Chapter Eighteen:

"When it is time, come to this place. Call our name. We will be here."
- First Ones: "Voices of Authority"

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Neroon was standing behind a warrior running a diagnostic on the communication systems. They had received a transmission a short time before and were now checking to make sure there had been no technical viruses contained in the transmission. Normally, they wouldn't have, since it was relayed from the Gray Council, but Branmer had ordered so. Now, the Alyt was hovering over the warrior's shoulder because he had nothing better to do than amuse himself with making the other nervous.

This particular Minbari was very good at covering his nervousness. The only way that Neroon could tell it was there was that he would clench his jaw so tight a muscle would throb in his neck with his pulse. Neroon smiled to himself, watching as the diagnostic ran. He looked up as another Minbari walked up to him. The Alyt sensed the Minbari running the diagnostic relax with relief once Neroon was told that Branmer wanted him to report to the Shai'Alyt's quarters immediately.

He ignored the teasing look the Minbari messenger gave the other at his obvious relief and quickly went to Branmer's quarters. Neroon was sure it had something to do with the last transmission and probably not good if the Shai'Alyt had used the word 'immediately'.

The door opened quickly when he pressed the alert beside it. He felt himself lift his brow at that interesting bit. Branmer was standing beside the large console on the wall beside the closed entrance into his sleeping quarters. The screen was paused on the Minbari Federation insignia. The lights had been lowered, but that did not overly surprise Neroon. Branmer had often complained that his eyes couldn't focus on the screen if there were glare from other lights in the room. The Shai'Alyt looked deeply troubled. Again, not surprising after a transmission from the Gray Council. He knew Branmer had had disagreements with them but usually never brought Neroon into it.

The Shai'Alyt looked up and seemed to notice Neroon was standing at attention two feet inside the room.

'Neroon,' Branmer began, motioning for him to come forward. The Alyt relaxed at the familiarity and came closer. 'Celina Amador didn't return home nine days ago.'

He wasn't certain how he was expected to react to that, so he didn't react at all. Neroon simply continued to look expectantly to the Shai'Alyt, waiting for more information, since Branmer had used the tone of voice that suggested that that was simply the beginning of it.

'Seven days ago, Earth Alliance received a recorded message. It was timed to be sent from a public location at that date and all history of who sent it was erased. The message was for us as well,' Branmer explained. 'The Gray Council only received this information this morning. I believe you deserve to see it.'

Neroon gave one short nod and looked to the console as Branmer stepped forward and activated it. The Shai'Alyt stepped aside and moved to stand a short distance behind Neroon, so that he could watch the screen and the Alyt at the same time. Neroon was very aware of Branmer watching him and held his face void of any expression but intent observation as he followed the screen switch to a new insignia. He didn't recognize it. The screen switched again to a large dark room.

A man walked up to the camera. His gait was surly. He was obviously human though his face had been blurred post-recording. Neroon automatically had no respect for the man's intent to show daring when he did not even take the risk to show his true face. He had even less respect for him once he began to speak.

"We want to send a message to Earth Alliance," the man's voice was also altered to sound inhuman and completely untraceable. "The cowards who betray Earth to alien causes. But this is also a message to the vultures who prey on us, the aliens who wrongly influence them."

It was difficult to understand him with the voice alteration, wiping away most distinctions of natural accent and adding an unnatural one. Neroon followed though as the man continued to belittle the recent efforts of Earth Alliance administration. The man insisted that resources were being misused, efforts wasted on aliens that should have been focused on Earth's own people. Strangely, though Neroon knew that man was voicing anti-Minbari sentiment, the man became most ruthless when speaking of how Earth Alliance was handling cross-species relations. Neroon quickly became frustrated with his lack of ability to follow all of what the man was saying. He wished he understood the language better because he knew that if Branmer were showing him this, it was important that Neroon witness it, not simply be told what it contained. Neroon refocused his attention when the man made reference to an "innocent woman."

"Ruined. Crawled into her mind and all that she was, a true patriot of Earth, died there," the man continued walking down the expanse of the room with the camera following, looking over his shoulder to continue talking. "She wanted to serve Earth and the current administration took her and forgot her on a Minbari ship. They abandoned her. They betrayed her to the enemy. They killed her. There's nothing left now of what she was. All that made her unique, special, Human . . .gone. She's not the first and she won't be the last. But we will make sure that she does serve Humanity, even if the government wouldn't let her and the aliens twisted her into something else, something unclean, something not worth living. We will do that for her because that's what the real her would have wanted. We will do this because she was our sister. And we love her. And she will do this for us, her brothers and sisters of Earth. We will all send a personal message to you." He came to a stop. A woman –Celina, Neroon's mind quickly supplemented- was tied to a chair. A dark bag was over her head. He wondered if it was hard for her to breathe. The man walked forward and pulled the bag off her head. Her hair pulled away into a mess, face gray. She blinked a great deal, keeping her eyes to the floor. She cringed as the man spoke again. "Whatever you try to take away from us, we will destroy it before letting you keep it. We will not go gentle into that good night. You will feel our rage before the dying of the light."

Neroon wondered why the man even looked into the camera if he wasn't allowing his face to be shown. The man walked behind Celina and the camera moved forward. She looked up and watched as he came near her, finally disappearing behind her where she could not see. She didn't struggle or seem to put forth any fight. Neroon was sure that she must have before though. He couldn't see her as being complacent in this. Celina looked resigned and detached as the man took a hold of her chin from behind and pulled her head back against his stomach. Her eyes were looking up, perhaps into the face of the man holding her. Neroon couldn't tell if the man had looked down at her, his face too blurred. He pulled out a large knife from behind his back and held the tip against the opposite side of her throat; best for a tearing motion, Neroon recognized, not slicing. Neroon could see Celina swallow beside the knife held to her throat. He could also just barely see the pulse in the side of her neck. It beat so rapidly that Neroon knew she was terrified. The camera came closer.

"This is your warning and our promise," the man finally said and pulled the knife savagely. Immediately blood splattered the camera and Neroon was utterly indignant that he could no longer see past it. Intellectually, he knew Celina had to be dead, but he still wanted to see her face. He was frowning fiercely when the screen went black and there would be nothing further from it.

'They found her body four days ago in some sort of warehouse. It was a little over a mile from her home,' Branmer explained. Neroon turned to look at him and his desire to have seen her face to be sure must have somehow been detectable by the Shai'Alyt since he added, 'They sent us no photographic documentation of that. It is generally believed that that recording is enough.'

'Savages,' Neroon muttered.

'He seemed to be under the impression that it was a mercy,' Branmer noted and the Alyt looked to him darkly.

'Then why did he use a knife and tear out her throat? I know that is not the most painless way of killing a human. Not the quickest either. She would have been aware several moments after the fact, bleeding out and suffocating in the same instant. If it were a mercy, why did he not use a swifter weapon?'

'It would not have been so gloriously brutal, so jarringly savage,' Branmer explained, biting out the words. 'It would not evoke the same primitive revulsion in us all. This is exactly how he wished us to react.'

Neroon furrowed his brow at the thought.

'The ramifications of this have disturbed the Gray Council,' the Shai'Alyt continued. 'You have been summoned.'

The Alyt looked up sharply at that. It was a great honor to be summoned by the Gray Council. Somehow, he could not collect the proper amount of satisfaction at the fact but hoped that their wisdom would ease his confusion and unsettlement. Branmer seemed momentarily taken aback when Neroon asked for a copy of the message. By the time the Ingata met with the Valen'tha, the Gray Counsel's flagship, Neroon had studied the message until he knew exactly what the man had said and could quote it from memory if he so wished. Though he knew that was exactly what the man had wanted, Neroon stored away the message in the back of his mind, an example of Humanity's barbarism. To turn so viciously on one's own kind . . . especially under the seemingly just guise of preserving what was right . . . he could not understand it. Neroon dearly hoped he never would. It was an awareness unbefitting his kind.

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The room was dark with a single beam of light falling straight from the high ceiling to form a circle at the center of the room. Tiny dust motes caught in the air blinked in the beam of light, seeming more than magical. Neroon drew a long silent breath, adjusting himself to the overwhelming rush of the sacred. He walked forward and took his place in the ring of light defined by the darkness.

For several moments, he was alone.

Then nine beams of light fell from the ceiling to surround him. Nine gray hooded figures stood in the beams of light against the blackness beyond. It was an impressive display. Intellectually, Neroon knew they had not appeared from within the beams of light, but his heart clung to the mysticism. He was now surrounded by the best of them, somewhere amongst the nine the Chosen of Dukhat stood with him. They breathed in the same magic in the air, drank the same blessings of the meeting, and played the holy roles set before them by Valen. Neroon saluted and was surprised to be saluted in return in the ways of each of their castes.

'Alyt Neroon of the Star Rider's Clan,' a deep male voice spoke in Adrihi'e, the old language the three castes' main languages were rooted in. 'We summon you to us to speak of unpleasant things. Some time ago, the Religious caste began a series of events that brought us here. A part of that will end here as well. Once all is said within this chamber, these distasteful things will never be spoken of again.'

Neroon was slightly confused what that last sentence involved but continued to listen as another spoke. He noticed that none had lowered their hoods, hiding their faces away. This disturbed him on some level but he was unsure of whether this were any different from how the council always behaved.

'We have demanded great sacrifices from you, Alyt,' another spoke in a small feminine voice. 'You have conducted yourself with honor, wisdom, and selflessness. You gave more than we dared ask. You have proven yourself worthy of our great respect and admiration. We will not forget this though we will not speak of it again.'

'We are disturbed by the events unfolded on Earth,' a musical male voice said from behind him. Neroon turned around to face the speaker though he could not tell which hooded figure was speaking. 'There was much disagreement on how to best handle this. Should we allow this hateful action against Minbar to be made public and allow blame to fall on the Earthers? Should we acknowledge this and offer our forgiveness? We could not decide. Until it was suggested that it would be best that we had never made the decision in the first place. There, the Nine were one.'

'All documentation of the arranged marriage between an Alyt of Minbar and a daughter of Earth will be destroyed.'

Neroon blinked at the announcement, a frown cutting deeply across his face. Another continued before the first's words sunk through his shock and repulsion.

'Her name will be wiped from your clan's records. Any mention of her in relation to you will be erased. The troubles of the last several months will never have been. Those who might have remembered otherwise will seem to forget.'

'This is the wisdom of the Gray?' Neroon asked into the silence. It was the first moment he dared to speak. 'To forget where you erred? What wisdom is to be gained in this?'

None responded for several moments but they stood rigid. He felt their discord with him but held his resolve and did not lower his eyes.

'Neroon, do not believe that we do not feel,' a strong female voice said from his side. He turned to look towards her. There were three figures that could have been speaking. 'We feel greatly where we have erred. We feel where we have failed you. We feel where we have angered you. But we have learned that we must not always act according to such things.'

'Do you even understand why I am angry?' he asked, personally seeking out the woman who was daring to patronize him.

'We are asking for your sacrifices to be forgotten. We understand that that is disheartening for you after such a long struggle.'

Neroon smiled sardonically. 'I am sure I will sacrifice much more in my life. It is my honor and my privaledge. But it is also my right for it to be remembered!'

'You are angry for your wife,' the woman replied in breathless understanding.

'You offer great compliments to my character. Yet, what of Celina Amador's? She sacrificed as greatly and in the end sacrificed her life.You would have every mention of her erased. You would do her the dishonor of choosing to lay her aside and forget, for it is easier than to face the ramifications of your actions. You hide your faces and your voices and again you kill her, but yours is the most ruthless weapon. She is not here to feel the sting of it, but she is also not here to forgive it.'

Eight lights went black, one after another, until there was only Neroon and the gray speaker cast in their separate lights.

'You have angered them, Neroon,' the woman said. 'They know you speak the truth and for that it will be a long while until they forgive you for it. This may be the last time you ever speak before the Gray Council.'

Neroon glared at her though her hood was still drawn. 'I would rather appear before the Gray Council once and speak the truth than come to you again and again in falsehoods.'

'Even though you may have done more good with prettier words?' she asked.

'I find I prefer actions to pretty words,' he said, realizing he was espousing a sentiment he first heard Celina's voice speak. If he thought about it, he could still hear her say it.

'We underestimated you, Neroon,' she said, pulling back her hood. He took a step back at the young and beautiful face. A very recognizable face. She seemed to exude a self-awareness that bordered on hubris. Before him stood Satai Delenn of the Family Mir, Chosen of Dukhat, and she seemed every bit aware of it as Neroon was. Still, he refused to acknowledge that. 'We asked for you to give yourself to her in duty. There was something we failed to realize.'

Neroon waited several moments and was frustrated that she was going to make him ask, 'What is that?'

'Duty is where your heart is. Where one goes, the other follows. You were not supposed to care for her, Neroon. Forgive us.'

He sneered slightly at the pitiful centure and plea from the delicate woman bearing such a heavy title. Neroon shied away from thinking deeper on her words. 'Tell me, Satai Delenn, if you will so that I may come to understand your wisdom. Does it become easier each time you recount your decisions until you finally believe to get it right?'

Her face went stony with the sarcasm and bite in his tone and words. 'Understanding is not required of you,' she said in a cold deliverance, 'only obedience.'

Delenn's light blinked into darkness and Neroon was left in the light, dust circling about him and catching and shattering the ray. He stood for several moments, doubting the enlightenment of the Gray. The Alyt did not wish to think that the greatest of them could conduct themselves without honor for any wisdom but their own. Their hubris was blinding to more than simply themselves. The Gray Council of Dukhat was gone. In its place was a new council based on the mercurial guidance from Delenn of Mir.

It took him an indeterminate amount of time surrounded by the echoing darkness before he realized he was in a position to do nothing. His power was negligable in the face of the Nine's will.

Celina Amador sacrificed nothing in the name of peace. She never came to the Ingata. Neroon would not be allowed to mourn his wife's death as his respect for her might have demanded because he never had a wife. He would never be allowed to speak of her. The Alyt was breaking the Gray Council's order to even remember her.

Now that the Nine were fallible in his eyes, Neroon delighted in breaking their orders within the safety of his mind and heart. Both refused to forget all the actions and words, hiding it all away in the same place where he guarded the words of Celina's murderer. Though he would never be able to speak of it, to those who knew, his thoughts were loud. Finally he walked away with quiet rage as he abandoned his place of light in the Gray Council's chamber of darkness. The light shone at his back as if waiting for his return.

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Fin

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Thank you for reading What Is Not Forgotten. I must say, none of the events in this story were/are meant to be taken as an opinion on terrorism in the news of today. These are simply the events of the story. I would dearly appreciate it if you'd take a moment to make my day and leave me a note telling me what you thought of my story. Though the story is done and you are no longer reliant upon me updating, hearing what the reader thought means a great deal to me. If you leave an email to contact you by, I would like to thank you for reading and answer any questions you may wish to pose.