Upon waking, Susan knew that she would be walking into the eye of the hurricane. She did not know that the captain had drafted Garibaldi into his madness and supposed that she would have to deal with him as well as Marcus and Delenn. Of the last two she knew not who to fear most. She was certain that Stephen knew but this was also one of those times he could not intervene. Fannol told her of Talia's actions and response so whatever she saw was enough to curb any surprise that the days events might reveal. None of the War Council knew their actions were being so closely monitored and reported on. If they did, Susan would feel even more dread about facing the day. While Fannol did not know what she saw, she was absolutely certain he would support her. She had not considered what she would do or how she would act when the others noticed that the captain had gone missing. She did not know how long the journey would take or how far out of range he would be when they found out. This also distressed her. The others would try to send a search party after him. She would have to stand firm and ground all ships from pursuit. Today she needed to be tough as nails Commander Susan Ivanova AND Anla'Shok Ivanova if she was to get through it with a portion of her wits.

Susan also knew that in the captain's absence she would not be able to run C&C. She would need to meet with Corwin first thing to give him his temporary promotion. But she wouldn't refer to it that way. She knew others would think that he would not return. This is where the madness would start. It is absolutely imperative that no one out side their group know where he went. For the power base would crumble and they would loose this war surely. When she was dressed she sat for a few moments quietly and then turned to her friend,

"Fannol?"

"Yes"

"Thank you for last night. I did not intend to wake you. Or the entire ship for that matter."

"I was awaken during your nightmare. The screams did not wake me. I felt your distress."

"Wow. That's got to be more than you bargained for when you decided to be my friend."

"You do not hear me complaining. I had my own demons."

"The captain has left us. It will be maybe 3 hours before anyone misses him but no longer."

This was a surprise to Fannol. But, he feared exactly where he went. He felt dread and pain.

"I can see I've caused you more distress with that revelation. I did not want you blind sided when you heard the news. Do you see the impending madness?"

"Quite clearly now." He did not want to ask the question but it was burning in his heart.

"Yes, he went to the place I mentioned yesterday. Not to serve but to fight. Rest easy on that. Though I suspect some might think that little of him."

"I doubt anyone in their right mind, anyone who has met John Sheridan would think that."

"He has changed so much since the mission. He saw this. He knew. He worked for months to build, organize, delegate and prepare because he knew the burden would be mine now. A heavy burden."

"None that you can not shoulder. I have confidence in you. You must project that confidence to others."

"Will you stay?"

"Yes. You can not sent me away this time." he aimed a saucy smile at her and she beamed in return.

"Entil'Zha Sinclair knew this. He told me I was called to serve and to lead the Army of Light and that the Anla'Shok and Tuzanor would be my strength. After the mission, John and I sat in the chapel for hours and finally he turned to me and said that he wouldn't be here always and that I would have to lead in his absence. The things I see are not kind. I think I see too much."

"You see what you are destined to see. That cannot change and you should not want it to. Entil'Zha Sinclair is wise and he knew exactly what he was doing when he chose you. He knew what he was saying when he gave prophecy of your future. You know this."

"I'm afraid that I lean on you too much. You council me and I give nothing in return."

"You are my friend. You always give friendship. There is no contest to see who is the better friend, we are equals."

"Will you stand in front of me when Entil'Zha Delenn finds out that the man she loves is gone? And that I did not tell her. She heard my screams in the War Room, I think they heard me on Minbar. She will know what I saw, that what I reacted to was his fate."

"She will be upset. That is not your fault. You see was is to come, you do not create it. He had a choice and he embraced his destiny. You've said as much, correct?"

"Yes, he embraced it. I think he's the one person around here who's prayed more than I have in the last 8 months. So, is there anything you want to do in particular while here. We just happen to have two vacant seats on the War Council." Morbid humor isn't lost on Minbari.

"I will do whatever is required of me. I will serve where I am needed."

"Well, you have to know I need you, but I want you to be happy here--or as happy as is possible on this station. I don't know if people have told you but strange things happen here ALL the time."

"I'll consider it a learning experience" was drawled out followed by a snort of laughter. She couldn't help it and responded.

"So, do I look like I woke the dead last night or can I pass as a tough officer who won't take crap from anyone."

"Definitely the later."

"Ok, let's go. And remember, the food's much better on the White Stars than the station ok?"

"Thanks for the tip"

Ivanova sent a message to Corwin asking that he meet her in the captain's office 20 minutes before his shift started. Fannol decided to head over to his ship and take care of some business before shuttling down to the station.

When Corwin first entered the captain's office he was surprised not to find him there.

"No, you're just meeting with me not the captain"

"Alright mam."

"With the war heating up its not going to be possible for me to run C&C on a daily basis. I'm going to be out on the White Star in the fighting plus I have other duties with the Council and the Anla'Shok.

Corwin was surprised but not by what she thought. He really didn't expect that she would be out in the thick of the fighting. [I don't understand the Rangers as well as I thought I did. She's too important to be in battle.]

"Anyway, for the foreseeable future I'm gonna need you to take over all C&C operations. Basically do my job. Feel free to be as mean as you want to." That made her laugh and him blanch. [she wants ME to act as station second in command??]

"I'm honored but I don't know that I have your----presence and definitely not your experience."

"Well, its war time. Consider this a baptism by fire. You'll do it and you'll screw some things up til you know not to do it again. Ask questions if you have them but I'll be in C&C about as much as John. Which means hardly ever unless I want something." She smiled at that.

Corwin couldn't help laughing at that statement 'cause it was the truth. "Alright mam, I'll do my best."

"Good, keep this under you hat for a few days til I take care of moving some other people around. I don't want people coming to me with an attitude because they didn't get moved to a spot they liked. Also, remember that everyone on this station is not a friend of the station." She gave him a knowing look so that he would feel the weight of her meaning and he did.

"Ok, good luck and get out." She outright laughs in his face. {I gotta have some amusement.}

Susan's day was full, thankfully the captain had anticipated her situation early on and was determined to buy her as much time as possible. He spoke but rarely at the League world council meetings, delegating that to her several months ago. He kept very busy but he kept moving and didn't have a set schedule that people would notice. Except the Anla'Shok. And that was were her problem lay.

White Star 3 was not the only group of Anla'Shok tested over the night. They were all unsure what was happening to the collective leadership of the Army of Light. Once Susan and Fannol headed to the shuttle bay Anla'Shok on board had their fingers poised to send immediate reports of their departure to both the station and White Star 14. Station Rangers were just about as weary as the Rangers orbiting it. They were all convinced that both Ivanova's condition and the captain's overnight stay with the Vorlon were signs that things were about to get very difficult. They would not be prepared for what they found out. For the captain's plan to work they would all have to believe that he was still with the Vorlon and that Garibaldi was still checking the ship. That would not hold for long because if the Rangers felt he were gone too long, even for a perfectionist, they would start asking questions and then set out in search of him. When the captain didn't appear to monitor the situation, they would know that they were had. It would not be pretty.

If Mai'lenn thought that Lennier's disturbing report of Entil'Zha and Marcus' all night tear filled prayer vigil was a bad sign, learning what occurred late in the night on White Star 3 sent her mind over the edge. She, like all the other Rangers, firmly believe that Anla'Shok Ivanova dreams the future and what she is seeing does not bode well for any of them. (if they only knew what other secrets White Star 3 was keeping for their captain) Once learning that Fannol was on Minbar reacting the same way, she knew there was serious trouble. All of these things she included in her report to Durhan. Durhan is a Master at many things, he did not show the dread that he felt for Susan and the others. He was hoping Fannol would be able to protect her and by all accounts he is, but there are many things unknown to all those outside the War Council and its those things that cause them all the most concern. Once the secured connection was closed Sech Durhan went off in search of his brethren with an extremely heavy heart.

Fannol had no idea that his crew were monitoring him once he arrived on board. Perhaps, if he had he would have worked much harder to conceal his distress. Not only did he have his own demons to wrestle, but it became crystal clear to him once he jumped into station orbit that a deeper connection between he and Susan exists. As a protector it is a benefit to have a quasi empathic connection with your principle. As a friend, it is a heavy burden. He was pleased that she gave him warning of what was to come and time to adjust to it before the others. Not only was it a sign of her trust in him, but of her regard for him as well. Fannol believed that he had a better understanding of what would happen in the days ahead, especially with the Rangers. Susan would be focused on the station, the League and the war. Marcus has double duty as Entil'Zha's personal protector and as a member of the War Council. It may be a heavy burden for him to add overseeing station Ranger duties. He would watch and observe very carefully in the days ahead to be sure. The wild card is Entil'Zha. She commands the Rangers and if she should get it into her head to follow the captain without knowledge of Susan's prophecies, it could be disaster for all. He would observe her as well. Finally, Susan. He would need to be close to her in case Russian does not come to her in her dreams, least others outside the Council learn of his location. That can not be allowed to happen.

Lennier could not sleep the entire night. He could barely pray because he feared closing his eyes too long. In these times, the possibilities of harm to this group is unlimited. Now that the day has come, his concerns grew. Now they would be leaving the controlled environment and his immediate watchful eye. Yes, the Rangers assured him there will be better security for her now, but they did not see what he did throughout the night. What could move Marcus Cole to tears is beyond anything he wanted to imagine. Delenn is strong, she is Satai, but last night she was merely hanging on to her sanity. Whatever they have seen or felt is tearing them all apart. If they are the leaders and they are acting this way, everyone else will descend into madness.

Susan Ivanova carried out most of her daily duties with little disruption. {so far so go} She knew she was going to have to call a Council meeting, she knew if she were to have any credibility she would have to do it before the others found out he was gone. She decided to hold it at 14:00 {that's my lucky number with Durhan right?} and pray that station Rangers would not notice White Star Prime was not in its designated parking space. She considered trickery by projecting a false image of the ship but if found out, it would cause more harm than good. "Maybe I could work with Talia on projecting false images of the captain at various places on the station? Nah, it'd never work." With that thought in mind she sent messages to all her friends telling them the designated time of the meeting. She also thought that today would be a good day for a jamming device. {of course if Delenn starts hollering, they'll hear her in the Zocolo} Let me take the temperature.

~Marcus~

~hey~

~hey yourself. hope I'm not bothering you~

~no, its no bother. Are YOU alright?~

~yeah~

~you had to think about that~

~yes. seriously I'm ok~

~what's on the program for today~

~you know me. BRIEF meeting at 14:00.

~that works for me~

~if you ever need anything or want to talk...we don't need line of sight~

~no we don't. but it'll be kinda hard with you living on White Star 3 now~

~uh, no it won't~

~excuse me?????~

~ motar and beam~

~touche~

~see ya~

~bye~

~Talia?~

~Susan?~

~ok how many other telepaths do you chat with on station~

~funny girl~

~sorry about yesterday. Fannol told me you got hurt, I'm really sorry~

~don't. you didn't do it and you don't ask to see what you see~

~thanks. uh, you know whatever you saw is a secret right? You may not have seen everything in context, its pretty long~

~i don't need to know more than I do. my respect level for you is grown 10x if this is the kind of thing you deal with~

~thanks, yeah some times weeks, some times months at a time, just depends~

~In Valen's name! I had no idea~

~don't worry. seriously, take it to your grave or better, forget about it~

~you ok~

~yeah. can you meet at 14:00 for a brief meeting~

~ha, sure I'll be there~

~see ya~

"Ivanova to Lennier"

"yes"

"is Entil'Zha free at 14:00?"

"yes"

"good. will you please ask her to attend a VERY brief meeting in the War Room."

"Yes, I will inform her. Thank you."

"Ivanova to Garibaldi"

"Garibaldi"

"hey brief meeting at 14:00 can you make it?"

"What's it about?"

"Gee, we're at war, we're on the War Council, we'll be meeting in a War Room."

"Its not nice to be a smart ass to the station's security chief."

"I don't drink coffee anymore, you have no power over me flat foot."

"Funny girl"

"Ok, you're the second person to say that to me today."

"Uh, Michael, if you want to get together and talk..."

"Sure"

"Ivanova out"

At 13:00 hours Susan decided that she would shuttle up to the White Star to have a few minutes in the chapel before starting the meeting. Amazing enough, or not so amazingly enough, prayer helped. She stepped out of the chapel feeling like her old self again and prepared to return to face what was ahead. She wasn't going to believe that wolf had been banished for life, but it had no hold on her now. Tonight she would meditate and clear her head. Susan also felt Fannol needed a break from her emotional distress. Things had reached a flash point so quickly she hadn't processed that she now had some kind of weird empathic connection to Fannol. {which would be a good thing when I'm not in the middle of a supernatural nutty}

Mai'lenn was concerned. Reports had come in on all the leaders. They seemed to have risen to their callings after the events of yesterday and throughout the night. But the captain was still with the Vorlon. "What does that mean?" White Star 3 notified her that Ivanova seemed calm when she arrived at 13:00 but proceeded straight to the chapel. A guard was stationed at the door and was surprised when she left 40 minutes later even more calm. All the crew were very pleased. What she did not realize is that no one was on the watch for White Star Prime during the night so they did not realize it was no longer in the private docking bay until after the meeting. Mr. Garibaldi had been spotted leaving the security office (strange no one saw him enter) at 13:45 heading for the War Room. "Yes, all is well for now. But we will still take up position and watch the room just in case."

Fannol felt calm. An unusual and overwhelming sense of calm came over him and he knew that Susan had prepared herself for the meeting. He realized that just as her extreme distress affected him, so did her peace. He counted it as a blessing for the moment and resolved to look into the matter later. The crew of White Star 14 were surprised by his sense of serenity as he headed to the shuttle bay. After his departure they reported in to both Mai'lenn and White Star 3. When White Star 3 reported Ivanova's actions and condition to White Star 14 they were confused that it made some sort of sense to them. None the less, White Star 14 was simply relieved.

{Show time. Don't fidget and don't pace. You scare them enough already} As soon as she felt Marcus nearing the War Room with Delenn she thought she better give him a head's up.

~stay close to Delenn-be ready for anything~

~that doesn't sound good~

~faith manages~

One by one they all came in and took their seats. It took a few minutes to get settled as everyone seemed to remember the last time they were there. Everyone except Marcus. Anla'Shok enhanced senses saw that Sheridan was not in the room. [this isn't gonna be good]

Susan didn't give anyone any time. Though a quick look told her that Stephen was well aware of what was to be said here. The shocker was that Michael seemed too calm. {oh, he knows something. I bet he knows everything. There's no way John could have pulled this off alone! How long was he in on it? Couldn't have been long. Good, one less person coming for my head.} Once everyone was seated she went right for it repeating the words she used with Fannol,

"This meeting will be as brief as we need it to be. The captain has left us." And then she waited while understanding set in. Marcus was on Delenn so quick it would have been funny if the situation weren't so dire. No one spoke but as her words registered all eyes shifted to Delenn and everyone held their breaths waiting. For what no one was quite sure. Finally she spoke more to herself than anyone in the room,

"I should have loved him less and trusted him more."

Talia's eyes were closed and Susan knew she was praying her little heart out. Marcus was on auto pilot. Giving whatever he had to Delenn and thinking of himself later. Thankful for no grief stricken outbursts Susan plowed on.

"So there is no confusion and to ease your hearts, he went to Z'ha'dum to fight, not to serve them. Darkness called and Light answered." That was the truth but probably too much truth because Delenn leveled a mild attack,

"You knew. You knew what was to come and did not say anything. Did not warn us. Did not stop him!"

"Yes. I knew. I warned him. I did not stop him because I was not supposed to. I chose not to try to stop him because it had to be." Seeing all eyes looking to her questioningly,

"Each are called according to their purpose in this life. The righteous answer the call. He has known for months what was to come. Since the mission, he knew. That is when he started changing...preparing himself. He saw what was to be for him and he accepted it. He did not leave us empty handed or unprepared." "He started rearranging both of our schedules months ago to buy me more time---buy us more time before others learned of his disappearance. He's very crafty and I didn't even realize how he rearranged my schedule for today just for that purpose. We all had our moment of breakdown which I am fully aware is my fault. I do not have control over how I 'share' information with this group or when it is forced from me. I am sorry for the distress I caused each of you yesterday."

"Now its time to be practical. The League worlds will look to us to see how we handle this. Their governments put their ships under his direct chain of command and bowed to his authority. Realizing this, he slowly turned over leadership to me. If you notice he attended League meetings but rarely and only if he had to speak on something specific. All other dealings with them have been through me. He insisted that I work closely with their ambassadors and heads of governments to prove my ability early. He insisted that I command the Fleet these last few months so that they would recognize my authority. That is still no guarantee that they will not turn tail and run. Kosh and I need to have a walk through the Zocolo so that they understand that Vorlon commitment was to the Army of Light as a whole and not just to Captain Sheridan.

An explanation for his absence will need to be given. He didn't leave me a memo on how to do that, neither did the Universe. We can not let madness destroy the coalition he built.

I have a list of some things that we have to consider. Minbar is first. The situation there is getting out of hand. Civil war could destroy us. We all know that Minbar is the foundation for this fight against the Shadows. Michael, Stephen and I are wanted by Earth Gov for treason and a host of other charges. Talia still has a price on her head. We will find no safe quarter there. Delenn, you must do whatever you can to unite Minbar. You are the only one. That I have also seen. I knew a year before it happened that you would be the one to break the Grey Council, I saw it. That speech you gave was stirring, it was beautiful. I saw and heard everything that you did in the Council Chamber before I went to Minbar...before I became Anla'Shok. So I know you can do what needs to be done. I know it won't be easy. Your time is now. That path is yours alone to forge."

At this Delenn is visibly stunned as is everyone else in the room that Susan had access to that kind of information or saw things so clearly. {guess my credibility points are going up} Somewhat in a daze she simply nods at this so Susan continues,

"Entil'Zha usually travel on War Cruisers for the obvious reasons. This needs to change. Its time to unwrap White Star 2 and take her out of the box. First, the crew of White Star Prime no longer have a ship or duties. They can't be expected to wander the station indefinitely. I propose that they become your crew. They have watched over the captain for many months. Nothing you do on board will surprise them and I feel they will quickly adjust to any of your wishes. I don't know how long it would take to get the ship here." At this Susan turns to Fannol

"I anticipated something like this. It should be here within the hour."

"Good. Thank you." She can't help beaming at him. {he always knows what I need}

"Both the Rangers and station personnel need White Star 2 as a symbol. They need to see that leadership continues." "Fannol, in the absence of White Star Prime will you allow White Star 14 to remain in orbit indefinitely and provide support?"

"Of course." They both smile at each other tenderly and nod.

"Thank you. Next the station Rangers. Marcus you have duties here on the Council as well as those specifically to Entil'Zha. Do you have any objection to having Fannol work with you, assist you?"

"No. I think that's a good idea." He turns to Fannol, "We'll get together after the meeting and work something out."

"Good. Fannol, your report was aborted prematurely, we need to start placing telepaths on our ships. Talia, I think you would be the best one to review what we have and make the proper placements. All the telepaths here are already used to taking orders from you. You also have the most experience and knowledge of telepaths from League worlds. We aren't going to go public with this yet, but we need you to start gathering information and creating some sort of plan to get telepaths equal to P5s from those worlds on our ships. Its your show, do what you think is best."

Talia is a little stunned but realizes she shouldn't be. She's been given great leeway on many assignments before but Susan just said she will be in charge of all the telepaths for the Fleet.

"Sure, I'll start working on it."

Susan nods and turns back to the group,

"I think those of us here need to go out on a test run to see just what kind of effect our Psi abilities make.

Stephen, is there any reason you can't be on a White Star when it directly engages a Shadow ship?"

At this, he adopts his now familiar impassive mask and says nothing.

"Let me rephrase that. If or when you wish to be on a White Star when it directly engages a Shadow ship just show up." Apparently that was the correct way to phrase it because he simply nodded and gave a tiny smile.

"Thanks. Rangers again. They will suspect that White Star Prime did not returned to the docking bay soon. Their actions in locating it or investigating will draw attention to the captain. May give those within other races who are weak at heart cause to panic. Think on how we will inform them. It is not time to tell them where he went. They, along with everyone else, will need to know but it isn't time."

This causes Fannol obvious confusion the others are right behind him. To their questioning expressions she answers,

"John Sheridan still lives. This I am absolutely certain of. What he does at Z'ha'dum is crucial for our efforts. It will open the door we need. It will be significant. We will have little time to react to it and to capitalize on it. Most people are not stupid. Once he does as he planned, once they notice his absence, they will put the two together and know it was him." "Everyone is aware that no one returns from there alive."

"There will be no need to hide it. The Rangers must not get it into their heads to go after him. No one on this Council must get it into their heads to follow. He accepted this long ago. He worked hard to prepare. His actions over the last few months have not gone unnoticed by any of the Rangers, in time hopefully, they will see that as well."

Talia asks,

"How did he know when to go? He didn't seem like...I don't know."

"Good question. He knew the time for certain when the Shadow agent arrived. That was the call of Darkness. That was his cue to begin. That was also why I had no warning of her coming. The Universe has a plan that must not be interrupted. If I had warning of her arrival I would have opened forward guns and blown her ship apart as soon as it cleared the jump gate without a word to anyone. Had I done that, I would have interfered with the work he was intended. With the path he was to walk."

This causes everyone to sit silently for some time simply digesting her words. There wasn't a person in the room who doubted that Susan Ivanova would have done exactly as she said. This was the first thing to make any of them laugh in 24 hours. Then they thought of the last thing she said and were about to let loose on the questions. She knew she had to stop that.

Holding up a hand, "No. Don't ask me that. I can't speak of that. Not yet."

Taking a deep breath and exhaling she prepared for the next part they definitely won't like.'

"That's brings us to me. Entil'Zha Sinclair warned me a long time ago that the Shadows would want me once they knew my name. There are other things about me, things I can do, things I don't even know I can do that would be a great benefit to them. That is the reason that my telepathy and 'other' were kept a secret for as long as possible.

They know my name now. Their agent got too close to me when she was here. She figured it out. First she asked me to join saying that there was a place for someone like me. When I refused, she warned me to watch my back. They won't ask me the next time."

Fannol does not like this one bit. [This is something I should have been told immediately!] It also causes the others to shift uncomfortably in their seats. Just as they were each coming to terms with Sheridan's departure and beginning to accept the need to get down to business, she springs this on them. There is grave concern coming off of everyone in waves at the thought of her being taken or what would happen if she were with them. Fannol levels her with his strongest 'we are going to fight about this later' look.

"Rest easy. I will die before I serve. I will take my own life before I allow them to use me." Then she turns to Stephen with an apology in her eyes,

"Stephen, I'm sorry to have to do this to you. We need to discuss some things in private. There is no one else I can turn to. Forgive me."

This statement really raises the anxiety level in the room. The only sound heard is Marcus gasp as he shakes his head.

Stephen thinks about it for a few moments and then turns to her,

"Give me some time to work it through and we'll get together."

Fannol looks like he is going to blow a fuse.

"Susan"

"Yeah, I know. You are extremely displeased with me. I am familiar with that tone and the look. We'll talk later."

"I believe the appropriate human response is, 'hell yes'."

"You're learning." Susan turns back to the group in general and still sees the looks of concern and down right fear. {let's move along people}

"Now, I've talked enough and probably left some things out. Does anyone have questions or suggestions on any of the things I said? Any of the things from the TOP of the list rather than the bottom."

Sensing the need to get Susan out of the hot seat and feeling guilty for his part in the coming drama, Michael decides to confess.

"I think both the Rangers and C&C will have a big problem with me within the hour." This does the trick cause all eyes are focused on Michael Garibaldi and he's trying to prepare to take it like a man but he really doesn't want Delenn's wrath or disapproval.

"I helped with the 'get away' so to speak. The Rangers will know that I had a part in his leaving because I ordered White Star Prime to dock and off load all crew. Told them I felt in my heart that I had a responsibility to personally check the ship over from stem to stern for the captain's safety. With everything else that was going on, they actually bought it. Our actions this past week haven't exactly gone unnoticed and Rangers are neither stupid nor blind. I also had C&C prepared with a bogus report that I was out checking the jump engines and escape pods."

The entire room is looking at him like he's either the bravest man in the galaxy or simply suicidal. He plows on,

"Anyway I can get protection from them?" He has the nerve to smirk, but he's feeling the gravity of the situation. Talia to the rescue.

"Susan already told us that this was his plan for months. That he was preparing for it. I am certain you did not know all this time. In fact, I know in my heart that he didn't tell you anything until almost the last minute. So, NONE of us are going to ask any questions about what you talked about. If he wanted us to know he would have told us. He didn't so its not our business." {she's good}

Michael looks like he can't decide whether to kiss her or offer up his first born,

"Yes, you're right. I won't talk about it. I swore I would take it to my grave. The ONLY reason I'm telling you all this much is because the Rangers and C&C were lied to. By me, and rather convincingly."

Susan can only smile at him. Only Michael Garibaldi could do something like that and she lets him know it,

"You have got to be the most powerful, sneakiest or smartest man in the universe. I'm not going to even ask how you came up with the plan. But, I have some pull with C&C. Actually I turned over all operation to Corwin first thing this morning. He's unofficially the second in command of the station. He's keeping it quiet for a few days though. Don't worry folks I lied. That brings us back to the Rangers. Those on station and the grounded crew. Where'd you have White Star Prime docked?"

"Private bay next to Kosh."

"Why do I see the symmetry in that? Ok let's do it this way." At that she activates her link.

"Ivanova to C&C"

"C&C go ahead"

"Some time today White Star 2 will enter orbit. As soon as it does, inform them that Delenn requires they dock in the private bay near Kosh's ship and to hold position until she makes contact. Please inform me as soon as she hits orbit. Inform NO ONE else or I will personally come up there and re-educate you on chain of command protocols the Ivanova way."

"Understood. C&C out." Susan smiles wide and laughs hearing the fear of Ivanova in his voice.

"Sorry about that Entil'Zha. It was necessary and true, if not a bit misdirecting."

Delenn can't help herself. She sees what Susan implied. She smiles.

"I understand. Now how do we go about meeting with the crew that was off loaded?" she pauses considering and evidently decides,

"Mr. Garibaldi, I assume in your....subterfuge you made the arraignments for their quarters on the station."

Sheepishly, he blushes a little and nods his confirmation.

"Good. If you give me that information, I will contact them as soon as we are notified of White Star 2's arrival and inform them to pack and head to the docking bay they landed in last night. I am not sure what I will tell them about their new assignment."

Silent for most of the meeting, Marcus finally speaks

"You are Entil'Zha. Simply tell them that is their new assignment and they will obey. I can promise that within moments of you closing the connection it will hit the Ranger grape vine and all those on station and in orbit will know. That brings us back to when we tell them the captain is....gone."

Stephen pipes in,

"I think they'll figure that out either once they hear the ship arrived or as soon as they enter the docking bay & see White Star Prime isn't there anymore."

Michael chimes in,

"Yeah, I think we got that. Not to sound selfish but that brings things back to me. I seriously think I'm going to need to enter some kind of Anla'Shok protection program."

At this all the previous tension in the room dies as everyone laughs...knowing that on some level it is the truth.

Susan gets her self together then,

"I think we should all act as though we all knew he would be leaving. That it is no surprise and that this was all a part of our overall plan. That way you don't shoulder any of the heat alone. Some may not believe us. Michael appears to have been the only one who had his wits about him last night and it is a sign of your strength, commitment and your loyalty to John. White Star 3 will know I knew he left and that it wasn't for a 3 week stay in Tuzanor. But it doesn't matter, if we lead they will follow and none of them will challenge our 'misdirection'."

Again they laugh. It feels good and they all know it will be short lived. They also know that they must save their break downs for much later in private. Delenn must have channeled the Satai within because she's functioning better than Susan hoped. {when she cracks its gonna be bad}

"Susan is right. We must put on our...what is that term John uses? Ah, we must put on our game faces once we leave this room. I have much to consider concerning the right or best course of action for Minbar and how I might best facilitate unity. I can not show, even to the Rangers whose protection and loyalty I have, what I feel on the inside."

Fannol is accepting much of this as true but he is still not happy with Susan. Deciding to put those feeling aside for the time being,

"Rest assured Entil'Zha, they will do as directed. Know that I will assist you with the crew transition in any way you require."

Susan stares off into space for a full minute, eyes glazed over then snaps out of. But not before attracting everyone's attention or Fannol to her side,

"I'm fine. White Star 2 is approaching jumping range into orbit." This causes everyone's, except Fannol who stopped being surprised by her a long time ago, mouth to drop and eyes to go wide. He simply rolls his eyes. Susan ignores the rest and holds up her hand to forestall any questions. She links into all the Minbari ships in orbit.

"Ivanova to Minbari Fleet: By order of Entil'Zha, maintain your position and cease all ship to ship communication until further notice. No incoming or outgoing communication with the station or any persons on station is permitted other than to Entil'Zha or myself. No communication with ANY other ship is permitted until further notice. Shuttle bay doors are to remained closed. Ivanova out."

"Sorry about that Delenn. Don't think I throw your name around like that often. Today is the only time but I didn't have time to explain. That should cut down on the grape vine activity and buy you a few extra minutes."

Only slightly recovered from this new display of Susan's abilities, "I am not displeased. Your quick thinking and quick actions are needed. I suppose I should prepare the crew. Marcus will you assist me?"

"Of course." [why am I surprised? She already said she can communicate telepathically from the White Star!]

"C&C to Ivanova"

"Ivanova go"

"White Star 2 has jumped into station orbit. Directing them to docking bay as we speak."

"Good. Inform NO ONE. Don't make me come up there. Ivanova out."

"Fannol, will you greet White Star 2 once it docks and insure that no Rangers head out to it? I am certain once they find out they will attempt to use all their training to 'gather information'. With Susan's communication ban in effect, they will be more....diligent in their efforts."

This causes everyone to laugh because they all know it's the truth.

"Of course Entil'Zha. If I may be excused, I'll head there now." She smiles warmly at him and nods approval. Fannol turns to Susan without speaking, shakes his head and crosses his arms over his chest. (everyone watches the unMinbari like behavior with wonder) Susan takes the bait.

"Yes, yes. You are still extremely displeased with me and once you are able you will take an extensive amount of time explaining just how much!" Mildly frustrated that she tries to pin him in a glare but can't.

"Once again, Ivanova is right." Then he turns and leaves the room. Always helpful and eager to assist, Michael can't resist sing songing,

"Susan's gonna get it." Then cracks up laughing.

"Perhaps, Mr. Garibaldi, you might start looking into various Ranger Protection Programs now."

"Lighten up cause we all know its true." Ignoring him, though inwardly acknowledging the truth, she groans.

"If there's nothing else folks, we've got drama waiting and I've got a Vorlon to see." She snorts and heads for the door. Unaware that they are being observed by diligent and nosey little Rangers they all leave the room relaxed, laughing and chatting quietly amongst themselves.

Marcus isn't through with Susan though and a few minutes later can't resist.

~jumping range~

~talk to the wall~

They both laugh at this, causing Delenn to cast a discrete concerned glance in his direction.

~never gonna let me forget it~

~not as long as you give me grief~

~ok, that's fair~

~I know we need to talk. I guess you have things to say to me. Let's get through the rest of the day first~

~fine but now that I know how to get around the communication ban don't think you can hide on the White Star~

A few chuckles later Delenn is growing concerned for his mental health so he fills her in,

"Susan. We were just giving each other a hard time." As if that explained things! Delenn is very curious about Marcus' abilities because they aren't within sight range, aren't even in the same section of the station. Wisely remembering the way they both reacted to sharing their Psi ratings she is firm in her resolve not to inquire. [Susan can sense a ship coming into jumping range!!! Amazing]

"This is a good sign. They seem relaxed and themselves again." Mai'lenn muses out loud after monitoring them leave the conference room. She still needs to know the captain's condition and state of mind. The crew of White Star Prime have been extremely anxious and keep inquiring. [Its not like I can go to the Vorlon and ask if the captain is alright in its care] "Still, what can they be doing?" She decides to notify White Stars 3 & 14 that the meeting has ended just in case Ivanova or Fannol are planning to return to their ships. This is when the drama begins. After unsuccessful attempts to rouse anyone from any ship Mai'lenn is in full Anla'Shok mode. Fearing this is the result of some kind of attack or trap she rushes off to find her contact in C&C.

"I am unable to reach any of the Minbari ships orbiting the station. Is there a problem?"

Now getting a CLEAR understanding of Ivanova's orders, Corwin has nothing to say. [I am not stupid enough to cross Susan Ivanova. Fighting pike or not, you aren't ½ as scary as she is!!!!]

"Not that I am aware of. Nothing unusual, even for this place."

"Can you contact White Star 3 for me? Perhaps something is wrong with my communicator." Corwin thinks about this for a moment realizing he is very close to crossing a line he never wants to get near.

"Sure" After several attempts for each ship Mai'lenn is extremely agitated. Corwin, however, gets it. [Ivanova doesn't want them to know White Star 2 is here]

"Something MUST be wrong. Can you reach any ship? How about the Drazi liner?"

"I'll try" After making contact and thinking quickly of an excuse he breaks the connection. "Nope, nothing wrong with C&C com" [please go away] Mai'lenn is 'extremely displeased' with this situation and heads out of C&C after giving him a nod of thanks.

"What could be the problem? I must find Ivanova at once." Heading out she links to Susan's station Ranger to learn her location. Mai'lenn is now curious to learn she has gone to the Vorlon. "Perhaps she is checking in with the captain. He was not at the meeting so that seems reasonable." Unfortunately, Mai'lenn's Anla'Shok enhanced mental powers are starting to set off warning bells. [something is happening. whatever caused them such great distress yesterday must be here. But why are they so calm?]

Half way to Kosh's door Susan's link goes off,

"Mai'lenn to Ivanova"

"Ivanova here" {wondered how long it would take you}

"There seems to be some problem. I am unable to contact any of the Fleet in orbit. Even C&C is unable to raise any of our ships."

{Do I have to come up there and kick your ass Corwin?}

"Did C&C state there was a problem with station communications?"

"No. Lt. Corwin hailed a Drazi ship in orbit and it responded. He said there is nothing wrong with station systems. He was not very helpful."

{That's cause he wants to keep breathing. Or retain the ability to ingest solid food}

"Oh, I see what's going on. There's no problem. Entil'Zha Delenn issued a communications ban between ships and the station."

[WHAT???] "Why would she do that? Is there a problem?"

"You'll have to question Entil'Zha's orders with her directly."

Realizing her serious misstep and grave insubordination she back peddles quickly to fix it.

"No. I did not mean to imply I was questioning her orders at all. I...was simply concerned that is all. I will wait until the communications ban is lifted."

"That would be wise." {busted}

"Ivanova out"

White Star 3 was beyond concerned by Susan's announcement. None of them could think why such an order was given. [Unless they have learned of our monitoring them!] But even that made little sense considering her order to keep shuttle bay door closed. Collectively, White Stars 3 & 14 began to moan. They had already assigned specific members of the crew whose duties were now only to pray for the Council members as whatever was to come grew near. Both White Stars discussed the events that took place over night regarding their captains and were extremely concerned. Now they were are cut off from the station! To their credit, they noted that she did not seem distressed in the least. She seemed like the woman they've always known when not in deep distress. Still they were wandering around confused, wondering what was about to happed. Without being prompted, each ship immediately went on the highest alert. [we will be ready!]

When a jump point opened all eyes were fixed on it. A ship wide announcement went out in every ship across the fleet. Their collective thoughts[ Ah, whatever is to come is here!] They were ready. Until White Star 2 emerged from the jump point and headed directly to the docking bay. [what is going on???] Then things started to click. At least for White Star 3. [they don't want station Rangers to know the ship is here!! what or who could be on that ship to cause this much secrecy?] There wasn't a Ranger in orbit who didn't wish to be on the station at that moment. Mai'lenn's obvious distress at not having her hails responded to made them uncomfortable. When C&C initially attempted communication they thought perhaps it was Ivanova until they realized she would contact them directly. [no, that is Mai'lenn trying to find out what is going on. Wait until she learns White Star 2 is here. What can that mean???]

To say that the former crew of White Star Prime were stunned to learn of their new assignment once entering the docking bay was an understatement. Delenn decided not to discuss the ship change until they were on White Star 2.

"You have all been reassigned to White Star 2. I look forward to working with each of you in the future. Please take the necessary time to familiarize yourselves with your new home. Now that you have boarded you are not permitted to leave. Also, be advised that there is a communications ban in effect between all ships, docked or in orbit, or to any person on this station except for myself and Anla'Shok Ivanova. This ban includes any ship outside of our fleet. No incoming or out going communications of any kind are permitted until she or I inform you directly. Shuttle bay doors are to remain closed at all times until you are specifically ordered otherwise by Anla'Shok Ivanova. No station personnel other than Mr. Garibaldi or Dr. Franklin are permitted to board. The only Rangers permitted entry are Fannol, Ivanova or Marcus Cole. Talia Winters is also permitted to board if she chooses to."

"You will hold position here until Anla'Shok Ivanova clears you for return to orbit. At that time you will continue to maintain communication silence as I described until she lifts it. Once you have returned to station orbit, you will continue on with your duties or systems checks as usual." At that, Delenn smiled, bowed, turned and left. They had no clue what to do with that. One look at Fannol told them not to ask, he would give them nothing. [what is going on?] And then they started to become very concerned. No one had been able to give them any information on the captain except that he was with the Vorlon. Then they noticed White Star Prime was no where to be found. That's when they realized none of them had thought to check on the ship's return. Each were relieved upon learning that Mr. Garibaldi was about the station carrying on his duties in relative calm. [where is the ship? why would they put it orbit without us??] And the rest of the puzzle fell into place. This was enough to make their hearts sink with a sense of dread. They had not seen the captain since he left his quarters to visit the Vorlon. A few hours later White Star Prime took off with no crew. They are assigned to White Star 2 permanently. And still, no one has seen the captain in 24 hours. [this is not good. this was what was to come. this is what caused them so much distress yesterday. why? where could he go that would make them react the way all the reports confirmed? where could he possibly go that would have them all falling apart?]

The last piece of the puzzle snapped into place. Reports said that he looked resigned to his fate in the Observation Dome and that his meeting with Mr. Garibaldi looked very sad. [perhaps it was a last goodbye.] Then they remembered the report on Ivanova's condition in the middle of the night. He has gone to them! He has gone to Z'ha'dum! No, they would not believe that Captain Sheridan would serve. But how could one man in an unmanned ship consider fighting them? It was ridiculous. He is a smart man. No one could determine what Mr. Garibaldi was doing when they lost him for the entire night. He did not go out to check the jump engines, that is when the captain left! It is too late to follow, by this time he has already arrived. They knew. They planned this. And they issued that ban to keep us from finding out. [our leaders are very crafty. they must have some plan we are not to know about.] White Star 2 had indeed put it together. They were distraught. They could only look to each other for comfort. Their fellows would not know until Ivanova lifted the ban. She knew we would not share this information over an open channel. That is the reason for ordering shuttle bay doors remain closed.

Fannol felt the shift in the crew as they went from surprise and confusion, to dread. [yes, they have put it together now. they do not look well at all. they are wise not to ask me anything.] It was difficult to maintain his mask but he was Anla'Shok, he would. He completed all that was necessary for their transition, noting the deathly quiet on board and decided to leave them to work this through on their own.

Mai'lenn had had enough. Once White Star Prime's crew informed her that they were to re-board their ship she was relieved that things would go back to normal. The communications ban was too much. "What are they doing?" No one had any information for her. Rangers were dispatched throughout the station trying their best to gather information. Now she hoped that White Star Prime had not been given any order and that she could find out something from them. She knew Entil'Zha, Cole and Fannol were on board the ship so she headed to the docking bay. En route her link activated and Ivanova's Ranger informed her that she had left the Vorlon's and was not alone. Initially, this gave her great relief. [With the captain with her I will be able to see with my own eyes his condition]

Her relief was short lived when she learned it was not Sheridan with Ivanova but the Vorlon. "What!" Mai'lenn was getting tired of that word herself. Determined to follow this new lead she got Ivanova's location and set out to observe all she could. "I will know what is going on!" An hour later she was dismayed to realize that she did not. Ivanova simply walked throughout the station and through the Zocolo with the Vorlon. She was getting a bad feeling about this. "It looks like a parade. All they are doing is walking around in public, she's never done anything like that before." [why would she feel the need to be publically seen with the Vorlon?] Then she noted that they went into the League meeting chamber. [perhaps it was to prepare for the meeting] she had already dispatched a Ranger to watch the door once she learned the meeting was to take place earlier today. Perhaps the Ranger on guard would have something to report.

Mai'lenn realized this was too much. She was gathering no new information. Lennier contacted her earlier in the day to inform her of the impromptu meeting and to report on Entil'Zha and Cole's condition in the morning. They appeared much better but had not spoken a word to him or to each other in 24 hours yet they sat mere inches apart. She had seen all them for herself and agreed. [Except the captain!!]

Fannol met with Entil'Zha and Cole after leaving White Star 2. He voiced his suspicions that the crew had put all of the pieces together by the sense of despair that seemed to come over all of them within moments of each other. That's when he decided he should leave them to their thoughts. Delenn agreed. He and Marcus went over a plan to organize the station Rangers that included how they would formally break the news. They knew that no matter what was suspected, no one would approach any of them for information directly. They could not set out a time to inform them because they left unspoken that Susan was the only one who would know.

Both their minds traveled back to the War Room and Marcus was visibly upset to think how she would know. Fannol had a better idea and he was not looking forward to it in the least. He hoped her connection to the captain was less than that of Sinclair. He watched that recording. He heard her tell Entil'Zha how she had bruises and cuts all over her body to match the beating inflicted on him. He was ashamed and physically ill when he heard that. "How can either of them stand to look at us? Stand to be among Minbari after that? And Susan was a child at the time." That's all he could think or whisper to himself as he sat in her Garden of Eden after leaving the meeting with the Sechs and Satai. He knew they must have thought the same.

Susan was pleased with the events of the meeting. The news from the front was 'good' and none of the ambassadors seemed displeased with her command at all. {I'm not betting my life it won't change once they learn John's gone. Maybe his gift will be enough to keep them quiet and on board.} She spent the remainder of the day completing the draft of her announcement for the League of where the captain went, what he had done, and how they would benefit from it. She had to allow herself a few moments of mirth at the reaction most of the station showed watching her stroll around with Kosh. {laugh now, you'll be screaming soon} And she was.

Later than evening she and Fannol left the chapel and sat in the garden. He could tell something was coming by the agitation flowing from her. She said nothing, simply held his hand. All of White Star 3 was monitoring this. She had lifted the ban on shuttle doors for them only. They saw White Star 2 assume orbit 10 minutes later. Still the communications ban was in effect. So, they did all they could by watching. That's when things began to change rapidly. She went rigid and disengaged herself from Fannol. Then she stood and walked several feet from him. They saw the way he watched her. He assumed a guarded position but did not approach too close. His face showed dread, concern and pain at the same time. They could tell something was about to happen. That's when they got the hail that Entil'Zha was in the shuttle approaching demanding they open the doors. Their first shock of the evening was seeing not simply her and Cole exit, but Mr. Garibaldi, Talia and the Soulwalker.

When they saw Stephen their hearts sank because they knew he had only come on board once, after the mission where the captain changed and the Entil'Zha went away. [this is not good] Seemed to be the collective sentiment until they watched them RUN from the shuttle to the garden with the Soulwalker leading the way. The second shock was seeing Cole. He was glowing!!! They raced past those assembled to greet Entil'Zha without a word. The third and most heart wrenching happened in the garden as Ivanova let out a scream none of them had ever heard in their lives including during her nightmare last night. They were sure, whatever was to happen was happening now.

That's when they saw her literally fly across the room, slamming into a wall. Fannol was so quick to her side it seemed as if he was there the entire time. When she hit the floor he knelt beside but did not touch her. They could not understand why he would not assist her. They heard his, "In Valen's name, make it quick she cannot suffer this." That brought fear to them. The agony in his voice was too much to bare. Before guards could enter the garden the others raced in. Delenn and Talia dropped to their knees immediately and began praying. Mr. Garibaldi could not look at her. He was shaking but firm that no guards should enter and turned them away.

By now, every member of the crew was glued to a monitor watching, waiting, and knowing that they were not permitted to intervene. They began to understand the communications ban more. [They were expecting something like this!] Cole was still glowing bright white light and from what they could make out of his features the light was growing stronger and stronger. Whatever this was, was not good. Talia and Delenn did not stop their prayers. Others on the crew began as well. Only the Soulwalker approached. Fannol looked to him with tears in his eyes and asked the question they never in their lives expected,

"Will she die when he does?"

"I will try to help. I can't intervene with him. I can with her but I don't know if it will be enough."

Her body shook, flailed around. Her screams became worse than what they'd heard before and it went on for nearly 10 minutes. There was nothing they could do. Most of the crew could not bare to watch any longer. They had no idea what was happening but it was the first time since their Mor'adums that any of them had known terror. They knew she was touched, Chosen. They knew what none of the others would about her communication with the First Ones. They knew she saw things to come in dreams. But this, she was awake. Fully awake. They could tell she and Fannol had been trying to prepare for this. Then someone remembered his question to the Soulwalker,

"Will she die when he does" She is experiencing someone else's death! She doesn't just dream the future, she is more. But who? And that's when they looked around the garden and saw the one person who was missing. The captain! No, that could not be. He was with the Vorlon. And if he was dying, why were they all here and not with him? Strange thoughts started to come to them and none of them were good. White Star Prime had not been seen since Mr. Garibaldi went to test the jump engines. Neither had the captain. Then White Star 2 arrives unexpectedly during the communications black out. It sits in orbit where White Star Prime was.

This could not be good. They think back over to last week when Shadow agent attacked. They think to how each of them acted in the privacy of the War Room. To the reports of their behavior afterward. To the reports of the captain and his sad conversation with Mr. Garibaldi in the Observation Dome. "He looks resigned to his fate." None of them liked where those thoughts were taking them. They could no longer handle watching their captain, listening to her. It was beyond death. If it is Captain Sheridan, they knew it was a horrible death indeed at the hands of the Shadows. Finally she stopped and the Soulwalker seemed to go to work. He touched her but it wasn't enough. They heard,

"He is dead. She may go with him. Their connection is too strong. I need help."

Fannol was beside himself with distress. He looked in physical pain. That's when they made the connection that somehow Ivanova and Fannol were closer than they thought. [perhaps empathic?] Marcus, stopped glowing when she stopped screaming. At the very instant as if it were a switch. He stepped close to the Soulwalker and they both touched her. That's when Marcus said

"Her body is dying slowly but I can give her enough energy to survive if you can keep her soul in place."

"I can do that. This is going to be hard. What was done to him, was done to her but on a different level. That's why she still looks the same." Nobody wanted to hear that or even think of what that meant. They watched the two of them work. They watched Fannol virtually fall apart. They watched Mr. Garibaldi drop to his knees and begin praying. They watched Entil'Zha and Talia pray without ceasing. They watched Ivanova die.

All of the crew reached an unspoken agreement that they would share no information with the others. No matter what, no one else would know these things. Finally, almost an hour later they stopped. The Soulwalker is also a healer. He would know what to do and if they were successful. He looked at Fannol and nodded his head. Fannol gathered up her body in his arms and walked from the garden straight to the chapel without comment. Cole recovered and raced from where he knelt. They assumed that he was to follow Fannol but when he entered the bridge, they knew it was more horrible things to come.

"Break orbit and set a course for Sigma 957 maximum speed. Push the engines until they fall apart." Then he turned and left. Apparently, Entil'Zha had lifted the communications ban because hails were coming in from all over the Fleet and the station. They did notice that a War Cruiser jumped in pursuit and fervently hoped it was instructed by Entil'Zha to do so and not of its own accord. They confirmed that those orders where given. They would not allow this information to spread. They would not talk and they would not allow others to do so. Entil'Zha had also instructed the other ships to maintain orbit until their return and not too pursue the War Cruiser. No one on White Star 3 knew what to do except follow orders, watch, wait, and pray. Mai'lenn hailed wanting to know what was going on. They responded simply,

"Following Entil'Zha's orders" and cut the channel. Now that they knew the ban on shuttle activity was lifted, they were well aware she would go directly to White Star 2 for some answers. "Good", they thought. "We have nothing to say." They felt bad only when they had to repeat it for White Star 14. The crew was certain that none of Fannol's crew would rest until they returned and could see him with their own eyes.

It took several hours to get to Sigma 957 and all they could think was that they hoped they reached the planet in time. They had no idea what was to happen. Entil'Zha came to the bridge shortly before they jumped into orbit. She assumed command and directed where they should stop. They noted that the War Cruiser jumped further away from them. Then someone saw Fannol carrying Ivanova's still body, the Soulwalker, and Cole enter the shuttle bay and board one of the shuttles. Talia and Mr. Garibaldi did not leave the chapel. They signaled for the shuttle bay doors to open and they were off. Everyone knew you could not orbit that planet and live let alone land on it so they were amazed to see the shuttle enter the atmosphere without harm.

Then they remembered who was on the shuttle and started to breath easier. [the Soulwalker is one of their children. Ivanova has some connection to them, they know her, called her by name.] And they had no idea what to think of Cole. They didn't know what he was but if he had provided energy to save her life, they did not care. [Ah, but one group of First Ones CHASED us down just to talk to him! Perhaps he is one of theirs as well] They started to feel hope, but they were afraid at the same time. Nothing like this had ever been known to them before. They understood that their were mysteries of the Universe with its plans and complex whims. They were not meant to know all.

White Star 3 maintained stationary position away from the planet and chanced subtle glances at Entil'Zha. She did not look well though she kept command and her own counsel. Then they all started to remember at once that Captain Sheridan was more to her than the rest of them. If it were possible, their hearts broke more. 3 hours later the shuttle emerged from the atmosphere in tact, headed for the bay. Once they entered she signaled the War Cruiser to follow, then turned to the helm and directed her to set course for Babylon 5.

Talia and Mr. Garibaldi had not left the chapel once since they went in. The ones monitoring the shuttle bay saw Fannol carry her out as before but now she was resting in his arms instead of lifeless. The others followed him directly to the chapel. Only after jumping from the planet did they realize Entil'Zha had already left the bridge. Perhaps to return to the chapel. Guards were silently stationed on the outside so they opened the door for her without comment. None but those 7 will ever know what happened in the garden or on the planet. Or even in the chapel because we know they will not tell.Panic and chaos seemed to ensue at once. Lennier had no warning as Delenn and Marcus jumped from their positions where they meditated in one single motion. They left without one word. He signaled his Ranger contact as he rushed to follow. At the same time Mai'lenn was getting disturbing reports. Talia and the Soulwalker raced from the garden as Mr. Garibaldi ran from his office. It seemed as they were all in sinc. None stopped until they reached the shuttle bay and entered one of the shuttles without a word. The station Rangers were beside themselves. Talia had stopped them earlier in their tracks with a look, they were unable to move. Then she waived her hand to seal the door in front of the Rangers so they could not follow. She must have activated the lock because it would not open. Security was hot on their heels having seen the activity of some and been informed by their Ranger contacts of the other. No one knew what was happening but none of them felt it was good. They headed to C&C in some parade format to see where the shuttle was going. "White Star 3" was all they were told but it was enough, too much. Ivanova & Fannol were already on board, they had been for a few hours.

The ban was still in effect. None of them could contact the ship, none of them could follow. There was only one thing left to do. They assembled in various locations to wait and pray. Someone got in into their head to go see the Vorlon. Perhaps if the captain were made aware of what was happening, he could intervene. The Vorlon turned them away and they were wise to leave quickly. This is not good, was the only thing they could think. After what seemed like eternity, Mai'lenn started getting reports from White Star 14. They sounded almost hysterical when they said that a shuttle boarded White Star 3 and that after some time it broke orbit and jumped with a War Cruiser in pursuit. They said that Entil'Zha lifted the communication and shuttle ban but said they were to maintain orbit and not to follow. The next thing she heard stopped her cold,

"White Star 2 left the docking bay 10 minutes after Ivanova and Fannol shuttled to White Star 3. It took up position where White Star Prime was."

"WHAT? What do you mean White Star 2? That ship is not here."

"Yes it is. It jumped into orbit around 15:00 hours and went directly to the private shuttle bay where White Star Prime is docked."

"I will find out what is going on. I am taking a shuttle to White Star 2."

Then she hailed White Star 3 and asked what was going on,

"Following Entil'Zha's orders."

Mai'lenn was distressed. She could say nothing more to that. She heard his voice. He was extremely distressed and whatever happened on that ship she knew he would not tell. She also knew it would be bad. En route to the shuttle bay she sent someone to White Star Prime to check with them and find out what they knew. The response confused and unnerved her.

"White Star Prime isn't in the bay. Only the Vorlon ship."

Now she contacted C&C. She was starting to see a pattern and she did not like it.

"What time did White Star Prime return to the station last night and where is it docked?"

After a few moments the response came but it chilled her to the bone,

"White Star Prime is not aboard Babylon 5. According to station records, it never returned last night."

Her heart pounded as she entered the shuttle bay. I do not like what I am thinking. I do not like what I suppose I will find on White Star 2. She hailed them and signaled for landing. The doors opened without anyone responding to her. "This is definitely a bad sign of things to come."

Once she exited the shuttle she raced to the bridge and was dismayed when she saw the crew of White Star Prime manning it.

"How long have you been on board?" She could tell they did not wish to make this report. She waited but was visibly nervous. Finally,

"Since Entil'Zha directed us that it was time to board our ship." The unspoken meaning was clear. They were never intended to re-board White Star Prime because it never returned.

"I knew I should have sent a War Cruiser after it last night!" Their eyes were averted. [they know more and will not say]

"What else do you know?"

"Nothing. Entil'Zha said we would be her new crew and to wait until directed by her to take up this position in orbit. She directed us and we left not 10 minutes later."

"What else do you know?"

"We know nothing else. She gave us directives and Fannol helped with the transition."

"Fannol? Who else was on board?"

"Ranger Cole was with her. She did say that only Mr. Garibaldi, Dr. Franklin, Ivanova, Fannol, Talia or herself were permitted to board the ship while at the station and that we were on communications black out with everyone except her and Ivanova."

"What do you suspect?" She knew they didn't KNOW much but she could tell there was much to suspect. After a lengthy hesitation,

"That Captain Sheridan left on White Star Prime last night instead of Mr. Garibaldi and he hasn't returned."

"Where do you suspect he went?" It was several long moments before anyone spoke,

"Z'ha'dum"

"In Valen's name!" And she was nearly brought to tears. This was her suspicion, her nightmare given form. She could not speak and someone helped her to a seat.

"He would not serve them!"

"No. We believe he went to fight." At her confused and incredulous expression they told all they feared in their hearts. That this was the Council's plan all along and that was why they were all so distressed the night before. That is why he was a changed man after the secret mission at the same time the Entil'Zha went away. That was the reason for his rush to learn the languages and build the League coalition. That was the reason he walked the garden alone and prayed in the chapel all night. That was why only Ivanova was welcome to sit with him in the chapel for long hours. That was the reason Ivanova was having the dreams & nightmares since the Shadow agent attack. That was why she kept all night prayer vigils in the chapel on White Star 3 and returned to sleeping there after the Shadow agent left. That was the reason Fannol appeared without warning to any outside the Council.

That was the reason the captain sent the Narn on some mission he hasn't returned from immediately after the attack. That was the reason he was with the Vorlon so much since the return from that secret mission and last night after he met with Mr. Garibaldi in the Observation Dome. That he knew this was his path and he embraced it. That Ivanova saw it and whatever was to become of him would not be good based on the things she saw in her dreams and nightmares that made her scream. That when they reviewed sensor logs with White Star 3's report to White Star 14, they found that Ivanova's death howling screams in her nightmare that woke all of White Star 3 were timed at the same minute--to the second--that White Star Prime jumped from the station's orbit.

There was silence on the bridge. Then Mai'lenn started to remember what she heard outside the War Room that day.

"I was outside the War Room after security notified me of the screams. I saw the Vorlon enter and bow to Ivanova deeper than we bow to Entil'Zha. (this caused surprised gasps from throughout the bridge. she only nodded it was true) I heard the Vorlon tell her that 'Darkness calls'. She said, 'Light answers'. Then the Vorlon stepped aside and allowed her to pass before it. Only then did it follow. You know the rest from the reports of the prayer vigils they all kept that night. Except for Mr. Garibaldi who we could not find. I strongly suspect after his meeting with the captain he went to put the last part of the plan in motion. We were not to be told."

"Yes. And now because of Entil'Zha's express and firm orders we are not to follow. We have no idea where they have gone. I pray it is not to Z'ha'dum or we will loose them all. At least she took a War Cruiser along.

"I must return to the station. Others are awaiting my report. Lennier is beside himself with worry. He tried to follow them. It seems that whatever has past and whatever is happening they were all aware of it at the same time." At their questioning looks she told all she knew of the way they all ran through the station at the same time. And that Entil'Zha and Cole were not linked that it was time to go. That Lennier said they jumped up and the same time from their prayers and raced from the room. She told how Talia blocked them from following by holding them in place unable to move then keeping the door shut and locking it with her mind.

"Say nothing of what you suspect or what you told me. They did not want us to know these things. They will tell us what they wish when the time is right. Do not repeat what I have told you. They are all together and I pray they all return." Then she stood on shaky legs to return to the station.

There was silence on White Star 2 for several hours. No matter what anyone hailing them asked the answer was the same. "Wait for Entil'Zha to tell you what she wishes you to know."

White Star 2 had more sympathy for White Star 14. They had no knowledge of what occurred on the station or with Mai'lenn. All they knew was that Fannol and Ivanova went directly to White Star 3 and had not returned. And that all the leaders of the Army of Light were gone.

The seven remained closed off in the chapel for the entire trip back from Sigma 957. None of the crew dared to get too close lest they disturb some careful balance created between the 7 and the Universe. It was the longest trip of any of their lives. Once they jumped into orbit around the station, they knew the incoming hails would start and they were not looking forward to them.

Fannol held on to Susan for dear life. He did not speak or move for hours. Marcus made a comment that he seemed unlike himself. Too unlike himself. That was when Stephen dropped another bomb on them.

"I do not know how, Fannol is not a telepath, but I have sensed an empathic bond of some kind between them. I felt it the last few times he was here, they probably did not even notice. But since his return it is very strong. Whatever emotions she feels, he feels. Whatever emotions he feels, she feels." This caused everyone to look at Fannol in shock before turning to Stephen. Marcus nodded,

"I can see that. Maybe that's how he always seems to be so quick to her side before something happens. Like he's expecting it. But I don't see how that's possible. An empathic connection with one person and none others." For the first time since ordering their return to Babylon 5 Delenn spoke,

"There are more things in heaven and earth. She is one of them, perhaps he is as well." Marcus' mind turned back to the day of Talia's attack as he remembered Susan's words to the captain. They spoke no more.

Some hours later they all noticed movement in the corner where Fannol and Susan were. She was still resting in his arms but they heard quiet exchanges between the two. They spoke in Vik and Delenn supposed Fannol was attempting to help her channel some of her Warrior spirit within to come from this pain. It must have worked because soon after she turned to the group and in English asked them to all come closer.

"Thank you all. I am sorry for the distress and pain I have caused each of you." They looked at her with expressions that conveyed they were not the ones enduring the extreme pain but she. Susan continued.

"I drafted my speech for the League worlds. We must call an emergency meeting as soon as we arrive. Spare only enough time to make ourselves presentable and creditable in front of the others. We are the leaders of the Army of Light and we must all enter the chambers together as one. As if we are confident and not about to fall apart. A bit of sadness in our demeanor will be expected and excused once they have heard the report. How much time til we reach Babylon 5?"

Talia sent a telepathic request to the helm and answered,

"We have 2 hours."

"Good. We must grieve here and later in the privacy of our quarters. Prepare yourselves for what I am to say. Michael, you are obviously not to blame for this and your silence is still required. The Shadow home world, Z'ha'dum, has been destroyed. All the Shadows and their agents on the planet are dead. All their ships are dead. Nothing lives on the planet."

Nothing like this. Not one of them expected her to say anything of this nature. Marcus folded Delenn in his arms while she shook at Susan's last words. They all turned to her with their eyes demanding to know how. She noticed Michael didn't need any explanation so she knew he was the one to get the weapons and secure them on the ship.

"John brought the White Star into the atmosphere then shuttled down to the planet. They welcomed him because they thought he had come to Anna. After meeting with them for some time and learning all there was to know he told them he would not serve. They came for him. He ran from them but was trapped. Then he signaled White Star Prime to crash land on the planet. He remote control activated the command and detonated several thermonuclear weapons on the planet. He used White Star Prime as one too."

She could speak of these things with a small degree of calm because she knew what was to follow. Fannol began to understand her demeanor as he felt something between them that said, 'there is more to come. the story is not complete.' That's when Fannol remembered her words in the late evening, "Birth, death and renewal. It is exactly that." He had hope that she had some knowledge of this resurrection. His thoughts must have come through because she turned to him with a small smile. His heart seized on it and he was determined to suppress his elation. [yes, hope cannot be given to the others. she would've told them if they were to know.] Again, Fannol wondered at the trust and affection she had for him and her desire to keep him from extreme distress. The others heard her words and noticed her tone. They believed her to be suffering from shock or the after effects of the shared death encounter. Talia was the first to gain her voice,

"Is this what you will tell the League? And how are we to capitalize on this? I understand the great benefit. We only have to fight the Shadows who remained in open space and not the others from their home world. But, they still have allies, many allies with bases throughout the galaxy."

"Yes, Talia you are right. Basically, I am going to tell the League the truth just as I told you all. I must stress to them some of the odd behavior they must have noticed over the past week. Our actions did not go unnoticed. They have to understand that HE alone was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for a future he believed in his heart he would not see. I must challenge them when they decide to run, that none of them would have done what he did. They will know it to be the truth. Then I will demand that we finish this."

Delenn finally found her voice though it was still unsteady,

"I agree. The Anla'Shok will need to be told. Once the League hears of this it will spread through the station like fire. I will instruct the Rangers on station to gather in secret and complete privacy in various locations during the meeting and that we allow outgoing broadcast of what is said to go to them simultaneously."

Delenn turned to Michael, "You are the only one besides myself who knows the exact location of all the Ranger cloister areas. Will you arrange for them to have audio and video access to the meeting?" That made everyone's head's spin around to him, mouths open.

"What? I am the Chief of Security and I am the one who selected the spots. Geez people, I was smuggling Rangers and information through the station long before most of you even knew what they were." A self satisfied smirk followed. But he turned to Delenn and said, "No problem. I'll do it as soon as we get back."

Delenn couldn't help but smile, "Thank you. Each of our ships in orbit will also need to be instructed to keep the channel open to receive a special broadcast. Susan, John was their captain. How will you inform the others? They must learn about before it is public knowledge. You cannot allow them to distrust you for keeping it a secret from them."

"You are right on both accounts. I can order all senior officers and department heads report to C&C and open a channel to the League council chamber. I'll instruct them of the time to gather and that after that no one else will be allowed to enter. That way everyone has the information at once. What do you all think?"

General agreement was given to the plan. Michael had some other concerns. "Station security is going to be over-worked. When the news gets out that the captain is...gone, there will be panic. There will also be those station personnel who might think that he was the key to our Resistance movement against Earth and that it will fall without his presence. We gotta be prepared for many to start playing both sides. If Earth learns of his leaving they may think it the best time to attack. Hoping we are unprepared and pretty much out of leadership. Delenn can we have anymore support? One or two more War Cruisers just for good measure? Everyone in this room realizes that we will all be out within the week directly engaging Shadow ships. We can't leave the station unprotected. Everyone's got to feel like nothing about their safety or protection has changed."

"I contacted Minbar before we left and requested 4 battle ready War Cruisers be dispatched immediately. They should have arrived by our return. I am not so much worried about Earth Destroyers anymore. I feared the Shadows might send more agents for Susan or simply attempt an attack because John is not with us. Now that we know Z'ha'dum is no more, the others must have felt their home world die. They will try to take this battle to the station. It may not be all of them, but there will be more than enough. Susan, you wanted a test run on telepathic impact, I think it will happen soon."

Everyone looked at Delenn with open mouth. Then turned to Stephen who just nodded and said, "Yes, they'll come, a few anyway. The closest ones and they'll be mad. We can't let them enter station orbit. We'll have to fight in open or hyper space. They'll want revenge for what John did to them. I suppose this is one way to prove to the League that we need the coalition."

Marcus could not help his, "This is not a good thing." Talia punched him gently in the arm, "No, a mini Shadow attack definitely does not qualify as a good thing. Should one of us move to the War Cruiser? I didn't confirm that they still had a telepath on board before we left."

"No, they actually have 5 telepaths among the crew." Everyone turns to Fannol at that. He answers their inquisitive looks with a shrug, "Ivanova isn't the only one who knows things."

Another few moments of comic relief Delenn continues,

"I also requested more Rangers be sent from several other training camps. 26 White Stars total should arrive before or just after we do. Marcus, you and Fannol will have your hands full coordinating everyone. The War Cruisers are under orders to communicate with no one except White Star 2 because we all agree they have figured out the entire situation. They were instructed to forward a copy of my message directly to White Star 2 when they arrive and take up position. The other White Stars en route were given similar instructions. Until White Star 3 is prepared to command the Fleet, White Star 2 will be in charge."

Michael looks over at Delenn. "You know when I asked for back-up, I really didn't think you'd turn station orbit into a Minbari Fleet shipping yard. Thanks." Delenn can only smile. [yes, if there is to be a fight so be it. John's sacrifice will not be in vain.]

At the thought of even MORE Rangers on the station and what people will think of it, they all laugh softly.

"Yes, many people will be educated on the vast number of Rangers who exist. I thought it was time for the Fire Wings to make a new home."

Groans from Michael, Marcus, and Fannol (who had the misfortune to instruct them) were heard. This made Susan laugh for the first time in many hours. "Sech Durhan will be pleased! Giddy in fact. This will make the Warriors who refused to fight anyone except ourselves VERY upset to learn the Fire Wing Anla'Shok are being called to order. Sech Turval will do your bidding for life Delenn." The mood was permanently lightened as each came to terms with what is and will be in order to finish the work John Sheridan started and to hold up the light.

Mai'lenn had no idea what to do when she boarded her shuttle on White Star 2. The thoughts and feelings turning inside tested every shred of discipline the Anla'Shok instilled in her. She knew the others would ask. She knew she could not tell. Her heart wept for Captain Sheridan. She had grown to care about him very much. She also felt guilt and allowing him to be attacked to begin with. "If that hadn't happened, he would not have gone." Mai'lenn knew that wasn't true, but still she worried. "No one returns from Z'ha'dum alive. That is a fact. If he has gone, he is dead." Instead of heading to the station she went to White Star 14 knowing she could say nothing to them. But there was one person she knew she HAD to tell.

She did not look forward to making this report. "Its bad enough that the captain has left us, but now I must inform him that we have no idea where Entil'Zha or Ivanova are. That their only protection is a single War Cruiser, and that all of the leaders of the Army of Light have disappeared." It took well over an hour, almost 2 full hours to make her report. Throughout speaking with Durhan, Turval or Rathenn would growl out some question. She knew they were not pleased. They were also upset that she waited until the end to contact them. They instructed her to follow Entil'Zha's orders and to keep silent on all she knew or THOUGHT she knew.

The room was quiet. The three sat across from each other with nothing to say because they could not imagine what they heard. Turval couldn't help remembering how he called him Starkiller. [is this what the Soulwalker meant by Minbari shame at that?] How could one man take on the Shadows on their own home world and survive? What did he think he could do there? But they realized he was no ordinary man. Not after they witnessed that Gathering of Souls. No, they had faith in the Universe's plan. They remembered Susan's prophecy, "he is and he will be. Great things. He will stand between the Darkness and the Light." It gave them hope for his success but none for his survival. They had to wonder now at Valen's prophecy as to the need for humans to win this war. Sinclair did not see these things. They marveled how these humans were the ones leading the fight against the Shadows while Minbar fought against itself. They were ashamed.

When the transmission came in with the code for Entil'Zha shortly afterward they all snapped to attention.

"Greetings. Make a copy of this transmission. Please prepare four battle ready War Cruisers armed with everything we have. Mix the crews but I want Fire Wings on board! As many as can be gathered. Have them depart as soon as possible non stop to Babylon 5. Instruct the War Cruisers that Anla'Shok Ivanova IS the Fleet Commander for the Army of Light. And she will command the Fleet from White Star 3. In her absence on their arrival at the station, the following directives apply:

They are to take up defensive position around the station and they are to contact White Star 2 for a brief situation update only. They are not to discuss their status, who sent them or their reason for arriving with anyone except White Star 2. When they enter orbit they are to go to Red Alert and maintain battle readiness until Ivanova says otherwise. One ship is to take position near the jump gate. The others are to find the most strategic defensive position. All fighters are to be on the ready for immediate deployment and prepared to engage. White Star 2 will know what or who they are to engage if necessary and inform them. White Star 2 is to contact Babylon 5 C&C to let them know that they are there under my orders.

They are also to contact Zack Allen at station security and tell him Mr. Garibaldi says station friends are on board the War Cruisers. That is all they are to tell him regarding the presence of the War Cruisers. No Rangers are to attempt to land in the War Cruisers' shuttle bays except from White Star 2. No other Rangers are to initiate contact with them. They will answer no hails from anyone except White Star 2. Should White Star 2 fall before White Star 3 arrives, they are to contact White Star 14 and follow its directives. Only then should a copy of this transmission be forwarded to White Star 14 for their complete understanding. Fannol is not in command of White Star 14 at present. Valen guide us all.

Now they had no idea what the make of that. Rathenn had known her the longest. He heard her steely resolve many times in the past. He never heard anything like that before. They moved with the speed of lightening to fulfill her orders without a word spoken but each felt dread and apprehension like never before.

The crew of White Star 2 thought they had all they could handle. No new information had come in. Rangers were diligently patrolling the station at the request of Mr. Allen in station security. Others were secretly monitoring members of the League worlds to find out if they knew anything or if they suspected anything. Station Rangers would not let White Star 3 return to chaos and madness.

Still no one knew where White Star 3 had gone. It had been over 12 hours and they had not returned or contacted them through hyper space. Then they saw 2 jump points forming and started to exhale. [they have returned] When they saw the War Cruisers enter orbit they were confused and full of anxiety because neither was the Cruiser that left with White Star 3. Two more jump points opened and again not what they expected, more War Cruisers. Then they noted that the Cruisers were on Red Alert and they snapped to attention as they watched them take up defensive position. [they did not hesitate, they knew exactly where to go!] The jump gate, what do they expect to come? As if on cue, hails started coming in from everywhere but they had no answer. White Star 2 knew that the others now suspected they knew more but were staying silent. When shuttles exited each of the War Cruisers headed for White Star 2 everyone knew they brought a message that was of the highest security. [this is not good]

When Rathenn, Turval and Durhan summoned them, they had no idea what to expect. They were all gathered in a large auditorium without a word of explanation. Lights dimmed and the recording started. Shocked, this was the first time any of them had heard Entil'Zha speak except at her ceremony. She was gentle and a little too delicate for them. They did not think she had it in her. They were unnerved by her message but determined to carry it out. Having no idea why she was so strong about Fire Wings being included, they felt pride that she recognized their worth. [yes, she is Entil'Zha] It truly started to click for them. They had no idea what they would face but they were Anla'Shok now and that meant they would and could face anything.

White Star 14 contacted Mai'lenn as soon as they saw the War Cruisers jump into orbit. She did not know what to think when they confirmed that White Star 3 or the War Cruiser with it had not returned. "What in Valen's name is going on?" She quickly realized that everyone was being blocked from communication with the new arrivals except White Star 2 and her suspicions grew. She thought perhaps Durhan had ordered them since he had her report on what they believed but it didn't make much sense. "Perhaps, but I am not convinced." Later she was informed that 26 additional White Stars had jumped into orbit. "It is an Armada!"

Not only did those White Stars take up station defensive position, but White Star 14 informed her that each sent a shuttle to White Star 2. Station Rangers were reporting into her about activities. People had begun to notice the outrageous number of Minbari ships and were concerned. When Zack Allen contacted her with the message he received from White Star 2 it told her two things. 1) Entil'Zha sent those ships 2) She is attempting to control information by having White Star 2 take command. Then she realized that with all the shuttles heading to White Star 2 they had no prior warning of this. The shuttles were to pass the information. "Whatever is to happen will happen soon."

A full 24 hours after their mysterious departure and less than an hour after all the new ships reported into White Star 2 and their shuttles returned to their respective ships, the one thing Mai'lenn had prayed for occurred. White Star 3 and the War Cruiser jumped into orbit. Collective sighs of relief went out across the Fleet but no one would rest easy until they saw the leaders with their own eyes. Then something strange happened considering the black out they were under.

"Ivanova to Minbari Fleet: All ships on Red Alert. All ships maintain continued battle readiness. All ships prepare fighters in case of deployment. All ships prepare to receive an outgoing broadcast from the station on channel 4 in one standard hour. All ships will take directives from White Star 14 until notified by me otherwise. White Stars 2 & 14, open your shuttle bay doors. Ivanova out"

"Ivanova to C&C"

"C&C"

"Notify all senior officers and department heads to meet in C&C in 1 hour. No one other those on their assigned duty shift and those I've just mentioned are to enter C&C. Open a channel to the League world meeting chamber at that time and listen carefully. The doors are to be sealed in exactly one hour and no one will be permitted entry or departure until I arrive. Anyone not present before the door is sealed will have to hear it on the grape vine."

"Ivanova out"

"Ivanova to all League of Non Aligned World delegates. There will be an emergency meeting in one hour in the meeting chambers. You want to be there.

Ivanova out"

"Entil'Zha to all station Anla'Shok: Proceed to sanctuary immediately and remain until further notice."

Never before had station Rangers been directed to report to sanctuary. What could this mean? They knew either the station was about to be attacked---and it would have to be Shadows with all those ships. Or, they were about to deploy for attack. Considering all that occurred in the last week, they knew that was the Shadows too. At least they heard Entil'Zha's voice and knew she was alright. She quickly contacted Lennier to put him out of his misery. One of the original War Cruisers on station patrol had already informed Mai'lenn of Ivanova's Fleet wide announcement. They would know soon.

Fannol headed to White Star 14 to prepare his ship and get a full activities report. He knew they had been worried and all were passing information in their absence. Marcus shuttled Delenn to White Star 2 to update the crew and get her own status report before heading down to the station. There wasn't much time and they needed to enter the council room together.

Susan landed that shuttle and everyone practically ran from the bay. They were cutting it close. Anyone who saw them had their anxiety level ratched up another notch. Garibaldi, Franklin, Winters, and Ivanova running through the station to Blue sector. If they only knew it was simply for the others to quickly shower and change for the meeting they would've laughed. But they weren't laughing. Every single Ranger had disappeared. Not a single one could be found. This after 2 weeks of seeing more Rangers than they ever knew existed.

"Garibaldi to Allen"

"Good to hear you chief"

"Same here. Send a light security team to the League world meeting chamber for crowd control in 45 minutes. There's gonna be a hell of a meeting and people will try to nose around or sneak in."

"Hell of a meeting?"

"Yes. Watch from the monitor in my office."

"Garibaldi out"

Exactly one hour from her announcement Susan Ivanova, Delenn, Michael Garibaldi, Stephen Franklin, Talia Winters, Marcus Cole and Kosh walked into the meeting chambers. Susan was surprised that Kosh did not go to the back of the room as usual but stood to her left. League delegates knew something big was up. Usually they would be posturing and demanding answers but they took one look at Susan Ivanova and those assembled with her and held their tongues. Knowing her words were being broadcast to various points on station and to the Fleet she chose them carefully.

"Thank you all for coming on short notice. In the beginning, Babylon 5 command staff and the Rangers were all that were out gathering information and preparing to fight against the Shadows and their allies. Captain Sheridan created this coalition to join the Army of Light in an effort to push back the Shadows from our lives. He turned this station into the base of operations for this war, made it a beacon of Light in the face of impending Darkness. He is the one man who brought all of us together. I've known John Sheridan since I was 18 years old. He commanded my first Earth Force assignment and my last. Your individual governments put ships under his chain of command and we have been working diligently for months. You all know about the attack on Captain Sheridan and Entil'Zha Delenn last week. Shadow agents were sent to slow our work, stop our progress, and tear our coalition apart by attempting to kill him. They failed. That was the biggest mistake they made in this war.

Darkness called and Light answered. John Sheridan is that light. Many of you may have noticed that you haven't seen him over the past few days. That is because he accepted the responsibility of doing something NONE of you listening to the sound of my voice would do. He did something NONE of your individual government leaders would have done. He left the station 3 days ago to take the Light into the Darkness. He took the fight to the enemy. He went to Z'ha'dum."

Susan waited while the chamber erupted. First in gasps and then in shouted questions. Finally they all went still.

"Yes, he boarded White Star Prime alone and headed non stop to the Shadow home world. He gave us a gift that we cannot repay by any other means than finishing what he started, by holding up the Light and driving out the Darkness. John Sheridan did something no one has ever imagined or attempted. He destroyed the Shadow home world, he destroyed Z'ha'dum."

More eruption in the chambers. C&C doesn't know what to think, they've heard the stories about Z'ha'dum and they can't figure out how one man could possibly destroy a planet. Rangers cloistered in sanctuary watching over their com units were floored. Those in orbit could not believe what she was saying. Those on the newly arriving War Cruisers who never met or served with him wouldn't believe it.

"As I said. The Shadow home world, Z'ha'dum, has been destroyed. All the Shadows on the planet are dead. All the Shadow agents on the planet are dead. All their ships are dead. Nothing lives on the planet."

More eruption from the chambers but everyone was shouting the same thing,

"How is that possible! What did he do?"

"John brought White Star Prime into the atmosphere then shuttled down to the planet. They allowed him through the planetary defense shield because they assumed he had come to agree to serve them. After meeting with them for some time and learning all there was to know he told them he would not serve. They came for him. He was trapped. Then he signaled White Star Prime to crash into the planet. He remote control activated the command and detonated several thermonuclear weapons on the planet. He turned White Star Prime into one as well."

"That was his plan and his plan succeeded. Between the nuclear explosions and the fall out every Shadow thing on that planet is dead to rise no more. Darkness called but they didn't realize just what kind of Light would answer. How bright, powerful, and unselfish that Light is. He did this for us because he knew that we could not continue to fight the Shadows roaming our space spreading chaos, destruction and disorder while others on the home world were continuing to build more ships and draft more agents."

Now they are shouting at her.

"How do you know?"

"I know. Anyone of you or your governments who need proof feel free to take a ship into that sector of space. Long before you exit the jump gate your scans will pick up massive nuclear fall out and radiation. You can approach the planet now, though I wouldn't get too close to the atmosphere as the mushroom clouds remain and will be there for some years. None of the planetary defense systems are operational anymore. Thanks to John Sheridan. Send out an unmanned probe. You will see the effects of his work."

"You said he went to Z'ha'dum. No one returns from Z'ha'dum alive. We all know that if you go to Z'ha'dum you will die!" "You have spoken nothing of Captain Sheridan. Where is he? Would you have us to believe he lives?"

"I have asked you to believe nothing about Captain John Sheridan except that he did something amazing and unselfish for the benefit of all of us. Hear me this day and keep good record of my words. You will need to remind yourselves of them later. John Sheridan is touched and Chosen by the Universe for a purpose you are not to know yet. Each are called according to their purpose in this life. The righteous answer the call. John Sheridan answered the call. Let the Universe attend to him now according to its plan. We have work to do."

"Don't think there won't be a backlash from what he did. It was crucial that he do it, but there was a price to be paid. One by him, one by us. Z'ha'dum was their home for millions of years. Shadows no longer have a home world. They felt the cries of their brethren when they died in fire and pain. They know the name of the one who lit up their darkness. They know where he lives. And they will assume that if Light can destroy Dark perhaps Dark can snuff out the beacon of Light. That will NOT happen."

"All of you have noticed the increased number of Minbari War Cruisers and White Stars orbiting the station. They are on Red Alert and battle ready. This station WILL be defended. But, as Fleet Commander I don't have any intention of fighting Armageddon in my own front yard. I do not wish to clean up the remains of Shadows we would leave. As Fleet Commander I am taking the fight to the enemy. As your Fleet Commander for the Army of Light, I am telling you that we are going to move! We are going to directly engage the Shadows and we ARE going to take them down. It is good that we have your ships out there but you will need to send some here to defend the station. You cannot expect the Anla'Shok to defend this station alone and lead the fight. Don't mistake me. I AM Anla'Shok. I will fight and die anywhere necessary to hold up the Light. I also know what is fair and reasonable. We are a coalition and that means that we ALL will fight and die or live as one."

"Contact your leaders and have them deploy the necessary ships to hold this line against the Darkness while we gather the rest of the troops and take the Shadows down. You cannot eat for free always, now it is time to pay."

With that Susan and her entourage left the council chambers as one. Everyone else sat dazed. Mai'lenn could not believe what she just heard. She knew in her heart he went to fight but she had no idea he would do that. That he would even think of doing something like that. Now it all made sense. All the actions of leaders of the Army of Light made perfect sense. She noticed that Ivanova did not say how she had such specific details of what happened on the planet. [That is not their concern. Anla'Shok know how she knows!] Mai'lenn had not known what to expect when the directive was given that they cloister and tune in to the chamber meeting room. She did the only thing she knew, gathered information and made a recording of it. "I must get this to Durhan as soon as possible. He won't believe it!"

Fannol was practically beaming from the command chair as he watched Susan rise to the occasion and address the League worlds. She handled herself beautifully. He heard his crew gasp at some of the things she said. Especially when the announcement was made that Captain Sheridan destroyed Z'ha'dum. She was right, no one had ever thought to do that.

"Ivanova to White Star 14" Fannol couldn't suppress a smile.

"Fannol here"

"Hey soldier, want to buy me dinner later?"

"I thought you said the food on the White Stars is better than the station."

"So I'll be a cheap date." They both laughed at that.

"It would be an honor."

"Does that mean you aren't gonna yell at me tonight?"

"Yes. I'll wait until tomorrow to do that."

"Thanks. I've got station personnel sealed in C&C and I need to release the doors & talk to them."

"Why am I not surprised? You locked your senior officers in C&C."

"I like a captive audience!" They are both laughing now.

"Alright. Come when you finish and I'll see what I can do."

"Great. Ivanova out."

The bridge crew listened intently. Never had they seen him so playful with anyone but her and White Star 3 says the same about her. After all that's happened over the last 2 weeks they welcomed it. They also had a greater understanding of what their leaders had gone through this past week. They were all amazed when she said what Sheridan had done. What he apparently volunteered to do. Now the secrecy was understandable. They could not let word of their plan get out. The reports of his actions over the last few months made perfect sense. Yes, he was preparing for this the entire time!

Trying to come to terms with his destiny. Ivanova's dreams made sense. If she saw all that was to happen then she saw him die. Either at the hands of the Shadows or as a result of the nuclear bombs and they couldn't figure out which was worse. Valen guide her. They didn't miss how she kept referring to Sheridan in the present tense. At first they thought it a missed word because she wasn't used to him being dead. Then they thought it was a way to deflect attention. But that didn't seem right. If she said everything else, why hide his being dead? She saw everything. They had no proof but the crew of White Star 14 knew better. [there is something more to come]

These same thoughts were being echoed on White Stars 2 and 3. White Star 3 knew what no one else would. Let them think they left to verify what happened at Z'ha'dum. They would never tell. They heard the Soulwalker say he was dead. But they also saw them take her down to a planet of First Ones and she's very much recovered and alive. They didn't miss how she said he was touched and Chosen for a purpose that we are not to know yet. "let the Universe attend to him now" what could that mean? They won't know until and unless they were meant to.

The newly arrived ships could not keep a free com channel. Once on board White Star 14, Fannol lifted the communication's ban between all ships in the fleet. They were free to talk amongst themselves, and they did. Those on the newly arrived War Cruisers and White Stars were floored, speechless when they learned everything that happened in the last two weeks. They had no idea. Every ship except White Stars 3 & 14 gave details of what happened. Most in grave detail. But all noticed that White Star 2 merely confirmed basic information and would not talk about people or specifics in general. Of course, they are Entil'Zha's crew. They would not talk. Neither would the crew of Ivanova and Fannol. But what none of them could understand is why White Star 3 and the War Cruiser in pursuit would not say anything about where they went. Most assumed they went to confirm the captain's plan worked. [and what a plan!] Still they would say nothing.

Ivanova marched into C&C with all the presence they were used to and a bit more. She leveled a gaze at each of them to see where their heads were at.

"Mam, where's the captain?" The hesitancy in that question stopped her cold remark.

"Not with us."

"Will he be back?"

"That's not for me to say. I know you have questions but John's location is not something you can do anything about. Unless and until you see him walk through those doors, don't try. We have work to do here. Lt. Corwin was made acting second in command---when was that?"

"2 days ago mam"

"Yeah, so you need to deal with him like you used to deal with me. I did teach him a few things. Remember that you always have to watch the quiet ones. He knows where every air lock on this station is. I also taught him how to hide a body. Don't give him grief. I don't want to have to come find any of you."

This made them shift. They weren't sure if she was kidding 'cause they knew that was exactly something she'd do.

"Carry on with your duties. I am acting Commanding Officer of this station but as you heard, I'm also Fleet Commander and I will be engaging the enemy so I'm not going to have the time to settle petty disputes. As I told Corwin, its war time. A baptism by fire. Do your jobs and try to help take up the slack for me."

"Any questions?"

"Chain of command, mam. We're just a little confused other than you and Corwin who do we take orders from?"

"Garibaldi, Franklin, Zack when Michael's out fighting, Marcus Cole but don't let him arrange docking procedures of any kind. And Talia Winters when necessary—her areas of expertise are diplomatic issues, public relations, and anything that has to do with negotiations you can't handle. But she will also be out engaging the enemy in the thick of the fighting just like the others.

This made all their eyes go wide. They couldn't believe SHE would be out there. Now they were really confused and it showed.

"I don't think you guys really, REALLY understand what's going on beyond the jump gate. What the Shadows really are. They aren't like the Drazi or Centauri or Minbari. They aren't a species like that. I spoke of the Shadow agent who attacked Entil'Zha Delenn and the captain. They came here to either have him bow down and serve them or kill him. They wanted him desperately. This is like a bad horror vid. There are things in this universe you can't imagine. When we refer to Darkness and Light we mean that.

This IS a Holy War. I don't know what all your individual beliefs are and I won't try to change them but there is such a thing as evil personified. They do not wish to coexist with other races. They wish for you to serve them or die. That's what the Army of Light is fighting against. I mean do you really, REALLY think John would go out with thermonuclear weapons strapped to his beautiful White Star, and BLOW UP A PLANET for no reason???? While he was still on it? That he would just kill off huge numbers of beings because we were having a dispute with them? I hope you know your captain better than that. I hope you know me better than that."

Now they are seriously quiet. They can't believe they never heard it like this before. Curiosity was peeked in all of them.

"I don't actually have the time to explain in the detail you folks need to understand I guess. Check the data base on Minbari history from the LAST Shadow war 1,000 years ago. It will open your eyes. Valen actually led the Army of Light in that war. If any of you are serious on getting the facts, make an appointment to sit down with Talia Winters---who is gonna kill me for volunteering her without permission but oh well---and ask her to explain just what's going on. The Anla'Shok or Rangers were created by Valen to fight in that war. Valen prophesied that in 1,000 years the Shadows would return.

Think about it folks for the last almost 1,000 years the Anla'Shok have been watching, waiting, gathering information, and preparing to intervene. Preparing for what's now. Think about Earth's history. How many millennia old organizations are still around? What kind of faith in Valen's words did the Minbari have to have to keep the Anla'Shok alive for 1,000 years? Its cause they were on the front lines in that war. They SAW what the Shadows were, what they could do, what they were doing, and they refuse to ever have that kind of darkness rise up again. That's enough, just thought you needed some perspective. You don't ever want to see a Shadow ship. You don't ever want to be near a Shadow. You don't ever want to see or know someone who has chosen to serve them or been infected by them. You just don't want to know."

There wasn't a person in C&C who wasn't frightened by her words. Every single one of them was planning on checking the data base that night and making an appointment with Ms. Winters. Every single one of them decided to do everything in their power to keep the station running smoothly so that she could concentrate on driving out that darkness. They wanted the Shadows gone. Yes, they were truly scared now.

After learning all there was to know about what their leaders had been through over the past two weeks from the other ships, there was almost deathly quiet on board all four of the newly arrived War Cruisers. Deep in thought. They accepted their assignment because they were Anla'Shok and Entil'Zha had spoken. But in the back of their minds, the Fire Wings were not looking forward to taking orders from or spending time with the Starkiller. Now they were all forced to sit down and think. Ivanova's speech was broadcast ship wide. But channel 4 gave them video feed too. The quick thinking ones set their consoles to record. They saw her standing out front taking command of the League. They saw the Vorlon at her side.

But what impressed them was the fire in her eyes, the conviction in her voice, the power and certainty of her words. [Yes, she does have a Warrior's Heart] Their pride swelled as she proclaimed what was to come. They also heard her speak of Captain Sheridan. It had never crossed ANY of their minds to try something like that. To try anything close to that. What kind of man would actually believe he could destroy Z'ha'dum? What kind of man would travel there on his own with no way to return to help save the lives of others? They knew even the Warrior Caste Shai Alyt would never have thought to do something close to that. They were forced to admit in their hearts that they knew their Caste would never have gone to Z'ha'dum for any reason. And yet this human did. They had much to think about.

The leaders needed a small break so there was a 24 hour time out. If the Shadows did come, they were ready to defend. But, Susan didn't feel they would so everyone got the night off. She knew the Council would need to meet to begin putting together the strategy. Hopefully Garibaldi and Fannol will finish reviewing the covert ops reports that came in with the White Stars so that they could find the best places to do the most damage. Susan knew, her words were powerful she had to back them up. And the League worlds had to get their ships to defend the station soon. Delenn was going to be completely focused on whatever plan she develops for reuniting Minbar or at least stopping the fighting for a coalition to be formed. {Not giving much hope for the Warrior Caste. I doubt there's a Wind Sword alive who'd take orders from a human female}

Stephen had double duty. He now had an Armada orbiting the station and had to ensure that the medical facilities were prepared and organized. He also knew he'd have to make crew changes to balance the medical personnel. Human & Minbari healers needed to be on each ship and supplies needed to be well stocked. Marcus had station Rangers to reel back into line. They'd gotten a little too free these past two weeks. [can't really blame them since they watched us fall apart and we didn't even notice] He had reassignments to make. After revealing themselves the previously hidden Rangers needed to be replaced with others. He also needed couriers. "Entil'Zha was right, Fannol and I are going to have our hands full." [Not to mention guarding Delenn's back during whatever plan she comes up with for Minbar]

Talia had no idea what to think when she checked her console and found 36 messages from station personnel all wanting to make an appointment to learn about what's really going on with the Shadows in this war. Every one of them mentioned checking the station data base on the last Shadow war and the role of the Rangers and wanted information from her on this Darkness and Light. She was shocked. A bit of Kailenn's missionary persona had rubbed off on her so she would not refuse. But when she heard them mention that Ivanova had suggested anyone interested in getting the facts and learning the truth should come see her she was of two minds. Touched that Susan thought that highly of her and her understanding. Mildly ticked that she didn't bother to ask first. "Kailenn would be ecstatic. 36 potentials! I wonder if she'd be able to come and teach a class?" She then sent a message to Lennier updating him on this new situation and suggested that they combine their talents by including a special language course. [that would make things much easier for Kailenn] With that, Talia set out to return all the messages so that she could relax for the evening.

Almost 12 hours after Susan addressed the League world delegates, three men reconvened in their own council chambers and got what had to be the shock of their lives. When the courier came in breathless, Durhan didn't have high hopes at all. He assembled his brethren and they sat in silence. The first thing they noticed was that Susan and the others appeared well. They did not see Fannol but assumed he must be with the Fleet. They gasped, choked, stuttered, and shrieked when she said, "John Sheridan did something no one has ever imagined or attempted. He destroyed the Shadow home world, he destroyed Z'ha'dum."

They thought that nothing else from that group could shock them. They thought they'd seen or heard it all. Susan Ivanova just said the absolute impossible and yet they each knew it to be true. [That must be what the Soulwalker meant!!!] They listened in rapt silence, with the exception of shocking noises they couldn't prevent from escaping their lips. [one man, one ship, one plan] By the time Susan finished speaking their eyes met in amazement that the Universe had allowed them to observe several of its Wonders in that group. Silent agreement had the recording cued up and replaying again. It would be several times before they could grasp all that she said and all that she didn't.

These three were very used to Susan's speech pattern and her ways. Finally Durhan said,

"She knows something else. She knows much more. I know my student, she did not tell all."

Rathenn is stunned and Turval can only stare,

"You aren't saying that she is lying!"

"Of course not! That plan and that it actually succeeded is so ridiculous that it had to have been the truth. Especially by this group. No, I mean she knows something else about him. 'let the Universe attend to him now' and 'John Sheridan is touched and Chosen by the Universe for a purpose you are not to know yet'. That is what I meant. She knows what these things are."

Turval can't help it, "Well she is the Oracle, she's suppose to know these things."

"Yes, the Oracle of Minbar. What, except for the Earth war and perhaps this one, does John Sheridan have to do with Minbar? And why did the Soulwalker say our past feelings and speech toward him would be our shame?"

"I don't know Rathenn. You are the priestly one, you should be counseling us. What I am sure of is that amazing things are happening and that group---that entire group will be at the center of it. That we have access to information none would believe." Durhan says no more.

"That brings up an interesting point. Should the others know? Its not a secret, she broadcast it to the ships, she was speaking to the delegates of the League worlds. They've already informed their governments." Turval questions.

"I think those here need to hear this. Let's assemble everyone as we did those assigned to the War Cruisers and let them hear it now before rumor from second hand sources taint it." For Satai, Rathenn actually understands when not to keep a secret—some times.

"Fine. One hour to get everyone together. Then we can meet later to think on what this means."

Durhan nodded to the others but when he walked out of the room his feet didn't seem to touch the floor. He thought he fooled the others, but everyone knew how much affection he has for Susan Ivanova. Hearing her summon those for battle, demanding that their governments capitulate, and explaining that she would take the fight to the enemy and directly engage the Shadows. "Yes, she is a fine Warrior and soon everyone will know it. I also begin to see some part of Delenn's plan to call the Fire Wings." And when she proclaimed she was Anla'Shok and would fight and die anywhere to hold up the light Durhan was beaming so brightly he could've been that light. No, he didn't fool anyone. But he didn't really care.

It was a most unusual directive. Never once had all 'Embassy' staff ever been required to meet at once. Every single person working, teaching, training, or visiting the Anla'Shok training camp at Tuzanor was instructed to gather in the main auditorium. Turval, Durhan and Rathenn were obviously behind it because they gave the directive. They spoke to no one. They simply stood on the platform waiting to everyone to take their seats. There was a level of nervous energy in the room. [something BIG is going to happen] Once it appeared everyone was in place Turval motioned to someone with his hand and the three stepped from in front of the huge wall monitor as the lights dimmed.

That's when they all gasped at seeing the group assembled on the stage. [Entil'Zha, this will be big] EVERYONE at Tuzanor knew Anla'Shok Ivanova but were surprised to see her standing at the podium with a Vorlon practically hanging on her arm. [A VORLON!!!!] The same reaction was heard and displayed by every single person in the room as she spoke. Never in their entire lives would any of them have thought to do such a thing. Amazed. They heard her words and not a few suspected they heard the seeds of prophecy. Yes, they all knew something about her was very different. That somehow she was special and that Entil'Zha Sinclair knew long before anyone else.

But when she said it was time to move--they couldn't believe she was calling the battle now. Those who knew of the Fire Wings departure on those 4 specially equipped War Cruisers now knew exactly where they went and what they are doing. When the recording stopped the three did not speak, they didn't try to offer any explanations they simply turned from the room and left. Hmph, not one person in the theater missed that little extra spring in Durhan's step or that crooked little smile he tried to hide. Yes, he was well pleased by everything he heard. Now they all sat for some moments trying to process all they heard and decide how they could be of immediate service to the Fleet.

Fannol's abrupt departure and his continued absence now made perfect sense to all of them. He is going into the battle. Tuzanor all know that Fannol and Ivanova are very special friends if not very strange ones. No, he would not have allowed her to go through this alone. Now some of his behavior over the last few months started making sense to them as well. One by one & in groups they got up to prepare to assist the Fleet in any way they could.

The bridge was quiet. All systems were running smoothly and the gentle hum of the engines could be heard. With not much else to do for the moment, he sat back in the command chair and thought over the past two weeks. But that wasn't enough. His mind stretched back over the last two years. "The past is all I have now. Or will have soon. Might as well reflect." So many things had changed since coming to Babylon 5. Everything he thought he knew, everything he thought he was, everything he actually was changed. Tea leaves. He had said it with disdain, sarcasm, and mirth. Now those very tea leaves were part of the reason he was sitting in the command chair of this beautiful ship, alone, heading off to the demon planet and then across the veil.

The veil. When did he change so much? His mind couldn't remember, perhaps didn't want to remember how he viewed the cosmos before. Before. Before Babylon 4. If he had to think about it honestly, watching Sinclair's data crystal really did plant the seeds of change in his heart though he felt compelled to rage against it. Kosh was, at the time, just strange. Secretly he harbored Michael's theory of the Jedi mind trick but he went anyway. "Why not. Kosh doesn't speak to anyone around here and he wants to 'teach' me something. Might as well try to figure out what that is." The lessons were strange in the beginning. He just couldn't or wouldn't get it. All that changed not with Babylon 4, but after watching Susan chanting in the War Room the first time. After watching both Kosh and Stephen's reactions. But still, he wouldn't let himself accept the unknown.

When Delenn started explaining what a Soulwalker was he had no idea what to do with that. Since coming to Babylon 5 he'd learned just how vast the universe was. But there Talia was accusing Stephen, his officer, his friend of being—something more than a human being. Then Delenn started in with the 'star stuff' and him being a child of the First Ones—Blessed. What was he supposed to do with that? It took seeing that recording from Draal of those Shadow ships to start cultivating the seeds planted months ago. Still, lack of information. Those around him, namely Delenn, failing to give him the whole story made it impossible to believe the pieces he was given.

But here John Sheridan sat in the command chair of White Star Prime, very alone, heading off to do the unthinkable. And yet, it was his plan. Something he'd discussed with no one and decided to keep secret from everyone. "Well, I suppose with her supernatural hook-up its hard to keep anything from Susan." That was the only thought that made him laugh since that crazy meeting when Michael was waiving the Book of G'Quon around bickering with Susan like the old days. "Everyone changed. Most of them changed before my eyes. Long before me."

When he agreed to the plan for 'stealing' Babylon 4, the only thing he was really concerned about was stopping the Shadow attack. Well, not the only thing. If Valen were real and he really did use Babylon 4, Sheridan wanted him to go ahead and take it so that the outcome of the last Shadow war wouldn't change. But the time jumps. That was just more than he wanted to deal with. Sure Temporal Mechanics is confusing in detail, but John Sheridan knew enough about things grounded in science and physics to understand its truth. He knew every time he jumped he was seeing his future and none of those things seemed that bright. Yes, he had a son. He and Delenn had a son. Well, in one version of the future because its obvious that something changed that. She isn't pregnant. "At least not by me." he couldn't help see the morbid humor in his very dead, very Shadow infested wife coming back on the eve of his joining with the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

All those months of trying to reconcile his future or his destiny shifted his past into a different perspective. No, his life changed the moment he stepped onto Babylon 5. Perhaps, that was where it began. No matter how long or how much he walked the garden or sat on a bench in quiet, he could not think away out of his destiny. The fighting wasn't a problem. He was prepared to go into battle, he was a career soldier. "Or I was until I committed treason" But even that act wasn't treason it was the right thing to do. That was how he fit the two pieces of his life together. Going to Z'ha'dum was the right thing to do.

What John Sheridan didn't expect was how his beliefs would change. Kosh opened up doors to mysteries of the universe he'd never contemplated. Then he opened doors to mysteries of the Universe. Universe, one song. And he heard the song. He wasn't sure that if Kosh had done that before Babylon 4 he would have appreciated it for anything other than nice music. No, after seeing the nightmare of what was to come, hearing the song made his resolve toughen. He would go to the Shadow home world and he would find a way to stand between the Darkness and the Light. Even if it killed him. "So, of course, I had to come up with a plan guaranteed to do just that!" Not the intention but hopefully it would work to destroy the planet and give the others a fighting chance.

He always thought the Minbari were a bit too ritualistic with their reliance on prophecy to the point of excluding other options. Returning from Babylon 4 he understood that those prophecies and their reliance on them was the Universe giving them a game plan and guidance for insuring that things turned out the way they did. Sinclair gave them their past and the present for 1,000 years. Now they were on their own. He was on his own with nothing but the time jumps into his future to guide him.

Susan had managed to hold on to her sanity before the mission all those months by seeking refuge on her ship. Once he realized he'd get little peace on the station, he figured he'd try doing the same thing. Amazingly it worked. All those times he'd been out in the ship and he'd never gone to the chapel or spent anytime in the garden before. When he first took a tour and saw them he almost laughed. They really had no place on a war ship. Or so he thought. A war ship that looked like a crystal figurine. What could he expect from something designed by the Religious Caste for the purpose of fighting a Holy War. Not until after Babylon 4 did he begin to think of it that way. No before it was just a race of aliens reeking havoc. Morden changed that. Sort of, anyway. Those Shadow 'things' scratching around in his cell. That should have done it but it didn't. Seeing them swarm through the jump gate like locusts on that data crystal Draal prepared scared the hell out of him. But, any mass of hostile ships attacking you would. Nope, what he saw in one of his time jumps, what he saw when Kosh opened up and finally and let him SEE did.

He didn't know if he would've decided on this course of action or embraced his 'fate' by going if he hadn't seen what the time jumps allowed. Yes, he's absolutely certain that he would have fought the Shadows with everything he had regardless. But seeing what would happen if they lost galvanized him. He knew the minute he returned to the others on Babylon 4 that he would go. He also understood the need to prepare the others for his absence. Prepare them for having to shoulder the burden and responsibility of fighting a war after he was dead.

He knew he was pushing Lennier with the language instructions but he didn't really care. He had to be able to read and study what was in the original language in order to fully understand what would be for him. What he was facing. Somewhere he strayed from the path of simple history. "Nothing with the Minbari is ever simple." Understanding came from reading, studying the religion. Understanding the faith. He understood Talia's change. He understood Susan's. He still didn't completely understand Stephen but he figured that no one really understood Soulwalkers because we aren't supposed to.

Just to sit in the quiet seclusion of the chapel was his only initial thought. Just somewhere to be alone with his thoughts. For some reason unknown to him, all churches, temples, and chapels seem to resonate a sense of peace. That's where he started to wonder what happened to the young man who ran off to see the new Dali Lama simply—because. When did he get so rigid? Was it the war, was it his profession? Was it pragmatism that required him to turn a blind eye to all the other complexities of the Universe? No, he decided that it couldn't be the latter. Susan Ivanova was the most practical, pragmatic and pessimistic person he'd ever met. And yet, she is Anla'Shok. After seeing—whatever that was between her and Sinclair he knew she was much more than even the Anla'Shok. Much more than even Delenn knew or understood. He had been blind because he could. Simply stubborn. Many nights were spent in the chapel aboard White Star Prime trying to second guess past actions. "If I'd been more open before would I be sailing off into hell now?"

No, it wouldn't have mattered. The one thing that he understood now was purpose and calling. All he intended to do was sit quietly and try to bring some order to the thoughts jumbled in his mind. The next thing he knew, he was praying. And he had to stop and wonder at himself the first time the words, "In Valen's name" actually came out of his mouth with reverence. Could he do what needed to be done? Was he strong enough to come up with a plan to eliminate the Shadow's major base of operations? Then he thought about Jeffery Sinclair. The man was Entil'Zha, the One for the Minbari. He worked on Minbar training, organizing and preparing Rangers to fight the Shadows. But he was more than that. As he sat in silence all the way back to Babylon 5 after that mission he wondered what that man was thinking. Alone in the quiet of the chapel on a Minbari war ship designed by the Religious Caste he had to ask himself some hard questions.

He had to consider just what kind of faith Sinclair had that he would travel alone 1,000 years into the past to fight a war and build a society completely cut off from everything and everyone he knew? What kind of faith could cause a person to take on the responsibility of becoming a religious symbol of the race he fought against for his very survival not 10 years earlier? What kind of faith would allow him to devote his life to the Anla'Shok? To giving up his career in Earth Force to live and learn by the ways of others because he was needed to fight against the impending Darkness? That is faith. That is knowing, understanding, and embracing your purpose in life with strength. That is Mineria. That is what settled the last whispers of doubt in his mind because his heart was already there. That is when he began to pray, in Valen's name, for the strength to do what must be done.

It was there in the command chair alone on the bridge of this crystal figurine of a lethal war ship designed by the Religious Caste to fight a Holy War against the Darkness, that he bowed his head and prayed for the strength to complete his final mission on this side of the veil. To bring the Light into the Darkness in hopes of driving it out forever. And he offered his pray in Valen's name.

Lennier had struggled over the years to understand these humans on Babylon 5. He spent his entire life studying at temple before he was assigned to be Satai Delenn's aide on the station. He knew of Jeffery Sinclair. He understood that man had the soul of Valen. He also understood that at least some humans had Minbari souls. But, he'd never actually met humans until he arrived at the station It took some months, some long months, but he began to see that the humans on the command staff were a bit different from the others. Nothing that he could put his finger on and point to as the major difference. They just seemed to get into more trouble than the others. They seemed to have more strange things happen to them than the others. Initially, he thought it was due to their position of leadership on the station. Then he simply guessed they were magnets for the unusual and absurd.

Things started to change when Sheridan arrived. Not withstanding Delenn's change and knowing that it was a sign of many more changes to come, things on board Babylon 5 changed. He'd heard Marcus Cole and Ivanova speaking quietly once in these last few months. Lennier counted it as a blessing that he could blend into the background easily when he wished because they didn't know he was there. Cole said something about the 'winds of change'. A human phrase but it also had both a Minbari translation and significance. Looking back, Lennier had to admit that the day Captain John Sheridan arrived on the station it was not by shuttle craft from the Agamemnon. It was on the winds of change.

When he gave Captain Sheridan and the others the message from the Grey Council about the Minbari belief in souls and their transmigration into humans he did not realize how prophetic his words would be. "Many changes are coming. Sinclair was the first, there will be others." Changes have a way of sneaking up on even the most watchful. When they learned that Commander Ivanova had taken ill and left the station for 3 weeks, he was naturally concerned for her health and well being. So he did what came natural to him. He included a small prayer for her speedy recovery in his evening prayers. Too caught up in Delenn's work, the situation between Earth and the station, and the breaking of the Grey Council he missed something that should never have escaped his watchful eye. He missed Susan Ivanova. Yes, there were times her mannerism and speech seemed different. Actually, they seemed strangely familiar. But, he dismissed it because he was so focused on the work he had to do.

When Delenn was attacked by that human Boggs all his energy was directed at protecting Delenn and making sure he completed the special task she requested of him for the command staff. They all seemed surprised and grateful for the new uniforms. Their thanks was genuine and enough to insure him that they truly valued the gift. But Talia Winters! Lennier had never seen someone so moved by a gift before. Tears came to her eyes and she actually hugged him.

"I knew then that the uniform meant more to her than simply a replacement garb for the Psi Corp uniform she gave away. When Delenn first came up with the idea we weren't sure she would accept it. We knew that she was working undercover with the command staff. But we also understood what could happen to her if the Psi Corp ever found out. Or so we thought we understood!" [Never in our wildest dreams did we consider the actions of that organization] Talia had spent a lifetime on the outside. Basically resting on the fringes of humanity because she was a telepath. Delenn and Lennier saw how seriously she took the captain's offer to join the team. For the first time in her life she was brought into a group of non telepaths to do something other than act as a telepath. They treated her as an equal member of the team and she embraced it. The uniform was a symbol to her that she was truly one of them. That she was accepted for who she was as a person. And that she had cultivated friendships and a family of her own choosing.

No, for one trained to observe and assist, Lennier took it as a personal affront to his Religious Caste trained powers of observation that he completely missed Susan Ivanova's change. He knew her reaction to seeing the uniform pulled from what she called a 'Minbari elf bag' was strange. But, Susan Ivanova always was a bit strange. [And scary] Initially, Lennier detected the same level of surprise shown by the rest of them (except Talia) but there was something more. The way she turned it over in her hand. The way she seemed to muse at it like she couldn't believe it was there. Yes, these things should have given him some clue as to what would follow the next day but they did not.

When Delenn returned from the meeting she was quiet. Thoughtful and in a state of surprise he rarely saw. Lennier had no idea what to make of it. When Marcus Cole came in some minutes later and simply sat with the same expression on his face Lennier's senses had him primmed to act. [Act on what and in what manner I had no clue] "I could not believe it when Delenn said that Susan Ivanova was Anla'Shok. How could that be?" Delenn was Entil'Zha Sinclair's Ranger contact on the station. [aside from Mr. Garibaldi but he did not instruct the Rangers] And, the Anla'Shok had been openly moving through the station for months.

When Delenn and Cole recounted everything that happened in the captain's office, every minute detail of the inscription on her denn'bok and her command of both Andorando and Vik, shock was not sufficient to describe Lennier's reaction. No one even knew she spoke one dialect of Minbari let alone all three! "Entil'Zha must have a reason, a very good reason for this." Delenn agreed immediately but could not determine what it could be. Minbar's own denn'bok Master Sech Durhan had taken a human female as his student! More than that, he'd taken her into his house, his family, and his clan. A Fire Wing! Yes, human Anla'Shok were welcome and expected as a part of the Universe's plan. Minbari souls returning home. Everyone knew that Anla'Shok were born and then they were made. So humans in the ranks was no surprise. That some humans would find their way into the Religious Caste was also expected [Talia Winters was not one of the humans I would have expected] but a human female taken into the Warrior Caste? Made a Fire Wing by Durhan himself, oh yes, the winds of change were beginning to blow.

Ivanova's strange friendship with Fannol gave everyone extreme pause. Lennier counted himself as one of the few Minbari who could understand her enough to function and retain the use of all his bodily organ's after extensive time in her company. He had not one clue how to process that relationship. They just did not make any sense! And Fannol was like no other Minbari he'd ever met. No, Lennier did his homework. He made discreet inquires and verified that Fannol changed after spending just 3 weeks in Ivanova's company. Lennier counted himself blessed that over the 3 years he'd known her she had not managed to alter him to the point Fannol appeared to be. Delenn and Lennier discussed it on several occasions and even consulted with Cole. He didn't get it either. They just did not make any sense together. Cole was right. They do not act like a human and a Minbari. They act too much like neither and too much like each other. But, Lennier has always been willing to accept the things he does not understand so he resolved not to think of them again and just rest assured no damage was done to himself.

The last two weeks had tested every shred of will, understanding, faith, patience, and strength within him. It all started with the Shadow agent attack. [And I am still displeased with the lack of security measures taken to protect Entil'Zha by the station Rangers!] All the reports on each of them were disturbing. The captain's actions over the months proceeding that attack were so beyond anything Lennier had witnessed in him to date he did not know what to make of it. The pressure to learn the language, the daily trips to White Star Prime, the reports of him walking the garden were too much of an alteration in his continence from the previous year. But when Lennier learned he was keeping all night prayer vigils in the chapel [A Minbari chapel!] he was worried for what was to become of him. And he received reports on Ivanova as well. They were frightening.

But nothing in all his years of training prepared him for the sight of seeing Delenn and Cole openly crying through their all night silent prayer vigil. No, not even the actions he witnessed first hand prepared him for the broadcast he watched from the League meeting chamber. That Captain Sheridan had done the unimaginable, the unthinkable, the impossible was beyond Lennier's understanding. Not once in all his years of study had he read of anyone whose faith was so strong in their destiny and purpose that they would actually accept and embrace the idea of going to Z'ha'dum with the expressed intent of destroying it. That was too much for Lennier and he knew he had much to think about. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Lennier watched Delenn closely after she returned from the League meeting chamber. There was little time to discuss anything when she whirled in earlier to dress. Now she sat in quiet contemplation. At first, her silence put him on guard for a repeat of previous behavior. But once he took a close look at her he saw that she was simply studying something carefully in her mind. After almost an hour she asked Lennier if he had recorded the broadcast.

"Yes, I was unsure what to make of your directive so I thought it best to keep a record."

This made Delenn smile. [The humans call that the smoking gun, I believe]

"Would you like me to play it back for you?"

"Yes, thank you. At the time I thought I knew all that Susan would say. She gave an over-view of her speech before we returned. During the event it was difficult to follow everything with the delegates shouting questions at her."

Lennier knew immediately what Delenn was referring to once she asked about the broadcast. Certain things Ivanova said struck a cord with him as well. So much so that once he got over the initial shock of learning what the captain had done, successfully at that, he was compelled to replay the address several times. Human speech patterns are different that Minbari. Human Anla'Shok speech patterns are not. It is the result of learning both the language and to think in Minbari. He also heard what was not said in her words. He read the reports from White Star 3 as well as Mai'lenn. Lennier was well aware that the Anla'Shok as a whole were convinced that she dreams the future. She was very close to Captain Sheridan. He was her oldest friend and she said as much in her address. Not withstanding her nightmares before he left and just afterwards, she seems at relative peace with his loss. And like White Stars 2, 3, and 14, he did not miss her failure to refer to him in the past tense once. Her omission of stating that he died fighting at Z'ha'dum, and her evasion to the question of whether he lives. Lennier had missed many things in Susan Ivanova prior to learning she was Anla'Shok. He had missed nothing since. He also knew what Delenn and the others did not because he was on the bridge of White Star 3. The First Ones called her by name. They knew who she was and they came to her. Once Lennier was able to relax that Delenn was well and herself again he started thinking of many things Susan Ivanova said and did over the past year.

Delenn watched the broadcast recording several times. Each time she heard Susan say that nothing on the planet lives her throat constricted and her heart clinched. But she could not dismiss the other things Susan said. Or the fact that she did not say John was dead. [Is it possible he lives? If so why would she not tell us? No, we saw what we saw in the garden. Stephen said he was dead. We had to take Susan to Sigma 957 for her to live. What does this mean?]

She tried to keep her own counsel knowing Lennier was just steps away at the ready to assist her. There had been little time to grieve properly. [But Susan told us to grieve in private. Why would we grieve the living?] She stopped the recording and would replay sections. She knew in her heart who Susan was if no one else did. Well, she was certain the way Rathenn acted that he knew as well. [Yes, Durhan, Turval and Rathenn know a great deal more than I. She was on Minbar with them. They were very at ease and playful with her both times they visited. Perhaps that is the reason Durhan took her into the Fire Wings, for protection should her true identity ever be revealed.]

Delenn just didn't know what to make of it. She heard prophecy in Susan's address. She heard Susan tell them what was to come and to mark the day they heard it. [But if he had any chance of escape would she have said anything? No, that would give false hope. But she has seen everything. She knows everything. 'Let the Universe attend to him now according to it plan.' There was more. She remembered the words of Zathras, "Sheridan, the One who will be." Susan again, "John Sheridan is touched and Chosen by the Universe for a purpose you are not to know yet." [I notice you did not include yourself in that!] This made Delenn stop. She recovered herself knowing that with that thought she had gone too far. It was not her place to question the Universe's plan or those Chosen to have understanding of it.

"I am not to know what is until it is" she mused quietly. Then she turned off the monitor and prepared to pray for his soul. She knew she should do Ish'tara for him. It had to be for him. It would not be right to allow his soul an incomplete release and return to the Universe. But seeds of longing need for him to be alive somewhere—anywhere stayed her actions. Finally she rose and prepared the alter. She would do this and if he still lived, it would not hurt.

Station Rangers were released from Sanctuary during the night but many were instructed to remain in hiding until their new roles were assigned. Mai'lenn met with Marcus early the next morning for an update on their activities. Learning that they had been followed and observed so closely was a bit unnerving.

"You must understand, the actions we witnessed in the captain over the months mirrored those of Ivanova before the mission. Before the Entil'Zha went away. The Shadow agent attack here on the station without our knowledge was too much for us to bare. We had to become more diligent in our watchfulness of you all."

Marcus said nothing but he silently agreed with her that he would have done the same thing so he simply nodded and she continued.

Mai'lenn was unsure how to phrase her thoughts so as not to give offense then decided to just tell the truth as it was,

"Anla'Shok, both in the Fleet and on the station have learned to watch Ivanova for signs of danger and for warnings to act." [There I have said it, let him make of it what he will]

"What do you mean Anla'Shok have learned to watch her?" The question held no malice or displeasure so Mai'lenn felt a bit more relaxed and comfortable with opting for the whole truth rather than misdirection.

"We believe, no we KNOW that she dreams the future. We know that she sees clearly what is to come long before its time. We know she is blessed and gifted in this manner. Because of this, we have learned to monitor her actions so that we have some warning of danger that may come to you all."

Marcus was surprised by this. He understood that there was no way White Star 3 could have missed her actions. He knew the crew and Lennier had seen both of their interactions with the First Ones but also knew they had not shared that with anyone. That the station Rangers had picked up on this was eye opening. He couldn't really fault them in this either. If he were not on the War Council and privy to a front row seat of Susan's revelations, he would have watched, waited, gathered all the information he could, and been prepared to intervene. They were Anla'Shok and they were acting like it. No, he found no fault with her.

"Alright Mai'lenn, I accept that. I also accept that you all have seen things from many of us on the War Council—most of us—that are not meant for others to know." He stopped and looked at her pointedly letting her know he was referring to the way both he and Talia got into the captain's quarters.

"You all are the leaders in this war. You must be protected. What Anla'Shok know is for Anla'Shok to know and the others are of no concern to us."

Satisfied that she got the point, he released a quiet sigh. [Yes, between Talia's telekinesis, my walking through walls and glowing, Stephen being a Soulwalker, Delenn having the mark of the Triluminary, and Susan's—whatever she's got, there is much to keep secret.]

"Good. Without going into details, Susan will need personal protection anytime she is not on White Star 3. It appears that the Shadow agent got too close to her when we were in the captain's quarters. She sensed some things in Susan that the Shadows want. The agent offered her a place with them. Offered for Susan to join them and when she refused the agent told her, and I quote, 'watch your back'. Now that their home world has been destroyed and Susan has pretty much broadcast to the galaxy that she's coming after them, they will probably come after her.

Mai'lenn is visibly distressed and annoyed. [This is something I should have been informed of immediately!] Marcus can read that expression on her face and cuts her off,

"Yes, you needed to know and now you do. That information needs to be kept quiet. Or as quiet as possible with the Ranger grapevine in effect. We don't want an all out panic. We don't want people smothering her. She has a station to run and a fleet to command."

Mai'lenn just looks at him like he's crazy. [How can she possibly run this station and lead the Fleet if she is captured by the Shadows???]

"I will make the necessary arraignments for a security detail. Two should be sufficient at all times. [Two that she will see!] I will also quietly alert White Star 3 so that the shuttle bay will be monitored at all times to insure no one unknown to them manages to sneak on board." Mai'lenn is silently seething at the possibility of another Shadow agent attack on another one of those under her guard. But she wisely refrains from mentioning this out loud.

"Two should be fine. Susan's used to guarding and protecting others. She won't like a detail of her own."

Mai'lenn simply nods at that. [Well, she will be getting one!] "I think it might be wise to assign one to Dr. Franklin." At Marcus' raised eye she continues, "It is no secret to Anla'Shok that he saved Entil'Zha. If he weren't who he is, we would have lost her and the Shadows would've had a victory. He is also the one person among us who can identify a Shadow agent or the presence of Shadows. We cannot afford to loose him at any cost. The—collection of gifts within our leadership is beyond chance. You must admit that the Universe has positioned you all together for a reason. We do not intend to fail the Universe or you."

He remembered the Gathering of Souls he witnessed and nodded. Marcus also noted that the resolve in her voice brooked no opposition and he knew that regardless of what he said Stephen Franklin would have a security detail. Opting to have some say in the matter he simply agreed,

"That's fine. I understand where you're coming from. Just remember that his—abilities are suppose to be a secret. No undue attention should be called to him. He is also the Chief Medical Officer for both this station and the entire Fleet. He can't afford to have people getting in his way. Try to be as discreet as possible.

"Understood." [The only human Soulwalker ever to exist and the only one any of us have ever met, you must be crazy if you think we will loose him by failing to provide him with adequate security because he has 'things to do']

The way she said that left no doubt in his mind that Stephen would be complaining before the day was out.

After a much needed and well deserved break the War Council reconvened to prepare for battle. Fannol noted that everyone seemed at ease and refreshed from the night off. He and Susan were able to relax and enjoy each other's company as they hadn't in a long time. He did notice that as they wound their way around White Star 14 throughout the night, they seemed to have a not so discreet security detail. Fannol couldn't help smiling as he reflected on her reaction to it,

"I think they're just hoping I don't have another supernatural nutty. White Star 3 seems to have more experience 'coping' with my—expressive ways." She threw her head back and laughed in a way he hadn't seen in months.

"Yes, you may be right about that. But, if your crew has been talking to my crew—which I'm sure they have—they are watching me as well. I suppose I've tested their abilities a great deal since my last visit."

At her raised eye and inquisitive look he could only respond,

"You and Captain Sheridan aren't the only ones who've spent an unusual amount of time in the chapel. I now believe my movements at Tuzanor were monitored closely after I returned. Apparently, a full 'report' was provided to your crew for their review and cross reference."

"Ok, now I'm trying to decide if I should be touched that they care or annoyed that we've been watched without realizing."

"They are Anla'Shok. They watch, wait, gather information and prepare to intervene. I believe we all have given them many opportunities to exercise their skills and training." They both found that extremely funny.

Once everyone was seated in the War Room, Susan asked who wanted to give their reports first. Later she realized that was a mistake by the time Talia finished speaking,

"Before I get into my plan for placing telepaths or what I've put together on the League worlds, I feel compelled to mention something."

"Uh oh"

"Yes Susan, uh oh is right."

"I'm not sure what occurred in C&C after your address in the chamber but I found it very odd that I had 36 messages from senior officers, department heads, and station personnel who all researched Minbari history of the previous Shadow war, Valen, and the Anla'Shok in the data base."

At this everyone's attention is on Talia and Delenn seems surprised but very pleased.

"Yes, it appears that they were moved, dare I say inspired by something or SOMEONE to find out what's really going on. Oh, but the messages didn't stop there. It appears that our very own acting Commanding Officer of Babylon 5 informed her crew that anyone interested in getting the facts and learning the truth should make an appointment to sit down and talk to me. It seems that all 36 of those persons now want detailed instruction on, and I quote, 'this Darkness and Light."

Snickers can be heard from around the table. Even Delenn can't seem to hide her smile. But when Susan involuntarily moves to be shielded by Marcus he slides his chair back out of the way,

"I have no desire to be thrown across the room Susan. You're on your own with this one."

Michael and Stephen really get a charge out of that and are no longer snickering but outright laughing at the situation.

"Oh my. Talia, I had no idea that they would all go to you. Its just that when they asked about chain of command and who other than myself and Corwin they would report to I kind of mentioned you too—wait before you explode—I told them that they should defer to you in diplomatic, public relations, and negotiation issues that they can't handle. You have to admit that you are more qualified than any of them—more qualified than me in those areas and I would have come to you for certain things anyway."

Talia is pleased by this admission and also understands the truth in it so she nods for Susan to go on,

"Anyway, they were surprised when I said that you would be out there fighting since you aren't military or Anla'Shok and I think I got a little carried away or fired up in the nature of the Shadows and what we are fighting for. Kailenn would be pleased."

"Yes, Kailenn is pleased. She will be coming to the station to teach some advanced classes for most of those who contacted me. After my introduction to Minbari faith, customs and history and after they complete Lennier's basic language course."

At this everyone including Delenn is staring at her open mouthed in awe,

"Yes, it seems that your speech to the League was eye opening and informative but whatever you said to them in C&C yesterday has them all chomping at the bits for knowledge. Delenn, you might want to authorize Lennier to expand the station data base on Minbari history and culture. Most of them have already finished their second read."

"Oh my!" Was pretty much the sentiment. Delenn smiled brightly at Talia. [She is Religious Caste]

"You are forgiven Susan. A little warning before you start preaching from the mountain top next time when it involves my name would help." Susan could do nothing but blush, smile sheepishly and nod her head. Fannol laughed openly.

After concluding her report, Marcus felt he should drop the big bomb on Stephen and Susan then move out of the hot seat as soon as possible. As he guessed, Stephen was not pleased.

"You've got to be kidding. I don't need protection, I'm a doctor."

Every single person in the room looked at him like he was in need of immediate medical attention. Michael was the quiet voice of reason,

"Yeah, a couple of tongue depressors and a thermometer ought to make for nice sturdy defensive weapons in case of attack. Stephen, you're a doctor–oh and I seem to remember something else on your resume. What was that? Hmm, oh yeah you're a SOULWALKER!!! Come back to reality man. Lighten up Stephen, take the guards, go about your business and ignore them. They're Rangers. They're gonna follow you whether you agree or not."

Stephen sat quietly for a minute and then just nodded his head in resignation,

"Ok, but I reign supreme in Medlab. They don't get in my way or get in any of my patients' way."

Marcus agrees but knowing Mai'lenn he has little hope for Stephen getting his way.

"Well, now that we've all seen how reasonable and accommodating Stephen is willing to be, Susan, your detail should be waiting outside the door as we speak." He rushed through that last part and it seemed to Talia that the big bad Ranger Cole actually slid his chair closer to Delenn's. Delenn didn't miss that either and as she exchanged glances with Talia they smiled at each other.

Susan opened her mouth poised for a fight but the only sound anyone in the room heard was Fannol,

"Susan, say thank you and move on." She gritted her teeth, narrowed her eyes at him and was prepared for an all out knock down drag out when he gave her 'the look' and everyone saw it.

"Thank you. Let's moved along. Michael, what have you got from the ops reports?"

All efforts at getting ready to push the offensive seemed to be moving forward. Michael had good news to report and Susan announced she'd be meeting with all the captains of the Fleet later that day. C&C reported that several ships from League home worlds had started coming through the jump gate and they all breathed a sign of relief. [Something is going our way!] Fannol would be meeting with them to go over security matters and strategic positioning. He was also coordinating with Corwin and Zack.

Delenn did not seem eager to share her thoughts on the reunification to Minbar. All they got was,

"I have given it much thought and have come to a course of action which I shall begin immediately."

From the expression on Marcus' face, the clinched jaw and the eye roll, Michael assumed it wouldn't include a Sunday afternoon church picnic. His only thoughts, [please don't get yourself killed] should have been said aloud considering what Delenn had actually taken into her head to do.

Later that day Susan, Delenn, Michael, Marcus, and Fannol met with the captains of the ships in orbit to discuss strategic striking targets for their first engagement. She had learned both from Sinclair and Sheridan that top down management wasn't always the best way to go. Both of her superior officers consulted their staff and were always open to new ideas and various opinions. She also realized that she had Fire Wings to deal with and most of them had not seen her since they lay prone under her denn'bok in full view of the Shai Alyt, Warrior Satai and the Fire Wings Alyt. She didn't want any problems from them down the road. In fairness, they were Anla'Shok so she expected them to act like that. Well, she and Delenn seemed to be the only two out of the group who did.

What none of them could have known before exiting the shuttle onto the War Cruiser was that all of the Fire Wings had undergone a silent crises of conscience over the last 36 hours. They just had too much foreign information to digest. Many of them had not fought in the Earth Minbari war but it did not stop them from developing or mimicking the outrage at Sheridan's perceived treachery in destroying the Black Star. Not until now had any of them considered that the Black Star was sneaking up on Sheridan's ship in answer to a distress call for the sole purpose of finishing the kill. Rules of engagement obviously differ between Minbari Warriors and humans with insufficient weapons. They were forced to think about this when they considered his actions at Z'ha'dum. It was almost the same thing and for almost the same reason. To save the lives of those he swore to protect. The only difference this time is that everyone would benefit from it. The man took risks, he gambled and he wasn't afraid to put himself on the line for something he believed in. They would not ignore that. They also wouldn't ignore his faith. Except the Anla'Shok, they didn't think it was possible for humans to understand, let alone embrace Minbari faith. Apparently, this John Sheridan had more than any of them.

Susan was excused from her security detail only because Fannol and Mr. Garibaldi where traveling to the War Cruiser. And that was after a lengthy debate. Michael's tricks at out smarting the station Rangers weren't met with hostility as he feared but with admiration and respect that he could get around them. He was admonished not to do it again, however. When she mentioned Marcus would be there too, they pointedly looked at her and said, "He will be attending Entil'Zha." She tried to explain to them that it would not look good and might offend others to suggest she did not feel safe on their ship. Mai'lenn said nothing but Susan could feel the internal eye rolling at full force. None the less she was finally permitted to go.

The situation rooms on War Cruisers are huge which made it the ideal choice of location. She did not want to have this meeting on the station. Prior to leaving she informed everyone that she was not to be disturbed except in case of emergency. Someone did not get the memo or they did not understand Susan Ivanova.

Susan introduced herself and the others with her before starting. She knew that none of them had any real knowledge of her experience or ability other than what they'd heard of her Earth Force record. She also knew they were sizing her up. Susan wasn't stupid. John Sheridan had pretty much written himself a ticket to any ride in the galaxy but no matter how powerful her words were yesterday, most of the people in this room did not know her. They did not know if she had the metal to do what needed to be done. She knew she was going to have to come off confident, knowledgeable about the campaign, and she would have to be the Warrior that they'd all heard she was. She was Fire Wing and her clansmen were sitting around the table. Would they accept her as superior in something other than the denn'bok? How they treated her would go a long way in how the others thought of her. She had carefully thought out what she wanted to say and how she wanted to project herself to them with poise and grace. Preparing to get down to business, her link went off,

"McDaniels to Ivanova"

"The station better be on fire" she mumbled it but everyone in the room heard.

"Ivanova go"

"We're having a bit of a problem down here with some of the League members."

"Yes what's wrong?" concern growing that they'd pulled out of the coalition

"It seems that they are all disagreeing on who should have majority control over defending the station"

{I know you didn't just interrupt my meeting to tell me this}

"Has anyone been killed yet?" This causes all of the heads in the room to snap toward her. Michael, Marcus and Fannol see what's coming and can't help smiling. Delenn says nothing but knows.

"NO MAM! Its nothing like that, its just that they aren't agreeing and the debate is getting a bit heated. Plus, well, I thought it was important."

At this, Susan has completely forgotten everyone else in the room. Nope, Commander Susan Ivanova has just entered the building. She doesn't realize that she has the full attention of everyone in the room or that they can hear everything she is saying.

"Um hm. You thought it was important. McDaniels is it?"

"Yes Mam."

"We've never personally worked together before have we?"

"No Mam. I just got this promotion from Lt. Corwin after you made reassignments Mam."

"I see. So, you just want to do a good job and check in with me to make sure all's well."

You can hear him breath a sigh of relief that she gets it. [I don't know why people say she's mean]

"McDaniels, you are aware of my standing order that I was not to be disturbed during this meeting unless it was an emergency?"

A bit of his confidence and relief start to drain at the tone of her voice and his hesitancy shows,

"Yeeesss Mam"

With more Minbar thunder and lightening than any of them in the room have ever heard, Susan lets loose,

"McDaniels, if you ever contact me again with something other than a report that Shadows are wandering around the Zocolo I will personally come down to the station and find you. When I do I will snap your left arm off and beat you half to death with it. Then I will crack open your chest with my bare hands and rip out your still beating heart. After that I will drag your maimed, deformed and lifeless body to the nearest airlock and toss your sorry ass into the vacuum of space. Do you understand me?"

Voice cracking, trembling, close to tears and full of the new found fear of Ivanova he can only gasp,

"Oh God"

"No, Oh Ivanova"

"Ooh Ivanova,"

"Ivanova out."

With that Susan turns around prepared to take up where she left off only to be met with stares from every Fleet captain in the room except Fannol. No one knew what that was. Even the Warriors were beyond shocked and began to realize that there was obviously a lot more to humans than they were taught to believe. Every single one of them now believed there was a lot more to Susan Ivanova and they had no intention of finding out how much.

Missing all of this, Susan turned to Michael and asked him to switch the monitor to the targeting map and began laying out what needed to be done.

As he neared the exit to the jump gate he took a few minutes of personal inventory. There was no hesitation and no fear. The only thing he felt was conviction that his path was clear. He had made his peace with his fate and felt no desire to turn back. The only thing that concerned him was timing. He had to be sure that everything was in place. Getting up from the command chair, he did a quick systems check to confirm that all was as it should be. Not 30 seconds after clearing the jump gate did he get an incoming hail,

"Captain Sheridan, welcome to Z'ha'dum"

[Why does he not make that sound like the vacation spot of the universe?]

"You know my name?"

"We've been expecting you. We can send a shuttle up to escort you down."

"Is Anna there?"

"Of course."

"I'd prefer that she verifies that herself."

"Completely understandable, one moment Captain Sheridan."

"John, its me. I'm so glad you came."

"Anna, is that really you?"

"Yes, John. We'll send someone up to get you."

"No, I don't want to leave my ship up here unmanned. I guess I can come down into the atmosphere and take my own shuttle down. I don't know where I'm going you'll have to give me coordinates."

There is a bit of hesitation and its evident that she is speaking to someone. Muffled sounds come through.

"Its not like he can go anywhere now that he's here. I know him. He needs to feel like he's making his own decisions. He's still a captain and in his mind that means protecting that damn ship. Let him bring it down into the atmosphere."

"I suppose you're right. Now that he's here, he'll never leave anyway."

"John?"

"Yes Anna."

"I'm sending you the coordinates now. You should be able to leave your ship inside the atmosphere and then find your way down on your shuttle."

"Great. I've got the coordinates now. You'll be there when I land right?"

"Of course John. I'll be waiting."

"I'll see you soon."

With that he closed the connection and routed White Star Prime into position. As he headed to the shuttle bay, John Sheridan took one last look around, nodded his head that all was as it should be. Stepping into the shuttle, he last words rang out in the empty hanger,

"And so it begins"

Mai'lenn was a bit surprised by what she perceived as reticence on the part of White Star 3 when she informed them that she would be coming aboard soon. [What could they be hiding? There is nothing left to know. I am being paranoid] Or so she thought until she explained that she had a report to give from Ranger Cole. [That was relief. Something is going on]

When she mentioned this to the station Ranger next to her she learned something new,

"It doesn't surprise me at all. Once they returned and Fannol lifted the inter-ship communications ban, White Star 3 refused to comment on anything that happened. Not just the last 2 weeks but since long before the Entil'Zha went away. I was also informed that White Star 14 will make no comments or participate in any discussion whatsoever as well. Both White Star 3 and the War Cruiser that followed will not comment on where they went or what they did. Even though we all assume they went to confirm that the plan worked, they will not talk."

Mai'lenn mulled this over but decided she would not pursue it. She directed the others to spread the word not to as well. "If we are to know we will be told."

It was obvious to Mai'lenn that her report of Ivanova being threatened by the Shadow agent did not go over well with Susan's crew. They were making no attempts at masking their anger in the least. They thanked her for the report and set about implementing safety measures. As she headed back to her shuttle Mai'lenn was positive they would be informing White Star 14 of this information immediately.

Stephen Franklin was not being helpful. Mai'lenn quickly discovered as much on her return to the station when SEVERAL Rangers informed her that he tried to put up a fuss about his detail following him into the mess hall for lunch. "Apparently he has no problem with us guarding his patients just not himself." Fearing that he might attempt to give them 'the slip' she assigned 3 additional Rangers to take up a covert guard position. Ivanova was also going to be a problem, she knew. Mai'lenn was confident that Fannol would see that she stayed with her guards on station but she still assigned the additional ones to monitor her. "Nothing will get passed us this time."

She also contacted each of the ships in the Fleet by sending station Rangers up on shuttles to make the arraignments. There would be two members of each ship who were assigned to her should she board the ship in addition to those who would travel with her. She did the same for Dr. Franklin because she knew that he would have to travel to each ship to review the medical facilities several times. Mai'lenn was a bit surprised by the reaction of the Fire Wings on board those War Cruisers. They had taken it with as much insult and anger as White Star 3. "It appears they are very protective of their clanswoman. All the better, it will make my job easier."

When Susan returned from the meeting and exited the shuttle she groaned after looking up and seeing her security detail waiting. Before she could offer up a futile protest Fannol cut her off,

"You know it is necessary. You know that they need to insure your safety. This is not something you can take lightly."

The emotions she felt coming from him were enough to stop any further comment from her on the subject entirely.

"I know. You speak the truth. Its just a bit strange for me. I've never had a security detail before, except for you and well, that was more fun than anything else. I promise to be good." Then she tossed him one of her infamous wicked smiles that always set off warning bells within him. When he rolled his eyes all she could do was laugh. {A little tormenting can't hurt.}

Susan took a few minutes to meet with Talia on a semi personal matter. She wasn't sure if she should be doing this but she really didn't care.

"Talia, I was wondering which telepath you were assigning to White Star 14."

One look at Susan's face told Talia all she needed to know. This was personal and she was afraid to ask for the favor. Talia had already considered this. She knew her telepathic abilities were well above anyone else's except for Susan's and though she wasn't sure what Marcus' Psi rating was, she knew it had to be pretty high. Talia knew she was worried for her friend and since she was the Fleet Commander they would never be on the same ship.

"I was actually planning to take that one myself."

The look of relief on Susan's face would have been comical if she hadn't seen the way her eyes started to mist.

"I know its preferential treatment. I didn't want to ask but I..."

"You're worried about your friend. I don't pretend to understand you two and I'm sure its no secret to either of you that no one between here and Tuzanor understands you guys. But I do understand the feeling of wanting him protected and as safe as possible. Nothing is guaranteed out there but if my extra 'wattage' can help, I am more than happy to do so. Besides, he's my friend now too."

"Thank you. I don't know how to explain how much this means to me. Or that you thought of me in the first place."

"No thanks is needed. I'll go see him now and let him know."

"Still, thanks. Oh, and I am really sorry about all those people coming to you. I had no idea they'd all jump at it. You should have seen their faces Talia. They were so confused. They had no clue what the Shadows were or what this war was about. I think they thought we were all going a bit over board and just sort of lost our minds."

"Not anymore. The faces I saw on my console last night looked scared. I don't know how we could've not let them know this stuff sooner but that's all fixed now. I don't think you'll be having anymore staff problems. Oh, I hear someone named McDaniels was treated in Medlab after speaking with you earlier. Really, Susan."

All Susan can do is laugh. {Oh yeah, I'm starting to have fun around here.}

Later that evening once she was all tucked in for the night, Susan decided to check in with Marcus.

~Marcus~

~hey Susan, its late where are you?~

~did I wake you up?~

~no, I just got into bed. I was gonna start counting sheep~

~oh, well maybe I'll be so boring it will knock you right out~

~I doubt it. You can't possibly still be working at this hour~

~no, I just got into bed myself and thought I'd check in with you~

~at the risk of exposing myself to equal time, you do realize this is pretty amazing?~

~yeah, I guess. You're the only one who knows this.~

~And I won't tell anyone. You're carrying the connection between us. I'm just along for the ride~

~there wouldn't be a ride if you weren't there with Stephen. If you hadn't done what you did.~

~it's nothing you wouldn't have done for me.~

~true. Are you alright? You seemed distracted today~

~just a lot on my mind. And Delenn~

~something tells me you aren't happy with the "plan"~

~you know me too well. No I'm not happy but she wants to do it. All I can do is watch her back~

~and you will. You always have ever since I've known you. You two have some kind of connection. It works.~

~thanks. So two days till we head out.~

~yeah, I can hardly believe it. We've got to be ready. I don't want you going out until after this thing of Delenn's is settled. Not unless something dire happens. If I don't make it Fannol will step up. Then we'll have Michael take command. Only as a last resort will we call on you~

~so, I'm a last resort now?~

~no. You are Entil'Zha's personal protector. We need you to watch her. Especially because of her plan.~

~can't talk about it. but you're right. I won't stay out of the fighting long though.~

~Marcus, you have any idea how many Shadow ships are out there? not including their allies. I can almost promise you there will be plenty to go around.~

~gee, thanks. We'll be leaving for Minbar the day after you head out. it will give me time to sure up the station Rangers.~

~ok. what about having Mai'lenn report to Michael? he's worked with them the longest and he knows what's what. hell, he knows how to out smart them.~

~yeah, they're still feeling the blow from that one. Michael's good. I don't want us all going out at the same time. We need to keep some leadership here. And I don't think Stephen will be happy about having double Ranger guard duty because they fear for him being on the station alone.~

~how'd you know?~ There was no need to pretend otherwise.

~that you'd want a super powered telepath on board with Fannol? I know you. I'd have done the same thing.~

~it sounds selfish, I..~

~you don't have to explain it to me at all. Plus I think its safer that way for both of you~

~huh~

~when we were waiting for you to 'wake up' we noticed Fannol's behavior. it was very off. he was very unlike himself. Stephen said that he sensed a weird empathic bond between you two. that he sensed it along time ago but that its really strong now.~

~yeah. he said that when he first jumped into orbit he could feel my distress. he knew I wasn't on the station. he came straight here to the ship, to the chapel. he knew exactly where I was.~

~wow. that's pretty powerful. from orbit?~

~yeah, I know we can feel each other from ship to ship and the station~

~WHAT???~

~uh, ok, no need to shout. gee, I guess you could call it a long distance touchy feely~

~why am I surprised? you know I've never heard of anything like that. I wonder if its him or you.~

~what do you mean?~

~you're not an empath. you two have this weird undefinable friendship so maybe that's a part of it. I'm just wondering if its something about him rather than something about you~

~who knows. I really don't see what everyone else finds so strange about us. maybe, it could be him. we really haven't had the time to look into it. been kinda busy lately~

~yeah. I guess so.~

~Susan?~

~yeah~

~

~are you still there Marcus?~

~oh, yeah sorry. would you like to have dinner tomorrow?~ [there, I said it and it only took a year]

~sure, that'd be fun. maybe we can get Stephen to cook. he never seems to mind on short notice. though I think he might still be ticked about the guards. Otherwise Talia could do it 'cause you.. ~

~you want Stephen to cook?~

~well our last dinner at Earhart's didn't exactly go over so well. I don't think they'll be happy to see our group march in there again any time soon. I think it's a great idea for us all to get together before we each head out. And with Fannol here it'd be even more fun.~

[of course. with Fannol here it'd be loads of fun. I was asking you out on a date!!!!]

~well, I don't think we should ask Stephen just yet. he is VERY ticked off. how about we meet at your place? It'd cut down on the security. I'll check w/ Michael and Talia. You can deal with Stephen. He already pitched a fit about them following him to the mess hall. Mai'lenn's not happy one bit~

[I can't believe you couldn't even get her to realize it was suppose to be a date!]

~ok, I don't think he'll come after me with a thermometer or tongue depressors as we're in the same boat.~

~yeah. let's try for 18:30, baring weirdness.~

~this is B5 we're talking about. weirdness comes with the joint. night~

~night~

[I can't believe she couldn't see it was supposed to be a date! What am I doing wrong? Well, at least it wasn't rejection. Ugh!]

Fannol to Ivanova

"Hey, why are you still awake?"

"You don't sound sleepy yourself."

"That's 'cause I wasn't asleep"

"Very funny."

"What's up?"

"You spoke with Talia"

"Tell me you're not mad before I answer that question."

"I am not mad."

"Ok, then the answer is yes."

"Why would you think I would be mad?"

"Well its not exactly protocol, it was personal. I just wanted you to have a little extra power out there. But, I can justify it 'cause you're too important to loose." A bit more softly, "not just to the Fleet, but to me."

Fannol is touched by her admission. However softly she said it.

"I take it that telekinesis will be of help?"

"No, well I don't know. I meant the telepathy."

"She is a P5. That's what is required for human telepaths. What extra power do you mean?"

Susan can tell he's confused and realizes he's missed a few things.

"That's right, you don't know. It's a secret. Stephen and I are the only ones here who know."

"Know what and here versus where?"

"That she isn't really a P5 and Tuzanor."

"That place holds everyone's secrets. Ok, so she's not a P5. Should I ask?"

"Only so you realize that whatever effect she has on them isn't gonna be typical of the rest of the telepaths in the Fleet. And, its still a secret. But I think she's assuming that I'll tell you."

"Are you stalling for a reason?"

"No, just babbling to cover the bases. Anyway, she's a P20."

"Ah, well the Minbari scale has a higher conversion number than the human one. That would make her what a P10 or even a P12?"

"No. On the non existent human scale her conversion from Minbari to human would equal a P20."

"In Valen's name"

"Yeah. But you don't know that ok?"

Fannol is speechless for a moment as he processes and a thought comes to him but he will not ask.

"I can feel the wheels turning in your head. I also know that you'd never ask the question. I don't actually have any secrets from you. The mind healer at Tuzanor and Leroon won't ever tell and Jeff is....gone. Those are the only ones who know. On the non existent human scale I'm a P30."

He steeled himself when she first began to speak because he knew she would tell him. He was determined not to have a reaction of any kind. He did not.

"I see."

"I see? That's it. I just tell you I'm a freak of nature and all you can say is I see?"

.

Susan has no idea why she's getting worked up because he had no negative reaction.

"Susan, you keep forgetting that you are my friend. Your telepathic and 'other' abilities are a part of you. A part of my friend. Just as your eye color. It takes nothing away from our friendship."

{Why did I ever worry about this man?}

"Thank you. I don't know why I worried. It's a little weird."

"I've had almost 2 years of your general weirdness that has nothing to do with your Psi abilities. This is of no consequence."

"Wow. That's good of you to say.. hey what do you mean general weirdness?"

"Yesterday you locked your senior officers in a room. Today you threatened to kill a member of your crew using one of his own limbs, extracting his beating heart, then toss him into space. Stephen had to sedate him for several hours. What's not weird about that?"

She can't help laughing at his attempt to put it in the most polite terms.

"You heard all that?"

"Susan, everyone in the situation room heard you."

"Oh. So that's why they were all staring at me."

"I should say so."

"I don't think you will ever have to worry about them making the same mistake." he dead panned.

"Yeah, I guess not. Oops, that's the first time many of them met me. Not a great first impression."

"I believe your Fire Wings were impressed enough. I think a bit scared too."

"Well, I just needed them to follow orders, not be scared of me."

"Yeah right."

"What a smart ass."

"I learned from the best. Back to Talia. I now understand. Susan, you are very important to me as well. I would not want to loose you either. Now that I know Talia's significant ability I understand why you wanted her on board my ship. I am more deeply touched."

"Ok, enough mush. We're all having dinner at my place tomorrow at 18:30."

"All? It was good of you to invite me. At least I think that was an invitation, not a directive."

"We're really gonna have to work on this smart ass thing of yours. Yeah, actually it was Marcus' idea. He asked me."

"Then how did I get invited?"

"Huh? Of course you'd be invited. He asked if I wanted to have dinner tomorrow. We–Stephen, Talia, Marcus, and Michael when he can get away have dinner together weekly. Last one was the night Anna attacked though. Stuff kind of happened. I figure he's making it up."

Fannol, however, has a different idea but he won't share it. He believes Marcus finally worked up the courage to ask her out on a date and Susan misunderstood. He won't mention that. [Those two are never going to get together. He's too nervous and she's too blind. But I'm not getting involved.]

"Dinner seems like a good idea. I'll be there"

"Good. Come early if you can or stay late if you want and we can hang out together afterwards."

[Somehow I don't think Cole will like that]

"We shall see. It seems fine."

"Great. I gotta sleep I'm not a morning person in space."

"Yes, I've heard the stories. See you tomorrow."

"Night."

The time had finally come for the Army of Light to engage the Shadows. The leaders spent time together the night before finalizing everything they could. Michael was to remain and take command of the ships defending the station. Stephen was silent on his reasons for not going on this first mission but no one bothered asking because he never spoke of mysteries until it was either time or he was forced to. Marcus was to leave with Delenn the following day for what everyone started referring to as 'Operation Unity'. Everyone but Marcus, who could barely suppress the urge to roll his eyes. Talia was just about giddy. She knew the seriousness of what was to come but it was also her first time going into battle. Her first time traveling on a war ship or anything other than a passenger liner. And it was her first time feeling like she was going to have an actual hand at literally fighting the Shadows. Susan and Fannol had spent the night before in each other's company on board White Star 3 after the group left. They decided they would take 2 of the specially equipped War Cruisers and one that was already there, leaving the others to orbit the station and ½ the White Stars. This still left a huge number of ships for station defense or if need be second strike. Marcus would be commanding White Star 2 on their 'secret mission' to prepare for 'Operation Unity'.

League worlds had also sent ships to the station to head out with them as well as others on station defense. This was a relief to Susan. She had feared that they would not continue their support once Captain Sheridan was no longer in charge. His military record showed extensive war time and combat experience. He held the distinction of being the only human captain to not only survive battle against the Minbari but the only one to destroy a single ship during that war. No, she feared they'd leave her with only the Anla'Shok and she did not want to be the cause of breaking something John had put his heart and soul into creating. Talia had worked magic with the Minbari and human telepaths. Until the War Council was certain it would work and have an effect, Talia quietly placed their telepaths on as many of the League world ships as possible with a plausible explanation without the crew ever knowing they were telepaths. Depending on the outcome, she would meet with her League contact on their return and go over the particulars.

Susan felt it was her responsibility as Fleet Commander to have some rousing words for the troops before departure. Late into the night she had nothing to say other than 'let's go'. She really didn't think that was inspiring enough for the first battle in a Holy War such as this. Nothing came to her. She got up and took a walk around the ship hoping she'd see or hear something that would bring the words to her. Lost in thought, she was halfway around the ship when she noticed she was being followed at a not so discreet distance by two members of her crew. That made her smile and she couldn't help a small laugh. {They're probably scared I'm about to have a nutty} Then she realized that her laughter probably didn't give them any assurance of her mental well being so she stopped to talk to them.

"Everything's fine. I'm just trying to figure out what I will say to the troops before we head out in the morning. I promise this isn't a sign of anything to come except writer's block." She wanted to laugh at the absolute look of relief that flooded their faces at those words. Then she had to consider what could drive them to such a degree of concern. {I'm gonna have to have a crew meeting when we get back. They've been wonderful and I've put them through hell this year.} Realizing that even though they believed her they had no intention of turning around and leaving, she knew this had Mai'lenn written all over it. Everyone laughed at her earlier when instead of shuttling up for dinner, White Star 3 informed Marcus that they would be sending a shuttle to pick them up. Michael just laughed and asked if they thought a Shadow agent would sneak on board their shuttle to get on Susan's ship. No one had anything to say when the tactical officer responded, "It will not have the opportunity to try" then directed them to wait for their ride or forgo dinner. Only Fannol was permitted to shuttle himself over and that was only because someone from White Star 3 was onboard White Star 14 prior to departure and personally inspected his shuttle. Needless to say, Susan payed for it the entire night.

"Ivanova to all ships"

We lead the first charge against the Shadows. We stand united in the purpose of driving out the Darkness that has encroached on our lives. We carry the lantern of hope for all those living in the Light. We are passing through Gethsemane.. Some of us may fall. Some of us may not return. But all of us will enter the dark place of Shadows today. All of us will fight to hold up the Light. We are one in this battle. We are one in this war. We are one in the victory that is already ours, we need only to claim it. Assume formation and break orbit. Valen guide us all.

With that, White Star 3 jumped from station orbit heading out to directly engage the Shadows. For their part, the Shadows were expecting them. Not their specific location, but it seemed that their allies had well placed spies on either Babylon 5 or within the governments of at least one of the League worlds. They knew a frontal assault was coming. What they didn't know was that there would be telepaths on board and that is one thing that saved many of the ships. The battles were intense and it was a bit unnerving for many people to look up and see a Shadow ship coming at them for the first time.

One thing that became almost immediately apparent to Susan was that not only where Shadow ships not engaging White Stars 3 & 14, they were running en mass, leaving wide berth. She feared this would draw attention to them so she sent Talia a telepathic message to have Fannol drop back to the rear of the Fleet to provide cover fire to others and to explain why using telepathic communication. Talia was a bit startled to hear Susan from somewhere across the Fleet but just rolled her eyes and thought, [she can sense a ship entering jumping range, why am I surprised?] Then gave the slightly startled Fannol the message with a shy smile. He had no fear of her unexpectedly popping into his mind and tried to convey it with a look.

Monitoring the rest of the Fleet, Susan could tell which ships had telepaths on them and which of those had the more powerful ones. They weren't getting scratched. She knew she couldn't give herself away by communicating with those telepaths directly from her own ship so she started sending veiled orders to the captains of those ships hoping they'd get it. They did. She didn't even bother with vagueness with the Fire Wings. They were Warriors and Anla'Shok, they were spoiling to be in the thick of this fight from the moment they realized what was happening. They each had the equivalent of P10s on board so she felt confident they'd be just fine if Michael's theory about Bester driving the ship away were correct. They rose to the challenge and got right to it.

Talia was taking very careful notes of how the others affected the Shadow ships so she could make crew reassignments later. She looked up to see one of the huge Shadow ships sailing directly at a League world ship that she knew had no telepath on board. Tactical could not get a targeting solution on it and because of their location they could not get near enough to scare it off. Without thinking, Talia got up from her seat and practically ran to the forward view screen. She stood still in front of it and everyone knew she was about to do something but they didn't know what. White Star 14 got the report from station Rangers that she was also telekinetic. Before anyone realized, she raised her hand out and was 'moving' the League ship out of the line of fire. Literally picked it up and moved it to another location. Then she turned her attention on the Shadow ship and blew it apart.

In the middle of shouting out commands to her crew Susan saw a Drazi ship about to be split open by Shadow laser fire. Before she could order they engage it, she saw the Drazi ship 'floating' out of the line of fire. "Ok, that's one way of covering them." When she saw the Shadow ship implode she just knew that was Talia's follow-up. {I bet Fannol's hopping up and down with joy now that he's figured out he doesn't have to worry about weapons being off line when she's on board.} Susan didn't care that Talia did it, only that the Drazi might figure out what happened. She didn't want her exposed and knew people would be talking about it later.

"Ivanova to White Star 14"

"White Star 14 here"

"Not in the manual but definitely good work. Let's try to be a little more discreet with the encores, shall we?" Fannol's laughter could be heard over the com as Talia squeaked out an "Ok."

The bridge crew was still a bit shaken by what they'd just seen. Moving a desk or table is one thing. Closing and locking a door is one thing. Lifting a war ship and moving it out of the line of fire, then blowing up an enemy ship is just strange. When Fannol saw her moving toward the screen he guessed that she might try something to save the ship (not what she actually did, but something that would end up revealing herself) he turned to his crew and gave them the silence for life look.

The plan was to hit one base at a time in a non linear scatter shot formation just so they wouldn't be sailing into a prepared ambush. Once the first engagement looked like they were going to be successful, she directed a mixed group of ships to break off and head for the second location. Michael had advised her to instruct all ship to activate forward and rear monitors set to record. He said they would need both the tactical information and what he called 'good media footage'. Reports were coming in from various locations across the Fleet of the varying degree of fire power of ships. She wasn't sure what to make of that but told them to keep fighting and gathering all the information they could. {There's some kind of pattern there.} They wouldn't figure that out until much later when they reviewed the reports and footage in the situation room.

As they pushed their offensive forward Susan decided to split up from Fannol and the rest of the troops so that she could jump to the third location and confirm enemy presence. Normally, that is not something that the Fleet Commander would or should do but she didn't want to take any chances on losing ships when she had the Psi extra wattage. She just didn't want to risk anything and they had to get as much mileage out of this attack as possible. Susan couldn't be sure they hadn't developed some anti telepath weapon or telepathic defense shield since the last war and didn't want to give them time to deploy it. When White Star 3 exited their jump point they found themselves smack in the middle of the Shadow welcoming committee of all time waiting for them. Massive amount of Shadows everywhere and they were surrounded on all sides. It was as if they were waiting for them, knew the exact location of the jump point. It looked like the recording she'd gotten the Great Machine to show her. The whole thing made her stomach turn but she steeled herself. {Maybe the scouting thing wasn't such a good idea after all}

With so many ships circling them the screams were overwhelming. They were starting to give her a massive headache. She hoped they hadn't sent those kinds of reinforcements to the other battalions or every other telepath in the Fleet would be on their knees.

Angry at the Shadows and mad at herself for risking the life of her crew she shouted,

"I wish all you Shadows would just die!"

That's when she noticed they weren't engaging. Susan was standing in front of the forward view screen when they jumped into this madness so she saw that the ships were trying to turn around and enter the jump gate but couldn't. They where spinning out of control trying to get away. Then she noticed they were shimmering in and out of view and finally just cracked apart, flames shooting out from various points and then they died. She turned to tactical, about to ask what he hit the ships with, and noticed that her entire crew was staring at her open mouth.

"What?"

"We never fired a shot."

"Oh"

To their credit they recovered themselves quickly and moved on to the tasks at hand. She walked to the command chair and sat down.

{I have no idea how I'm going to explain this.} The only thing Susan counted as a blessing was that there were no other ships around to watch since White Star 3 had gone out first. Just then several jump points opened around her,

"Massive jump points opening all around us!" came from the not so fully composed operation's officer.

"No, those are just the White Stars" she said that off handedly as she tried to process what had happened. Secretly hoping that instead of being the reason for–whatever that was—the manufacturer's warranty had simply expired on all of the ships at the same time.

They did not stare. They did not turn their heads to look at one another. They had just seen their captain kill a huge Shadow ambush simply by being in their presence and yelling for them to die. They were not going to be awed because she can tell the type of ship coming from the other side of a jump point.

The Shadow ambush was picked up on long range sensors by the others and the Fire Wings War Cruisers along with several White Stars jumped to White Star 3's location in order to defend and give aid or rescue. They weren't prepared for the grave yard of Shadow ships and floating debris field. Hails starting coming in from every ship asking what happened. She looked at her com officer and was totally and completely lost. She didn't know what to say and she was feeling the most exposed she'd been since sitting on that transport to Kintari 5 in full view of the Psi Cops. Still the hails continued. She looked scared and her hands were shaking. Completely overwhelmed, she put her head down in her hands and couldn't speak. Her crew was better prepared. A general response went out to all ships.

"An unknown phenomenon interfered with Shadow activity. We are unable to provide any information or details on the situation. We count it as a blessing, you should as well." Then he cut the transmission.

"Thank you."

"Our mission was to fight the Shadows. These are all dead. Our mission here seems complete. Should we move to the next location?"

Susan couldn't help but smile. It warmed her heart when she looked around the bridge that no one was gawking at her or looked fearful. She simply nodded.

There was dead silence on every single ship as the surveyed the wreckage before them. Never in any of their lives had they seen something so horrific as the remains of what looked like thousands of Shadow parts. It was difficult to tell how many ships these pieces would make if crazy glued back together somehow.

One ship in the Fleet was very aware what the unknown phenomenon was that interfered with the Shadow activity. White Star 14 positioned itself next to White Star 3 immediately upon seeing the situation. Both Talia and Fannol were extremely concerned. Fannol wasn't sure what condition she would be in physically but he was certain that she was emotionally off center. Not wanting to risk asking any questions over an open channel, Talia sent a message asking if she was ok.

~Yeah, but I don't know how I'm gonna explain this. People are going to ask questions and talk~

Sensing that Susan was really scared, Talia tried to arrange a 3-way connection with Fannol by taking his hand and pulling him into her mind.

~Susan?~

~Hey, how'd you get in here?~

~Talia is resourceful~

~Good thing~

~Everything is going to be alright Susan. The crew has seen much. This is nothing they can't handle~

~Yeah, I've given them their monies worth and several free shows~ she can't hide the pain or fear

she's feeling

~Shall I come over?~

~No, I'm not so bad that you have to leave your ship just to come hold my hand. But you're probably gonna have to hold it later.~

~It would be my pleasure.~

~Ok, let's move them out. Don't want them studying the wreckage trying to find the phenomenon.~

To Susan's relief, there were no more unknown phenomenon for the remainder of the engagements. The rest of the Fleet was pretty involved in fighting and staying alive. With the exception of White Stars 3 & 14, telepaths were not the sure win but its obvious that they might have lost a great deal of ships if they were not on board. As it stood on their return 8 days later, they lost several fighters and only a few ships. Losing comrades is a difficult thing but considering the potential for casualties, these numbers were very low. In contrast, they did major damage to the Shadows. Hands down this was a huge victory for the Light.

They all knew this was just the beginning. There was no way to tell just how many secret Shadow bases were out there. If they held to their old play book, they would also be using planets where the population was not space faring. They could also be using uninhabited planets. Allies had grown. Those worlds who had little in the way of technological advancement when compared to others such as the Minbar, jumped at the chance to form alliance with the Shadows. Others like the Centauri had just lost their minds. No, the Army of Light had much work ahead of it, but they would savor this victory. They would also have to release video of the engagements for League delegates to forward home. Everyone likes to be on the winning team. {Let's just hope we keep winning}

After jumping into orbit around Babylon 5, Susan was happy to see that the station was still standing and that even more ships had come in to defend it. This would make things easier on those going out into battle. The Council could switch off ships to give crews a break. They would wait only one day so that the War Council could review tactical information. Then the second strike battalion would move out. Susan hoped to have a revolving door. She wanted them spread out in as many areas as possible fighting at the same time. She wanted the Shadows to take a consistent pounding. She wanted them to go away for good.

Once the Fleet was secured at the station and all tactical information was forwarded to White Star 14, Susan requested damage and casualty reports. "Not as many as I feared, but more than I like."

Repair teams were to begin work immediately. Susan couldn't be sure but she got the feeling that her clansmen were a little dismayed to find that the only real damage to their ship amounted to scratches. They seemed to want a few battle scares. When she informed them that they had many more engagements to fight and that they should just consider this one a practice run, they nearly jumped for joy. {I'm never gonna understand those guys}

Wounded were transferred to the station if needed but there were only 2 serious cases and Stephen handled those both. Michael hailed Susan and Fannol and said they needed to come down as soon as they could because he needed to update them on "Operation you know what" The way he said it made Fannol grimace before replying,

"Why do I have a feeling I am not going to like what you have to say?"

"Because you know me oh so well. And soon you'll know why our friend rolled his eyes and clenched his jaw so tight he could have cracked a tooth every time someone mentioned the name."

"This isn't going to be good."

"Nope. So hurry down and share the drama with me."

While Susan was preparing all the information to take down to the station she missed several conversation that were taking place. After the 'unknown phenomenon' and witnessing her reaction to it, White Star 3 had a secret committee meeting. They decided that they alone should be responsible for her security and monitoring at all times rather than station Rangers. Part of that was based on the fact that they had too much information about her that they needed to keep secret from everyone else outside the War Council. And partly because they had seen her reaction to what she had done. They saw her surprise and her fear. They saw that she was more afraid of what her crew and others would think of her. And they saw that she had no idea what or how she'd done it.

They contacted Mai'lenn and demanded that she remove all station Rangers from Susan's security detail saying that she was their captain and they could provide all the security she needed. They also stated that it made sense logistically and that they knew her better than most of the station Rangers because she lives on board the ship with them.

Mai'lenn wasn't buying it. [Something happened and they do not want anyone to find out] She considered that for a few moments. White Star 3 stopped talking to anyone since the day they jumped into orbit with the War Cruiser in pursuit and neither ship would give details on that. White Star 14 will not comment on anything as well. [They have closed ranks around their captains] Since her only concern is that Ivanova be protected from an attack by Shadow agents or anyone else, she saw nothing wrong with that. She also considered that Ivanova would be more receptive to additional guards if they came from her crew. She agreed.

Susan was surprised but not displeased when she stepped out of her office to find 2 members of her crew waiting at guard position. She turned her head slowly when they fell into step behind her and raised a questioning eyebrow at them,

"We have contacted Mai'lenn and informed her that your crew will have sole responsibility for your protection on and off this ship."

Susan knew exactly what they were doing and why so she said nothing and simply nodded. At the shuttle bay she saw two more guards waiting and learned that she is also to have a pilot at all times now. Still unable to find fault with them for this she agreed and stepped inside. {hopefully this doesn't raise any suspicion}

Exiting her shuttle at the same time Fannol and Talia were getting out of theirs, she could only shrug at their inquisitive stares,

"Apparently there was a change in the program while I wasn't looking. The crew has permanent guard duty and I now have a shuttle pilot—full time."

Fannol and Talia looked at the crew carefully, sizing them up and confirming their intentions. Satisfied, they both nodded their assent to them and filed out of the shuttle bay. Fannol stepped closer to Susan as she moved toward him and they embraced silently. They would have much to talk about later in private and everyone seemed to understand that.

She turned to Talia as they walked toward the War Room and smiled a warm smile of gratitude.

Once the three got inside they saw Michael and Stephen waiting with sour expressions on their faces. Stephen started things off,

"First, I'm glad to see all of you back and in one piece. Based on the casualty reports I received, I'd say this first engagement was a success."

"Yeah, we definitely didn't loose as many as we could have. Once Michael gets finished with the tapes, he should see some kind of pattern, something we might have missed.

"Sure, I'll get on that after we're finished here. First, Operation Unity should have been code named Operation Suicide 'cause that's what Delenn is basically up to."

Not a good thing to say to this group.

"You're gonna have to do better than that Michael, we need details." Talia doesn't like this one bit and neither does anyone else.

"She's stepping into the Star Fire Wheel in about 30 minutes."

Stunned silence for a full 5 seconds before the room erupts in a round of,

"What?"

Susan just sits quietly trying to blend into the furnishings and not call any undue attention to herself. She knew that was coming. Stephen catches her eye so she shrugs and tosses him a look that says, 'cut me some slack.'

"Yeah, part of her brilliant plan. Oh and she had help. Neroon." Talia doesn't let him finish,

"Are you telling me that Neroon has challenged her? That he is back to his old tricks again?"

"Nope. Shikiri."

That makes everyone stop for a minute. Shikiri is Warrior Caste Shai Alyt. He's also Star Rider clan. A round of,

"This is not good" echo the room. Fannol whose been silent mostly finally breaks in,

"Start from the beginning, leave nothing out. Where is Marcus?"

"Last question first. Apparently tied up somewhere. She seemed to have left quite a bit out of her secret unity "plan" even to him. My guess is that she has him stashed on one of the Religious Caste war ships until its over 'cause when he finally figured out what she was up to he blew a gasket and tried to get her out of there. I truly believe he was gonna throw her over his shoulder and stuff her into the first shuttle he could grab and get back to White Star 2. And she anticipated that. Delenn is a lot sneakier than she looks folks."

Then all eyes turn toward Susan. "I said I saw what would happen, I didn't say I got the Full Monty people."

"Fine, Marcus is stashed somewhere seething and thinking murderous thoughts about Entil'Zha. Now what the hell do you mean she's stepping into the Star Fire Wheel? That damn thing hasn't

been used since... oh shit!" Stephen doesn't complete the thought but everyone else does,

"Valen" At that Michael continues, "Yes, she decided to take a page out of his original play book."

"Neroon was the go between her and Shikiri. We all know the Religious and Warrior Castes have been fighting this civil war for months, mostly a cold war. Heated up really bad last week. Bombings all over Minbar. Yedor looks like a disaster zone. Only city that's completely off limits is Tuzanor. Neither side is crazy enough to risk the Temple of Valen, his home, the training grounds, or Sisters of Valeria. That's ALL that's been off limits. They are tearing the place apart. Minbari are dropping dead like flies. I'm telling you guys, they are making up for 1,000 years of not killing each other and most of its happened this week. Only ones not in the fighting are the Workers who are running around trying to clean up the mess and—surprisingly enough to EVERYONE the Fire Wings. Shikiris is ticked about that but the Alyt and Durhan have put their foot down. They aren't getting into it.

Plus side is that more and more Fire Wings are headed to Tuzanor and other Ranger training camps. Oh, Susan you'll be happy to know that the ones here have been singing your praises back home."

Susan just nods her head and motions for him to get on with it. Not feeling well at all by what she's hearing about the destruction of Minbar.

"Yeah the real "plan" wasn't anything like she told Marcus. Only she and Neroon knew what that would be. Even though he's Satai, Neroon was Shikiri's student and his aide. Shikiri knew he could trade on having been his mentor and sponsoring him for Delenn's seat on the Grey Council. They were supposed to arrange a meeting for surrender. To stop the fighting, Delenn would represent the Religious Caste and formally surrender to the Warrior Caste who, under Shikiri's leadership, would replace the Nine and rule Minbar."

"That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard! He actually wants the Warriors to rule Minbar? Completely?" Talia barely spat that out her disgust obvious.

"Yeah, and he thought Delenn was soft enough to agree. Not being a Warrior and all, not having the stomach for the violence. Anyway, the surrender would be public so that everyone would see it at the same time and know to stop the fighting. That was Delenn's idea. Shikiri forgot she was Satai for more than 10 years. Big mistake, he not only agreed, he let her pick the place."

"Very gracious of him." The sarcasm is dripping and Fannol doesn't care.

"Yeah, well anyway, she says she wanted to make it symbolic. Something like that would mean more to the Religious Caste because they understand the significance of doing it there in the chamber. He's real stupid or just over confident or doesn't know Delenn cause he agreed to that as well."

"Wait a minute, Michael, how do you know all this?" Talia's narrowed eyes are piercing.

"Well, I kind of have informants on Minbar in various castes and locations."

At the look of shock and disbelief from the group he answers,

"Jeff is my best friend. Do you people really think I was gonna let him go to Minbar as an ambassador– which I thought the whole recalling him to Earth so quickly deal was a set up and a scam to begin with—and not have some kind of back door or safety net for him? Nope, I had people in place almost before he hit Tuzanor. How do you think he got out of that murder rap? How do you think I was in on the Rangers from the beginning? Geez people some times you really forget the kind of power I have!" He has the nerve to look indignant and put out but he's earned it cause everyone in the room is staring at him like he's the second coming.

"Wow. Ok, so you've got spies—excuse me—informants. That was for Entil'Zha Sinclair."

"You guys don't think I wasn't gonna watch Delenn's back? Especially with John being in love with her. Susan, you've got to be kidding if you think I haven't had my ear to the ground since you came back Fire Wing. I'm always gonna know what's going on in that clan and caste to make sure nothing rears its ugly head and catches you by surprise."

Susan is touched and can't help the warm smile she gives him before, "Alright enough mush, get on with the story."

"We can't stop it because my informant just got the last piece of info. She's planning to go into the circle under that Wheel and challenge him for leadership instead of surrendering."

"Damn" is all Fannol can say to that.

"Damn is right"

"So what does Neroon get out of this?"

"They both set up Shikiri. Neroon is Warrior Caste and Star Rider but he's also Minbari. He doesn't believe they should be killing each other. Since he's gotten over his 'Delenn must die' issues, it includes her as well. And as much as he benefitted from shifting the balance of the Nine by taking Delenn's seat and loving it, he doesn't think one caste should have all the power. But Delenn double crossed him too."

At everyone's quizzical expressions,

"Neroon knows his mentor. He knows Shikiri would grudgingly accept the challenge and go into the circle because it was being broadcast planet wide. But Shirki loves the good life, power, respect. Dead men can't enjoy the good life. Neroon knew he wouldn't stay in, that he'd step out. So, Delenn told him that she'd step out of the circle a few seconds after Shikiri just so there was no doubt that he left first and she remained. According to my contact, she has no intention of doing that."

A general group round of "Damn"

Talia thinks for a minute,

"Can we get live or delayed feed from the chamber?"

"Yeah, I didn't know if you guys wanted to see it or not but my contact has worked it so we get it 2 minutes delayed. It's the best that can be done considering the circumstance."

Susan just looks at him with new found awe,

"That's amazing Michael. When?"

"10 minutes. Station Rangers don't know this and I had no intention of telling them. Let them find out when its over, not before."

"Agreed"

None of them wanted to watch this but they couldn't turn a blind eye to it either. She was a member of the War Council, she was Entil'Zha and she was their friend. Susan decided that it was her fault for telling Delenn to forge her own path and that she'd seen her restore unity and order to Minbar. Apparently everyone in the room is a telepath because they read her thoughts and told her she was wrong. That they all should have been more suspicious of her when she didn't want to reveal the details of the "plan" but since they were so focused on the Shadows they let this slip by them.

When it was over none of them knew what to think. They were just staring at the blank monitor with their mouths hanging open. First in awe that Michael really was that good to have that kind of accurate intelligence on such a secret plan and to have it as quickly as he did. Second, that Delenn actually did it. No, once they heard Michael's set up, they all believed she would do just that for the reasons he stated. But the biggest surprise was Neroon. Nobody thought he would do that. He never liked Delenn. Never supported her place or her practices. Jealousy maybe. He always thought she was a zealous religious fanatic. But to see him push Delenn out of the fire, proclaim that Religious Caste was the true calling of his heart and then die in her place was the biggest shock any of them had to date. And for that group, its saying a lot. Stephen was the first to find his voice,

"I can't believe he did that. Never in a million years would I have seen that coming."

Most can do nothing but nod their heads. It's a bit unusual for this group to be shocked as they're mostly the ones shocking others. Michael turns to the others and asks,

"What does this mean? What will happen now?" Its Talia who answers,

"If Marcus doesn't kill her with his bare hands once they let him out of the closet it means that the Nine will reconvene. Technically she's earned the right to rule completely but we know she wouldn't do that. She won't be Satai but she will probably have the loudest voice over who is. It means that the war, the fighting and the killing is over. And no offense Susan 'cause according to Michael the Fire Wings stayed out of it, it means that the Warriors will be reeled in for a long time if not forever. Finally, it means that instead of using their ships and weapons to destroy the planet they may finally come into the fight and help us win this war against the Shadows."

Fannol is in complete agreement,

"I don't know how they will choose, though I believe she has already put considerable thought to that, but yes I am certain that the Nine shall be brought together again. Soon."

"Minbari have lived by the decisions of the Nine for 1,000 years. Not many did well without them over the last year." Then Susan thinks for a minute,

"And if Marcus doesn't kill her I will. That was worse than Talia's death wish plan to get those damn identi cards!"

She was serious but everyone found it funny. After a few minutes Michael turned to them and says,

"See what happens when you guys go away for a week? Now, tell me how brilliant my telepath plan was and how great it worked."

Susan doesn't want to say anything. She hasn't been able to talk to either Talia or Fannol about what happened at the third engagement site and doesn't want to get into it. Neither of them bring it up.

Talia does give the report,

"From what we saw, it was a brilliant plan Michael. We do have to get them on all the ships, the few League ships we lost were the ones without telepaths and I don't think it will go over very well when I give my report to them on getting their telepaths. But I'm not even sure we should do that."

This causes others to wonder and she continues,

"Tell me they didn't know we were coming? I know there's either a spy on this station or at least in one of their governments."

No one can fault her but Fannol reasons it out for her,

"You are probably right. But the ones we engaged knew there were telepaths on our ships and tried to flee them. If they know, couldn't they have already passed this information to the others?"

"We didn't let anyone get away did we? I thought we snagged everyone in the area. I didn't feel any hiding. But they're several million years older than me so maybe they know how to hide better."

Stephen gives some insight to Talia's question,

"It doesn't really matter if they got away or not. If you're talking about Shadow ships and not those of their allies because they do seem to have some ability to 'group think' if you will. Meaning, if the emotion or information is too strong, they will all feel it."

Susan breaks in, "Like when Delenn said they would all feel their home world die and know who did it?"

"Right. Something of that magnitude sent shock waves through every single one of them in the universe. But, I'm not sure that meeting up with Michael's 'Shadow ass kicking weapon' rises to that level. IF and that's a big if, none got away. No scout ship went unnoticed, then its fairly possible that the others don't know. What they do know is that massive amounts of their brethren died in the last 10 days and they'll want to know how or why. This coming on the heels of John's miracle at Z'ha'dum has got them turning over stones. We're the younger races. We shouldn't be able to do what we're doing. The Vorlons have only intervened once. They know this isn't coming from them. They'll definitely want to know why.

And yeah, they've got spies in the League. I haven't felt another Shadow agent on board since Anna left so none of them are agents. But, agents have aides and assistants to do their work for them. Other than scanning them, there's no way of knowing who's reporting to whom. They may even be on the individual member's home world. That would make the most sense. If not the leader then someone with significant power and the ear of the leader. That's how it worked on Centauri Prime."

Everyone is thoughtful mulling over Stephen's words. None of them miss the fact that this is more information than he's ever given them at once. Michael picks up on something he didn't say,

"What's the distinction between Shadow ships and those of their allies?"

He chooses his words carefully and then replies,

"Shadows have power. They have technology and other resources to create devastating weapons and powerful ships. Allies are nothing more than servants to them. What master gives his slave a loaded gun? Don't mistake me, the allies are well armed and obviously using Shadow tech. But nothing that could defeat them if mutiny should occur. Which, by the way wouldn't happen since once you agree to serve they own you until they destroy you."

This reminds Susan of some of the reports she was getting from the field,

"I kept getting reports from different sites where they mentioned something strange was going on. Some ships were nearly impossible to defeat and were taking everything they had. Others put up a very good fight and if not for the telepaths they knew they probably would have been beaten badly or destroyed. But they still sensed a difference."

"Yes, those are the allies. Weaker in comparison to Shadows but deadly all the same. We all remember the 'new' ships the Centauri used to conquer Narn and other outer worlds. That was simply Shadow tech given to their servants."

At the mention of Narn Michael's mind reflects back on his other project of the past week. He had the captain's quarters sealed after he left and is the only one with access. He also went through every single thing in his office to get information on G'Kar. He went through G'Kar's quarters as well to find something that could give him a lead as to where he might be. Michael knew G'Kar was the one to purchase and arrange delivery of the nukes for Sheridan. No one else could have done it without raising suspicion. He surmised that G'Kar had also given the captain the latest information about Z'ha'dum. What Michael couldn't figure out is if the Shadows had him or if it was the Centauri. [these days they're one in the same] His feelers were in place and though he hadn't gotten the information yet, Michael Garibaldi's instincts told him two things. G'Kar was alive and he was probably on Centauri Prime. Figuring out the best way to get him back hadn't come yet but he was still working on it.

Susan interrupted his thoughts,

"Michael Garibaldi, you are planning something. You are up to something. I know that look and I can practically hear the wheels turning in your head."'

"Yeah, you caught me. But, I'm not ready to say yet. It's a hunch I'm working on and until I get concrete proof I'm keeping it to myself."

That piqued everyone's interest. But they all knew him. He would not tell until he was ready.

Talia brought the group back to the telepath question,

"So, does anyone have an opinion on telling the League worlds about using telepaths? Right now, only the War Council and Anla'Shok know. Frankly, that's about all I trust these days."

Susan is concerned, "I don't want to seem like we are being dishonest with our allies. They are a part of the war effort. What happens when or if they find out that we didn't tell them?"

Michael has no problem keeping secrets from anyone he feels doesn't need the information,

"We've kept everything else a secret from them. They were a part of the Army of Light when John took off to Z'ha'dum and if they didn't need to know that, we wouldn't have told them. Call me Mr. Security if you want, but I agree with Talia."

He stops for a minute and thinks then, "Valen used telepaths 1,000 years ago on every ship in his Fleet. They drove back the Shadows and forced them into hibernation for a millennium. Don't you guys think that in all the time they've been secretly preparing to move they would have come up with some anti telepath weapon or defense?"

"Now you bring that up? Where was that thought when you were waiving the book around hollering about your Shadow ass kicking weapon?" Susan drawls this out but remembers she thought the same thing.

"I'm just saying that if none of the ones you guys engaged and defeated were able to let the others know, then they don't know for certain what we're doing. They'll assume and suspect we might try something like that. OR they could figure that since none of us were alive back then we don't know to do it. Why tip their hand? Susan pretty much announced to the universe we were moving out soon to fight against them. But, the only ones who knew the time frame to have ships here to defend in your absence were the League worlds. Well, and the Anla'Shok but not even I would buy into that conspiracy theory."

Talia picks up the thread nodding in agreement, "It's the only sure thing we've got and I don't want to give up our edge if we don't have to. Let's be honest. The Minbari Religious Caste, Anla'Shok and War Council were the ONLY people willing to fight the Shadows from the moment we knew they were starting to move. Captain Sheridan practically had to draw blood to get those worlds on board and we know he had to pressure Kosh into getting a Vorlon display of support before they'd even consider sticking their necks out. No, they are fighting in this war with us, but I don't trust anyone outside this Council. I'm not telling them. We have enough telepaths so far. I don't want what happened to the Narns to happen to the Minbari by us relying too heavily on their telepaths and we can't count on humans except for the Rangers. But, I don't want to give up any more information than we have to."

Everyone thinks about what Talia said and finally Susan decides to come clean,

"It doesn't leave this room. I mean it, no one else but the 5 of us, ever." She levels a glare at Michael and Stephen before glancing to Talia and Fannol who already know some of what she's about to say. When she gets serious nods from the others she explains what happened at the third engagement site.

The others are looking confused and amazed but not scared. Fannol reached over and took her hand as soon as he realized she was going to tell them what happened and did not let go.

"I don't know what happened, or what I did except I was very angry at myself for thinking I was about to get my crew killed and at them for being there. But, that's not the point. When we jumped into position, we jumped into the middle of a hive of Shadows. They were just waiting in formation. We WERE the centerpiece. They knew to expect us, that it was the next target on the list."

Stephen steps in before the others can get started,

"I agree that is very suspicious. It could have been their plan for many of the targets but that theory doesn't work considering they didn't try it again. Unless, it was because of what you did, Susan, that they didn't try it again. We'll probably never know for sure."

The expression on Stephen's face tells them that he's considering more. Susan is anxious,

"What? What aren't you saying?"

"Are you sure they were all Shadow ships and not any of their allies mixed in?"

"Yes, I'm certain. I've never seen that many Shadow ships at one time. At least not in that kind of formation. Not even in my dreams. It seemed very calculated. They were all Shadows."

"You've dreamed of things past." Stephen levels it as a statement. Others are looking to Susan in confusion because they assume she just dreams the future.

"Yes, I've seen the last war. Not all of it, but enough to know the difference. Some times its things to come, some times its things past. It takes awhile for me to figure out what or why I'm seeing certain things. Why?"

"It may be that our security is compromised.—Or it may be that you have been."

Now everyone's looking at Stephen in utter confusion. Susan is starting to get a bad feeling.

"Please just tell me what you suspect." Her eyes are pleading and she's got Fannol's hand in a death grip. Talia and Michael are looking at one another dreading whatever he's going to say.

"Aside from the Shadows, Vorlons and any First Ones who might have bothered to pay attention to the last war—which isn't many if any—you are the only one alive who knows what happened. Because your visions aren't limited, aren't restricted to the future you have access to a considerable amount of information. Even if you don't recognize it or know what to do with it. Shadows aren't omniscient. They have no Seers among them. For their part, the Vorlons aren't either. That balances things between Light and Dark or good and evil if you will. Someone has seen you. It might be that little ambush was intended for you specifically. There's a reason why you are Susan, a reason why you are here—now. Whatever doesn't want you to "be" may have tipped the Shadows off to you."

The room is deathly quiet and Fannol can see that Stephen knows exactly who and what Susan is when their eyes meet in complete understanding. Susan is barely keeping it together and Talia has started praying again. Michael is sitting quietly trying to figure out how to get around this new twist then he adds,

"So, Stephen, what you're basically saying is that we have another player in the game?"

"Perhaps. I'm not certain without all the facts but it seems so." At this, Talia stops and asks him a question she's not sure he'll even bother answering,

"How do you know or suspect its about Susan? That its because she's a Seer?"

"Soulwalkers aren't limited to time and space. We can feel the soul that was, is or will be. We can feel them across time and across space. That's part of what Delenn meant about us having the ability to see the potential of Greater Souls. Yes, the potential for what that one will become means seeing or feeling what hasn't even come to pass. What hasn't even affected their change yet."

At this Susan's head snaps up and she looks Stephen in the eye. The answer to one of her greatest questions answered. Though it doesn't help her situation. He nods at her understanding.

"Ok, I'm a little confused. This new player isn't a Soulwalker is it?" Michael's curious.

"No. That's against the natural order of things. Soulwalkers guide the Light bearers."

Now Fannol snaps around to Stephen. The others might not know who those are but he does.

"Yes. But not just those Fannol. The younger races are evolving. Slowly, but some are evolving. A time will come when certain ones will replace the ones who are. Soulwalkers identify those. Help those. Chronicle the records of those. We keep the history for the future."

Everyone in the room is overwhelmed by the wealth of information Stephen has finally decided to squeeze out of his stingy little hands. They know it has to be significant for him to be sharing this.

Susan turns to him,

"I've upset the balance."

"The other would think so, obviously thinks so. But they aren't the Universe. They don't have that kind of power to create or restore. They do have the power to destroy. You aren't the lynch pin. But you might have the potential to assist some who could become the balance. I know its difficult to understand."

"So this 'other' that Michael keeps calling the new player in the game, they knew I was coming? That I would 'be' one day?"

"Yes. The ones who would have or could have evolved into the new Light bearers had warning of your coming millennia ago. They weren't really supposed to. The ones who gave that to them are the ones who protected the souls of future Light bearers against the 'other'. They tried to give them a heads up. Doesn't matter, most of them either no longer believe or have forgotten you were scheduled to arrive." At that he tried to lighten the mood with a quirky smile.

"You know who they are or who they were? The ones who protected the future Light bearer souls."

"Yes. But I can't tell you."

"What does this mean for the war? Am I endangering others by going out fighting? Should someone else take over as Fleet Commander?"

"No. I really don't think it will help. It wasn't a matter of helping the Shadows. It was a matter of killing you. Preventing you from becoming."

Not one person in the room likes this at all. Michael breaks in,

"Ok, so how do we stop it? And if player X gets to put a Shadow hit out on Susan then what about the ones who were the protectors of the souls of the future Light bearers? Aren't they supposed to be helping her?"

"They are. They did. The Shadow hit men, as you call them, are all dead."

Susan is visibly relieved for the first time in this conversation,

"So it wasn't me! I didn't do anything. I was just there!" She smiles triumphantly.

"Uh, sorry to rain on your parade but it was you, you did do it and it was more than you just being there. You were given the power or ability to defend yourself. You just didn't know it. Its not like you can just drop into any Shadow infested area and holler "die Shadows die" and they will."

Now the group can't help but smile and snicker.

"It was a one shot deal?" looking hopeful again.

"It was a defensive weapon. You used it unknowingly. There are as many bullets in that gun as you need. But the fact that you can do it and they're all dead means the 'other' probably isn't going to try that again."

"Ok. That's good to know on both counts. But, that still doesn't answer certain questions. Am I a danger to the war effort if this 'other' is going to keep getting in the way of the fighting? And, how did they know I would decide to jump ahead of the group on a scouting mission?"

Michael can't resist answering the first part,

"Susan, Earth Gov wants you dead or in jail. The Shadows want you dead or serving them. This 'other', and by the way Stephen you're gonna have to give us a name or I'm gonna start calling it Bob, wants you dead or to at least not 'become'. Does anyone else notice that we're all starting to talk like Vorlons?"

It gets the laugh he was hoping.

"My point is, based on the limited information we have about Bob, commanding the Fleet or not he doesn't really want you around for whatever reason. So, with all the groups that pretty much want you space dust, I'd say it doesn't really matter."

Talia scrunched up her face trying to work her way through Garibaldi reasoning and finally says,

"You are a strange man Mr. Garibaldi. I'm not sure I even want to understand how you think. But if I follow your logic, you're saying that with so many people who want Susan dead, why give up her day job?"

"Exactly! I always had hope for you Talia."

"Thanks"

Stephen has to break some news to Talia,

"Talia, its not just going to be Susan."

"Huh?"

"What were Jason Ironheart's last words to Entil'Zha Sinclair? 'I'll see you in a million years.' He evolved before his time and became. You have started evolving before your time. Before those of us from the younger races should. Certainly not to the degree as him or as quickly, but you are becoming. You are more than just super powered telepathic or telekinetic abilities. I doubt you've scratched the surface of who you are. But, you aren't supposed to be here, not yet anyway. You might want to stay under the radar yourself."

"I liked it better when we were talking about Susan. No offense."

"Almost none taken but I understand the feeling."

Michael's looking around the table at each of them,

"So we've basically got a really big mixed bag of nuts around here right?"

"Thank you Michael. I'll remember that."

"No offense Talia. I'm saying that we have a lot of unknown quantities going on here. And we haven't even considered Marcus yet. People, don't even tell me you don't think Mr. Night Light doesn't have a part in this balance/imbalance of becoming and unbecoming."

At this, Michael remembers the tense exchange between Marcus and Sheridan while Susan and Fannol were with Draal. He turns to Stephen,

"The list, you know what I'm talking about."

"Yeah, so much was going on at the time and then I forgot about it until now."

Susan has no clue what they are talking about but at the mention of Marcus' name,

"What are you guys talking about? What list? And what's this got to do with Marcus?"

"Concerned much?" he snorts

"Shut up Michael. Stephen?"

"No, we're talking about you and Talia. You're the one who didn't want anyone but the 5 of us knowing about you. It isn't fair to start speculating about him. Especially if he hasn't spoken to you."

Sufficiently chastised, she nods grudgingly "Fine. What about Talia and me?"

Fannol has been silently taking in all of this information. He knows the Vorlons are the Light bearers. He knows that Susan is the Oracle and that the old gods of Minbar are the ones who gave prophecy of her coming. If they were or are the protectors of the souls of the future Light bearers then that means Minbari and at the very least some humans could evolve into the Light bearers. He has no knowledge of this Jason Ironheart or what Talia's place or connection to Susan might be. Wisely, he remains silent on all things. Stephen can see exactly what he's thinking as they chance a glance at each other and agrees.

Stephen thinks about Susan's question trying to figure out how much information to give them,

"Something you all should know and think about. This is relevant to you Talia as well. This war is about a lot more than Shadows or Darkness and Light. It has been going on for millions of years. The last true war between Darkness and Light wasn't 1,000 years ago when Valen led the charge to drive the Shadows back to Z'ha'dum. The last Great War was just over a million years ago when the Shadows and the Vorlons directly engaged each other. The Minbari entering the last war was a shift in the balance within the Universe. It was a symbol of their evolution. Not because they were space fairing. Because they made a choice between Light and Dark then fought to subdue the other. They were the youngest race involved until Valen came along and tried to create coalitions. Tried to bring in other races because he understood the concept of united efforts. Minbari didn't like that. They are still a rather homogenous culture and don't like to get involved in the affairs of others unless it directly effects them. That will be their undoing and their downfall. It will be what causes them to be surpassed by other races. When we aren't fighting each other and even when we are, humans build coalitions. We try to gather as many forces from as many different groups as possible knowing that variety is the key to solving problems."

All the humans in the room are nodding that he speaks the truth. The concept of the Babylon Project and the League coalition are shining examples of that. Fannol looks a bit depressed because he knows what Stephen is saying about Minbari are true.

"Now back to this war. Just as the balance was shifted by the entrance of the Minbar 1,000 years ago, it has been shifted again by humans. This time for good. John destroyed Z'ha'dum. There's no 'place' to drive them to except out of existence. John upset the balance irreparably. He upped the stakes so to speak. He shook things up. Soulwalkers can see the potential of Greater Souls. Shadows can see the potential of their greatest enemy. That is why they wanted him so badly. They just didn't have a clue that one from a race so young would have the understanding of the true work of the Universe. They couldn't and didn't conceive that he would actually destroy their fortress. Millions of years, hundreds of million races have lived and died before our races existed, not one being from any of those races EVER conceived of destroying their home base, their planet. They knew John would be trouble and wanted him with them or dead. They just didn't realize how much trouble he was."

"There can be no more stalemates or stand offs in battles or wars between Light and Dark. It has to be finished one way or another now. That is the true significance of what he did. He changed the rules of the game. The Shadows don't know how to play without a safety net anymore."

Stephen stopped speaking so that they could all digest what he'd just said. Never did any of them expect to get this much information out of Stephen so they all figured there was a really big and really bad reason that he was sharing. They knew he had more to say.

"Talia, you shouldn't be here yet. Whatever is inside of you, the younger races shouldn't have access to. In that matter, Ironheart upset the balance. But, its not the Shadows you have to worry about. Sure, they don't like your Psi ability and will probably not engage your ship except en mass. Actually, they'll probably have their servants take the beating for them so when you confront their allies, be ready, they WON'T turn tail and run. No Talia, you'll have to worry about ones like the 'other' who still have an eye into what's going on. They are few, but just like the one who has waited for Susan all these years to arrive, there's probably someone now looking out for you. You're a surprise. Your very existence is a surprise. They don't like surprises."

No one knew what to do with that or what it meant. Talia and Susan were both looking at each other in confusion. Both scared about what they were supposed to do about something coming for them that they didn't know how to stop or fight.

To bring things back down to the land of mere mortals, Michael states,

"So its either Bob coming after Susan and Talia for two different reasons or Bob has at least one friend who'll be looking out for Talia. That about sum things up?"

Fannol is unnerved by what he heard just as the rest of them but he manages,

"Mr. Garibaldi, your ability to break things down to their lowest common denominator is astounding."

"It's a gift, what can I say?"

Some of the tension in the room is lifted by this.

"Look guys, we got some new information here and I think we should mark this day on the calender as one for Stephen actually sharing some of the mysteries of the Universe with us. Thanks, man.

Aside from that, there's not much we can do about it. Knowing doesn't change what's going on. Before you jump all over me Susan, you didn't know about Bob 2 weeks ago and you're still alive because the Universe wants you here and gave you a back door. We don't know how many you have, you didn't even know you had that one. Keep living. That's all you can do. We have a war to fight and Shadows to completely eliminate for good according to Stephen. This whole thing makes me appreciate John more and more. The strength he had to have had to do that.

As for you Talia, Ironheart's been gone for awhile. Yeah, Stephen gave you a heads up that Bob or Rob might come after you. But, they would have done that regardless. Now you know. They may not. Stephen doesn't think they've noticed you yet. Even if they did, what makes you think you don't have some kind of back door or defense weapon against it? You don't. So the only thing you can do is keep fighting the Darkness we were each called to stand against. That's for the greater good. We all knew going into this that we might not survive. Our individual lives don't matter. The lives of all those folks out there we're fighting to protect against the Darkness do. We're supposed to be the leaders of the Army of Light. We'll lets hold up that Light, and do what has to be done."

Everyone's just looking at Michael Garibaldi as if they've never seen him before.

"I see you guys didn't think I could be deep. Nice to know who your friends are. Ok people, let's move on to the next thing on the list."

The first thing that he realized was that he was waking up. The second was that he was flat on his back. The third was that he wasn't in any pain. Slowly, events started coming back to him and all he could do was let out a soft moan. Not sure who or what he would find on opening his eyes he decided to use his other senses first to get the lay of the land. After about 10 minutes he gave up because nothing was registering. That snapped his mind to full attention. No smell, no sound. The only feeling was the solid pressure under his back. Abandoning his covert ops attempt at information gathering he simply opened his eyes and sat up.

"Definitely not in Kansas anymore" he murmured under his breath. Slowly turning around, he took in his immediate surroundings. [Looks like a cave]

"In a way, I suppose it is."

That got his attention. He hadn't heard or felt another person nearby and definitely didn't like anyone listening inside his head. Standing up in a defensive posture he looked around quickly to see where the voice had come. No one in view. [Must have been my imagination]

"No. It was I."

[This is not good] "Who are you?"

"You ask an interesting question. Whom do you think I am?"

This was a bit much. He was not in the mood to play 20 questions with the invisible man. He was also considering whether he wanted to know the answer to that question just yet. Opting to ignore him for the time being, he sat down on what appeared to be a large rock or medium size boulder to think on all that happened. While he sat in quiet contemplation the 'voice' was silent. What do I know so far? The plan worked. At least I know what I intended to do worked. I saw the White Star head down and the weapons were released. I saw them hit targets. I think I saw them hit targets.

Prior to waking up where he did, the last thing John Sheridan remembered was being chased by the Shadows and their agents. Hearing the thing that was not Anna taunting him that there was no escape, no where to run or hide. That he should accept their offer or die. [Not in this lifetime] Then he ran to the balcony and signaled White Star Prime as he planned. That caused shouts and panic from those behind him. [Guess I ticked them off a bit] Standing on the balcony, he saw the completion of his life's work unfold before his eyes. Watching White Star Prime take that finally journey was all that he expected to know or see. Then he heard a voice,

"Jump. If you want to live jump."

Until that moment he hadn't considered the possibility of living. He thought his path in life led him to that moment in time and there was nothing left to do but cross the veil and enter the place where no Shadows fall. That last part was particularly pleasing to him considering he'd spent the last few hours in their creepy company and didn't want to see them ever again. Still the voice repeated,

"Jump. If you want to live jump."

Not sure if it was some kind of Shadow trick or his mind finally shutting down on him, he turned to see the others approaching him. That was enough. [I'd rather die from a heart attack on the way down or from smashing into the planet's surface than have those things crawl over me] So, he jumped. The fall seemed never ending. It was like a bottomless pit. And the entire time he could see fire. He could feel himself burning, roasting in the flames. He could smell smoke and debris. He could taste ash in the back of his throat. He knew that his plan had indeed worked because he was caught in the burning winds of the explosions and he felt pain he never imaged was possible. He saw and could feel flesh ripped from his bones. He felt the piercing lances of scattered objects from the surface impale his body. He also heard the deathly screams of the beasts above.

Then nothing until waking up in the cave. That's when a few of the pieces started to click. The voice he heard a few minutes ago sounded just like the voice in telling him to jump. Deciding he'd get no new information by sitting on his rock recreating the Thinking Man, he got up and walked around.

"Where are you?"

"Ah, now you wish to talk to me."

"I think that's mutual. You spoke to me first."

Silence. The faceless, nameless one was a bit taken a back by his words. The man spoke the truth. He did speak to him first. Even now, he wasn't entirely sure why he had initiated contact. Why he had gotten involved. Why he had attempted to save this one's life and the expense of the others but he did. Something about him was familiar and called to him. Yes, he'd watched the entire scene play out. He saw the ship pass through the planet's defense shield and he knew what the man intended to do. This man had managed to do something no other had done in over a million years, he made him feel. He was curious. That was enough of a change to sit up and view all that was to come. He was surprised. Feeling anything was noteworthy. Feeling curious and surprised was definitely cause to investigate more. [Find out about this little one. Perhaps some conversation might be in order.] And that is why he spoke.

"True. Perhaps you would like to come for a chat."

Sheridan crinkled his brow. Considering what he'd just done and where he was [where am I anyway?] he wasn't sure if he should tramps about to sit down for a chat with some disembodied

voice. Then he considered that his only other option a present was to sit on the rock and wonder. John Sheridan was also naturally curious. He didn't like sitting around waiting for things to happen, he liked to make things happen. With that, his mind was made up,

"Where are you?"

"Just follow the sound of my voice."

[If there's a yellow brick road and some little people around the corner I'm going back to find the Shadows.]

He started coming to. At once he felt a throbbing pain in his head. Then he realized he was a bit sluggish and considered he was drugged before being clobbered over the head. [I'm going to kill her] Then he remembered the reason he was drugged and clubbed. [In Valen's name let her be alive. Then I'm gonna kill her!] As he opened his eyes he realized he was lying in the medical facility being attended by a few guilty faced healers. Not waiting,

"Where is she?"

Hesitation in the others stilled his heart momentarily. Then he recovered, he had a job to do. If she were gone, if he'd failed as her protector, he still had to attend to her remains.

"WHERE. IS. SHE.?" With that he leapt off the bed while approaching the unlucky healer who caught his eye. Stalking like a panther about to pounce. He was ready. Then a soft voice answered,

"I am here."

His heart nearly wept with joy and relief at hearing those words. He was at her side in a flash that caused the others to step back in disbelief. Gently taking her proffered hand he knelt beside her bed,

"What have you done?" This only when he took in her features, the burns were being attended and he could tell she'd been given something for the pain. But she still looked weak.

"What had to be done."

"No, Delenn. There was another way."

She started to protest but he stopped her with the waive of his hand,

"Don't speak now. We will talk later. You need rest and I need to find out what has to be finished. When you are well I will take an extensive amount of time explaining to you how very displeased I am with your actions and behavior."

Recalling the exchange between Susan and Fannol they both smiled warmly at each other.

"I did not mean to deceive you." At his incredulous look that said she was lying complete with eye roll she amended,

"Yes, I did intend to deceive you. But I did not wish you to be harmed."

"No Delenn, you did not wish for me to disturb your plan." Sufficiently chastised, she can do nothing but blush, lower her head and nod.

"We will discuss all that later. For now, rest and I will find someone to gather information from."

Knowing his effective means of gathering information she quickly intervenes,

"Anyone here will be glad to give you a report without—encouragement on your part. It was rather public. Rathenn is, I believe, waiting in the conference room."

And his expression of horror she steps in,

"No, he did not know what I planned or intended in any way. Once he saw the broadcast from Tuzanor he came here to learn of my condition. He and I have much to discuss."

Knowing she was telling the absolute truth, Marcus smiled and nodded. She knew him. She knew he'd get information any way he could. It was at those times Delenn was most forth coming with the absolute truth. He kissed her on the forehead and told her to rest while he met with Rathenn. Then glared at those attending her and said that he should be given regular updates on her condition and progress. Finally he informed them that those responsible for his inability to guard Entil'Zha and remain by her side should leave the ship immediately. Most helpful, one spoke in a rush,

"Yes, Entil'Zha informed them of that very fact the moment you were—incapacitated and they left rather quickly. They have not returned, nor will they." [At least not while you are here]

Satisfied with that answer, he nodded and headed on to find Rathenn.

The three Minbari Wise Men were getting a little tired of the anxiety that group caused them with their major changes. When they got word that Delenn was surrendering in Yedor to the Warrior Caste, not one of them believed it for a second. Knowing the others in her company they feared something both dreadful and revolutionary for all Minbar was about to occur. Rathenn knew her longest,

"We should prepare ourselves for anything. If John Sheridan was truly the other half of her soul, I smell a repeat performance." Some of Fannol's strange mannerisms were rubbing off because Rathenn actually rolled his eyes when he said that.

"They are intent on giving us all heart attacks. They need Shepards! Turval was agitated.

"Perhaps, but they have each done well so far. I too feel that a major change is about to come. With Delenn, one never knows what to expect except that she is following her heart." Durhan added.

Then they all seemed to remember Susan's words at the same time but it was Rathenn who spoke,

"As for Delenn, her time has not come but when it does it will be obvious. I don't know when exactly but it is after she dissolves the Grey Council." "Does anyone remember those words? I think we are about to witness the obvious."

Each nodded their heads in concurrence. Then Rathenn continued,

"I just wish the young one would give us a few more details. We should have asked her a long time ago just what Delenn would do! It might have saved us some anxiety."

Anxiety was exactly what each of them experienced as they watched Delenn step into the circle and the Star Fire Wheel open. Not in 1,000 years had it been opened. Not since Valen himself stepped in to the flames when challenged for leadership. Not since he established the Nine. Not one of them was prepared to see Neroon lift her body and hand it off to another. Not one of them could believe they heard him proclaim he was Religious Caste and that he would die for Delenn. For the One. When the broadcast ended Rathenn turned to the others,

"I must leave for Yedor at once. I do not know what I will find, but that is where I must go."

No one stopped him. Turval and Durhan would wait until Rathenn sent word. But, just in case they instructed the Anla'Shok who were to accompany him to make regular reports back to them.

Marcus stepped into the conference room on board the Religious Caste war ship and turned a mild glare on Rathenn,

"Tell me you had no knowledge of the plan."

Ordinarily these words and his tone would be unheard of directed to Satai but Rathenn knew many things. He had the reports from Mai'lenn. He knew of Cole's loyalty to Delenn long before she was Entil'Zha and he knew this man had gifts such as the others. He knew of his connection to what the Universe had set in motion. He also knew he was seething from Delenn's deception and trickery to get him out of the way. No one who knew Marcus Cole would believe he would have agreed to her plan or helped her carry it out in any way. If he did, they all knew it would not have been Neroon replacing Delenn under the Star Fire Wheel but himself.

"I swear I knew nothing of her actions or even that you two had come to Minbar until we were told to watch the planet wide broadcast from Yedor like everyone else. When Turval, Durhan and I learned it was supposed to be surrender, I admit none of us believed that for a moment. We had some warning that Delenn—would be the cause of greater change in our society. We were not—informed of specifics as to how she would do it or the exact time."

With that Rathenn simply stopped and looked at Marcus hoping that he believed his words as truth.

"Susan. Yes, I believe you."

That made Rathenn adopt an expression of feigned innocence. Marcus simply rolled his eyes.

"Satai, I know. Now, what is to be done next?"

Rathenn wanted to ask just what he knew or thought he knew. The three were well aware from Mai'lenn's reports that Anla'Shok at Babylon 5 all believed she dreamed the future. None had the information they did. None had put together the pieces of the ancient past, present, and future of Minbar the way they had. But he knew Cole was there when Delenn made that recording of Susan blessing Entil'Zha Sinclair and he knew they worked closely on the War Council. Nevertheless, he held his peace and said nothing to that. Instead,

"The fighting has stopped. Warriors don't know what to think. Shikiri brought them all much shame by trying to make a deal with Delenn, begging her to step out with him and share power. I suppose he did not realize his voice carried for all to hear. Yes, all the Warriors are greatly shamed in the eyes of all Minbari." Then he openly smirked, "Except the Fire Wings. It was made publically clear to all Minbar when the fighting first broke out that the Fire Wings would not defy the law of Valen. They would not kill Minbari and they would not participate in any action that would lead them to break our greatest law."

"Why do I feel the hand of Durhan in that?"

"Because it was the hand of Durhan. The Alyt too, but only after he was moved by Durhan."

This caused both men to laugh openly. Durhan had much power on Minbar and was secure. Not even the Alyt would defy him.

"Have you spoken to Delenn? She is resting now but she did say you two had much to discuss. Time is critical on this point."

Rathenn is a bit taken aback by Cole's perceptiveness, his understanding of Delenn, and his obvious intelligence on the matters to take place. Marcus picks up on that,

"Unifying Minbar was the plan. Though I dislike the means she used to get to this point, unity must occur. That means the Nine must be reconvened. Though there will be many changes to that."

"One so young should not be so wise."

"I am merely a good student of good teachers."

Rathenn studied the one before him and did not believe a word of it. [If I didn't know who or what you are and the company you keep I would be fooled by that Anla'Shok Cole. But I do and I am not] Instead, he simply nodded his assent and they began to discuss some of the pieces of the plan Delenn had already laid between them.

Delenn's actions at the Star Fire Wheel made planet wide headlines. This was closely followed by another piece of astounding news. Someone had taken a recording of Anla'Shok Ivanova's address to the League world delegates and forwarded to the media on Minbar. While everyone was still reeling from what they had just seen in Yedor and realizing that the civil war was truly over, they learned of another war just beginning. Most people had the exact same reaction as those on Babylon 5. Minbari could not believe that Z'ha'dum was destroyed or that a human had done it. Not just any human but Starkiller. What did that mean? They also couldn't believe that they were so caught up in their own destruction that the move against the Shadows was in full force without their knowledge.

When they watched the broadcast of that recording, not one Minbari missed the fact that the leaders of the Army of Light were all human except Delenn. That while they were tearing each other apart, the youngest race among them was out doing what they had believed was their sacred duty for the last 1,000 years. Shame was not the word for what they felt. Warriors would not speak it aloud but they looked to their actions over the past 10 days and saw that they were caught up killing each other because it was easier than fighting the Shadows. [All except those Fire Wings!] That's when it started to click. They had all followed Shikiri blindly. They wanted leadership and power because they felt they deserved it and they thought they could take it.

Initially, they laughed and scorned the Fire Wings calling them weak and disloyal to their Caste and to Minbar for refusing to stand with the others in their war against the Religious Caste. Unspoken but apparent, many of them now had to come to terms with what they had done. They felt it was the right thing to do. Valen's law didn't apply in these times because the Nine were broken. It had been a year and nothing had happened. The Anla'Shok were still clinging to a prophecy of one long dead. Warriors had no proof that the Shadows had returned and therefore, they had not. Their reasoning was simple. Once they settled the affairs of Minbar then they would go out and see if there was anything to the rantings of religious fanatics.

But what of Neroon? That was a surprise. Each Warrior was puffed up with pride knowing that they were about to be proclaimed victorious before all of Minbar and the 'great' Delenn would have the shame of surrendering. They had won. Hearing Shikiri begging the little praying one to step out with him and share power turned their stomachs inside out. She was Entil'Zha but she was no Warrior. But they had to confess, if only in the quiet of their minds that she had more of a Warrior's Heart than their own Shai Alyt. She would not step from the circle even after it was clear that he had run away like a scared kitten. She was prepared to die after securing victory. What did that mean? No, most would never admit she was right, only that Shikiri was wrong. But Neroon proclaiming that Religious Caste was the true calling of his heart and electing to die in her place was too much. These were too many changes, too many new things. They did not know what to make of it.

And then they watched the broadcast recording. Before their eyes was the human female Durhan had taken into his house and the Fire Wings. Most would not believe the reports that she had cut a swath through Warriors and taken them down with the denn'bok. [Nonsense! Lies] But then they got the reports. Shirkiri and the Satai had proclaimed it the biggest falsehood without daring to call Durhan a liar. It had to be a mistake and they would prove it. After their visit, the Warriors waited to hear tales of her disgrace and defeat. None came so they all elected to be silent on that point. Now they watched her with all the fire and passion of any Warrior proclaim that she was leading the Army of Light! She was taking the fight to the enemy and that the Anla'Shok would directly engage the Shadows. It had to be a mistake. They were the Warriors, they would fight. And fight they did. Not Shadows but each other. They looked around at the ruins of their great cities and still remained silent. They weren't ready to admit they were wrong. Only that they did not succeed. Plus, there was no proof of Shadows!

Until they watched the follow-up broadcast. There in living color where the distinctive war ships of the Anla'Shok, the White Stars, out fighting and destroying Shadow ships. They saw it and they knew that the rest of Minbar saw it. The whole of the Federation saw it. Worse, they saw ships of other worlds out in the fight as well. Finally, they knew that all Minbari would know the Fire Wings had chosen not to defy the laws of Valen but to act on his prophecy. They were the only Warriors out fighting the Darkness. The only Warriors standing in the Light. They'd heard reports over the last week that more and more Fire Wings were heading to Anla'Shok training camps. Now they learned that while they were preparing for a surrender, other Fire Wings were going directly to Babylon 5 to meet up with the Fleet and join the fighting. This was supposed to be their moment of glory, their greatest hour of fame. Instead, it was their most public hour of shame.

Who was this Starkiller to actually go out and destroy Z'ha'dum? They heard her say that ships could now travel to that area of space to the planet and see the proof for themselves. None of them wanted to go. Finally, the Moon Shields decided to get as close as they could and send an unmanned probe through the jump gate. They didn't even want to enter Shadow space. The rest of the clans agreed with their course of action. "Lies, trickery and deceit." They would not endanger themselves or risk their ships to verify what could not possibly be true. One man could not have done it. One man could not have believed that strongly in his destiny or his ability to do such a thing. Certainly not if that man were human. A Minbari, perhaps. Not a human. They waited for the recordings and scans to come back. They would have some vindication and would produce the evidence of her falsehood to the people least they decide there was something to this madness. They got their proof. Z'ha'dum looked like a waste land. Their scans showed exactly what she said they would, massive nuclear fall out and lethal radiation. The atmosphere a cloud of noxious gases. The planetary defense system, non existent. The planet was destroyed.

Now they had Delenn surviving the Star Fire Wheel. They had Sheridan who actually destroyed Z'ha'dum. And they had the human female Fire Wing leading the charge against the Shadows. Declaring to all with pride and certainty that she was Anla'Shok and would fight and die anywhere necessary to hold up the Light. Then they turned to themselves. They had virtually destroyed a planet, their own. They had killed countless Minbari. They had been robbed of their honor and victory by Shikiri. A bit softly their hearts murmured that they robbed themselves but they would not utter that aloud. They did not know how to handle these events. Lastly, they heard the human female say that Starkiller was touched and Chosen for a purpose they were not to know yet. Warrior's pride could only hold so long or take one so far. These changes to Minbar, these changes in the universe, they did not know what to make of them.

Marcus and Rathenn worked steadily throughout the night. Rathenn was pleased and surprised by his knowledge and understanding of all things Minbari and even more things Satai. [Yes, he knows what needs to be done and understands why] Delenn was resting but not quietly. Rathenn noticed that this young Ranger had a way with her. He put his foot down that she had done enough physical exertion and that her healing would need to be sufficiently more improved for her to do what only she could do. The final step in the plan was hers to take alone. Rathenn knew that Turval and Durhan would not rest quietly at Tuzanor while winds of change were blowing over Minbar. He knew they had instructed his Ranger attendants to provide them with reports and updates because he would have done the same. He also knew that he did not need the gift of sight to see what would happen next.

Late that evening the door to the conference room slid open. Turval and Durhan practically skipped in to have a hand in whatever was unfolding. Yes, he knew his brethren well. Marcus greeted them in much better spirits than he had Rathenn but that was excused under the circumstances. Once they shared all they had done, the two late comers demanded to have some part in helping. They also brought word of the planet wide broadcast of Susan's speech to the League. One look at Durhan and both Rathenn and Marcus knew how that piece of information had become public knowledge. He simply huffed something about the people having a right to know and sat down. Durhan wasn't fooling anyone. But then again, Durhan really didn't care.

Because Rathenn and Marcus had been so intense in their finalization of Delenn's plans they had not known of the other news to become widely known. Footage of the first engagements with the Shadows had found its way to Minbar. Marcus and Rathenn eagerly watched the recording Turval brought. When asked how they had come by this information neither wanted to confess in front of the Ranger. After having learned that Susan's address had made planet wide news, Marcus was certain that a forensics analysis of both data crystals would find Mai'lenn's finger prints all over them. He could not and would not fault her for either of these two actions but he would have a quiet talk with her later. None of the seven had thought to update these three on the work they were doing. It was only natural that they would expect reports of some kind. And considering their present circumstances and the work they were finishing, Marcus counted it as a boost to Delenn's credibility that the information was made public. [I'm still going to have a chat with her]

Marcus continued to check on Delenn throughout the night and he had put the full fear of the Universe in those healers so they were quick to anticipate his questions and concerns. [We do not want any problems. We've heard about you!] Early the next morning, Delenn went to meet with Rathenn and Marcus only to be surprised by the new arrivals.

"Sechs Durhan and Turval, I did not know you were here. Though I should have expected it."

"Entil'Zha, we came as soon as we could. Your actions at Yedor were—unexpected. Though we did not believe there would be a surrender." That was as nice as Turval could put it. What he wanted to say was that Entil'Zha was sneaky and clever. She got the point and smiled.

"Yes Turval, but it did not go exactly as I planned. I am here and Neroon is not."

To this Durhan decided he must address her concerns,

"Neroon followed his heart. We all know the history with him. His actions were a surprise to me as well, but consider them a blessing. All is as it should be."

Delenn is warmed by Durhan's words. He is Warrior Caste even if he did not support the madness of his Caste, just like she did not support the madness of hers.

"You have seen the plans for the reconvening of the Nine. What say you on my decisions?" She was concerned that he would feel she had gone too far in this course of action.

"Changes are necessary and needed if we are to grow and to survive. The winds of change swept over Minbar and the galaxy some time ago. They are merely settling now."

At his mentioning the winds of change both Marcus and Delenn cast surreptitious glances at each other. Then turn their gaze on the three who acted as if they have heard nothing. Delenn smiles,

"Yes, we are due for some changes. Has everyone been contacted?" At that she turned to Marcus and Rathenn. He answers,

"All have been contacted. All have agreed and are in place. When you are well enough, you can finish this."

"I am well enough. This must be finished as quickly as possible. It has been too long as it is. But, this had to come to pass. We shall assemble everyone this evening. One more planet wide broadcast shouldn't be too much for the people to handle since the surrender."

At that all four look at each other then turn to Delenn. Marcus responds,

"While you were resting it appears that Minbar had two more broadcasts. Someone, and we have no confirmed proof as to their identity, released the recording of Susan's address before the League."

As Marcus said 'someone' he turned a respectful but suspicious gaze on Durhan. Feeling Delenn's eyes on him he merely stated,

"Whomever is responsible did a service. The people had a right to know." Then he shifted in his chair and leveled a steely glare on them all. Point taken and understood. It appears Susan Ivanova is the only one permitted to censure the great Sech Durhan.

Marcus would not be put off so easily and continued his report to Delenn,

"Yes, and the third broadcast was a recording from the first Shadow engagement. It will be nearly impossible for the Warrior Caste to continue to contend that there are no Shadows moving in the galaxy. The recordings are very clear of White Stars in direct fighting with Shadow ships. You can also see some League ships in there as well. Over-all, I think this supports your plan."

Delenn was very curious to know how the first engagements went and wanted to see the recordings for herself. But, by the expression on Marcus' face she could tell it was a success.

"Susan should be pleased. She worked very hard and was very concerned about maintaining the League support after John went away."

Durhan gives himself away by speaking too quickly,

"She is Anla'Shok and she is Fire Wing. Of course it was to be a success!"

The others attempt to hide their smiles but there wasn't a person in the room who wasn't proud of her and the way she assumed command after John left. She pulled herself together and made it work.

Turval adds, "Yes, she has done well and I am not surprised. It was good to get the recordings of their actions on the front lines. We are too cut off at Tuzanor. We don't get to see everything as it unfolds."

Delenn nor Marcus are buying that. They are both sure that none of the three are without information for any longer than it takes for a secure transmission or a courier to their door. Neither comment on this and simply nods. Delenn adds,

"We will double our efforts to ensure that you all are not without access to information."

It was all Marcus could do not to break out in peels of laughter.

Change swept over Minbar again in just 24 hours. It was less than a day ago that civil war and destruction was ravaging their streets. Now all who could were waiting to see that which had guided them for 1,000 years restored. They anticipated something would be different but as they all listened to Delenn in the Council Chamber they were all shocked. The most stunned by her actions and announcement as she introduced the hooded Nine were the Worker Caste. Delenn had decided that the majority of power on the Grey Council should go to them. This was the most significant change to their status since Valen had welcomed them into the Anla'Shok and then gave them equal voice on the Council. Now, instead of three from each Caste, Delenn stated that the Workers would have 5 members because they are the ones who build Minbar and after the devastation caused by the Religious and Warrior Castes, the Workers would have to rebuild Minbar.

"The Religious and Warrior Castes broke our covenant with Valen. We defied his law. We defied our greatest law and plunged ourselves into civil war. No Minbari has killed another in 1,000 years until now. No, it is the Workers who build our society and keep it running. They built our ships that were used in battle. And they will have to fix the mess we created with this senseless war. They should have the strongest voice in how our society is run."

"Religious and Warrior Caste members will need the support of members from the Worker Caste in order to carry any of their plans. That is as it should be. Balance has been restored."

"The only clan of all the Warrior and Religious Castes who did not defy the law of Valen, who did not break their covenant with him or with Minbar is the Fire Wings. Not only did they realize that they should not waste their time and resources fighting their own people, but the Fire Wings are the only Warriors who have joined the Army of Light fighting against the Shadows, against the Darkness. They were preparing to fight the Shadows while the Religious and Warrior Castes were preparing to fight each other. They have been on the front lines and they fought in the first battle. They will hold both seats on the Grey Council at this time."

After Delenn finished presenting the Nine to Minbar she and Marcus left the Grey Council ship and headed for White Star 2. On board the shuttle Marcus turned to Delenn,

"Minbar is whole again. You broke the Council in fulfillment of the prophecy of Valen and you restored it in accordance to the needs of our people. This was good work Delenn."

He never ceases to amaze her at his insight into her thoughts and concerns.

"You are very wise Marcus. And you have been a true friend to me. I could not have done this without you."

"There are several things you did without me Delenn and we will still discuss them later."

She could not help the smile that graced her features. There was no doubt in her mind he would

'discuss' those things in great detail later. It would be a long journey back to Babylon 5.

Over the course of his life, John Sheridan had set out on many strange and unknown journeys. The walk he was presently taking surpassed all of them. While gratified to find that there were, in fact, no Lollipop Kids or little people on his path, he couldn't help thinking that he had both fallen down the Rabbit Hole and found his way into the Emerald City. Not knowing what to expect he was a bit surprised to see the robbed figure at the end of the way. His mind was quiet. It was one of the concepts hardest to understand when he first began his lessons with Kosh. Initially, he thought Kosh meant that he was thinking too much. Later, he'd come to realize that he was thinking incorrectly. He was being too linear by trying to understand what was before him in a limited and very human fashion. He was excluding what he did not know existed.

Kosh's lessons prepared him for what was to come—somewhat. So when he saw the one standing near the cave wall he abandoned his old ways of processing information. Instead of looking at the one not with his eyes, he looked with his soul and then his mind. Sheridan had come to understand months ago that things were never as they appeared in the vastness of the universe. And that the Universe held many incomprehensible mysteries to those who could not or would not see. Those who were not ready. Sheridan didn't know if he was ready but he tried anyway.

None of this was lost on the one before him. The robbed figure studied Sheridan as he was being studied. [Fascinating. One so young should not have such understanding or ability] Finally,

"Captain Sheridan, please have a seat."

He did not even bother to wonder how this one knew his name. He would not waste time trying to figure out what he wanted to discuss. John Sheridan had learned many things from Kosh. Patience and acceptance among them. He sat and waited. This one invited him for a chat. This one told him to jump. This one would have to speak first.

[Fascinating in deed. He does not know all but he understands that as well.]

"I saw what you did to the Shadows."

Still Sheridan did not speak. He could not tell if that was an observation or an accusation. Only the one who invited him could answer that. And only if he continued to speak.

[Silence, but not out of fear or guilt. He's simply waiting for me.]

"You asked an interesting question earlier. The first words you spoke to me. I haven't had that question put to me in a long time."

Sheridan kept his eyes on the one before him while continuing to open up his other senses. He heard many things in what was said and unsaid. Finally, he heard the song. Recognition must have registered on his features slightly because the man responded,

"You have heard the song before?" For the first time Sheridan spoke to him.

"Yes"

"You know what it is?"

"Yes"

At the same moment a thought passed through both their minds.

[He speaks like a Vorlon] [I sound like a Vorlon] They both smiled at this.

"Why are you here?" Finally a question requiring more than a one word answer.

"You invited me."

"No, not why are you here in this place next to me. Why are you here?"

Sheridan took a few moments to ponder the question. He knew it was layered and there were many possible answers. He also knew that this one was testing him in some way. He did not feel threatened, nor did he feel insulted by the close scrutiny. He simply accepted it for what it was.

"I am here because the Universe called me. Called me into existence. Called me to Z'ha'dum. Called me to act. And called me to you."

That was not what he expected. Not one word out of the young one's mouth was what he imagined he'd hear. [First curious, then surprised, now shocked. Who is he?]

"Why do you think the Universe called you to me?"

"Perhaps another purpose. Perhaps a joint purpose. Perhaps a lesson."

John Sheridan had many teachers in his life. Experience being one of them. But since his assignment to Babylon 5, he realized that was where the real learning began. Kosh was his teacher, but so was Delenn now that he had time to reflect on their interactions. Susan, Michael, Stephen, G'Kar, and Marcus were also his teachers in their own way. Most of all, Jeffery Sinclair was unknowingly the teacher who left the greatest impression on him. So he waited for the one before him to respond.

"Another purpose?"

"Was Z'ha'dum destroyed? Are all the Shadows and their weapons destroyed?"

"Yes"

"Then I served my purpose. If I am here with you now, perhaps I have another one. Perhaps not."

"A joint purpose?"

"There are two of us."

[Clever man]

"A lesson?"

"I don't know all there is to know."

The robbed figure thought on those words for a few minutes silently. During that time Sheridan didn't move or make a sound. He simply waited. And listened to the song. He suspected he was in no danger because of the song emanating from this one. He did not know who he was but he assumed he was one of the First Ones because of the song.

"Do you wish to know all there is to know?"

"I don't know. I suppose I'd like to know all I am supposed to know."

"You are a very clever man Captain Sheridan. Your mind is quiet, you've been taught?"

"Yes"

"By whom?"

Sheridan wondered if he should give a name or a specie but something told him that this one would know either way.

"Kosh"

In over a million years he had not experienced emotions and in just a short time since the arrival of this little one he was quickly becoming reacquainted with many. [Stunned. That's a new one]

"Kosh?"

Sensing he wasn't asking who Kosh was but expressing his surprise he simply said,

"Yes"

"Did Kosh send you to Z'ha'dum?" He was beginning to be suspicious of what was going on outside of this place. [Ah, another one. Suspicion.]

"No, he did not send me. He did not suggest that I go." And that was the truth. Now Sheridan was beginning to wonder where they were. The demon planet was destroyed and this one said 'to' rather than here. He kept those thoughts in the back of his mind so they wouldn't cause a distraction.

It did not matter what he shuttered away from the forefront of his mind, the robbed figure with him heard that thought clearly. [Yes, I can read your thoughts little one. But I am impressed that you moved them aside. Now I am impressed. That's three in less than one hour]

"Why did you go to Z'ha'dum?"

So many answers could have popped out of John Sheridan's mouth at that question. He'd asked himself for weeks after returning from Babylon 4 why he was doing it. Knowing he would do it didn't stop him from trying to find a concrete answer. That is, until he saw through Kosh.

"It was my purpose and calling."

[Who has this one been spending time with? Kosh did not give him that.]

"What is your specie?"

"I am human."

"Human?"

"We are young. Very young. Perhaps the youngest."

At this, the one did not know how to respond. He did not know humans. He did not know how long they were around. He saw nothing of the universe in over a million years. Sheridan was beginning to pick up on his thoughts. Not the extent but the fact that this one had not been active or interested in what was taking place in the universe for some time.

"How old is your specie?"

"Unknown for certain. Six or seven millennia at most."

"You are very young." [Amazing. They are not children they are babies, less than that.]

"How long have you been in the stars?"

"Less than 200 years. But we've only known other races for less than 50 years."

This was intriguing. Less than 50 years and already come to Z'ha'dum. [I have missed something]

The questions kept coming but Sheridan didn't mind. With each answer he gave his own questions were being attended to. He realized that for at least the last 7,000 years this one had paid no attention to anything or anyone other than himself. Finally, he asked a question.

"Why are you here?"

He hadn't expected that question. Actually, he was so caught up in gathering information from Captain Sheridan that he paid little attention to the man himself. Now he realized that while he was playing the role of Grand Inquisitor, the little one was gathering significant information as well. Deciding to be honest he said,

"Because I was bored."

[Ok, not an answer. Well, not a very informative one. Bored of what? Existence or bored of others around you?]

"Bored of?"

"The universe. Races, species, existence."

"You are very old?"

"Yes"

"How old are you?"

"As old as time itself?"

Sheridan thought about that. Was that simply a saying? The First Ones are millions of years old. [I guess I'd get bored after all that time. But sitting around in a cave alone must have been even more boring.]

"Who are you?"

[Ah, he's catching on. But he still does not understand.]

"Lorien"

[Everybody's gotta be a comedian! He knows what I mean]

"No, I did not ask your name. I asked who are you?"

[I think I like this little one]

"I am First One"

"I thought you were one because I could hear your song."

"No, Captain Sheridan. You mistake me. I am not one of the First Ones. I am THE First One."

[Ok, that's a new twist. First I torch the demon planet, then I skip through OZ and Wonderland, now I'm sitting here across from the first being created by the Universe. What a day!]

"Where are we?"

[Yes, now your starting to understand]

"Where do you think we are?"

[Must they all be so difficult?]

"I know where we aren't. That's why I asked where we are." [Take that]

"Where aren't we?"

"Z'ha'dum."

"Yes, the planet and all its secrets and wonders has been destroyed."

[Secrets and wonders? I wouldn't exactly put it like that.]

"Where are we?"

[He is persistent]

"In between."

"In between what?"

"Existence and non existence."

That was not something he expected to hear. He wasn't sure what he waited for Lorien to tell him but saying he was sitting around chatting with the first being created by the Universe in limbo was not what he expected at all.

"Why am I here?" [He's here 'cause he's bored. I wasn't bored!]

"Because you haven't moved on."

"Care to share a few more details?"

"You have not moved on to non existence. You are in between."

John Sheridan asked no more questions. Instead he grew silent and remained that way for several hours. Lorien said he hadn't moved on "to" non existence, he did not say he had not moved on "from" existence. He was in some version of purgatory for a reason. He was with this one for a reason but he didn't know why. Then he considered the practical. What was his physical condition? And he considered Lorien. The First One had intervened for some reason and told him to jump if he wanted to live. He knew what he felt on the way down. He had died. So that means he is dead. A dead man with the First One in a limbo cave. [just great] Once again his mind went back to Babylon 4. He knew going to Z'ha'dum was his calling and purpose. He knew it had to be done and he had to do it. Everyone told him he would die. [Susan, that's what she was seeing when she was screaming. She was watching me in the flames! That must have been horrible.]

Something inside John Sheridan screamed that he had another purpose, a joint purpose and several lessons to learn. He was nervous about this. [Every time I get a calling I end up dead. Do I want another one?] Then he pulled himself back from that. Who was he to question the Universe on what was to be? Finally, he considered that he had not known all that was meant for him. This might not be a change in the game plan of his life (or unlife) but a part of the course. Yes, Kosh showed him many things but he also taught him how to step outside the linear and absorb the other things around him. After reasoning all these things out in his mind, he checked his heart and found there was no disagreement. He would wait for Lorien to begin.

Lorien sat quietly waiting for Sheridan to process what he had been told. He did not know how he would take it. One so young should have gone through all the classic responses. He should have denied it in disbelief, become angry, and spent a considerable amount of time trying to prove him wrong. Captain Sheridan simply sat on his rock bench and thought. [It was good that he came. I do not know all the reasons why just yet, but it was right. Why does he seem so familiar to me? I cannot understand what called him to me and what made me call to him. Perhaps the Universe may not have forgotten me as I forgot it.] And so he began,

"In the beginning, the universe was void and without form...."

Mai'lenn was beginning to grow concerned. After the Fleet moved out she started getting reports from the station Rangers guarding the Soulwalker. His behavior had improved since that farewell dinner they all had on board Ivanova's ship. Anything was an improvement over his previous attitude! I thought he was going to throw another fit. But then his daily routine changed. Somehow, he had managed to give his security detail the slip. Yes, these humans are tricky and clever. Mr. Garibaldi got by us, but that would not happen again! It was a good thing that I had thought to add three additional Rangers to watch him covertly. But, when they reported his actions, I did not know what to make of it.

"Why is he visiting the Vorlon?" Having little experience with certain mysteries of the Universe before her assignment to Babylon 5, Mai'lenn was quickly learning more than she ever thought possible. She reflected back to the time Captain Sheridan spent with the Vorlon up until he left. Everyone knew that the presence of a Vorlon was a sign. Its being here on the station meant many things. But, considering all that had gone before, she welcomed it. Now Dr. Franklin was sneaking off to visit the Vorlon. Since the station Rangers began monitoring the actions of the War Council he had never done that. What she could not determine is whether he was keeping his visits a secret from the others on the Council or if he was trying to keep them a secret from the Anla'Shok. Not knowing what this meant she gave the Rangers the only directive she could,

"Continue to watch over him. Allow him to slip away from those of you he knows about. Those of you watching covertly, continue to do so. Do not report his actions or whereabouts to anyone but me."

That caused one or two eyes to narrow but she dismissed the unspoken question. Cole and Entil'Zha had left the station for Minbar. Ivanova, Fannol and Talia were with the Fleet. And Mr. Garibaldi was up to something again. [That one is difficult to figure out. Surely his is Anla'Shok and does not know it!] Still, she did not know if they were suppose to involve themselves in whatever was passing between the healer and the Vorlon. Soulwalkers are a mystery to most. Very few races even know of their existence. The Minbari did not know enough about them. No, Mai'lenn felt that something was playing out and it did not necessarily mean the worst was to come. Only the unknown. [It appears that some times, they are one and the same around here.]

All of the Anla'Shok at Babyon 5 were shocked and dismayed when they started getting reports of the civil war back home. Mai'lenn's heart broke when she learned of her people's actions. They were breaking their greatest law—Valen's law. For an Anla'Shok breaking any of Valen's laws or disregarding his prophecies was unthinkable. How had it come to this? When the fighting reached out of control and she learned of the destruction to many of their cities she knew this was the work of chaos and madness. That's when she realized that Entil'Zha's return to Minbar was not simply a visit or something to do with her duties as Entil'Zha. Mai'lenn checked. They had not gone to Tuzanor. Now she was concerned even more to learn that only Entil'Zha and Cole had left White Star 2 for one of the Religious Caste war ships and not returned. [They are at it again! I should not

have listened to Cole. I should have secretly sent some Rangers to follow them.]

When the transmission came in that the war would be ending I felt relief. Finally, they have come to their senses and considered the true enemy. But this was not the case. No, I was informed that there was to be a formal surrender. That the Religious Caste was surrendering to the Warriors. How was that possible? How could one Caste rule all of Minbar? And Shikiri, that power hungry, loud stupid, little man! After all we have seen and endured here, that man still has the nerve to contend that there are no Shadows. And the Warriors are right behind him. Well, except for the Fire Wings. What can that mean? When I first heard that it was Entil'Zha who would represent the Religious Caste and publically surrender to Shikiri my heart sank. Then I considered that she was trying to stop the fighting and the killing. It was not my place to question Entil'Zha but surely there had to be a better way.

While Mai'lenn was absorbing the information she still felt ill at ease. Her senses told her there was something else going on. Something they were not to know about but she was overwhelmed by that news. She waited, impatiently, for updates as to what would happen. When she learned that the surrender was to take place at the Star Fire Wheel she saw the significance of that but did not like it one bit. What happened next was unbelievable. None of them could have imagined that Entil'Zha would actually step into the circle and challenge him for leadership.

That damned Wheel hasn't been opened in 1,000 years! Not since Valen. And that's when it clicked. Entil'Zha Delenn was following in the path of Entil'Zha Valen she was teaching the people and she was building Minbar's future. But to sacrifice herself like that! Mai'lenn knew she was being selfish, thinking only of Entil'Zha and the Anla'Shok. Nothing prepared her for what she learned of Neroon. I was here on the station when he came to kill Entil'Zha. And he would have if Cole had not intervened. What happened to cause this man, this Warrior Satai who should never have been, to denounce his caste? I would not believe it until I saw the recording for myself. Then I was forced to believe it. Now there will be peace. None of us believe that she would elect to rule Minbar on her own. We know her. She will see that the Nine are reconvened. But, she now has all the power of Dukhat!

All the station Rangers and those on ships in orbit were passing information as soon as they got it. Not one of them was prepared for the things they were hearing from home. They got updates and huddled together to speculate. There was much to talk about. Two of the ships in orbit were much quieter than the others. The War Cruisers left behind from this first engagement with the Fire Wings were less apt to speculate with the other ships about the fighting back home but eager to pass and receive information. It was their caste out fighting and destroying Minbar. None of the Fire Wings liked it in the least. They might have been slow to see the mistakes of the Shai Alyt when he banned them from the Anla'Shok and they might have been slow to learn that Warrior training was not all that was needed in this life. But they KNEW with certainty that Minbari killing Minbari was wrong. Anla'Shok training had been complete. They understood Valen and his work more than they were taught to accept during their Warrior education and training.

Then they considered all they had learned since being sent to Babylon 5. For a time, they had still struggled to understand Sheridan and his actions. They'd long since stopped thinking of him as Starkiller. A few referred to him as Shadow Killer on occasion and in good humor. But when they learned that the Shai Alyt and ALL the other clans were still contending that their were no Shadows and then started killing each other, any questions in their heart or mind about these humans leading the fight against the Shadows or Sheridan's honor were put to rest. They felt some bit of pride when the reports came in that the Fire Wings Alyt had defied the Shai Alyt by firmly and publically stating that Fire Wings would not participate in the war. They would not break the law of Valen and they would not kill Minbari. That was a source of great relief for the Fire Wing Anla'Shok. They knew the Warriors started the war. They knew the Religious Caste was mostly defending but everyone saw that the praying ones were getting a bit zealous in their ability to fire weapons in return.

In the mists of all their gathering and sharing information, several Warrior Caste War Cruisers jumped into orbit around Babylon 5. When they first arrived, the others had no idea what to think. The last Warrior ship near Babylon 5 was Nerron's when he came to kill Entil'Zha. The Fire Wing Anla'Shok sent shuttles over immediately to learn of their intentions first. They felt it was their responsibility and sent a general announcement to the Fleet letting them know that. They did not want any problems. All were very relieved to learn they had simply come to join the fighting. That message was sent to Mr. Garibaldi as soon as possible. The Rangers knew C&C would have already contacted him and he would want answers. They also knew that there probably wasn't a free com channel in the Fleet.

First the return of the others had stirred everyone up. They all had to hear news of the Shadows and how they were able to fare against them. Recording of the various battles were sent to the ships left behind. This went on for several hours. Until reports of the fighting back home was shared with those just returning. A surrender? That was strange but to learn that Entil'Zha was to represent the Religious Caste and surrender to Shikiris was beyond imaginable. Ironically, there wasn't a Fire Wing, Ranger or not, within jumping distance of Babylon 5 who wanted to see that happen. Not one of them wanted the Shai Alyt in charge or the Warriors to rule. Not after what they did over the last week. So, it was with mixed emotions and the awe that the watched both Delenn prove her faith and strength and Shiriki prove his weakness. Neroon was a surprise to them as well. Something happened. Somewhere at some time he'd changed and they didn't know it.

Rangers live to gather information. If they do not have a natural curiosity before training it is instilled and honed to a fine edge before it is complete. All the new information coming to them from various sources and contacts on and around Minbar and Yedor in particular were just what their hearts desired. None would wait for the couriers to bring the recordings. They were all very resourceful and found means of viewing the reconvening of the Nine. If the Workers on Minbar and at Babylon 5 were shocked to learn of their elevation in Minbari society, they felt nothing compared to the Fire Wings orbiting the station.

Not one of them was prepared for Entil'Zha to praise them before the entire planet. To take the time to list their deeds and publically support them was a definite surprise. Fire Wings had taken a lot over the past 2 years. Durhan bringing in a human had hurt their standing among the other clans. The Alyt ignoring Shikiri's ban caused others to question their loyalty to their Caste. But when the Alyt refused to allow them to join the others in civil war they were secretly glad even though they were scorned by the others. Now here sat Entil'Zha Delenn, a woman those not of the Rangers had not understood or respected since her change, praising them. Praising Fire Wings! That caused their hearts and their heads to swell with pride. But when she said they would have both Warrior seats on the Grey Council they were floored. Star Riders had held the majority of the 3 seats since before the Earth War. Moon Shields held the other. Now Fire Wings would hold both. And it was a Fire Wing (yes, they embraced her whole heartedly now) in command the Army of Light. There wasn't a Fire Wing between Babylon 5 and Minbar who wouldn't do Delenn's bidding.

After they finished exploring the supernatural, those remaining members of the War Council set out to keep the war effort going. They needed just that one day to finalize their plans, review tactical data, and receive the scout reports of other Shadow bases and their allies' activity. The next few groups would move out in the morning. This time White Stars 3 & 14 would stay behind. When Michael mentioned that she now had 6 Fire Wing Warrior Caste War Cruisers orbiting the station wanting to join the fight, she didn't know what to do with that. Fannol finally stopped rolling his eyes at some point while she went over her ideas of how to best use then considering the reaction of her Anla'Shok clansmen. She decided not to bring him along to the status meeting to prevent him from developing eye strain and he was happy to be left out of it.

Talia said they still had enough Minbari and human Anla'Shok telepaths in case the Fire Wings did not have any on board. Talia was determined to rotate out the others as much as possible. She felt the weight and responsibility of her decision to keep them a secret from the League there by cutting down on the numbers of those available. She did not want them to get burned out by consistently going out with the Fleet. None of them knew what kind of long term effects continued exposure to Shadows would have. She did not want any of them to find out.

White Star 2 jumped into orbit around the station and everyone knew it within minutes. We all decided to head out and wait in the shuttle bay to greet Delenn and Marcus. Garibaldi could not stop laughing at the thought of Marcus being out snookered by Delenn and left tied up in some closet. Marcus found no humor in the situation at all. It caused him to turn and narrow his eyes at Delenn each time. Lennier was also there. We could just tell he was as hopping mad as his serene continence would allow. Apparently Delenn got the unspoken message in the look of relief and then displeasure that crossed his face. Opting to get her out of the hot seat publically, Stephen husseled her off to Medlab saying he'd check her condition for himself. Lennier was at her side the entire time. Before leaving the shuttle bay, he threw a glare at Marcus that said, "we are going to talk!" and walked out. No one could help it, the ridiculousness of the entire situation wasn't lost on any of us and we had to laugh. {Oh yeah, Lennier's gonna have some major words for Marcus later. I bet after this little diddy he doesn't let Delenn out of his sight again}

We all got together for dinner later and Marcus gave us all the details Michael might have missed. Which weren't many. Lennier found this both fascinating and alarming because he knew Delenn had evaded and sugar coated her recount. But you could just tell he was stewing during some points. Delenn just smiled at him in her gentle way. Guess I should have kept a low profile or my laughter to myself cause Marcus turned on me in a flash. That look. I knew what he was thinking.

"I swear I didn't see her have your tea drugged or you get hit on the head from behind. Wow, Delenn, you must have told them he was really hard to take down if they did all that. Are they still breathing?"

That last question was in all seriousness and every body knew it. Marcus looked me over for a few moments and decided I was telling the truth.

"Yes, apparently Entil'Zha informed them that I had to be completely 'incapacitated' and they should use whatever means necessary." He waits for the snickers to die down around the table.

"But I was informed, rather quickly, when I came to that Delenn warned them to leave the ship immediately and not to return."

Trying to make amends, "Yes, I thought that would be best for all under the circumstances."

I had to laugh when Delenn told us how three of my favorite people managed to find away to get in on the plan at the end.

"Does anyone else notice how those three seem to be intent on finding a way to know everything that's going on or have a hand in it?"

We all laughed, except that I noticed Fannol wasn't. He just sat there thinking. I assumed he was thinking 'cause he had a far away look in his eye at the time. When I reached over and put my hand on his shoulder to see if he was alright, he just looked a me for a long moment then smiled and nodded that everything was fine. I wasn't buying it. Something was on his mind. I didn't want to pry so I left it alone but I couldn't sense anything from him either. Either our strange emotional connection was broken or he had found a way to shut me out. Some little voice on the inside told me that it was the latter and it kind of irritated and scared me at the same time. That's when I reached up and put my hand to his face. I only meant to convey my concern. The contact was explosive. Whatever he was going through was really bothering him and he pushed it out of my reach quick. Now I knew something was wrong. He just put his hand over mine.

What neither of us realized during this exchange is that we were putting on a free show for everyone else. And I guess we gave them their monies' worth because you could've heard a pin drop. Nobody said anything but when I turned my head I saw they were all staring at us. {What's the big deal people? Geez!} Fannol was making me nervous 'cause he hasn't seemed this puzzled or confused since we first met at Tuzanor. I recognized that expression though I was certain no one else would. And I didn't care about the others, only my friend. I moved my hand from his face, pushed my chair back and stood up.

There was nothing Fannol or anyone else in that room could have said to change the situation as far as I was concerned. We were leaving and we were going to talk. {There he goes looking at me again like he's a bit lost.} I held out my hand. He stood up, took it and we left without a word to anyone. That was probably rude, yeah it was definitely rude, but still I didn't care.

Once Susan and Fannol left the room everyone else sat quiet for a few seconds and Michael said,

"Ok, was that weird or what? And what the hell was that anyway?"

Marcus was quiet. He noticed the minute Susan shifted her attention away from the group and onto Fannol. He saw whatever that was going on between them and if he didn't know better he'd have sworn there was some kind of telepathic conversation taking place. But he knew there wasn't. [And what was that with the touching? Is this a regular thing with them? And the hand holding?]

Delenn watched the silent exchange between the two of them just like everyone else. [Those two are still so very strange. Just when I think I am used to their behavior they do something else.]

"I do not know if I would call it weird but it was unusual behavior even for them."

"Delenn, that's the most polite way I've ever heard someone call anything weird. But the bottom line is something's going on between those two."

Marcus unintentionally tells all his personal business when he whips around practically screeching,

"What do you mean there's something going on between them???!!! They're just friends. They're not dating. He said..." And then he stopped as he looked around and saw that his closest friends were struggling not to laugh in his face. [Great. Way to go Mr. Subtle.] Instead of admitting his exposure he opted for deflection,

"You were saying Michael." Yeah, he knew he wasn't fooling anyone but he just didn't want to face it right now.

Michael decided that the key to torturing your loved ones is to basically string them along. Drag it out. He'd cut the guy some slack now and really let him have it over the next few weeks.

"Just commenting on the fact that our dynamic duo were acting a bit strange and that something's—up that's all."

"I don't think its right to talk about them like this. Whatever is going on is obviously something that neither of them wants us to know about."

"You know, Talia, some times you spoil all the fun."

"Not so Michael. There's just no way any of us are gonna be able to figure it out. Honestly, has anyone at this table managed to figure their relationship out in the last year?" Negative head shakes all around,

"See, that's what I'm talking about. There's no way we're gonna know what just happened here except that they obviously needed some privacy."

At that Marcus couldn't help snorting. He really wasn't doing such a good job of deflecting. Delenn, however, caught everyone's eye and gave gentle admonishment that they not tease him. Figuring that he'd been through enough with her dramatics over the last week, they let it go. Lennier silently thanked the Universe once again for remaining unaltered by exposure to Susan Ivanova.

She wasn't sure where they should go. She wanted him to feel comfortable and in a relaxed environment so he would talk to her. Between both their crews and station Rangers she wasn't sure how much could actually be kept a secret and whatever was on his mind, she could tell didn't need to be shared with others. Now that they were away from the others she could tell he either relaxed his emotional shields, was resigned to letting her in, or was so overwhelmed by whatever was eating at him that he couldn't help it. She felt confusion, guilt, anxiety, embarrassment, insecurity, and fear. {Fear? Ok, what's that all about?}

{No way we're gonna talk on the White Stars now.} In an instant she made up her mind and guided him to her station quarters. They would have plenty of room and all the amenities of home. {Plus I've got a couple of jamming devices stashed in there as well. Yeah, I'm gonna need them.} From the time their eyes met at the table until they entered her old quarters, he did not make a sound. Neither cared that they put on a little show for the folks of Babylon 5 by walking through the station holding hands. Her security detail was not surprised. Everyone knew that Minbari are very sensitive and that is one reason why they almost never have skin on skin contact but will walk arm in arm when wearing sleeves. Her guards considered all they'd secretly observed of those two in the past and the connection between them. They'd seen enough mysteries and wonders of the Universe on board White Star 3, this wasn't even registering.

Their silence and abrupt departure from dinner set them on alert immediately. That they were not headed back to the shuttle caused the two Rangers to glance at each other to steel themselves for something. But on closer inspection they saw that it was Ivanova who seemed to be standing guard over Fannol instead of the other way around. She was guiding him. [What could this mean?] They were her crew but every Ranger on or orbiting Babylon 5 knew that she hadn't been to her station quarters since before the Shadow agent attacked. She had moved to White Star 3 and even after the dreams and nightmares ended, she did not return to living on the station. That secretly pleased her crew when she broke from her old pattern of returning to the station once the crises was over. After they realized where they were headed, neither felt something good would come from that. It really could mean only one thing. [Whatever is to be said, they don't wish for anyone to find out.]

She let him in first then turned and activated the privacy seal on the door. She set her link for Red Alert emergencies only and forwarded everything else to Garibaldi. Then she went to her old desk and pulled out a jamming device, held it up for him and placed it on the coffee table. She was relieved at his first voluntary response since rising from the table when he nodded recognition. Then she considered that he didn't think it was going over board and her apprehension grew. {There's nothing he can tell me that I can't handle. You better mean that Susan cause whatever he says that's causing him fear has something to do with you.} That's when it hit her, he was very afraid of her reaction to what it appears he has to confess.

Fannol's behavior was very out of character. He did not wander the room to get a feel for his surroundings. He did not sit down or pace. He simply stood in the center of the room. Susan moved to make tea. {Yeah, that's about the only thing here. Good thing we already ate.} She knew the two guards outside had already notified both their ships. She knew station Rangers had noticed them heading this way. What neither of them knew was that on getting the report of Fannol's 'condition' from White Star 3, White Star 14 sent their own security detail down to stand guard and wait out whatever would pass between them.

Mai'lenn made a point of being available and nearby whenever the War Council met informally or formally. There is just too great a possibility for disaster or harm to come to them when they are all together. I was relieved to see that Lennier was joining them. He understands the safety precautions that must be taken for that group even if they do not. He would inform his Ranger contact immediately if need be. No, first the Soulwalker is sneaking off to the Vorlon and then Mr. Garibaldi tells me that Talia needs one or two Ranger guards when she is on the station without any explanation. Plus, we know he is up to something. He keeps having strange meetings with people from various races in down below. It does not seem like station business. Obviously something is going on. This on the heels of White Star 3 demanding the change in Ivanova's guards and assigning her a permanent shuttle pilot. Yes, something is definitely going on.

But by all accounts it seemed to be one of their regular social dinners. We all noticed that they started including Entil'Zha after the captain left us. We all felt that it was better for her not to spend the hours they used to share all alone now. Usually they have very long dinners. They talk and tease one another a great deal. Some times they get some work done as well. They should have been in there for at least another hour when the door opens and the two who cause station Rangers the most anxiety walk out hand in hand. I could tell their early departure was not planned by the reaction of Ivanova's detail. Either something happened in that room or something was about to happen. Remembering that last Council meeting before the captain left us, I watched for signs that the others would be leaving as well. No one moved. Dr. Franklin's guards moved closer to the door. One stepped away and said that she heard normal conversation but could not make out their words.

I decided I would send someone to monitor Fannol and Ivanova. My thoughts were that they would be heading up to one of the White Stars. The Ranger would simply make sure the path to the shuttle bay was clear and be on hand for any assistance her guards might require. Imagine my surprise when he informs me that they did not head to the shuttle bay but to Ivanova's old quarters. "Why would they be going there?" I started heading that way, I just knew something was happening though I could not tell if it was good or bad. She seemed well. Actually she seemed to be assisting Fannol. That was definitely not a good sign as far as I was concerned. A few minutes later I get a report from the Ranger I sent to the shuttle bay that a shuttle from White Star 14 just landed. Next I see three members of Fannol's crew check in with Ivanova's guards waiting at the door. They took up position and joined them.

When the tea was ready I brought it over to the coffee table and sat down. He still hadn't really moved in all that time. For as long as I've known him, I've never seen Fannol this out of sorts when I wasn't the cause of it. Since I felt fine and hadn't had any dreams, I knew it couldn't be anything that was coming from me. I sat for a few minutes watching him and really could not bare to see him like that anymore.

"Come sit with me." He turned after a few moments and looked at me carefully. Then he seemed to have a new look I hadn't seen before on his face. Whatever, I was just glad that he moved and sat next to me. But he didn't speak or move again for over an hour. I'd been through this with John before. He wasn't gathering his thoughts he was trying to swim out from under some feelings. Finally he reached over and took my hand.

Ok, now I'm really getting concerned. I can take this no longer and really don't care if I'm breaking his reverie. That's when my mind goes back to the table and my conviction then that we would talk. As gently as I could while still holding his hand I asked,

"What devil is in you my friend?" Instead of answering immediately, he leaned in closer then,

"I do not want to loose your friendship." That was enough to really set me on edge. He said nothing else. Did not move and did not try to speak for almost another hour.

What could break up our friendship other than him being a Shadow agent or Bob? At the thought of Bob and that crazy meeting with Stephen finally telling us things, I start thinking back to how Fannol was acting then. Yeah, I was a bit wrapped up in myself at the time. I definitely knew that Minbari bone structure and muscles were the only thing that kept his hand from being crushed by mine. But now I'm wondering about some of the looks between he and Stephen. And I think back to tonight. He was fine and in good spirits all day. Throughout dinner he was having fun and then I felt him slip away somewhere I could not reach him. That is what caused me to turn and look at him. That is how I knew he was not laughing. Ah, the mention of the group of three. My mind started turning back to Rathenn when he first came to the station with Entil'Zha and the others. I knew that he had to know all that happened between me and Jeff. How, I wasn't sure. But at the time I knew he knew.

Now I was starting to get a sense of what was bothering him. I had said something about the three of them always having to know what is going on. Fannol is very good. Even though he seems distressed to me, he appears outwardly calm. I can sense everything but calm on the inside of him. Trying to send him some warm fuzzies and at least the understanding that he can tell me anything I make myself wait for him. I try not to force him.

"I have some things to confess."

My heart started to race at those words. I started to really get scared. He was my friend. My something I couldn't describe and now he had something to confess. Then I stopped myself once again from making it about me. I already promised myself that he could tell me anything. This was not the time to regress into the person I was so long ago. I looked up at his face and saw his anxiety and knew this was going to have to be about him.

"No. You have nothing to confess. Just some thing to share."

Fannol just looked Susan in the eye for a long moment then nodded. Finally he spoke,

"It happened a few weeks after returning to Tuzanor from Entil'Zha Delenn's ceremony..."

Fannol and Susan were completely unaware how their scene at dinner and early departure were starting to effect others. The group laughed that they could not and probably never would understand either of them. Stephen had been noticeably quiet from the moment a shift in Fannol's behavior occurred. Michael Garibaldi did not miss that. But he knew that his friend never said anything until he wanted to or was forced.

Not 20 minutes after they left Garibaldi's link activated with a computer generated message that caused everyone to stop and turn to him,

"Station command is transferred to Chief of Security, Michael Garibaldi until further notice. Commander Susan Ivanova is on non active duty status indefinitely and not accepting any communications other than those designated Red Alert."

Everyone just stared at each other wondering what that was about until Delenn's link sounded with another computer generated message a few seconds later.

"Fleet Command of the Army of Light is transferred to Entil'Zha Delenn until further notice. Anla'Shok Susan Ivanova is on non active duty status indefinitely and not accepting any communications other than those designated Red Alert."

Now the tension in the room has pretty much sky rocketed and Lennier is wondering if he should slip out and make a covert report. Marcus is no longer thinking about Susan and Fannol touching. Something happened or is going to happen that caused her to shut herself off from everyone and everything. Not even when she was in the throws of her nightmares did she ever do something like that.

Talia looks to Stephen with a raised eye brow thinking what's the point of having an empath around if he can't or won't share anything. He obviously understands cause all he says is,

"I have no idea. I don't understand it. Whatever that was and whatever is coming is too complex to sift through."

That doesn't make anyone feel any better. Cause they're all wondering what emotion or feeling is too complex for a Soulwalker to sift through. Marcus doesn't wait any longer and contacts the one person he knows is gathering information on both Susan and Fannol,

"Cole to Mai'lenn"

"Mai'lenn" [Yes, I knew something wasn't right!]

"Which ship did Fannol and Susan go to, his or hers?"

[Alright, so he suspects station Rangers are still watching her. Fine.]

"Neither. They have not left the station." She stops unsure if she should say all that she knows. Marcus picks up on this.

"You know more. Tell me the rest."

"They have not left the station. They went directly from dining to her quarters and someone placed a privacy seal on the door. Within moments of that, a security team from White Star 14 shuttled down to the station and conferred with Ivanova's detail intensely. I do not know what they discussed and they are unlikely to share that information with anyone—ever. They then took up guard position outside her quarters along with her own guards. No one has moved from their location."

"Is there anything else?"

At this Mai'lenn becomes uncomfortable and does not wish to say more but knows there is no way of getting out of it. She doesn't relish this next thing she is forced to say because Entil'Zha is sitting right there. After obvious hesitation,

"It is my—understanding that a—surveillance jamming device was activated within Ivanova's quarters after the privacy seal was engaged."

Marcus doesn't like that last piece of information for two reasons, 1) whatever is going down between them Susan means to keep super secret 2) Rangers are attempting to gather information a bit too diligently from their leaders as far as he's concerned.

"Is there anything else?"

Mai'lenn can hear the barely controlled anger in his voice at that last revelation.

"That is all I know."

"In the future, please instruct ALL Anla'Shok that they are not to be in a position to 'understand' that a surveillance jamming device has been activated by any member of the War Council. Understood?"

"I understand."

"Thank you, Cole out."

Now that they had all the information, no one in the room knew what to do with it. Stephen was being no help but he wasn't being cryptic or difficult either. He just couldn't figure out what or if anything was wrong. This is a new twist. They still don't know what they saw between them earlier and now their actions are beyond the usual unusual for them. Delenn finally asks,

"How did White Star 14 know to send a security detail down here so quickly? They haven't been gone that long?"

Michael answers that one,

"Whatever happened outside the door, whatever her guards saw, they must have reported into her ship. They had to have reported it to Fannol's."

Marcus is confused,

"Why would station Rangers report to White Star 3 instead of Mai'lenn? She would be the one to contact either of their ships. And she didn't know White Star 14 was sending anyone down."

Talia thinks for a moment before answering carefully,

"Station Rangers are no longer assigned to guard Susan. White Star 3 has sole responsibility for her protection on and off her ship.

This is news to everyone at the table but Michael's beginning to see how that happened. Marcus does not since he was on Minbar with Delenn.

"Since when? Why? And why wasn't I informed of that?"

"I don't know why you weren't told Marcus. I really don't have anything to do with station Rangers. As for why you'd have to ask someone other than me, no one told me a reason. [they didn't have to tell me I was there] And I'm not sure when but it was probably after we got back." Talia is impressed with herself for this misdirection.

Marcus is working scenarios over in his head. [One more thing I have to speak with Mai'lenn about.] Before he can start putting pieces of the puzzle together Michael steps in,

"Well it really doesn't matter who's guarding her as long as she has the protection, right? I'm concerned that she's taken herself off duty status BUT it was done in an orderly fashion and its very apparent that whatever is happening they or at least Susan doesn't want anyone to know about."

Marcus is about to protest when Delenn slows him down,

"Yes. I see the wisdom behind your words. We should not pry or interfere in anyway. If they want us to know, they will tell us. In the mean time all seems to be well."

Talia just nods her head in agreement 'cause she doesn't want Marcus thinking to closely about what she said earlier. Unfortunately, she's pretty sure he's gonna star looking into it as soon as he gets a free moment. [Damn]

Several hours later Susan and Fannol lay curled up on her couch. He had told her of his being called in to a meeting with the three some time after Marcus left Tuzanor. He explained that they tested his loyalty to her and after being assured of it they started playing the recordings of private conversations between her and Entil'Zha Sinclair. Even though he had no knowledge that they were making the recordings he still felt guilty for having watched them now and for not having spoken to her about them sooner. He spoke of his reaction to seeing them and his shame at what she had endured at the hands of Minbari during the war. He told how it affected him for a long time. He left nothing out going so far as to tell her about the recording Delenn had made while on Babylon 4 and that she secreted it to Rathenn. At her look of horror, he said it had no sound and that Rathenn and the others told him that Delenn might suspect based on things she witnessed here on the station but that she had no knowledge of what the others did.

Fannol did not stop until he told all that he knew of her and of those who watched her as well as all that he suspected after hearing Stephen explain about the 'other' trying to stop her from becoming and those who protect the souls of future Light bearers. He said that he did not know that information and he was certain no Minbari and especially the three knew that. Perhaps there is something written in one of the old texts but it would have to be so obscure that no one understood. The only thing he did not share was the Gathering of Souls because he had to agree with Rathenn and the others that the Universe did not want them to know of their connection and it was not their place to do so. He was practically begging her to believe that he was not reporting on her to anyone and that he had spoken to no one about the things they've talked about. He did not stop until he ran out of words.

Susan had only two reactions during the entire time he spoke. 1) Delenn really is sneakier than she looks and Marcus had to be in on it 2) The three should be ashamed of themselves for putting Fannol in this position. She didn't like knowing that they had recorded her private conversations and meetings with Jeff. Then she realized who they were protecting and they probably felt they had no choice. They couldn't have kept it a secret from him for very long so if Jeff knew about the recordings and did not say anything to her then there must have been a good reason to keep them. She also considered that her situation was a bit unique and if something happened later where it got out she supposed the three would need some kind of proof. Though she really didn't like the thought of her entire life being on some magic data crystals.

Then she looked at her friend and understood more than she thought possible. Two years ago Susan Ivanova wouldn't have let him finish his story. She would have accused him of being disloyal and anything else she could think of. She would have ended their friendship and never spoken to him again. She was very glad she wasn't that Susan Ivanova anymore. Fannol had not told her anything she did not figure herself. And reflecting back to the way the Nine and the Religious Caste manipulated Jeff all those years since the war to get him to Minbar, she counted herself lucky. He was her friend and cared for her long before being unwittingly brought into the circle by the three. Eager to put him out of his misery,

"You cannot loose my friendship. Remember I infected you along time ago, at Tuzanor and there is still no cure for it. You might as well enjoy it."

Susan realized that their emotional bond still existed and was just as strong as when he first arrived when an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude flooded her. This made her stop and wonder that her friendship could mean that much to him. She really never thought she'd have someone in her life who cared for her as much or who she cared for to the same degree.

"It concerned me before but you were not well enough to discuss it. Since we returned I have felt more and more ill at ease about it. I do not want to keep secrets from you."

"Well, technically it wasn't a secret. I already knew all that stuff. I just didn't know others were watching me."

Then they each started to consider the things Stephen said and didn't say. Susan was eager for Fannol to give her all the history he knew on the old gods and the Light bearers. Jeff had made certain that she have access to those old records while on Minbar so that she could understand what was prophesied about her even if the Minbari haven't studied those texts since Valen. Now she understood Fannol's reaction to his saying that Soulwalkers guide the Light bearers. "Wow, a human guiding a Vorlon! What do you know?" They laughed at that and then set about putting all their information together trying to find answers to the Bob situation and what that could mean.

The two talked and debated many different possibilities and theories about what she was or why she was. Both agreed that Stephen knew, that much was obvious. Several hours later the conversation switched to their weird empathic bond and what they should do about it. Fannol was amused to find that he irritated her by trying to keep her out.

"Don't do it again."

"Was that a suggestion or an order?"

"Where are the dinner rolls when I need them?"

Susan shared with him her conversation with Marcus about Stephen having noticed it from the beginning. They came to no conclusions as to why they seemed to have what they have but would try to remember to ease the other's distress in times of crises. Susan was concerned that their weird bond had something to do with her being the Oracle and was worried that Fannol would end up getting hurt if the 'other' succeeded. In the early hours of the morning they fell asleep on the couch in the living room. Considering Fannol is Minbari, sleeping sitting on the couch was really the only way he could since her quarters had a traditional human bed. Neither minded but knew their backs would ache later.

The entire time those two were secreted away Rangers were becoming agitated by the length of time spent locked in Ivanova's quarters. White Stars 3 & 14 received regular reports from those guarding the door. Nothing was happening. They weren't sure if that were a good or bad thing. White Star 14 did not consider that their actions of sending down a security team was over protective in the least. Secretly, they had wanted to assign a permanent detail to him as well but could not figure out a way of doing so without upsetting their captain. All it took was one word of concern from White Star 3 as to his condition and they moved instantly. Based on reports that a privacy seal and jamming device were in place, both ships felt relatively secure that it was information and not something physically dangerous to either of them that they were trying to hide. Still, they would continue to watch.

Susan and Fannol were surprised when they stepped out of her door to find three extra Rangers on duty. She sensed something from Fannol that said, 'I suppose those are mine'. {Ok, that was weird} Neither really knew what to say to them so they just headed off to the shuttle bay. This is where Fannol realized he had a shuttle pilot waiting for him. That's when they started to consider their actions the night before might have given most of them undue cause to worry. Susan didn't care that she shut herself off from everyone Fleet or station. Fannol has been her rock for 2 years, unselfishly giving his time, counsel and support. She felt that he needed her and was determined to be there for him. She would not say she went too far. {Especially after that McDaniels character} What they discussed is no one's business and those things needed to be said.

Fannol merely rolled his eyes when he saw the results of last night. Yes, he was glad that the three had taken him into their confidence to help protect and watch over Susan. He was not happy about the way they acquired the information. Or that Delenn had made a recording of something very private and very sacred, then forwarded it to Rathenn. There was nothing he could do about that. But he didn't like knowing things about Susan that she had not told him herself. And, he feared that one day she would find out from someone other than himself and question his motives for friendship. For some reason, hearing her mention how the three seem to have a hand in everything going on and that they want to know everything set off something inside of him. After hearing Stephen speak about the 'other' and souls of future Light bearers, he knew he had to tell her that he knew who she was. There were missing pieces floating around out there and they would need to work together to figure them out.

Once back on their respective ships, neither did anything to alleviate the concerns of their crews or lessen their watchfulness. Both did something unheard of, they took the day off. When White Star 14 reported this to White Star 3, they received the same information in return. After some time in their various quarters, each went for a stroll in the garden and stayed there for several hours. Fannol could not shake the feeling that more things were connected to Minbar and to Susan than the obvious. He knew he was missing or forgetting something from the past 2 years but it would not come to him. This concerned him more because he just knew on the inside that it was connected to the Shadows and the war. Aside from that horrific ambush that is.

Susan walked the garden trying to put some kind of order to the whirlwind of the last 3 weeks and especially the last 3 days. Stephen gave them a great deal of information. She wasn't sure she actually retained all the important stuff. But if Stephen said it then all of it was important. And what's with this Bob? "Great, Michael's got us all calling it Bob. I notice Stephen didn't cough up a name." She read what the old texts said about the coming of the Oracle. It didn't say why. What she found a bit too creepy was that it said she'd arrive in the last days. There was no way she wanted to have doomsday nightmares and be forced to tell people the universe was about to explode or disappear. Well the Minbari at least. The text said nothing about some 'other' coming to stop her from being. The fact that its powerful enough to contract Shadow hit men and walk away was scary. Then she asked herself why it didn't just kill her.

Stephen said other things that gave her pause. She had assumed that she dreamt the last Shadow war because of Valen and because she was seeing Jeff change and progress. That it was how she was supposed to know he was the One to return to the past. What Stephen was talking about didn't make any sense. What possible information from 1,000 years ago could be helpful to them and harmful to Shadows or First Ones? First Ones. Why did the ones they found know my name? I never asked that question before. Thought it had to do with the Psi rating or maybe they heard about the Oracle deal. But then what about Marcus? Michael was right. We are a big old mixed bad of nuts. Who is the lynch pin and what is this balance? No answer came so she walked and sat for the rest of the day.

With Susan still on off duty status for both the station and the Fleet, she was impossible to reach. White Star 3 was notified of the change in her status almost before Delenn and Michael were. That was enough for them to go into full protective mode while she was down on the station. After monitoring her restless wanderings in the garden they were sure more things would be coming. They also took the communications block seriously. Delenn was not sure what to think when she tried to check on Susan and the com officer actually asked if whatever she wanted to speak to Susan about qualified as Red Alert. When she shared this with Marcus he was unsure how to take it,

"Its obvious that they are very protective of her. So much so that they were close to what one might perceive as insubordination to protect her well being."

"No. I do not see it as insubordination. Susan is special. Her crew obviously knows that. They know more than we think they do. They may know even more than we do."

At this Marcus turns to Delenn with a pointed look,

"You stopped me last night at dinner but you knew I was right. Something happened while we were on Minbar. Something that her crew does not want anyone to find out. Either here or when they were out fighting. I checked, they assigned her a permanent shuttle pilot. But since station Rangers don't know what's going on, it had to have happened in battle. That can be the only reason for them taking over her security and shutting everyone else out."

"Everyone except White Star 14. I strongly suspect that both of those crews have constructed some kind of hedge around their captains. What did Mai'lenn say? That the two security teams discussed

something that they will not tell anyone ever. Those were strong words. That means she and other station Rangers have tried to get information out of those crews and they have been firmly denied."

"I agree. But what does that mean Delenn? We still don't know what that was last night between them. We don't know how whatever is going on between the two of them will effect their work here."

"They have only been back 3 days from the fighting. You and I are scheduled to go out later this week and Michael will be leading another group after that. That gives both of them a break for another 9 days to work through some of whatever is happening between them. They were very successful their first time out. If something did happen, it did not effect their work. No, let us leave this one to itself."

Grudgingly, Marcus accepted what Delenn said as true. He still didn't have to like it.

The war seemed to be going according to plan over the next several weeks. They were winning and not winning but they were definitely driving the Shadows away from their area of space. Delenn and Marcus went out as a team on several engagements and found that they work very well together in combat situations. Fannol and Talia also developed a nice rhythm and she was mindful not to draw any attention to herself again. Thankfully the Drazi were convinced that it was divine intervention and thought it a sign that they were chosen to fight the Shadows. After that, Drazi commitment increased dramatically.

Michael, Talia, Fannol, and Susan were unsure if they were suppose to repeat what Stephen said about the war having to be finished one way or another this time to Delenn and Marcus so they kept silent. Each was hoping Stephen would bring up whatever they needed to know. Susan and Talia didn't want to have any attention brought to their strange circumstances so they said nothing. Stephen saying that Talia hadn't scratched the surface of who she was and that she wasn't supposed to be here yet really through her for a loop. [What the hell am I supposed to do with that?] She tried to find her answers in faith and prayer.

Not much was coming to her so she figured she'd take a page from the captain and Susan's book and leave the station. Since she did not know how to fly a shuttle she had to contact White Star 2 and ask that someone pilot her up. She dismissed her security team in the shuttle bay and no one really wanted to argue with her considering she could just turn them into virtual stone figures for ½ hour and walk off anyway. When she arrived on board, everyone assumed she was heading to the infirmary to speak with the healers. It was over an hour later that someone realized she never went there but headed straight for the chapel. Everyone knew of her conversion long ago and the crew was hoping she simply wanted to offer up some special prayers. They did not want to witness a repeat of the captain's actions. Unfortunately, that's exactly what they got.

Michael was still trying to figure out how Talia's being alive and kicking would effect the balance in the universe and what Marcus' role was. Unknown to everyone else he was still working on his special project. He now had proof that G'Kar was alive and on Centauri Prime. He just couldn't get an exact location. Much time was spent meeting with various traders and servants for foreign dignitaries in down below. Just about anyone Michael could tap was brought in to turn over stones He was also working on the rescue and escape but needed some help. For that, he headed up to one of the War Cruisers and had a little chat with some Fire Wings.

Fannol was ill at ease about things he did not know and things he felt he could not remember. Something was bothering him about the entire situation but he could not get his mind to focus on what that was. Stephen didn't say much of anything mystical or all knowing over those few weeks except to voice a complaint now and then about his Ranger security detail. Most noticed him giving long questioning looks to Fannol from time to time but were wise not to comment. None but the station Rangers knew he spent more and more time with Kosh over these weeks. Mai'lenn wasn't reassured by it but did not know what to do.

Susan started having dreams again. Unlike those she'd had up until this point, she saw nothing that was familiar and nothing that she understood. They weren't nightmares so she didn't panic but she was more careful about letting others know what was going on with her. She might not have woken the crew up in the fit of nightmares again but they knew by her behavior that she was having the dreams again. She did not sleep much, waking in the middle of the night to walk the garden or sit in the chapel. White Star 3 shared this information with White Star 14 and were dismayed to learn that Fannol was sleeping little during the night and wandering the ship as well. White Star 3 informed White Star 14 that whatever comes from it could take up to 4 months or could end within 2 weeks if Ivanova's previous actions are anything to go by. White Star 14 was not exactly comforted by this. They were concerned because of the reports of his behavior at Tuzanor after the secret mission. While Ivanova seemed to recover and the captain began changing, Fannol continued his same behavior almost up until they arrived months ago.

"Ok, we need more intelligence. We're not going to be able to pull a Valen here and drive them back to a planet that doesn't exist. We aren't going to be able to force them into hibernation. We have to destroy them all."

Delenn silently appraises Susan's statement and the new direction she is taking. Its not that she hasn't spoken of driving out the darkness or ridding the galaxy of their presence. But Delenn senses something very different in her manner. She says nothing but watches attentively.

Talia speaks up surprising Marcus who thought this was Michael's area,

"I've been thinking about that too. I started reviewing the scouting reports that came in with the last group of couriers. Our job is getting tougher and tougher. The allies. We have to destroy all of them or at the very least all of their Shadow tech."

She stops talking but everyone can tell there is more and she doesn't know how to say it.

"I still have my contacts from the Underground Railroad. Some of them were so eager to get away from the clutches of the Corp and thankful for sanctuary and help from Babylon 5 they haven't forgotten us. First, a few are willing to return to help in battle. I have not told them what they will be doing but so far I've got about 15 willing to help us any way they can. I'll placed them on League ships."

Now Talia is up from her seat and sort of walks the room trying to work out what she will say,

"I get information that others outside of the Council or war effort would not have a clue what it means or even if its significant. Some of the reports I'm getting from my contacts on and around Mars don't make any sense to them but I see a pattern. There are a few people, not many, but a few on Earth trying to build some sort of Resistance without being killed. A few are telepaths. They've gotten me some information you all will want to review and I brought reports for each of you to take and look over on your own." Everyone nods when she stops talking for her to continue,

"Is everyone familiar with the term Shryne?" At that Delenn and Fannol gasp. Michael learned Minbari but Lennier never gave him THAT word. Marcus and Susan are looking at each other in dread. Susan doesn't know about Marcus' Ranger training but she had Kailenn, she knew that word. {I just know this ain't gonna be good}

"No, you're gonna have to explain it but from the look on everyone else's face I'd say it ain't good."

"You're right Michael it isn't. Shryne is a Minbari word that used to literally mean outcast. But for the last 1,000 years it refers to someone who serves the Shadows. Its taboo and rarely spoken because of what it implies. That a Minbari would agree to serve. They aren't all necessarily Shadow agents with Keepers but they do their work. They are servants."

"Ok. Now you're scaring me. What does this have to do with what you've found out?"

"I have no concrete proof along the lines of a video confession but I am positive that at least one person—pretty high up—at Psi Corp is Shryne. I think the enemy found their anti Shadow ass kicking weapon."

Michael like the others hasn't seen her report and can't figure out where she's going with this,

"Michael, you and Entil'Zha Sinclair found that Shadow ship on Mars. Psi Corp was mixed up in it some how. The ship was taken away. By whom? I recently learned it was IPX. That means Earth Gov. Where? No one knows. But for several years, Earth has had access to Shadow tech with that ship. We know that the ones at Z'ha'dum were asleep since Valen not dead. We can assume from the mutilated Psi Corp badge you found at the site that ship wasn't dead either. At least not until a Psi Corp telepath got near it. Maybe not even then. That Shadow ship had to be on Mars for at LEAST 1,000 years, maybe longer. Most probably longer because humans weren't in space 1,000 years ago and the only inhabited planet in that solar system at the time was Earth.

I'm getting information about telepaths starting to go missing. Usually when something happens to a teep, the Corp jumps in to investigate 'cause mother & father protect their own. Anyway, nothing's happening. Telepaths have a habit of disappearing when the Corp wants to experiment but there's always some cover story. Some reason why they are gone. Many of the re-education centers are starting to close. No one to re-educate. Many of the outer world telepath prison colonies closed. This is in the last month. They are just disappearing. If the Corp made a stink about it, that would be one thing. But they're acting like they have no clue anything is wrong. That means someone gave the order to move them and someone gave the order to stay silent about it. The only thing that can beat a telepath is a stronger telepath."

This was not a report any of them wanted to hear. The implications of what she was saying were staggering. They were cut off from Earth. They had no way of getting them the real information if they weren't aware of the true nature of the Shadows. Why would the Psi Corp or someone in Psi Corp serve the Shadows? Then they each dismissed that question 'cause they knew the answer to that. Susan turned to Talia,

"Are you suggesting that Earth is one of the Shadows' allies?"

Everybody was thinking it, no body wanted to ask it. Not just the Corp. What would that mean?

"I think we have to consider it a very likely possibility. This would put some of the events back home that made no sense whatsoever into perspective. Its obvious why the Shadows would want to get someone in the Corp. Humans are the only specie in the universe stupid enough to herd the one weapon against Shadows into a big stable, slap a sign on them and make them subservient to one central and controllable organization. It's a Shadow buffet."

Michael's been listening attentively to everything she's said. He had suspicions about Psi Corp once he started thinking about what possible defense the Shadows might have come up with in 1,000 years. He hadn't considered that their affiliation went back as far as he now wondered,

"Do the actions of Earth Gov and Earth Force over the past 2 years seem to make a little sense now? They started losing their collective minds about the same time Jeff sent me confirmation that the Shadows were definitely starting to move through their allies, now that I think about it. I don't have a clue how far up it could go but there's a reason they started coming for us at Babylon 5 long before the captain declared independence. The Shadows opened that time rift in Sector 14 to destroy Babylon 4 while Jeff was still here. They saw what it looked like. Almost identical to Babylon 5. Is this not the base of operations for the Army of Light now? Have you noticed that Earth Force hasn't come back for us? We haven't heard a peep out of them or anyone else from the government since the war started. They didn't try to step in after learning that Captain Sheridan was gone. Right about the same time the Shadows learned that their home world was blown apart by that same person."

No one is looking very healthy at this point. Fannol and Delenn are very concerned for their friends. To suspect or learn that your people are Shadow allies must be overwhelming. But Fannol knows why they must be defeated for good and that means defeating their allies. He looks to Susan in silent understanding that they might have to do something unthinkable. Susan breaks the silence,

"Ok, let's all keep an open mind. Talia this is fantastic work, thank you. We'll study your report tonight and let's each try to think of something. We also need another source of information. Not that yours aren't credible. I mean we need someone inside the military. We need to know–Valen—if Earth is building any new Destroyers. If Earth Force has any new technology. I want to be prepared folks. If its not all of Earth Gov but limited to Psi Corp we still have a problem. What could the Shadows be doing with those telepaths? That's what I'd like to know."

Delenn interrupts to offer some thoughts,

"Shadow ships just like Vorlon ships are organic. They are living, breathing extensions of the owner. Kosh's ship is as much a part of him as our arms or legs are a part of us."

She says no more but can see the realization hit others at the same time. "In Valen's name."

"Yes."

Michael recovers before the others and turns to Delenn,

"I think its time we had some Rangers gathering specific information on Earth and on Mars. Ones that aren't telepaths so they don't get caught by the Corp and end up in whatever deal they've got going with the Shadows. Somehow, we have to make sure they aren't scanned."

While Delenn is mentally reviewing the Rangers on Earth and Mars, Talia considers something she never wanted to share. Finally deciding that the greater good outweighed her personal issues,

"Gift of Ironheart. I can't be scanned. Marcus, you and Susan can give it a try sometime. At first I thought it was a result of my Psi abilities but not even Kosh can scan me. We, uh, tried after I came back from Minbar. He said no Vorlon could scan me. So, even though I'm not Ranger trained if you guys can figure out a way for me to get to Mars quietly, I can nose around."

This is news to them all. Delenn, Marcus and Michael had no idea that she was anything other than a P5 with telekinetic abilities. Susan doesn't think she is in anyway more powerful than a Vorlon but considers she's the strongest telepath around so she gives it a try. Marcus decides to try scanning Talia at the same time without knowing. The others are silently thinking about her revelation and have no clue what Susan and Marcus are up to until they both develop nose bleeds then pass out.

Delenn and Fannol are on them in a heart beat. Stephen tries to revive them both. Once she comes to Susan just stares at Talia for a few seconds then,

"Ok, remind me never to try that again."

"Yeah, me too. Now I have a headache."

"Me too. I got nothing. It was like staring at a blank wall."

"Same here. A wall that hurts."

Now that the initial shock has worn off and she's assured Marcus is recovered, Delenn remembers what the Psi Corp did to Talia and states her objection,

"Talia, it is good that you have offered but the risks of you going to Mars are too great. You are still orphaned. If you are caught the Psi Corp will—carry out their original plan for you."

"Entil'Zha, there are many risks. I go out on the White Star and I help fight the Shadows here on the station. If this needs to be done and I can do it, I will."

Marcus and Susan are starting to get their wits together and both seem poised to interrupt when Stephen cuts off their protests,

"No. You can't do it."

"I hear you but this has to be done. If I can help in some way, make a differ..."

Stephen really dislikes being the Universe's informant some times but won't shy away from this,

"Have you forgotten what I said about your place in existence?"

Talia gets up from her seat and starts pacing the room. The last place she wants to be is on Mars or anywhere near Psi Corp but she figures that she has this gift for a reason and should use it to help.

"No I haven't. But you said this wasn't my time. This is something I could do now."

Stephen considers what he has to tell her knowing there's no easy way so he just goes for it,

"Delenn is right about the risks but there's more to it than that now. In light of your report about Psi Corp having an alliance with the Shadows, you won't go to a lab somewhere or be killed. If caught, you would either be turned over directly to the Shadows or—Bob."

Marcus and Delenn have no idea what Stephen is talking about but it is apparent to both of them that they missed some discussions while they were on Minbar. Neither of them misses Stephen's cryptic comment about her place in the Universe. Instead of tackling that Marcus goes for the easy question.

"Who's Bob?" A few nervous chuckles around the room but no one answers. Stephen continues to Talia,

"I know that you want to help but that is not your purpose. You cannot do that. You are still a surprise. But you will not do it. You will not go to Earth or Mars. The only places you will go are Minbar, this station or out on a White Star because they are made with Vorlon technology."

In general the group is nodding their agreement to Stephen taking a firm hand with Talia by explaining why she can't possibly put herself at risk going to Mars. That is until he starts listing off places she can and cannot go and they sit there confused. Talia has no idea what he's getting at. Everyone is silent while Stephen is speaking and afterwards they're just sitting there trying to understand him. Then Fannol inhales sharply and looks at Stephen for a long moment. At Stephen's nod he turns to Talia,

"Stop fighting him. He is trying to guide you."

Talia stands still and levels the unspoken question at her friend. For his part, Stephen has slapped on that customary and now irritatingly familiar impassive mask. But knowing she needs more he adds,

"Yes"

Talia goes deathly pale and gasps, "In Valen's name." She's a bit shaken so Michael gets up and helps her to her seat. Talia starts shaking her head as if trying to clear it or in disbelief. Fannol and Susan stare at her open mouthed and can't decide who is more interesting at that point so they keep swinging their heads back and forth between Stephen and Talia. Talia has her eyes shut tightly and Susan knows she's sending up some serious prayers for understanding.

None of this is lost on Delenn. She is absolutely convinced that the others have some secret, perhaps many secrets, though she is certain that until this moment none of them understood except Stephen. She considers that. Soulwalkers have knowledge and understanding of the Universe that others do not. Delenn's Religious Caste training and education would never permit her to believe that she should have access to information not granted to her so she elects to remain silent.

Marcus knows that they're all hiding something. He figures that quite a bit happened while he and Delenn were on Minbar. Looking around the room he knows these are the only people who can give him answers and information. Considering each of them carefully he's not pleased. Stephen wouldn't talk no matter what. Michael is too shrewd. Susan's too scary. Talia's too busy praying and he's not sure he wants to work her for the information considering her reaction to it. Then his eyes land on Fannol. Too Ranger.

[I knew Talia had something to do with whatever is unfolding around us. Ok, so she isn't just a P5. Gift of Ironheart. Never would have thought she couldn't be scanned. That there was a human that a Vorlon couldn't scan. What does that make her? More than telekinesis. What are her other Psi abilities and what's her rating?] He tries to piece together what little information they did let slip and see if he can tie that to anything unusual that's happened since the trip to Minbar. He looks back at Fannol who appears caught up in deep thought. [Yes, there's something going on with you too. That bond with Susan isn't just about friendship and it doesn't have anything to do with her being a super telepath. Its about you.]

Deciding to deflect some attention from Talia Fannol turns to Michael,

"I agree with you Michael. We should definitely start gathering information specific to Earth's possible alliance with the Shadows." To Delenn, "If you provide me with the information I can start looking at Rangers who are already on Earth or those working undercover with the Free Mars."

Seeing what Fannol is up to Michael jumps on the band wagon,

"Yeah, I'll help to. I have a better understanding of where we'll need to place people so they can get closest to military contacts. That should let us know about any new tech they might be hoarding."

None of their well placed misdirection is lost on Delenn. However, she's silently decided to wait this one out. She agrees to get the names to both of them later today. Marcus is convinced that he has some information gathering of his own to do. Because of her vantage point, Delenn does not miss Susan holding Talia's hand under the table. [Whatever it is, she must feel it is too much to bare]

He hadn't moved the entire time Lorien narrated the most unbelievable tale of all time. John Sheridan was well aware that he was just privileged to hear the actual history of the universe up until the last million years. He also heard the history of the Universe as no other being had. Because Lorien was the FIRST One, he walked with the Universe and was taught by it. He had knowledge and understanding of its complexities and its plans. Sheridan hadn't felt this way since he was a little boy sitting at his father's knee hearing stories of diplomatic engagements and political intrigue.

When he first decided to wait to learn whatever he was meant to know, he did not know what to expect so he expected nothing. He simply opened himself up to anything and everything in a way he had never done before Babylon 4. All things considered, that was truly when his life began. When he started to understand. Now he realized completely what Kosh meant when he said that Sheridan was not ready but he was ready to learn. The lessons kept coming. All the time that he heard Lorien's tale he heard other things. The song would ebb and flow in various directions when he spoke of different things. Toward the end of his chronicle, Sheridan noticed that the song was interrupted, broken and disjointed in some parts. He thought on that silently but Lorien knew.

"Yes, you heard the change in the song."

"What was that?"

"The Universe's displeasure with me as I became more and more disconnected. As I abdicated my purpose and calling."

This was news to Sheridan. He mused on what Lorien's purpose and calling could be other than being the one that the Universe decided to create for its company or pleasure.

"You have the potential to understand much Captain Sheridan. Yes, as others were created and existed, I was forced to grow up if you will. I am very old now. Obviously not as old as the universe or the Universe but the oldest living thing in existence. That had responsibilities."

"And at some point you stepped away from your responsibilities?" The question was just that, a request for information without scorn or disdain.

"Yes. I was tired and I believe I mentioned something about being bored."

Sheridan smiled at that, "Yes, you did. What were your responsibilities?"

[I haven't thought on these things in 100 millennia now he makes me]

"I was to guide the other First Ones. Help them in their development. Assist them in moving on."

"Moving on from where and to where?"

"Very good question. All things pass away. At some point the old must make way for the new. That is a part of the natural order of things."

Realization starts to take place in Sheridan.

"The First Ones have outlived their time here among the younger races. They were suppose to move on to allow others to evolve and grow."

"Yes."

"But the First Ones don't involve themselves in our affairs. Someone once said that if they notice us younger ones at all it is merely as ants."

"Not all of them."

He did not ask the follow-up question because he felt that somewhere inside he knew the answer. For just a few moments he closed his eyes to see and feel what was swimming inside his mind. Lorien watched this as he had watched the man since he exited the jump gate at Z'ha'dum. John Sheridan amused, fascinated, and frightened him all at the same time.

"The Vorlons and the Shadows."

"Yes."

"Tell me. Explain."

"The time had come for the First Ones to leave the universe as you know it. The known universe and pass beyond the Rim of space and time. That was our destiny. All were gathered. It was decided that two groups would stay behind to guide the younger races. To give them some place to start their development. The Vorlons and Shadows agreed."

"Chaos and Order."

"Exactly. Two sides of the same coin, if you will. Both foster progress and evolution but by two very different means. You call them Darkness and Light. I call them my children."

Captain Sheridan took a minute to study the one before him. He had to consider what being would refer to the Shadows as his children.

"I sense your thoughts and confusion. The physical and metaphysical, the corporeal and non corporeal, the universe and the Universe have balance."

"Good and evil. Light and Dark. We choose the means of completing our existence when we choose either of those paths."

"Precisely. You are a very smart man. A good student of a good teacher."

"You know Kosh."

"Yes"

"How?"

"Kosh was my student. My best student. Kosh obviously learned more than the teacher taught."

At Sheridan's puzzled expression,

"Kosh found you. Taught you. Saw what you were and what you would become. Kosh recognized who you truly are."

"Who am I?"

"You are the one Chosen by the Universe to create balance, harmony, and a new order."

That was definitely not what Sheridan was expecting as an answer. He asked the question because he had to but he had no preconceived notion of the answer.

"So, I have not fulfilled my purpose or calling." A simple statement.

"No. But you had a choice. It was yours to accept but you could have turned your back on it, chosen to ignore it. You still can."

Now he shifts from his long held position to stand and walk in the small space allotted. Thoughts, images, emotions are all rushing through him at once. He knows it has something to do with his decision to go to Z'ha'dum. He remembers all the times Kosh tried to teach him things in the beginning that he would not or could not accept or understand. Then he remembers the shift once he returned from the mission. That was when he sought out Kosh more. Demanded more. That was when he started asking questions and learned how to see differently. He still doesn't know how he's suppose to create balance, harmony, and a new order or where. He goes for the last one thinking about problems with Earth and the impending Shadow war he left behind.

"Where am I suppose to create balance, harmony and this new order?"

"The universe."

[Ok, didn't see that one coming. The entire universe? The Universe doesn't ask for much.]

"How?"

"No, that is for you to decide. The answer is within you. The path is written on your heart, I can see that now. It is the reason you called to me and the reason I called to you."

"I didn't call to you, I didn't even know you existed."

"I felt you. I felt something familiar. Something old but very young or unformed. That is what moved me to save you at Z'ha'dum even though you had just destroyed my children."

"I'm not sorry about what I did on the planet or to the Shadows. I am sorry to cause you pain."

"It is an old pain. I tried to stop them from their madness long ago. They stopped listening to me just as I stopped listening to the Universe. They have forgotten I am here."

"When was the last time you walked among them? Spoke to them?"

"It was during the last Great War between Darkness and Light. The last time that the Shadows and the Vorlons directly engaged each other in battle for the right to guide the younger races exclusively."

Lorien stopped talking and Sheridan did not press for more information. He needed time to absorb all that he just heard. After a few hours he picks up the threads of the conversation,

"So, they fought each other because they disagreed on how best to guide the younger races. Then they decided to use the younger races back then to fight for them. They are still doing that now. Well except the Vorlons don't want to engage the Shadows directly now or 1,000 years ago. But the Shadows will fight us directly."

"I tried to get them to stop the fighting. Tried to explain that they had forgotten their purpose only to be caught up in who was right. I grew tired."

"But what of the other First Ones? There are some who haven't bothered to get involved in the affairs of younger races including those of the Vorlons and the Shadows. I know, we made contact with them. They have agreed to help us defeat the Shadows when the time is right."

This is news to Lorien. His mind starts to go back to things long forgotten and for the first time in ages he has hope.

"No, they won't help as you think they will."

"I don't understand."

"Of course."

[Cryptic much?]

"I heard that Captain Sheridan."

"Then help me out and explain. Please."

"Many of the First Ones went away as planned. I guided them across the Rim. Beyond. The ones you or your people have made contact with remained for their own reasons. Partly to watch the actions of our youngest, the Vorlons and Shadows. Not to intervene but simply out of mild curiosity. A passing fancy at times."

"And the other reason?" Sheridan doesn't know if he's going to like the answer.

"To see the new order. They have been waiting for you and the other one."

"Who is the other one?" He's getting a bad feeling about this.

"The Oracle. The soul of the young one who will see the future and guide the younger races through her prophecies."

Now John Sheridan really doesn't like this. Something is tugging at his heart and clawing at the back of his mind with each of Lorien's words. He's not sure what to ask so he waits for Lorien to continue. When its apparent that he'll have to pry this information from him like he does Stephen he tries to formulate the most open ended question he can.

"Tell me about the Oracle. How will she guide the younger races? Where will she come from and how will we know her? When will she arrive?"

"She has already arrived if you are here. She will guide through her visions and dreams of what was and what is to come. Those visions will help others to see their way. Find the different paths but free will applies and it will still be up to them to choose their way."

CLICK, SNAP, BAM, GOTCHA. All the pieces fall into place.

"Susan."

"I do not know her name. Obviously, I have never met her. But the First Ones whose purpose was to protect the souls of the future Light bearers also protect her."

"Protect her from what or whom?" His heart clinches as he starts to remember Sinclair's words. . [ "There are those who will KILL her."] Now he can view the shifting mosaic of the unknowns around him

"From the 'other'."

"Who is the other?"

"The opposite of me."

"Balance in the universe. If you were to guide the First Ones beyond the Rim to make room for those of us from the younger races to evolve, then there is one who wishes to prevent that. Maintain the status quo so to speak. By killing her, it prevents the change in the current order of things."

He's reasoned it out but he does not like it one bit. Cut off from Susan and the rest of them he feels helpless to stop whatever harm may come. Then he considers that he has no power to defeat a being opposite of Lorien.

"Yes."

"There is more. You have not told me all there is to know on this point."

"Correct. And I won't tell you because there are still things you do not need to know. Things you cannot intervene to prevent or to help. You have your path and she has hers. If you know her then she knew you would come to Z'ha'dum. She did not intervene and stop you. She understands the natural order of things. So must you."

He thinks back to the dreams and nightmares everyone knew Susan was having before he left. He considers how much she had to have known during that time. He is certain that she saw everything that would happen including his death yet she did not speak. She did not try to stop him. [In a way she did try to warn me chanting about Z'ha'dum over and over] But she told no one and allowed him to leave without interruption.

"That means she saw what was to follow. She knew I had another purpose but she also knew I had to choose my path."

"Now you understand."

"Yes." He thinks for a minute then wonders on what Lorien said earlier.

"You said that she sees what was and what is to come. That means she can see all the history that you have taught me so far. Things from the beginning?"

"Perhaps. I do not know all that the Universe intended for the Oracle. That one is suppose to be the Universe's voice. The messenger of faith and prophecy. Her relationship and connection to the Universe is almost as direct as mine once was. Or it will be. I am the FIRST, I am not the Universe. There are mysteries and wonders I was never told. Maybe I would have learned if I had not turned away from it. I do not know. But the burden of the Oracle is greater than mine ever was. That is just one of her dangers."

He's quiet for a long time digesting what Lorien just said. He thinks back over the last year to the changes in Susan. He can see the woman torn apart by the nightmares she's trying to explain to Sinclair. [What things the Universe must show her!] Then he considers his own death. She saw that. His heart goes out to his friend, his little sister. He can now understand a part of the burden Lorien spoke of.

"I saw Kosh bow to her more than once. She is human, of my race. We are the youngest in the universe and a Vorlon, a Light being, a Light bearer bowed to her."

"As I said, the student learned more than the teacher taught. Kosh recognizes her place in the Universe. Vorlons are the Light bearers but like me, they are not the Universe. They are powerful but not THAT powerful. In some ways, in the more important ways, she is above even me. Her place is above the Light bearers. She is also not only of your race. Her soul is from another."

This is astounding to Sheridan. His second in command has a higher place in the universe with the Universe than a Vorlon. Then he starts thinking about the others on his staff. Hoping he can get some useful information from Lorien that he couldn't get at home. He goes for it,

"What about Soulwalkers?"

"Ah, you know of them? Did Kosh teach you of their place in existence?" [Yes, this one has a foundation for much understanding]

"Not directly. I know someone who is a Soulwalker."

"What!"

[Ok, not the answer or reaction I was expecting.]

"I said, I know someone who is a Soulwalker. He's one of my friends. One of the people I worked with along with Susan. Uh, I mean the Oracle."

Now its time for Lorien to stop and consider the amazing things he just heard. [This one knows the Oracle and a Soulwalker. I have been away too long. I have missed many things.]

Suspiciously he asks, "From what race is this Soulwalker?"

"Human like me and Susan."

Just above a whisper, "Amazing. I am beginning to see some of the Universe's plan."

Sheridan says nothing but files that little tid bit away for future reference.

"Soulwalkers are children of the First Ones. They are the Blessed by the Universe. Their powers and abilities are great but we did not give those to them. The Universe did. They are younger than the First Ones. But no less. In some ways they are greater because of their purpose. First Ones didn't really have a purpose except to be and they were before other races. Soulwalkers identify the souls of the future Light bears. And the Greater Souls. They also guide the Light bearers."

John Sheridan learned many things from what Lorien just said. First, Delenn actually told the whole truth as she knew it. He was certain she didn't know that stuff about them guiding Light bearers or being able to identify the souls of future Light bearers. Second, he's certain Stephen wouldn't have coughed up that information unless and until he had to. He walks away from Lorien to find another spot to sit.

[What do I know? A lot more than I did before I got here. Stephen's got some mystical purpose in the Universe. Some connection to it. Harmony. He has the song within him. The order of the Universe itself.]

"Unicorns, Pegasus, Fairies and Angels." He murmured this with awe but caught Lorien stiffen when he said it. [That's almost the same reaction Marcus had] He goes for the offensive,

"Yes?"

"Just found your choice of words interesting."

[Busted]

"Hmm. So the identity of a Soulwalker should definitely be kept a secret? I take it there are some in the universe who would not like them to succeed in guiding Light bearers and identifying souls?"

[He is very crafty indeed. Very well little one.]

"Yes. There are very few Soulwalkers born throughout the ages. They are akin to the mystical creatures you mentioned. Though they are more the stuff of Angels than the others you mentioned."

"I see. And since very few are born throughout the ages, the birth of one—the presence of one is very significant?"

"Yes"

"Explain"

"The Universe is complex. Vast. Its plans are beyond even my understanding and I have, without question, had more time to speculate on them than any other being. I suppose I should mention that it is a bit of a misnomer to say that Soulwalkers are the children of First Ones. That gives the wrong impression. But younger races accept First Ones as a representation of the Universe when we are simply its creation. Soulwalkers are the Children of the Universe. They are anointed or Blessed by the Universe and they are directly protected by it. The song within them IS the Universe."

Lorien takes a break but Sheridan can see there is more coming.

"I have studied your mind during our time together. It has given me the opportunity to understand much of the nuances of your language. The idioms. You could say that Soulwalkers are the Universe's calling card. Where you find them, you find the hand of the Universe. Their presence is an indication of great work and greater change. The fact that you, the Oracle, and the Soulwalker found your way to each other tells me many things. The Universe has set its plan in motion. It gathered certain souls together. I am sure there are or were at least 2 others."

He's absolutely amazed that he got this much information from Lorien on Stephen. He remembers Susan talking about the Gathering of Souls before the aborted Shadow attack. Thinking, turning over everything that happened and everyone that was in that room he tries to figure out who those other 2 people are. [Marcus had that reaction and he has a higher Psi rating than a P12. But we'd all met together for months before that. Susan said the Gathering of Souls was near. Then the next day Sinclair arrives unexpectedly. Well, not to Susan.]

"All roads lead back to Sinclair. Work from there forward." He mumbles under his breath while working through the puzzle Lorien gave him. And Sheridan is convinced Lorien put this information out for him to wade through. [He's constantly testing me.]

[Susan was blessing Sinclair. Ok, that makes sense he was about to take the longest ride known to man to do the impossible. He has to be one of them. He is Valen. Minbari are the only race of people I have ever met with such a strong belief in souls. That's all Lorien talks about. Plus there is a Soulwalker among us and Stephen was already in the room. Plus Marcus, again. And the three Minbari. Delenn was shocked to see Susan with that pendant. What did she call it? A miniature Triluminary! Yes, she said 'we' were told there were only three. Who is we? The Minbari of course. Wait! When not Anna came, Delenn's forehead started to glow. Well, not her forehead but some triangle I'd never seen before. When the Shadows stepped out of Anna that's when it really lit up, then she passed out.]

"What is a Triluminary?"

[Where does he get these things from? I've definitely been away too long]

"Have you seen one?"

"Yes. I've seen two."

"Two?"

"Yes, a miniature one about this big on a chain that was placed around someone's neck. The other wasn't actually a Triluminary. It was inside of a persons and I'd never seen it before until a Shadow agent came to us and her Keepers stepped out of her and started walking around the room."

"That is interesting. You know someone who bears the mark of the Triluminary?"

"Obviously, I said I saw it on her. But just that one time."

"She is one of the Chosen then. One of the Chosen of the Light. If it is as you say, then the mark glowed in the presence of pure Darkness."

He's pretty sure that he's got the 5 now. He's not sure what that means or how that helps him in the least with over-all understanding. [I wonder if she knows its there?]

"What is a Triluminary and where did they come from?"

"So many questions."

"I must be getting close, you're hedging or stalling."

"Perceptive."

"Enlighten me."

"A Triluminary is a triangle. Triangles are three sided. Equal sided. They are in complete balance. They represent the balance of the Universe. Three is a perfect number for many things. I see that it has special significance in some of the religious beliefs of humans. That is not a coincidence."

"So this person holding the mark, she isn't one of the Light bearers. Those are the Vorlons. Are you saying she represents the balance of the Universe?"

"No. She is Chosen by the Universe to represent the Light as one of those who are still of the younger races."

[Ok. Delenn's special. I knew that. She's Chosen for the Light. Ok. That doesn't answer my question]

"Where did the Triluminaries come from?"

"Not from the younger races. Not even from the First Ones we spoke of. You are now entering into an area of the Universe's plan. It is complex and not something I can explain to you. In time, if you walk your path, you will know."

In all the time they have been together, Sheridan has no conscious perception of the passage of time. He is not concerned with that because he understands that if the Universe has Chosen and called him for a specific purpose, it will insure that he is where he needs to be when he needs to be there. He knows that he will need to spend much time considering how to create balance, harmony and a new order within the universe. For that Lorien cannot help. For that he will have to pray for guidance and understanding. He will have to submit to the will of the Universe with no thought to his own desires. He's a natural strategist. Military trained. He knows he'll think of something. Then he remembers something,

"Lorien, I'm dead."

"Yes."

[We are both going to have to work on not stating the obvious]

"Is that a permanent condition?"

"Why?" [This child thinks quickly]

"Because I'm wondering how I am going to fulfill my purpose if I am dead."

"Its as permanent as you need it to be."

"Explain"

"It depends on your path. If you will answer the call of the Universe and accept the responsibility as the Chosen. If you think going to Z'ha'dum was a difficult choice, if it was a sacrifice, then you haven't begun to understand what lies ahead of you. There is a heavy burden and an exacting price for those who are called–for those who answer the call."

He mulled that over briefly. Lorien hadn't told him anything he didn't already know. The hardest thing was getting to the point he was after the mission. Changing was hard, accepting was hard. Believing was hard. John Sheridan was a believer. If the Universe called, he knew in his heart he would answer. When he realized that he might have another purpose, he knew he would answer that call even before Lorien told him who he was. After all that he'd learned in their time together, he knew he was training, learning, gathering information that would help him to carry out that purpose. And perhaps, help a friend or two with their purpose as well.

Sheridan was quiet and for the first time in many hours or days Lorien could not read his thoughts. This was another thing that frightened him about the little one. He saw power and greatness in this one. He saw the winds of change blowing where ever this one traveled. He saw what he could have been. And he saw his future tied to John Sheridan in a way he never imagined. On some level he had hope for what was to come. He could not see the future. He'd lived long enough to anticipate it but he was no Seer. FIRST One or not. He learned much from this man and that frightened him as well. He could literally see glimpses of the new order.

The Chosen, the Soulwalker and the Oracle all from the youngest race. That meant something. And to have one of those Chosen of the Light meant even more. He could tell by Sheridan's tone and the look on his face that one held his heart and truly the other half of his soul. He could also see what Sheridan could not. But this man, this little one before him had the Greatest Soul he had ever seen since the beginning of time. That frightened him most of all. Yes, there were great changes coming to the universe and those two races would be the catalyst and the hand to guide them. Lorien began to understand just a little bit of the Universe's plan and he did not know what to make of it or how it made him feel. He also began to wonder where his opposite was and what it was doing. He had not been curious in more years than could be counted. But now he was.

White Star 2 contacted White Star 14 after several days in search of information. At first they were put off when asked of Fannol's behavior or if they sensed any new changes. Quickly remembering just whom they were dealing with, White Star 2 decided to give a report that concerned them. They knew that Talia Winters was the telepath assigned to White Star 14 so they wondered why she suddenly began requesting a shuttle up to their ship. This new piece of information caused White Star 14 pause. They had noticed that Fannol was a bit more withdrawn during his off duty hours. They also noted that he spent long hours in the garden. Concerned, but not on full alert because he had not returned to haunting the chapel as he did before the secret mission or at Tuzanor at the Temple of Valen, they nevertheless felt something was coming.

Talia had difficulty processing Stephen's bombshell several weeks ago when he said she was a surprise and that she wasn't suppose to be here yet. How was one suppose to take it when told you are not on schedule for existence? Then she started going over the reports and her suspicions grew that Psi Corp or possibly Earth were allied with the Shadows. Needing some peace and quiet where she would not be observed by station Rangers or members of League worlds, she decided to go up to a White Star. She did not feel comfortable going to White Star 14 even though that is where she lived during missions. She didn't want to risk Fannol finding out that she was ill at ease about something. He was her friend and didn't seem to mind her telepathy or other but she knew that the bridge crew at least saw what she did on the first engagement and felt their unease. In truth, they seemed to get over it rather quickly and since she had no more repeat performances, it was all but forgotten.

But after the meeting where Stephen said she couldn't go to Earth or Mars she did not know what to do. He gave her no more details. She had no clue if she simply had the soul of a future Light bearer, which was her secret hope, or if she would actually evolve into one. That scared her more than she wanted to admit. She saw Jason change before her eyes. She saw the light and watched him move onto another plane of existence. Talia was among the first friends and family she'd ever had. It was selfish, she knew, but she did not want to leave them. The only thing that gave her comfort initially was Stephen saying that Minbar was a place she could go. Leroon wanted her to come to his school after the war and she knew she'd be welcome there as long as she chose. Kailenn taught at the Tuzanor training camp and she knew she would always have a place with the Anla'Shok. There was always the Sisters of Valeria and she had made many contacts within the Religious Caste while there. Yes, she felt that Minbar was her home when she left the station. But her spirit was not at rest. She was confused, had little information, and feared her faith would be tested beyond her strength. That was the greatest fear of all. That she would not rise to what was designed for her to do. Stephen said Mars was not her purpose, he did not say what was.

So Talia Winters found herself sitting in the garden on White Star 2 many afternoons and some times during late night visits. She felt sure that Marcus nor Delenn would come up to the ship unless they were preparing for a meeting and hoped that the crew would not mention it otherwise. But as her restlessness grew, any peace from the garden diminished. She made her way to the chapel and sat there praying for many hours. The crew seemed to accept her behavior instantly after getting over the surprise that she was there. By some silent agreement she suspected, they had a pilot waiting for her in the shuttle bay whenever she called for a ride up. Her schedule was pretty much routine so there was no inconvenience on their part. She just could not come to terms with what she now knew. She prayed for peace, she prayed for guidance and she prayed for understanding.

It was one late night in the chapel that she found herself moved to tears remembering the words Entil'Zha Sinclair had spoken to her during their evening talks. She was on her knees at the alter still begging the Universe to help guide her through whatever lay ahead when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Thinking it was one of the crew who had come in for their own quiet time she quickly tried to straighten herself up before turning around. She did not have the chance when she felt someone kneel beside her.

"You are in pain."

"Yes, Entil'Zha."

Sensing that she should not ask the cause, Delenn simply took Talia's hand and began to whisper quiet words of the Mineria. Talia knew that prayer. It was for serenity and strength of purpose. She had offered up a prayer at Tuzanor in the garden when Kailenn showed her the Blessing Stone. Why it had not come to her to seek it now during her greatest hours of distress she did not know. But she was thankful that the Universe had sent Entil'Zha to her with those words. They prayed together for some time. Once she felt some calm and understood that Valen had heard her entreaty, she was able to collect herself enough to speak.

"Thank you."

"No thanks is needed or required. We all need a partner in prayer some times. I have often benefitted from the presence of another."

"I have kept my own counsel on many things. I am required to do so on many more. But I am glad you happened in here tonight."

Delenn smiled in spite of herself. Yes, she was convinced long ago, before that Council meeting, that there was something more in Talia and for her. She also saw that her friend felt it too much to bare.

"It was not by accident that I am here, but by design."

This caused Talia to turn a questioning look at Delenn. She instantly felt she should not have. White Star 2 was her ship. It was only natural that her crew inform her. She was just glad that they gave her the time she had up until then.

"I'm sorry to have come here without your permission or consent. I confess I have used your chapel and gardens quite a bit over the last few weeks."

"This is no more my chapel than those are my gardens. You are welcome here anytime day or night. No, I learned that you visit here often lately and though I did not wish to disturb your prayers, tonight I felt something calling me to you. That is the only reason that I came."

"I suppose I annoyed the Universe often enough with my burden that it felt compelled to send someone to shut me up." She added a shy smile to her words and could not help laughing at herself.

"Perhaps. There is power in prayer, but you know these things. Your faith is very strong Talia, I can see that. That faith manages all things. All obstacles. All burdens."

Talia simply nodded her assent then turned to Delenn,

"How did you know I haunt your ship? Did the crew rat me out?"

At this Delenn laughs. "No, not the crew. They even seemed a bit distressed that I came on board while you were here. Apparently, they felt you were coming in secret and did nothing to alert anyone of your visits."

Now Talia is very curious and it shows.

"Station Rangers, Talia. Have you forgotten that you do have a security detail?"

"Oh, yes. I forgot about them. So they told you."

"No. Mai'lenn is still concerned that Mr. Garibaldi assigned you a detail without giving an explanation. She finally reported that to Marcus as her superior when they were going over status reports. Your guards were initially reluctant to mention that you have a habit of dismissing them in the shuttle bay without saying where you are going at times. Then they learned that you were being piloted here. They told her and she told Marcus."

"And of course, he told you."

"Yes, but that was many weeks ago. Neither of us wished to pry into your affairs."

At the incredulous look on her face, Delenn amends.

"Well, Marcus is Anla'Shok. There are several mysteries that have arisen lately. It is only natural that he attempt to follow his training."

Talia looks nervous but does not speak. Delenn learns much more from that than words,

"He did not. And he will not. We both suspect that it has something to do with those veiled words Stephen said to you. It was a bit strange that he limit your movements to Minbar, the station and White Stars. It also sounded like those options were for a considerably long time."

"Yes. They are. Forever, that is."

Delenn quickly absorbs those words and the potential meanings behind them without revealing that to Talia. [There must be a very good reason for a Soulwalker to do something like that!]

"Good. We all live on the station now. We all travel out to battle on the White Stars. And, Talia, you are of Minbar. It is your home. You are Religious Caste. Where else would you want to go?" With those last words Delenn adds a teasing smile.

"Yes. I was only there for 3 weeks but I felt the most welcome and at peace than I ever have in my entire life. Other than this station, I have never felt so secure. Minbar offers many things. The least is that I am not feared or shunned as a telepath. Tuzanor is my home. It called to me."

"Then everything is as it should be. I have known in my heart for some time now that you do indeed have a Minbari soul."

Talia embraces those words as if they are the highest compliment that she could be payed.

"Thank you."

"I speak the truth. Nothing more."

"Are you or Marcus upset about the security detail? I didn't know Michael was going to do that, but I am not complaining. Not after..."

Delenn hears even more in what Talia stopped herself from saying. [Something did happen while we were gone. Stephen must know that she has a special purpose and that there is a great threat to her.]

"No. Neither of us is upset. If Michael and Stephen feel that there is a reason for you to be monitored and protected, that is enough for either of us. Of course we are both concerned for your well being. We are your friends."

"I keep saying thank you but I mean that. Part of my worries have been offending you. I can't speak of certain things I know and there are many more things I do not know. My faith is strong but my spirit has been in great distress."

Delenn can tell immediately that Talia is genuine in her concern and seeks to alleviate her fears,

"If you must keep silent on certain—matters, then you must. I am not offended in the least. Remember, I was Satai. As Marcus says, secrets are our middle name." They both laugh openly at the truth of those words. Delenn continues,

"Know that I will pray for you to have peace for the things you know and understanding for those you do not."

"That is a great comfort to me."

Delenn managed to help Talia find some peace while lending much needed comfort to her. Marcus knew that Delenn was finally going to visit Talia and he was glad for that. Though he initially wanted answers to the mysteries that seemed to be floating around him, he let that pass once he considered her reaction to Stephen's news. [She did not seem pleased in the least.]

He also started noticing things around the station. Mai'lenn had finally told him that Stephen was secretly visiting Kosh. Never in all the time they'd known each other or since his being a Soulwalker was revealed had Stephen ever visited Kosh. The timing of those visits gave him some concern. But, it was pretty obvious that Stephen was trying to keep that a secret from everyone on the Council and not just he and Delenn. From the first time Kosh entered the War Room, Marcus felt that they knew each other and that it had been for some time. That meant that he kept it a secret from all of his friends for a very long time. Even when the captain was visiting Kosh for his lessons, there was nothing in Stephen's actions or demeanor that showed they had any prior knowledge of each other.

Marcus decided to let the supernatural mysteries of Talia, Stephen and Kosh play out on their own and agreed with Mai'lenn that her instructions to the station Rangers stand. There was, however, one mystery that he felt was grounded in the very real here and now. That was something he would do a little digging into. Mai'lenn informed him that Michael was up to something that, once again, station Rangers could not figure out. Michael Garibaldi was an enigma. He was too sharp and too quick for most people. And his mind was truly a scary place. [No wonder he keeps getting by the Rangers] The eye opener into that man's abilities came during their welcome home dinner from Minbar. Marcus was truly impressed and a bit envious that the man actually had contacts and informants on Minbar. In 'various castes and locations'. He knew damn near every single detail of Delenn's plan without leaving the station. And to have gotten 2 minute delayed feed from Yedor was brilliant.

Yes, there is quite a lot to that man. So when Mai'lenn told him of Garibaldi's meetings in down below he took them serious. Sure as Chief of Security he had contacts down there and ways of getting information. The man was an intelligence wizard. But, like Mai'lenn, he started to suspect that it had little to do with station business and more to do with some secret project. When Marcus remembered the last secret project he worked on studying the Book of G'Quon to discover the telepath angle and then come up with a plan, he felt pretty sure it had something to do with Shadows or the war effort in some way. Since it came before Talia's discovery that Psi Corp had literally made a deal with the devil, he knew it wasn't that. But, when he learned from station Rangers that Garibaldi was making secret trips up to one of the War Cruisers meeting with Fire Wings, he knew it had to be something big. "And if its that big, I'm gonna be in on it."

Marcus did his homework and managed to sift through enough of Garibaldi's movements over the last month or so to get a clear picture of what was going on. "Brilliant!" When he considered that he was only meeting with Fire Wings and that they'd actually sent a scout ship out somewhere, he had the rest of the puzzle figured out. All that was left was to confront him.

"So, Michael, I see you're working on another secret project." [Yeah, it could've been more subtle but why waste time?]

Garibaldi studied him for a few minutes long and hard. Satisfied with what he saw,

"How much do you know?" [Like I'm just gonna give away trade secrets!]

[Ok, he wants to play it like that. Fine.]

"I know that you've spent the better part of the last month following up on your suspicion that G'Kar wasn't snagged by the Shadows like we all thought. And I know that you've tracked him to the Centauri but haven't gotten a positive location on him. Finally I know that you plan on using certain Warriors to help you extract him."

[Kid's good. Not as good as me, but good.]

"So why are you bothering me?" [A little deflection and annoyance just for the fun of it.]

"You know I'm not bothering you. G'Kar is my friend and a member of the War Council. He's swinging out there at the hands of the Centauri and if it weren't for the bloody Shadows he wouldn't have left the station. I'm in on whatever you've got going."

"Oh, you just invited yourself onto the team?"

"So there's a team now. Quit stalling and lets get down to it."

Feeling like he strung the guy around long enough, Michael decides to get serious,

"Fine, here's where I am so far...."

White Star 3 was starting to become distressed again. Susan continued walking the gardens and visiting the chapel for a few weeks and while they were concerned and watchful they were not alarmed. They could tell that she was still having the dreams that confused or agitated her but nothing like before the captain left. It fit her behavior before the secret mission. Then things changed. She began spending all night in the chapel holding prayer vigils again. She was not eating nor sleeping. The crew was very concerned because they knew what was to follow, they just did not know how much time it would take. Fannol was off in battle and not scheduled to return for another 10 days. They desperately hoped her demons would not visit until his return. They were disappointed. The nightmares came and she screamed endlessly. This went on for several nights and no one knew what to do. They could do nothing but keep others from finding out what she always kept secret from everyone except Fannol.

Stephen noticed the change in her behavior immediately though he did not comment. She looked awful and as a doctor he had to slightly intervene for her health. He knew he could do nothing for the cause of her condition. That would have to resolve itself at the right time. Instead of addressing what he knew was happening he simply instructed the healer on board to give her an IV at certain times during the day but warned him never at night when she was going to bed. That order alone made the healer aware that he expected her to start having nightmares again and did not want her to rip out her IV during the course of one. The warning was unspoken but heard. Jathann reported that to the appropriate persons and the crew took up silent vigil to await the coming storm.

The others started noticing her as well and Marcus ached for her struggle. Delenn was the most concerned when she could not understand any of Susan's sudden comments or outbursts. Michael realized it was Russian immediately. He'd heard her curse enough in the past to know the accent and inflection of words but not their meaning. When he shared this Delenn understood and made a general observation that made everyone uncomfortable. "We are all fluent in Minbari now. Everyone on the Council has learned. Her crew obviously speaks Minbari as do all the other Rangers. Not one among us knows her mother tongue. Whatever she sees, whatever she knows, the Universe means to keep it from us until the precise moment."

Mai'lenn missed none of this. White Star 3 never reported anything that happened on Ivanova's ship since the day they all raced from the station and jumped to some unknown location. Once her crew took over Ivanova's security they we were shut out even more. White Star 14 is the only one with any knowledge of what goes on with her and that is only because of Fannol. But since that dinner where he did not look well and they shut themselves up in her station quarters we all knew to watch carefully for something to come. Dr. Franklin's visits to the Vorlon have increased more if that is even possible. They spend longer and longer time together. No one gets close. No one can tell what they are doing but until the change in Ivanova we did not know if it were a sign of something good or bad considering that he is a Soulwalker.

Then one day I received a report of her condition. I went to verify it for myself. She did not look well. Thankfully Lennier is able to get close enough to her and he blends in well. He is concerned that Entil'Zha may soon become affected by whatever Ivanova sees. He does not wish for that to happen again. He reported that she has taken to her old ways of speaking suddenly at random and to no one in particular. He also said that he could not understand the few words she spoke. Then he informed his Ranger contact of what Entil'Zha said about the Universe keeping her silent. No, not one of us was comforted in the least by her observation. She does not look well. We believe that the crew is assisting her with extra efforts to hide this when she is on the station and especially when she is meeting with the League worlds. They do NOT need to know what she is.

Fannol and Talia are away fighting. There can be no assistance for her in that quarter until he returns. I have to wonder at the Universe tormenting her this way. She must have some special purpose or connection to Minbar for the things she sees to be so clear and so meaningful. Information is starting to come in from other ships. Long ago Ivanova took to holding Fleet meetings on one of the Fire Wing War Cruisers. Whichever was in orbit at the time. The situation rooms are larger and all the captains can meet comfortably. We also believe this is her way of honoring her clan. After this last meeting I received most of my new information. It is also the when the other Rangers in orbit got a first hand view of what she experiences. It is long since public knowledge among the Anla'Shok and the Fire Wing Warriors who joined the fight that she dreams the future. They believe it. I think most of Minbar heard the seeds of prophecy in her address to the League. If any among us possibly doubted that she was touched before they no longer do.

Ivanova now has a four person security detail. I began to suspect early on that the additional two were not for the sole purpose of guarding her against an attack but in assisting her with the results of her dreams or visions. Reports came in as soon as the meeting broke up. Two guards were inside the room while the other two waited outside. She began speaking in Andorando which was not a good sign. It meant that whatever was to come was near enough for us all to have some warning. Mr. Garibaldi was apparently going over intelligence gathered from some of the League scouting ships and merchant traders about strange activity on some of the lessor known worlds beyond Narn space. A few of the reports dealt directly with the Centauri. In the middle of his report Ivanova apparently began chanting. While that was a shock to just about everyone present the one thing they instantly noticed was that members of the War Council and her own guards moved quickly but did not intervene as if it were a practiced routine.

Reports stated that she began softly so that only those to her immediate right or left could hear. As she got loud enough to draw attention away from Mr. Garibaldi and onto her he stopped. Someone made move to go toward her and Entil'Zha immediately stilled the room by saying that no one should touch or disturb her in anyway no matter how long it took but they were free to leave. Nobody left. At the same time this was happening, the Soulwalker moved to stand near her in what appeared to be a guarding fashion. Her own guards were quick to her side but kept their distance. It was obvious to all that only Dr. Franklin was to go near her. Not one person in that room thought it had anything to do with him being a healer.

Over and over she chanted in Andorando,

"Now is the time. Now is the hour. Light dies. Soul dies. The journey begins." Her very actions were enough to bring fear to the heart of any Warrior but her words were chilling to all present. No one knew what to do. Except those on the War Council. They simply let her do as she was Chosen to do. Reports were sketchy because most were unnerved by the entire scene they witnessed. This is said to have gone on for close to 10 minutes and then she stopped and seemed to come back to herself. She stood and moved toward the door and while everyone else was recovering, they thought she was leaving. She did not. She simply stopped in the middle of the room facing the door and waited. The Soulwalker is said to have motioned her guards to step to the wall and told everyone to clear away from the table or anywhere near her and move to the back of the room.

That is when almost everyone, for it is clear that both Mr. Garibaldi and Entil'Zha expected someone to enter as well, looked around confused. That's when all those present got the shock of their lives. The Vorlon had gotten off the station unnoticed somehow and boarded the War Cruiser completely undetected. Now the others saw what I saw a few months ago. Gasps of surprise were heard from those who never witnessed this before. The Vorlon is said to have entered and bowed to the Soulwalker before turning to Ivanova bowing deeply again. Then it spoke,

"The end is near."

She said,

"The circle complete."

Then the reason for Dr. Franklin warning everyone to move against the wall to the back of the room became clear. The iris on the encounter suit opened and a bright burst of light flowed from it and hit her. From their vantage point most could not tell but it is believed to be somewhere in the chest.

It is also believed that Mr. Garibaldi and Entil'Zha presumed that their intercourse was complete because they both began to make a move only to be stopped when the Vorlon continued speaking,

"Surprise. Death. Tears."

Ivanova's next words and the Vorlon's replies confused and brought even more fear to those assembled. I know I felt the same when they were reported to me.

"The Chosen prepares."

"Debts payed."

"Darkness awaits."

"Light dies."

"Fire. Pain. Renewal."

"Horror. Reflection. Unknown."

"Time ends."

"The Chosen nears."

"Yes."

Then the Vorlon bowed deeply to her and stepped aside once again so that she could pass. This time the Soulwalker guided her from the room and the Vorlon followed. Then Ivanova's guards left quickly. They say it was deathly quiet in the situation room for several minutes. All those who never witnessed Ivanova's exchanges with the Vorlon were unnerved by the veiled words they spoke.

The thing that puzzled everyone is that Mr. Garibaldi contacted the same War Cruiser that followed White Star 3 to what we presume was Z'ha'dum and told it to prepare to jump in pursuit of White Star 3 if it should break orbit but not to interfere. Everyone then suspected he had some idea what happened between them. Several minutes later the War Cruiser responded that White Star 14 had just jumped into orbit unexpectedly. Mr. Garibaldi then ordered the War Cruiser to stand down and said that White Star 14 would do what had to be done. If there was any doubt in anyone's mind as to the connection between Ivanova and Fannol it ended that moment. White Star 14 returned 5 days ahead of schedule.

I was informed by one of the other ships that as soon as White Star 14 jumped into orbit a shuttle departed headed for White Star 3. We presume Fannol was on board because White Star 3 opened its shuttle bay doors as soon as White Star 14 arrived. Both ships jumped from orbit moments later. No one has any information as to where they went and it is obvious by past actions that neither ship will comment. After getting all the reports I was concerned because of those present who witnessed the encounter. This time it was not the War Council or even Anla'Shok. This time the Fire Wing and Moon Shield Warriors saw and heard all. Perhaps it could have remained quiet if it were only Minbari present, but there were captains and scouts from every race within the League in that room. And now Ivanova, Fannol, the Soulwalker and Talia Winters have all left for parts unknown. Once again I knew I would have to make a report to Durhan and was not looking forward to it in the least.

When the two guards stationed outside the situation room saw Kosh appear they knew that there would be some kind of exchange with Susan. They also knew from previous reports of things that happened in the War Room that she would head back to the ship as soon as possible. They maintained their post but alerted the shuttle pilot to be ready any moment for their arrival and to head straight back to White Star 3. When they saw that the Soulwalker was to accompany her they were glad that she would have someone attending her since Fannol was not there but filled with anxiety and a sense of dread because they knew what happened the last time he was on board the ship. The shuttle pilot contacted White Star 3 after she got the report from Susan's guards to put them on alert.

When they docked Stephen led her from the shuttle directly to the chapel. Two guards were stationed outside in anticipation of this and opened the doors. No one knows what happened inside but it was quiet. Unsure what was to come next but on the ready for anything they were all relieved and apprehensive when White Star 14 suddenly jumped into orbit. Everyone knew they were not to return for another 5 days. Knowing instinctively that his return was tied to Susan, they opened the shuttle bay doors anticipating his arrival. They were not disappointed. Someone turned the monitors on in the shuttle bay once they got the report from her pilot of what was happening on board the War Cruiser. No one turned them off and it was counted as a good thing. Instead of seeing Fannol as they expected both he and Talia ran from the shuttle straight for the chapel without being told where to go. The crew wondered why they were mildly surprised by that.

Once everyone was inside the crew thought they would remain there for some time. But after about 5 minutes Talia went to the bridge and told them to break orbit and head for Sigma 957, best speed. The destination was not a surprise, though they hoped her condition would be nothing like it was on the last visit. No, the surprise was her order that they instruct White Star 14 to pursue. The War Cruiser had already contacted them and relayed Mr. Garibaldi's directive so they wondered how many ships would know this secret. Moments after Talia turned and left the bridge the War Cruiser informed them that Mr. Garibaldi told them to stand down once he learned that White Star 14 had arrived. The crew breathed a sigh of relief. The crew from the War Cruiser had not talked since the last trip to that planet but they had even more secrets to protect for their captain since witnessing her wish the Shadows to death. They would take no chances.

Talia returned to the chapel and moved to sit next to Stephen. He could tell she was upset by the things she felt but did not understand. So, he tried to give her as much comfort as he could. They both watched Susan and Fannol. Neither spoke but both held each other. She was not agitated but looked nervous. Fannol seemed distressed. Susan picked up on his emotions and held his hand for contact.

"How did you know?"

"You tried to hide them from me."

"Yes. You were out fighting and I didn't want you to have any distractions."

"You did not hide the last one well. It should be obvious to us both now that great distance does not shield our emotions from each other."

"No. I suppose you're right. Sorry about that."

"You know it is not a problem. I felt something just before we arrived. I know you spoke, you'll tell me of that. But I felt something else. It was old. Very old. And it feels like power and Light."

At that Stephen and Susan are staring at him in amazement. They look to each other and neither has a clue what's going on. Then Stephen turned to Talia,

"Did you see anything strange? Did he act differently just before you arrived?"

This causes Talia some pause. She and Fannol have gotten to be good friends and she doesn't want to report on him. Then she considers the group so she turns to him for his approval first,

"He was extremely agitated earlier. We left the bridge and went to the chapel so that we could not be watched by the crew. We were close but hadn't entered jumping range. While we were sitting in the chapel he just stood up and didn't move for a few minutes. Then, I swear he lit up like a Christmas tree. Not like Marcus glows when change is coming. I mean streaming Light. It just poured into him from nowhere."

Stephen's mouth his hanging open just as far as Susan's. She looks to Stephen for an answer,

"I have absolutely no idea how that happened. I didn't think it was possible. I sure didn't expect that one at all. Wow, you guys really are close." Then he laughs and shakes his head in wonder.

Fannol and Talia have no clue what's going on so Susan has to explain.

"Kosh. After our usual exchange, you know where I have a supernatural nutty, he hit me with Light. I have no clue how the hell you got some of it."

Now its Talia and Fannol's turn to stare slack jawed. Talia finally gets her voice and croaks,

"That's what that thing was? It just came out of thin air and flowed right into him. Smack dab in the chest."

Susan is still amazed. Fannol looks ill. She tries to take his mind off of it,

"Ok Stephen. Now that the first part of the drama is over, can you at least tell us what that Light was?"

Stephen looks uncomfortably around the room. It isn't that he doesn't want to tell, its that he doesn't know how they'll take it. Finally Fannol prompts,

"Just say it."

"Alright. It seems that both of you have been touch by a Vorlon and are now the proud recipients of a piece of Kosh." Still shaking his head he starts laughing again. Neither find anything funny.

Susan narrows her eyes at him,

"What do you mean we both have a piece of Kosh?"

"Just what I said. I'm not sure Kosh intended both of you to get it or just Fannol and your weird cosmic connection split it between you two. It might have been the plan all along. To share it with both of you, which would really explain how that happened. But considering Fannol, I'd guess it was intended for him alone and Kosh figured going through you was easier since he wasn't there like the other times. Makes perfect sense. So, you both have a piece of a Vorlon inside you."

Fannol has no idea what to do with that. [I am carrying around a piece of a Vorlon?]

"What does that mean?"

"I can't tell you."

"You can't tell me because you do not know? Or you can't tell me because its one of those things you...Susan what is the term?

"Squirrel away"

"Thank you. Or it is one of those things you squirrel away in that head of yours and won't share?"

At their little exchange and Fannol's indignant demeanor both Talia and Stephen crack up laughing. Neither Susan or Fannol are finding this funny in the least.

"Sorry guys but its one of those things I'm not supposed to tell you. As a doctor I can assure you that it won't kill you our cause you to break out in an uncomfortable rash." For some reason Talia and Stephen are giddy over the situation because its so surreal they can do nothing but laugh.

Fannol isn't finished getting clarification on this strange occurrence.

"Why would Kosh want me to...have a piece of himself? And what did you mean by 'considering Fannol'?"

"Sorry. That's another one of those things I'm, as you put it, squirreling away." Again Talia and Stephen can't seem to stop laughing and neither understands why they find the whole thing so funny.

"I see." Susan hasn't found the humor yet.

"Susan, you know there are things I can't speak of just like there are things you can't. This isn't the time to hop on a soap box. You knew what was to come. Your behavior over the last few weeks proves that. Your nightmares over the last 5 days assures that. You know what's about to happen. That's why we're here."

Susan cannot deny what he saying so she nods. Turning to Fannol,

"I guess I should catch you up. First, I am fine. Great now that you're here." They smile at each other. Stephen and Talia just roll their eyes.

"Talia, pay attention to this. Uh, the other is on its way to the station to kill both of us." Nobody's laughing now. Now its Talia's turn to narrow her eyes demanding more information.

"Yeah, its on the way to the station to get both of us. Obviously, we aren't on the station and that's why we are heading to Sigma 957."

At her blank stare, Susan just shrugs. Fannol puts the pieces together.

"The ones who protect the souls of the future Light bearers. The ones who gave prophecy to your coming. The ones who gave you a way to protect yourself from the other. They are the Walkers of Sigma 957."

Talia's catching on,

"That's why they 'healed' you after the captain died? That's why they knew your name. How did Marcus know to take you there? You were completely gone, out of it. Stephen never said a word."

"Gee, thanks Stephen."

"I knew he knew."

"Fine. I 'met' them a couple of years ago when I was out on patrol near their space. They called me over and sang for me. When John sent us out to search for First Ones, Marcus and I were together. I ordered the ship right up to the planet though the bridge crew and Marcus thought I was crazy. They let me get close before so I figured they'd do it again. They came over and said hi. Or at least their version of it anyway."

"Ok, so the reason we're going there now is?"

"To hide. Look, they protect both of us. Me cause I'm...me. You because you are one of the future Light bearers."

Talia absorbs this and can't find too much fault with it. Then asks,

"How long are we supposed to hide there? The other will know we aren't there and either wait for us or come back."

"No. The other will die some time soon."

Fannol and Tali figure she can give a little more than that. Talia is brimming with sarcasm,

"Since it dies "soon" can't we know now or is that a secret until we get back?"

"That part is a secret until we get back. Only because I'm not actually supposed to tell. You're supposed to find out."

"Ok, whatever. Just send me a memo. So, what did you reveal for the Council this time? Surely you can tell us that since we would've seen it anyway."

"Actually every single captain in the Fleet saw it."

"What?" Fannol and Talia really have been spending too much time together.

"It happened in the situation room on the War Cruiser. Fannol, you'll be happy to know that its not just your reports that set me off. This time Michael got interrupted."

"I no longer feel the distinction of being special."

"We're still gonna work on the whole smart ass thing."

"Hello you two. Do whatever it is you two do later. Fill me in."

"Maybe Stephen could tell. I feel a little weird about repeating the whole thing." They both turn to Stephen who just shrugs,

"Well its probably all over the station, every ship in the Fleet and in about an hour it should have hit the desk of every government leader in the League. It'll be all over Minbar in a few hours too."

All three of them are wide eyed taking in the implications of his words. Susan hadn't considered any of that.

"Why Minbar?"

"I guess you forgot Mai'lenn. Once the others return to their ships there won't be a free channel open. Every station Ranger will report to her from their contacts. You guys know she reports to Tuzanor. Moon Shields AND Fire Wings will be reporting back home to their clans. Look, for people who aren't as sanitized to your ways or even aware of the unusual assortment of gifts in our happy little family, its really big news. League delegates will probably start doing one act performances in the Zocolo acting it out. Station personnel is bound to find out soon. You and Kosh really put on a good show this time. Even I felt like I got my monies' worth and I knew it was coming."

"Stephen, none of that is funny."

"Wasn't meant to be. It's the truth. There was no time to clear the room. I had to make sure no one interfered with you. Delenn warned them not to touch or disturb you no matter how long it took. She told them they could all leave. I guess nobody wanted to give up their front row seat."

"This is not good." Fannol turns to her,

"No. I don't believe it is. He is right. It won't take long to circulate. Someone is bound to start putting the pieces together. Especially now that they've seen the exchange between you and the Vorlon." He looks to Stephen,

"What are your thoughts?"

"To all things there is a season and a purpose."

Susan just closes her eyes and puts her head on Fannol's chest. He tries to comfort her,

"It might not be as bad as you think. Perhaps others will not figure it out. But if they do, then the Universe has seen fit to reveal you."

"I hope you are right on all accounts. I just never gave any thought to others finding out. Its one thing if it were my crew. They've seen so much that knowing would probably be a relief to them. Then again, they've seen things others have not and none of them put it together."

She stops for a minute and looks at Stephen,

"Is that wishful thinking on my part? I'm not asking your professional opinion as a mystic with the super direct hot line to the Universe. I'm just asking."

"Susan, its like I said. Its like Fannol said. If the Universe is ready then the people will have to be ready. I'm not the Seer, you are."

Fannol and Susan roll their eyes and snort their disbelief at his statement at the same time.

"Tell that to people who don't already know you squirrel away for a living."

Talia has no idea who Susan is but has heard and seen enough over the last few months.

"Susan, I agree with Stephen. Faith manages. All things at all times. You know that. I don't know what your secret is and I could probably sit down and try to figure it out based on everything I've seen but after the thing with Stephen, which he NEVER lets me forget, I haven't tried. I've also been trying to deal with my own issues of becoming and existing. Stephen's basically said I'm limited to Minbar, the station, and a White Star for the rest of my life.—Hey does that change now that the other is going to die?"

Stephen opts to answer her question in great detail leaving nothing out,

"Nope."

"Thanks."

"Consider it partial payback for announcing to the world who I am. Also, consider it part of the natural order of things. You are still very much a surprise. There are many things contingent on your becoming. Some you control. Some you do not. But, the Universe has allowed you into being at this time for a reason. Its plan cannot be interrupted."

Talia thinks on that for a few moments and then nods in agreement.

"I'm not complaining. I've struggled to understand but I'm not going to complain. If it weren't for this I would have died at Psi Corps hands a long time ago. I'm not going to challenge the Universe on why I am here."

Fannol is proud of her reasoning and seeks to assure her,

"You are wise Talia. Those statements and your attitude are testaments to your faith and strength."

She smiles warmly at him. 3 years ago she never would have been able to sit around with friends. Real friends whom she considers family. [Yes, I've been blessed.] Then she remembers the meeting,

"Back to what happened in the situation room..."

"Let Stephen tell you. It was weird even for me. Our crews will be the only ones in the Fleet not to know about it. They love knowing everything first. Oh well."

"How long are we going to be gone?"

"We can return in 5 days."

"Fine. I'm going in search of food. Stephen? If you're not gonna be pissy about it. Notice no security detail following you around. You should enjoy it while you can."

"Sure, I could eat. Susan, you haven't eaten on your own in over a week. You'll need food soon." Then they both walk out. Fannol turns to Susan,

"I haven't been hungry. Stephen had the healer put me on an IV these last 5 days so I'm ok."

"Should we talk about it?"

"Kosh. He's going to die to save me and Talia from the other. He's going to fight the other. Fannol I saw that thing. It was worse that a Shadow, if that's possible. The other doesn't want change. I know it has something to do with the Light bearers to be. Of which Talia is the only one or at the very least possesses the soul of one. A little early. That's why she's a surprise to the other and a threat. If one of the next ones is here now then that pretty much means that things are changing."

Fannol takes that in but wonders about the current Light bearers. His thoughts are a bit loud,

"Yeah, you picked up on that. The Vorlons are still the Light bearers. Old things pass away to make room for the new."

Fannol is stunned and his first thought is that the Shadows prevail,

"It's complicated. I'm still in the middle of MANY nightmares and dreams. I can feel them progressing."

"Yet, Stephen has tied her to Minbar, the station and ships made with Vorlon technology." Fannol whispers his thoughts aloud while turning over recent events in his head.

"I don't know but its obviously significant if Stephen said it. There's a lot of stuff trapped in my head. I see the past. Not just the last war. I'm seeing LONG before 1,000 years ago. I still don't know why or what to do about it. All of it ain't pretty. Plus, there's more stuff in the future."

"I do not enjoy seeing you suffer. Have they been as bad as—before?"

"Well, I saw Kosh die and that hurt but I didn't experience it. That's a good thing and I'll take what I can get. There are other things. Stuff I can't say yet to anyone."

"I would not ask you to speak before it is time."

"You'll be glad to know my nightmares and outbursts up until the situation room nutty were all in Russian. I think that scared people more than before John went away." Neither can help laughing at the morbid irony of the situation.

"You are probably right."

"I'm not looking forward to people's reaction when we return. When it was just us, that was one thing. The Council was really all that needed to know. And if it had to be the Fleet why couldn't it have just been the Anla'Shok? Marcus said Mai'lenn finally reported that they all firmly believe I dream the future and apparently they were using me as some kind of danger barometer to watch for trouble. Now, everybody saw it. Thankfully, no screaming this time. But, Kosh and I had a rather long conversation for the two of us."

Then Susan takes a breath and tells him exactly what happened in the situation room.

Fannol takes a few minutes to go over all she said.

"That should tell you many things Susan."

"Huh?"

"You said before that in the past it was just us, that you said things only the Council needed to know. You've also said that you have no control over when or how information is forced from you to share with the group. That should tell you important things. Stephen said, to all things there is a season. That means the ones who needed to know, now know. Whether you realize it or not, in your address to the League, you gave prophecy to the Chosen returning. When he comes, they will know you knew. All of Minbar has already seen that speech. People will know. And, lets face it, you had a Vorlon involved. Most of them have never met Vorlon. You and Kosh seem to get on quite well." He smirks at that last comment. Susan can't help laugh.

"I guess a Vorlon does raise my credibility some. You're right, as usual. I'm not going to worry about it. If people figure it out, they were meant to. If they don't, let them just think I'm crazy. We've got a 5 day vacation orbiting a planet of First Ones. Wonder how they'll take to you once they feel the Vorlon inside?"

"That is not funny. I believe you have a bit of it yourself."

"I don't know. I was thinking about what Stephen said and what you experienced. You felt something. You said it was old and powerful. I just might be the carrier pigeon for this one."

Fannol doesn't like that but is unsure why.

"Stephen wouldn't say. Do you know why Kosh would do that? Give me a piece of himself?"

"Probably wanted to round out the mixed bag of nuts. Seriously, I don't know. Marcus is convinced that the connection between us is from you, your ability and that it has nothing to do with my Psi rating. Stephen hasn't said one way or the other but you know he knows and just won't tell. It could be years before we find out."

"I suppose I'll just have to wait and see. I'm not going to any Vorlon family reunions though."

"Ok, but something tells me they might be a lot of fun." At this she cracks up laughing and even though he doesn't want to Fannol can't help but smile.

"I have been trying to piece together many things since Stephen's revelations and my confession. There are things that don't add up. Don't fit and something tells me there is more to the story. More to us."

White Stars 3 & 14 sailed off to Sigma 957 not knowing what to expect. Seeing Talia and Stephen head to the dining room was a definite change and the crew simply exhaled and relaxed. Then they updated White Star 14. That crew had no idea what to expect. They watched Fannol over the last few days. He was fit for command and in complete control but his time away from the bridge was too familiar. They had to wonder at the connection between he and Susan from that distance. Then they noticed him becoming extremely agitated for two days and knew that when he signaled White Star 9 to take command of the battalion that something happened to Susan and they were headed back to Babylon 5.

They watched him carefully on the bridge. He was becoming more and more distressed then Talia led him off to the chapel where he remained until they both rushed out to the shuttle bay and attempted to dismiss his pilot. Firmly denied. And a security team would accompany him. Resigned, he did not argue. They knew he would not waste time fighting about it when he obviously had to get to White Star 3. Now they're headed to a planet of First Ones. They have no idea what is going on but are firmly committed to protecting their captain.

Fannol seems to remember that he hasn't checked in with his crew. Susan hasn't done so either so they both head off to the bridge together. To say the bridge crew of White Star 3 was relieved at her condition and obvious state of mind was an understatement. They witnessed her shared death with the captain months ago. They did not wish for her to suffer anything like that again.

While the future Light bearer, the Soulwalker, the Oracle, and the one touched by a Vorlon were spending quality time together orbiting Sigma 957, Babylon 5 was in an uproar. Marcus returned on White Star 2 only to learn of Susan's latest revelation. He was unsure what to make of hearing that it occurred in front of captains from all the Army of Light ships orbiting the station. When he got the full report, he was stunned. That was pretty much everyone's reaction. All that talk about souls and Light dying did not go over well with anyone.

Watching her being hit with Light from a Vorlon sent people's heads spinning. They had no idea what she was or why that happened. Her words about a Chosen preparing and the circle being complete were not lost on anyone. They started speculating and the theories were running wild. Not just across the Fleet or the station. Every League captain felt it their duty to report that back home.

After 4 days the initial shock had worn off. Thing started to calm down a bit in general. Well, for all those except the station Rangers. They were on full alert. Gather information they did. There wasn't one member of the League who wasn't reported on. Marcus and Mai'lenn wanted to be sure the delegates weren't planning something against the war effort or Susan. Delenn knew that Michael had some idea what Susan was talking about and assumed it had to do with the secret they were all keeping when he ordered the War Cruiser to prepare to pursue White Star 3. [If he does not know where they are going specifically, he is certain that they must leave for a reason.] She heard Susan speak of the Chosen preparing and hoped in her heart that it was John. She tried not to get her hopes up only to be crushed later, but could not resist the urge. That wasn't lost on Marcus either. Both he and Lennier kept careful watch over her.

When they all learned that the Vorlon had been attacked and killed in some kind of strange battle in the middle of the station, everyone was speechless. No one knew that a Vorlon could be killed. From what witnesses said, it looked like the ultimate struggle to end all struggles. Kosh was out of his encounter suit and every single person saw a being of Light from their own religious background. But the other one looked mangled and the stuff of evil personified. The general consensus was that it looked worse than a Shadow. Kosh died after killing the other being that no one could name or identify.

Delenn watched in horror. She could not believe what she was seeing with her very eyes. There floating high above all was some representation of good versus evil. Because no one knew of that creature but were certain it was not a Shadow, the anxiety and fear levels rose. Susan had left immediately after meeting with Kosh and not returned. They had no clue what was going on. Except that both Delenn and Marcus noticed that Michael Garibaldi seemed to have a very good idea what that was. He was too calm and too relieved when it died. Marcus shared Mai'lenn's report that Stephen had started secretly meeting with Kosh for long periods of time since their return from Yedor. Minbari were silent. Their minds began to turn back to things long forgotten. With all they'd seen and heard from Susan Ivanova over the past year they seriously began to wonder.

Those who heard Ivanova's words in C&C and decided to learn more were beating down the door to security in order to watch the tape. They were committed to helping her run the station so she could fight the war against the Shadows before. Now after seeing the Light being who looked exactly like an angel fighting against something their minds could only process as the devil, they were just plain old committed. White Star 2 knew exactly what to think when they learned what happened on their return. So did the Fire Wing Anla'Shok. Moon Shields knew what they saw from their probe at Z'ha'dum. That was what convinced them to head straight to Babylon 5 and take up the fighting with the others. Watching her, they knew prophecy when they heard it. It was not lost on any of them that she spoke in Andorando. They saw that Vorlon bow to her. They were all growing eager to know more.

Mai'lenn had the reports as soon as the meeting broke up and others could get to a private place to fill her in. Nothing she'd witnessed before from the Council or Ivanova prepared her for that sight. Reports were always sketchy of what happened in the War Room because Council members would never tell. All she knew was what she heard and saw. This was different.

Initially, she was concerned that it was so public. That now everyone would see there was something about Ivanova even if they did not understand. Then she considered. "The Universe has a plan. It put all of them together for reason. They each have special gifts. No, if it was intended to remain a secret, then she would have spoken in her mother tongue. The Vorlon would not have come to her. Some great thing is about to occur."

When Durhan was notified of the incoming secure transmission he assumed it was Mai'lenn. "It just has to be from her. Its been too quiet and relaxing this week." He assembled the others as they were ought to do and settled down. Never had they witnessed Susan in the throws of revelation. They only had Delenn's account of what happened before the Gathering of Souls. This was different. And they were unsure how to take all they heard. The fact that it was so public and that representatives from other worlds saw caused them great concern for her. They did not know what would happen when Minbari found out. They couldn't possibly fathom what other races would do.

Turval looks up from the monitor, "I thought I'd seen everything with that Gathering of Souls. Thought that was a wonderful experience. This is confusing. From her report, Mai'lenn states that their conversation was much longer than usual. So much that Mr. Garibaldi and Entil'Zha moved before it ended. Souls dying. Light dying."

Rathenn sat quietly for several minutes before responding.

"She said that the Chosen prepares. When was the last time you heard her speak of a Chosen?"

The question rhetorical but still required an answer. Durhan finally weighs in,

"Yes, I heard that as well. Surely this was not meant to be public. And yet it is."

"And the report of the Vorlon pouring Light into her? Has anyone thoughts on that?" Turval asks.

Rathenn mulled it over, "No. Whatever it was it is obvious that the Soulwalker knew it would happen. Why else would he have instructed them to move to the wall in the back of the room?"

Turval agreed but continued, "I am concerned for both Susan and Fannol. The actions of Mr. Garibaldi suggest that he at least suspected Susan would leave and did not want her ship out there alone. Fannol's unexpected arrival. Mai'lenn's reports on both of them over the last few months are more and more curious. We all knew they were close. He could feel her distress and knew to return for whatever is to come from that great distance. We do not know where they have gone. I do not want to give voice to my lingering suspicions."

Each of them had to agree with Turval. Fannol and Susan were a mystery to most from the beginning but the reports of their behavior since he remained at the station were so beyond unusual they could not understand.

Finally Rathenn interjects, "I believe it is time we revisit the old texts again. This time in great scrutiny. We leave nothing out. We dismiss nothing as insignificant. We study all there is to know about the old gods and their sending of the Oracle. I suggest we search carefully to see if it mentions a friend."

Solemn expressions and nods of agreement followed. They would begin immediately.

When the courier arrived 4 days later Durhan simply shook his head and called them to their regular meeting place. He had no idea what was on that data crystal but he did not think it good news. They were first informed that Susan and Fannol were not alone but that the Soulwalker and the telepath went with them. None had contacted the station and they had not returned. They worried what was happening but had some comfort in the fact that the Soulwalker was with them.

After watching a recording Mai'lenn 'acquired' from station security Turval turns back to her words,

"I think now that we know the Vorlon was killed fighting that unknown beast, much of their conversation makes sense. As much as a Vorlon seems to make sense. She spoke like it. Others may fear that the Light she spoke of refers to this war with the Shadows. There will be many speculations."

"You are correct. Much of their conversation is more clear. Much is still a mystery."

Before Rathenn can respond Durhan adds,

"I believe it is time to reacquaint ourselves with certain souls. I feel a trip is in order."

The other two cannot disagree. Somehow all of their senses are peaked and they wish to know more of what has past and what is to come.

"We will leave tomorrow. Something tells me that it will take long for the dust settle, as the humans put it. But I feel changes are soon approaching and I want to be there before they arrive." Rathenn adds this while looking at each of the others. Heads nod all around that this was how it would be.

All was quiet during their stay. The four spent their time relaxing on board the ship at first. Then they took a shuttle down to the planet for some hours. Not one person on either ship had hopes of finding out what occurred. White Star 3 wasn't too worried. They watched the four on the monitor laughing and smiling as they walked calmly to the shuttle bay. No, no one was harmed. Could this possibly be a social visit? Then one night, Susan suddenly woke up in a fit of screams. White Star 3 had secretly developed some 'Ivanova protocols' after the last time. They knew from Fannol's actions that whatever she saw had to be played out and that she should not be sedated. But, they also knew that she should not be alone. They saw the Soulwalker had been in the chapel for several hours late into the night. Then he left and headed toward her quarters at the same time she started to scream but did not enter. He simply stood in the corridor silently.

When her behavior started to change before this trip they decided to station someone outside her door at night. That would give them the first warning of any change in her condition and alert them of what to do. When the guard realized what was happening, she signaled to the designated person who was to contact White Star 14 so that Fannol could shuttle over to watch over her in private. Later they wondered why they bothered to make that call. At the same time a com officer was contacting White Star 14 a hail came in for them to open the shuttle bay door. Fannol! He knew what was coming and had already started over. White Star 14 did inform White Star 3 that they were monitoring Fannol's movement throughout the night. He would not sleep. He walked the garden for a few hours then went to the chapel. They said he seemed more distressed and agitated than usual. What gave them no comfort was that Talia was reported to have been wandering around the ship shaking and crying for much of the night as well. Finally she entered the chapel and they remained in there for some time. Suddenly, they raced from the chapel where someone was standing guard nearly knocking him over and ran to the shuttle bay. They knew where he had to be going at that time of night. There was only one place, White Star 3. Someone was waiting in the shuttle to pilot them over.

Fannol leapt from the shuttle without a word to anyone and no one tried to slow his progress or intervene. He went straight to Susan's quarters but he could hear her screaming from the hallway. It always broke his heart to feel her in such agony. The only thing he counted as a blessing is that she was not in the degree of distress as she was when dreaming about the captain going to Z'ha'dum or while experiencing his death. Fannol went straight into the room and stayed with her the rest of the night. She was speaking in Russian without having completely woken. He wasn't sure what to make of that. It had only happened once and that was a blessing as well to keep the crew from finding out what she was saying. Having a better understanding of their strange empathic bond since the last crisis, he pushed his own pain and fears aside to project calm comforting feelings toward her. He tried his best to make her feel secure. It seemed to help because she finally quieted down and drifted off to sleep.

Once Stephen saw Fannol and Talia race around the corner, he stepped aside knowing that Fannol would stay with her. Talia did not look in much better shape than Fannol so he took her by the arm and led her back to his quarters. They remained inside for the rest of the night. Stephen was Talia's closest friend. From her arrival on the station he was kind and accepting of her as a telepath. They worked together with the Underground Railroad long before the break from Earth or preparations for the coming of the Shadows. Now it appeared that he was to be her guide or at least more than her friend at times. She had come to rely on his calming presence and gentle nature years ago. Since she had no idea what was effecting her she followed his lead and he was able to give her some peace.

Within minutes of jumping into station orbit both ships started getting reports of the horrific public battle between Kosh and some unknown dark creature. This was a surprise initially until they considered the cryptic exchange between Kosh and Susan. That is when the pieces of the puzzle all clicked into place. They had to wonder why they had gone to the planet only to orbit for days while the others acted like they were on vacation. Their relaxed visits to the planet also fit when they considered how all four of them acted late that 4th night. Fannol and Talia's wanderings, the Soulwalker's vigil in the chapel and Ivanova's nightmare all happened at the same time as the battle. Now both crews understood. [They were in hiding from whatever was coming to the station and the Vorlon intervened and fought it off.] Speculation that Mr. Garibaldi had some degree of knowledge of what was going on solidified when they considered that he assigned station Rangers to guard Talia after the first Shadow engagement without any explanation. They knew that the Soulwalker was visiting the Vorlon regularly before they left. The crews discussed all that and arrived at the same conclusion, whatever that beast was, came for them.