asked.
A flash of memory returned to him, Duncan telling him about Darius's death, beheaded by mortals in his own church. "Why?" he returned sharply. "Are you thinking of finishing off what you started?" He added sarcastically, "I'm afraid I can't lend you my sword - Garibaldi still has it."
"No, I meant -" there was a quiver in her voice, "does it stop you from fighting mortals?"
What? How could she fear for herself? Magill said gently, "Only an evil man would cut short a life which is so short already, simply because he could."
"And your kind are not evil?" It was this question that was the heart of the matter.
Magill shrugged. "We're all sorts. Just like all humanity -" his mouth curved in a rueful twist, "only a bit more set in our ways. But even the worst can change - or the good ones turn bad."
"And which are you?" she asked softly. The air thrummed with tension, as if one untoward word would shatter it like glass. She would not meet his eyes.
"Don't you know?" he replied, equally low. "Is eleven years so long a time, even for Minbari?"
"People have changed in much less time than that," she said. Delenn looked at him with unblinking eyes, as if their steady pressure could peel away his layers and reveal what was underneath. After an endless moment she said, "No, I think your heart is no darker than it was then. Even if we mistook what you were." Delenn shivered, as if she were trying to shake off shadows. "Eleven years is long enough. Long enough for secrets to grow heavy with bearing."
Secrets - like what she did in the War. "I'm sorry if I revealed too much in front of Garibaldi and Franklin, but -" Magill paused, trying to phrase a reasonable explanation of why he'd done so. The fact that Delenn was one of the few Minbari he would trust despite that he hardly knew her, wouldn't be a very diplomatic thing to say. It wasn't that the Minbari weren't honourable, it was just that they were so... racist. "But some humans still hate Minbari," he finished lamely.
Delenn smiled, and the clouds vanished from her brow. "Then you picked the wrong ones to be concerned over," she said. "Doctor Franklin destroyed all his research data on the Minbari in the war, rather than allow them to be used to cause harm; and -"
"Then why did he treat Deathwalker?" Magill burst out before he could stop himself. The venom in his voice as he said the name was unmistakable.
Delenn looked at him with mild astonishment. "He is a healer. That is his calling." She stepped closer to him, her robes swirling about her. "How could you deny him that? Particularly since no-one was certain who she was at that point - except for her attacker."
"Ah, I keep telling myself she'd dead," he said, "but sometimes I find it hard to believe."
"I've heard others speak of her, but no one has seemed to have quite the... personal interest that you have."
"Oh, my hatred is very personal," growled Magill. "She's the closest I've seen to evil incarnate," he hissed, remembering that face, so much like the dark distortion of a pixie.
Delenn's face stilled. "There are worse things than she," she murmured. "Much worse. Pray that you never meet one."
He turned startled eyes towards her, but she was caught in her own contemplation of darkness. Unbidden, the words returned to his mind: `The seed of darkness flourishes in the soil of hate.' My hatred is darkening me, he thought to himself. And it's not even my own hatred. I let it sneak up on me and I made it my own. Oh, Mahady, what have you done to me? "I'm sorry," he said aloud. "I did Dr. Franklin an injustice. I'm sorry." He ran a hand through his hair and smiled ruefully. "So what glowing report do you have about Mr. Garibaldi?"
She smiled, realizing that he was trying to lighten the conversation. "Mr. Garibaldi taught me many aspects of Earth culture that I would never otherwise have known - poems, teevee - he introduced me to the daffy duck -"
"Daffy Duck?! He's got Daffy Duck?" Magill exclaimed. "How did he get hold of it? I wonder how much he has..." Then he shook his head and groaned. "What am I saying?" he muttered.
"Are you all right?" Delenn asked with concern.
"I've just realized that I miss something that I never thought I'd ever miss," Magill revealed, shaking his head ruefully. "I'm nostalgic for something I didn't much like in the first place."
"Past-longing," Delenn commented in Minbari. "It always seems better than it was," she added, returning to English.
"The past is never what we think it was," Magill said. "Which is why..." he paused, "I have a request to make of you..."
"And what is that?"
"I need to go to Minbar," Magill declared.
Delenn inclined her head in inquiry. "Why?" she asked.
"I have to find someone," admitted Magill. "I was told he is on Minbar."
"Who is this someone? Why do you have to find him?"
Magill smiled ruefully. "Would you believe - I have suddenly become uncertain about the purpose of my life, and I seek truth from someone who knows more than I?"
"I would believe that," Delenn said.
"Most wouldn't," Magill replied.
"Who is this wise person?" Delenn asked.
Magill frowned. "I can't tell you," he stated.
"Cannot, or will not?"
"Should not, will not, and cannot," he answered.
"Well-rounded," Delenn commented. She raised her hands. "I cannot give you an answer now," said Delenn. "There is much to consider."
"Indeed," Magill bowed. "But please do not consider too long."
Dr. Franklin stared wearily at the test results. Nothing. Nothing! The blood sample he was analysing had nothing glaringly aberrant about it. No drugs floating in it, no startling white-cell mutations, no unidentifiable viruses. Collin Magill's blood was as normal as anyone's. Oh, the antibodies in there were an interesting travelogue of some of the places that Magill had been - traces of Perry's Ague seemed to indicate he'd been to Mars, for example - but Franklin's own blood would probably bear a similar cocktail of inoculation evidence.
As for the energy reading he thought he'd seen, there wasn't much data there to analyse. It might have been a spike in the monitor or something. He certainly didn't know what it was, or wasn't.
Dr. Franklin rubbed his eyes and decided he needed a change of scene.
"Mr. Magill -" Garibaldi accosted the businessman in the corridor.
"Well, Mr. Garibaldi," Magill said as he continued walking, "you'll doubtless be glad to see the last of me. My business is done, and if all goes well, I'll soon be leaving."
"I thought you were going to check out the Mutai?" Garibaldi commented, keeping pace.
"I may be lucky," Magill returned, "but I'm not an idiot. I'd prefer to minimize the risk of another 'accident', particularly as whoever it is might not be so choosy next time."
"Let's hope there isn't a next time," Garibaldi said grimly.
"Three times lucky?" Magill said wryly.
"Three times?" Garibaldi exclaimed, moving to stand in front of Magill.
"Or two," said Magill, coming to a halt. "I'm not so sure that the first attempt wasn't a nightmare brought on by indigestion."
"And the second time?" Garibaldi queried.
"Ask Miss Winters," Magill replied. "I had an accident with my breather mask when we were negotiating with the Vundila."
"And you didn't report it?"
"It didn't seem suspicious at the time."
"You need an escort," Garibaldi stated.
"And what good is an escort going to do against booby traps?"
Garibaldi made a rueful face. "Help spot them earlier?"
Magill smiled wryly. "Fair enough," he agreed.
Garibaldi called on his link for a man to meet them at Magill's suite. "I assume that's where you're going?" Garibaldi asked.
"Let's go, then," Garibaldi said.
"I was going," Magill muttered in answer. "Thanks for the personal attention," he added.
Garibaldi wasn't sure whether he was being sincere or sarcastic. He gave a smile. "Well, it looks bad on my record when important people get killed when I'm supposed to be protecting them."
"I'm an important person?"
"Everyone's important," Garibaldi returned, brusquely.
Magill was about to make a flippant reply when he noticed something that startled him speechless. Coming up the stairs they were going down was yet another person wearing the tunic of brown and the green stone that Magill had been noticing though his stay. The startling thing was that the person was not a Minbari. He was a human. And as he passed, Magill caught a good look at the brooch. The figures in gold and silver were not two Minbari as he had supposed, but a Minbari and a human. What the hell is this? Magill thought. There is something really odd going on here. I'm sure Delenn knows. And her tongue would be on fire before she'd tell me a word.
Magill, distracted by his thoughts, said nothing more to Garibaldi as they walked the rest of the way to his room. The guard was waiting when they arrived. Garibaldi entered the room and gave it a once-over before he would let Magill come in. But he didn't leave. Instead he shut the door, with the other man still standing guard outside. He leaned against the door, folded his arms and regarded Magill with a frown. "I'd like to talk with you alone... Shadrach Tandy." There were far too many unanswered questions hanging around this man - what should he start with? "Why on earth did Delenn attack you like that? What was all this about eating souls?"
Magill sighed, his mind brought back to more immediate problems. He would have to be very careful, but he knew that Garibaldi wouldn't be satisfied without some sort of explanation. "She thought I was a, well, something like a vampire. The Minbari equivalent, anyway."
"I don't mean the kind of thing you see in the movies," Magill went on. "Not the isn't-it-a-pity-I-can't-go-out-in-daylight kind of vampire; from her point of view she thought I was a soulless evil being that drags others into its eternal damnation. That kind of vampire."
"An eater of souls?"
"That's what Zahakar means," Magill explained.
"And what gave her the idea you were this `zahakar'?"
Magill grimaced. "My brush with death, I suppose," he said sourly. "I assume someone told her I was badly injured?"
"You were badly injured," Garibaldi insisted.
Magill shrugged. "Have it your own way."
"How many years have you spent on Minbar?" Garibaldi asked.
"I've never been there," Magill admitted truthfully.
"Then how did you learn Minbari so well?" Garibaldi countered.
"I don't know it well," Magill corrected. "They have at least eleven different -" he broke off, and answered, "I saved the life of a Minbari traveller. That put him in my debt. He taught me a great deal."
"So what does Narakarr mean?" asked Garibaldi.
"Um, hot-head," he answered, taking only one of its meanings, and added with a smile, "colloquially speaking, that is."
"Literally, 'fire-soul'," Magill answered. "Surely this station's computers have that information."
"A dictionary is only so much use," stated Garibaldi. "How did you know that Delenn was responsible for ending the war?"
Magill smiled tightly. "You know I can't tell you that, Mr. Garibaldi."
Garibaldi spread his hands in front of him. "I have this problem, Mr. Tandy. Y'see, I like things to make sense. I believe the universe is full of patterns - crazy patterns sometimes, but things still fit together. And when they don't fit together they niggle at me. And there's a lot of things about you that are niggling at me. First, you recover miraculously from a fall that would have killed anyone else, and that scares the Minbari Ambassador so much that she accuses you of being in league with the devil and tries to kill you, yet not long after, she's willing to meet with you alone. Second, you say that you're really Shadrach Tandy, even though the records say that Tandy died at the Battle of the Line. Not MIA, "dead" dead. Third, you know things about Delenn and the War that would probably be marked burn-before-reading if they were in a report.
How do all these facts fit together?"
"Why don't you try join-the-dots?" Magill said sarcastically.
"Look, I don't care about your secrets as long as they don't interfere with the station. What I do care about is how you know Delenn. The only link the two of you have is the Battle of the Line. I can't explain that, unless you were the youngest damn recruit who lied about his age, or you aged real well."
"Good skin runs in my family," Magill said flippantly.
"Look," Garibaldi continued unphased, "the only way you could have met Delenn at that point would be if you were captured. A friend of mine was in that same bunch. A friend that I owe, big. For his sake, I need some answers."
"Why should you need answers for his sake?" Magill asked. But he already had an inkling of who it could be that Garibaldi was referring to. After all, they'd worked together for the last couple of years, it wasn't unlikely that they could be friends. But that didn't explain how Garibaldi knew Sinclair had been captured. After all, the man didn't even know it himself.
"Because he doesn't remember what happened," Garibaldi explained, with just a touch of earnest pain shading his voice. "Well, only bits and pieces," he amended.
"He remembers bits and pieces?" echoed Magill. "How did that come about? Did he lie to the tribunal?" And pretend not to recognise me?
"You do know something," Garibaldi pounced. "I didn't say who my friend was."
"You didn't need to," Magill stated. "There's not that many survivors to pick from. And you've only worked with one of them."
Garibaldi realized he had given Jeff away. "No, he didn't lie," admitted Garibaldi. "He really didn't remember. It was only last year - something happened..." Garibaldi trailed off, the memories painful, remembering the gut-churning worry that Jeff would only be found as a corpse... "Something that forced him to remember. And he asked me to find out what I could about the rest."
"If what you say is true," said Magill, "then the person I should talk to is Sinclair, not you."
"Sinclair is on Minbar," Garibaldi stated the obvious. "Not here."
"I'm going to Minbar," revealed Magill. "At least, I hope to. It was a rather sudden change of plan."
"You've decided to stop avoiding them?"
"It's a bit late for that now, isn't it?" Magill said sourly.
"If you say so," Garibaldi said brightly. "Why do you carry a sword?" That sword reminded Garibaldi of something, something his father had talked about...
"Why do I feel like I'm being interrogated?" returned Magill.
"You must admit it's pretty unusual," Garibaldi said.
"So I'm eccentric," Magill said cheerfully. "When are you going to give it back to me?"
"When you leave," Garibaldi answered. And I hope it's soon, he thought to himself. He turned to go.
"Mr. Garibaldi," Magill said hesitantly. "I was wondering... would I be able to see some of your Daffy Duck?"
Garibaldi turned back and raised his eyebrows. "Daffy Duck?" He blinked. "You are interested in Daffy Duck?"
"I told you I'm eccentric," said Magill.
Garibaldi considered this for a moment. "Perhaps I'll show you - some day," he said. "If you're very good," he added with a half smile. "Goodbye, Mr. Magill."
It was the man's nervousness that Garibaldi noticed first. A twitchy uneasiness as he saw the grey security uniform as Garibaldi walked past him. Garibaldi stopped and turned around, taking a better look at the fellow. Nothing extraordinary, a somewhat sleazy-looking businessman, large briefcase, short-cropped blond hair, plain face. Just like anyone you'd see walking down a corridor in Red Seven.
"Would you mind showing me your identicard?" Garibaldi asked the man politely.
The man glanced quickly at Garibaldi's holstered PPG and away again, before reaching inside his jacket and handing Garibaldi his card. Garibaldi checked it, and handed it back to the man. "Heavy case," he commented, noticing the way the man held it. "Second-hand rocks, are they?" he quipped.
This was too much for the man; he broke and ran down the corridor. Garibaldi ran after him, calling into his link for backup. The nearest, of course, was the escort he'd left with Magill. When the fugitive came barreling around the corner, the escort reacted instantly, drawing his weapon and calling the man to halt.
As Fate would have it, a Tcholk had chosen to do business with a human that day, in suite ten of Red Seven, despite the risk. Tcholks were methane breathers, and were loath to leave their quarters in Grey sector.
The next moments etched themselves in the mind of Magill, who had opened his door to see what the commotion was about. As the security guard called out the standard "Stop or I'll shoot!", the Tcholk was exiting from Suite ten. The running man did stop - but only to pull out a gun of his own. And the Tcholk was caught in the crossfire.
Methane and oxygen is a very combustible mixture. It wasn't clear whose fire had broken the seals on the Tcholk's environment suit, but instantly there was a Whump, and the Tcholk exploded in a ball of fire.
Pieces of wall flew through the air, slicing through the fugitive and the security guard, cutting Magill as he still stood in his doorway, and knocking Garibaldi off his feet as he almost ran straight into the inferno. The other two humans were engulfed in the flames, screaming, screaming. The Tcholk had not even had time to scream.
Magill, bleeding from his cuts, leaped over to Garibaldi. When a second explosion sent flame billowing in their direction, Magill practically threw Garibaldi into his room, and followed, seconds afterwards, banging the emergency close button as he did.
Garibaldi staggered to his feet and pressed his link. "Explosion in Red Seven," he said. There was no response. "Damn!" he exclaimed, "link's not working. Must have been damaged."
The lights had gone out, and there was nothing but dim orange emergency lighting. Garibaldi went to the door, but Magill stood in his way. "It's hot," he declared. "Fire on the other side. No way out that way."
"But the others -" Garibaldi started.
"There's nothing you can do for them now," Magill stated.
"Damn! Damn, damn, damn, damn!" Garibaldi cursed. "Norton was a good man. Damn!"
There was a pause, silent except for the muffled roar of the flames behind the door.
"Thanks for saving my life, by the way," Garibaldi said to Magill.
"It isn't saved yet," Magill said grimly. "Any other way out of these rooms?" he asked.
Garibaldi shook his head. "Ventilation system's only wide enough for the rats," he said.
"Then the only way out is through," Magill commented. "Lucky I prefer water to sonics," he said cryptically. When he started stripping the blankets off the bed, Garibaldi realized his intent. Magill had been rich enough to book a VIP suite - complete with water shower. With some protection, perhaps they could endure the blaze outside the door long enough to get to a clear area.
"Would it be safer to wait here, do you think?" Garibaldi demurred.
Magill smiled wryly. "Would you rather suffocate to death, or go out in a blaze of glory?"
"Blaze being the operative word," Garibaldi commented, but he picked up one of the blankets anyway, and followed Magill to the bathroom.
Magill had the shower on full blast, and stood under it, fully clothed, with a blanket wrapped around him. "Come on in, the water's fine," he joked.
Garibaldi rolled his eyes, but stepped in the shower anyway. Soon enough they were both drenched to the skin. Magill's hair went past the draggled corkscrew stage of wet curls and stuck completely flat to his head. Garibaldi's hair lost its military precision and went limp. And their clothes stuck to them like half-done papier-mache.
"If I look half as bad as you do, I'd put myself on report for slipshod presentation," Garibaldi chuckled.
"Start writing the report," Magill smiled. He stepped out of the shower. "Remember to stick close," he said.
"You're not going first," Garibaldi protested.
"I appreciate the sentiment," Magill responded, "but there's no point in arguing over who gets singed more. Come on!"
Swathed like Egyptian mummies, they dripped their way to the door. Then the door was open, and they were out into a nightmare run of heat and stink and suffocation, at once never-ending and too short to remember, timeless in its pain and endurance and effort. And then they were clear of it, coughing and stumbling and smarting, not yet daring to wonder what damage was done.
"You were lucky," Dr. Mendoza declared to a scorched Garibaldi, who had nothing worse to complain of than lost eyebrows and a face that looked like he'd spent too long on the beach. "If you'd stayed in that room, you might have been much worse off. Mind you, they did put the fire out fairly soon, but the air there was pretty soupy. Smoke inhalation and methane poisoning - not good."
"How's Magill?" Garibaldi said, and winced as Dr. Mendoza touched a sore spot, as she put burn cream on Garibaldi's face.
"He is perfectly all right," Dr. Mendoza declared. "He's even luckier then you are."
"He seems to have a knack for that," Garibaldi remarked dryly. "Is he still here? I want to talk to him."
"Over there," she waved her arm to a corner of the room. She handed Garibaldi a tube of cream. "Use this night and morning, and if you find it too painful, try a cold shower." She smiled half-maliciously at him.
He rolled his eyes. "Right." He stepped up to where Magill was standing. "Thanks for what you did back there," he said.
Magill shrugged. "Thank my reflexes," he answered. "I'm glad I could help someone. It all happened so fast..."
"Well, thank you - reflexes or no, you saved my life," Garibaldi declared. "I won't forget it." A smile started dancing in his eyes. "By the way, Magill," he said, "what would you say to an evening of my second-favourite thing in the universe?"
Garibaldi was passing through the Zocalo when he was accosted by one of the last people he wanted to see at that moment.
"Ah, Mr. Garibaldi!" called out Londo Mollari. "My good and dear friend..." The Centauri ambassador's hair stood up like a fan, and he held a half-full glass in his hand.
"Londo," Garibaldi warned, "whatever it is - no!"
"You seem to have had a little accident, yes?" Londo commented.
"You might say so," Garibaldi glowered at him.
Londo appeared unruffled by the glare. He smiled, waving his drink. "Ah, when you have that look on your face, I would sooner cross swords with a bolt of lightening!"
"Cross swords?" Garibaldi echoed, wondering at Londo's use of the phrase, and thinking that he simply couldn't seem to get away from the bloody things.
Londo misunderstood his bewilderment. "Fight with swords," he explained. "In a duel. Sometimes to the death."
"The Centauri fight duels with swords?" Garibaldi asked, intrigued in spite of himself.
"A long and honourable tradition," Londo declared. "I am no poor student of the art myself."
"So if someone came up and challenged you to a duel, you would have to accept?"
"Not humans. We don't duel with humans," Londo quickly said. "Not any more," he muttered.
But Garibaldi heard him anyway. "Not any more? Why not?"
Londo shuddered theatrically. "We do not want another House Maklood," he said.
"House Maklood?" Garibaldi repeated inquiringly.
Londo shook his head. "A most tragic and embarrassing incident, not long after our races first met. The political ramifications - hmph! Enough to keep one awake at night, even to this day." He clutched his hand to his head dramatically.
"But what is this House Maklood?" Garibaldi asked.
Londo shook his head at Garibaldi. "I will give you this piece of advice, Mr. Garibaldi, as a friend. Do not repeat that question to any Centauri. You will cause a great deal of upset, particularly to those with less, um, tolerant attitudes than I."
The screen had gone blank, but Delenn was not seeing it. Her eyes were watering, though there were no flecks or dust in them. They had not believed her. Though her news, news of the Narakarr, impacted on the Prophecy, they had not accepted it. Though they had worked together for years upon years, they had not listened. She should have known. Remember, remember what was said, the last time they were gathered together? I doubt the Prophecy. It may have referred to others. She should have expected this. But why did it hurt so?
Enough. She blinked and tears spilled over the edges of her eyes. She ignored them. She could not indulge her feelings. There were things to be done. If the Grey Council ignored her, she would act anyway. After all, they could not forbid what they did not believe in.
And maybe, for once, she could help shine some truth, in this time of secrets. But softly. Quietly. It would do no good to have anyone guess what she was planning. What was the human saying? Not letting the left hand know what the right hand was doing.
Garibaldi had not passed out of the Zocalo when he spotted Dr. Franklin eating a meal.
"Is that a late lunch, or an early dinner?" Garibaldi asked, sitting down opposite the doctor.
Franklin shrugged. "I don't know. I can hardly keep up with what day it is..." He sighed. "I analysed a blood sample from Collin Magill, but though it told me where he'd been, it didn't tell me how he recovered like that."
"You can tell from their blood where someone's been?" asked Garibaldi.
"Not exactly," Dr. Franklin amended. "Only if they have visited - or intended to visit - places whose diseases are isolated to that particular region. And even then, as I said, someone might have been inoculated against a particular disease without ever going there." Dr. Franklin rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "And one mustn't forget the time factor. Without sufficient stimulus, antibodies for any particular disease stop being produced after a while. That's why you keep having to get booster shots for diseases like tetanus. Of course, the period does vary from individual to individual..."
"So where has Magill been?"
"Well, so far as I can tell, he's been to Mars, the Euphrates sector, Set, Akhbar, the Dilgar region, Asturia, Willomena and India - that's what I could identify of regional diseases. A very well-travelled man."
"You say he's been in the Dilgar region?" Garibaldi said sharply.
Dr. Franklin nodded, as he munched on a mouthful of lettuce. "There's some very nasty bugs left over from the war that still haven't burnt themselves out. It's not the kind of area that's on the tourist maps. But I did find some traces of viral antibodies characteristic of only those diseases. Couldn't place them at first."
"Doc," Garibaldi began, "you may think this is a crazy question, but could Magill have been treated with some anti-aging drug like Deathwalker's, at the time of the Dilgar War?"
"At the time of the Dilgar War?" Dr. Franklin echoed.
"Well, you said he's been in that region," Garibaldi returned.
Dr. Franklin pursed his lips and sighed. "I can't actually tell," he admitted. "His remarkable recovery points strongly to an antiagapic, but there is no other evidence to be found. His blood chemistry is completely normal. But thirty years ago?" Dr. Franklin shrugged. "I would have said he'd been there more recently than that. The antibody traces were too high." He looked at Garibaldi. "Why do you want to know?"
Garibaldi shrugged. "Just a hunch," he said. "You say he can't have been there during the war?"
"No, I said he's probably been there later than that - but if he's been treated with an antiagapic, my measuring estimates could be completely off. An antiagapic could have effects on the immune system which would boost the production of antibodies, making the traces higher than they would be in a normal person." Dr. Franklin shook his head. "I don't have enough data," he said with frustration.
Garibaldi pursed his lips. "Somehow I don't think he'd be an eager volunteer for the advancement of science."
"Well, he should be," Dr. Franklin snapped. "When I think of the needless suffering -"
Garibaldi raised his hands. "Hey, Doc, don't take it out on me!"
Somewhere deep in the San Diego wastelands, a message light flashed on an elaborate console. An elegant hand flicked a switch, and a terminal screen lit up with a circular ever-changing abstract pattern. "Thirteen," the psi-cop acknowledged.
"Message from Babylon 5 Control reports mission not successful. All attempts to eliminate Magill failed. Futurecorp negotiations completed without significant hindrance," came the voice from the console speaker.
"Reason for failure?" Thirteen asked.
"Attempting to make it look like an accident meant a consequent lack of precision," came the reply. "Magill was able to recover from or avoid the booby-traps. Anything more direct would mean much greater risk of exposure."
"Is there a danger of exposure?" Thirteen asked.
"There were no witnesses," came the answer. "No evidence was left. There is nothing to connect Control to the events."
"Understood," Thirteen said. "Make no more attempts. We will try another approach. Thirteen out."
It was the end of what passed for day in the sunless darkness in which Babylon 5 floated, when Magill arrived at Garibaldi's door. When he entered the room, he stopped short, eyes transfixed by the object leaning against the wall. He drifted closer to it, as if it would vanish if he touched it. "Where did you get it?" he breathed. "A Kawasaki Ninja. I haven't seen one of those in... years."
"I built it," Garibaldi answered with proprietary pride, coming to stand beside the motorcycle.
"You built it?" Magill echoed.
"I won the manual in a card game," Garibaldi explained. "Spent five years scrounging the parts. Last year I finished it - with help from Lennier," he added.
"It's amazing," said Magill, caressing the handles like someone would pat the neck of a horse. "It's a pity it won't run."
"Oh, it runs all right," Garibaldi boasted.
Magill raised his eyebrows. "You've got fuel for this beauty?"
"No, it runs on a Minbari power source," Garibaldi explained. "Lennier's idea."
"He actually managed to blend two incompatible technologies? How on earth did he get it to work?" asked Magill.
Garibaldi shrugged and gave a short laugh. "Don't ask me, I just know that it works. He did all that when I wasn't here, and don't want to touch it in case I break something," he said ruefully.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it, eh?" Magill commented. "D'you think I could have a look at it? I promise I won't move anything!"
"You understand motorbikes?" Garibaldi asked.
Magill grinned. "Enough," he answered.
They spent the next hour tracing cables and exchanging technical talk about everything from fuel-injection to brake linings. They managed to deduce a fair bit about Lennier's modifications, mostly from information that Magill remembered. Garibaldi was impressed, and somewhat puzzled. How did this guy know so much about a sport that had been out of use for such a long time? Magill simply enjoyed himself, not even considering the questions that might be floating in Garibaldi's analytical mind.
Eventually they recalled the original purpose of the evening, washed the grease off their hands, sat down with cold drinks and popcorn, and watched the adventures of Daffy Duck.
Daffy "Robin Hood" Duck was engaging in a duel with Elmer "Sheriff of Nottingham" Fudd.
"Take that!" said the Duck.
"You wascwy Hood!" exclaimed the Sheriff.
"Y'know, I was talking to Londo today," remarked Garibaldi, "and he said that Centauri won't duel with humans because they don't want another House Maklood."
Magill choked. As he was eating popcorn at that moment, it immediately turned into a cough as some of the popcorn went down the wrong way. It was ten minutes before he stopped coughing. On the screen, the duel was turning increasingly surreal, as Daffy and Elmer pulled spoons, forks, lawnmowers, rifles, machine guns and atomic bombs out of hidden pockets to threaten each other with.
"House Maklood... House Maklood..." Magill said weakly. Garibaldi realized he was laughing. And not at the cartoon.
"I seem to have missed something here," Garibaldi said lightly.
Magill finally stopped laughing. "It's Macleod, not Maklood," he said.
"You know what this Maklood thing is about?" Garibaldi asked with surprise. Though perhaps he shouldn't have been. After all, Magill seemed to be a veritable fount of obscure knowledge.
Magill grinned. "I know D-" he began, "I know the Macleods," he revealed.
"There are Scottish Centauri?" Garibaldi queried.
Magill chortled again. "You could say so. Strictly honourary, of course." He was grinning from ear to ear.
"Please explain it to me!" Garibaldi requested, smiling. Magill's grin was infectious.
"Well," Magill drawled, "it was not long after the Centauri made contact with us, that some hot-head in their nobility, I think his name was... Predo, Predo Bazir, took it into his head that he didn't like the look of a particular human, Duncan Macleod. Maybe it was because Duncan had more hair than he did, I don't know. Or he was trying to add to his standing in their endless political one-upmanship games. Or maybe he was just trying to impress the ladies. Anyway, he challenged Mac to a duel - to the death, assuming that either it would be an easy win, since Earthers didn't seem to have a duelling tradition, or else the Earther would refuse, and all the humans would lose face. Unfortunately for Predo, he'd picked one of the very worst people he could have chosen. Duncan was an expert in martial arts - including the sword. He accepted the challenge."
"And Predo lost," Garibaldi guessed.
Magill nodded. "Predo wasn't that bad, but Duncan was better. Much better. Duncan won, killing Predo. But that wasn't the worst of it," Magill continued. "Before they could fight, Predo insisted that Duncan be made an honourary noble - if his lineage were sufficiently ancient. I'm not sure why, whether it was pride, or whether it was part of their dueling rules or something. Anyway, considering that Mac - the Macleods go back half-a-dozen centuries, to the Highlands of Scotland, that was considered good enough, so Macleod was made a noble, on the assumption that he wouldn't survive the fight."
"But surely Predo's death wouldn't still be a problem now?" Garibaldi said.
Magill grinned. "Losing the fight wasn't the end of it," he explained. "Under the rules of Centauri duelling, the winner must adopt the loser's family. Duncan didn't have any family, so he was a safe target. But Duncan as winner, suddenly had a bunch of Centauri adopted into the no-longer-temporary House Macleod. Predo had a large family."
"Well, well, well," Garibaldi laughed. "No wonder they won't talk about it."
When the evening drew to a close, the Garibaldi and Magill were still chuckling. When Magill stood up to leave, he saw a gleam of metal under Garibaldi's bed, but pretended not to notice. But he figured he knew what it was. After all, it was such an unusual item, the chief of security might decide it needed to be hidden in an unusual place. Who would look for a confiscated sword anywhere other than in Security?
When Garibaldi began tidying up after Magill had left, he saw their glasses on the table, and just as he was going to pick up Magill's, he hesitated. Then he got out a handkerchief and wrapped the glass in it. After all, he wanted to find out more about this guy, didn't he? And there was something, just at the back of his mind, a feeling that he almost had all the pieces, and all it needed was one more, and everything would fall into place.
The next morning, Garibaldi took the glass with him to Security. "I want this dusted for prints," he said to Zack. "Some of them will be mine. I'm interested in the other ones. Let me know when you've got enough for a match, and I'll come up."
"A match with what, sir?" queried Zack.
"I don't know," Garibaldi said quietly. "I don't know."
"Do you agree?" Lennier asked, leaning forward. He was seated in Magill's quarters in front of a low table, on which there lay papers and tokens and a data crystal. Magill sat opposite him, frowning.
"Oh, is that all?" Magill answered, raising an eyebrow. "When you spoke of a condition I thought it would be something difficult, dangerous and foolhardy, like storming the gates of Matok." He placed one finger on the data crystal. "I can deliver your message. It's not even out of my way." He stared at Lennier. "Now. What aren't you telling me?"
"Perhaps you have failed to understand how dangerous this task is," Lennier said with calm precision. "The message must be guarded with your life, and delivered into no-one's hands but his."
"I understand," said Magill, "and I agree to Ambassador Delenn's condition." He picked up the data crystal and put it in his breast pocket. "There. Next to my heart." He held out his hand.
Lennier stared at it blankly.
"Excuse me," Magill said. "It's an old human custom - to shake hands when an agreement is made."
"Oh, I see," Lennier said.
They shook hands.
Magill stood up. Lennier stood also. "May the light shine on your way," Magill said in Minbari, putting his hand on his heart, and bowing.
"And upon yours," answered Lennier in the same manner, and left.
Magill took out the crystal, stared at it thoughtfully, and then put it back in his pocket. He gathered together the papers and tokens on the table, looking carefully at each one in turn, and put them in a slim case. Then he sat down at the room's terminal, took out the data crystal, put it in the crystal port and said "Play."
It was about an hour later that a letter was hand-delivered to Ray Aldwin. Ray wondered what was so important that someone would pay a messenger to track him down instead of just leaving it at his rooms. Mind you, he wasn't planning to stay on Babylon 5 for much longer. His puzzlement grew when he opened the envelope and found pages covered in the cursive squiggle used in the writings of India. He had a double surprise when he realized that though the characters were Indian, the language itself was Spanish. Also enclosed in the envelope was the second half of a round-trip ticket from Earth to Babylon 5. Then Ray saw the signature on the last page, and gave a bark of laughter. "Well, Red," he murmured to himself, "what kind of favour are you looking for this time?"
It wasn't the bright stark atmosphere of Medlab, but Dr. Franklin was still in his element. He was healing and helping, and that was all that mattered. Okay, so his clinic in Downbelow wasn't legal, but there were some things more important than laws that were unjust. "Next!" he called out.
The person who entered was a typical Lurker - ragged, unkempt, and undignified, though this one seemed to stink less than usual. This one was a Hispanic.
"Now, what seems to be the problem?" Dr. Franklin asked.
"It's me head," the Lurker mumbled, and then straightened up and looked Dr. Franklin full in the eye.
"My God! Ray!" Dr. Franklin exclaimed. "I thought I'd never see you again. The way you vanished last time -"
"It's time to repay your favour," Ray interrupted.
"Anything. After you helped me set up the Railroad..."
Ray gave a wry smile. "Knowing you, you're not going to like it."
"Knowing me, you know what things I will never do, even for you," Dr. Franklin returned.
"I want you to destroy all the medical records you have of Collin Magill."
"What? How did you know -?"
"He told me," Ray answered. "I'm doing him a favour."
"But why? His treatment, whatever it is -"
"Dr. Franklin," Ray interrupted, "has it occurred to you for one moment that he doesn't have a treatment?"
"What? You think he's some sort of genetic mutation?"
"I don't pretend to understand the whys of it," Ray said carefully, "but one thing I do know: it's not a treatment, and he's probably older than you think he is. Please let him alone."
"I'm a scientist - how can I forget something like him? Why should I?"
"Come, now, Dr. Franklin," Ray chided him, "if you can't figure out why, you're not the man I think you are. Why have you set this clinic up?"
"To help people," Dr. Franklin answered.
"In more ways than one, as we both know," Ray added. "Think what a man like Magill would mean to the government - and then you'll understand why."
"But -" Dr. Franklin began, "but how would they?"
"You were all set on dazzling your colleagues, were you not?"
"Well, no," Dr. Franklin admitted. "I don't have anything much to dazzle them with."
"Then it'll be a small loss, won't it?" Ray pointed out.
"All right," Franklin conceded, "I'll destroy the records. I'll leave him alone." He sighed. "If only I could figure out how he does it."
Ray gave an impish smile. "Magic," he decreed.
Dr. Franklin snorted. "I'm a scientist," he declared. "I don't believe in magic."
"Well, Doc," Ray said as he headed out the doorway, "maybe you should read a few more fairy tales. You might learn something."
It had been a challenge to divest himself of his escort, but Magill had managed it. And then he made his way to Garibaldi's quarters as quickly and as unobtrusively as possible. The door-lock had not been very difficult for someone who'd started off his career in burglary, and had every now and then associated with, ahem, talented company, long enough to keep up with the times. Not that he had larcenous tendencies any more, it was just that sometimes breaking and entering was the only way to get something done. Magill went straight to the bed, where he had caught the gleam when he had been in the room before. He was right. He pulled out his sword from under the bed and held it up. It seemed to be unscathed by its departure from his side.
"Hold it right there!" Garibaldi stood in the doorway, pointing a PPG at him. "You didn't think I wouldn't realize what you were up to, did you?"
Magill had whirled at the first words, sword before him in a guard position.
"Drop the sword," ordered Garibaldi.
"Or you'll shoot me?" Magill queried, not taking him seriously.
"I wouldn't say I'm not tempted," Garibaldi said grimly.
Magill was surprised at the change in Garibaldi's demeanor from the evening before, though he didn't show it. "All right, all right, I'm dropping it," he said, dropping it on the floor in front of him, and raising his hands. What the hell had gotten into Garibaldi? Breaking and entering wasn't that much of a provocation, was it? "I was just getting back what belongs to me."
"So you could murder someone else with it?" Garibaldi stepped inside the room, and the door closed quietly behind him.
"Murder? What are you talking about?" Well, that explains why he's pissed off, Magill thought.
"The fifty-year Statute of Limitations hasn't run out," Garibaldi replied cryptically.
"Thirty years ago you murdered Alvar Mahady with that sword," Garibaldi declared, "in cold blood."
Magill forced a laugh. "Thirty years ago? That sounds real convincing," he said sarcastically. But he wondered where Garibaldi had gotten his information. He'd thought that case long buried.
"Fingerprints don't lie," stated Garibaldi.
"Fingerprints?" Magill echoed.
"Earthforce records are very extensive," said Garibaldi. "I thought I'd check and see if you really were Shadrach Tandy, using your fingerprints -"
"Very conscientious of you I'm sure," Magill said with irony.
Garibaldi shrugged. "I'm just that kind of fellow," he said with equal irony. "Imagine my surprise when more than one match was found for your fingerprints. Not just Shadrach Tandy, but Anthony Gurth, a GROPO in EarthForce during the Dilgar War."
"It must have been terribly surprising," Magill commented dryly.
Garibaldi ignored the remark. "Near the end of the war, when they were mopping up, they found some prisoners that Deathwalker had been experimenting on." Garibaldi's face was as cold as stones. "Or what was left of them. Alvar Mahady was one of them. Several sandwiches short of a picnic, but otherwise uninjured. The next day they found him with his head cut off, and the area around looking like the aftermath of a tornado. My father, Alfredo Garibaldi, was put in charge of the investigation. I've read his files. He was certain the murderer was Anthony Gurth - you."
"I did not murder Alvar Mahady," Magill stated, every word separate and clear.
"There's no point in denying it," Garibaldi said. "I know you did it. The fingerprints, the sword, your movements, the other evidence... If there were any justice, you'd be up for treason. Death by spacing is the least you deserve."
"Isn't that a bit hasty, Mr. Garibaldi?" Magill said.
Garibaldi shook his head. "I don't think so," he said. "It adds up like a pocket-book. What my father couldn't figure was the motive. Mahady was harmless, had few enemies, didn't have anything that someone would want - or so it seemed. But I think he had something you wanted very badly - J'hadur's immortality serum. She experimented on him, drove him nuts - raving on about death and dying - but there wasn't a mark on him. I think she tried out her serum on him, and it didn't quite work. Got into his brain. But it worked on you. There was just enough reason left in Mahady for you to get the information out of him, and kill him - to shut him up. Or maybe he was the first of your victims."
Magill raised his eyebrows in incredulity. "My victims?"
"I remember what Deathwalker said about her serum. She said it couldn't be synthesized. The vital ingredient had to be taken from living beings. So how many have you killed, Gurth? How many people have died to prolong your unnatural youth?" Garibaldi's voice rasped with contempt and anger. "I should have realized - the whole thing with Ambassador Delenn - she wasn't mistaken. You really are a vampire - living off the death of others."
Magill didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "Oh, Garibaldi, Garibaldi, you are so wrong! You have the wrong end of the stick completely."
"You can't argue with the facts," Garibaldi insisted.
"The facts are incomplete," Magill returned sharply. "Did it never occur to you to wonder how Deathwalker got her data - the information that allowed her to snatch at immortality? She tortured Mahady and others to death - not for them to break down and talk, but just to see what happened." Magill took a breath, his eyes narrowed, his face grim with remembrance. "And when she got Mahady, she hit the mother lode. Oh, her eyes must have popped out of her head when he didn't stay dead."
Garibaldi snorted. "If you think I'll believe this crap -"
"More than the flight of fancy you've built up?" Magill cut across Garibaldi. "You've been digging away at my past - why don't you check up on Mahady some time? He was born in Bombay in 2142, under the name of Shem Singh. Died for the first time when he was 25. Changed his name many times, and ended up slogging in the mud on Shikasta fighting the Dilgar." His eyes were full of sorrow. "Deathwalker killed him slowly. And when he revived, she did it again. And again. And again, meticulously recording everything, every detail, every last shrieking drop of blood." Magill shuddered in remembered pain. "There was no serum, Garibaldi," he glared at the Security Chief. "What - you think it took her ten minutes to crack it? A day? A week? Brilliant fiend though she was, she wasn't that brilliant. If you think I murdered Mahady for a serum that didn't exist -" Magill snorted.
"Youthfulness is one thing," Garibaldi retorted, "but looking twenty when you're really fifty doesn't happen without a reason!"
"There is a reason: I was born that way," Magill returned. "Something in the genes, I really don't know. In olden days they'd have called me a changeling." He shook his head. "I never needed this serum of yours." He stared coolly at the man pointing the gun at him. "I'm much older than fifty, Garibaldi."
"I'd be a fool to believe that," Garibaldi returned, but there was the slightest hint of uncertainty in his eyes; Magill had spoken with the assurance of truth.
"Garibaldi, if you think what I've said is a load of bulldust, then how do you explain who won the World Motorcycle championships in 2020, 2021, 2023 and 2025?"
Ryan Norlind. Who bore an uncanny resemblance to the man standing in front of him. A man who knew the internals of a Kawasaki Ninja like the back of his hand. Garibaldi felt a chill as his mundane world turned upside-down. Technology was one thing, but this had nothing to do with technology. It all fit. It had been there right in front of him and he hadn't seen it. A man who carried a sword, was followed by a man who belonged to a group who believed... "It's not a religious cult, is it?" he said softly, lowering his gun.
"What?" Magill said, wondering at the non-sequeteur.
"The man with the tattoo, following you. The Watchers. They're not nuts."
"The Watchers!" Magill exclaimed. "How do you know about them?"
"I have my sources," Garibaldi said.
"Sources which you obviously didn't listen to," Magill commented wryly. He lowered his now-aching arms. "I take it you realize I'm not a mass-murderer?"
Garibaldi raised his gun again. "You still killed Mahady," he insisted.
Magill stilled. "Let it lie, Garibaldi," he said. "Whoever killed him, it was a mercy." He wasn't going to admit it was him, or that Mahady had begged him, in one of his more lucid moments, to take his head. "Deathwalker had driven him mad. And no shrink would be able to help a man who knew himself to be immortal. Their version of sanity would have made him truly insane. 'Oh, Doctor, I'm half-crazy because I was tortured to death twenty times.'" Magill said sarcastically. "They'd have locked him up and thrown away the key - or had him scanned, discovered the truth about immortals, and locked him up somewhere else and thrown away the key."
Garibaldi knew exactly what Magill meant. And realized that Gurth had had a motive that had never occurred to anyone - compassion. "Let it lie? - I've forgotten it already," he said, lowering his gun. "But there's still the matter of breaking and entering." He carefully picked up the sword on the floor, not taking his eyes from Magill. "You're not going to be needing this," he decreed. "Not while you're on Babylon 5. So don't try to retrieve it again, or I shall be forced to attach it by magnetic graple to the hull," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "On the outside." He rolled an eye at Magill. "And if you can breathe in vacuum, I give up!"
Magill laughed. "No I can't," he admitted. "It just wouldn't be permanently fatal." A cloud came over his face. "But if I can't defend myself, it could be."
"If someone cuts off your head, I take it," Garibaldi remarked. With his next words, his voice took on an edge of sarcasm. "But why stop at a sword? Why not go for something with a bit more punch - like a pistol - or a hand-grenade while you're at it? You could defend yourself then."
Magill was not amused. "That would be against the Rules," he said coolly.
"You get the chivalry along with the swords, do you?" Before Magill could comment, Garibaldi continued, "Look, I understand you want to look after yourself, but while you're here, that's my job. Security. Which includes preventing centuries-old swashbucklers from cutting each others heads off - yours or anyone else's. Is that clear?" He muttered under his breath, "I can't believe I just said that."
Magill smiled teasingly. "Yes, Mr. Garibaldi," he said, in the same tone that a schoolchild used to a teacher. "I won't try to get my sword again, Mr. Garibaldi." He shrugged, and said on a more serious note, "I will attempt to refuse any challenge I might get."
Garibaldi holstered his gun and considered the sword in his hand dubiously. "Is that very likely?"
Magill shrugged. "You never can tell - with bees," he said, deadpan.
Garibaldi chuckled. "Winnie the Pooh, too?"
"You bring out the nostalgia in me, Mr. Garibaldi," Magill said with a smile.
"Do I?" Garibaldi returned, raising one eyebrow. He regarded the man standing in front of him, a living example of something that fairy tales were made of. "Exactly how old are you, Magill?"
Magill smiled wryly. "284," he said.
Garibaldi stared at him. "Two hundred and eighty-four... Two hundred and eighty-four..." He paused as a thought occurred to him. "I take it that Ryan Norlind isn't your real name either. Do you want to tell me, or does the quest continue?"
Magill gave a short laugh. "My name is Richard Ryan," he answered. He hesitated, and added, "My friends call me Richie."
Garibaldi extended his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Richie," he said. "My friends call me Michael - or just Garibaldi."
Richie shook the offered hand. "I'm glad to make your acquaintance, Michael," he smiled. He gestured at the sword that Garibaldi was still holding. "I think you'd better take that over to security. It's a valuable antique. We wouldn't want anything to happen to it." He suppressed a smile as he added, "These rooms are very insecure."
Garibaldi leaned back in his chair and stared broodingly at the data crystal in his hand. He'd seen Magill - Richie - off this morning, complete with sword and a new set of clothes. He smiled as he recalled what Richie had said after he'd haggled with the Narn clothing merchant yesterday...
"They don't respect you unless you can swear in their own language," Richie said.
"Know any Minbari insults?" Garibaldi asked.
Richie snorted. "You don't need to speak Minbari to insult them. Saying 'You're a liar' is sufficient."
"You're a liar?" Garibaldi echoed.
"And then of course they'd have to kill you," Richie added.
Garibaldi grimaced. "I'll remember that."
Oh, yes, I'll remember that, Garibaldi thought. I'll remember many things, but not as many as you, I'll warrant.
"How long do you expect to live?"
Richie grimaced. "I try not to think about it."
Imagine - someone who was there when they nuked San Diego, when we first encountered the Centauri -
"I know D- I know the Macleods."
"I wonder..." Garibaldi mused aloud. He didn't believe in coincidence. Later. He'd check up on that later. Right now he had to decide what to do about this. He stared again at the data crystal in his hand. Richie had covered his tracks well, he had to admit. It seemed that Dr. Franklin's medical records had undergone an accident. Very smooth. But then he wasn't bad at tying up loose ends...
"You forgot to cancel your ticket to Earth," Garibaldi pointed out as he saw Richie off.
"No I didn't," Richie replied. "I asked a favour of a wild goose."
"That's a lot to ask someone."
Richie shrugged. "So I owe him a big favour."
Garibaldi frowned. "He might not live to collect."
"Don't worry about that, Garibaldi."
"He's one of you guys," Garibaldi deduced.
Richie grinned. "That would be telling."
But there were still enough pieces in the records if you knew what you were looking for. Immortals. Right here in his hand was evidence that for some people, three score years and ten was not their allotted span. So, was he going to tell Sheridan, or wasn't he? It wasn't as if Sheridan didn't know about immortals already - he just didn't know he knew. But if he told him straight, it would be a betrayal of trust, and that simply was not on. Besides, the fun of a hobby was doing it yourself, wasn't it?
He put the crystal in the port. It was only a copy of the evidence he'd already gathered, evidence which he'd saved in his secure files. "Computer, erase contents of data crystal."
"Erasure will take two minutes," the voice-system responded. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Confirm erasure," Garibaldi said.
No, he didn't have to make it easy for Sheridan and his secret-collecting hobby - but perhaps a hint wouldn't go astray.
He straightened up in his chair. Time to get back to the grind. This whole Magill business had distracted him long enough. Not that he wished it hadn't happened, of course. It wasn't every day one got to meet someone like Richie Ryan. A security nightmare? More like a hallucination. Time to get back to the scullery, Cinderella.
(Two days later...)
Ambassador Sinclair's "office" consisted of two rooms - one where he worked, and one where he talked. The suite was spacious and impressive - not because Jeffrey Sinclair preferred it that way, but because his position demanded it. He had done what he could to tone it down to 'impressive' rather than 'intimidating'. The desk in his office proper was large, but not empty. The Earth-style communications and computer console behind it was meant to be used, not just looked at. In the outer room there was cluster of chairs and a table to facilitate discussions. In a corner behind polished raal-wood doors were drinks and glasses and instruments for heating and cooling them - in the interests of hospitality. The suite was dominated by hues of blue and green and brown - a decorator's idea of a comfortable reminder of home, of Earth; though for Sinclair, it was the red of Mars that meant home to him. That, or the black and dusted silver of space.
It had been a fairly uneventful morning for Sinclair, wading through his official duties and thinking about his unofficial ones. He had no premonitions of foreboding when the knock came at the door.
"Come," he called out.
It was one of the guards, one of those ever-anonymous fellows in EarthForce greys. "Mr. Magill is here, sir."
Sinclair glanced at the time. "He's right on time. Send him in." Sinclair stepped out into the outer room as the Futurecorp representative entered it. He offered his hand. "Mr. Magill. Welcome to Minbar." Collin Magill seemed rather young for someone as high on the corporate ladder as he appeared to be - but whether that was due to wealth or ability was unknown.
Magill stared at Sinclair as if he were noting every hair, and every line on his face. Or as if he were looking for something - and not finding it. As they shook hands, his eyes were sad. "Thank you, Ambassador," he said stiffly.
Was Magill famous, or had they met once before? His face seemed vaguely familiar, but he just couldn't place it. "Do I know you?" Sinclair asked.
"I hardly think so," Magill answered. He reached inside his jacket and took out a data crystal. "I have a message for you," he continued. "From Delenn."
"From Delenn?" Sinclair echoed doubtfully.
"I was surprised myself," Magill responded. He held the data crystal up to Sinclair. "Take it, it won't explode," he said with a wry smile.
Sinclair didn't take the crystal. "How do you know Delenn?" he asked.
"By accident," was the short answer.
Sinclair shook his head. "Delenn wouldn't trust someone she met just by accident," he declared.
"Speak for yourself," Magill muttered. "I know her well enough to say this - that I'd trust her without reason, but I wouldn't trust her to tell me everything." He held out the data crystal again. "Take it. If it makes you feel better, it's voice-locked."
Sinclair raised an eyebrow, but he took the crystal.
Magill gestured towards the other room. "Go ahead," he said. "I'll just wait out here."
Sinclair entered his working office and shut the door. He put the crystal in the port and said "Play."
"Voice pattern: Jeffrey David Sinclair, recognised," the computer said, and Delenn's face came up on the screen, that face which had changed so radically since he had commanded Babylon 5, yet had not changed at all.
"Hello friend," she said with a smile, then her face became solemn. "This message concerns the one who is bringing you this message, though he does not know it. He will be asked to wait for your response, assuming it is a reply from you to me. It is not. I must ask you to make a choice about him. I believe you are the best one to decide."
Decide what? Sinclair thought.
"I am convinced," continued Delenn, "that he is one of the Narakarr, the warriors of light and fire spoken of in legend. They are immortal - they die, but do not stay dead." She took a breath. "I know, for he was captured on the Line, and killed attempting to escape."
Delenn's words raised an echo in Sinclair's memory. And from that echo came a connection, as sudden as a flash. A feeling, and a face.
It was the dimness of a cell, the odd flavour of alien air. The Minbari guards had shackled the redhead facing him, and left. The newcomer lifted his head and gave a weary grin. "Hi. I'm Shad Tandy. Who are you?"
"Jeffrey Sinclair," he answered.
"What d'y'say we blow this joint, eh?" Shad said.
"That's impossible," Jeffrey grated.
"Yeah, well, we couldn't win this war, either," Shad replied, "but we haven't surrendered."
The face was the same as the man waiting outside in the other room. Magill. The one Delenn was making these wild claims about. Exactly the same. "He was captured..." Did Delenn know they had shared the same cell? Had they? Could he trust this seeming memory? Why hadn't Delenn said what his name was?
Then Sinclair realized that the message had been playing on, and he hadn't heard a word. He stopped and rewound it again.
"...and killed attempting to escape. I saw his body." The Delenn upon the screen frowned. "Eleven years later, he came to Babylon 5, alive and well. It is the same man, have no doubts of that. He is Narakarr."
"I wouldn't assume he fits the legend, Delenn," Sinclair muttered to himself, "just because you want him to."
"And this is the decision for you to make: Can we risk losing such an ally? Or can we risk having such an ally? If his heart has not changed, one could not ask for better. I am not certain, which is why I am asking you. If you think he is someone you can trust, then tell him all, and ask him to join us. If not..." Delenn sighed, and looked down. She shook her head. "He has kept secrets for eleven years, I do not think it would come to that."
"I should hope not," Sinclair muttered.
"I do not ask you to make your choice immediately," Delenn continued. "He is seeking someone on Minbar, and would not leave until he has been found. Aid him in his quest, and make the decision when you know more." Delenn on the screen inclined her head. "I know that this is not easy. Valen aid you and be with you, as my thoughts are with you. Walk in the light, old friend." The message ended.
Not easy? Sinclair thought. You're right it isn't easy. Deciding about life and death never is. He sighed. Whether or not this Narakarr stuff was true, the choices before him were still the same. And he wouldn't learn anything by sitting in here when the enigma was in the other room.
He stood up and stepped through the door. Magill turned to face him as he came in.
"Do you have an answer for me?" Magill asked.
"I don't have an answer, yet," Sinclair said, looking, looking. At least one thing was certain, though. "Shad Tandy," he added.
A flicker of expressions danced across his face, a touch of fear, a light of relief, a flash of irritation, and finally wary resignation. "She told you," he stated.
Sinclair shook his head. "She just jogged my memory." He stared at Tandy. "You don't look a day older."
Tandy shrugged it off. "I can see you've weathered a few storms yourself." His mouth twitched in half a smile. "Garibaldi says hello."
"You've met Garibaldi?"
Tandy nodded. "On B5." He gave a wry smile. "Got off on the wrong foot, though. Not really my fault - he startled me. I ended up on the floor with his knee in my back. Darned things, reflexes."
Sinclair smiled. "I take it you patched up your misunderstanding."
Tandy nodded. "He figured out who I was, and deman - asked me what happened on The Line. I figured out why he wanted to know, and said I wouldn't tell anyone except you."
"You remember what happened?"
"They thought I was dead. They didn't get to me like they got to you. After the surrender I figured I'd lay low, and find out all I could about the Minbari. Try to understand what I could remember. So I could figure out why. Why they surrendered."
"And did you?"
Tandy nodded. "Seeing Delenn put the final piece in the puzzle. They think we have Minbari souls."
Sinclair nodded. "I know."
"You know?" Tandy exclaimed.
Sinclair smiled wryly. "It's a state secret. As Earth's Ambassador, I was told before I arrived here. That doesn't mean I remember."
Tandy waved his hand towards the seats around the table. "Then let's talk."
They sat and talked for an hour, about the capture, escape, what Tandy had heard, what Sinclair remembered, and about Minbari in general.
"But you didn't come here just to talk over old times, did you?" Sinclair said at last.
Tandy sighed. "No," he said, took out a folded piece of paper from an inner pocket and unfolded it on the desk. It was a printed picture, an identikit portrait of a thin-faced man with short dark hair. "I'm looking for a friend," Tandy said. "I was told he was on Minbar."
Sinclair met Tandy's eyes with astonishment. "Alex is a friend of yours?"
"You recognise this?"
"I -" Sinclair began, wondering how much he should say to someone he wasn't sure about. "I know him. He travels to Minbar a lot," he added. He wasn't going to say that Alex Proscurios was one of his Rangers. Not at all. "He might be on-planet at the moment. I don't know." Sinclair touched the printed picture. "Why this? You could have just asked..."
Tandy shook his head. "I didn't know what name he would be using," he revealed. "When we met, he went by Adam Pierson. Not Alex."
Sinclair raised his eyebrows. "You make him sound like some sort of spy," he said uneasily, wondering why Shad was really trying to find Alex. Was he trying to track down the Rangers? But perhaps he was jumping at shadows. "How long have you known him?"
Tandy smiled broadly. "A long time," he said. "But he's not the kind of fellow who leaves a forwarding address."
"Why are you looking for him?" Sinclair asked.
"I need to ask him something," Tandy said. "Something important."
"Well, Jeff, what's all this about?" The person facing Jeffrey Sinclair was tall, almost weedy, with dark brown hair, a thin face, an angular nose, and the eyes of a poet. A Ranger brooch glinted on his brown cloak.
"I need your advice, Alex," Sinclair said. Alex Proscurios was one of the first of Sinclair's Rangers, and despite his almost chameleon-like ability to fade into the background and look ordinary, there was a keen mind behind those brown eyes. And the occasional piece of insight that seemed beyond someone of his twenty-something years. And a sense of humour that definitely wasn't.
Alex raised a thin eyebrow. "You pull me off a ship that's about to leave, just because you want my advice?"
"Well, it does concern you," Sinclair informed him. Almost fortunate that it did, really. Maybe Alex could shed some light on this whole business. "There's someone looking for you. Do you want to be found?"
"If you'd left me where I was, the question wouldn't have arisen, would it?" Alex returned dryly. "Who is this person?"
Sinclair sighed. "Well, that is the interesting part. His name's Shadrach Tandy, though he's been calling himself Collin Magill for the last eleven years." And I hope you know him, Sinclair thought.
"I don't know anyone by those names," Alex said, dashing Sinclair's hopes. "Did he say why he was looking for me?"
"He said he wanted to ask you something."
"Is that all?" Alex looked curious and exasperated and patient, as if he were waiting for the other shoe to drop, but was willing to let it fall in its own time.
"There's one other thing," Sinclair said. "He gave this to me," he continued, handing Alex the identikit picture Magill had given to him, "and he said he was looking, not for you, but for someone called Adam Pierson."
"Adam Pierson?" Alex echoed, disturbed.
"That means something to you?" Sinclair pounced.
Alex avoided the question. "You wouldn't happen to have a picture of this Collin Magill, would you?"
"No, but I can describe him to you," Sinclair answered, and proceeded to do so. "Do you know him?"
"It's impossible to tell from that," Alex hedged, "but it is possible that he's someone I've met before."
What aren't you telling me, Alex? Sinclair wondered. You know more than you're saying. "Would you trust him?"
"Would I trust him?" Alex exclaimed. "This thing smells fishier than a barrel full of mackerel. What else is this about?"
Sinclair frowned and pursed his lips. "Ranger business," he said shortly.
"Potential recruit?" Alex guessed.
"Or potential danger," Sinclair admitted. "What do you think?"
"I think..." Alex began, then paused, his face showing nothing. "I think that I should meet him."
"He's coming back tomorrow..." Sinclair suggested.
"Alone," Alex said crisply. "Do you know where he's staying?"
"I can find out," Sinclair answered slowly. He fixed Alex with an unblinking gaze. "You will explain this to me afterwards, I trust?" he said with a hint of steel in his voice.
Alex was unperturbed. "May be nothing to explain," he shrugged. He stepped to the door, and then turned back to face Sinclair. "But if I don't return, you'll know you can't trust him."
"Alex!" Sinclair protested, unsure if this were some macabre joke on Alex's part.
"He's either an old friend or an old enemy," Alex said, matter-of-fact, "and if he's an old enemy, he'll try to kill me."
"You're serious, aren't you?" What sort of old enemies could Alex have? Beyond the ones that they all had in common?
"Just trying to be prepared," Alex said. "If I was really worried, you wouldn't see me for dust."
"Running away?" Sinclair queried. "That's not like you." This whole thing isn't like you, Sinclair thought.
"He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day," Alex said lightly. "Rather fatuous, actually, but it's good advice all the same."
With that, Alex departed, and Sinclair was left wondering if he really knew him at all.
Alex checked the room number. This was it. And he was right. When Sinclair had told him that someone was looking for Adam Pierson, he knew it had to be another immortal. He hadn't used that name in centuries. And from the tingling of his senses, that other immortal was on the other side of this door. Collin Magill. Who doubtless sensed his own presence also. Foolish, perhaps, to come looking for trouble, except that it had already come looking for him. And if Magill was who he thought he was, there wouldn't be anything to worry about. Probably.
"Enter," the voice called through the door.
Alex cautiously opened it, his other hand gripping the sword concealed inside his brown cloak. His Ranger brooch was hidden also. No point in drawing too much attention.
The room was simple, a bed, chest, table, a couple of plain chairs. The other stood a metre or two away from the door, waiting, sword in hand. Curly hair, face frozen at a perpetual eighteen, tense - and familiar.
"Richie," Alex said.
"Methos," acknowledged Richie, otherwise known as Collin Magill. "Sinclair sent you," he said, half statement, half question.
"I sent myself. With a little help from Sinclair," said Alex, a.k.a. Adam, a.k.a. Methos to a very select few. "Are you going to put that away," he asked, indicating the sword in Richie's hand, "or were you planning to challenge me?"
Richie slid the sword back inside his own jacket. "Not at all. D'you think I'm crazy? Me, take on the oldest immortal?"
Methos took his hand from his sword hilt. "Saner men than you have tried," he said, stepping forward and closing the door behind him. "So why are you looking for me?"
"Because you know the truth," Richie said tensely. "I hope."
"The truth about what?" Methos said. "I've told you before I'm no guru."
"The truth about the Gathering."
Methos rubbed his chin. "I see... What brought this on?"
"Have you ever met a Vorlon?"
"You've seen a Vorlon?!" Methos exclaimed.
"No," Richie shook his head. "But I've - felt - a Vorlon." He put a hand to his head to demonstrate what he meant. He continued in a rush, gesturing in staccato bursts, "Ambassador Kosh has a buzz. Sort of. Almost. When he's not shielded by his encounter suit. And he knows about Immortals. And the Gathering. He told me I didn't. And that you did. I believed him. Was he right?"
"Vorlons..." Methos murmured. "Vorlons! Gods, that actually makes sense."
"Well, it doesn't make sense to me," Richie declared. "Would you mind explaining it?"
"Perhaps we should sit?" Methos suggested.
Richie indicated the chairs and they sat at the table.
Methos stared at Richie steadily. "Before I go any further, swear to me you won't repeat any of this to a living soul."
"Swear," Methos insisted. "Or you can just turn around and hop back on a ship out of here."
Richie opened his mouth, closed it again, and nodded. "I swear."
"Good." Methos steepled his hands thoughtfully. "Tell me what you've been taught about the Gathering."
Richie took a breath and began, "At the time of the Gathering, we will be drawn to a far-away land, where the surviving Immortals will fight until there's only one left, and he gets the Prize."
"And there's the first lie," Methos said. "There is no Prize."
"No Prize?" Richie exclaimed. "Then what the hell are we fighting for?" he snapped angrily. "Why the Game?" He shook his head in denial. "All that killing for nothing?"
"No, not for nothing," Methos said quickly. "Never for nothing. The power of all the immortals who ever lived is a prize, a prize to kill for." Methos sighed. "But not worth dying for. It isn't the reason for our existence."
"But why?" Richie asked, his voice caught between pain and anger. "Why did it start?"
"Someone's idea of a sadistic joke, perhaps. Or maybe..." his voice trailed off, and he whispered, "... something worse." He snapped his fingers. "Why didn't I see that before? If the Vorlons knew, then They could have known as well. So busy fighting each other, we wouldn't notice the real enemy until it was too late. Tricking us with a half-truth. The lure of power."
"Who are They?" Richie asked.
"I'll come to that," Methos said. "Remember when everyone thought that the Gathering was happening in America?"
"Yeah, that was about the time I became Immortal," Richie said. "So? I thought it fizzled out because of Space exploration. People left. The pressure was gone."
"Or was the pressure gone because it had achieved what was needed? Getting immortals out into Space, one step closer to where we needed to go?"
"Where we needed to go?" Richie echoed. "And where is that?"
"That depends on which side you're on."
Richie looked exasperated.
Methos leaned forward. "Why did you really come to Minbar, Richie?"
"To find the truth."
Methos tilted his head. "So urgently? Or were you drawn here?"
"I -" Richie began, then paused. "The Gathering is here?"
Methos smiled slightly. "For the good guys."
Richie raised an eyebrow. "I take it there's bad guys as well."
"Very," Methos said. "They make the Dilgar look like fuzzy rabbits."
Richie shook his head. "Come on Methos, if they were that bad I would have heard of them!"
Methos raised his hand. "Not if the last war was a thousand years ago. And the one before - ten thousand. They were ancient when the Vorlons were young. And they're still around. In hiding. A thousand years ago, they were defeated by an alliance of races - defeated but not destroyed. And now they're trying again, in secret. Gathering their forces, drawing them towards their ancient home on the Rim. Z'ha'dum."
"Z'ha'dum?" Richie frowned. "I've seen that name before..."
"Somewhere, somewhere..." Richie rubbed his forehead in concentration. "On Narn. That's it. I spent some time there once. They have a holy book. The book of G'Quan. It speaks of an ancient -" Richie broke off. "That's your bad guys, isn't it? Some religious mumbo-jumbo!"
Methos shook his head. "Richie, Richie, Richie," he chided. "Do you know nothing of research? The Book of G'Quan is a historical record. A thousand years ago, the Shadows set up a base on Narn. G'Quan recorded what he saw. The fact that a religion grew up around him means the Book of G'Quan is more likely to be preserved accurately. Religions tend to frown on people altering Holy Writ."
"But it can't be true," Richie protested. "The things he wrote of - they're like demons, not something real!"
"And what do Immortals sound like to those who don't understand them?" Methos returned.
Richie sighed. "Like demons. Or angels. Or vampires."
"Or Narakarr," Methos added.
Richie stared at him, startled. "Minbari legends -"
"Are true," Methos finished. "Somewhat garbled, but true. My guess is that the Vorlons told the Minbari about Immortals, and that turned into their legends."
"But if those legends are based on truth - " Richie began, "if Immortals are Narakarr, then who or what are Zahakar? Evil Immortals?"
"Maybe," Methos answered. "Or maybe there are things out there that feed off the life-force of anyone - mortal or immortal. The things I've heard..." his voice trailed off. "Well, I wouldn't rule it out."
Richie swore. "I wouldn't like to share your nightmares," he said. Then he glared at Methos. "Why the hell didn't you tell anyone that what we were told about the Gathering was wrong?"
Methos smiled ruefully. "For one thing, I forgot what I'd been told. It was such a long time ago. And so similar to what everyone else was saying I didn't notice the difference. I mean, gathering in one place to fight each other as distinct from two places to gather in order to fight..." He trailed off. "I didn't remember it again until late last year." He gazed into the middle distance, remembering. "I had a dream." He sighed. "But then you don't believe in that sort of thing. It's your late-twentieth-century upbringing. Born sceptic."
Richie almost smiled. "Too right," he said.
"For another thing," Methos continued, "it would be a very foolish thing to do. Tell everyone? Why would they believe me? Tell them they should believe me because I'm Methos? Like I haven't spent the last couple of thousand years attempting to conceal that fact, eh?"
"Okay, but -" Richie began.
"Thirdly," Methos interrupted him, "it isn't a very good idea to tell one's enemy that you know what he's doing, if he thinks you don't. The more people one tells about the Shadows, the more likely it is that they'll find out what we know."
"But how could they?"
"They have agents all over. Humans, others... they have ways of finding things out," Methos said grimly.
Richie rolled his eyes. "I'm sure you realize just how paranoid that sounds," he said.
Methos raised an eyebrow. "This from someone who trained himself to bamboozle telepathic scans?"
Richie grimaced. "Point taken. Not as if I'm the only one, though," he added. He ran his hand through his hair. "Geeze..." he muttered. "Ancient alien races... why should it have anything to do with us?"
"Why shouldn't it?" Methos returned. "It's always been about good and evil - and that isn't limited to our own planet. Immortals have always had a destiny - it's just a little wider than we used to think."
Richie blew out a breath. "Well, right now I'm finding it a bit hard to take in," he said.
"You'll cope," Methos smiled.
As he made his way towards Sinclair's office, Richie's mind was still churning over the things which Methos had revealed to him yesterday. Oh, he'd gotten past disbelief, anger and grief over the waste, the needless killing, the stupidity of the Game, because something in him knew that Methos was right. The Gathering was here. The Gathering was now. But why Minbar? Because the Minbari were an older race? Because humans and Minbari had a lot in common? Though what the Minbari meant by "Minbari souls" he still didn't understand. People were people were people, surely?
His sword slapped against his thigh as he walked; sheathed, peace-bound but not hidden. When on Minbar, do as the Minbari do. And it looked like he was going to be on Minbar for a while - if that's where the Good Guys were hanging out. He'd already decided about that.
The secretary-cum-guard didn't seem to be on duty today, so Richie knocked on the door himself, and entered when he heard the call from within. Sinclair wasn't in the outer room, so he stepped into the inner office.
Sinclair looked up from his desk. "Ah, Mr. Magill," he began, and noticed the sword at Richie's side. Alex hadn't contacted him since they'd parted the day before, and the thought briefly crossed his mind that, with all his dire warnings, something had happened to him. Highly unlikely, but then so was someone walking into his office with a weapon at his side. "Why are you wearing a sword?" he asked, standing up.
But Richie's eyes were transfixed by an object that glinted on Sinclair's desk. A green brooch, bordered with two figures in silver and gold. "Another one!" he exclaimed, even as Sinclair spoke, pointing at it.
The next moment they both apologised for interrupting each other, in unison.
"You first," Richie said, laughing.
Sinclair relaxed somewhat inside. It couldn't be that the man in front of him had defended the Earth, escaped from a Minbari cell with him, spent eleven years in hiding, gained the partial trust of Delenn, murdered Alex, and then calmly come here and kept his appointment. Sinclair gestured at the sword. "Why?"
"To be polite," Richie answered truthfully. For to hide a weapon, as he had hidden his sword ever since he arrived, was considered dishonourable among Minbari, or so Ashnal had told him. "As a sign of respect," he added. Just like opening their gunports had been a sign of respect.
Sinclair evidently understood what he was referring to, because his response was, "Only if you're a Warrior."
"I've had to be," Richie answered.
It struck Sinclair how similar those words were to something Alex might have said. There was an elusive resemblance between the two of them, not in physicality, but in attitude, and a certain air of hidden danger, for those who knew how to look. "It could be taken as a provocation," Sinclair said. To whom, he did not say.
"It's peace-bound," Richie pointed out, reasonably.
"Even so," Sinclair commented.
"I wouldn't carry it if I didn't know how to use it," Richie answered, with an added unspoken 'and was prepared to'. "That also would be an insult."
"A fatal insult," Sinclair said grimly.
"Not for me," Richie said ambiguously. He pointed to the brooch on the desk. "What is it called?" he asked.
So why did he go straight for the Isil'zha? Sinclair wondered. "Is jewellery usually called something?" Sinclair countered lightly.
"If it's Minbari, it has a name," Richie declared. "A symbolism."
"What makes you think it's Minbari?"
"Why, the number of Minbari I've seen wearing its twin," Richie said dryly. "What is it called?" he asked again.
"Isil'zha," Sinclair answered.
Literally, "Moon-Sun", Richie thought. The symbolism was of births, beginnings and the dawning of a new age. Dawning of a.. "What new age?" Richie asked.
Sinclair glanced at him sharply, as if he hadn't expected him to know the full meaning of the word. "Of understanding," Sinclair said at last, weighing his words carefully.
Richie shook his head. "More than that," he said, as it finally clicked. "I should have realized." Why else would Delenn be sending Sinclair secret messages? Why else would the brooch have a human and a Minbari on it? And why else would it be worn by both human and Minbari? "You're working together," he declared. And why? They make the Dilgar look like fuzzy rabbits. There are worse things than she. Pray that you never meet one. The Shadows. "Against -" he broke off. Delenn knew. But did Sinclair? How did he fit into this?
"Against what?" Sinclair asked sharply. How much did he know?
What could he say? Such a deadly secret, he dare not even hint at it, not even with a riddle whose answer was Darkness. "If you don't know," he said carefully, "I won't guess."
"And if I do know?" Sinclair returned.
"Then I don't need to guess," Richie answered. "You are working together."
Just then a knock came on the outer door. They both stepped into the outer room as Sinclair called out "Come."
A Minbari entered. Warrior-caste by his clothes and a certain arrogant stance. Richie recognised the markings of the Wind-Sword clan on his brow. The same clan that had sheltered Deathwalker all those years.
The Minbari flicked a glance at Richie, lingering briefly at his sword, then turned his attention to Sinclair. "If it is inconvenient, I will return later." He bowed. "I am Amgwath, of the fourth Fane of the Wind-Swords." He flicked another glance at Richie. "I came to... apologise."
And my mother was a Harlem Globetrotter, Richie thought. What game is he playing? A Wind-Sword would only apologise to Sinclair under duress.
"Apologise?" Sinclair said calmly, but he was surprised.
Amgwath took a step further into the room. Richie noticed that he was wearing gloves. It surely isn't that cold?
"For the unfortunate incident when you first came to Babylon 5," Amgwath explained. "On behalf of my clan. It was one of the Wind Swords who was involved in the attempt to make it appear as though you had attacked the Vorlon Ambassador. We are deeply ashamed."
Ashamed, my foot! Richie thought. The only thing they're likely ashamed of is that the attempt failed.
Similar thoughts were going through Sinclair's head, but he didn't show it. He nodded graciously, and said "I'm glad to see such a change of heart."
"I offer the hand of friendship," Amgwath said, holding out his hand to Sinclair.
That's one of the oldest tricks in the book, Sinclair thought. Take your enemy's hand and pull him off balance, vulnerable to whatever blow you want to strike next. But two can play at that game.
But Minbari don't shake hands, Richie thought. At the same moment, he noticed that Amgwath had something hidden in his gloved hand.
Adrenaline made Richie fast. "No!" he yelled. Even as Sinclair was reaching towards the proffered hand, Richie leaped in front of them, grabbing at Amgwath's hand and snatching whatever it was in it. Something small and flat and round and wet. Amgwath froze for an instant, and then reacted as any warrior would to an attack - he hit back.
Richie was in the way - Sinclair could do nothing to help.
Richie was able to duck Amgwath's blow, then he turned on the arm that he had hold of, trying for a lock. There was no time to get at his sword; it was tied to its sheath, just so that it could not be drawn. That was the whole point of peace-binding. Even slip-knots took some time to undo. Amgwath evaded Richie's move, pulling him closer to try for another blow to the head. He connected. Richie's head thumped. He dropped the thing he had grabbed off Amgwath and pulled out the knots tying his sword. Then his veins went to ice.
"P-poison," Richie cried out as he realized, his teeth chattering. "He t-tried to p-poison you!" Amgwath hit him in the head again, and he collapsed on the floor, shaking with the effects of the poison on the skin-tab that Amgwath had concealed, poison that had connected with the bare skin of Richie's hand when he had grabbed it. He couldn't control the shaking. He bit his tongue as his jaw rattled. The world went grey and echoey, as if he were seeing and hearing through a long metal tunnel, and what he did hear didn't make sense.
"You have no honour," Sinclair hissed.
"I will have honour when you are dead," Amgwath said, taking out a concealed knife and lunging for Sinclair. Sinclair barely moved aside in time. He was unarmed and Amgwath had a knife, but there was no way he wasn't going to defend himself. Or die trying. Which was, unfortunately, the idea.
"Why?" Sinclair asked, as he feinted and hit at Amgwath, and barely missed a cut on his shoulder in return.
"You are human," Amgwath hissed, and made another swipe at him.
"Plenty of humans to pick from," Sinclair panted, dancing backwards. "Why me?"
"Because of who you are," Amgwath answered. He made another lunge with the knife, and missed Sinclair's heart only because Sinclair dodged and put up his arm. The knife made a jagged cut on his forearm, and Sinclair hissed in pain, and jumped back.
Both of them were so busy fighting, they didn't notice the door open, or the gasp of the person who entered.
But Amgwath noticed the next moment, as the point of something sharp and deadly pricked his back, and a voice behind him hissed, "Drop it!"
Amgwath whirled to face his new foe. It was Methos, aka Alex Proscurios, wielding a sword as if it were part of him. Amgwath had barely turned around when Methos brought the sword up in a curve and a twist, and the pommel connected with Amgwath's jaw with a crack. He dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Sinclair dashed over to where Richie lay on the floor, contorted and unmoving. He felt for the carotid artery. There was no pulse. "He's dead," he said sadly. "He saved my life."
"What happened?" Methos asked, coming over.
"He took the poison that was meant for me," Sinclair explained, pointing at the skin-tab on the floor nearby.
Methos pulled him away. "There's nothing you can do," he said.
At that moment, the room filled with half a dozen agitated Minbari. Methos whirled on them. "Where were you?" he cried in Minbari. "Entil'zha is attacked and nearly killed, and you were asleep!" He carried on in this vein until Amgwath was carried away to be locked up, and Sinclair was escorted to a place of healing, where his wound was treated. Methos went with him, to make sure he was taken care of.
An hour or so later, Sinclair was bandaged and resting. Methos cast an eye into his room, to make sure that he was asleep, and then left.
But Sinclair wasn't asleep, just resting with his eyes closed. Only scarce minutes after Methos had checked on him, he recalled something he had left undone in his office, got up, and left.
The door to his office was ajar. When he peered in, he was surprised to see Alex moving a float-pallet towards the centre of the room.
"Why did you have to go and die, Richie?" Alex grumbled, addressing the corpse on the floor.
Richie? Sinclair wondered. And wondered again, because Alex sounded annoyed, and not at all grief-stricken.
Alex lifted up Richie and pulled his dead weight onto the pallet. "There you are, getting all the heroics, and I'm left with the sneaking around, left to tidy up your mess," Alex continued, arranging Richie's arms across his chest. "Didn't Duncan teach you anything? Actually, that's a stupid question, of course he taught you. He taught you to charge in where angels fear to tread." He paused, and his voice trembled with his next words. "Thank the gods you did, though. Thank the gods you did."
Sinclair was not expecting what happened next, though he should have. Alex's head snapped up, alerted by some sound, and he opened the door, whirled and pinned Sinclair to the wall before he'd taken two breaths.
"Jeff!" he exclaimed, letting him go again. "I'm sorry! I didn't realize -"
Sinclair held up his hands with a rueful smile. "You were always impossible to sneak up on, Alex. I just came to get something. Looks like you did too. Would you like a hand?"
Alex looked uncomfortable. "No." He stood in the doorway. "You should be resting."
"He was my friend too, Alex," Sinclair said. "However little time I knew him for. He saved my life! At least let me help with his body!"
"No," Alex said again.
"Why?" Sinclair frowned. What on earth was it between those two?
A gasp and a cough came from the centre of the room.
Alex rolled his eyes. "That's why," he said resignedly.
Sinclair turned towards the source of the noise. It was Magill - Tandy - Richie - whoever he was. He was breathing. He was alive. Sinclair pushed past Alex and took two stunned steps towards the man on the pallet.
"Narakarr," he murmured, staring. "She was right. She was right after all."
Life returned with a rush of pain. And the awareness that there was another immortal nearby. Richie opened his eyes, sat up, and drew his sword in one motion. And nearly skewered Sinclair with it, as he was leaning over him.
"It's all right, it's all right, it's over," Sinclair said, wide-eyed with alarm, but softly, as one would when trying to calm down a homicidal sword-waving loony.
Richie took in the room at a glance. The other immortal was Methos. He himself was sitting on a float-pallet. There was no sign of Amgwath. And Sinclair's arm was wrapped in a bandage.
"You're hurt! What happened?" He looked at Methos and continued without pausing for breath, "When did you get here? How long was I...?"
"Not long enough," Methos answered dryly, rolling his eyes towards Sinclair.
First Delenn, then Garibaldi, now Sinclair knew. "Aw man... it just isn't my week," Richie muttered as he stood and sheathed his sword.
"No it isn't," Methos agreed. "You have to go."
"No," Richie shook his head and set his jaw stubbornly. "The Gathering is here," Richie pointed to the floor. "The Gathering is now. Do you think I'm just going to walk away?"
"Don't be pig-headed - you died," Methos pointed out.
"He saved my life doing it," Sinclair interjected.
"You don't understand -" Methos began. He could have been addressing Sinclair or Richie, but it was Richie who responded.
"This isn't Earth," Richie stated. "I'm not going to be burned as a witch - or dissected."
"No - just adulated as a Narakarr," Methos countered. "Which would be almost as bad."
"I'm not going to -" Sinclair began.
"No, you wouldn't," Methos conceded. "But you weren't the only one who saw him dead." The guards who had come would have seen, even if they didn't know who Richie was.
"Well, what's another secret?" Sinclair asked rhetorically.
Methos looked thoughtfully at Sinclair. "You would order silence?"
Order silence? Richie thought. Aha.
"It's good to have a happy secret for a change," Sinclair said. "Not just dark ones." His mouth quirked, and he said to Richie, "I take it you aren't really Shad Tandy either."
Richie shrugged, and smiled wryly. "Richie Ryan. Richard Ryan if you want to be formal." He sighed. "But you're wrong," he added dourly. "There's darkness enough in Immortals."
"But who put it there?" Methos queried pointedly.
"You don't know that They started the Game," Richie countered.
"But it fits what we know about Them," Methos declared.
"Who are They?" Sinclair asked. "And what is this Game?"
"They are the Shadows," Methos answered. At Sinclair's sharp look he added, "I told Richie something about them yesterday. The Game..."
"The Game," Richie explained, "is an elimination contest. Literally. The last Immortal alive wins."
"You kill each other?" Sinclair exclaimed. He glanced at the spot on the floor where Richie had lain - dead - before. "How can you kill an Immortal?"
Richie tapped his sheathed sword. "Decapitation," he said succinctly. "We duel to the death."
Duel? Sinclair thought. With swords? Dissociated facts and impressions about the two men in front of him suddenly coalesced into one inescapable conclusion. 'If he's an old enemy, he'll try to kill me.' The sword. His air. His strange recent behaviour. He looked at Richie. He looked at the man he had called Alex. He couldn't be one too - could he?
Sinclair turned to Methos. "You seem to know a great deal about Immortals," he said pointedly.
Methos shrugged and gave a half-smile. "I'm a scholar. I know many things that have been forgotten."
"Do you know how one can tell if someone is immortal - without killing them?" Sinclair asked, gazing challengingly at Methos.
Their eyes locked. The seconds ticked over, and then Methos gave an almost-perceptible nod. "I do," he said. He took out his hidden sword. "You do it like this," he added, and held up the sword with one hand, while he pressed the other palm against the sharp edge of the blade. He winced slightly at the pain. The cut was clean, and bled redly. By the time he held it out to Sinclair, the bleeding had stopped. Sinclair took the hand and looked at it. There was no cut. There was no scar.
Sinclair looked back at the face of his friend. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Self-preservation," Methos answered, "is an old habit."
"How old a habit?" Sinclair asked softly.
"Older than Valen," Methos answered. "Older than Moses." He hesitated, then continued, "I'm known as Methos. I'm the oldest still alive. That makes me a target. That's why I usually don't tell even other immortals my real name." He smiled slightly. "I prefer Adam anyway."
Sinclair's eyes widened. "You're not -"
"I'm not that old!" Methos laughed. "Besides, immortals can't have children."
"Perhaps I should be surprised," Sinclair remarked, "at how young you still are."
Methos smiled. "You are living proof," he said, "that age and wisdom are not inextricably linked."
"From you, I'll take that as a compliment."
"It was meant to be one."
They were silent for a moment.
"How many of you are there?" Sinclair asked with a tinge of bewilderment, as if immortals were liable to be springing up around him like mushrooms.
"From what I've observed," Methos answered, "all the immortals on Minbar are here in this room. So far. But there will be more to come."
"The Gathering is here?" Sinclair repeated the words Richie had used earlier.
"There's a lot to explain," Methos said. He gestured at the table with the chairs around it. "Let's have a cup of tea," he suggested.
"Just one thing," Richie said as they started towards the table. "How do I join your mettir?" The Minbari word meant 'watching together'.
"Rangers," Sinclair corrected. "I ask you to," he answered. He glanced at Methos. "It seems you've already been seconded by Alex," he said dryly. He smiled. "Tell Delenn the next time you see her that the answer to her question is 'yes'."
Ah, Richie mouthed soundlessly.
"The formalities can come later," Sinclair said. He held out his hand, and they shook. "Welcome to the Rangers." Sinclair laughed suddenly, as a thought occurred to him. "I've thought of a code-name for you already," he declared.
"What?" Richie asked.
Methos smiled. "Perfect," he said.
"I should dye my hair," Richie muttered.
"Still won't change your temper," Methos teased. "Or your firey soul."
Later, the two immortals were walking together.
"Are you going to tell Duncan?" Methos asked.
"He's not my nursemaid!" Richie snapped.
"That isn't what I meant," Methos said calmly. "I meant about the Game."
"Why haven't you told him yourself?"
"He'd think I was being condescending."
Richie snorted. "He'd think I was being a fool."
"Guess he won't listen to either of us, then."
They walked on, amidst the the water and the crystal buildings.
"I'll tell him," Richie said at last. "Discreetly. But he won't come. They mean too much to him."
"He'll come," Methos said with certainty. "Eventually. I just hope it's sooner rather than later. We need all the help we can get." He looked up at the sky, in all its bright paleness, a thin envelope of air against the emptiness of space. "One needs legends to fight legends."
"It's a good thing we are legendary, then, isn't it?" Richie replied. He also looked up at the sky. He'd been living so long with the fate of the world - was the fate of the galaxy that big a step up? He smiled, wryly. Knights of the round table, indeed! But still. Still... There was a rightness about it. Whatever the future held, he'd found his place in it.
(a few weeks later)
Richie stepped into the room, wearing the brown cloak of a Ranger, but he did not yet have an Isil'zha. He carried a long thin bundle wrapped in white silk - and there was no sword at his side.
Jeff Sinclair looked up.
"Entil -" Richie began. "Jeff." He hesitated. "They said we have to give up something precious to us."
For the Rebirth Ceremony.
"I'd like you to have this." He held out the bundle to Sinclair.
Jeff took it, and unwrapped the silk carefully. It was Richie's Toledo Rapier. He was surprised, and yet not surprised.
"I know how much -" Jeff began, but Richie interrupted him.
"No," he said sharply, "you don't." He took a deep breath, and smiled nervously. "Confession time. That's the other half of what we have to do, isn't it?"
Sinclair looked at him with sympathy.
"I'm terrified," Richie said. "Giving that up," he glanced at the sword, "it's like cutting off my arm. Never went anywhere without it. What I was taught. My only safety lay in that bit of steel and my own skill. I was welded to that thing like a Siamese twin. Because of the Game." He clenched his fists at his side. "And it was a lie. All that killing." He shuddered. "And sometimes, sometimes I even enjoyed it." He shook his head. "And here I am, throwing away the only constant of my life." He looked at the floor, and then up again. "I'm terrified," he said again. "Just because the Game is a lie, doesn't mean that someone won't come for my head. Funny, isn't it?" Richie laughed darkly. "An immortal being afraid of death."
"Is that really what you're afraid of?" Jeff asked. "Or are you just afraid of change?"
Richie shook his head vehemently. "No," he said. "Someone has to stop it," he continued. "Someone has to take the first step."
"Renewal disguised as defeat," Jeff quoted.
Richie smiled wanly. "I hope so."
"That should be enough," Jeff nodded. "Hope does not fail us."
Richie raised an eyebrow. "Faith manages?"
Jeff smiled. "Always."
(This first appeared on the Babylon 5 fiction mailing list <email@example.com>)
Now that it's done, a million thanks to Annie Hamilton, Rebecca Koole and Mary Richards. Thanks also to Felicia Le Cou, Trudy Gold, Nola Frame-Gray and Devious Brownies. I couldn't have done it without your help (at least, not half so well!) And thanks to everyone else who commented on it.
Just a few notes for the obsessive among you.
First, many of the names in this story mean something. I have used the Hamilton interpretation of Babylon 5 names for most of them, basing them on a variant of Elvish.
- Collin Magill - cloaked sword
- Shad Tandy - soul of a warrior
- Anthony Gurth - gift of death
- Banavir - half-wise
- Unar - honour, not-fire
- Predo Bazir - proud fool
- Ashnal - fire-wise lord
- Amgwath - ill wind (overtones of doom and shadow)
- narrakar - fire-soul or soul of fire
- zahakar - maw of souls, hence, devourer of souls
- mettir - together-watch
- Aldwin - old friend (from Old English) It also means "star wizard" or "tree wizard", which is probably a good name for an Immortal!
The reason I picked "fire" to refer to immortals is that there isn't a word for "lightening" in Elvish. "sky-fire" would have been closer I suppose, but "fire" was less clumsy.
It is interesting to note that "Ryan" could be taken as a pun on "raen" which means "to wander or stray". "Richie", however, doesn't mean anything in Elvish. Neither does "Richard". The closest is "ril chil" which means "heir of brilliance". On the other hand, if you break up "Methos" into "met-hos" it means either "last waterfall" or "together-fortress". Interesting, yes?
Shikasta was taken from the name of the planet written about by Doris Lessing.
Ray was taken from the Steven J Cannell show, "Stingray" (as distinct from the Gerry Anderson production of the same name). I thought he was such a cool character (as well as being of mysterious and unknown origins) that he would make a good immortal.
John Kerrin, the fellow who was being interviewed on the TV at the start, was actually John Kirin/Cage from the Highlander episode "Blind Faith". I figured that he could well be leading religious groups right through to 2259 - why not?
So the immortals appearing or mentioned are:
- Collin Magill / Shad Tandy / Anthony Gurth / Richie Ryan,
- John Kerrin / John Kirin / Cage,
- Ray Aldwin / Ray lots-of-names,
- Duncan Macleod (of the House Maklood),
- Alvar Mahady / Shem Singh,
- Alex Proscurios / Adam Pierson / Methos.
--- Jenny Hayward.