This is set at the end of season 5 and is based on speculation but contains one *massive*, *huge*, *whopping great spoiler* for that season, so if you don't wanna be spoilt, look away now!
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters used here belong to me (besides those you don't recognise as part of the B5 universe) and I'm making no material gain from their use. This story is, however, mine so if you want to cross post/ archive it, ask me first (I'd be dead flattered)!
…And the spoiler is: Lennier tries to kill Sheridan, which is the starting point for this story! Enjoy!
Getting onboard the Drazi ship had been relatively easy: he'd simply posed as one of the countless other workers on the illegal transport to Drazi space. From there he headed toward Earth, ending up on Io, a colonised moon in Jupiter's atmosphere several days and several hundred light years from his crimes.
The greeting that awaited him as he stepped off the shuttle, hooded cloak flapping at his heels, was fearsome: it seemed to him that the moon and it's weather system, not to mention the cold, closed faces of it's inhabitants knew what he'd done; what he'd *tried* to do. And although this wasn't his intended victim's homeworld, merely one of its colonies, he couldn't help feeling that all eyes were upon him, accusing and suspecting. There was, of course no way any of *them* could know what he'd done, but still…
He'd long since ditched his ranger uniform in favour of nondescript civilian shirt and trousers which were sombre in colour so as to attract less attention than those of the anla'shok. He'd kept the pin of course, but hid it at the bottom of his bag since the very sight of it was almost painful to him.
The sky above was an angry grey and he stared up at it as the people around him bustled here and there, some of them accidentally shoving him aside in their haste. He kept his hood up to hide the fact that he was not human: he wanted to remain as anonymous as possible and people were likely to remember seeing a Minbari so far from home. Exhausted and desolate, he stayed where he was, rooted to the spot and wondered dismally to himself, what next?
A battered copy of yesterday's newspaper that caught itself around his boot brought him back to the present and he stooped to pick it up, moving to a moulded plastic seat at the exit from the shuttle port to read its contents. The headline on the front of the edition of Universe Today screamed the words 'Silent Killer Sentenced' but he held little interest in that, choosing instead to peruse the section advertising cheap accommodation. Tucking the paper under his arm, he set off in the direction of the first address.
"Although the defence pleaded for leniency on account of Tully's age: she was only seventeen when she committed the murders, Judge Justice Fredricks pointed out that since the age of criminal responsibility is only nine, this is not an issue. In his summing up, he pointed out that since psychiatric reports were, at best, 'ambiguous' it must be assumed that Tully was of sound mind when she carried out the *massacre* which took place on June 12th 2260 and as such, a *punishment* sentence *must* be passed. This afternoon, Deborah Tully, the so-called 'silent killer' was sentenced to 'death of personality' which will be carried out in one month's time. This special report from ISN's serious crimes correspondent, James McIffery."
"It's been a long and difficult trial and Tully's case has not been helped by her refusal to co-operate with police. She's barely spoken to police, court officials, psychiatrists or even her own counsel since her arrest shortly after the murder of five members of staff and two fellow residents at the Earth care home in which she lived from age eleven.
'My own colleagues and viewers from the public gallery here at Io State Court have all been stunned by the defendant's coldness and calm composure throughout the trial, even during the exhibition of disturbing photographs of her victims which were submitted as evidence by coroners and police forensics experts.
'Evil comes in many guises but I don't think any of us expected to find it the eyes of a twenty year old girl…"
Lennier flicked the 'mute' button on the monitor and turned to survey the tiny, Spartan bedsit he now stood in. The room was long and narrow with a small bed running along one wall under the window. There was a sink and mirror opposite the bed and a small fold-down table at its foot, which housed a minute kettle and two stained and grimy-looking mugs. The main light source was a fluorescent strip light that flickered and buzzed to itself.
The distinctly dodgy-looking landlord had told him that the bathroom was 'down the hall, you'll need your own paper.'
Worst of all he noticed, unsurprised that the bed was flat.
Returning his gaze briefly to the now silent monitor, he found himself staring into the eyes of a young woman. With her chubby face devoid of make up and her dirty-blonde hair pulled roughly behind her ears, she was pretty in a naïve sort of way. Pale grey eyes, set deep into dark circled sockets and pallid skin, bored into his own as the image of her being marched from the court building, flanked by several police officers, was frozen onto the monitor whilst a few brief sentences of text appeared at the bottom:
'Deborah Tully, aged nineteen. Sentenced to death of personality for the murders of Gregory Edwards- Chief Carer at Earth Juvenile Care Facility No. 407; David Maitlin- Deputy Chief; Mitch Andrews, Adam Joseph and Garry Johnson- also carers at home 407. Also Peter Swanson aged 16 and Simon Constantine, aged 15- fellow residents at the home.'
For a moment Lennier considered that he was staring into the eyes of a killer, then he decided definitely not. The woman's expression was closed, unreadable, but her eyes looked far from remorseless. Instead they held a sad innocence that was obvious to him even if not to the public that condemned her. Scrambling over to the mirror, he examined his own reflection under the harsh electric light: was *this* the face of a killer? Evidently it *was* the face of a would-be killer, an attempted murderer, but was it *really* any different from the reflection that had stared back at him for years before? He found himself wondering whether she thought the same thing when she looked in the mirror.
"She said anything yet? Heartless cow." The guard glared at her prisoner with a disgusted eye through the secure-cam monitor.
"Weird, innit: she just reads her books… One o'the boys down on H-wing tried talking to her once- y'know, tried to be 'friendly'- she nearly *killed* him!" The second guard, who had been leaning against his colleague's work-station now followed her down the dimly lit corridor to recline against prisoner Tully's cell-door. Lazily he swung the lock cards from their metal chain, letting them dangle to and fro.
"It don't surprise me: did you hear what she did to those people? Two of 'em was only boys- one was just fifteen! They was all big though: she's stronger than she looks…"
"Well… She musta caught 'em by surprise- she did do it in the middle of the night…"
And in the dismal cell, the Trojans reached Carthage as Deborah Tully cuddled up against the wall, toes clenched as she devoured each page, letting her keepers' post crime analysis reach its predictable conclusion with the words
"Shoulda got the chair: that's what I say…!"
The unforgiving storm hadn't let up at all when Lennier approached the visitors' desk at the Io Penitentiary. He didn't know how long he'd been on that hostile planet, cocooned within the damp bedsit with only his own thoughts and failures for company. But at some point in one of the cold, rainy and largely sleepless nights spent on the impossibly flat human style bed, this had suddenly struck him as an idea. Not a *good* idea, but perhaps a workable one. And if nothing else, a worthy distraction from his own demons.
He'd contacted the prison as a possible volunteer visitor, telling them that he wished to visit prisoners who generally had few or no visitors. Not surprisingly, given that she was originally from Earth and had no friends, family or contacts on Io, combined with the media-hyped hatred the public generally felt for her, Tully was the name at the top of the list.
"I doubt she'll even acknowledge you." The guard told him conversationally as he searched first his bag, then his person. "Only reason the prison chaplain even bothers is because he has to. She's not even looked at him in the two years she's been here."
Lennier said nothing, merely bowing formally as he received his belongings back and allowed himself to be led to the visitor's room. The room, which was small and stuffy, contained only a small table and two plastic seats. Feeling strangely nervous, Lennier perched on the nearest of those chairs, his bag clutched to his chest and fixed his gaze on the other door through which prisoner Tully he expected to appear at any moment.
The sound of four sets of footsteps alerted Lennier to her imminent arrival. Three sets were heavily trod: sharp clicking heels, their pace a brisk, uniformed march. The fourth was a lighter-footed but laboured shuffling of feet shackled together at the ankle. Those shackles were mirrored by cuffs to the incumbent's wrists, all connected to a leather strap that encircled her waist. Deborah Tully was a slightly mousy-looking creature, her complexion sallow and waxy from too much time spent in a dank cell without fresh air or exercise. The prison-issue pants and tunic in wishy-washy grey were several sizes too big and hung off her like rags on a scarecrow giving her a pitiful and vulnerable air that matched her posture and her manner.
Her expression was strangely closed, unreadable: the same expression he'd seen on the ISN bulletins. When she noticed that her visitor was not human, her eyes briefly took on a thinly veiled curiosity which vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Her face, as a whole remained passive. Lennier stood to bow and waited until she had shuffled into her seat before he re- seated himself.
"Good afternoon Miss Tully." He cleared his throat and addressed her formally. "My name is Lennier. I am here as a volunteer visitor to see that you are well and have everything you need." He did his best to ignore the guards who watched and listened from behind a two way mirror that ran the full length of the wall to his left. Deborah made no reply, instead fixing her gaze on the bonecrest that adorned her visitor's head. Noticing where her attention was directed, Lennier self-consciously reached up to touch it himself. "I'm Minbari." He said by way of an explanation, "we do not grow hair on our scalps as humans do. The crest serves as extra protection for the brain, besides the skull."
Deborah let her gaze fall to his eyes and the hairless brow that crowned them. "We, I suppose, look quite different- you and I." He added thoughtfully, "Do you not think so?" Her interest seemed to wane and her stare dropped to her hands which, still bound by heavy metal restraints, were laid flat, palms down on the table. They were, he considered to himself, quite tiny- delicate and doll-like within the constraints of the cuffs. "Are these necessary?" he gestured at her chains and turned to stare directly at his reflection in the two-way glass.
"I'm afraid so. She's considered to be a danger to others." A stilted voice replied through the speaker attached to one corner wall.
"Well, she is unlikely to pose a threat to *myself* since I am a Minbari male, trained in advanced combat techniques. So I don't see any reason why the restraints should be necessary." He answered firmly, his voice still directed at the mirror.
"Prisoner Tully is also considered to be a danger to herself: she's made several suicide attempts since her arrest. So, if you don't mind, the restraints stay."
Lennier sighed in temporary resignation and reached into his bag to retrieve a small, silver flask.
"I was told that you do not eat much here… Is the food bad or is there some other reason?"
Not getting any reply he removed the cup-shaped lid and poured some of the flask's contents into it. "It is a kind of soup… We call it bezan," he carefully pushed the steaming cup across the table toward her and when she made no move to take it he continued his explanation. "It is a staple food of the religious caste and is often taken as the first meal after a fast since although it contains many nutrients, it is not so rich as to cause illness. It contains no animal products but I am told by human friends of mine that it tastes much like something called 'Scotch broth'."
Deborah stared down at the cup which sent a delicious aroma up toward her, making her stomach rumble longingly. Hesitantly she dipped one index finger into the thick liquid and then sucked on it- tasted good. Glancing up at her visitor's cautiously eager expression, she lifted the cup and took a tiny sip, then another and another. When she set the cup back down on the table, he refilled it from the flask. "You've not eaten for some time." He prodded gently, "Perhaps if I come again, I should bring something more substantial… The guards tell me that you are often visited by the prison chaplain. I was given the impression that you do not… appreciate his visits." Heavily lashed eyes stared mockingly up at him from over the rim of the cup. "Does *my* company offend you?" she shook her head almost imperceptibly. "Is there anything you require- any personal effects I might send or bring you?" she continued to work her way through the soup, her eyes, closed-in and expressionless once more, moving their focus from a point just below his own eyes. "Perhaps you could give me a list for the next time I visit…"
"Welcome back. We're continuing our special report on the crime that has shocked Earth and Io: the brutal slaying of five care workers and two juvenile residents at Earth Juvenile Care Facility Number 704 by a fellow resident, Deborah Tully who was aged seventeen at the time. We saw yesterday that Tully, who was moved to Io for trial because intense media interest led to the first jury being disbanded, has now been sentenced to the so-called 'death of personality' which has replaced the death penalty in serious crimes. That sentence will be carried out in one month's time, one week after her twentieth birthday.
'Today we have with us, Ada Constantine- mother of Simon Constantine, the youngest of Tully's victims at fifteen years of age; Maurice Wright, the foreman of that first panel of jurors who were dismissed because of possibly influential coverage of the murders in Universe Today; and also George Townby, a child psychiatrist and author of this book, out today, entitled 'The mind of the child-killer'. Good morning gentlemen, Mrs Constantine…"
Lennier sighed as he stared at the monitor: the subject of Deborah Tully was on everyone's lips and was selling a lot of news. This would never have happened on Minbar. Fighting off the homesickness that crept up on him when he least expected it, he closed his eyes to yet again make some attempt at meditation. Then, giving up before he had even started, he found himself becoming engrossed in the discussion being played out on the ISN broadcast.
"Mrs Constantine, what are your feelings toward Deborah Tully? Do you feel she has been punished justly?"
"Well, to be honest, she should got the death penalty for what she did to my boy…He was no angel, I'll be the first to admit that, but she's evil. She deserves to die the same way he did. She didn't even look sorry- I saw her in the dock and she just looked…calm, calculating…I hate her an' if I get near enough, I don't think I can be held responsible for my actions."
" Hm, that's something that's caught the public's attention- Tully's seeming lack of any sort of emotion. Mr Townby, you've seen the trial footage; As an expert, what is your opinion? Some people have suggested that Tully is mentally ill and requires treatment not punishment. Do you agree?"
"As a matter of fact, I was one of the panel of experts advising on Tully and I agree that her lack of remorse is obvious. In the last hundred years or so we've seen a huge increase in juvenile crime- particularly among young women. The general consensus is that such individuals are mentally unstable. That's not to say that Tully isn't an extremely clever and manipulative young woman. We all know that she's a very tough, very 'streetwise' individual who already held a juvenile record for soliciting, drinking, drugs offences and theft. Although, let us not forget that the 'death of personality' is not a 'punishment' sentence at all. It is in fact the perfect way for Tully to be rehabilitated ready to rejoin society."
"Now for the multi-million credit question: why do you think she carried out those murders?"
"Well, as I point out in my book, in case such as these, a mentally unstable young person will often turn to crime as an alternative to the normal human lifestyle, constantly seeking out a new 'high'. So a murder may simply be the result of a tragic but inevitable escalation starting with petty theft and moving on. Tully would certainly seem to exhibit signs of an addictive personality- her drinking and drugs crimes reflect that and each thing she's done shows this escalation in risk and 'thrill' factor. I know that certain more 'conspiracy minded' individuals have very publicly exchanged theories on levels of care in homes such as the one Tully was in, but I really don't think that's an avenue of thought we need to go down. The fact remains that Tully was placed in that home for good reason in the first place and I don't think the outcome would have been much different if she'd still lived with her family or in a different home."
Hitting the mute button once more, Lennier found himself reflecting on his visit to Deborah Tully. Even though she's said nothing, he had felt oddly drawn to her. Perhaps it was some kind of unsaid but common thread of understanding between two individuals who had stepped over the brink of thinking the unthinkable and actually doing it. The ISN reporters said that she felt no remorse and he wondered if that were true. Then he wondered if he actually felt any remorse for what he tried to do. The thing of it was, he wasn't entirely sure that he did.
There were 382 spots on the ceiling. And there were 42 cracks running down the four walls. She knew every pock-mark and every line of graffiti that adorned her cell. Deborah Tully lay flat out on her cot, her hands folded loosely over her tummy and stared up through sleepy eyes into the gloom that surrounded her. It was two hours until morning but she was used to not sleeping and instead, staring into space and wishing herself away.
The winter sun was warm on her back as she glared up at the imposing building that was to be her new home. There were four bags to lug up the twenty odd stairs yet and the taxi needed paying. Still a little drowsy from a long journey across the city, she reached into her pocket to pull her credit chit free. Silently she handed it to the driver and then on receiving it back, collected her belongings together in her two hands from the pavement below and slowly made her way up the stairs. Mum hadn't come to drop her off, preferring instead to go to work as if nothing unusual was happening: as if today she wasn't sending her eleven year old daughter off 'into care'.
Deborah closed her thoughts against the memories that now haunted her. The apologetic, excuse-laden sound of her father's voice over the phone…
"Sweetheart, you know your mummy and me would love to have you come back out to India with us, but what with our work and moving around all the time its just not possible…You understand, don't you? You don't want daddy's work to suffer do you?" White knuckles gripped the chair she sat on as she fought back the words "She's not my mother and why don't you just say you don't want me there…" His pleading was replaced by her mother's clipped tone as she packed her suitcase:
"Look, Tony's said it's you or him…I can't cope on my own, and he's not all bad…You don't even like him…You'll be alright…You can still visit at Christmas and birthdays…"
That never happened though: what with the various excuses made and trips postponed, Deborah only saw her mother twice after she entered home 704. She never saw her dad again- he didn't get around to keeping in touch…
Lennier winced against the claustrophobic smell of the penitentiary as the last set of prison doors slid noiselessly shut behind him. While led through the coldly impersonal and white washed corridors, his footsteps echoing in the silence, he wondered to himself if it were possible to ever grow used to a place like this…Fixing his gaze on the grimy tiled floor, he hoped not.
There were prisons of a sort in Minbari space: one whole planet dedicated to frugal living and dedication to serving the community; meditation and lectures on respect for others. The rehabilitation was so effective that few minbari ever re-offended, that was the power of the strong sense of community, clan and caste pride instilled from an early age. Lennier knew however that were he ever caught, he was unlikely to see the inside of Shan'lok. No, once the rangers got hold of him, he would receive their own justice.
When he arrived at the visitors room, Deborah was already there, sitting ,still shackled in a moulded plastic chair, her face closed and expressionless.
"Good afternoon Miss Tully." He bowed formally, as usual and noted that her eyes lifted briefly to almost reach his own- it was a start. Then as before, their time was passed with him talking, mainly about Minbar and about the other aliens he'd come into contact with on Babylon 5.
While to outsiders, including the prison guards who watched through the two-way mirror, their expressions simultaneously bored and mocking as they passed around a hip flask of scotch: It seemed that the strange 'bonehead' was talking himself hoarse at an unresponsive audience. But Lennier knew otherwise: he could tell that Deborah was beginning to warm to his topic of conversation for although her posture remained passive, her eyes took on the avid fascination of a child listening to a fairy story. And on leaving, he found himself rewarded by the tiniest flicker of a smile. Making no comment on it, he merely bowed and left.
The giggling, sniggering whispers that shuffled along the cheap nylon carpet of the landing came to a halt outside her door. And with quiet insistence, the door was opened by a security override lock-key. Deborah shut her eyes tightly, hoping that if she feigned sleep, they'd move onto someone else. Either that or she'd really fall asleep and not feel the hands that pinned her to the bed; the sock stuffed into her mouth; the trembling but still forceful fingers that discarded her night-clothes and ran amok over her goose-pimpled flesh.
This time it was Gregory: she knew his huge, sweating, greedy bulk; his wheezing breath and desperate grunts. Mitch was there too- it was his hands that held her down and Dave was in the back-ground, patiently smoking a cigarette as he waited his turn.
Five years later Deborah blinked up at the ceiling, her breathing ragged but her eyes devoid of tears. She'd never cry about that again. Never mention it: take it with her to her 'mind-wipe' and if not, then to her grave.
Sir: I am writing to you in response to your most recent article on Deborah Tully entitled 'No remorse from silent killer'. I should like to point out that experts still believe Ms Tully to be the unfortunate victim of some sort of psychiatric disorder, myself included. Let us not forget that she is from a troubled family background and that at a vulnerable time in her life, having lost a brother in a house fire, she was sent to a poorly run children's home, notorious for its questionable treatment its residents. The director of the home, Gregory Edwards, one of those killed by Tully, was at the time facing disciplinary hearings for misconduct and had had several charges of abuse against children in his care brought against him during his ten year appointment. All of which were dropped because key witnesses' refusal to testify.
That Ms Tully has not responded at all to psychiatrists and has refused permission for a telepathic scan would suggest to me that she is indeed suffering from some degree of mental instability. And that the courts have refused to take control of the situation and insist on a scan, might perhaps imply that certain parties do not want the public to know why this crime was committed.
Insisting on a scan will not mean that a convicted killer is going to 'get away with it' but it could well mean that the events surrounding the night of the terrible murders actually comes to light.
Yours Faithfully, Dr. A Bryers, Institute of Juvenile Mental Health.
"Bin a change of plan." The guard grunted at Lennier as he searched his bag half-heartedly, "Had some bother from some of the other prisoners during exercise yesterday so Tully's got to stay in her cell out of the way. You'll be meeting her there."
"I see." Lennier tried not to look too concerned. "She's not been hurt has she?" The guard snorted and led him through the corridors to the 'at risk' prisoners' wing in which Deborah's tiny cell was situated. The corridors they passed through were lined with heavily guarded doors from behind which prisoners screamed abuse first at the guard, then at Lennier. When they finally reached the at risk wing, it was, by contrast, eerily silent.
Deborah sat, cross-legged on her bed, a book in her lap. Although her lank hair covered most of her face, the bruising around her left eye was clearly visible, as was the bloodied swelling to her lower lip.
"Didn't see the point in cuffing her: chances of her attacking you are low an' besides she's still a bit dazed from the little 'punishment' the others gave her." The guard said by way of explanation, smirking slyly at Deborah. "The ice-queen finally cracked…isn't that right Tully?" receiving neither reply nor even acknowledgement, he stomped out, calling to Lennier as he did so "Safety cord's by the door…"
"Miss Tully?" cautiously he approached, seating himself tentatively beside her on the narrow cot. "Has a doctor checked your injuries?" Now that he was closer, he could see that her face was grazed and cut in addition to the black eye and cut lip; a two inch stitched cut ran down her left temple. Her hands were unharmed suggesting that she had done nothing to protect or defend herself although yellowing bruises around her wrists showed how her tormentors had restrained her. Swallowing hard, he noticed that her normally composed mask had slipped a little to reveal a fearful nervousness. "What happened?" unconsciously his hand reached for hers. She flinched away and he retreated, standing up and moving over to the row of books that ran along the back of the desk opposite the bed. "May I?" he turned to her and in answer she glanced up, fixing her eyes briefly on his collar and then resumed her blank expression as she stared through him to the wall behind.
The titles were sometimes familiar: books that Lennier had heard Marcus refer to as 'classics', but he'd read very few human texts himself and so knew only vaguely the stories they contained.
"You must spend a great deal of your time reading," he murmured. From the corner of his eye he noted the interest growing behind her one open and uninjured eye. "As an acolyte I spent much of my time reading the scriptures of my own people and more recently I have even studied some human 'novels'…"
"You don't 'study' books, you read them." She corrected him softly, her voice little more than a hoarsely delicate whisper and it seemed to him the voice of one afraid to speak: Afraid of her own voice. It was the first time she had ever spoken to him but he kept his tone neutral as if it were little surprise and of no consequence,
The water was almost scalding, but she didn't care. Scrubbing at her already sore and reddened skin, all Deborah cared about was cleaning off all traces of them from all the places they had been and letting all her humiliation, pain and fear be rinsed off, washed away down the plug-hole in the centre of the shower cubicle. Finally, exhausted from sobbing and furiously scouring, she slumped to the tiled floor and sat, knees hugged tightly to her chest, listening intently to the sound of the running water as it beat down on her bare shoulders. If she shut her eyes tightly and concentrated hard, she could pretend it was actually rain: hard, unrelenting rain like that back home.
She remembered the sound of rain on the roof of the house she lived in with her parents until she was ten. Most of the time the heat beat down on them like a too-thick blanket that smothered everything it came into contact with: every movement, every word, every thought. Under the merciless India sun, even emotions were an effort. But all that changed when the rain came and everyone would finally be able to look upward at the sky, letting the water run off outstretched arms in a thousand tiny waterfalls. Deborah would throw aside her data-pad, leaving the school programme on the computer monitor to drone on to itself and run out of the house, into the garden: lessons could wait when the rain came. And although filthy with pollution, the monsoon rain always made her feel finally clean after months of sticky, sweaty, roasting.
And although the water that covered her now was significantly cleaner than the rain then, it never made her feel clean. None ever would; not since her arrival at home 704. Now, no matter how many times she washed, no matter how hot the water, how hard she scrubbed her skin, she was never able to get rid of the smell, the touch and the breath of other people.
Her concentration broken, Deborah opened her eyes again to the world around her: the cracked tiles, the scorching water; the already damp towel hanging up on the only hook outside the shower cubicle; the light blinking on the console by the door indicating that the door was locked… The set of wire and clips yanked free of the control panel to jam the lock and prevent its being overridden by one of the staff. …Ensuring her privacy, keeping her safe for now.
Of course it no longer mattered that she couldn't get clean. What was the point? She'd soon be dirty again: tonight the whispering, giggling footsteps would slither down the corridor and scratch at her door, prying their way inside….
Perspiring inspite of the chill in the night air, Deborah climbed out of her cot-bed to pace her tiny cell, walking its length to check the heavy metal door which rarely opened. She liked that: for the first time in a long while, she felt almost safe enough to breathe, to hope, but not to sleep…No, still not safe enough to sleep.
Oddly her thoughts edged toward her recent visitor. Having become so accustomed to the hatred and fear people felt toward her, she was puzzled by the interest the softly spoken minbari had shown in her welfare. It did occur to her that his presence and his kindness might be a trick, but so what if it was? In a few weeks time she would be as good as dead, this was a certainty and so, no trick would matter. Besides there was little anyone could do that had not been done already.
The bruising around her eye had faded to a sickly yellow when Lennier entered Deborah's cell. Visiting her there instead of the visiting room had become commonplace now. Depositing his bag on the desk, he removed a pack of cards from it and handed them to her. Smiling shyly, but nonetheless a little bolder than she had previously been, she patted the bed beside her before setting to work, opening and shuffling the pack.
"You said you'd been taught to play poker…" she confirmed, her voice still precious little more than a whisper.
"Yes. The Centauri Ambassador on Babylon 5 taught me."
"Centauri…they're the ones with the sticky-up hair aren't they?"
"That's correct. The males grow their hair that way while the females shave their heads to signify their abstinence from politics and affairs of state." He affirmed and gradually their conversation turned toward Babylon 5 and the home planets of its inhabitants, just as it generally did.
"I've never left Earth space." Deborah admitted
"My arrival on Babylon 5 about six years ago marked the first time I had left Minbar. And since I grew up in temple, my life there was sheltered also."
"The most I've seen of places off Earth is this prison facility here. I spent my early childhood in and around India: my father was a diplomat there. When my parents split up I went back to England with my mother…she decided she couldn't care for me when I was eleven or twelve and put me in care." Realising suddenly that she'd disclosed far more than was her usual way, Deborah snapped her mouth shut and returned her attentions to the cards in her hands. Not wanting to allow her to rebuild her barriers, Lennier found himself reaching out to take her hand, hesitantly at first, his fingers closed gently around hers.
"Miss Tully, I am not here to judge you. I am simply your friend."
"Why are you doing this? Visiting me when even my own the prison chaplain has lost patience…other prisoners spit at me and those I thought were my family act as if I am dead…?"
"We minbari believe that it is of great importance that those in need of comfort and care, receive it."
"And you've no other gain? No other motive?" she looked astonished and he released his grip, sagging a little as his head dropped forward in shame.
"That is not strictly true…"
"Oh?" quickly she withdrew, returning her hand to her lap.
"That was not my sole reason for coming here," he rose to his feet, his own hands clasped firmly behind his back. "To deceive you as I have done is unforgivable…I came here seeking…understanding…A short while ago I attempted to kill another. I suppose a part of me hoped that in knowing and understanding one who has done something…similar, I might better understand my own motives for what I have done." Deborah's expression crinkled into a confused frown, lines creasing her brow. Finally she stared up at the Minbari who now stood before her, his head bowed.
"Lennier, do you regret whatever it was you did? Do you feel remorse? Are you sorry?"
"Then," she rose to take both of his hands in her own, "You won't gain any understanding here. I feel no regret, no remorse. I am not sorry. I did what I had to. And I look forward to the day that I no longer remember. The day Deborah Tully dies and takes with her the last of them and their actions. If its understanding you want, then maybe you should go." She remained as she was, unmoving, her hands still loosely holding his. Lennier made no effort to leave, instead he stroked one thumb almost imperceptibly over the back of one of her hands.
"If it is alright with you, I believe I will stay." He murmured. She smiled lightly in reply,
"It's alright with me." And loosing hands, they both sat to resume their game.
The kitchen was in empty darkness when Deborah padded through the door in sneakered feet, having arrived home from college. Taking a deep breath, she mentally rehearsed everything she had to do before the others appeared from their rooms, the leisure room or back from strange and probably illegal activities in the outside world. The home was always quiet just before the evening meal was served up to everyone. Deborah wanted to get some food for herself as quickly as possible so that she would be safe in her room for a couple more hours, away from the leering grins and wandering hands of the care workers on duty tonight. She'd decided, on seeing the duty roster for that week, to be out every night: she needed money and if she was going to be treated as a piece of meat, she may as well be paid for it. The only trouble would be keeping her earnings from Gregory: as superintendent at the home, he liked to himself as unofficial pimp to the girls there who were on the game- most of them.
Rummaging through the cupboards she fished out a tin of rice pudding, some bread and a couple of apples: that'd do. Shoving her stash into her duffel bag, she grabbed a beaker and filled it with water from the filter- just in case she bumped into anyone and was asked why she'd been in the kitchen. With a final, furtive glance over her shoulder, she clicked off the light switch and ascended the stairs as quickly and as silently as she could. When she reached her room, she leant heavily against the now closed door for one moment, her eyes shut and listened to the sound of her blood clamouring in her ears. She was safe.
"What are you up to Debs?" the calm voice from the semidarkness of the room made her start and she felt her stomach lurch with dread- Simon. He was reclined on her bed, his shoes still on, lazily browsing through a magazine. I n one sudden and fluid motion he leapt up and reached her before she had a chance to move. "What's in the bag, Debs?" She found herself shrinking away from him, the closed door behind her blocking any escape.
"Leave me alone Simon, I'm not in the mood." He moved closer, his breath hot on the side of her neck as she turned away.
"But I am." Although only fifteen, and slim built, Simon Constantine was deceptively strong. Besides, there was little point in struggling, the only people who would act on the sounds of her cries fro help were those who wanted to join in. And with this in mind, she complied to his requests and demands with the dutiful willingness of a robot, letting her mind wander to better times and pleasanter topics. Being mauled and pestered by the care-workers was par for the course at home 704 and something she'd grown almost used to; certainly resigned to. But now, some of the other kids there, including Simon, tired of suffering abuse themselves had decided to join the 'winning team'.
Later, after scrubbing herself furiously and forcing herself to eat some of the food she'd earlier stolen, Deborah snuck out of the facility and disappeared down the maze of alleyways and dark, winding London streets, to work. She was sixteen years old, a week from her seventeenth birthday and a month from the violence that would change her life forever.
"It'll be my birthday next time you come back." The two friends were playing a strange game Deborah had called 'Battleship'. The game was being played out on paper with the two of them holding their makeshift gameboards out of the other's view, concentration marring their features. Lennier had found it an easy game to learn and to master, but his adversary had proved to be a more than worthy opponent, sitting as she was, poker-faced and with her voice neutral. "Then, a week after that, I'll have the mindwipe." Lennier was unsure as to how he could reply to that. Somehow he didn't consider 'oh well, nevermind' to be a terribly sympathetic response.
"Perhaps we should mark it in some way…" he hazarded, "J 7."
"Miss… I don't see why; it's not a 'big' birthday like an eighteenth or anything. And a week later I won't remember it either way…A9."
"Hit. Even so…is it not Earth custom to make a 'cake' with candles…"
"Don't you dare. A8."
"I don't understand,"
"A8." She repeated, impatiently tapping her pen. "Look, I just don't like birthdays, that's all."
"Then why mention it? Miss." He received a look of annoyance,
"Oh I don't know…"
"Then I will make this 'cake'." He smiled finally, "J6."
"Hit and destroy."
The facility was in darkness when Deborah moved slowly, painfully up the steps, one arm wrapped around her belly in a protective fashion whilst the other searched her jacket pocket for her lock card. Finding it, she silently entered the building, letting the heavy door click gently shut behind her. She'd discharged herself from the thrift hospital an hour ago after being taken there in crippling pain by two of the other girls who worked her patch with her. The abortion she'd had yesterday, performed in an illegal back-street clinic had gone wrong, as they generally did and she'd looked down at the pavement as she stood at the kerbside, to see a pool of thick, dark blood running down her bare legs to form there. Now all she wanted to do was get clean, to wash away the remains of the mess some creep had left behind.
Deborah froze as she felt strong, remorseless arms enclose her and hot, lusty breath on the back of her neck as she stood, prone under the shower…Was this ever going to end…?
Lennier found Deborah seated at her desk, hurriedly stuffing a letter into an envelope and sealing it. As usual he bowed formally to her and she got to her feet, taking his hand and squeezing it firmly in welcome.
"Happy birthday." He smiled warmly and then glanced carefully around the cell. Noting that she had moved to sit on the cot, an idea occurred to him and he set his bag carefully down the bed beside her, politely asking her not to peek. Then he pulled the desk out into the room so that it stood between them. Finally he retrieved his bag and seating himself in the chair she'd formerly occupied, began to remove its contents. First a square of fabric which he spread over the desk, then flask and two cups. Through all this she watched, giggling when she spied the makeshift tablecloth.
"What's it the flask?"
"Tea." He was concentrating on removing several other items from the bottom of the bag. "A man at the hostel I've been staying in told me that this item was more important than the cake itself. And since he was himself human, I thought I should follow his advice. Although…I cannot figure it out myself…" he placed a further object on the desk, looking up, startled when Deborah let out a squeal of laughter. He paused, watching her, puzzled. Still confused, he stared back down at the object; a large orange, covered in cocktail sticks upon which chunks of pineapple and cheese were skewered.
"I've not had one of those in years!" she giggled, one hand clapped to her face.
"I have to make sure all the sticks are returned to the prison guards…"
"I bet they counted them as well…"
"Yes." Then he waited until she'd composed herself before removing a small, sloping cake from a box at the bottom of his bag.
"What is that?" she pointed at it, a small amount of alarm visible in her eyes.
"I followed the recipe exactly but…"
"Oh…it's fine…at least one side rose…!" She started to laugh again, falling back on her bed, knees hugged to her chest and her face red with mirth. Suppressing a snigger himself, Lennier filled two cups, handing one to Deborah as she struggled upright and took several deep breaths to calm herself. "You're not going to sing are you?" she looked very worried.
"Er, no. In temple I was all but forbidden."
Later Deborah lay on her cot, her feet resting high on the wall, her eyes closed as she listened to Lennier as he read to her from one of his own books.
"Lennier…You told me you'd tried to kill someone, what did you do?"
"I…tried to kill someone…the husband of someone I…felt strongly for." His eyes were downcast in shame and his voice was little more than a whisper.
"Did he hurt this person…? It was a woman, right?"
"Yes she was…and no he didn't. Just the opposite in fact. John Sheridan is a good man, an honourable one for whom I hold the greatest respect….I'd always known that Delenn would never reciprocate my feelings and until they were joined, I thought I could deal with that… was…unprepared for the degree of jealousy I felt…My attempt was carried out in a moment of…madness, I suppose." Out of the corner of his eye he noticed her sitting up and pulling herself around so that she sat beside him with her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them.
"You weren't prosecuted or anything?"
"No. I…ran away. Once I am found by the other members of the rangers…" his voice trailed off as he began to comprehend, perhaps for the first time the enormity of his actions.
"Were you in love with her?"
"Yes…I believe I was."
"Well, that's something: You tried to kill for love. I killed for hate. Is that not worse in some ways?"
"I don't think so. And besides, what love there was….I'm not sure it still remains…"
"I don't understand? Lennier what are you saying?"
"If I am in love with Delenn, how come I have given her little more than a passing thought since I arrived here? Surely love is constant and does not fade into the distance when another matter comes up?"
"You're asking the wrong person about 'love'. I'm twenty years old: I've no experience of love whatever that is. The only men I've known either abused me and got away with it or paid me for sex…" She noticed him flinch, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shock you. I guess now you're finding out about the Deborah Tully the news reels love to hate… the real Deborah Tully! I'm not some sweet innocent."
"But in ways of the heart you are still so." He argued gently.
"I suppose." She rested her head on his shoulder, "I wonder who I'll be next week, where they'll send me…Lennier," she moved to face him, a worried crease forming on her forehead. "Minbari believe in souls, don't they?" He nodded and she continued, "When they perform the mind wipe, will the soul I've got now go away and be replaced by a new one or will it stay the same?"
"I don't know…I suppose it would stay the same…"
"Then I'll still be me." She resumed her previous position, reclining against her friend's shoulder.
"You are frightened." He clarified and felt her slowly nod. Covering her hand with his own he gave it a gentle squeeze.
"I don't know why…Since it happened, that's all I've ever wanted: to be someone else, somewhere else. To have no memory of my time at home 704. But as the day gets closer…Lennier, I've been told I can have someone sit with me during the mindwipe- a witness. Would you stay with me?"
"Then, when I'm someone else, I can have some semblance of a normal life. Lennier are you married?" she felt him start at the sudden change in topic.
"Is there anyone?"
"For several years I have been dedicated to my mentor, Delenn. Prior to that I dedicated myself to the temple and its teachings. Besides those two there has been little room for much else….and no need."
"Haven't you ever just lived life for yourself? Dedicated yourself to yourself?"
"No. We minbari believe that to live ones life in the service of others is the greatest calling." The way he said it made Deborah wonder for a moment if he'd learnt that by rote and held the words no more dear than she held the letters of the alphabet. Turning once more to face him so that his breath fell mere inches from her, she covered his hand with her free one,
"You don't think you deserve any more, do you?" Lennier hesitated and looked hurriedly away. "Lennier, listen to me," she lift one palm to his chin, turning him to meet her gaze, "You do deserve to be happy. Even I do and I murdered seven men in cold blood. For years I thought I must deserve to be treated like shit, but no-one does." She let go of him and sat back on her heels, noticing for the first time the tightened grip of his hand in hers. She froze, her gaze lost in his as the silence screamed around them. Finally she regained her voice, "You said you'd not thought about …Delenn… since you arrived on Io…"
"No." his voice was little more than a hoarse whisper and she moved her free hand to brush his cheek, tracing the outline of his lips hesitantly. He watched, afraid to move, fascinated, as she edged closer to kiss him.
The crack in the ceiling ran the full length of the bedsit and down the wall opposite Lennier's bed. The room was in darkness and he lay, flat on his back, tracing the jagged fissure with unblinking eyes. He'd been lying so for about an hour although he had no way of knowing that since he'd left the penitentiary in some sort of dream state and remained so ever since. A thousand emotions had flooded his consciousness as he'd made his long journey back to the bedsit, few of them well-known to him. He was used to the gentle, admiring hero-worship he'd felt for Delenn- what he found himself referring to as a 'pure, perfect love'. But now he thought it had been just that, hero-worship. He'd always found himself in awe of her wisdom and strength, viewing her as his superior, his better and something to aspire to. Unattainable, more worthy than he, of respect and of happiness. She was to him as out of reach as those acolytes in temple when he was a child. By trying to kill Sheridan he'd more or less proved to himself that he could never be like her: the thing that prevented him from being as good, as wise, as noble as her was himself. He knew now that he would never reach her, never hold the key as she and Sheridan did: the key to becoming a legend. He was ordinary and maybe it was time he stopped trying to bask in anthers glory and started living out his own existence, ordinary though it might be.
Deborah was right, he did deserve to live, and today he'd finally come one step closer to learning to live, learning not to be so afraid. One step closer to wanting to live his life for himself.
The knife waited in the kitchen drawer as Deborah descended the thirteen steps from the bedrooms to the communal area of the home, her progress slow and stilted, she seemed as if in a trance. Still in pain and under the influence of a mixture of painkillers and antibiotics, she felt as a robot, her brain scarcely functioning. Somewhere in her mind, although it seemed oddly distant and extraneous, the cold of the tiled floor beneath her bare feet registered and she almost noticed how sinister the building was in its sleeping state. Strange shapes were formed by the furniture and her movements were captured by her shadow on the wall, hazy in the soft light. As clinically as an outside observer she noticed these things at some not quite conscious level. She puzzled at the smooth sound the runners of the cutlery drawer made as it slid open and marvelled at the light weight of the knife, the light reflecting off it from somewhere, the way her hand adjusted to fit into the moulding of its plastic handle.
The stairs stretched up ahead of her, but she kept her eyes level, staring straight ahead but not really seeing through them at all. A rhythmically detached voice deep within her head was counting each step as she reached it: one two three four… At the top of the stairs, the landing branched off: 'carers' on the left, residents on the right. The first door she came to was Mitch's room. The door swished open to reveal a large room furnished sparsely with a double bed, a wardrobe and a bedside locker. All was in darkness but through the bluish gloom she was able to make out Mitch Andrews' sleeping form, his lanky frame sprawled out over the duvet. The window was open and the long muslin curtains that clothed it twitched and billowed in the strong breeze.
As she advanced toward where he slept, the same breeze caught at her shirt and hair, blowing cold breath on the back of her neck. Raising the knife before her, she noticed once more how its blade glinted in the moonlight. The alarm clock beside his bed flashed 00.32.
She found the tiny resistance offered by the man's breastplate oddly curious as she plunged the knife in and then worked it free again. His eyes snapped open along with his mouth, taking one final gasping inhalation before his eyes dimmed in death.
At 01.37 Deborah walked into a police station, her hair in rat's tails and her shirt spattered with blood. Her arms hung limply at her sides and her eyes were as dead and expressionless as those of her victims. The knife was found, carefully placed on the kitchen counter, a tea towel beneath it to prevent more mess.
Deborah sat on the medlab bed, the shackles on her wrists and ankles clinking and clanking as she swung her legs back and forth, staring at the doctor who stood before her through heavily lashed but disinterested eyes.
"How long have you had epilepsy?" he tapped on his clipboard with the lid of the pen he held and peered at her over half-rimmed glasses. She fixed her gaze somewhere around his left ear and barely acknowledged the question. "Miss Tully, if you don't cooperage…"
"I fell out of a tree when I was seven." She whispered, hearing the question belatedly
"And you've suffered epilepsy as a result, ever since." He clarified, ticking something on his clipboard, "the medication you take is working well?" was that a question? She said nothing and he ticked another box on her chart. "Miss Tully," he moved to lean against the rolling bed beside her own in what she supposed he thought to be a reassuringly relaxed fashion, "Your epilepsy makes the 'mind wipe' procedure quite difficult…problematic." She felt her ears literally pricking up, "There is a high risk of the process triggering an attack which would, while the brain is under such increased stress, probably lead to severe brain damage and possibly even result in your death. After conferring with my colleagues on the medical board and with penal reform directors, I have decided that only a partial wipe will be carried out. The process is similar but shorter and as a result, less thorough: Your current personality will still be removed and reprogrammed but your memories will only be blocked and not completely erased since that is the part of the procedure likely to cause most distress to your cerebral tissue. As a result, coming into contact with anyone or anything associated with your current circumstances might trigger the return of memories and through them, your current personality. Every effort will be made to ensure that you are relocated so as to reduce this possibility to a minimum."
Deborah was no longer swinging her feet and her stomach lurched in panic. There was a strange buzzing in her ears and she felt that she might pass out at any moment. Swallowing back the bile that was creeping its way up her throat, she slowly let her head drop to her knees until the nausea wore off. When after a moment, it cleared, she raised her head, and her trademark composure regained and asked to be excused. As the guards frog-marched her back to her cell she fought to retain her calm until the door to her cell slid shut behind her. When finally assured of some degree of privacy, she stumbled over to her cot and curled up into as tight a ball as she could, the pillow hugged to her face to drown out her hysterical screaming.
Lennier could remember the first time he'd been taken to temple, a bored and fidgeting child who tripped on too-long, hand-me-down robes and sucked on his little finger. As a boy, small for his age he was used to everything around him being overwhelmingly large: people were older, bigger and more experienced; sounds were louder and colours brighter than his senses could comprehend. Everyone else seemed to know what to do except him and he hid behind his parents, peeking out from behind them with nervous eyes.
For years afterward the quiet and unobtrusive confidence of the religious caste scholars and acolytes served to remind him of everything that he was not and he found himself striving to become one of them: To become so wise and well-read that he lost his nervousness and feelings of inadequacy. That one day he would be just like those scholars he'd first seen. It never happened: if anything he became less and less sure of himself the longer he stayed at temple. For every new thing he learned, there was so much more he still did not know; always someone else who knew more than he: someone who was right whenever he was wrong.
In the end he'd decided he had to get out before he went mad. And so he ended up on Babylon 5, with a mentor who would, he felt, always know more than and be greater than he. Delenn wasn't the only one he felt in awe of: it was as if he were a child back in temple, looking on, terrified and alone as everyone busied themselves with what they were accomplished at. Sheridan, Sinclair, the ambassadors, Marcus, even ambassadorial aides like Vir seemed to have areas of expertise that outstripped his own.
And now, here he was, on the run, shaming his caste, his clan and the Anla'shok. And here he was, finally feeling that he was alive and that he had finally found peace. But whether that peace would remain with him once Deborah was gone was another matter.
Lennier took a deep breath, exhaling with a low hushing sound. In two hours the guards would come for Deborah and take her, shackled like an animal, to a tiny interview room where she would be scanned by a psi-corps representative as a prelude to the mindwipe. For now she sat on the floor beside him, one hand tightly gripping his, her posture tight as a spring and her breath coming in short sharp bursts.
She'd greeted him shyly, placing a dry, chaste kiss on his cheek and he remembered feeling disappointed that her caress held none of the emotion that yesterdays had. At the same time he felt unsure as to how he could change that. Neither of them had said much, they'd just sat, as they still did now, counting each last second.
"Lennier?" she finally spoke, her voice little more than a whisper, muffled and hesitant. "They told me the mind-wipe might not work." She shifted slightly so that she knelt, facing him with her hands resting on his knees which were hugged to his chest. "There is so much I mustn't remember…If I hadn't been sentenced to the mind-wipe …" her voice trailed off as her gaze met his and noted the understanding that dawned there,
"You would have killed yourself." He finished for her, his voice far more level than he expected it to be.
"Please don't judge me too harshly…While I was at the home, stuff happened…to me and the others…I want to forget. All of it: every moment."
"Deborah I am not here to judge you, I never could." He pressed one hand to her cheek and pulled her closer to brush a kiss over her forehead, "Now what do you wish to ask me?"
She smiled weakly, glancing away briefly before returning her gaze to his, "Before, I asked you to stay with me during the mind wipe…I want you to leave before the reprogramming begins for my new personality….I want you to walk away and forget me…If you ever see me, the 'new' me, stay away…don't let me see you…"
"Why?" he could feel the fear growing inside him, stretching out its talons to tear at his insides.
"…in case I remember. Lennier, I don't want to forget…I don't want to lose you but there's a chance that exposure to anything linked to me now might bring it all back…" Before he could open his mouth to protest, she placed one hand over his lips, "I know you understand. And we both know I'm right." She murmured firmly, then she returned to sitting beside him, one hand in his and her head resting on his shoulder.
"It is strange," he began, finding his voice once more and noticing that it seemed strained and loud in the ominous silence. "Minbari are taught that souls travel together and I have seen that in others, believed in it because I knew I needed something to believe in…All the stories and legends of my people, the beliefs and ancient wisdom…I know it by rote and yet not by heart: I could never truly believe it as others do…I was too ashamed, too afraid to admit to that until now…Now I have finally found another whom I feel I have known far longer than I have; who knows me far better than I know myself…Perhaps souls do travel together…and in a few hours I will lose you and be alone once more…It doesn't seem fair."
"Do you think we did know each other in a 'past life'?"
"It is possible…I'd like to think so…we may have been friends or siblings, or…"
"Lovers?…I think I'd like us to have been lovers." She grinned up at him, cheekiness tinged with tears
"Yes…and if not then, well perhaps in the next life…" he found himself returning the smile, his heart growing a little lighter.
"They'll take me for my preliminary scan soon…We don't have long," she got to her feet and retrieved something from the desk: an envelope which she handed to him, "Don't open it now…wait until after."
The sound of the cell door opening signalled the arrival of the guards, come to escort Deborah to the pre-wipe scan.
"Sir, you'll have to wait. If could follow me," the guard stood to attention, his face cold and neutral.
"Very well, Deborah, I'll see you in a little while…" Lennier brushed one hand over her cheek and left with the guard. Deborah waited patiently as the other guard fiddled with the hand cuffs.
"The pre-scan on prisoner Tully's just been completed…The psi corps representative who
performed the scan wanted to talk to you before the wipe…"
"Of course…" Lennier stood as a tall man in a sombre suit entered the interview room behind the guard. The man's hands were clothed in standard issue black gloves and the psi corps pin on his lapel was half obscured by a black ribbon fastened to it. His eyes were wild and his face pale and drawn. Lennier thought for a moment that the telepath had had the fright of his life. A stutter clear in his voice, the man approached Lennier, one shaking hand outstretched. Lennier bowed formally taking the taller man's hand and shaking it firmly. "The guard said you wanted to see me before the mind-wipe took place…" he prompted. The telepath nodded once nervously in reply, then waited for the guard to leave them before he continued.
"I just scanned Miss Tully…Did she tell you anything about the night of the murders? About the events leading up to it?" Now they were seated at the small metal table, the concern in the human's expression was even more tangible.
"No…not really. To the best of my knowledge, Miss Tully has spoken to no one about that night."
The telepath gave a jerky nod of understanding, "While I was in her mind I saw everything. On the night of the murders, Tully had returned from a clinic…She'd just had an abortion after one of the people who was meant to be looking after her, got her pregnant…Since abortion is illegal on Earth, she went to a back-street place…there were complications and she was on a mixture of painkillers and antibiotics…She was in agony when she returned to the home: I could feel the pain each step she took caused her…She was cornered in the shower room and…well. I'm sure you can guess the rest…When she killed them she wasn't in sound mind: the combination of the drugs she'd taken, her emotional and physical state…Sir, a telepathic scan is not admissible evidence but it may be enough to make the powers that be hold off Tully's sentencing until new evidence can be found if she appeals…"
"And she has refused." Lennier finished flatly.
The telepath nodded, "In a retrial she might only be convicted for a lesser charge, manslaughter. She could receive the counselling she needs and could eventually lead a normal life…" Lennier could feel his pulse racing. The telepath was right…He began to think more and more…Deborah could leave Earth, he could take her with him to Minbar, or anywhere- she'd be able to see all the places they'd talked about- Centauri Prime, Narn, Brakir…Then suddenly his hopes faded. It wasn't what she wanted. She'd never be able to lead a normal life, she'd always have that fear in her eyes, that cautious, closed off manner wherein every glance, every contact was a milestone.
"No." He replied firmly, "It is not what she wants…Deborah wants the mind-wipe to be carried out. She wants to start a new life. However much I may want her by my side, it is not fair to her…"
"I don't understand…"
"She made me promise that I would do everything I could to ensure that she is given a second chance at life."
"But you'll never see her again…I could tell how close the two of you have become, she won't remember you…"
"That is correct. I want what is best for her and I agree that she should be allowed to undergo the mind-wipe, not as a punishment for her acts but to make up for those of others. Thus I will not aid you and further to that, I will actively fight you if you attempt to prevent or postpone the sentence. Are you not breaking your organisation's rules by relaying what you experienced during the scan to another party?" And to signal that the conversation had reached its end, Lennier rose to his feet and moved to the door, "If you will excuse me, it will not be long now: I need to be with Deborah."
He found her in the penitentiary medlab, sat on a rolling bed, still cuffed hand and foot. Two guards leaned by the door and the doctor who was to perform the procedure stood at a large console, fiddling with various knobs and buttons. Mutely she stretched out one hand to him, grasping his tightly when she caught hold of it.
"It's alright," he almost whispered, "The telepath who performed the scan will not try to oppose this." Tears of relief escaped from her eyes and hurriedly she brushed them away for fear of the guards noticing. The doctor motioned to the guards to remove his patient's shackles so that she could lie on the bed, whereupon she was again cuffed, this time to the bed itself, as if she would try to escape.
"Would you like a little time?" The doctor's gruffness gave way to something akin to genuine compassion and he ushered the guards from the room with him, "There's no means of escape." He sighed as one guard who made to protest.
"No turning back now." She smiled wanly, wriggling her hands in the tight restraints. "Thank you for understanding…" Lennier bit his lip and held tightly onto her hand, "You remember what you promised?"
"Yes, once phase one is completed I will leave…before the new personality is programmed."
"Lennier, I'm scared…"
"I know…Now that I've found you I don't know that I'll be able to cope without you. But you were right, you deserve the chance to a new life…maybe to marry and have children…anything is possible."
She nodded with a confidence she didn't feel, "So might you…But please, promise me, if you see me again, in this life-"
"I will walk away."
The doctor and his entourage re-entered the room. Silently and watched by curious eyes, he began attaching electrodes to Deborah's temples and wrists. "There won't be much pain," he explained, "You'll simply fall asleep. Are you ready?"
Fixing her stare on Lennier, Deborah nodded, the doctor flicked a switch on the console and a dozen tiny lights sprang to life. Lennier bent forward to brush a kiss over her lips and as her eyelids began to droop, whispered in her ear, "I'll see you in a place where no shadows fall." In reply she squeezed his hand and then she was gone.
True to his word, the Minbari left as soon as she lost consciousness, finding himself standing, still dazed, outside the locked gates of the prison. It felt to him that she'd never existed: what if she was just a figment of his imagination? The letter in his pocket told him otherwise but still, that was all that remained of Deborah Tully.
There was a transport leaving Io in half an hour; he didn't know where it was going, hadn't bothered to find out. He just knew he had to leave, soon. The letter in his pocket said little more than he already knew, echoing the words he and Deborah had said to one another over the past several weeks but he read and re-read it countless times anyway since it now served as the only link between himself and her.
He'd not yet decided whether to turn himself in to the rangers for what he'd done but that was a decision he had all the time in the world to make. For now he merely wanted to see everything the universe had to offer through new eyes: through eyes that finally saw the magic of life instead of viewing everything as he was expected to. As he descended the steps at the prison gates, he looked up and caught a glimpse of the distant sun's first rays peeking through the usually dingy and overcast sky. He overheard someone passing make a comment about the good weather 'finally being here' and smiled privately in agreement. Deborah would have loved to have seen today as it was. And maybe, somehow, as someone else, she would see it…