Said the Caterpillar
"Who are you?" said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I – I hardly know, sir, just at present --- at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then".
"What do you mean by that?" Said the Caterpillar sternly. "Explain yourself!"
"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir", said Alice, "because I'm not myself, you see".
"I don't see", said the Caterpillar.
"I'm afraid I can't put it more clearly", Alice replied very politely, "for I can't understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in one day is very confusing"….
"Alice in Wonderland", Lewis Carroll
November 14, 2260
Cady Kyra sat cross-legged and unmoving on the crystalline ledge beside the waterfall. The slow rise and fall of her chest had become barely perceptible; the only indication that she hadn't, in fact, fallen asleep was the slight frown that had settled over her delicate features, marring the prettiness of her face. She'd been focused on the sound of the falls behind her for more than an hour, and still she could not quiet the mass of thoughts running through her mind. She'd slowed her breathing as she'd been taught, her body was completely relaxed and supple beneath her clothing, she'd even shut out the sounds of the city around her. There was just the waterfall… and every moment of her life for the last eighteen years.
Reflecting on her life, and the choices she'd made and the paths she'd taken, was all Cady had been doing for the last four months. Sech Turval claimed it was something her soul needed. Personally, the more she reflected, the more she sought release during training exercises with Sech Durhan. It always ended badly; she would be sore and aching, lying on the floor, staring up at Durhan as he sent her back to Turval where she could continue to… reflect. It was a vicious circle that Cady feared she may become forever trapped within.
It was her actions and words, more than anything else, which hinted toward the truth of whom she was and where she called home: Cady considered herself more Centauri than Human. Physiology, appearance, and her loyalty to the Anla'shok aside, the teachings of the family that had taken her in as a young child, and provided for her the majority of her life, had left their lasting impressions on Cady as an individual. Her prejudices, frequent irrationality, and enjoyment of a good bottle of Brivare were enough to signal where her loyalties sometimes strayed. On occasion, people who knew her would point toward her stubborn arrogance as further proof of her Centauri upbringing. Unfortunately, it was only those who knew her well that understood this particular personality trait was completely hers and hers alone.
Sensing the approach of someone from behind, Cady pulled out of her meditation, focusing her attention on her surroundings. It was something she'd been able to do since she was very, very young – know when someone was approaching. Most believed it was simply due to a heightened sense but Cady knew better than that. In the last year, the ability had become sharpened, and more distinct. She could sense the individual presence of the person who approached, whether they were male or female, how many were approaching, if they meant her harm, and even, on occasion, what race they represented. The one who approached now was a Minbari female. The Minbari's pace slowed, signaling to Cady that she'd found the person she had been seeking.
As she opened her eyes, Cady unfolded her legs and stood, turning to face her visitor. She recognized Ambassador Delenn instantly, even if they had never met, and bowed respectfully in greeting.
"I have been searching for you, Ranger Kyra," Delenn greeted softly with a warm smile.
"I was meditating," Cady said, lifting her gaze to study the Minbari before her.
It was odd seeing the Human and Minbari features blended together into one being, though very beautiful. Meeting Delenn face-to-face suddenly gave the significance of the pin worn by the Anla'shok that much more meaning. In the Minbari-Human hybrid standing before her, the two races that had sought to annihilate each other truly had become one.
"And did you learn anything during your meditation?" Delenn asked her.
Cady bit her lower lip. "Only that, after a year here, I still haven't quite gotten the hang of it."
Delenn laughed as she took Cady's arm in hers. "Cady – may I call you Cady? – walk with me."
Cady did as she was instructed but her curiosity was getting the best of her, as usual. She knew that Delenn had come to Tuzanor – there were rumors floating among the Rangers that she was to take Jeffrey Sinclair's place as Entil'zha. If that were true, changes would be coming. The Rangers went wherever Entil'zha was, and that meant moving to the Earth station, Babylon 5. Cady wasn't certain how she felt about that, about leaving the safety and security of Minbar. So much of her life had been spent avoiding any contact with Earth and now, even if the space station had seceded from Earth control, Cady still feared what being there could mean.
As for Delenn taking her father's place as Entil'zha… well, she hadn't given that much thought. Hence the constant need for reflection.
"I want to apologize to you, Cady."
"That I have not come to Minbar much sooner. That I have waited for so long after your father's absence to meet you." Delenn glanced up at her with a regretful smile. "With everything that has been going on – "
"There are far greater matters that must be attended to than my own personal loss," Cady remarked quietly. She hesitated with her words, frowning slightly.
"What do you wish to say?" Delenn prompted.
"Only that… everyone has been walking on eggshells around me since my father left. They seem to think that this will somehow break me. I assure you; it will not. I've lost far more in my life, and I was much younger then. Jeff… I enjoyed the short time I had to know him. I feel as if I learned much from him – things I may never have known had I not sought him out. But now, he is gone. And my life goes on as before."
She felt Delenn squeeze her arm slightly. "You are far wiser than your years would suggest, Cady. I believe you are truly your father's daughter."
Cady laughed and shook her head. "Oh, no, Delenn. Many would argue that, including my instructors here. No, you've simply caught me during reflection. Sech Turval often says that where I go, trouble and chaos most assuredly follow."
"Yes, he has warned me of this already," Delenn told Cady with a smile as she stopped their progress and turned to face her. "Cady, I am to become Entil'zha."
So, the rumors were true. "I have heard this."
"And, how do you feel about it?"
How did she feel about it? Cady was uncertain. It would be odd to not hear the words of wisdom and strength coming from her father. It would be odd to follow the directions of another. Still, she understood that Delenn would not have been chosen were she not the best choice for the position.
She decided to answer truthfully. "I am uncertain as to whether I have any feelings on the matter. Change occurs. There is no stopping it."
Delenn nodded, glancing away for a moment as if searching for the right words. Finally, she brought her gaze back to Cady's, holding it steady for a long moment. "This morning, upon arrival, I was given a data crystal, left behind by your father for whomever was to become Entil'zha. In it, he… he mentioned your secret."
Cady sucked in a sharp breath at her words, tensing instantly. She could run now, grab the nearest transport and head home. Back where she knew she would be safe. Back where she knew no one would pry into the truth because they were too wrapped up in their own petty little lives to care about others. Or, she could trust Jeffrey Sinclair. He had never seemed bent on causing her harm in the year she had come to know him, so it followed that he would not bring her harm in his absence.
"It is safe with me," Delenn continued after seeming to give her a moment to collect herself. "But, I do have something to ask of you. It is a sacrifice that I must ask if we are to win this war with the Shadows."
Sacrifice? Suddenly, Cady found herself wishing she'd stayed home, on Centauri Prime. But then, it wasn't the first time she'd thought such a thing.
"We live for the One, we die for the One," she repeated the mantra of the Anla'shok. "I will do whatever you ask of me, Entil'zha."
Delenn blanched slightly, as if unable to accept the words spoken. "Cady, your father felt certain that with your abilities, you would be an important key in the coming days. Now, I understand the circumstances, and the fears you must harbor due to them, but if there is any help you can give, in whatever form that may be… well then, it is something. And so I am asking you to return to Babylon 5 with me, cast aside your fears, and offer everything you have against the coming darkness."
Cady turned away from Delenn, moving off to the edge of the bridge to gaze down at the river which flowed beneath them. Her father had warned her that this day may come, when she would be asked to trust in the wisdom of those around her, when she would no longer be able to hide what she was. In truth, the idea terrified her. She barely remembered her mother but she did remember the circumstances they'd lived under together – the constant running, the fear of being captured. If she went to Babylon 5 and blatantly displayed what she could do… or rather, what her body seemed to know it was capable of, then all of the sacrifices her mother had made to protect her might end up being for nothing.
"I know that you are frightened, Cady," Delenn spoke softly behind her. "We are all frightened. And we will all be asked to sacrifice before this terrible war is over."
Now, more than ever, Cady found herself missing the comforts of Centauri Prime, the only real home she had ever known.
"I'll do it," she whispered.
She felt Delenn touch her shoulder. "Thank you."
Cady turned. "But, I must ask something of you in return."
Delenn nodded. "Of course."
"What happened to my father? Where did he go?" Cady questioned, giving in to her curiosity. "I ask, but no one seems to know the answer."
Sighing slightly, Delenn looked away, her gaze straying to the waterfall behind them. "To all things, there is a Time and a Place." Bringing her eyes back to Cady's, she told her, "This is neither."
Cady bit back the retort that surfaced, forcing herself to calm and accept the words of the new Entil'zha. She was reaching the end of her patience, and if it wasn't that she knew she needed these people around her, that she would have no true purpose without their guidance, than she might not have had the strength to refrain from walking away. Secrets seemed to rule the universe, and Cady told herself that if she could ever come to accept that then maybe, someday, she'd find out where she fit into it all.
November 15, 2260
The gentle ringing of the warning beacon broke Terann out of her meditation. She looked at the controls of her flyer surprised at how much time had passed. Out of habit, she rechecked her readings and prepared the ship for the jump to normal space. Months of preparation had brought her to this place, yet she found herself with doubts, unsure of what the future held and what her place would be in it. For the past two cycles she had been sheltered, she had felt safe and protected, as if for the first time she had found a place she belonged. Now she was being flung back into uncertainty. Still she could not ignore her underlying excitement; the feeling one gets when faced with the unknown.
Adjusting the controls one last time, she saw the familiar spark as normal and hyperspace collided; when the chaotic swirling was broken by the simplistic order of the starfield. Epsilon 3 filled her view viewscreen the moment she popped out of hyperspace and while she was certain had she been unaware of the secrets the planet hid she would most likely have paid it little attention. As it was, she paused, silently regarding it before the voice of the earth space station, Babylon 5's, command and control broke her thoughts.
"Babylon Control to Minbari Flyer Arani you are cleared to dock at bay 4. Please surrender control of your ship to the central computer on my mark...MARK."
Pressing the appropriate controls, Terann settled back in her seat. She studied the alien architecture of the space station as her ship was brought into the docking bay. Despite her best efforts, she knew she would never truly understand Humans. They were a strange people. Compared to the Minbari, the Humans were a relatively young race, who seemed to spend far too much time stumbling around in the dark to take notice of the greatness to which they were destined. Feeling the familiar shudder, as the ship came to rest in the docking bay, the Minbari gathering up her few belongings. She left the ship and headed for the customs area.
She fell into queue behind several other travelers, shuffling her things briefly for her identicard. She flipped the card absently in her hand thinking how intrusive the Humans were to request all visitors have one. Rules are rules, though, and she knew she would not last long aboard the station if she made a scene about such a small request.
It was only when a short, stout Human in front of her sighed heavily in frustration, that Terann noted the line through customs had suddenly come to a grinding halt. It did not take the Minbari long to locate the source of the holdup.
For all intents and purposes, the Human woman at the front of the line did not appear out of the ordinary for her race. Her clothing, perhaps, was not customary for most Human females, but aside from her long brown hair and athletic build, there was little to set her apart from other females of her race. What Terann could make out of her features suggested she was quite attractive; however the Minbari was, admittedly, not a good judge of Human beauty. Her tone, conversely, was harsh and biting; it was also directed squarely at the Narn security officer.
"I'll give you my card at my leisure, Narn," she commented, her voice deceptively soft, "and not a moment before."
The amount of venom the Human thrust at the officer caused Terann to reconsider her initial assessment of the young woman. Had her senses not told her otherwise, the Minbari would have believed her to be Centauri. The demeanor was definitely there, but the style of her hair was most assuredly Human; her clothing, however, appeared almost Minbari. Terann found herself holding back a smile as she considered the identity crisis that clearly stood before her. While the mixing of customs and clothing was natural with the continued association between the races, it was very obvious to the Minbari that the Human at the front of the line really had no idea who she was.
Terann continued to watch the proceedings, impressed that the Narn though clearly taken aback by the harshness vented to him, did not allow the Human's mood to affect his. He merely held out his hand and waited patiently. It was this, Terann believed, that caused the Human to take even longer to produce the required documentation. This, in turn, prompted even more sighing from the man standing between them. The idea of planting a seed of doubt in the Narn's mind concerning the Human's credentials did cross Terann's thoughts, but only for a moment. She had been trained better than that, and knew that the petty squabbling of the younger races was something she had to rise above.
Muttering something that could be passed as a welcome to the station, the Narn returned the Human's identicard to her and stepped aside.
Glowering at him one last time, the woman said, "The universe is going straight to hell," before moving out of the customs area.
"'Bout time," the short man said, passing his card to the Narn. "Some people, eh? Bet you get that a lot."
His words did not exactly classify as true empathy -- just words to fill a void. Terann noted that Humans often felt the need to fill uncomfortable silences with needless speech. She was not entirely sure why this was the case. Insecurity, perhaps; or maybe they just felt they had the need, or the right, to comment on everything around them. She concluded it was a combination of the two, both characteristics that had in the past, and would most likely in the future, lead to them trouble.
When it was finally her turn, she handed the Narn her credentials allowing him to scan her information into the system. She did not speak, merely waited, eager to find her quarters and put the day behind her. The Narn removed and then reinserted her identicard into the scanner causing the Minbari's brow to furrow.
"I'm sorry," he offered.
"Is there a problem?" Terann asked.
"No," he reassured her, and then signaled to a tall Human male who raised his chin in acknowledgment before quickly making his way over. Without a word, the Narn showed him the display and the Human, giving the Minbari a quick glance, guided her out of line.
Once out of earshot of other travelers, Terann began, "Again, I ask if there is a problem."
"No," he told her. "I'm Zack Allen, with station security. Your identicard says you're a telepath."
"Yes, and…?" Terann prompted.
"Like the Narns?" she asked with a glance back at the Narn security officer.
"No, not exactly," he replied, shifting uncomfortably. "I'm not sure if you've heard…"
"The war? The Shadows?" The Minbari filled in the blanks.
"Yeah, and we were wondering…"
"I'm not interested." She told him plainly.
"Oh." He stiffened slightly. "Well, in case you change your mind, I'll have some information forwarded to your quarters."
"It won't be necessary."
"Maybe not, but I'm required to." He glanced once more at her identicard before passing it back to her. "Thank you, Terann."
"Alyt Terann," she corrected, feeling his discomfiture rise another notch.
"Yeah, umm, welcome to Babylon 5."
With a final glance around customs, Terann shifted her belongings and headed towards the core shuttle. Once away from the docking area, Terann felt a pang of guilt at her abruptness with Zack Allen. It had not been her intention to be so rude; she simply knew she must, at least for the moment, lay low. Involving herself in Captain Sheridan and Ambassador Delenn's conflict with the ancient enemy was definitely not the way to do so. She possessed no doubt that eventually she would cross paths with both Sheridan and Delenn, but now was not the time. For now, she must just wait and watch until she was told to do otherwise.
After all, it was not her place to question things that were to come.
Stepping from the lift and entering the waiting area for the core shuttle, Terann was forced to take hold of the hand rails strategically positioned throughout. It was a low gravity area, at the very center of the Earther's station, and the feeling was disorienting to say the least. Her own people had perfected artificial gravity centuries before, but the Earther's still relied on rotation to maintain the effect. It was this shortcoming that partially contributed to the ugliness of their spaceships.
In preparation for the shuttle's arrival, Terann moved forward toward the other waiting passengers. It was only as she drew closer that her eyes once again fell upon the strange Human female from the customs area. For the most part, she seemed much calmer now, leading Terann to conclude that her animosity stretched only to Narns and that she was not entirely xenophobic. Her features, however, appeared strained, almost as if she were in some kind of pain. Terann allowed her blocks to drop slightly, hoping to ascertain the source of her discomfort.
Almost instantly, Terann felt herself spiraling downward as if caught in a whirlpool. Images flashed before her at a staggering rate, causing Terann to once again erect mental blocks. Silently she chastised her carelessness, noting that her actions had not gone unnoticed by the Human whose eyes now darted around at those gathered, obviously attempting to identify the source of the intrusion. Guilt, Terann assumed, must have suffused her own features as she felt the angered gaze fall upon hers. As the Human turned toward her, her cloak shifted, revealing the tell-tale broach of the Anla'shok. The Minbari's mind quickly whirled at the revelation, her thoughts replaying the images she had seen in the Human's mind. It was only when her eyes met with those of the Human that recognition settled in.
In Valen's name!
"Do you mind?" The Human demanded, and while her features were contorted in anger, the sweat on her brow and the stress in her eyes clearly told Terann she was barely holding on to that anger.
There is no time, Child of Valen. You must find your way here.
"What?" The Human's brow furrowed at Terann's unspoken words.
"You need training," Terann replied firmly.
"And you need to mind your own damn business!" She snapped, rubbing her temple with her fingers.
Terann merely shook her head. "You need training before you hurt someone."
The Minbari then pushed her way past the gaping Human and boarded the newly arrived shuttle. Settling into her seat, she kept her eyes lowered but her thoughts firmly focused on the female, trying to ponder the puzzle the universe had now set before her.
"Twenty-five of our people from the latest transport have signed on to help with station security," Ta'Lon reported as he walked beside G'Kar down the corridor. "Unfortunately, extensive injuries and malnutrition prevented others from joining who had wished to sign on."
"It is something, Ta'Lon." G'Kar reached out to pat his friend's shoulder. "We must be thankful for the little victories in this battle against the darkness. I know that Captain Sheridan appreciates every little bit of help we are able to provide."
"Many still wish to be doing more," Ta'Lon said as he came to a stop to face the other Narn. "G'Kar, I thought you should know, there are more rumblings among our people here – mostly the youngest and more impatient – that we should be fighting for our people, instead of helping the others."
G'Kar closed his eyes at the words, shaking his head in sorrow. "How do I make them understand, Ta'Lon? How am I to get it through their heads that this darkness threatens to consume us all? That to ignore it is to lose not only our people but also our very right to live amongst the stars?"
"They've only known war and hate, G'Kar. The rest of us have not had your revelation."
"But surely you understand?"
"Yes. I do. But we may have to resort to a few lead pipes against the heads of the others."
Chuckling at Ta'Lon's suggestion, the ex-ambassador patted his shoulder yet again before continuing toward his destination, the transport tube at the end of the hall. "Talk to them again, Ta'Lon. Keep your eyes and ears open. Should you hear of any trouble, let me know so that I may prevent it without burdening Captain Sheridan and the others."
"Of course, G'Kar." With a respectful inclination of his head, Ta'Lon turned and disappeared back down the direction from which they'd come.
"Blue Two," G'Kar called out as he entered the tube.
Since he had successfully convinced the non-aligned worlds to join in on the actual battles against the Shadows, G'Kar understood better than ever how important this war was; that they all must do their part and make their sacrifices. He hated seeing his people in chains once more at the hands of the Centauri, hated seeing his world destroyed, but to focus their attention only on the problems of the Narn while the rest of the galaxy fell into flames around them would only secure their eventual annihilation. He knew he had gotten that through to his people on the station, but everyday, more refugees arrived, many filled with anger and determination to take back their freedom. He empathized with them completely, but no longer would he allow blinding hate for his enemy to distract him from the workings of the universe. There was far too much at stake, now.
G'Kar was pulled from his musings as the transport tube came to a stop, the doors sliding open to admit a Human female. He took little notice of her at first, his thoughts wandering back to the last battle with the Shadows before his glance strayed in her direction. Considering himself a bit of a connoisseur when it came to the females of any race, he could admit to allowing himself a moment to appreciate the finer points of every member of the opposite sex he came into contact with. (Well, aside from Commander Ivanova, who was the Human most likely to take a shon'kar against him for such a thing, and Ambassador Delenn for whom G'Kar doubted he could ever regard with anything other then reverence.)
She was tall, a trait G'Kar could always appreciate. While the females of other races were never as physically powerful as their Narn counterparts, simple things such as added height could certainly add to the perception of strength. She wore a black jumpsuit that clung to her soft curves like a second-skin, another facet that he was more than willing to take a moment to linger over. There were few delights in the universe as pleasing as the female form, and G'Kar took every chance he had to admire those that Fate saw fit to cast in his direction.
Finally focusing his attention above her shoulders, the Narn noted that her hair was long and the color of Ivanova's – mostly brown in nature. It was pleasing, if perhaps not as eye-catching as the telepath, Lyta Alexander. Unfortunately, the Human had her hand up, fingers pressed against her temple as if she had a headache, and was effectively blocking his view of her face. G'Kar loved Human faces; they varied so much in shape and form, the multiple colors of their eyes captivating, the numerous expressions he'd seen reflected there over the decades beyond fascinating.
"Blue Six," her voice called out quietly, followed by a soft sigh.
"Bad day?" G'Kar found himself asking sympathetically.
The hand fell away, allowing him a quick side profile of her face, and G'Kar was immediately entranced by the smile he saw there. So much so, that he couldn't help but smile in return.
"As a matter of fact – " She began, bringing her gaze to his.
As quickly as it had appeared, the smile fell away and, oddly enough, was replaced with an expression G'Kar could only interpret as disgust. The Human turned away from him once more, and he could have sworn he heard her mutter, "It just got worse."
Growing silent for a moment, the Narn contemplated her reaction to him, wondering if she might be one of those Earth First people who didn't like aliens. Of course, he'd always wondered why such beings bothered to travel to some place like Babylon 5 where they would be surrounded by the very creatures they didn't wish to have contact with. He frowned at the idea of the pretty woman beside him having such misguided ideas, and chanced another glance in her direction. With her arm now at her side, he was able to see the familiar pin fixed on her jumpsuit near her shoulder. Its presence relieved him – no member of Earth First would be a Ranger. He smiled. She must only be having a bad day.
"I see that you are a Ranger," he commented, making another attempt at conversation. "Newly arrived? I've come to know many of your fellow compatriots in the last few months. I truly admire – "
"What exactly was it that I did to give you the impression you were allowed to speak to me?" The woman snapped, turning to flash him a quick glare.
Her eyes were a very bright green. They might have been pretty had they not been so filled with contempt.
G'Kar was confused, leaving him uncertain as to how to respond. She wasn't Centauri, of that he was positive; and yet, her tone of voice, the expression on her face, and the manner in which she was currently glowering at him from the corner of the tube certainly were suggestive of a Centauri. But Centauri did not join the Rangers, did they?
Hoping to undo whatever harm it was he had done, G'Kar told her, "I apologize if there is something I have said or done to – "
"Great Maker!" She replied, tossing her hands into the air in a huff. "Is there something within the Narn physiology that makes it impossible for you to shut the hell up?"
He blinked. "You are not… Centauri," was all he could think to say.
Something about his words seemed to anger her further. Her skin actually grew a little flushed.
"No?" she asked, taking a step toward him.
She folded her arms across her chest and glared up at him, nostrils flaring slightly. G'Kar thought she would have been an impressive female were she not so angry and hostile. It wasn't an attractive look for her features.
"Your lack of perception only lends further credence to your stupidity as a whole," she told him.
Her words, and the malice contained within them, actually made him angry. Before the Centauri had once again enslaved his people, he would have taught her a new meaning of pain for saying such things to him. As it was, he still might. She didn't look like his enemy but she sure as by G'Quon sounded like it. Whoever she was, though, G'Kar doubted that Captain Sheridan and Delenn would take very well to him breaking a few bones of one of their Rangers. He took a slow breath and forced his expression to neutral.
As if sensing his restraint, the woman flashed a victorious smile. "Good boy," she remarked haughtily.
G'Kar's hand twitched. He wanted nothing more than to strike that smirk off her face.
The transport tube came to a stop, the doors opening, and none too soon in the Narn's opinion. The woman before him held his gaze just a moment longer, and had G'Kar not already received an unpleasant taste of her nature, he might have sworn there was a flash of uncertainty in her eyes before she turned and exited into the corridor. He stared after her, eyes narrowed, replaying the entire conversation over in his mind, which only served to anger him again as opposed to providing him with any solutions. As the doors slid shut, G'Kar made it his objective to obtain a few answers to this newest mystery of the hostile Ranger.
Such waste, Terann thought, as she wandered through the area of Babylon 5 known as Down Below, on a self-guided tour through the station. She had briefly encountered Ambassador Delenn's aide, Lennier, who had offered to provide her with a tour but she had declined, preferring to learn her own way around. What she had seen so far had not impressed her.
She was most shocked by the conditions that the poorest individuals on the station were confined to, and could not help but wonder how anyone could allow themselves to be subject to such an existence. On the other hand, she was not shocked to discover that there were no Minbari among the less fortunate population. A Minbari knew better than to allow him or herself to fall into such a situation. There were always ways in which to better oneself and one's station in life. It was more than obvious by the conditions in Down Below that many of the galactic species were not yet advanced enough to come to this understanding.
Terann's thoughts were distracted as an old, haggard Human female pushed her way rudely past her, causing her to focus on the human female she'd encountered in the corridor earlier that day. Still stunned at the realization of whom the Human was…or rather who the Human was a descendent of, she found herself wondering if the woman knew the truth. And, if so, how could someone retain such suppressed anger and rage after knowing and understanding such information? Perhaps the Human simply did not understand what such ties meant. It was not an outlandish thought. If Terann had learned anything about the Humans it was that they were the most stubborn, thickheaded race that she had ever had to deal with, even beyond the Centauri. Some saw this as a strength; that the Humans could use this trait to make their stand among the older races that were more advanced. Terann regarded it as a weakness. Those unwilling to take the time to understand and learn, to improve themselves and their way of life, were not worthy of gaining a place among the stars. They would not last long.
"Well, if it isn't the little traitor…"
At the voice, Terann came to an abrupt halt. She neither turned to nor reacted to the voice but simply remained immobile, allowing her mind to accept the realization of whom had just spoken. She recognized the voice, as well as the anger behind it.
Alyt Neroon of the Star Rider Clan. He was the last person she'd expected to encounter on the Earther's space station.
Slowly, without giving away any hint of her surprise or trepidation at seeing him, Terann turned to face the warrior.
"There were rumors…" Neroon began a hint of a sneer on his handsome face. "There were those who said you had taken your own life… in shame. It was something I'd expected out of a coward such as you. Seeing you here… this I did not expect."
As was Minbari custom, Terann kept her eyes focused on the floor, glad for the moment that she was required to do so. Had Alyt Neroon been able to see the hurt, he would have mocked her further. And that was something she could not accept.
"It is a good thing, for a warrior to be unpredictable," she replied finally, after a moment's though.
Neroon laughed without humor. "A warrior? You dare to call yourself a warrior?" He leaned toward her, bringing his face to within inches of hers. "Ones such as you only weaken our caste, bringing shame upon us all."
"I – "
"You hide behind the skirts of the Religious caste then wonder why you are shunned by those of your own kind?" Neroon interrupted his voice dangerously low. "You don't even have the right to call yourself Minbari."
Terann clenched her fists tightly at her sides as she willed herself not to react to his words. Do not let him see your weakness! A voice cried out in her mind. He would crush you mercilessly!
"I am Minbari," she answered steadily, pleased that her voice sounded so strong to her own ears. "I have no reason to be shamed. I have always made the right choices. I have always followed what my heart dictated."
"Is that what your Religious caste friends have told you?" Neroon asked, his eyes narrowing as if in consideration.
"No. It is the realization I have come to on my own. My self-imposed isolation gave me time to reflect, to see into my heart and understand myself."
At this, Terann dared to raise her eyes to his. "Perhaps you would benefit from doing the same."
Neroon raised his hand as if to strike her and Terann felt the wave of changing emotions as they washed over him but she refused to break eye contact, to back down. She was half his size, and if the warrior so chose it, he could easily snap her neck with a well-placed blow. It was something she understood implicitly, something she accepted as Fate, should the Universe have chosen to end her life there at Neroon's hand. She would not show fear; she certainly was not going to weaken her position by backing down now.
Surprise suffused her, though, when he did not strike her; it was the least she had expected from him for her insubordination. What stunned her even more was the fact that she could sense from him that he was pleased by her behavior. It was certainly not the reaction she knew to expect from a warrior who was not only respected, but also feared, by his own people. Terann knew that had spoken without thought to the consequences when she had suggested he reflect on his life. It had been involuntarily and without control over the strong emotions she had felt radiating from the Neroon himself. At this realization, she found herself studying him much more closely, reflecting on the reasons for the feelings she was sensing from him. Was it possible that he truly was dissatisfied with his place in life? It certainly was not a question she would ever be allowed to pose to him nor would she allow herself to actively scan him for the answer. Terann had made many mistakes in her life; purposely invading another's privacy was not one of them, nor would it ever be.
Neroon stepped back, though his gaze remained steady with her own."Delenn is to become Entil'zha," he told her after the silence had lengthened between them.
Caught off guard by the sudden change in conversation, Terann blinked in respond before finally nodding. "Yes. I have heard. The Rangers are gathering here on the Earther's station even now for the initiation ceremony."
She watched as the warrior's eyes narrowed. "And do you agree with this?"
Terann was careful in choosing her words. "Delenn is respected and revered by many. She is strong for being of the Religious caste. Dukhat believed in her."
"I asked if you agreed with this, Terann."
She took a breath, pausing a moment to reflect once more on her words before giving him an answer. "I have no quarrel with Delenn. I have not heard mention of any other whom those of the Anla'shok would willingly follow. So, yes, I believe that while she may not be the perfect choice, she is the right choice for now."
"Delenn thinks too much of herself!" Neroon snapped as he took a threatening step toward Terann. "She dared to break the Grey Council and now seeks power in a position that rightfully belongs to the Warrior caste! I do not see her as the right choice, Terann. And neither should you. She threatens our customs and culture by engraining us too deeply with the Humans. She seems to believe that she had been given some divine right to set herself as leader among our people. She is dangerous, Terann."
It was the vehemence in his voice that brought the realization as to Neroon's true purpose to Terann. She didn't need to feel his emotions.
"That is why you are here", she stated calmly, quietly. "You are here to challenge her position."
Neroon smiled thinly. "By any means necessary."
Terann thought of Lennier, and his obvious devotion to Delenn. She thought of the words spoken about Delenn by many among the Religious caste. She thought of the Anla'shok, and the rumors that had come to her during her self-imposed exile of their gathering, of their allegiance to the coming war against the darkness.
"They will stop you," she told him simply.
"They will try." Neroon shrugged. "I am Warrior caste, a fact that, unlike some, I have not forgotten."
He paused as if allowing a moment for his flippant insult to sink in. It was unnecessary; Terann had not missed it.
Continuing, he told her, "We must put an end to the weak Religious caste in their attempts to seek control in all positions of power. They seem to have forgotten who the leaders are among us, and who the followers are. They must be taught."
Neroon suddenly reached out, placing his hand atop Terann's head and forcefully pushing it down so that she once more gazed at the floor. "Remember that lesson, Terann. And perhaps – just perhaps – there might be hope for you yet."
Terann remained with her eyes to the ground for the next few moments until she no longer felt the warrior's presence in the vicinity. Slowly, she brought her head back up, staring at the space that Neroon had previously occupied. Of all the Minbari in existence, she wondered, why did she have to run into Neroon? In her mind, she quickly replayed the conversation between them – his openly stinging insults of her character, and his determination to prevent Delenn's title as Entil'zha. Terann understood implicitly that the only way to prevent her from taking on the position as the leader of the Anla'shok would be to kill her. Minbari did not kill Minbari as laid down by Valen over a thousand years ago. For Neroon to do so would mean not only a break in tradition, but a sweeping cataclysm throughout all of Minbar – it would bring about a civil war between the castes. It would destroy them.
She shook her head sadly. The petty infighting between the races throughout the galaxy would do little more than bring about their impending destruction that much more quickly.
It was a strange curiosity; where large groups of people gather, no matter the race or planet, information, often like disease, spreads like wildfire. Ta'Lon was convinced that in most cases, like disease, information could be just as lethal.
Babylon 5 was not unlike other outposts the Narn had frequented. The comings and goings of space travelers, the news and information they carried often flowed as freely as the credits they brought with them. The Earther's station was not unique in its spread of information; in fact, during these perilous times it formed an important part of the station's economy. Rumors abounded regarding everything from Centauri blockades, to political uprisings on the Earth colonies, to the rise of these strange Shadows he had heard tell of. While it was not uncommon for rumors to circulate amongst the Narn residents on Babylon 5, it was uncommon for Ta'Lon to place much stock in them. He believed himself to be far more reasonable, keeping faith in the things he could see and feel, not the petty rumblings that were an everyday occurrence.
And so it was, when word had reached him about the gathering of his people in a seedy part of Brown Sector, his initial reaction was to remain blissfully indifferent. Gatherings of this nature happened often, and with increasing frequency. The rumblings would circulate among the Narn population for a day, maybe two, then something would happen and silence would return until the cycle was set to begin again. The Narns were, or rather saw themselves, as a beaten people; a people who would happily latch onto anyone who offered them an escape from the suffering inflicted on their world by the Centauri. But alas, those assembled would often realize the futility of any action against their aggressors and would quickly move on.
Until the next time.
It saddened Ta'Lon to see his people clinging to anyone who would offer them salvation, when he knew, in his heart, that any freedom they hoped to gain would come only through Citizen G'Kar. The former ambassador was a being unlike any other. He would act, not for personal gain, but because the universe asked him to. It was this characteristic that had brought Ta'Lon to his side in the first place.
When the rumors of the impending assembly in Brown 2 not only refused to dissipate, but seemed to grow in intensity, Ta'Lon made certain he was invited. It was one of the many talents the Narn possessed; the ability to strategically place himself exactly where he needed to be, but in a way that no one would ever suspect his presence was out of place.
Now, glancing around the establishment known as Happy Daze, Ta'Lon confirmed the time. It would not do to be early; nor late. Doing so would only raise suspicion, and suspicion among a group of Narns was never a good thing. Finishing his drink, he slowly gathered his feet beneath him and slipped through the doorway. He was grateful, for a moment, that this part of Down Below, in particular, was a place many went to in order to avoid detection. More often than not, everyone was so busy blending in, that they took no notice of anyone around them. It was a vicious circle, but one he was only too happy, for a time, to be a part of.
Arriving at the appointed place, he rapped on the door, three times in quick succession, paused, and then rapped twice more. When the door reluctantly swung inward, the sigh of relief that escaped him was easily drowned out by the heavy groan of the door's hinges. Stepping through in silence, he followed the direction of the small, heavily scarred Narn serving as lookout. Ta'Lon doubted the male, a mere boy, had the strength or skill to hold back an intruder. However, what he may have lacked in size and experience, the boy had in bravery. Ta'Lon hated to believe it was due to the desperation he saw reflected in the boy's lifeless eyes.
As instructed, he followed the young Narn's direction, stepping aside loose conduits and power couplings as he made his way into an open area. He would not classify it as a room, so much as a space picked clean by lurkers.
From the sudden halt in the low rumble of various conversations, Ta'Lon assumed he had arrived just in time. Claiming an inconspicuous place at the rear of the group, he allowed himself a moment to take in the faces and names of those in attendance. Some he recognized as the usual trouble makers; those bent on causing any small amount of pain to the Centauri. He was however surprised to see a number of those present were heads of their families -- refugees seeking asylum on Babylon 5. His mottled brow furrowed. Ta'Lon had figured this was nothing more than the sounding off of another wanna-be revolutionary; clearly he had missed an important piece of the puzzle.
"My friends." A tall, stocky Narn stepped to the front of the assemblage. "It has come to our attention that a young woman -- one whose family has caused our own people great suffering -- has arrived here on the Earther's station."
Ta'Lon had to admit, the Narn before them was charismatic. His stance, his tone everything about him suggested a unifying voice and a strong leader.
Just the kind of person to have them all hanging from a jhawa tree, he thought fatalistically, turning his attention back to the speaker.
"Caderina Kyra has decided to grace us with her presence. She possesses no entourage, no bodyguards, no one to protect her…"
"But Da'Noth," a voice spoke from the middle of the group. "The penalty for killing a single Centauri is the death of 500 of our people."
"The Kyras have been responsible for the deaths of ten times that number of us!" Da'Noth snarled. "Their role in the slave trade alone has ensured that entire bloodlines have been eliminated."
"But is she not Human?" Another voice rose above the growing din.
"That shouldn't matter!" This time the Narn in question was the young male from the doorway. "I know what the Kyras are capable of. Anyone who would proudly carry that name is an enemy of the Narn people."
The cheers of agreement were beginning to rise above the naysayer's, and Ta'Lon felt there was little that could be done to slow the progression of things.
Of course, he knew of the family Kyra; all Narns grew up with the name uttered in both fear and hatred. But to even speak of harming one of them was unthinkable.
"Sheridan will protect her," a single voice of reason called out from the crowd, attracting the attention of the others.
"He's right." A female beside him agreed. "She is one of those… Rangers, I believe. I saw her only hours ago. I do not think she will be an easy prey."
"And we are?" Da'Noth demanded, causing the couple to recoil from his upset. "For too long, those like the Kyras have forced us to lick their boots. We have the opportunity to send a message --"
"And what message is that?" The question escaped Ta'Lon's lips before he could stop himself.
"Ta'Lon," Da'Noth declared stepping into the throng. "I would not have expected to see you here. You are a believer in inaction; you would rather play lapdog to the Centauri, then to show them true opposition."
"True opposition, you say," came the steady reply. "But at what cost? True opposition leads to gain. What you speak of will lead only to death. Yes, the Kyras are evil, but attacking one of them will only bring the wrath of their entire family upon us."
At this Da'Noth snorted derisively, turning to head back to the front of the gathering.
"If you won't choose not to do this for yourselves," Ta'Lon called out, "then do so for our people. Those still on Homeworld; those already suffering at the hands of the Kyras."
"Those already suffering at the hands of the Kyras would happily die than allow that Centauri bitch to live!"
As the cheers effectively smothered any additional dissention, Ta'Lon admitted a begrudged defeat. Certainly there were still those in attendance who agreed with him but their voices were slowly waning in number, and even if they had not, they did not belong to anyone strong enough to take on even the weakest of the assenters. Mind in turmoil, he once again used his gift to disappear from the chamber.
Moving as quickly as possible, Ta'Lon was eager to put some distance between himself and the meeting area. Da'Noth was a fool, but a fool that could easily inspire people to move in whatever direction he wanted. Had Da'Noth wanted them all to run off a cliff believing they could fly, Ta'Lon was certain, given the proper amount of time Da'Noth could convince them to do so.
And the Narn feared, without the help and guidance they surely needed, that was precisely where they were headed.
For all intents and purposes, the day for Ambassador Delenn had started out the same as any; a meeting with the Hyach ambassador, and then a quick lunch with Captain John Sheridan. It wasn't until her ambassadorial aide, Lennier, had brought her the list of newly arrived Minbari to the station, that she realized just how abnormal today was.
Normally, Lennier would provide her with a list of new arrivals from Minbar once or twice a week, depending on the volume. As the resident Minbari ambassador, she felt this gave her prior indication if issues were to occur. Recently, with the revelation of the telepaths' value against the Shadows, she found herself ever more eager when a Minbari telepath chose to visit the station. Unlike the telepaths of other races currently being recruited by station security, Minbari telepaths did not seek payment or reward for their services. After all, to her people it was their calling, and in many cases, the underlying reason for their arrival on Babylon 5.
Four telepaths had arrived from Minbari space in the last few days, and Delenn had made a note to approach each of them regarding the war before her eyes settled on the last name that was listed.
Now, making her way through Red Sector, Delenn quickened her pace. Lennier must have been mistaken in this. After all, Terann was not so uncommon a name. Yet Delenn was so surprised by the fact that the new arrival was a telepath, proclaiming to carry the rank of Alyt that she had not even stopped to confirm the family and clan.
It must be a mistake, she repeated to herself.
The Terann she recalled had spent much of her life aboard the Valen'tha, a child of the ship's first officer. If Delenn remembered correctly, it was Dukhat who had insisted that the girl remain aboard the ship as opposed to being fostered back on Minbar. While Delenn had served as an acolyte in service to the Religious caste members of the Grey Council, she met the young girl, and remembered her as quiet and reserved, yet eager to learn, never hesitating to question everything and everyone around her. Though born into the Warrior caste, Dukhat had encouraged Terann to learn from all three castes. It was just as common to find her studying the ancient texts in one of the ship's libraries, or listening to maintenance reports from the ship's engineers, as it was for her to be engrossed in the sparring of the warriors.
It was not until after the death of Dukhat that Terann had embraced her warrior heritage, serving the Grey Council as an intelligence officer. While the rest of the military remained unaware, there were many times during the war that Humans were taken as prisoners, and telepaths were sent in to scan them before execution. Terann had been there, at the Battle of the Line, when the order to surrender had been issued; and while she followed the order, Delenn was not convinced that Terann agreed with it. Delenn herself had looked to Dukhat as a mentor and friend, but Terann's connection to him went far beyond that. Dukhat had treated her as if she was his own child, and it had taken a long time for her to accept his death.
After the war, Terann had been kept close to the council, and despite the feelings of her caste, she eventually earned the rank of Alyt. She remained aboard the council's ship until almost two cycles ago, when Neroon had been inducted into the Grey Council, throwing off the balance between the castes as dictated by Valen. As a result, Terann resigned her commission and left the Valen'tha, much to the chagrin of her caste and clan. Rumors quickly spread regarding her disappearance. The Religious caste believed that she was in some form of self-imposed exile, while the Warrior caste preferred to maintain that she had committed suicide in dishonor.
Whatever the reason, Delenn could only guess at the repercussions, to say nothing of the reasons, for her arrival here. Even though the Grey Council had been broken, there were definitely those among all three castes who had a vested interest in Terann; or more precisely, what Terann knew.
Arriving at the quarters assigned to the young warrior, Delenn paused briefly before signaling her presence. Once the door slid open, allowing her entry, her breath caught in her throat, all doubt instantly erased.
Delenn found herself bowing automatically. The tone was more mature perhaps, calmer, but it was her appearance that confirmed the person before her was who she claimed to be.
Terann smiled. "You seem surprised that I am here."
"Yes." The ambassador nodded. "I had heard… There were rumors."
"Only rumors," the warrior confirmed as she extended her hand toward the couch. "May I offer you something?"
"No, thank you," Delenn replied. "I admit I am more curious than anything."
Delenn smiled at that. The Terann she knew before had definitely been more brash, her tone more akin to that of other warriors. This Terann seemed more at ease, as if her isolation had led to some great life changing epiphany.
"About?" Delenn paused. "You left with no explanation. Nothing. Not even to the Council. And now you've returned -- here of all places. It does raise some questions."
"There are no questions, Delenn," she said. "I am where I am supposed to be; where I am needed. When that changes, I shall leave again."
"Then for now, I am happy to see you again."
As a Minbari, Delenn would respect Terann's need for privacy despite her desire for answers. Perhaps she had spent too much time among aliens. Before being assigned to Babylon 5, Delenn would not have pried as much as she had just done but simply accepted Terann's appearance here as the universe at work.
Terann nodded at that, before saying, "Then you are not here because of that security officer, Zack Allen?"
"No." Delenn shook her head in confusion. "Why? Was there a problem?"
Terann's brow creased in thought. "No. Not entirely. He approached me regarding the war with the Shadows and, I am certain, due to the amount of information coming from the comm-unit, that he did not appreciate my answer."
"You refused to help then?" Delenn leaned forward in disbelief.
"I have to, Delenn." She shifted her eyes away uncomfortably.
"You are aware of the telepaths ability to slow the Shadows? You know how much you could help us. Telepaths of your ability -- "
"I know, Delenn." Terann paced around the room. She began to absently rearrange a stack of books.
"I'm not sure that you do," Delenn countered as she also rose to her feet. She took a deep breath, knowing to go on the defensive was not the way to convince the warrior. "We aren't going to win this war with divisions; we need every advantage we can get. Dukhat --"
"Do not invoke the name of Dukhat with me!" Terann spat, casting fiery eyes at her visitor.
Delenn took a step away from the anger focused before her. "I merely wished to mention the fact that I am sure Dukhat taught you, as he taught me, and would expect you to join in the fight."
Delenn wished Terann would face her if only to give her a better idea of how to proceed. Admittedly, she would be an invaluable source in the war against the Ancient Enemy. As Captain Sheridan had informed her over lunch, the recruitment of telepaths was moving slowly, and wading through the potential candidates was taking even longer. She could not understand Terann's hesitation; nor could she think of a way to convince her without broadening the gulf that had already been created between them. Terann had changed, that much was certain. What Delenn remained uncertain of was the extent of that change, and how difficult it would be to turn the telepath back to her way of thinking.
Before Delenn could move to make amends, Terann turned slowly back to her, speaking softly.
"Delenn, I wish I could offer you more. I hope you believe that. But you and I both know that sometimes the universe places us in a situation, and regardless of what our heart cries out for us to do, our responsibilities will not allow it. I have those responsibilities, and for now -- for right now -- the fight against the Shadows is not a part of them."
"Because of your caste?" Delenn asked, her eyes narrowing in accusation.
"I wish it were so simple," Terann replied sadly. "But no, my caste's failure to act is not mine. They had an obligation to act and they refused; as a result you broke the council. Be it for bad or for good, I still do not know. Only time will show whether you have aided, or cursed, our people."
"Very well," Delenn acquiesced. "While I may not know your reasons, I must respect that you have them."
Terann inclined her head with a smile. "Thank you, my friend."
Delenn followed suit before moving toward the door, stopping herself short when a thought came to mind. While Terann was adamant that she not directly involve herself in the war effort, there may still be something she could assist with while on Babylon 5. The Human Ranger, Cady Kyra, had sworn an oath against the Shadows, and while she was an accomplished fighter, having excelled in most of her training, her telepathic abilities remained untested. If she were to be sent out against the Shadows, to be used telepathically, she would need to be trained. And while there were telepaths among the instructors with the Anla'shok, in consideration of Cady's past, Delenn needed to be certain the one chosen to train her could handle the task.
"Terann," she called back. "Perhaps there is something you would consider doing for us… for me?"
"And that is?"
"There is a Human," Delenn began, "one of the Anla'shok. She is a telepath, but has never been trained."
"Then I suggest she be sent back to Minbar," Terann replied in dismissal.
"It's not so simple," Delenn answered, moving back to the couch, waiting for Terann to reclaim her own vacated seat. "Cady is not like the other Humans of the Anla'shok. After her mother's death, she was raised on Centauri Prime. Her adoptive family doted on her, of course, however they also forced their opinions of certain things upon her as well."
"The Narn, you mean."
"Yes," Delenn confirmed.
"I have seen the Ranger of which you speak. She came aboard around the same time I did. She is arrogant, and rude. She cares little for anything around her. I fear the Human you wish to see is not there, and that she is entirely Centauri."
Delenn lowered her eyes, her hands twisting in her lap. She raised them only when Terann added, "Is it because she is the child of the Human, Sinclair?"
"Partly." Delenn nodded after a brief pause. "I assured him I would look after her, should anything happen to him."
"Then do what is right," Terann implored her. "Send her back to Minbar. For that matter, if her attitude is that much of a concern, allowing her to remain among the Anla'shok may be equally unwise."
"I feel I need to offer her the chance," Delenn explained. "I think she has it in herself to be more like her father. We need to help her see past her upbringing."
"Again I apologize," Terann responded, and though the words were spoken, the sincerity seemed flat, forced, as if there was more to her decision than Delenn could see.
Delenn wanted to press further, but Terann rose to her feet, adding, "My time here is to be occupied elsewhere. Training someone who, in my opinion, should not have been allowed to leave Minbar is not something I have either the time, or inclination, for."
"There is more. Something I had hoped to avoid revealing."
This brought Terann's gaze back to hers. Delenn stood, taking her turn to move uncomfortably about the room. "Before arriving on Minbar, Cady spent some time traveling around the galaxy; seeking passage to one planet or another. I think she was looking for herself; or rather what she thought was herself. She never traveled to Earth, afraid the Psi Corps would catch up with her."
"And her father?" Terann asked.
Delenn shook her head. "It wasn't until Cady arrived on Minbar that Sinclair even knew he had a daughter. Cady's mother was a registered telepath, and once she discovered she was pregnant, she fled Psi Corps, never settling anywhere long enough to allow Cady a real childhood. Before her death, she fell upon the graces of a Centauri couple, and asked them to raise Cady. What life she had before was effectively taken from her by her new family and for the most part, Cady never questioned her past. She honestly believed herself to be happy."
At this, Delenn paused, formulating the words carefully in her mind. She had sworn to both Cady, and Jeffery Sinclair that she would not reveal any more about the young Ranger than was required, and then only to those who needed to know. Cady was going to have enough trouble adjusting to life aboard the station without Delenn inadvertently adding to it. But as it was, she saw no other option. If she was to convince Terann to take on this assignment, it would be only through a sense of urgency. A need for compassion did not seem to be something Terann would respond to.
"What I am about to tell you, I must ask that you keep entirely to yourself," Delenn instructed. When Terann nodded, the Ambassador continued. "En route to Minbar, her ship was attacked, and weeks later she was found in a life pod."
Confusion flashed across Terann's expression. "How did she survive for so long?"
"When she arrived on Minbar, we assumed it was merely to meet her father; however, over the course of the first few weeks of training, we began to notice things about her. She eventually gathered the courage to confide in her father about her disappearance."
"The Shadows," Terann responded, her voice heavy with reverence.
Delenn nodded. "Cady admitted to Sinclair that while she has always possessed some telepathic ability, her skills were very limited. Over the course of her first few months on Minbar, these abilities grew, leading both Cady and Sinclair to conclude that something significant had happened during her lost month."
"Delenn, I can not believe you are asking me to help train someone who could quite easily turn out to be an agent of the Shadows!"
Delenn shook her head determinedly. "We have no proof that Cady is under the control of anyone other than herself. She has proven herself invaluable since joining the Anla'shok. I trust her, as Sinclair did."
Delenn moved to place a reassuring hand on Terann's arm. "I would not ask this of you, if I did not truly feel it was for the right reasons. If the Shadows can control her, perhaps we should arm her to fight back. I believe she can be a great benefit to us."
Terann stood, moving away from the ambassador, seemingly deep in thought. Delenn watched silently, trying to discern the response she would receive. The ambassador had meant what she said; she trusted Cady and despite what, if anything, the Shadows had done to her, she believed she would work with the Army of Light and not against it. Yet as Terann's silence continued, Delenn shifted uneasily. Though she was certain she could find someone else to train Cady, she may have made a mistake in revealing all that she did regarding the Ranger.
Only when Terann turned back and said, "Very well, Delenn, I will do as you ask," did Delenn let go of the breath she had not known she was holding.
"Thank you," Delenn replied with a gracious nod. "I will leave her in your capable hands."
"Of course," Terann remarked. "However, I will train her only long enough to ensure she is no longer a threat to herself or anyone around her. I worry about her attitude, and worry more about what influence the Shadows may have over her. For now, I am placing a great deal of trust in your faith in her."
"That is all I can ask," Delenn replied, hoping the sudden wave of doubt she felt was due to second thoughts, and not a sign of something to come.
The room that Delenn had secured for Cady in Blue Sector wasn't quite what she'd been used to growing up back on Centauri Prime, but surprisingly it was more spacious and ornate than what she'd become accustomed to on Minbar. The monthly allowance the Kyras provided her with would keep her in relative splendor while she was on Babylon 5, a small bit of good fortune she wasn't about to take for granted. It was large enough for one person, and contained a comfortable bed, a small kitchen area and lounge, as well as a desk and chair, a sizeable closet and private bathroom. It was definitely more than she'd enjoyed during her Ranger training, where they were all taught how to go without.
"Materialistic items cause too much of a distraction from yourself," Sech Turval would say. "The universe is constantly at work to make ourselves forget who we are, and why we are here."
The first items she removed from her bag were the pieces needed to construct her triluminary. It was an altar of sorts, meant for reflection and reverence toward Valen, something she'd been taught to observe during her Ranger training. While the Minbari may not be as eccentric as the Centauri in the amount of religious figures they worshipped (Cady had yet to remember the name of every Centauri god), they certainly made up for a lack of gods in their many rituals. There were rituals for every moment in life, for every decision made, for every celebration or change in the weather. At times, she was surprised there wasn't a ritual for the simple act of breathing (for all she knew, there was, and she just hadn't learned it yet). Luckily, since she was not actually a Minbari, nor a member of the Religious caste, she hadn't been forced to learn all of them.
In all honesty, Cady didn't believe in any of it anyway. The Centauri gods she'd grown up knowing because the Kyra home had been filled with them – idols covering every free inch of space, some beautiful in their carving, others absolutely horrifying, especially to a young child. She figured those were meant to scare children into behaving anyway. While the religious icons in Minbari religion made a little more sense to her, there was still no foundation there that Cady actually found herself believing in. Valen had created Minbari society as it was known today, but she really didn't see a reason for worshipping him over it. After all, he was just a Minbari like any other Minbari, and that whole "not born of Minbari" bit had more than likely been made up just to make him more mysterious than he was.
Cady sometimes wondered if there wasn't some great piece of information out there that everyone else had but her. That if perhaps, she found something to believe in, then she'd come to understand what the rest of the universe seemed to understand already. As it was, she didn't believe in any great and all-powerful being turning the wheels of the universe; she didn't believe in Fate; she didn't believe in any single person, or even any intrinsic thought. More often than not, Cady found herself wondering if maybe she didn't exist, either. It would explain a lot.
Once settled, her few belongings unpacked, she decided to take a moment to acquaint herself with the station since it looked as if she would remain there indefinitely if Delenn had anything to say about it. Aside from an odd encounter with a Minbari at the core shuttle docking area, and one too many run-ins with the local Narn population, she hadn't really had a chance to discover what the inhabitants of Babylon 5 were like. She knew she could likely set an appointment with Delenn's ambassadorial aide, Lennier, and have him show her around and introduce her, but she much preferred taking that upon herself. Cady really hoped that she would have the chance to reacquaint herself with some of the other Rangers she'd come to know during training.
It took her a few minutes to locate the route to the central marketplace, known as the Zocalo, on the station map but once she was certain she wouldn't get lost, Cady took the first transport tube she could find and made her way toward the center of the station. It was almost midday when she arrived, and the Zocalo was filled with tourists, station personnel grabbing a late lunch at one of the two restaurants, and trades people bartering for the various goods at the shops and carts that lined the walls. It had been more than three years since she'd been in the center of so much commotion – and the last time she'd visited a busy marketplace, the presence of others hadn't had much of an effect on her. On Minbar, things were always peaceful, even in the center of their capital cities. Here though, chaos seemed to reign. Cady could feel the steady drum of another headache building behind her temples. She silently began reciting Minbari poetry in an attempt to focus her mind on other things.
When the throbbing grew to be too much for her to handle, Cady slid into a chair on the edge of a restaurant called the Eclipse Café, and pressed her fingers against the bridge of her nose. Leaving her quarters had apparently been a bad idea; she wasn't even certain if she could make it back. It was growing increasingly difficult to keep the sounds out, to repress the images that flashed through her mind. Nausea swept through her.
"Are you ill?"
Cady glanced up at the question, her vision momentarily blurred, and she instantly recognized the Narn as the same who had accosted her in the transport tube earlier. Was there no escape?
"No," she replied stiffly, getting quickly to her feet. She swayed unsteadily as the voices swirled through her mind, briefly blacking her vision. Cady felt the Narn reach out to support her and immediately recoiled from his touch.
She knew who he was, of course; G'Kar, former ambassador to Narn and the last of the Narn ruling body, the Kha'Ri. There were more than a few Centauri angered over the sanctuary offered to him on Babylon 5 when he rightly should have been returned to Narn when the war ended, so that he could have been tried for his many crimes against the Centauri Republic. Cady wanted to tell him who she was; she wanted to flaunt her family name in his face, just to see him cringe in fear but, for the moment, her condition was preventing her from properly presenting herself.
"I merely wish to offer my assistance," he commented as she carefully maneuvered herself on the opposite side of the table between them. "You appear to be in a great deal of distress."
"Only due to your presence, Narn." She faltered slightly as another sharp stab echoed through her head.
"Ah. I see." The confusion in his tone clearly indicated otherwise, but Cady felt too sick at the moment to care. "Perhaps I should contact MedLab for you – "
"I will look after her," someone commented to Cady's right.
She glanced over to find the Minbari telepath who had invaded her mind earlier, stepping up beside her. Cady found herself wondering if maybe this wasn't the smallest space station ever and the entire population was all in her mind. There were apparently only three people truly in existence – herself, the Minbari and, unfortunately, Citizen G'Kar.
"I don't need looking after," she muttered, attempting to stand up straight and move away.
"I believe that you do," the Minbari countered quietly. "Do not be foolish. An untrained mind as strong as yours obviously is cannot handle this chaos surrounding us."
"You are a telepath?" She heard the Narn question her, the slightest hint of awe in his tone.
"Is there any specific reason you're still here?" Cady snapped at him. "Other than to annoy me, I mean."
She watched in satisfaction as he seemed to draw himself up at her words, give them both a stiff bow, and then move away to disappear into the crowd.
"I see that you are as unskilled in your aptitude to make friends as you are in controlling your abilities," the Minbari remarked.
Cady frowned, and the action caused her head to ache more. "The last thing I would ever desire in this life, or any other, would be to make friends with a Narn."
"The Centauri attitude does not suit you," the Minbari telepath told her. "The teachings of childhood are not always teachings of truth."
Hand pressed once more to her temple, Cady asked, "What do you know of it? Or me, for that matter?"
"Much more than you seem to believe, Cady Kyra," came the reply. "Delenn has asked that I train you to control your psi abilities, and in this task, I have agreed -- if only to prevent you from harming others. I am Alyt Terann. And I would advise you to accept my assistance, instead of allowing your childish pride to get in the way."
Cady's obstinacy pushed its way to the forefront, and she almost blurted an extremely unkind and horribly rude retort. Unfortunately, if the order to train under this Minbari came from Entil'zha, then she had little recourse but to do as she was told. She feared delving anymore deeply into the abilities of her mind, and the changes that had occurred within her over the last year. She wondered if the telepath knew the truth, and decided that Delenn would not have sent her otherwise. Apparently, her secret wasn't to remain as such for long. With a sigh, she gave a nod of acquiescence.
"Good," Terann acknowledged as Cady refrained from opposing her.
She felt the Minbari slip her arm around her waist, lending far more support than the petite female's build suggested. The top of Terann's head barely reached Cady's chest. All Minbari were deceptively strong, though, and this particular Minbari's dress and title suggested she was of the Warrior caste, all of whom were even stronger.
"Allow me to assist you to your quarters, Ranger Kyra."
Cady nodded quietly, forcing herself to accept the help whether her pride railed at her for doing so or not. She felt a slight bit of pressure move through her mind, and glanced quickly at the female beside her. Slowly, the pain in her temples began to subside.
"I am not invading your mind," Terann commented, obviously aware of her suspicions. "I am only providing the necessary blocks to keep the commotion around us out. It would have been easier on Minbar for your mind to remain at peace. Rangers are only ever gathered in small groups, and then you would have had only two distinct forms of races to deal with. Here, alien minds surround you; you will learn that many project emotions and thoughts much more strongly than those of either Human or Minbari. Compared to some, our minds, for the most part, are at rest."
"Great." Cady sighed. "Trial by fire."
Terann nodded. "In a manner of speaking, yes. It will be difficult but it will also be the best way for you to learn, and learn quickly if you are to assist in the battle against the Shadows."
Cady tensed at her words. "I take it Delenn… told you."
"Yes." Terann glanced sideways at her. "If you are to control the abilities you possess, then you must learn to conquer your fears as well."
"Easier said then done."
They reached the transport tube and Terann helped her inside, allowing her to lean against the back wall before calling out for Blue Six. Terann turned back to Cady, regarding her silently for a moment, and she wondered what the Minbari was thinking. She began to grow terribly uncomfortable under the frank gaze, until Terann finally spoke.
"Perhaps," she began. "But, whatever the enhancements made to you may be the key is that you are the one who is still in control. If you learn your own strength, and learn to believe in that strength, then your destiny will remain in your hands. Otherwise… "
Cady shifted uneasily, feeling better, standing of her own accord. "Otherwise?" she prompted after another moment.
"Otherwise, the Shadows will have the ability to use the advantage they created within you."
"Well, you're just a ball of sunshine, aren't you, Terann?"
"Alyt Terann," she corrected without a hint of humor. "And the Shadows are no joking matter, as I am certain you are aware, Ranger Kyra. If you truly wish to stand up to them, to retain your identity," she paused briefly before adding, "to live through this, then I suggest you take heed of my words very carefully."
The transport came to a stop, and as the doors opened, Terann stepped out into the hall, not waiting for the Human to join her. Cady watched for a moment before following, thinking all the while that suddenly the Narn's presence seemed preferable to what she feared was to come.
Captain John Sheridan, ranking commander of the Babylon station, glanced over the reports in his hands, his frown increasing with each turn of the page. The war wasn't looking very good for the Army of Light; in fact, aside from the brief appearance by the Vorlons at his behest, they'd had no victories since. At least with the addition of telepaths, they would be able to begin to hold their own, but Sheridan was searching for another solid victory. Another chance to prove to the League of Non-Aligned Worlds that winning this war was a distinct possibility – they just had to dig in, hold on and believe. Sheridan refused to accept that there ever existed such a phenomenon as an unbeatable opponent; this belief was at the core of his military strategy, and always had been. They'd already proven that the Shadows could be destroyed; now they just needed to figure out a way to do so on a much larger scale. The war was escalating, and they needed to prepare.
"Deep in thought as usual, I see."
Turning at the sound of Delenn's voice, Sheridan felt a smile cross his face before he could stop it. She was the one bright light in his world at the moment; the single thing that could make him forget his troubles, forget the war, and just bask in the realization that the universe was still filled with beauty and tranquility. Delenn was all of those things and more.
"It's difficult to stop thinking anymore," he admitted as he reached out to take her hand in his and give it a small squeeze. "I fear that if I do, I'll miss something crucial to the battles to come in the days ahead."
"Or, if you think too hard, you might miss the most simplistic answer because you're so focused on the details."
Sheridan smiled begrudgingly. "I'm counting on that not happening."
Setting the reports down, he started over to the large table positioned in the center of the room just as the transport doors opened and council members G'Kar and Ivanova entered. Marcus and Garibaldi, entering from the opposite side of the room, soon joined them. As he took his seat, Sheridan glanced up at the woman beside him, watching as she greeted each of their friends with a smile and warm word.
"So, what is this meeting that you've called all about, Delenn?"
She looked down at him, her smile growing at his apparent impatience. "I thought I would at least wait until everyone was situated before beginning but it appears that you are unable to wait quite that long," she teased.
Sheridan made a face, sighing loudly before flashing a quick smile in response.
Returning her attention to the others, Delenn told them, "Thank you all for coming on such short notice. When I returned from Minbar this morning, I felt that it was most important that I inform you of a decision I have made with regards to our continued war with the Shadows. As some of you may have heard, I have been selected to take Sinclair's position as leader of the Anla'shok. Along with this new title, I have been handed a responsibility that I will ask you all now to take up along with me."
"Okay, now you're just being downright cryptic," Garibaldi remarked with a grin.
"I apologize." Delenn smiled as she tucked her skirt beneath her and sat down in the chair next to Marcus. "As you all know, Sinclair has left us, moving on to fulfill the destiny he was born to. What you do not know is that he has left behind his daughter, a Ranger named Cady."
While Sheridan was surprised at the information, he knew it was nothing compared to the shock that was currently registering across his security chief's face. Michael and Jeff had been close friends for many years, and it was obviously apparent that Garibaldi had no prior knowledge of Cady's existence. He muttered a soft string of curses under his breath but was careful not to fully interrupt Delenn as she continued.
"We mustn't blame Sinclair for keeping this from us, as he only discovered it himself a short year ago, after becoming Entil'zha," she explained. "Cady was the result of a brief, young love affair he had with a registered telepath named Soria Campbell. When Soria discovered she was pregnant, she fled the Psi Corps, determined to protect her unborn child. Sinclair did not know the reason for her disappearance, and being that he was young himself, never bothered to look into it."
"I can't imagine what it must be like to discover something like that after so many years," Susan Ivanova commented with a shake of her head. "To know that you've lost so many years with your own child."
Delenn nodded in agreement, and Sheridan could sense instantly that she had come to care for Sinclair's daughter in some fashion, perhaps feeling the responsibility to look after her now that he was gone.
"Sinclair was shocked at her sudden appearance in his life, though not quite as deeply as he was when he heard the story of how her mother traveled through the galaxy in an attempt to outrun Psi Corps. Their flight came to an end, though, barely five years after Cady's birth when her mother became ill while on a small outpost, and passed beyond the veil. Before her death, she found a childless couple willing to take Cady in as their own and raise her. They were Centauri, of the House Kyra."
After their involvement the last year with the Narn-Centauri war and the Centauri's resulting occupation of the Narn homeworld, those gathered around the table knew the Kyra name. The Kyras were best known for their massive market of buying and selling Narn slaves, and the work camps that had been set up under Lord Kyra's direction on Homeworld. Hundreds of thousands of Narns had either died of unsanitary conditions or abusive treatment at the hands of the guards who patrolled the work camps. Only those in charge of the culling of entire villages of the Narn population were more hated and reviled than the House Kyra. Many glances slid toward G'Kar until Delenn continued speaking.
"Cady spent the following fifteen years of her life under Centauri influence before heading out three years ago in search of her biological father, who she had little more than a photo of to go by. Her search eventually led her to Minbar, to her father, and to the Rangers. She trained under Sinclair until his leaving three months ago, and now I have returned here with her, with a promise that she will join us in our war against the Shadows."
"I believe I have met with Miss Kyra," G'Kar remarked after a moment, and something in the tone of his voice caused Sheridan to grow concerned. "Our encounter left me… curious as to her loyalties."
Sheridan caught Delenn's gaze, noting the worry that creased her brow.
"Did she insult you?" Delenn asked softly.
"It is not important," he replied with a small smile. "I believe, with your words, that I have a greater understanding of the woman I met."
"I apologize for anything she might have said to you, G'Kar."
He shook his head. "There is no need, Delenn."
Sheridan was fairly certain that G'Kar wasn't telling them the whole truth but he had come to know the Narn well enough over the past two years to understand that he preferred to fight his own battles. While Sheridan might feel the need to protect G'Kar from Centauri prejudice, he knew that it was that last thing the former Narn ambassador would ever desire in return.
"Just the same," Sheridan caught Delenn's gaze. "I'd suggest you have a little chat with our new Ranger, and let her know exactly what behavior is and is not tolerated on this station."
Delenn nodded in acquiescence and just as Sheridan was certain G'Kar was about to argue, he quickly turned them back to topic. "This is great news, Delenn, but I guess I'm confused as to why this was important enough to call a council meeting. We can always use more help, but as of this morning, there are dozens of Rangers joining us."
Letting out a soft breath, Delenn slowly stood, brow furrowed, as she seemed to consider her next words. "There's more to Cady's story. More that, until now, I had promised her I would keep as a secret. Unfortunately, this information can no longer remain so closely guarded if we are to win this war.
"A little more than a year ago," Delenn began. "Cady was passenger on a shuttle that was believed to have been destroyed, along with everyone onboard. A month later, a life pod was discovered by a Drazi freighter, not far from Z'ha'dum. It carried Cady, unconscious, but alive."
Sheridan shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He knew he had to trust Delenn, and hoped that she was going somewhere with all of this, but at the moment, all he could concentrate on was the fact that, apparently, another agent of the Shadows was aboard his station. And Delenn had deliberately brought this one to Babylon 5.
"Once she realized she was well enough to continue her travels, Cady made her way to Minbar, to continue her search for her father," Delenn continued. "Shortly after getting to know one another, the truth came out. Sinclair had questioned his daughter about any telepathic abilities she may carry within her – after all, her mother was rated as a P12 telekinetic through Psi Corps. It only made sense that Cady would harbor within her some ability as well.
"Sure enough, she admitted to possessing such traits, but she was untrained. Her mother had died before she was old enough to learn to control her abilities, and she had been cautioned to never reveal her telepathy to anyone."
Taking a brief pause, Delenn moved away from her seat to circle the table, as she returned to the telling of her story. "Just when Sinclair thought there was nothing left to tell, Cady informed him of the destruction of the shuttle, and the month of time that seemed lost from her memory. When he couldn't be any more certain that she had been taken in by the Shadows, she told him… she told him that since being found by the Drazi, she had begun to notice… changes in her telepathic abilities."
"Changes?" Sheridan couldn't stop himself from asking. "What kind of changes?"
Delenn shook her head. "I do not know, John. On this, Sinclair was not very forthcoming. He said only that Cady must be the one to reveal what has been done to her, and no other. From what I understand, the telepathic abilities that had manifested in her at a very young age were odd enough that her mother continually feared for her life. Whatever… enhancements may have been made in her at the hands of the Shadows have only increased this."
Sheridan took a moment to count to ten. For all intents and purposes, Delenn had just admitted to allowing someone who could prove to be an extremely dangerous weapon onto the station. It was rare that he ever found him disagreeing with her, but in this, he couldn't begin to understand her thinking.
Apparently, Garibaldi was thinking along the same lines. "You mean to tell me that besides having this Mr. Morden creeping around our station with his Shadow pals, we've got what amounts to a ticking time bomb who, for all we know, could take out this entire station with a thought?"
Turning back to the table, concern flashing through her eyes, Delenn quickly shook her head. "No, that is not what I'm saying at all. Please understand, we don't know what, if anything, the Shadows did to her. We only know that there is a month missing from her life. Our own Healers looked her over, cleared her of any manipulation that they could discover. She's been on Minbar, training and serving as a Ranger for the last year. Sinclair trusted and believed in her as much as any of the others, and so do I."
"I've trained with her," Marcus commented, adding his assurance to Delenn's. "Haven't had much chance to speak with her but I certainly never noticed anything different about her. Nothing to let on that she was a Shadow agent. Not that she ever let on that she was a telepath, for that matter."
"I don't like this." Ivanova caught Sheridan's gaze. "There are too many questions surrounding her and too many dangers. To start with, she's a 'blip'. If Psi Corps finds out about her, they'll be all over this place, and you know it. If she's really as powerful as Sinclair was hinting, they aren't going to let that go." She looked up at Delenn. "Add to that the belief that most of her ability was enhanced by the Shadows, that they may very possibly be in control of her at this very moment, and I have to ask why you thought it was a good idea to bring her here, Delenn?"
Delenn nodded, her eyes moving over each of them for a long, silent moment as if she knew she had a fight ahead of her. She let out a soft breath, and slowly began the walk back to her seat.
"It was Sinclair's belief, and mine as well, that Cady could prove to be a valuable asset in our war."
Sheridan couldn't help but chuckle, even if he didn't find what she said to be remotely amusing. "I'd sure like to know how you came to that conclusion, Delenn."
"If we can learn what has been done to her, study it, teach her how to control it, then it's very possible that we can use those very enhancements the Shadows created within her to beat them." She retook her seat, glancing across the table at Sheridan. "It's a great risk, yes, but one I believe we should be willing to take. We know now how the Shadows react to telepaths, and while they may have enhanced Cady in an effort to attempt to use a telepath for their own means, I cannot imagine that their arrogance in accomplishing such a feat could not be used against them."
The table grew silent, and Sheridan found himself considering her words, even if it was against his better judgment. He had yet to see any good that had come out of the things the Shadows had done, and whether or not this Cady was the child of Sinclair, and hence, a child of Valen, he couldn't imagine that she would be any different. His thoughts were interrupted by G'Kar.
"Pardon me for asking, Delenn," the Narn began in that quiet, reflective voice of his. "But I cannot help but feel that what you are suggesting – that we use Ranger Kyra in our war against the Ancient Enemy – is no different than what the Shadows created her for with their own purpose. Does that not make us any worse than they are?"
Delenn nodded slightly in acknowledgment of his words. "Perhaps there is a glimmer of truth to what you are saying, G'Kar. But, I would not go through with this without Cady's full cooperation. I explained to her my intent when I asked her to join us, and she made her own decision to come."
Garibaldi snorted. "Of course she did! If they're controlling her – "
"I do not believe that they are, and in this, you will simply have to trust me," Delenn countered. "I believe that the Shadows, with their belief in their own innate superiority, are waiting for the perfect moment in which to use her. It is my hope that by then, with the proper training, Cady will be able to withstand their control, and fight back."
"Proper training?" The security chief repeated in disbelief. "Last time I checked, none of us were qualified to train telepaths. And I think Lyta has enough of her own problems with the new Vorlon ambassador."
"Yes, I have already taken this into consideration, and I have found the perfect candidate for her instruction," Delenn explained. "It took some convincing, but I know this telepath very well. Her name is Alyt Terann; she is a member of the Warrior caste, and would likely rate as a very high P12 were she to be tested. She has agreed to teach Cady, so that she may be able to control whatever the Shadows may have done to her."
"I don't know, Delenn." Sheridan shook his head as he leaned forward on the table. "There are a lot of 'if's' in your proposition. I hate the idea of putting anyone in unnecessary danger."
"You know I would never do that," she responded quietly, and he felt a little guilty for even suggesting it. She moved her gaze around the table. Meeting each pair of eyes individually. "Please, don't just take my word for it. I encourage you to meet with Cady at your leisure, talk with her, and decide for yourself her ability to help us. I ask that you do not pass judgment until then.
"I'm not so certain. G'Kar's met her and she didn't leave much of an impression on him."
G'Kar chuckled. "Oh, trust me, Mr. Garibaldi. She most certainly did make an impression. As a matter of fact, it looks very much like a bull's-eye."
There were a few laughs at his remark, though Sheridan still rankled at the thought of this Ranger Kyra treating G'Kar so callously. Apparently, Delenn was still concerned as well.
"I do apologize again for her treatment of you, G'Kar. It was uncalled for."
He waved a hand in dismissal. "Do not trouble yourself, Delenn. Now that I have a better understanding of her behavior, I will endeavor to change her mind about my people."
"And how do you plan to do that?" Ivanova questioned.
"Why, with my stunning good looks and charming personality, Commander," G'Kar smiled.
Those gathered around the table erupted into laughter.
It never ceased to amaze Captain John Sheridan, that regardless of what showed on the stations chronometers, the station itself kept little mind of the time. It could be mid-afternoon, early evening or the wee hours of the morning and one would be hard pressed to tell. Despite the station keeping with the standard 24 hour day of Earth, many of the aliens had little or no regard for this; only caring when it meant missing an appointment or a departing transport. It was probably the constant bustle that reminded the Captain just how different this assignment was from the others. During his career, he had served on military outposts, warships – both in peace and wartime – yet none compared to Babylon 5. Aboard a ship, there were certainly those areas that were constantly manned; however others were often a place of solitude, or quiet recreation, where one could get away for some downtime. Babylon 5, he thought with a smile, did not seem to ever have any downtime. Instead it always seemed to on the go, like a child given too many sweets. It was often said that the station had a life of its own, and Sheridan felt he need go no further than the Zocalo to see this for himself. Today, it was late-afternoon, too early for the dinner he had scheduled with Delenn; he'd decided to take a walk through the station's marketplace. He still marveled at the variety of vendors, the diversity of their goods and how well they came together. It was the fresh produce that drew the Captain here. On a warship fresh fruits and vegetables were impossible, on colonies a rarity, but thanks to the hydroponics bay, and the steady stream of imports to the station, the variety here could only be match by that of a planet. That was until the embargo back home.
While he was always eager to try some of the alien grown product, he longed for those from earth. In the beginning it was difficult to notice the subtle changes in what the human vendors carried, but as time wore on the variety dwindled, and in some cases the shop-owners were forced to close for good. It was saddening, but also a situation that barring a miracle was not going to be resolved anytime in the near future.
Moving through the Zocalo he found himself likening the station, and his position aboard it, as an interstellar city, with him, in many regards, acting as mayor. When he'd walk through the marketplace, people would recognize him. Perhaps it was the uniform – the replacement given to him by Delenn shortly after their succession from earth – now as familiar as any issued by Earthforce. However, he liked to think it was more than that; that perhaps it was the sign of a good commander. While many in the crowd nodded a greeting at him, or even dared a soft "hello" none openly approached him. For reasons unbeknownst to him, they respected his need for privacy, as if they instinctively knew he was off duty and was not in any position to resolve whatever issue it was they may otherwise approach him with.
It was this that caused him to startle when he heard a voice address him. He turned in the direction of the speaker and found himself face to face with what could very well be the smallest Minbari warrior he had ever seen. Granted she was female; those of her caste he had had experience with were male and most likely at least twice her size. However this warrior appeared no larger than the females he knew from the Religious caste. Her deceptively small size was matched by her equally deceptively placid expression. The captain, of course, knew to take nothing, especially in regards to the Minbari, for granted.
"May I help you?" he asked pleasantly, hiding his mild annoyance at the intrusion.
"Captain, I am Alyt Terann," she saluted him as is customary for her caste. "I believe Delenn may have mentioned me."
"Yes," he said with a smile. Out of habit he stuck out his hand, a very human gesture and one he could have kicked himself for the moment he did it.
She looked at the proffered hand briefly, seemingly confused by its presences, before clumsily shaking it. The instant her gloved hand touched his, he noticed her eyes widen accompanied by a sharp intake of breath. The temporary lapse, however, in her demeanor lasted only a second and she quickly replaced it with the apparent indifference he was accustomed to when dealing with Minbari. Deciding not to dwell on it, he gestured for her to walk with him before he continued. "You are the telepath she has asked to help train Cady Kyra."
"That is correct," she confirmed. "And this is the reason I have approached you."
"There isn't a problem, is there?"
"No." She shook her head. "Not a problem so much as a concern."
Sheridan stopped walking briefly, turning to face her. "Perhaps you should speak to Delenn."
"My first thought was to," she admitted. "However, despite Cady being of the Anla'shok, Delenn is not yet Entil'zha, and though it is imminent that she will assume command of the Rangers, I do not believe she is the best one for me to voice my concerns to.
"This is your station, your command which is why I came to you in the first place. Cady, is also Human, and as you are the voice of the Earther's here, this also places her under your jurisdiction. It is for these reasons that I have come to you."
Sheridan took a moment to take this in, realizing how difficult it was for the Minbari to come to him for help. Had she had any other outlet, he was convinced she would have sought it. Coming to a small table situated against a wall he took a seat, indicating for her to do so as well. Once seated, he spoke.
"I admit I have reservations as well. There are a great many unknowns when it comes to Ms. Kyra. How much time have you spent with her?"
"Very little," she said. "Once when I first arrived and she behaved in a manner more becoming of a Centauri than a Ranger, and again during our first training session. She is unskilled and poorly equipped to deal with her abilities."
"Then you are convinced the Shadows have altered her?" he asked almost dreading the response.
Terann nodded. "There is definitely something dark there; something perhaps even Cady is unaware of. While I do not doubt her having possessed some latent abilities since her youth, what I have seen in our short time together leads me only to conclude that something has been done to her."
Sheridan was thoughtful for a moment, his mind whirling at the possibilities of this confirmation they had all feared. "Do you know of the extent of the modifications?"
"We d…" Terann cleared her throat. "I do not know. I did not do anything more than show her how to erect a block, something so that she is at least functional on this station. I feared digging too far, or asking her to use too much of her ability would trigger something terrible."
Sheridan nodded in agreement. "Until we are sure what it is we are dealing with, I am suggesting you do little more that."
The warrior smiled slightly. "That was my conclusion as well. I was unsure how far you wished me to take my training with her."
"What has Delenn said?"
With a slight shake of her head, she answered, "She has given me complete autonomy in regards to Cady. This is partly why I have come to you for guidance. I do not wish to overstep any bounds you may wish to set. This is, after all, your war and she is potentially an agent of your enemy."
"But how do you feel about this?"
Terann appeared thoughtful as if carefully formulating her words. Finally she said, "I believe it is the Humans who have a saying 'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer'. Out of necessity I believe it is important that we learn everything we can about the Shadows' connection to Cady. If we cast her out she becomes an unknown, and that is infinitely more dangerous than allowing her to stay among us."
"Letting her stay here could be just as bad," Sheridan reminded her.
"In this you are correct, and I have a suggestion that may ensure we retain an advantage."
For some reason, Captain Sheridan felt himself bristle. It was something in the telepath's tone that made him unsure he wished to hear what she proposed. While he fully understood the need for caution where Cady Kyra was concerned, he did not want to impede upon the rights he believed all sentient beings to be deserving of. Finally, after a few moments spent in silence he urged Terann to continue.
"I can implant a command; something you would call a kill-switch."
"A kill-switch?" he demanded, recoiling back in his seat.
"It is not as horrid as you think," she assured him. "Simply a command I would plant in her subconscious, something that could only be triggered by a telepathic signal."
"And once it is triggered?" he asked. "What then?"
"It would simply shut her down."
"You mean kill her."
Terann smiled shaking her head. "No Captain, I do not wish her dead… yet. It will simply shut down her psionic abilities, effectively cutting off any connection she may have with the Shadows."
"And how long would it shut her down?" he asked.
"Permanently," she responded without batting an eye. "For all intents and purposes it will be as if she were born head-blind."
Sheridan signed heavily, honestly considering what she was suggesting. Surprisingly, he sensed the telepath's concern was genuine; that she would do as she proposed only to ensure the safety of others. It also suggested to him that she considered Cady a far greater threat than either he or Delenn had originally believed. It was a sobering thought and one he forced himself to consider being a very real possibility. Finally, almost reluctantly he found himself shaking his head. "No, Terann. While I appreciate your suggestion, I am forced to say it isn't an option."
"It is an option, Captain," she informed him. "Just one you have rejected, and while I do not agree with you, I will respect this is your decision to make."
Her tone was almost dismissive, however he found himself asking, "I do find it curious though, from what I understand of telepaths, implanting such a command would not be easy, and if we are to assume that Cady was altered by the Shadows, it is not something she wouldn't notice."
"From what you understand of telepaths." Terann frowned. "And how much is that? Especially where Minbari are concerned?"
Sheridan nodded at that. "Not much I'm afraid."
She smiled. "Then you will have to trust me. I do wonder, however, how far you wish for me to go with her. Admittedly she is very strong psionically, despite her lack of training. It is that which makes her so dangerous. She is a hazard to both herself and to others."
"I can assume that this isn't something she will pick up like riding a bike."
A curious expression crossed Terann's face. "I do not know what a bike is or why you would wish to ride it, however I do think I understand what you are asking and you are correct. I was born with my talent and spent almost thirty Minbari cycles honing it. While I can teach Cady the basics in a few short lessons, without any real in-depth training, it will take some time before she possesses the skill required to use it against someone. However -- "
"Why did I guess there'd be a 'however'?"
"However," she continued. "As she is not skilled at controlling her ability, she runs the risk of inadvertently harming someone. A casual thought sent out in anger can have the same damning effects as one 'cast intentionally. These are things we must think of when it comes to Cady. I do not wish to be a doomsayer, or condemn her before she has even committed an offense, however, we are not dealing with a normal Human girl, and everyone needs to realize the very real threat she may pose."
"Without knowing the extent of control the Shadows have over her, everything you teach her might be just one thing too many."
At this the Minbari nodded in agreement.
Sighing deeply, the captain considered carefully what options he had when it came to the young Cady Kyra. Currently, short of sending her directly off the station, it did not appear that they had many. Finally he said, "I say we wait, give her the benefit of the doubt. We aren't even sure the Shadows have control over her; perhaps they only modified her abilities. That does not mean we need to be careless. Like you said, untrained she is far less useful to us against the Shadows; and a far greater risk to this station. Which brings me to you. I need to know you are confident helping her."
"Let me finish," he instructed raising a hand. "Like you said, she is potentially a risk to everyone on this station. That includes you. Especially you. You will be working closely with her, more closely than anyone, and if she has been altered by the Shadows we are talking about a race thousands of years older than even your own. And I don't care about Minbari pride or whatever, you are on my station under my jurisdiction and I have a responsibility to make sure you don't get harmed as well."
Terann's eyes dropped momentarily, but when she raised them there was something that resembled humility lingering there. "I appreciate your concern Captain, however, I have spent my entire life learning to use my own psi, and a few lessons with Cady are, hopefully, not going to make that much of a difference. I am going to teach her to block out casual thoughts, teach her not to inadvertently invade the mind of another. It's not telekinesis, just basic techniques that she is going to need."
"Very well," he acquiesced. "But, if you run into anything you feel is a threat, or feel you are in over your head, you will promise to come to me directly for help."
She smiled. "My apologies, Captain but I don't think there will be much you can help with."
"I disagree," he said, straightening. "You aren't the only telepath here we can ask for help. Our former resident telepath, Lyta Alexander, has spent --"
"That will not be necessary," she responded, a little too forcefully in the Captain's estimation. Clearly he had hit a nerve.
"Lyta has spent a great deal of time with the Vorlons. What you can't handle, I am more than confident that she can."
Terann sighed heavily, clearly attempting to regain her composure. "I appreciate your concern, Captain," she said, her tone having returned to its previous impassive tone. "But again, it is not an option."
"It is an option, Terann," he informed her. "An option, that for the time being, I am allowing you to reject. However, as you said, this is my station. I expect full reports of anything you find out; I also want to be kept informed of what you train her."
"Of course." She inclined her head. "I will tell you what I can."
Sheridan considered this for a moment, realizing what she 'could' tell him would most definitely not amount to everything. Deciding, at least for the time being, to remain content with this, he rose to his feet.
"I appreciate your help, Alyt Terann."
"Of course, Captain Sheridan," she replied once again saluting him then turning to disappear into the crowd.
He considered her for a moment, before turning to resume his journey. While most of the Minbari warriors he had encountered had either tried to kill him, frame him, or start the Earth/Minbari War all over again, Terann seemed genuinely different. There was something about her, something that calmed him, reassured him, and even urged him to trust her. It was a strange sensation, he only hoped it would not be one would later regret.
After spending more than an hour in seclusion with the Minbari telepath, learning how to block out casual thoughts and emotions around her, Cady had been surprised when she received an invitation from Ambassador Londo Mollari to join him for dinner. Certainly, House Kyra had been friendly with House Mollari, and Cady remembered meeting him often during festivals and the occasional trip to the Imperial Palace while growing up, but she hadn't expected to reacquaint herself with him while on Babylon 5. After all, the majority of people she knew back on Centauri Prime hadn't taken her foray into the Anla'shok very well at all. It had been deemed as an action beneath a member of the House Kyra.
Making her way toward Londo's quarters on Green Two, Cady glanced down at the clothing she wore, realizing only then how uncomfortable and out of place she felt in it. It had been years since she'd worn the appropriate dress of her station as a daughter of House Kyra, and the one gown she still had possession of had grown a bit short in the length. It wasn't terribly noticeable but it was enough to add to Cady's rising trepidations that she'd been away from Centauri Prime for far too long. If she were to somehow insult Ambassador Mollari and word got back to her family, she would never hear the end of it. Cady had always felt pride in being considered a citizen of the great Centauri Republic but suddenly she found herself questioning her place among the Centauri people. Was it really home any longer? And if not, then where was home? Among the Minbari? She shook her head at the thought. No. She may not have been born Centauri, but they were the only true family she'd ever known. Or, at least, that she remembered knowing.
When she found the ambassador's quarters, Cady hesitated outside for a moment, taking a calming breath. She pressed the door bell, and then waited only briefly before the doors slid open and a young Centauri male, slightly stout in stature ushered her inside.
She took in her surroundings quickly, noting that the ambassador had been extremely successful in transforming his quarters into a vision of Centauri Prime, complete with lavish artwork, comfortable furniture, various idols and expensive draperies. However familiar the transformation felt to her, Cady quickly realized that she wasn't completely comfortable with it any longer. It felt far too ostentatious for her taste.
"Ah, if it isn't the lovely Lady Caderina," Londo Mollari called out and Cady felt her cringe slightly over the use of the name the Kyras had bestowed on her. They'd decided early on that 'Cady' was far too provincial and Human for the likes of their adopted daughter.
"Ambassador Mollari," Cady greeted, dropping into a quick curtsy. She was surprised she was still able to pull one off, seeing that she hadn't been required to do so in a long while.
The Ambassador approached her, reaching out for her hand to help her back up and placing a soft kiss above her knuckles. He gave it a small squeeze. "It has been a long time, my lady."
"Yes, it has, Ambassador," she agreed, glancing over at the other Centauri who hovered beside them. She was trying to remember the name of Londo's aide… Cotto? Vir Cotto. That was it. She glanced back up at her host. "I admit I was surprised when I returned to my quarters to find your invitation. I didn't think anyone knew I was here."
Londo shrugged. "In my business, it's best to know everything that happens around here. That way, you never have to worry about being surprised!"
Chuckling, he patted her hand and pulled her further into the room. "Vir, get the Lady some Brivare, hmm? This is my diplomatic attaché, Vir. What he lacks in ability he makes up for in sheer annoyance."
Cady noted the warmth in Londo's voice even as his aide bristled at the insult behind the counter. Smiling at both, she took the offered seat on the couch as Londo sat across from her, and spent the next few moments arranging her skirt around her, for lack of anything better to do. Vir appeared before her with a shining goblet of Brivare, and she took it with a smile before he hurried over to hand another to the ambassador.
Holding his goblet aloft, Londo declared, "Valtu!"
"Valtu!" Cady repeated with a smile before taking a sip of the beverage. She blanched for a moment at the strong liquor, forgetting that it had been awhile since she had drank anything stronger than Minbari tea and water. Taking another swallow, she allowed it to course down her throat, warming and relaxing her before finally setting her glass on the ornate table in front of her.
"So, we have quite a bit to catch up on, do we not?" Londo asked, fixing her with a steady look. "Rumor has it that you have spent this last year on Minbar."
"Those rumors are true," Cady confirmed with a slight nod as the ambassador frowned slightly. "I have been… studying there."
Londo grunted, waving a hand toward his aide. "I had Vir stationed there, as a representative of our government. Unfortunately, those damn Minbari are a bit too influential I think. Before I knew it, my misguided attaché tried to go native on me. Do not tell me that you have done the same, Lady Caderina? I ask you, what is wrong with Centauri Prime, hmm?"
She smiled. "There is nothing wrong with Centauri Prime, Ambassador, but there is an odd attraction to Minbar. It's a very beautiful world, and the people are oddly… peaceful."
"You noticed that as well?" Vir asked, moving over to sit beside her on the couch, expression suddenly animated with excitement. "I thought they were some of the nicest people I've ever met – and so helpful! I think I spent half of my time there asking them not to do things for me."
"The Worker and Religious castes are very accommodating," Cady responded, pausing as she thought of her recent acquaintanceship with Terann. She found herself adding, "The Warrior caste can be equally as helpful… If you meet the right person, that is."
Vir was shaking his head. "The Warrior caste frightens me," he told her, dropping his voice slightly as if it were a secret. "Well, the few I've met, anyway."
Cady smiled at his comment before glancing back over at Londo, wishing to explain. "Actually, the main reason I went to Minbar was in search of my father – my biological father."
"Oh?" Londo questioned, eyebrows rising high at the information. "You do not mean to tell me your father is a Minbari?"
She laughed at the thought and shook her head. "No, nothing like that. He had simply been stationed there as an ambassador. I believe you knew him – Jeffrey Sinclair."
"Well now, this is interesting news." He glanced at his attaché and wagged a finger at him. "Take note, Vir. This is exactly the kind of information I'm always telling you one should know without being told, just to stay ahead of things and avoid surprises. Now I look like a fool in front of this dear lady."
"I wouldn't worry too much, Ambassador," she assured him. "I chose to keep the information fairly silent. Lord and Lady Kyra know, of course, but we saw no advantage in making it common knowledge. I had the chance to get to know him, and that was all I had really set out to do. I always felt I'd never really have an understanding of who I was, if I never had the chance to know my real father."
"And now?" Londo asked with a warm smile. "Are you any closer to figuring that out?"
Cady laughed a little. "Honestly? No. And now… well, now he is gone, so I may never know."
"Gone? What do you mean 'gone'? He has not passed away, has he?"
"No. He's simply… vanished."
Londo appeared disbelieving, and at his look, Cady could only shrug. "Don't ask me. He was there one day… and then, he wasn't. No one seems to know where he has gone. Well, I figure Entil – I mean, Ambassador Delenn does but I don't think she has any intention of telling me at the moment."
"If anyone does, it would be her," Londo agreed. "She seems to know quite a bit that she doesn't let on to others. But then, that's a Minbari, no? Always telling a half truth."
She nodded in response to his comment. It was certainly something she'd learned while on Minbar. She trusted the majority of Minbari about as far as she could throw one of them. But then, that was how she felt about most people, Minbari or otherwise.
"Anyway, that is how I've spent my last few years. Nothing too exciting," Cady laughed lightly. It was a trick she had learned during her training as a proper Centauri child at a young age. Since females were not expected to speak much, they could laugh all they wanted to and allow the male to lead the conversation. It was something she had not done in a while but now she found herself reverting to it when she discovered she was at a loss for conversation.
"Well, it sounds better than mine, my lady. Here, I will trade you," Londo commented, only half-joking. "You be Ambassador to Babylon 5, I will be a Ranger."
At this, Cady failed to cover up her laughter, causing Londo to smile.
"Oh, think that's funny, do you? We'll just see how funny you think it is while you sit in on some of these Council sessions. All I can say is thank the Maker this whole business with the Narn is over and done with."
"Yes, I have…met Citizen G'Kar", Cady replied, worrying her lower lip. "I had heard that he'd been offered sanctuary here on Babylon 5 but was still surprised when I recognized him from the Wanted posters."
Londo scowled. "Yes. There is nothing we can do unless he decides to leave Babylon 5 and only a complete fool would do that. And G'Kar is no fool."
"Er…Londo", Vir interrupted quickly. "Dinner is ready."
"Good, it is about time, Vir. I was beginning to wonder if I would get to see Cady marry, have children and then grandchildren by the time you were done," Londo complained though Cady found herself hiding a small smile because it didn't sound so much a real complaint as it did gentle teasing.
As they ate dinner, Cady began to realize that Vir was the complete opposite of Londo in every way and so, seemed to balance the ambassador out. She thought that they probably made a good team – whenever Londo shut up long enough for Vir to speak. She could tell that Londo was fond of his attaché, no matter how gruffly he behaved. Cady could not help but think to herself that Vir did not behave very much like a Centauri, at least any of the Centauri she had known. He was not quite as arrogant or over-bearing. Perhaps his behavior was learned during the time he spent on Minbar.
After dinner was over, Cady was entertained by Londo and Vir arguing over Centauri opera, which she had never been able to find an ear for and most likely never would. Most of the conversation she simply laughed through, thinking that these two people had to be the most unlikely pair she had ever met. She was pleased to see that once Vir relaxed, a more forceful personality began to emerge. She doubted he even realized it himself. Cady was still having difficulties completely relaxing. She could not recall ever having felt out of place back on Centauri Prime but now…Then again, she could not recall ever having felt completely comfortable on Minbar either. What was it with her? Could she not be happy anywhere?
Cady's train of thought abruptly ended as a tremor ran through her. A cold chill made its way down her spine and her body tensed, mind alert to the realization that something in the air had shifted around her. Even without her emerging abilities, she could have sensed it. Rangers were trained to rely on their instincts, but what she was feeling went beyond even that. Icy fingers traced their way up her neck, over her scalp, embedding themselves deep within her mind, and for a brief moment, she felt paralyzed.
Just as quickly as it had appeared, the feeling went away, replaced with a sense of calm. Warmth suffused her, and Cady glanced down at her hands in surprise as a mild tingling swept through them.
She glanced up at Vir's voice to find him standing over her, a bottle of Brivare in hand, a look of consternation on his sweet face. Behind him, Londo was watching her in puzzlement as well.
"Are you all right, Caderina?" Londo asked.
"I… " She wasn't certain how to respond other than to offer them a small laugh. "Yes, sorry. My mind wandered. Maman and Papa have always teased me about such things."
Cady took a deep breath and got to her feet. "I should really get going – tomorrow is a big day for the Anla'shok," she commented as Londo rose to his feet. "Thank you, Ambassador Mollari, for everything. I very much enjoyed this evening."
"Londo, please," he insisted. "And thank you for joining me, dear lady. I hope – "
Whatever he was about to say was interrupted by the chiming of the door. Cady flashed a quick smile as Londo grumbled something about never having a moment's peace and Vir hurried over to find out who it was. As the door opened, she once more felt that odd sensation of fingers moving over her. Standing outside the quarters was a Human male, dressed smartly in a nice beige suit, dark black hair smoothed to perfection against his head. He was smiling, though the pleasantness of his expression didn't seem to reach his eyes. He didn't bother to acknowledge Vir as he stepped over the threshold, his gaze now firmly focused on Cady. She took an involuntary step back as he approached her, and her eyes scanned the room wildly, as something nagged at her that he wasn't entirely alone. It was ridiculous, of course, as there were only the four of them in the room but she swore she could sense the presence of two or three more.
"Ambassador Mollari," the man greeted, still smiling.
"Mr. Morden." Londo's voice was tight and distant. "As you can see, I'm very busy at the moment. Can whatever you have to see me about wait?"
Cady shuddered slightly as Mr. Morden's gaze slid back to hers, almost as if he were pinning her into position. An overwhelming tidal wave of emotions threatened to consume her, the strongest of which seemed to be a sense of longing – of belonging. Eerily, the thought of Home flashed through her mind, signaling an almost euphoric whisper of comfort she found herself latching on to.
"Cady Kyra," Mr. Morden said, holding his hand out to her. "I've been looking forward to meeting you."
She stared down at the hand that was before her, and something warned her not to take it. If she did, she would be lost.
Blinking in confusion, Cady raised her eyes back to his. "How… I don't know you."
"No," he confirmed. "But I know you. My associates speak very highly of you."
Warning bells flared through Cady's mind, and she almost found herself screaming in reply. Instead, she quickly sidestepped around him, hurrying for the door. "Thank you again, Ambassador," she called out before ducking into the corridor and breaking into a sprint down the hall.
For a moment, she could swear she felt some unnamed thing following behind.
Singing, G'Kar found, always helped him think; it calmed his mind and aided him in finding his center. So he moved about his quarters, lighting the myriad candles spread about, singing something he'd heard Garibaldi whistling a few days earlier. He wasn't entirely sure of the words – Earth music made little sense to him – but he easily made up a few of his own. As he worked, he found himself wondering how long it would be this time before his neighbors complained. He laughed at that. Let them, he thought.
When the last candle was lit, he poured himself a glass of Taree and, adjusting his robe, he settled to the floor. Pen in hand and book opened, he sat there, words that had been with him as clear as the morning sky only hours earlier now faded like the dusk. Apparently, his muse had chosen that moment to be particularly fickle. Minutes later he found his mind just as blank as the pages before him and he rose to move about the room, trying in vain to recall all that he'd lost. However as he did, he found himself singing once again. He couldn't help but wonder what had gotten into him. Surely he had been through some life altering changes since his use of dust and the subsequent attack on Londo Mollari. These changes, however, had served to make him more focused, more inspired. Recently, however, this did not hold true. His thoughts were preoccupied as if something, or someone, were pulling his attention elsewhere.
The sound of the chime pulled him from his musings, and after calling out, the door slid open to reveal his friend, and fellow Narn, the warrior Ta'Lon.
"Ah… Ta'Lon," he almost sang, turning to greet the other with a smile.
"Citizen G'Kar." Ta'Lon bowed smartly. "I apologize for my intrusion at this late hour."
"Not at all, Ta'Lon," he replied warmly as he moved to the kitchen area. "Can I offer you something?"
"No, thank you," Ta'Lon replied, raising his hand in refusal. "What may be an important matter has come to my attention and I thought to bring it to yours."
At the serious tone in the other Narn's voice, G'Kar returned the bottle he was holding to the counter and moved back into the living area.
"What has happened?" he asked, motioning for Ta'Lon to sit.
"A day ago, a young woman, arrived here."
"And? I hardly find this newsworthy, Ta'Lon. Many women arrive here. I notice a good number of them," he said with a glimmer of amusement.
"I would agree." Ta'Lon nodded. "However, this young woman, a Human, is actually the adopted daughter of Jengo and Betina Kyra – "
"Yes," Ta'Lon confirmed. "I thought you would know of her."
Of course G'Kar knew of her -- the Kyra name was known across Narn, as was the knowledge that they'd adopted a Human child. He simply hadn't known the woman in the transport tube was one in the same until Delenn's information in the War Council meeting.
"I recently encountered her," he said, reflecting on the brief yet disturbingly memorable moment in the lift, and later in the Zocalo. "She is a Ranger and…"
"And?" Ta'Lon inquired at his pause.
G'Kar shook his head. "Nothing."
He was unsure why he chose to keep the knowledge of Cady Kyra's telepathic abilities a secret. Certainly he did not owe her this courtesy, not after her behavior toward him, but he offered it anyway. It seemed that the information was important to Delenn, and when she had imparted it to the War Council, it was not done with the intent to be shared with others. He would keep that confidence for the sake of their cause.
Ta'Lon's brow furrowed as he leaned forward. "Several of our own were gathered together earlier in Down Below at the behest of Da'Noth," he began. "He has convinced them to attack her."
"What?" G'Kar demanded in surprise, as he rose to his feet.
"She is of House Kyra," Ta'Lon needlessly pointed out. "Da'Noth can be fairly persuasive when he wishes to be. The majority gathered agreed with him."
"Da'Noth," G'Kar repeated.
The name Da'Noth was not new to G'Kar's ears. As a well-known instigator since coming to Babylon 5 to escape the enslavement on Homeworld, he unfortunately possessed the ability to influence the others. It was a skill he used often, spurring any and all who would listen with a well-spoken word. G'Kar had been forced to mend the rifts that Da'Noth had caused within the Narn population on the station more than once.
"This can not be allowed to happen."
"I agree." The younger Narn nodded. "That is why I am here. While Da'Noth may hold sway with the younger, more volatile among us, you, G'Kar, speak with the wisdom that appeals to the more rational. For all our sake, he must be stopped."
"Yes," G'Kar said, sinking back to the couch. "The consequences would be unthinkable."
"Then you understand my urgency."
"Yes, Ta'Lon." He rubbed a hand across his brow in frustration, silently beseeching G'Quan to grant him the strength and wisdom to unite his people. After a moment's silence, he added, "I will not ask you to deal with Da'Noth yourself. This is something I must do alone."
"But G'Kar -- " he began to argue.
G'Kar raised a hand for silence. "No, my friend. I have come to rely on you over these many months. You have become my eyes and ears. You walk in the places I can not, and for this I thank you. However, if Da'Noth is to ever be silenced, it will be by my words, or if needed, my hand. We must bring our people to an understanding."
Ta'Lon smiled at this. "And what understanding is that?"
"I'll let you know when I find it," G'Kar responded with a slight shake of his head.
The warrior sighed, but seemed to concede to G'Kar's request with a nod of his head. Rising to his feet he bowed, saying, "I will leave you to it, then, Citizen G'Kar."
Thanking him, G'Kar waited until the door slid shut and he was once again left with the silence and his own thoughts.
The room around him felt heavy, as if the oxygen had been suddenly and inexplicably sucked out. Surely Da'Noth had been a constant thorn in his side for the last few months, but until tonight that was all he had been. To even suggest threatening a child – adopted or otherwise – of House Kyra was unfathomable. Already too many of his people had felt the sting of a Centauri master's whip thanks to the hand of Lord Kyra. Retribution for anything that happened to Cady Kyra would be swift and deadly, bringing pain and misery to the people of Homeworld once again, while instigators such as Da'Noth remained free of the consequences.
Oddly enough, G'Kar found this was not his chief concern. Surely, the cost of 500 Narn lives for the sake of one girl weighed heavily on his mind, but it was not the only matter that he took into account. The young woman in question, Cady -- he could recall her well… surprisingly well for their brief encounters.
Too well perhaps, he thought as he stretched out on the couch. Maybe it was due to the subtle things about her that seemed to set Cady apart from others in his mind. Certainly she behaved as any other Centauri, but that might have been part of what G'Kar found so intriguing about her. It was almost as if her uncertainty of who she was supposed to be gave him purpose, the desire to help her find that person inside. Not the Cady she seemed to think she was, but someone else, someone that would probably shock him as much as it would her.
What odd thoughts you're having, he told himself. G'Kar knew there was no way the Human would ever let him get close to her. Her upbringing on Centauri Prime and the conditioning they'd instilled within her, not to mention her association in the Rangers, made such a thing impossible. Still, he found his mind considering it, quietly, if only for the briefest of moments. Did she continue to wear the masks when she was alone, and no one else was watching? Or did she use them to hide? What caused them? Fear? Something in her past? Or was it something more ominous that motivated her actions? Whatever the cause, G'Kar refused to believe that this was all there was to her. For all the harshness of her words to him, he had seen a strange softness behind her eyes, a softness he found himself wishing she would show to him more fully.
Again, he marveled at the train of his thoughts, wondering fleetingly at the reaction Cady Kyra would have if she knew of them.
The image his mind conjured brought a smile to his face, and for the third time that night, G'Kar began singing.
Cady was back on Centauri Prime.
She recognized the garden around her as the one she grew up spending so much time in; Lady Kyra's pride and joy. It was filled with brightly colored flowers from all over the galaxy, tall, neatly trimmed hedges in various shapes and sizes, shady trees and fountains of Centauri gods that glittered with clear water around them. Stone pathways wound their way through the kaleidoscope of flora and fauna in this garden that was revered all over Centauri Prime as rivaling even that of the Imperial Palace. It had been constructed by Narn slaves during the first occupation – dozens of slaves whose sole purpose day and night were to make certain not a petal shriveled, and not a leaf fell victim to the teeth of an insect.
Throughout the last decade, the garden had taken on a heretofore unknown splendor; the budding flowers were larger and more vibrant in color, the trees and bushes were fuller, the grass a thick carpet of deep green jade. Though left with only poor Centauri workers to tend the garden, it continued to win Lady Kyra awards and special recognition by the Royal family. Cady knew the truth though; knew that it was only because she played there, because she walked along the pathways as she dreamed of far away places, and the teeming life surrounding her called out to her.
You must not do this, Cady. Not ever again.
But mama, I love to make the flowers grow. They need me.
I understand, honey, but for your safety, you must not continue. You must forget that you can do this, Cady. Please, do as I say. Never make the flowers grow again.
But Cady hadn't forgotten, even as she heard the echoed words of her mother long ago, from a time and place she couldn't recall, only whispered words and shadowed images. She had played beneath the trees and sat amidst the beds of flowers, and when they called to her, she answered. No one knew, no one questioned; it was her little secret, one of many she carried deep within her heart.
Now, as she found herself wandering the familiar pathways, the floral scents around her almost overpowering in their vitality, Cady slowly began to realize that things weren't quite as she remembered. Dark figures moved between the trees, scuttling across the grass and paths, darting just out of her vision as she turned to look. A cold breeze swept through, and she shivered, wrapping her arms around herself protectively as she stopped, head tilted toward another sound behind her.
Cady, help us.
The words were spoken so softly, she almost didn't hear them. The voices of the foliage surrounding her began to rise in a gentle symphony, beckoning her to them, pleading in soothing voices for her touch. How could she refuse such cries?
Something tugged at her skirt. "Please. Help us."
Cady looked down to find a Narn sitting at her feet, dressed in filthy rags, skinny and haggard. She took a step back in revulsion even as the creature reached out to her in supplication.
"Cady, please… "It asked again.
She shook her head. "Help yourself," she snapped, turning quickly only to be tripped up by another Narn sitting behind her. He grasped at her skirt as well, tugging, one hand reaching up, desperate and beseeching.
Grabbing hold of her gown, she yanked free of his hold, stepping past him quickly as she glanced back over her shoulder at both.
"Leave me alone, you filthy things!"
As she almost fell again, Cady began to realize they were all around her -- dozens, hundreds, more appearing as she struggled free of each and every hand that touched her. Their voices rose around her, no longer a gentle symphony but a loud cacophony of terror and pain. She tried to run, to reach the safety of home, but strong arms grabbed her, holding her still, and she raised her eyes to the gaze of Citizen G'Kar, standing tall and prideful among his people.
"Would you ignore their cries?" he asked. "Can you close your eyes, your ears… your heart?"
She struggled in his grasp. "It's not my problem!" she seethed. "You did this to yourselves! We were only trying to help – "
"Look at them." G'Kar turned her in his arms, held her back against him as he forced her to see the Narns gathered around them. "Does that look like 'help' to you? Look at them, Cady. Listen to them. Can you deny them what you can freely give? Can you deny them the one gift you have it within you to offer?"
"Of course not."
The voice that spoke seemed to split through the cries, rending a silence in the garden like a tear through fabric. Cady turned her head to see Mr. Morden stepping through the Narns, moving his way toward her, smiling pleasantly at them both.
"You won't deny them, will you, Caderina?" he asked, stopping only a few feet away. "You'll give to them everything within you that you have the power to give." He reached out his hand. "Come with me, and I'll show you how."
"No, you don't understand," she heard herself say. "They're only Narns."
His smile broadened, flashing pearly white teeth. "You're correct. They are only Narns. And only you can give them what they so rightly deserve."
She felt Citizen G'Kar's hold on her lessen. "If you take his hand, I cannot help you," the Narn told her.
Cady pulled free, glancing back at him as his image seemed to darken.
"Caderina," Mr. Morden called out again, calmly, patiently.
"No," she whispered. "I don't have to listen to any of this. I don't have to do what you ask of me."
She stepped away from both of them, pushing her way through the Narns to a clear path. "None of this has to do with me," she told them as she broke into a run, hurrying toward home.
You are not blind, the voices whispered.
You are not deaf, the voices continued.
You are not…
The dark figures returned, scurrying around her as she ran. She could feel them following – nameless, faceless nothings that nipped at her heels, closing in on her. Their cold fingers moved over her back, twisted into her hair, dug into her scalp. Cady screamed as she was dragged down, the chill sweeping over her ---
The scream died on Cady's lips as reality crept in. She shivered slightly, rubbing her arms as she glanced around in the darkness, the nightmare still hovering at the edges of her mind.
"Computer, time," she called out.
"Oh three twenty-seven, Earth Standard Time."
Cady sighed, running a hand through her hair. She wouldn't get anymore sleep – that much she knew for certain. She feared closing her eyes to another dream, and there were only so many times a person could dream about Narns without completely losing hold of their sanity.
Tossing the sheets aside, she got to her feet, padding quietly into the bathroom where she splashed a handful of water on her face before drying her skin gently with the towel. She blamed the flurry of activity throughout the day before for the oddness of her nightmare. After all, Cady had been uprooted from the comfort and peace of Minbar and transported to the chaos of Babylon 5 and its inhabitants. To say nothing of the task Delenn had set before her with regards to the war against the Shadows. Yes, there were more than enough explanations for why the nightmare had occurred as it did.
As she made her way back into the central area of her quarters, Cady slipped a robe on, still chilled from the images in her mind, and took a seat on the couch. It had been a few weeks since she'd last spoken to her family, and she suddenly had a very strong desire to do so. Leaning forward, she called up the BabCom unit, accessing public communications and put her call through. It would be mid-day back on Centauri Prime, and she could only hope that someone were home to answer.
Lord Kyra's assistant, Tiro, took the call.
"Lady Caderina," he greeted. "How may I assist you?"
"Are my parent's home?" she asked. "I'd like to speak with them."
"One moment, my lady."
His image winked out of existence to be replaced with Lady Kyra. "Caderina." She smiled. "What a pleasant surprise. Your father and I despaired of ever hearing from you again."
"It hasn't been that long, Maman," Cady pointed out quietly. "How have you been?"
Her adoptive mother heaved a loud sigh, and began fanning herself briskly with the silk fan she held in her hand. "Busy, Caderina," she responded. "Very, very busy. The recent group of Narn slaves your father brought home are an unruly lot to the extreme. They seem completely incapable of performing the smallest task that I ask of them. I spend half of my time instructing Tiro to beat them, and the other half trying to fix what they've disrupted. I swear, Caderina, it is as if during our last occupation we somehow managed to make the resulting generations dumber than those past."
Cady shifted slightly at her words, not certain as to why they made her feel so distinctly uncomfortable, unless it were due to her dream. She forced a smile. "I'm sure it isn't as bad as all that, Maman."
"Worse!" She huffed, the fan moving more rapidly under her chin. "Meanwhile, our beloved daughter is off gallivanting around the galaxy, involving herself in affairs that have nothing to do with us and rubbing elbows with the riffraff!"
"The work I am doing is important to all of us, Maman," she softly insisted. "And I'm not rubbing elbows with… riffraff."
She tried not to think of her two encounters with Citizen G'Kar. For that matter, Cady knew the Kyra's wouldn't appreciate her newest association with the Minbari, Terann.
"I'm sure that's what those interfering Minbari have convinced you, dear, but what truly matters is your home and your family. That you've turned away from both is very distressing." She punctuated her words with a slight sniffle.
"I am sorry that you feel that way, Maman," Cady said, voice dropping as she lowered her gaze in a momentary feeling of shame. "I do not mean to upset you or Papa."
Lady Kyra remained silent for a long moment before finally nodding. "Apology accepted, Caderina. While your father and I may be very disappointed in the paths you've chosen to take, we comfort ourselves with the thought that you will soon come to your senses and return to us." She made a face. "I am in desperate need of your help in controlling these stupid Narns!"
Cady nodded, uncertain of what she could say, knowing she could never convince them otherwise. "Yes, Maman."
There was a sudden loud crash, and her mother tossed her hands up into the air, shouting to someone off-screen, "That will come out of your thick hide, you lazy, brainless – "
"Maman, I am going to let you go," Cady said quickly. "Please tell Papa hello for me. I will speak to you again soon."
Lady Kyra barely returned a nod before the screen went black.
Letting out a slow breath, Cady leaned back against the couch, staring at the comm.-unit. Something about the conversation with her mother bothered her, but she couldn't pinpoint the exact problem. It hadn't been much different from the past conversations she'd had with her parents over the last few years since leaving Centauri Prime, but this time Lady Kyra's words had affected her more than usual. Perhaps it stemmed from the fact that Cady felt she was involved in very important work with Delenn and Sheridan's Army of Light, and she had hoped for a little recognition from her parents for it. She knew it was a false hope – she had yet to do anything that honestly pleased House Kyra. Why should now be any different?
November 16, 2260
Terann had done her best to delay her arrival at Cady's quarters for their next training session. She had stopped in the marketplace, purchased a few things they would need, even took what could be considered the scenic route before making her way back to Blue Sector. Admittedly, it was still early, but if the Ranger was to be prepared for the ceremony later that morning, Terann had no choice but to wake her.
Once standing outside Cady's quarters, Terann realized that was precisely what she was doing as she pressed the signal for the third time. As the door finally slid open, she stepped across the threshold to be met by the disheveled Human in mid-yawn.
"I apologize for waking you," Terann said.
Something indiscernible came from the Human as she disappeared into the adjoining washroom. Allowing her time to wash and dress, Terann went to work preparing breakfast, knowing the Human would need her strength for the tasks ahead. As she worked, she noted the newfound control Cady Kyra seemed to possess, and while the occasional thought would slip past, Terann did not find herself inundated with every random thing that crossed her mind. At least this, she thought, is reassuring.
Several minutes later, Cady emerged appearing much more as Terann was accustomed to seeing; her brown hair pulled back in a neat ponytail, some color added to her face and dressed in her usual brown pants and tunic. Passing Cady a plate of bread and assorted fruit, Terann noted the dark circles under her eyes and commented, "You look tired."
"I am," Cady confirmed with a nod.
"Have you been practicing?"
She nodded, adding "Not that I've had much choice."
"It will get easier," Terann reassured her, though not convinced of the effect of her words.
They sat in silence for several moments while Cady ate, giving Terann time to gauge the woman before her. Now fully awake, her mental blocks were reinforced enough that were Terann truly curious she would need to push to get through them. This, at least, served to bolster her confidence in Cady's control and her readiness to continue further in her training. She would need both of these as time passed and threat of the Shadows continued to linger.
"You aren't like the others," Cady said, pulling Terann from her thoughts. "The other warriors, I mean."
At this, Terann's brow rose in curiosity and she asked, "And how much experience have you had with the Warrior caste?"
"Not a lot," she admitted. "But I know how the Rangers from the Religious caste speak --"
"I can only imagine," Terann interrupted quietly, more for her own benefit than the Human's. Sighing she slid from her chair to move about the room. "You would do well, Cady, to allow your own experiences to guide your opinions. For too long, I fear, you have been told what to think and what to feel. You should be grateful others do not share your single-mindedness."
"And what is that supposed to mean?" Cady demanded heatedly.
"You are a telepath, raised by the Centauri, and altered by the Shadows. Anyone other than Captain Sheridan would have marched you off this station the moment you arrived; but he did not do so. Instead, he has offered you a chance to prove yourself. Delenn, who puts more faith in you than anyone, has asked me to train you to use the very gifts that may end up coming back to haunt us, and against my own better judgment, I agreed."
"And why did you agree?" She crossed her arms over her chest. "As far as I know, the Warrior caste does not sanction the Anla'shok, nor do they agree with the Minbari involving themselves in the war against the Shadows."
"Delenn is a friend," Terann told her plainly, truthfully.
"Now that is odd," Cady commented with a playful smile. "How many from the Warrior caste would admit to befriending a member of the Religious caste?"
"Not many," she admitted with a small nod.
She knew that Cady wanted more of an explanation, but Terann was not prepared for such, and doubted a time would ever come when she would be. Ironically, she found she constantly had to remind herself that Cady was potentially the enemy, and to entrust too much with her would be a reckless action, indeed. Still, there was something about the Human that caused Terann to almost… trust her? Regard her as a friend? She was having difficulty placing the exact feeling within her.
"Are you ready?" Terann asked finally, glancing back at Cady's half-finished plate, and hoping to steer the conversation away from her history.
When Cady nodded, Terann gathered up her satchel and settled to the floor. After Cady sat down beside her, Terann said, "I brought you something."
"What's this for?" Cady inquired, taking the dark blue candle that Terann had removed from her bag and held out to her.
"This is your center," Terann informed her, igniting the flame.
Terann smiled at Cady's obvious confusion. "When simply blocking out the thoughts of others, your center is you; that is your focus. Everything is centered on keeping everyone else out. However, you would not be much of a telepath if you spent all your time in your own mind."
Concern lit across Cady's face. "I'm not ready to begin scanning people."
"I am not going to teach you to scan," Terann responded with a great deal of finality. "I am simply going to show you how to focus on one person. You will need this ability if you are to avoid the Shadows and their agents, as well as the Psi Corps."
At Cady's silence she continued, "Telepathic ability is a little like being in the middle of crowded room -- with everyone talking, all their conversations blending together."
"Yes," Cady agreed. "And no matter how much I try, I can't block it all out."
"Do not try to block it all. Do not focus on any of it. Focus, instead, on the candle."
"I don't understand."
Terann sighed at Cady's frustration. "Without a place to center your thoughts, you will become lost. This is especially true now, when your abilities are still new to you. You will use this as a beacon, to help guide you back."
Cady raised her eyes to meet Terann's, her face a mask of dread. "You're not going to help me?"
Terann shook her head. "I can not."
There was silence for a moment, and then Cady accused, "You're afraid; afraid of what the Shadows have done to me."
"Do not confuse caution with fear," she told her firmly before choosing to set Cady's concerns at ease. "There are things you need to do for yourself. I can watch you, guide you, but ultimately the onus is on you to learn for yourself. It is you who must learn to not be afraid. It is a weakness the Shadows can, and will, use against you."
"Fine," Cady acquiesced. "What do I need to do?"
"Just close your eyes."
Terann waited as Cady did as she was told, and then silently: Think of the station as one crowded room, the thoughts of the inhabitants forming a cacophony of noise...
It is just noise. Maintain your blocks, keep the focus on yourself.
Once certain Cady's mind was adequately shielded, Terann continued: I want you to move around them, get use to being surrounded by them. But do not listen; just hear.
She gave her a few moments, carefully monitoring her expression for any sign of distress. When none manifested she went on: Imagine now that one of them called your name. Do not think too hard; just choose one at random. As you focus on him, the others will fade until all you can hear is him. Again, just listen.
A smile flashed across Cady's face, and Terann knew she was now focusing on one person. She asked who is it?
A vendor in the Zocalo, Cady responded. He's bartering with a Drazi, but the Drazi is angry.
Stay focused on the Human, Terann warned her carefully, watching Cady's changing expression. It was clear to her that Cady's concentration had been broken by the rising emotions of her chosen target. Look back to the vendor, ignore the Drazi.
I'm trying but…
It was quickly evident that Cady's focus had become even more divided, and Terann knew she would need to fight to keep Cady from losing herself even more deeply in her own mind. For the briefest of moments, Terann considered entering her thoughts, if only to help her find her way back. However, the instant the idea formed, logic brushed it aside. With a small amount of guilt, she quietly admitted that she would rather leave Cady locked in her own mind than chance triggering something left by the Shadows. The risks were far too great. So Terann left Cady, for the most part, to find her own way back, providing only what guidance she could while maintaining a safe distance.
Listen to my voice, Cady.
I'm trying, Terann, but they're everywhere! I can feel them clawing at me…
I can't! They're everywhere…
Think of the candle, remember your center…
I'm trying --
Not hard enough! She accused. Think of the flame. Pausing, she gave Cady a moment to summon her strength. Can you see it?
A moment of uncertainty, and then Yes!
Relief washed over Terann as she instructed, "Open your eyes."
Cady blinked tentatively, then opened her eyes fully, relief present in her face at being back in her quarters.
Giving her a moment to compose herself, Terann leaned forward and extinguished the candle before gathering her feet to stand. "You did well."
"I did well?"
"Yes." Terann nodded. "Remarkably so."
"I nearly lost control."
"But you did not."
"Only because you were here…"
Terann smiled. "Maybe, maybe not."
She moved over to the kitchenette and filled a glass with water, walking back to hand it to Cady before continuing.
"You will quickly learn that some skills – for the most part – are inherent to all telepaths; however your gift is yours alone. You must learn for yourself what you can and can not do. I will instruct you on basic abilities but how you use what I give you is completely up to you. It is also up to you to learn your limits. Do not become over-confident; this is especially important for you. Simply because you possess a skill does not mean it is always a good idea to use it."
"I'm not sure I understand."
Terann settled to the couch, and then waited for Cady to follow suit before she continued with her explanation. "I am certain during your time on Minbar you were given instruction on our religious ceremonies."
"Yes," came the shuddered reply. "I think I blocked most of it out."
Terann smiled at that. "When I was still young, three priests were assigned to tutor me."
"Priests?" Cady leaned forward with a grin; her very Human curiosity clearly piqued. "Now that does beg some explanation."
"For another time… perhaps." Her voice was firm; however, what could be considered a smile tugged at the corners of her lips.
She found Cady's frank inquisitiveness refreshing, and completely requisite of her species. It was good to know that despite all the Centauri conditioning, there still remained some spark of humanity within her.
"I hated it -- not the lessons so much as the priests. They were boring; standing over me while I read one ancient text or another, growing frustrated when I would question even the smallest detail. I would have done anything to get out of it."
"So what did you do?" Cady asked.
"What any capricious seven year old telepath would do," she explained. "I disappeared."
"In the beginning I hid, and it was fun at first. Using the technique I just showed you, I could tell where they were, and I just needed to stay ahead of them. But unfortunately, I got cocky, and over-confident."
"Eventually, you will learn that aside from the obvious, telepaths have countless advantages over normal's. By design, our minds, do not work the same way. We are not so easily fooled.
"It was not enough for me to feel their frustration, I wanted to see it; I wanted to laugh at them. So I hid, but not completely, and projected an image of the space I occupied, only without me there. They could have walked past me all day and never seen me. In due course, they gave up looking for me and I ran off triumphant… right into Dukhat."
"Dukhat?" Cady asked incredulously. "The Dukhat."
"Yes," Terann replied nonchalantly. "Unfortunately, it took me a minute to realize who had grabbed me and I yelled at him."
Cady bit back a laugh at that. "Probably not the brightest idea."
"No," Terann agreed. "Honestly, I am surprised he did not personally make me sit through each ritual in its entirety. However, all he said was that my mind was too precious to be as closed as it was. It took me years to fully understand his words. Funny, the way I originally took them, was not how he intended them. However, it was his disappointment that made me realize how foolish I had been."
"So you never tried to 'disappear' again?"
A clever smile spread across Terann's lips. "I didn't say that. I just learned there was a time, and a place, for such abilities."
"I still don't understand what this has to do with me."
"You have secrets, Cady Kyra; secrets that neither of us understands, and that scares me, and should scare you as well. You need to take pride in what you have accomplished, but be mindful of all you still have to learn." Her tone then turned to warning. "I am not telling you to be overly cautious – lack of confidence can be just as dangerous – just learn to understand yourself. Everything else will happen naturally."
Cady shook her head, again. "I'm still not sure I understand."
"You will," Terann told her confidently. "Eventually your abilities will become as natural to you as breathing."
"And if they don't?" She asked with a raised brow.
Terann smiled almost sadly, feeling words to be inadequate to the horrors Cady's own mind could conjure. It was not her intention to scare Cady, quite the contrary in fact. However, she needed to ensure that Cady never relaxed her guard, never gave the Shadows a way in…
…For if she did, the terrors of her own thoughts would pale in comparison.
Several hours after her early morning training session with Terann, Cady was prepared for the Anla'shok Na initiation ceremony to be held early that afternoon. She'd spent the last few hours meditating and practicing the techniques that Terann had taught her. During meditation, if she was very careful, she could lower the blocks just slightly enough to allow in the buzz of the sentient minds who inhabited the space station. As always, even just a few moments of the chaotic sounds and emotions were enough to give her a significant headache, and she quickly re-erected the blocks, relaxing only when the pain began to dissipate.
Though she had showered and dressed earlier, she spent a few moments checking the neatness of her clothing and hair, her eyes straying to the two pins that lay side by side on her desk, both similar in appearance to anyone who hadn't studied them closely. One was hers, signifying that she was a Ranger, the same glittering green jewel and figures of a Minbari and a Human that all Rangers wore. The second was also a pin of the Anla'shok, but this one had belonged to her father – her real father. Delenn had gifted her with it while en route to Babylon 5. She'd come to Cady with a small box which contained all of Jeffrey Sinclair's possessions, which really wasn't much; his Ranger pin, some medals from the Battle of the Line, and his EarthForce insignia. Cady hadn't cared much about the medals or insignia, as neither had anything to do with her. She asked that Delenn ship them on to her father's brother back on Earth. The Anla'shok pin that had belonged to Sinclair, on the other hand, held a lot of significance for her. Had he not held the position of Anla'shok Na, she may never have agreed to join their cause; she may never have found a calling, something to do other than waste away back on Centauri Prime. It had been due to her father and his devotion to the Rangers, his belief in what they were doing, and his gentle persistence that she would be an asset to the war that Cady had chosen to join the Rangers. For now, she felt she owed him a great debt for that; once she was forced to actually make use of her abilities in the battle… well, then she might change her mind about that debt.
It was Sinclair's pin that she picked up and affixed to her tunic, smoothing her fingers over it for a moment as she glanced in the mirror. She didn't know where her father was, or if he would ever come back. For all she knew, he was dead – had died in some glorious sacrificial act for the Army of Light. It seemed like something the man she had come to know would have done. She never had the chance to say goodbye, but she could wear his pin, carrying on what memory she had of him in her own little way.
Slipping her denn'bok into the folds of her tunic (one never knew when one might need it), she exited her quarters to head down to the Zocalo and grab a quick bite before the ceremony. Now that she had learned how to block out the minds of others, Cady was eager to see if spending time immersed amidst hundreds of alien and human minds would not prove to be as uncomfortable as before. She was pleased that as she reached the hub of the stations there was no pain, only a low level buzzing in the back of her mind. There was an immense amount of relief for her at the realization that she wouldn't have to remain hiding in her quarters – there was something about the high level of activity and commerce around her in the Zocalo that she found exciting. It once more reminded her of the markets back on Centauri Prime, and she found herself longing for the days of her childhood, when the universe around her consisted solely of her dolls and toys. Things were far simpler then.
Cady grabbed a small Drazi fruit that the vendor assured her was '"very tasty", and though she looked at it warily in her hand, she decided to give it a shot anyway. Surprisingly, it was extremely sweet and juicy, and she continued to nibble at it as she made her way through the marketplace. It was an odd thing to her, this conglomeration of so many races in one place. Having come to know both the Centauri and the Minbari as she did, she had grown to figure that all races were inherently xenophobic, preferring to mix with others as little as possible. After all, she had come across very few non-Centauri while growing up, and again on Minbar, aside from the Human Rangers, very few other aliens were allowed access to the Minbari homeworld. It was only here in this community created by the Eather's that she had ever seen so many intergalactic species in one place. It was a little overwhelming, especially when she spotted the occasional race she couldn't put a name to.
Finishing her fruit, Cady stopped beside a receptacle to toss the pit away. The initiation ceremony was still an hour away but she figured it would be best to show up early than to continue exploring the station and end up running late. She had terrible trouble keeping time as it was. Wiping her hands quickly on her tunic, she turned to head back to into the corridors to the transport tube when she caught sight of a Ranger she remembered from training. He seemed to be in a bit of hurry, and it wasn't in the direction of the initiation ceremony. Wondering if maybe the ceremony site had been moved, she quickly skirted a row of vendors to place herself in his path. As he approached her, Marcus Cole slowed his pace, recognition flashing across his features as he stopped before her.
"Ranger Cole." Cady offered him a small smile and nod in greeting. "It is good to see you again."
"And you," Marcus said, his eyes straying past her for a moment as if searching for someone. "I'd heard you'd joined our little Army of Light. Delenn seems quite pleased to have you here."
She shrugged slightly. "She's offered me a purpose; a chance to make a difference. That means a lot to me. I feared I would be left on Minbar, shuffling papers for the Anla'shok or something."
He laughed. "I don't think you ever needed to worry about that. We need all of the good warriors we can get in the days ahead."
He shifted slightly, gaze darting past her again, and Cady began to get the feeling that he wanted to be elsewhere. She didn't think it had anything to do with her, but rather that he might have a meeting. Curious, she lowered her blocks just a little and could suddenly feel a sense of urgency coming from him, of concern. Her brow furrowed.
"Is there something wrong?"
Marcus' gaze swung back to her quickly. "No, I – " He stopped himself, head tilting slightly as if reconsidering her. "Delenn told us that you were a telepath. That's something you neglected to mention during classes."
Cady felt her face redden at his accusation; she hadn't realized that Delenn would be so eager to share the truth of her emerging abilities with everyone. Terann knew and she was a virtual stranger to, and then there was that Narn, Citizen G'Kar, and now Marcus. Who else?
"I'm not completely comfortable with people basing their impressions of me on my psionic abilities," she admitted.
"Well, I'd suggest you not make it habit of using them around people."
She shook her head. "I didn't – just now, I mean. I could simply… feel that you are concerned about something. I thought you would be headed to the Anla'shok Na initiation ceremony, which is that way." She pointed behind him.
Marcus frowned, growing silent for a moment and it seemed as if he were struggling with how much he wanted to tell her. Finally, he said, "There's been a threat to Delenn's life. It appears that not everyone is happy with the choice of her for Entil'zha."
"That doesn't make any sense." Cady shook her head, frowning with him as she pondered his words. "She is the perfect candidate. Who would possibly think otherwise?"
"The Warrior caste."
Her mouth formed a little 'O' of surprise. "But, you said there had been a threat on her life. Minbari do not kill Minbari."
He nodded. "Yeah. And if it were to happen, the repercussion will likely result in civil war between the castes."
"That's the last thing the galaxy needs at the moment," Cady remarked, struggling with the confusion as to how the Minbari people consider themselves so superior to other races and yet still find themselves in the same petty squabbles as everyone else. She glanced back up at Marcus. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Just stay on alert during the ceremony," he said. "And don't say anything to anyone. We want to keep this as quiet as possible. If the truth were to get out, I can't believe there still wouldn't be repercussions between the castes."
"Vengeance doesn't choose races, does it?" She commented, shaking her head in disbelief.
"Unfortunately, no." Marcus stepped past her, his gaze growing momentarily distant once more. He glanced back over at her and said, "Listen, you'd better get to the ceremony. I'll get there when I can. If anyone chances to ask, don't tell them you've seen me – "
"But Marcus, if you need help –"
"I've got to take care of this one on my own, Cady," he said. "For Delenn's sake, for the Rangers, and for the people of Minbar."
Cady frowned again. "Sounds a little self-sacrificing to me."
"We live for the One; we die for the One," he said softly before turning and moving off toward the stairwell.
She stared after him for a long while, considering whether or not she should follow. Certainly, if Marcus didn't believe he could handle the problem on his own, he would not have gone alone. For as much as each Ranger knew they could very possibly end up laying down their own life for the good of the Anla'shok, neither were they taught to needlessly waste lives. Cady knew that Marcus was considered one of the brightest and most disciplined of the recent Anla'shok, and she should trust him. Still, something nagged and tickled at the back of her mind regarding his behavior.
When Cady arrived at the room where the initiation ceremony was to be held, she found that she was one of the first Rangers present. There were a couple of Minbari already there preparing, including Delenn's aide, Lennier, and they nodded to one another before she situated herself in a corner, out of the way. From her position, she would be able to watch the attendees as they arrived; as well as keep a watchful eye over Delenn should anything untoward occur. Her mind continued to come back to her conversation with Ranger Cole as she wondered in amazement over the idea of a Minbari threatening another Minbari's life. Beyond her inability to understand why anyone would be against Delenn taking on the role as Entil'zha, Cady was more confused as to a simple title being something worth breaking a standing law of one thousand years. The Warrior caste was made up of creatures she doubted she would ever be able to understand.
As if miraculously conjured by her thoughts, the warrior and telepath, Terann, quietly entered the room. Like Cady, she seemed to wish to remain innocuous and quickly moved into the shadows at the back of the room, not far from where Cady stood. If she had not come to know Terann during their two brief sessions together, the Ranger might have expected her to be the one to challenge Delenn, to attempt to stop the ceremony. After all, she was of the Warrior caste, and would likely be the only one of her kind present. But Cady liked to believe she was a slightly better judge of character than that, and from what she had seen of the warrior, Terann would never be deceitful about such things. If she meant to challenge Delenn's position, she would have done so already.
Attention shifting away from the other telepath, Cady returned to watching the door as other Rangers began to arrive. Those she knew from training back on Minbari would occasionally catch her gaze and nod in greeting, no doubt thinking nothing of her isolationist behavior. Cady had never been very friendly back on Minbar, too fearful that others would learn of her relationship to the Anla'shok Na and treat her favorably because of it, or they would catch a glimpse of her abilities and grow wary. As it was the other students always treated her neutrally, knowing little about her and having little reason to care. She told herself it was the way she liked it.
Her focused shifted to Captain Sheridan when he entered the room along with his first officer, Commander Susan Ivanova. She had yet to meet either of them but recognized their faces from the vids she'd seen regarding Babylon 5's declaration as an independent state from Earth. Sheridan was handsome in a boyishly disarming fashion, though there was a hard glint to his eyes that clearly spoke of him as a leader. There was something about him that reminded Cady of her father; perhaps it was just a certain trait taught to all Earth military personnel. She couldn't quite put her finger on it but she found she was eager to make his acquaintance, if only to see if he truly was much like Jeffrey Sinclair, or just a faint shadow.
The Narn, Citizen G'Kar, soon followed them and Cady found herself bristling at his presence. It just seemed wrong, somehow, that he were here intruding on this sacred ceremony. She knew she had no say in the matter though, and here, in the midst of this group, would be the last place she should make her thoughts known. Forcing her expression to remain carefully neutral, she passively watched as the Narn stopped Sheridan and began speaking to him quietly. The captain nodded once, then broke into a laugh and patted the other on the shoulder. Cady felt herself cringe.
"It is a shame that you are limited in that which I can teach you."
Cady turned at the voice to flash a quizzical look at Terann. "And just what is that supposed to mean?"
"We blind ourselves to that which we most fear."
"I don't – " Cady cut herself off, suddenly remembering her dream from the night before. You are not blind, the voices had whispered to her. She stared at Terann silently for a long moment before telling her, "You don't know anything about me."
Terann shrugged as if it mattered little to her, and Cady figured that was more than likely the case as Terann slipped past her, disappearing out of the room. Apparently she had no intention of staying for the ceremony.
The room was filling quickly. Cady pressed herself back against the wall as the crowd continued to encroach on her space. She hadn't seen so many Rangers in one place; not even back in Tuzanor. For a brief moment she thought If the Shadows only knew that this was the place and the time to strike, and then found herself wondering why she could have possibly thought such a thing. Pushing it quickly from her mind, she focused her attention on the proceedings as the initiation ceremony began, a pair of Minbari Rangers entering with bells twinkling between them. Delenn followed behind, taking her place on the stage at the front of the room.
As a member of the Religious caste began speaking a Minbari prayer regarding change, Cady glanced back toward the door, wondering how Marcus was fairing. Was he able to stop whoever had made the threat towards Delenn? She frowned as a feeling of unease swept through her. Something had gone terribly wrong, of that she was certain.
Casting a quick look toward the front of the room, wondering if the lack of her presence would even be noticed, Cady quickly slipped through the back of the crowd and out the door. She looked back only once to make certain that no one had seen her leave, and then hurried her way through the corridor and back toward the center of the station.
Five miles was a lot of space to cover and she had the distinct feeling she did not have the kind of time a search like that would take. As she wandered into the Zocalo, a sudden thought appeared in her mind as if it were purposely placed there: Brown Sector. Cady did not question how she suddenly knew where to find Marcus; she simply listened to the voice in her mind and hurried in that direction. Upon reaching the transport tube though, she realized she still had no idea which level. Stopping for a moment to consider her options, she stared down at the panel when the voice spoke to her once more: Level 5. She shook her head at the absurdity of hearing voices in her head and hurried into the lift, calling out for "Brown Sector, Level 5."
The moment the transport tube stopped and the doors opened, Cady was on the defensive. Not knowing what to expect, though her anxiety levels continued to mount, she was very thankful for the security of her denn'bok tucked safely in her belt. She moved quietly through the corridors, listening for anything out of the ordinary, watching movements of the shadows around her. For a moment, she thought she was being followed, but the suspicion quickly went away and she continued on, following a path that she instinctively seemed to know. She stopped abruptly at the sound of a thump coming from up ahead, as if something heavy had hit the floor. Hurrying in the direction of the sound, she kept to the shadows until coming around a corner where she discovered Ranger Cole laying motionless on the floor. A fierce-looking Minbari warrior stood over him, his denn'bok opened and covered in the Ranger's blood. Cady felt the rage build up in her and without a thought, whipped out her denn'bok to challenge him.
Neroon turned to her, smiling cruelly. "I've all ready made short work of one of your kind. Must I now add to the list?"
Dismissing his words, she moved toward him. However, before she got within two feet of the warrior, he flicked his denn'bok with a movement she never saw coming, and caught her in the jaw, knocking her back off her feet and to the floor. Cady swallowed back the pain of the blow, and shook her head to clear it of the stars that seemed to dance before her eyes. She glared up at Terann, damning herself for being caught by the same move Sech Durhan always used to pull on her. She found herself reconsidering her actions for the moment – the warrior before her was not exactly what she would refer to as 'small'. The expression in his eyes told her quite simply that he had no qualms whatsoever with killing her without a second thought. Her pride forced its way past reason though, and she found herself climbing back to her feet, prepared to not back down from this fight, no matter how frightening the warrior may be.
Just as she readied herself for another attack, another voice filtered through her mind, Do not attempt it, and she knew instantly that the voice belonged to Alyt Terann
He will kill you and nothing will be gained. I know you are a Ranger and taught to fight in our way, but you are not a warrior, and you can not match Alyt Neroon.
For a moment, Cady found herself wanting to tell Terann where she could shove her Minbari arrogance but the voice spoke again:
Do not be a fool! Tend to your own, and I shall tend to mine.
Cady glanced up at Alyt Neroon; saw that he was watching her with a mild sort of curiosity, as if he considered her as more of an annoying insect than a threat. Very well, Cady thought to herself. Maybe I still have some sense in me after all. She closed her weapon, glared at the warrior once more, and then pushed past him to hurry over to Marcus. Terann barely afforded her a parting glance before he disappeared from the corridor.
Kneeling beside Marcus, Cady quickly checked for a pulse, breathing a sigh of relief when she found it. Gently, she turned him over to see the damage, hissing through clenched teeth at his bruised and bloody face. She reached out to touch one of the cuts, her hand trembling slightly at what she was considering when a voice behind her caused her to freeze.
"I am sorry that this had to happen."
Cady glanced back at Terann not surprised to see her, before returning her attention to the Ranger beside her. "He is alive."
This seemed to catch Terann off guard. "He is…"
She paused for a moment, as if trying to convince herself of this fact. Cady waited, knowing that Terann was reaching out to touch his mind gently, to prove what she had been told. Appearing satisfied, if somewhat surprised, she nodded.
"It is good that a death need not arise out of this…unfortunate circumstance."
"Unfortunate circumstance?" Cady snapped, glancing over her shoulder at the tiny warrior behind her. "Is that what Minbari call this kind of attack?"
"This one chose to confront Alyt Neroon. It was unfortunate that he made such a foolish choice," Terann replied quietly.
Cady turned back to Marcus' still form, knowing that Terann was right but unwilling to admit it aloud. "Look, this just might turn into a death if we don't get Marcus some medical attention. Would you mind going for help while I stay here with him?"
She seemed to hesitate at this request, and Cady had to bite her tongue to keep from snapping at her to hurry. Finally, Terann replied, "Very well, Ranger Kyra. I will go and seek help for your friend."
Cady glanced over her shoulder. "Thank you, Terann."
They watched one another with obvious suspicion for a long and silent moment, and then Terann nodded before moving off into the shadows.
Cady watched until she disappeared from view, and then returned her attention to Marcus. She had always had difficulty seeing anyone or anything in pain. As a child, she'd collected pets of every sort that she found which were injured or sick. She had tended to plants and flowers that others had discarded, making them bloom to life again, grow to be stronger and more brilliant than before. The animals, though, she was able to do very little for but tend to them as any other would, with medicines and kindness. She had never been able to understand why she could help the plants, why she seemed to be able to see inside them and mend them from the inside out. She had loved to do it, though. To tend to a garden that was devoid of life only to see it blossom in abundance after only a few days care. It had been her one small joy as a child on Centauri Prime, and even that had only been done in secret.
You must not do this, Cady. Not ever again.
But mama, I love to make the flowers grow. They need me.
I understand, honey, but for your safety, you must not continue. You must forget that you can do this, Cady. Please, listen to me. Never make the flowers grow again.
Cady closed her eyes against the memory. She had done as her mother had asked, and kept her promise, long after her mother had died and she had been taken in by the Kyras. Then, that fateful day had come when she had been discovered in Shadow space… Since then, nothing had been the same.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Cady reached out with trembling hands to touch Ranger Cole's stomach. Gently, she moved her hands over his ribs, allowing her mind to open up, letting her hands become her eyes as she broke the barrier of three-dimensional sight and she saw the man before her as little more than a composite of cells and molecules. It really was not much different than the cell structure of a plant, when it came right down to it. Cady saw where the problems were, the internal bleeding caused by the broken ribs, the punctured lung, and she quietly sent out instructions to the body of how to begin healing itself.
When satisfied that Marcus would not die before help reached them, Cady reluctantly pulled herself back from doing anymore. Too many questions would be asked if she were to repair him completely, if she were to heal the cut and bruises and mend the broken bones; questions that she was afraid and unprepared to answer. She had never done anything quite so complicated before and she had not realized how much it would take out of her physically. She felt sapped completely of her strength and energy. The worst wound she had ever healed was one that Jeffrey Sinclair had inflicted on himself to make her show him what she could do. He had been as adamant about knowing what the Shadows had done to her as she had been about not telling him. Therefore, he had slit his arm open in front of her, forcing her to make a decision. She remembered wanting to just let him stand there and bleed, but her usual sympathy for those in pain took over. She had healed the wound, and had once more found herself being cautioned never to let anyone know of her secret.
Closing her eyes, Cady leaned her head against the bulkhead beside her, and slept lightly until the medical personnel appeared to help Marcus.
Racing through the station, Terann found both her mind and body moving of their own volition. Her promise to Cady, that she would find help for Anla'shok Cole, kept her moving in the direction of the Zocalo, however it was the questions that weighed on her mind that kept pulling her elsewhere. She knew that by alerting security she would bring unwanted attention to the situation, attention that would most assuredly interfere with her own curiosity. It was with relief then that she spied Delenn's aide, Lennier, moving toward her. Knowing he understood the potential volatility of the situation assured her he would exercise the necessary discretion. And while Neroon had committed the unthinkable in challenging Delenn and threatening her life, it was a Minbari concern and one that needed to be dealt with only by Minbari.
Making no effort at formality, she quickly informed Lennier of Marcus' condition, assuring him that Cady was with him, and that neither was in any additional danger from Neroon. She was grateful when Lennier did not question her further, his concern for his friend and his obligations to Delenn clearly taking precedence over any curiosity he may possess. So he left her, heading in the direction she had given him, leaving her to focus her own thoughts. Removing herself from the crowd around her, Terann found solace in an adjoining corridor and quickly went about seeking the answers she so desperately needed.
Her eyes closed, she allowed her abilities to take over, her mind wending its way through the station guided only by instinct. Parts of her admonished her actions, demanded that she not involve herself in such trivial matters, reminding her it was not why she had been placed aboard the Earthers' station. But for now, the stubborn, more vocal part of her urged her to ignore these voices, and instead drove her toward the only person who could answer the questions that nagged. So she brushed the voices aside, deciding whatever the consequences were she would deal with them when the time came.
Terann found Neroon exactly where she expected; in a dark corner of Down Below. It was his thoughts, however, she found most surprising. The usual arrogance did little to overshadow the obvious self-doubt. Shocked by her own actions, she found herself moving to seek him out, wondering if only for a moment where her own confidence had come from. In the past, the mere mention of Neroon's name had been enough to intimidate her. He had been her biggest critic, never passing on the opportunity to remind her of her place. However, much had changed during her time away, she had changed and it was only now becoming apparent to her how evident this was.
Stepping from the lift in Brown Sector, she found she paid little mind to the sights and smells. Unlike her previous visit when she had allowed herself to be concerned for the misplaced souls here, her mind was now occupied with what would happen once she met up with Neroon. She was not even entirely certain of what, if anything, she would gain from this encounter. Doubt began to work its way back into the forefront, but she forcefully pushed it aside staying focused on her purpose.
Anything she may have thought to say quickly vanished as she entered the chamber he had chosen for his seclusion. She marveled at how quickly her resolve followed, and for briefest of moments, she considered backtracking, and leaving him with his secrets. It amazed her how easy it was for him to intimidate her and suddenly she felt foolish for allowing him to do so. As Terann doubted her own ability to raise a hand to him, she wanted to believe he possessed the same restraint. Their differences aside, she forced herself to believe there was no reason to fear him.
So she stayed, almost rooted in place, her mind certain he knew she was there. When finally he turned to face her, she affected an appearance she hoped conveyed the correct amount of strength and humility, knowing he would tolerate neither in abundance.
"Have you come to challenge me as well?" he asked, his tone tainted with boredom.
"No," she replied with a subtle shake of her head.
At this, a mocking smile crossed his lips. "Good. I have already made short work of two Rangers."
Terann crossed her arms menacingly over her chest, her eyes brightening at his increasing annoyance. "Really? Then you think you could best me as easily?"
"I have no doubt," he snarled.
Terann considered his words for a moment before moving to wander about the room, her eyes, however never leaving him. She would not show him weakness, not again. She felt him grow uneasy under her heavy gaze, and a wave of confidence washed over her. Recklessness was not normally a quality she exhibited, however she was beginning to appreciate the Humans' fixation with it.
"You assume much."
Taking a menacing step towards her, Neroon warned, "And you forget your place."
"No Alyt Neroon," she reminded him. "The Grey Council is gone, you are no longer Satai. We are no different, you and I."
He laughed without mirth. "You believe we are equals?"
"Well, at least you do not entirely lack wisdom."
She allowed him to turn before speaking again. "I said we are not equals; I did not imply I am beneath you."
Neroon reacted quickly, closing the gap between them and, admittedly, when he struck her she was ill prepared. Stumbling backwards from the force of the blow, she instantly berated herself, knowing she should have been gauging his emotions better. Reaching under her tunic she withdrew her denn'bok, opening it with a subtle flick of her wrist.
Neroon only smiled at this, appearing for a moment almost pleased, however this was wiped away by his reemerging contempt. "Then you do intend to challenge me."
"No," she replied, raising her chin defiantly. "But I will defend myself if I need to."
"Typical of the Religious caste, acting only after you have been set upon."
"This has nothing to do with the Religious caste!" she shouted. She had long since grown tired of defending herself to him. Why did he constantly demand that she prove herself? By what authority did Neroon consider himself fit to judge her?
"It has everything to do with the Religious caste," he insisted. "You stand there claiming to be a warrior, but all I see is dishonor. You claim to be Alyt, yet I do not recognize this."
With each passing insult, she felt her confidence wane. Soon, she was certain, he would have her cowering before him and that was something she would never let happen. Not again.
"My commission was given to me by the Grey Council."
"And how far would I have to look to find that it was not the Warrior caste that supported this? We know how you hid during the war, anything to avoid getting your hands dirty."
Such was his pleasure at watching her fading confidence that it took all her willpower just to keep her eyes focused on him. Every ounce of her resolve disappeared as he leaned over her and sneered, "Was cowardice the first lesson you learned from the Religious caste, or simply the one you learned best?"
"I am not a coward!" Terann denied heatedly, summoning all of her strength to slam the end of her pike into his right temple.
Shock and anger suffused Neroon, but she quickly pushed his pervasive emotions aside. If she was to ever make a point then now, she believed, was as good a time as any.
"You have no idea the horrors I inflicted during the war; the horrors I still carry with me."
"Do I? So convinced of your own superiority you never once questioned how easily we crushed any Human resistance. They poured their souls into saving their race, yet we barely even noticed. You act so smug, so honorable, but the weight of your victories fell upon us. We were the ones who provided you with fleet positions, colony locations any piece of intelligence that could be used in your endless slaughter.
"You have no idea what it's like, Neroon, to destroy an enemy from the inside, to see in their eyes the knowledge that what you learn from them will be used to kill thousands of their own kind; to feel their deaths when their thoughts cling only to their families and friends." Terann's eyes narrowed in accusation. "You are so proud of the number of Humans you have killed, why then did you spare the Ranger? What could he, a Human, have possibly done for you to spare him?"
He turned away from her dismissively. "I do not expect you to understand."
She moved back around him, forcing him to face her. "But I may, Neroon, more so than perhaps you do. You say I have been sheltered, but I suggest you take a look at yourself. Never have you had to fight an enemy that offered any kind of resistance, and when one finally appears --"
"The Shadows, again."
"Yes Neroon." She nodded her brow furrowing in consideration. "Is that why you spared him… the Ranger? Because you saw in him things you know you can never possess?"
The anger Terann had sparked inside of the other warrior suddenly exploded, rage contorting his face as he lunged towards her. Any resistance she may have offered was quickly brushed aside as she became the outlet for his fury. For the most fleeting of moments she considered using her own strength against him, but the voices in her head stayed her hand. She would gain not ground with him by using that which made her different. So she allowed it to continue, her body screaming at the beating she was taking. With each blow he landed, he pushed her back until finally he clutched her thin neck painfully in his hand.
"Is this what you wanted?" He asked through gritted teeth, his grip tightening until stars began exploding within her vision. "What, in Valen's name, did you hope to gain?"
"Understanding," she replied, the word tearing painfully from her throat.
His laughter at this resonated throughout the room. "Foolish girl, you seek understanding in death, only you know I can not kill you."
Terann clenched her eyes shut for a moment, summoning what remained of her confidence. When she opened them again, her appearance was one of reckless defiance. "Then take my life, Neroon. I give it to you, as is the tradition of our caste. There will be no repercussions."
His hold on her loosened imperceptibly. "Why?"
"Because," Terann replied. "If I can not prove myself to you, then I am truly lost."
A cruel smile spread across his otherwise handsome face. "As you wish." He pulled his hand from her neck allowing her to collapse at his feet.
When the medics arrived to take Marcus to MedLab they became concerned over Cady's apparent state of exhaustion as well, and insisted she return with them. Unable to offer much in the way of argument, she allowed one of them to give her support and lead her back to MedLab 5.
She was separated from Ranger Cole once they arrived; he was taken into an isolation room, and she was led to a table in the central examination area where she was instructed to wait while a nurse checked her vital signs. Cady was having trouble keeping her eyes open, and did not bother to resist as she was told to lay back and wait for the doctor.
As she turned her head toward the window to the isolation room, where she could see the medical team working frantically to save Marcus, she clenched her fists at her sides. She felt incredibly helpless for being unable to strike back at the Minbari warrior, Neroon. If only Terann had left her alone, if only she had been able to get there sooner, if only Marcus had asked for her help…If only.
And all this pain and misery had been due to the choice of Delenn as the Anla'shok Na. Did she understand the sacrifices made in her name? Did she even truly care? After all, she was Minbari and a more arrogant and conceited race Cady had yet to meet (well, other than the Centauri who were built of an entirely different kind of arrogance). What should Delenn care that mere Humans were willing to die for her?
Sometimes, Cady found herself questioning the entire idea of the Rangers. They seemed to powerful an army for one person to command. For a moment, Cady found herself understanding the reasoning behind Alyt Neroon's threat, and then she quickly forced the thought from her mind. You are a Ranger, she chided herself, shame suffusing her as she considered what Sinclair would think of her thoughts. Perhaps you should start acting like one.
"Cady, what happened?"
Head turning at the voice, Cady saw Delenn approaching her, concern etched across her exotic features, Lennier, following close behind. Teachings embedded deeply in her mind caused Cady to struggle to sit up once more, and offer her a small bow of reverence.
"Entil'zha," she greeted quietly, fighting against the dizziness that swept over her.
"Please, lay back down," she instructed, reaching out to touch Cady's shoulder and guide her back down against the examination table. "Are you injured?"
"No," Cady responded. "It is Ranger Cole. He… He and a warrior named Neroon battled in Brown Sector. Marcus was unconscious when I found him. I am… uncertain as to how badly he was hurt."
Delenn squeezed her shoulder gently before glancing over her shoulder toward the isolation room. She watched for a moment, and then returned her attention to Cady. "I thank you for searching for him. I am certain that the medical personnel will do all that they can to help him." She grew silent then, watching Cady closely before asking, "And you, Cady? What happened? Did Neroon challenge you as well?"
She shook her head. "No, Entil'zha. I simply became… dizzy."
She hated herself for lying to the Anla'shok Na, but she had no other choice. For all that Delenn might know about her, she had not indicated knowing quite this much, and Cady wasn't quite ready to share. At least not until she knew a little better what Delenn had planned for her in this war against the Shadows. She already understood that Alyt Terann was watching her closely, testing her abilities even as she trained her, searching for all that the Shadows may have done to her. Even her prior abilities had been a closely guarded secret; she just felt uncertain as to how to share such things with those around her yet. Trust was difficult for Cady; Sinclair had been the first, and last, person she had found to trust since she lost her mother.
If Delenn did not believe her half-truth, she gave no indication of it. She simply smiled at Cady, told her to rest, and then left to move over to the window, and watch as the medics worked to save Marcus.
Lennier, however, hung back; he stepped up to the Ranger after Delenn was out of earshot.
"Alyt Neroon interrupted the ceremony," he told her. "It seems that Marcus succeeded in convincing him not to challenge Delenn's position."
She found herself frowning slightly. "You knew of the challenge, then? And you knew that Marcus meant to interfere?"
The aide nodded. "As you know, I was unable to take action or it would have led to trouble between the castes. I asked that Marcus only prevent Neroon from stopping the ceremony – I warned him not to challenge Neroon. It seems that Marcus Cole does not listen to instruction well."
Cady found a small smile at the comment. She'd heard the same said of her in the past. "He was very brave to do what he did," she remarked before catching Lennier's gaze. "All will be well between the castes? There will be no retribution?"
"There should be no action taken," Lennier replied. "Neroon has conceded the title to Delenn, and no blood was spilled between Minbari."
"Only between the Rangers and the Warrior caste," she pointed out.
He nodded. "Yes, but I have not known the Anla'shok to be about revenge."
"No. In that respect, all is well."
Inclining his head to her, Lennier turned and walked away to rejoin Delenn.
Cady closed her eyes, taking another minute or two to rest. She could feel her body regaining its strength, and found herself wondering what would have happened should she have attempted to mend a much more serious injury. She was uncertain as to how she'd explain having been unconscious herself when found by the medics beside Marcus. Delenn would have become curious, and asked far too many questions that she would have been unable to answer appropriately. Cady knew that the next time she used her abilities in such a manner, she would have to be far more careful.
"Miss Kyra, is it?"
Opening her eyes, wondering how much time had passed, Cady found a petite and pretty doctor standing beside her, glancing over the monitor attached to the examination table. "Yes."
"I am Doctor Hobbs," she introduced herself with a smile. "How are you feeling?"
"Better, actually," Cady responded, proving it by sitting up, her muscles no longer protesting against the movement.
Doctor Hobbs nodded. "According to the display, all of your vitals are strong – nothing seems to be wrong with you. Do you have any idea what caused your dizziness? The medics told me that you were barely conscious when they found you…"
"I… had run quite a way to find Ranger Cole," Cady lied. "I was a bit out of breath when I got there. And then… well, seeing him in that condition frightened me. I feared he might be dead. I suppose the shock of it all got to me."
The doctor watched her silently, and Cady forced herself not to squirm under the stare. Finally, she sighed briefly and told her, "Well, I can see no reason for keeping you under observation. You appear to be fine, so I'm going to let you go. But, should you suffer from any of these symptoms again, I would ask that you return to MedLab immediately. All right?"
Holding back an expression of relief, Cady nodded, slipping off of the table to her feet with a smile. "Understood, Doctor Hobbs. Thank you."
She glanced toward the isolation room, and asked, "What about Ranger Cole? Is he going to be all right?"
Doctor Hobbs followed her gaze, nodding. "He's badly injured. We're going to have to keep him here for a few days at least, but I do expect him to make a full recovery. He's lucky – it could have been much worse. I'm very surprised he escaped without any internal bleeding."
Cady bit back a smile, unable to not feel extremely pleased with her work.
As the doctor left her, Cady hung back a few minutes, eyeing the medics as they continued to work over Marcus, monitoring his vitals and doing what they could to mend his wounds. It was a sobering thought that she could do in lesser time to the human body, and much more efficiently, healing that would take weeks or even months otherwise. A tremor ran through her at the thought. It was power that no one should rightly have, and this was why she was fearful of possessing it, of ever allowing another to know that she did. While the idea of working in the medical field and providing such perfect care to others had a certain appeal, Cady doubted it could ever truly work. Too many would demand her help, expect it – she would never be able to heal everyone. And considering the nature of others, she had no doubt that there would be those who would gladly kill to possess it.
Taking a deep breath, Cady decided to retreat to her quarters where she could rest a bit and consider her actions regarding Marcus. As she started toward the exit, an image quickly intruded into her mind, bringing her to a sudden halt. She saw the Minbari warrior, Alyt Neroon, standing before her, driving a knife deep into her stomach. She felt the sharp pain stab through her, her hands immediately closing over the wound. Yet there was no wound there – it was only in her imagination – though it left a burning pain that was slow to recede.
A dozen rationalizations flew through her mind to make sense of what had just happened to her when she suddenly heard Alyt Terann's voice "There is no time….Child of Valen….You must find your way here". The Ranger could not have explained it if she wanted to, but she somehow knew instantly that Terann was in grave danger.
"Ranger Kyra?" Lennier's voice asked beside her. "Are you all right? Are you in need of assistance?"
Cady turned toward him, though her attention was already focused elsewhere. She could sense where Terann was, and sensed the urgency through the psi-cry in her mind. She didn't know how it was possible other than the few times their minds had touched.
"I… No, I'm fine, but I need to go."
Without another word, Cady turned and hurried out of Medlab.
Terann gulped in the air her lungs so violently craved, ever aware of Neroon as he towered over her. She knew there was no backing down, but she also understood that she did not currently possess the strength to defend herself. So it was that she offered no resistance as he once again snaked his hand around her, clutching her roughly by the back of her neck, pulling her to her feet just long enough for their gazes to meet. He regarded her, if only for a moment, a look that could be considered regret flashing across his face before agony once again tore through her body. When he released his hold on her, she crumpled once again to the floor, only faintly aware of the blood flowing from the knife wound to her abdomen.
The voices flooded back to her, demanding that she inflict the same suffering upon Neroon, reminding her that she was better than him, stronger. So focused on them was she, that she blocked out much of the pain and all of Neroon's continued mocking. She allowed them to coalesce within her, to feed her the strength she needed to gather her feet beneath her as she slowly rose to standing.
She gazed at him in silence, regarding him much as one would an interesting insect before taking a step toward him. The look upon his face was unreadable and even what she felt from him did little to convince her it spawned from any one emotion. If he was more pleased or annoyed she could not tell, and she was unsure why it mattered to her. Perhaps a part of her demanded that if she was to die here it would be as she saw herself, not as he would have her believe herself to be.
To her sorrow, Neroon was evidently of the same mind and he circled around behind her, snatching her pike from her limp hand. Triumphantly, he brought it forcefully against the backs of her knees, sending her once again to the deck plate.
"Did the Religious caste not teach you to kneel when you pray?"
Her vision turned red in anger at his continued mocking. Every insult, every harsh word uttered toward her echoed through her ears until she thought she would drown in them. The voices melded together, forming one being, one outlet for all the pain and hurt she had been forced to endure at the hands of her caste. She allowed her anger to swell within, refusing to release it, clinging to it like a greedy child.
Raising his chin arrogantly, Neroon moved over to her, his face never once alluding to the conflicting emotions Terann felt coursing through him. She considered the next few minutes, understanding all that she had to lose, and what little she had to gain weighing heavily on her. Glancing down at her bloodstained hand she held tightly over her battered abdomen, the strange sensation of watching her life flow out of her only added fuel to her recklessness.
"Neroon," Terann said softly, drawing him closer to her.
When she raised her gaze to meet his, her eyes had darkened in her fury, strength and arrogance pulled from hidden sources that fed her tenacity. Reaching up, she grabbed the front of his uniform, pulling him towards her until their faces were mere inches apart.
She regarded him silently for a moment, almost feeling pity for the warrior before saying through gritted teeth: "I did not learn everything from the Religious caste."
As soon as the words had left her lips, Terann unleashed all the energy within her, using her gifts to throw him against the bulkhead with an audible thud. That he was unsuspecting of her abilities was evident in the way he struggled against her hold on him, but she offered him no quarter. The flames of his rage lashed against her mental blocks but Terann used these against him, tightening her own grip on his throat as he had previously done to her.
Struggling back to her feet, she slowly moved toward him, the pleasure she found in his upset making the agony coursing through her body almost bearable. Focus, she told herself, trying to overcome the excruciating pain roiling through her body and mind. When she was within inches of him, she calmly removed her bloodied gloves from her hands. Placing her left hand on his cheek, she gazed deeply into his eyes, focusing past them into his mind, securing a hold there. As their minds linked together, she allowed him see everything -- images from the war, secrets she had kept deep within her mind, memories she never wanted to recall. She held back only those things she knew must remain buried. Several minutes passed when Terann began to feel the strain she was placing on his mind, and finally brought herself back to the present long enough to hear his muffled grunts of pain that her mental assault was causing. She severed the connection between them, knowing that she would gain nothing by killing the warrior.
The stranglehold she'd placed on him now gone, Neroon crumpled to the floor at her feet, but quickly moved to stand. Terann, however, had other plans for him and allowed him only to his knees, using her psi to hold him kneeling before her.
The strain of her invasion and her continued hold on him allowed him only to gasp, "I don't understand."
Terann had expected such a response, and looking at him now she found she felt only pity for him. Reaching out to place her hand atop his head, and using her hidden strength to force his gaze from hers to the floor, Terann said, "Understanding is a three-edged sword."
Not waiting to see his reaction, she turned to leave, making her way back through the empty corridors, deep within the bowels of the station.
Once certain that the other warrior was not following her, Terann allowed herself to succumb to the pain that had suffused her body. She collapsed to the floor, finally acknowledging the full extent of her injuries. For all that she was, all the power that she possessed, her body was still small, still frail compared to the one she had battled. His strength, compared to hers, manifested itself in the beating that she had taken. It was only her mental fortitude that had sustained her throughout the fight; her pride that forced her to walk away, without giving hint to Alyt Neroon that he had succeeded in breaking her – may have even succeeded in killing her.
She was having difficulty in breathing, pain cutting through her with each breath, indicating that she had at least a broken rib, if not several. When she coughed, she could feel the blood rising in her throat. But it was the wound to her stomach that forced Terann to acknowledge she may be in the final moments of her life. Holding her hand against her abdomen did little to staunch the flow of blood that spilled from the wound. There was an odd numbness moving through her body, a chill that she almost welcomed as a groggy and euphoric feeling overtook her. Terann was not afraid to die; had never been so. She had been raised to understand that sentient beings were little more than starstuff – a part of the universe that passed beyond the veil to become the universe itself. There was no fear in that. She was reassured in her passing with the knowledge that she had proven her point to Neroon. She doubted, however, that he would ever share his knowledge with Shai Alyt Shakiri. It mattered little if Neroon did or not, since she would no longer be there to care for very much longer.
Cursing under her breath, Terann willed herself to stand. If she were to die, she would do so as a warrior, on her feet until the very end. Her legs, however, no longer had the strength to hold her, and instantly crumbled beneath her. This time, however, someone caught her from behind, easing her gently back to the floor. As she looked up, she half-expected Neroon to be there, smug and victorious as he held her dying form in his arms. She was shocked to realize it was the Human Ranger, Cady.
"I will get you to Medlab," she told her, preparing to lift Terann.
Mustering what little strength she had, Terann grabbed her arm firmly. "No!"
Cady sighed, shaking her head. "Look, I've had enough of your warrior pride, Alyt Terann. I am not going to leave you here to die."
"It is not pride, Cady," she managed to respond softly.
Terann lifted a bloodied hand and held it out to Cady. "They must never know."
It was obvious that Cady did not understand what it was that she spoke of, but Terann no longer had the strength to explain. You must stay awake, she silently scolded herself, fearing that if she were to lose consciousness, Cady would surely take her to Medlab against her protest. And that must never happen.
Cady sighed impatiently. "Damn you," Terann heard her mutter. "Why can't you ever make sense?"
Terann felt herself almost smile at the obvious frustration in Cady's voice. For a moment, she wished that she could answer her, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to remain conscious, let alone carry on a coherent conversation. Her thoughts were already becoming scattered. If she were to die here, her secret would still become known. Many would feel outraged, betrayed. She could only hope that Delenn would have the sense to bury the truth. Too much turmoil would arise otherwise; the galaxy and the races were as of yet unprepared for that.
On the edge of consciousness, she felt Cady move her slightly, and pain tore through her at the action, causing her to cry out.
"Sorry," Cady mumbled, as if her voice was filtered through the end of a tunnel. "I don't know… I mean, I'm going to try but I can't guarantee… I've never tried this on an alien form before…"
She was not making sense, and Terann decided to let it go. There was nothing that could be done now. Even if Cady were to attempt to get her to MedLab, they would arrive too late, and though the secret would be revealed, she would not be there to suffer any consequences that may come with it. She was sorry that she had failed, though.
Cady's hands moved over her stomach, and Terann could feel within her soft, glowing warmth spreading through her body. She wondered at it; was this Death? It was only when she felt the other telepath touch her mind, probing her consciousness that Terann began to realize she was not dying. In fact, she could feel her strength returning, her lifeforce pumping through her body ever more steadily. In moments, she was strong enough to block Cady from her mind, though she did so gently, knowing that she did not mean harm by her actions. Opening her eyes, Terann watched Cady above her, eyes closed, the color draining from her face ever so slowly as the warmth in her own body continued to spread.
After a few short minutes, Terann knew that she was miraculously healed, at least enough to allow nature to continue with the rest.
"That's enough!" She said, more harshly than she intended as she pushed Cady's hands from her.
As she sat up, she noticed Cady was slowly slumping to the wall beside her. Her coloring was deathly pale, and her eyes were fluttering closed. Terann quickly processed the information, understanding that it had taken Cady's own lifeforce to heal the wounds inflicted on her body. While this obviously placed a limit on how long she could sustain the action, Terann also knew that it did not detract from the very potent power that Cady possessed. She had been correct in her warning to Sheridan; the Shadows had created a very dangerous weapon indeed. On the other hand, she was unable to dismiss the fact that nothing regarding Cady's programming had reacted disruptively against Terann's own telepathic ability. If the Shadows had meant for her destruction, they had not taken the very perfect opportunity when it was in their proverbial hands.
Setting the information back in her mind to consider at a later time, Terann reached out for Cady, gently waking her. "You have weakened yourself."
Cady blinked at her momentarily, as if she had forgotten where she was. She shook her head in the negative, giving Terann reason to reflect on their mutual obsessive pride, and pushed her hands away.
"No, I… You need medical attention," Cady protested, and made an ineffectual attempt to get to her feet.
"You have done more than was necessary, Ranger," Terann denied quietly, mildly surprised as she climbed to her own feet. "You will leave it alone."
No one must know, she reminded herself before reaching down to Cady. "You, on the other hand, are the one in apparent need of medical attention."
"No," she declined once more, pulling away from Terann and using the wall to attempt to stand. "I… they can't… they'll ask questions."
Terann nodded. She understood her fears intimately. And Cady was right – this ability of hers must not be discovered by the others. A Human certainly should not possess such power, and no one else must ever have access to it. The younger races would tear themselves apart.
"Very well, Cady Kyra," Terann acquiesced, moving to slip her arm around the other telepath's waist, taking her weight onto herself. "No, do not argue. I am perfectly capable of supporting you. You have seen to this. Now, allow me to help you back to your quarters. As you say, it is best that no one else see you in this state. Too many questions would be uncomfortable for either of us."
She could feel Cady watching her, and refused to meet her gaze. Terann knew that she had seen – knew that by healing her, Cady understood why she could not go to MedLab. Thankfully, Cady refrained from asking questions, but she knew that curiosity would not be held in check for long. At the moment, they were at a stalemate, neither wishing for the other to reveal their secret. Terann knew that the situation could not remain as such for very long.
They arrived at Terann's quarters in the casino hotel without incident, she careful to monitor each hallway they took in order to make certain they encountered as few others as possible. Cady had remained oddly silent, and Terann wondered if it were simple exhaustion that caused her to be abnormally reticent from the usual high-spirited individual that she was slowly coming to know.
It was only as Terann opened the door to her quarters, giving access to Cady to step inside, that she suddenly quipped, "I didn't picture you as the casino type, Terann. Er, sorry. Alyt Terann."
Terann decided to let that little remark go without comment.
Helping Cady through the door, she led her over to the couch where she helped her to sit before stepping away toward the tiny kitchen at the far side of the room. She filled a glass with water before returning to her side and holding it out to her.
"Here. Drink this."
Her guest looked as if she were about to refuse before slowly reaching her hand up. It quickly returned to her side and she dropped her head to the back of the couch, eyes closing. "I don't think I can… I just want to… to sleep."
Frowning, Terann sat beside her, reaching an arm behind her shoulders and pulling her back to a sitting position as she held the glass to her lips. "It is obvious your body is in need of nutrients – it needs to be replenished. Now, drink."
Cady's eyes widened slightly at the demanding tone of Terann's voice before she did as told, and sipped at the water offered to her. Once certain Cady had finished it, Terann pulled the glass away and allowed her to lean back before standing to stare down at her. Curiosity was a trait that she had long been taught to suppress; it was something seen long as inherent in the younger races but the older, more learned beings of the galaxy understood that curiosity only led to trouble. One need not always know the answers; one had to trust in the workings of the universe. Questions often led to answers that one never wished to hear.
Unfortunately, this was one time that Terann was not about to withhold that basic instinct. There were questions before her that needed to be answered.
"Do you suffer any other symptoms?" she questioned. "Beyond the exhaustion, I mean."
Cady took a breath before replying, "Dizziness. And a chill. I feel cold all over but it seems to be fading."
Terann nodded, mind whirling with hypothesis. She began to pace. "It is obvious that you somehow… give of your own life to replenish another. I have heard rumor that such thing was possible in the older races – the First Ones. This is another… enhancement given to you by the Shadows."
When Cady did not confirm or deny her statement, Terann turned to look down at her, surprised to find that there was an expression of consternation on her face. It was obvious that she had something she wished to say, but was uncertain, or unwilling, of how to do so.
"What is it?"
Cady began worrying her lower lip with her teeth, a habit Terann had witnessed from her more than once, before finally raising her gaze. "I… it isn't something that's totally new to me. I mean, it is – I definitely was never able to heal people in the past… at least, not that I knew of."
"You are not making sense, Human."
She sighed, and gave a slight shrug of her shoulders. "Ever since I can remember – maybe my first memory ever, even – I have been able to make flowers grow."
Terann blinked at this statement. "Explain," she demanded.
"I can't really," Cady supplied. "When I was very little – I don't know how old – I could sit in the middle of a patch of flowers, and they would bloom around me. Bigger, brighter; dozens and dozens of them. I could walk through grass, and I could hear it 'calling' to me, and I would touch it and make it greener." She shook her head. "I can't explain how. It was never something I consciously did. It was just there. Kind of like breathing."
Terann found herself lowering to sit on the small table opposite the couch, staring over at Cady in disbelief. "And yet, you possessed no other ability?"
She waved a hand helplessly at her side. "I don't know. There is little I remember of my first few years – those spent with my real mother. I do know that I could hear her in my head; I could always feel her there, but no one else. When she was gone, that went away with her. This… stuff that's in there now," she gestured toward her head, "that's new. And, of course, the healing…"
"How did you first discover that you were able to heal sentient beings?"
"By accident," Cady admitted. "It was during my first month on Minbar. I had been fooling around with my denn'bok – before truly learning how to handle it – and I got my finger caught as it closed. It ripped the skin, and hurt like hell, and I just… I don't know, I wanted it to go away, to feel better, and it did."
"How did you learn that you could do the same to others?"
"When I told my fath – the Anla'shok Na what I had done. He wanted to see for himself, and slit his arm open with a knife. I warned him not to; I had no idea if I could actually do it to someone else, but he ignored me." She sighed softly. "So I placed my hand over the cut and thought about healing it. It… it wasn't like with the flowers, though."
Terann leaned forward. "How so?"
"Like I said, as a child, I wouldn't even think about it – it just happened. But this – it's like I can see the cells and molecules that create us. I can… talk to them, guide them, and move them to do what I want."
"Manipulate them," Terann concluded, straightening, a deep-rooted fear sweeping over her.
Cady looked up at her, brow furrowing. "I suppose. I haven't really thought of it like that. I just 'order' them to repair the damage, and they do. The first time, I felt slightly dizzy but not quite so exhausted."
Standing, Terann moved away, careful to keep her back to Cady as she considered the information she had been given. The situation had suddenly become far more dangerous and dire than she had warned either Delenn or Sheridan. If the Shadows had done as she suspected, then it was almost certain they had set out to create an imminently dangerous weapon of destruction. She clasped her hands together before turning to face Cady.
"Have you ever killed anyone?"
She frowned. "What kind of question is that?"
"Perhaps the most important question I will ever ask of you."
Cady's eyes widened at the statement as she continued to stare up at Terann before she finally shook her head. "No. No, I have not. Have you?"
"That information is immaterial at this point," Terann responded, turning her back to Cady once more, eyes closing as she felt a minor wave of relief pass through her.
The Shadows may have made an incalculable mistake. In their determination to create an untraceable weapon of death – a creature with the ability to manipulate cells within a living being, to spawn incurable diseases and viruses with a simple thought – they managed to overlook one important factor. Their weapon of death was only versed in the creation of life. The sheer fascination and joy that swept across Cady's face as she spoke of making the flowers 'grow' had almost been enough to convince Terann of this fact, but it was the admission of having never taken the life of another which confirmed it. It had obviously, as of yet, never even occurred to Cady that this healing enhancement that Shadows created within her could ever be used as something wholly different. If it had been given to someone different, someone with the capacity for killing, someone born and raised for war and destruction and revenge, then it most certainly would have been used as intended by now.
Yes. The Shadows had made a mistake that Terann might just have the chance to exploit. She would need to work quickly, though. Should the Shadows ever move to take control of Cady Kyra – and it could happen at any time – those in her midst would most certainly not stand a chance of survival.
"How many times have you used this healing ability?" Terann questioned as she returned to stand before Cady.
"A few," she admitted. "Twice on the Anla'shok Na – he injured himself accidentally once. To Marcus earlier, but only to repair the damage inside of him; I didn't heal him completely. And then you." She paused, pursing her lips as she regarded Terann. "You were much more difficult to repair. I can only imagine it is because you are alien to me, and the act took more concentration." She paused once again, eyes narrowing just slightly. "That, and…"
"And?" Terann pressed, expression tightening.
"You're different," Cady told her. "You're… not wholly Minbari, are you?"
Terann raised an eyebrow at the question. "And you are so well acquainted with Minbari physiology, are you Human?"
Cady shrugged. "All Rangers are taught basic first aid for Human and Minbari. I know enough."
"Then you know nothing," Terann dismissed with a wave of her hand. "I am the first alien life-form that you have used this ability on. It is only understandable that the action would be more difficult than on others of your own physiology."
Cady obviously did not believe her but seemed willing to let the subject go.
Giving a quick nod, Terann continued, "As of this moment, you must not use this ability again. Do you understand? It does not matter the circumstances that present themselves before you. This ability is far too powerful – not only for an untrained telepath such as you, but for anyone. You do not know what you are doing; you have admitted as much. And in this, I cannot even instruct you. Therefore, you must forget you have this capability, Cady Kyra. You must put it far from you – for the sake of yourself, as well as others."
Cady shook her head in denial. "That isn't fair, Terann. I saved your life today. Maybe even Marcus' as well."
"I understand this," Terann acquiesced. "But it was luck, and only luck, that served you in this endeavor. Next time, the outcome may not be as favorable, and how would you feel with the death of another literally on your hands?"
Cady grew silent; turning her head away from Terann's perceptive regard. This battle was a crucial one if they were to succeed in the war against the Shadows. If the enemy meant to use the weapon they'd created when the time came, then Terann would make certain their weapon would either be incapable of responding to their call, or would turn against them if given the chance. In a way, she would be forced to use Cady no differently than the Ancient Enemy planned to do so – either against the Shadows or not at all. All ready, Terann was ignoring her true purpose, going against the dictates that had been taught to her from birth. She figured that in these circumstances she could make a choice to follow a different path. If she failed, she would likely have to kill Cady Kyra but, for the moment, she could offer her a fighting chance.
"You need rest," she said finally, ignoring the protest given in reply. "You may sleep here until you regain your strength."
As if realizing this was a battle she would not win, Cady finally nodded and moved to stretch out on the couch. "Only for a little while," she commented. "I need to visit Marcus in Medlab."
"Of course," Terann responded, growing silent as she watched the Human fall into a deep sleep almost immediately.
In the back of her mind, a gentle chorus of voices whispered that this may be her only chance to strike. Cady – her potential enemy – was unguarded, defenseless. She could sneak into her mind and plant the kill-switch, and no one would know the difference.
Then again, it would not be the first time Terann had disregarded the dictates of others.
Cady had been distressed to find she'd slept for over four hours in Terann's room before finally waking. She had to admit that she felt much stronger but unfortunately, she'd slept right through visiting hours allowed at MedLab. She'd arrived there just in time for Dr. Hobbs to tell her she would have to come back to visit Marcus in the morning. She did, at least, get information that Marcus had awakened and was on the road to recovery. It eased her mind just a bit to know he would survive his encounter with Neroon, though she couldn't help but wonder why the warrior had not killed Marcus. From everything she'd heard the majority of the Warrior caste would jump at the opportunity to kill a Human. So why this one had not, especially when Marcus would have had to have challenged him to prevent his attack on Delenn, was beyond Cady's understanding. Terann had told her that they must attend to their own, but that didn't mean she wasn't curious as to the reasons behind Neroon's actions.
After leaving MedLab, Cady found she was feeling restless and not wishing to return to her own quarters, she began wandering through the station, searching out the sections she hadn't visited yet. She wandered through the gardens and past the lake, pausing only momentarily as she contemplated the flowers growing in abundance in the created environment. She was tempted to touch them, just for a moment, but remembered her promise to Terann. What she could do with the flowers wasn't quite the same as healing others, but she doubted Terann would see it as such. Until she could completely control and understand her abilities, Cady figured she should probably follow the instructions of the person who knew better than her what she was dealing with.
It wasn't long before she found herself moving through Grey Sector where, she discovered, most of the corridors were empty. Occasionally she ran into a single maintenance man or wandering security, but for the most part it was devoid of station inhabitants. The lack of sentient minds in close quarters was a much-welcomed peace after the day she'd had – between the physical exhaustion of healing Marcus and Terann, and the mental exhaustion of keeping other minds out. She allowed herself to relax just a bit, even lowering the blocks she'd kept up. Sighing softly in relief, Cady let down her guard, thoughts wandering over the last few months and the sudden changes that had taken place in her life. She certainly had never expected to end up here on the Earther's station.
She's just down the right corridor.
Cady hesitated in her steps at the voice that whispered across her mind. Eyes shifting slightly to the side, she continued on, opening her mind further, ignoring the muddled pain she felt at the nearby alien minds that intruded.
You five, take her from the front. We'll come up from behind. Don't make a move until you hear my signal.
Surreptitiously slipping her hand into her tunic, Cady slowly withdrew her denn'bok, keeping it tucked within the palm of her hand as she moved calmly down the hall, senses attuned to the aliens that were approaching. They whispered among themselves, but she could hear their thoughts even before they were voiced. She could sense their… desire for revenge. Hatred. They were after… Kyra.
Cady frowned, fingers tightening around her weapon. Narns. Of course. One of them had learned her identity – probably that Citizen G'Kar – and now they planned on targeting one of the Noble Houses of Centauri Prime. Though she wouldn't count as quite as significant a target as her parents, there would be plenty of outrage should any harm come to her. The Narns, as violent and irrational as they were, would see it as some sort of achievement, should they kill her.
Pity they wouldn't get the chance. It would almost be worth her death, just to know of the retribution that would come back to them.
They waited until she entered an open storage area before revealing themselves, effectively blocking her from any entrance or exit, and forcing her into a small space for movement, surrounded by boxes, crates and two walls. It had taken more forethought than she would have expected from Narns, and she had to offer a grudging flicker of respect to their tactics.
Cady came to a halt as the five Narns who had moved around in front of her, appeared. She kept her stance defenseless and non-threatening, waiting to see what they planned to do before revealing her weapon. Behind her, she felt six more appear out of the darkness. Eleven total, she thought with a mental nod. Rangers who were good enough to be taught by F'hursna Sech Durhan were capable of taking on far greater numbers. Luckily, she was both.
"Is there a problem?" she asked curiously, listening to the heartbeats and subtle movements of each of those around her.
"There certainly is," one of them snarled from behind her.
Cady didn't bother to move or turn her head to address him. He was forced to step around to the front of her in order to continue his rant.
"You're a Kyra," the Narn spat as he approached her, gripping a metal pipe in one hand threateningly.
She smiled pleasantly. "Why yes, I am. Lady Caderina," she refrained from wincing at the name, "Of the Noble House of Kyra, as a matter of fact. And you, filth, are in my way."
The Narn seemed taken aback by her response. He obviously expected her to be cowering beneath his presence but the thought of any Centauri cowering before a Narn simply made Cady smile. Sure, they were savages, capable of any sort of brutality, but any Centauri, male or female, would gladly stand up before their viciousness rather than simply give up. She straightened her shoulders, and even though the Narn before her was a few inches taller than she, Cady effectively looked haughtily down her nose at him.
"She is proud to be Kyra," he called out to the others, voice filled with venom. "Proud of the blood spilled at the hands of her family, of the pain and humiliation and death forced upon our people by what she calls a 'noble' House. If you ask me, I think she needs to be taught a lesson of what it's like to be beaten and whipped and left for dead."
"And you think you're qualified to teach me this lesson?" Cady asked with amusement.
"That," the Narn snarled once again, moving up to her as he raised the pipe above his head. "And many more."
With a flick of her wrist, Cady's denn'bok was revealed from beneath her tunic, opening as she moved to block the downward arc of the pipe. Just before the two weapons collided, a booming voice echoed out across the area:
"Have I taught you nothing, Da'Noth?!"
The Narn in front of her, apparently known as Da'Noth, froze, fingers tightening over the pipe while he continued to glare at Cady. She remained at the ready as well, understanding that whoever approached had caused a brief pause in the battle but not trusting it to not be a trick.
"Would you bring the retribution, the pain and death of 500 Narns – including your own family – upon the innocent?" The voice asked, drawing nearer to them.
"I will not kill her," Da'Noth responded, his eyes not wavering from Cady's. "I will only beat her until she is unconscious, gnaw on her flesh for a bit, cripple her so that she will never walk again, make her hideous to anyone forced to look upon her for even a moment… but I will certainly leave her alive."
"What a pretty threat," Cady remarked with a laugh. "Have you been practicing that? It sounded rehearsed. What an actor you'd make! Too bad I have every intention of killing you."
Cady's eyes flickered toward the speaker for just a moment, but it was just enough time for Da'Noth to make his move, bringing the pipe forward. The weapon was stopped by the intruder's hand as he reached between them, grabbing hold of the pipe and ripping it from Da'Noth's grasp.
"You interfere where your presence is not wanted or needed," Da'Noth growled. "You have no right, G'Kar!"
Cady glared silently at Citizen G'Kar, having recognized him the moment she'd allowed her eyes to stray. She was beginning to think the creature was following her, the way that he continued to show up wherever she went. Like Da'Noth, she was of the mind that he had no right to intrude – she'd been looking forward to having a go at the uppity Narn before her. She would have gladly accepted his challenge in the name of House Kyra. It would have made her parents very proud.
"No right?" G'Kar repeated anger evident in his voice. "No right?" He moved menacingly up to Da'Noth, leaning in to his face. "You are the one without the right, Da'Noth. You are without the right to condemn 500 of our people to death. You are without the right to play judge, jury and executioner on a child of the House of Kyra."
He stepped away from Da'Noth, turning to speak to the others. "Are we now no better than the Centauri that we find honor in the blood of an innocent? This child has committed no crimes against us! It is her parents that you seek retribution from – "
"We will send a message!" Da'Noth argued. "A message of strength! A message that we are not beaten – that we will continue to fight – "
The Narn leader shook his head. "No. Not like this. Strength does not come from violence. It comes from the heart. The Humans have a saying 'Turn the other cheek', and this is what we must continue to do if we are to survive, if our people are not to fall into obscurity and be forgotten." He looked back to the others. "I know how it burns. I understand. But she," he pointed to Cady, "should not be the instrument of our message. Cady Kyra does not deserve our enmity - if anything, she deserves our pity for being brought up in a world that she doesn't comprehend, for being blinded to the truth… "
Cady glared at Citizen G'Kar as he continued her anger growing as he insulted and derided her in order to control this group of discontent rabble. Pity her?? She'd show him pity – right upside his head with her pike! No wonder her government wanted his head on a platter; he was far worse than the one named Da'Noth, who was simply searching to end his life by threatening hers.
Unfortunately, the other Narns seemed to be listening to him, the violence in their eyes slowly dissipating into passivity. A few were already beginning to back away, dropping their weapons and offering looks of contrition toward their leader. Before her, Da'Noth still appeared prepared to attack at any provocation, and she considered giving him the chance to do so. After all, she doubted that it would take very much, a simple move from her and he would certainly take the offensive. Unfortunately, just as she began to shift to the left to bring her pike back up Citizen G'Kar took Da'Noth by the arm, and brought the focus of his speech to her opponent.
"You are a loyal and courageous Narn, Da'Noth," their leader told him. "Among the best of us. And this is why I must intercede, why I cannot allow you to make such a mistake. If we are ever going to reclaim our freedom and take back our world, then we must do so with our heads and our hearts – not with our fists. You, Da'Noth, have an obligation to our people, to turn the anger that burns within you toward something more productive than attacking a helpless female – "
"Helpless?!" Cady snapped.
He ignored her. "You are right, Da'Noth. The Kyras deserve pain. They deserve humiliation and terror. But this is not the way to do it. Killing her will only rain their anger and destruction upon us. Walk away from this. Prove that we are better than the Centauri. Stronger and united in our goal to be a free Narn once again."
Cady felt the emotions in Da'Noth shift slightly, and she caught him flashing her an angry glare before finally conceding to his leader.
"Very well, G'Kar. For now, I will let this go." He took a step toward Cady, his voice lowering dangerously, "But know this, Cady Kyra, should we ever meet again, away from Babylon 5, I will take pleasure in grinding your bones into dust between my teeth."
"I'm quaking in my shiny boots," she quipped.
For a moment, she thought Da'Noth would ignore his promise to Citizen G'Kar but then the Narn turned from her and stomped away, disappearing around the corner, two others following behind. Six other Narns still remained, as if waiting to see what else would happen.
"How dare you?" Cady hissed, marching up to Citizen G'Kar. "No one asked you to interfere, Narn!"
"Pardon me, Ranger Kyra," he responded somewhat smugly. "But had I not done so, you would be dead."
Cady's eyebrows rose in disbelief at his words. "Oh, really? Are you actually trying to convince me that a group of unorganized animals could possibly outwit and beat me??"
She watched in pleasant satisfaction as his jaw clenched; she could feel the anger emanating from him, the desire to hit her. Unfortunately, he somehow managed to control the impulse behind the need to attack her, calming himself right before her eyes. It certainly wasn't what she'd expected from a Narn.
"You're a little fool," he finally responded, quietly and without rancor.
"And you're a coward," she retorted, turning her back to him to pace a few steps away. "If you are going to show up here and stop your fellow Narns from attempting to take their revenge, then you'd better be prepared to step up and do it yourself."
She turned back to face him, chin lifting haughtily in challenge. "Think you got what it takes, Narn?"
After Cady left her quarters, Terann spent time reflecting over their conversation and the answers she'd gleaned regarding Cady's enhancements. The more she learned, and the more she came to know Cady Kyra, the more that Terann found she was inclined to agree with Delenn: this woman was not an agent of the Shadows. Not yet, anyway. It was more than likely that she had been created as a backup plan, should the war not go in the direction the Shadows hoped. This meant that the Human would need to be closely watched at all times, so that they would be warned the moment the Shadows did take control of her. For now, Terann had a lock on her mentally; without actually invading her mind and her thoughts, the Minbari was still able to sense her emotions and mental state. Should anything happen to instigate as significant a change as Shadow control would create, Terann would know instantly. And she would be able to take action. In the meantime, she would need to discuss other alternatives with Delenn and Sheridan, even though she knew that Cady would likely not tolerate any of the measures they would need to put in place.
Once changed out of her soiled clothing, tunic tucked away for when she would be free to destroy it in an incinerator (she could not chance someone getting a hold of her blood sample), Terann lit a candle and sat before it on the floor, cross-legged. Staring into the flames, she allowed her mind to relax, stretching out to the universe around her, and slowly drifting into a state of calming meditation. She smiled softly as the familiar sounds of life surrounded her, and Time no longer existed.
At the chime of the door, Terann's eyes snapped open, a momentary anger flowing through her at the interruption. She quickly stifled it and leaned forward to blow out the candle before rising to her feet.
"Come!" she called out as she turned to greet her visitor.
As the doors slid open to reveal Alyt Neroon, she felt herself tense automatically, already on the defense. Deep down, she knew he was not there to harm her – it was not his way. It was difficult, though, for her not to react to the beating she had taken from him earlier.
Stepping through the threshold, Neroon was already eyeing her curiously, even suspiciously. He came to a halt just inside the room, his gaze sweeping over her from head to foot before speaking. "Terann, I am surprised to see you looking so... well."
Terann lifted her chin in a show of defiance, and met his gaze unflinchingly. "Yes, Neroon," she responded in a strong voice. "I am fine."
"I had expected to find you still in Medlab," he remarked, continuing to regard her with open curiosity.
She took a breath, glancing away from his gaze for only a moment. She realized that she could not lie to him completely. "I... I did not go to Medlab," she found herself admitting.
Confusion overtook the curiosity that had been present on his handsome face. "Why?" He demanded.
"It is a long story," she supplied with a slight shrug. "One I do not wish to go into at this time."
Neroon shook his head, making his way further into her quarters until he was standing in front of her, leaning over her, making her feel very tiny. "Why is it that you always seem to be hiding something, Terann? I sensed you holding back even when you showed me your memories -- "
"We all have secrets, Neroon," she interrupted, hoping he did not decide to probe more deeply. Sometimes she thought she would tell him everything, if only he were to ask.
Terann could not imagine the hatred he would harbor for her then.
"Yes," Neroon responded to her comment. "But you seem to carry more than your far share. I wonder if you do not rival the universe itself in your vast number of secrets harbored so deep within your soul."
He was mocking her but Terann chose to ignore it. "That is the way it must be, Neroon."
If he could tell that she was slowly changing the subject, steering him away from the questions regarding her miraculous recovery while circumventing questions she could not bring herself to answer, he did not show it. Instead, Neroon seemed placated for the moment, accepting her words with a small nod before turning to wander around her sparse quarters.
"I am returning to Minbar," he announced, pausing briefly as he stopped to stare at one of the paintings that came furbished with the room. It was a depiction of a supernova, and while it lacked beauty, there was something about it that fascinated and calmed Terann. Neroon seemed equally interested in the display.
"I wanted to know if you were ready to come home," he added casually, without turning back to her.
Terann stared after him, shocked at the proposal, and the offhanded manner in which it was offered to her. This was what she had longed for over the last few years, what she had dreamed of when she closed her eyes at night; the chance to return to her people, to her home, to reclaim her rightful place in the Warrior caste. To receive the redemption she feared she might never be given. If Neroon had known what his words meant to her, he might have given them a little more importance, might have faced her as he spoke. Then again, had he known, he might have taunted her with it, mocked her desperation, and never made the offer to begin with. Her caste could be cruel when they chose; it was how they were raised. Grant no mercy, offer no quarter, be strong, and never, ever show fear or desperation. It was only behind closed doors that a warrior was allowed to simply be Minbari, and none outside the caste were ever allowed such perusal.
It was this, and much more, that would make her rejection of his offer so difficult. So unforgivable. The moment she uttered the words that she knew she must, she might never hear them given again. And so, Terann took her time, lingering in the enjoyment of that time, wishing she could hear him say it just once more.
At her continued silence, Neroon turned to her, his dark eyes regarding Terann with a look she could not discern. "I wonder at your silence, Terann," he commented, his voice low. "I had thought this was what you wished."
"It is," she admitted softly. "But… now is not the time."
His expression hardened. "You plan to join Delenn in her crusade," he accused.
Terann nodded once, refusing to back down beneath his fierce glare. She would not give in to her resolve, no matter how much her heart cried for her to do so.
"Yes. I do."
"You would once again refuse to follow your caste."
His anger was resurfacing. It was always this way between them, and Terann feared it would always be so. She would never know what acceptance from her people would truly be like.
Not bothering to suppress the frustration she felt at his accusation, she replied tightly, "I am Minbari, a fact that takes precedence over the wishes of my caste. We have an obligation to Valen to fight in this war, but instead, you would send shipbuilders and priests to do what you have been trained for."
Silence fell between them, and Terann found that she was tempted to probe his mind, if only to know what he was thinking. She watched as he nodded slightly, turning his gaze from her as he began to maneuver through the room once more. She turned, watching him as he circled her before finally coming to stop beside the door, yet again with his back to her. Unable to even view the expression on his face, she could only guess at what Neroon's response would be to her. His loyalty to his cast had always run deep, and taken precedence above all things.
Finally, he began, "Though I do not agree with your decision, Terann, I do understand your reasoning behind it." He turned to face her, and she was surprised to find that his expression had softened.
"I do hope, in turn," he continued, "that you understand what you risk by following this path. I have offered for you to come back with me, to…" He paused, as if considering his words carefully. "To begin the steps toward reclaiming your rightful spot within your caste. By staying here, by choosing to help Delenn against the dictate of the Warrior caste, you threaten to destroy the one and only chance you may have of ever receiving this offer again."
Terann lifted her chin higher, in more a gesture of strength than of defiance. She wanted Neroon to know that she was not doing this to create dissension within her caste but because she felt she had to follow what her heart told her. If only she could express to him what his offer meant to her, that every fiber of her being was crying out to accept it – but no, she feared to do so would make her look weak. She had to let him know that she understood the risk he was taking in making the offer, and that to salvage his own pride among the caste, he would not be allowed to make it again. They both understood what his presence here truly meant.
"I understand, Neroon," she responded in a soft but resonant tone. "And I fully accept the consequences of my actions. It is my hope -- "
She paused, careful in the choice of her next words, hoping to convey to him how much she wished she could have chosen otherwise, without sounding as if she were regretting her decision.
"Perhaps it will be my very actions in this war that will cause you, Alyt Neroon, to see fit to offer this chance to me again."
She could not say for certain, but Terann was almost certain she saw the hint of a smile cross the warrior's face. Without another word, Neroon inclined his head slightly to her, a sign of respect for their people, and turned to leave.
Allowing herself a small smile as the doors slid shut behind him, Terann thought It is a beginning.
Citizen G'Kar regarded Cady silently as the majority of the others dispersed. A few continued to linger, apparently curious as to the outcome of her challenge. She knew that the being before her couldn't possibly decline or he'd appear cowardly in the eyes of his people. She doubted it would be much of a loss.
"Well?" She taunted as she took a step closer to him.
He continued to hesitate, and just when Cady was ready to give up, he commented, "The reprisal for killing a Centauri is the deaths of 500 Narns. I wonder what the cost will be when I injure that pretty face."
Cady shrugged. "If, by some miracle, you were able to touch me at all, there will be no reprisals. I promise."
It was obvious by his silence that he didn't believe her, and when she really thought about it, she realized he had no reason to do so.
"Very well," she began. "I give you my word as a Ranger. This battle is between us. No harm will come to you when it is done… except, of course, what I do to you."
He nodded, accepting her words instantly. "Unfortunately, I do not have a weapon," he pointed out.
Cady glanced down at the denn'bok in her hand. She certainly didn't need it – not to take on a Narn. Closing it, she slipped the weapon into her pocket and held her hands wide.
"And now, neither do I. The battle is even. Shall we begin, or would you prefer to continue discussing it?" She heard a few snickers from the other Narns that surrounded them at her remark.
The Narn seemed to consider her for another brief moment, and Cady found herself wondering what was going on in that under-developed mind of his. She wished she had better control over her psi abilities but Terann had told her that it was very uncomfortable for a Human telepath to scan those of alien races. Not that she expected to find much worthwhile information from a Narn. As it was, she could just barely detect the rate of his heartbeat, and it was surprisingly level and calm. She still wondered if he was simply going to walk away when he suddenly dropped into a battle-ready position and snarled at her.
Cady laughed, rolling her eyes at his extremely animalistic behavior. Unfortunately, her momentary mockery gave the Narn the split-second he needed to rush her, and Cady's laughter ended in a rush of air escaping her as she was slammed into the bulkhead behind her. Shocked at the sudden assault, Cady silently cursed in Minbari at her underestimation of the Narn, and quickly focused her attention on the battle. She slid out of his grasp, sliding to the floor long enough to sweep her legs beneath his feet. Once he was down, she rolled back to her feet, and spun around to face him, blocking the first swing he took at her. She stumbled slightly beneath the force of his blow before bringing her right fist up to connect with his jaw. She bit back a wince at the pain that flowed in shock waves down her hand and arm, wondering if she hadn't just broken a few fingers. Damn Narns, she thought as she ducked under another swing he took at her. She needed to employ an alternate method of battle or this fight would be over quickly.
Dropping into the fighting stance taught to her by Sech Durhan, she moved away from the Narn, deciding to rely on speed to wear him down, and stay out of his path. They circled one another for a moment, and it was only then that she heard the encouragement of the other Narns around them as they cheered for their leader, and it spurred her determination to make a fool out of the arrogant creature. The next time he came at her, she moved swiftly, relying on the strength of her legs to spring into a round house kick, catching him on the side of his head before bouncing past him to move into a defensive posture once more. He turned to face her, a look of surprise (and was that a hint of admiration?) sweeping over his features as they began circling one another again.
"Ready to give up yet, Narn?" Cady asked.
He chuckled. "What we have shared is simply known as 'foreplay' among my people."
Cady felt her cheeks burn at his words, knowing that she should be offended by his suggestive comment, but she found she couldn't quite get past the loss of composure it caused.
Once again, the Narn took advantage, and she found herself sailing into a stack of various boxes and garbage before she could get away from his reach. The landing wasn't hard but it did take her a moment to crawl out of the mess, giving him enough time to take hold of her. Arms wrapped around her from behind, the Narn lifted her off the ground and squeezed, and Cady thought if he applied anymore pressure, she'd certainly hear a rib or two cracking. She kicked momentarily against him before giving up and leaning her head forward to grab a finger between her teeth. The gloves he wore prevented her from actually tearing any skin but she applied enough pressure to cause him to howl in pain before releasing her. As she dropped to the ground, she rolled forward, balancing on her hands as she kicked her legs up and back, catching the Narn in the jaw. He flew backwards, giving her enough time to once more take on her defensive stance and prepare for his next attack.
She was more than tempted to pull out her denn'bok; but that would be cheating. It was something she would expect out of the Narn but she certainly couldn't allow herself to give in to the temptation. Either way, she knew she would need to change her strategy again, if for no other reason than to keep her opponent off-guard.
Deciding to go on the offensive, Cady moved toward the Narn, bringing her arm up with the intention of clipping him across the throat but he reacted more quickly than she had expected and caught her wrist in his grasp. She twisted away from him in an attempt to free herself but found herself swung back toward him as he brought her arm up and behind her back. He pulled it just far enough for Cady to prepare herself for its eventual dislocation. He stopped just short of it happening; propelling her backwards, he slammed her into the bulkhead, his free arm pinning her there across her throat and chest.
Gasping for air, Cady stared up at the gaze that hovered too close to hers. The press of his arm against her neck hadn't lessened, and it was difficult to swallow, but there seemed to be a pause in the battle between them. She ached everywhere but wasn't about to give the satisfaction to the Narn by letting him know that. Instead, she met his unwavering gaze steadily, while continuing to take short, shallow gasps just to refrain from passing out due to lack of oxygen. Her opponent seemed to take pleasure in her discomfort, the pressure increasing slightly against her throat. A mild panic flew through her as breathing became more difficult and with her free hand, she clawed and tugged at the sleeve of his jacket, struggling against him.
As if the creature before her had suddenly grown a conscience, she felt his arm pull back just enough to allow her to breathe normally once again, while still holding her in position. Her terror fled the moment the pressure disappeared and Cady inhaled deeply, welcoming the freedom to do so. With her heart pounding wildly in her chest, she found herself wondering why the Narn had granted her this small reprieve. Did he not wish to win this fight? He was still watching her, and if she hadn't known better, Cady would have sworn she saw something like concern in his eyes. It was impossible, of course, since Narns were incapable of such emotions.
"Are we finished?" The Narn asked softly, the arm that was behind her pushing away from the wall, effectively pulling her closer to him.
Great Maker, he's strong! Cady thought wildly as she realized the tips of her toes were barely touching the floor beneath her and yet he continued to hold her there, his face inches from hers. She bit her lower lip as the realization came over her that, had he wanted to, the Narn could have broken her into itty bitty pieces at any moment during battle. Except that he hadn't done so. He'd held back.
Instead of contemplating a possible answer to her question, Cady felt her ire rekindle. How dare he consider himself superior to her!
Using every last bit of strength she had, she brought her knee upwards, connecting hard with his groin. It wasn't as forceful as she would have liked considering her lack of leverage but it was enough to get the Narn to drop her as he doubled over in pain. The moment she was back on her feet, Cady brought her knee up once more, slamming it into his face and knocking him backwards to the ground. Bringing her leg back, she moved to kick him in the ribs but the Narn recovered quickly and grabbed her foot, sweeping her leg out from under her and pulling her to the ground beside him. The air left her as she landed on her back, and Cady was absolutely certain she'd just knocked something out of place in her spinal column – or possibly, knocked it back into place.
She bit back a groan as she quickly rolled back onto her feet, only to meet the Narn's fist head on. When it connected with her cheekbone, she could swear something had just exploded in her head. Her vision blackened for a moment as she stumbled back into a pile of containers. Blinking away the blurriness just in time to see her opponent coming at her once more, she rolled onto the pile behind her, bringing her feet up just as he reached her and threw all of her weight behind her legs into his chest. He grunted and fell back, giving Cady just enough time to scramble around behind him and launch herself onto his back. Quickly wrapping her arm around the front of his neck, she attempted to give him a little taste of what it was like to have his windpipe blocked. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly that easy. She was honest enough to admit to herself that he was both bigger and stronger than she had believed. Strangling him was like trying to strangle a tree – it just wasn't happening.
Just as she was about to let out a growl of frustration, the Narn's head slammed back into her face. Cady let out an involuntary squeak at the sharp pain that tore through the corner of her mouth, vision wavering again as she lost her hold around his neck and fell hard to the floor once again. She glanced up to see the Narn reaching down for her, probably preparing to pummel her face in, when a voice called out:
"What in the Hell is going on here?!"
Cady looked to her right to find Security Chief Garibaldi coming down the stairs toward them, his expression non-too-pleased. The onlookers quickly dispersed, leaving only her and Citizen G'Kar left to deal with the security chief's wrath.
"Well?" He demanded, setting his hands akimbo as he glanced over at G'Kar.
Cady reached up to wipe the blood from her mouth as she heard the Narn respond, "Uh, you see, Mr. Garibaldi, we –"
"I fell," she interrupted, climbing unsteadily to her feet. "G'Kar had just come over to see if I was all right."
"You… fell," Garibaldi repeated, obviously not believing a word of it.
Cady nodded, realized that wasn't such a good idea a little too late, and swallowed the faint wave of nausea that rolled over her. "Yeah. I'm kind of clumsy, truth be told."
Garibaldi turned his gaze to G'Kar, apparently hoping for a little more honesty. "Are you going to tell me she fell as well?"
At his silence, Cady looked up at the Narn and, for a brief moment, their gazes held. He finally nodded. "Yes, Mr. Garibaldi. It happened just as she said. Miss Kyra fell. I was merely going to assist her."
Garibaldi ran a hand over his head in frustration. "I don't believe this," he muttered before stepping up to G'Kar and pointing a finger at him. "I don't think I have to remind you what's at stake here, G'Kar. I think you know, therefore, I'll conclude that this wasn't your fault."
His attention turned to Cady, and she straightened a little as he stepped closer to her, his face set into a deep scowl. She was reminded suddenly of a time during her tenth year, when she'd broken an extremely rare and expensive vase that had been in Lord Kyra's family for generations. It had been the setting down he'd given her that had proved to be far more painful than the physical beating she'd received from a servant afterwards.
"Look, I know you're Jeff's kid," he began, lowering his voice slightly so that she was forced to pay closer attention. "And I know that maybe you've had it a little rough. Delenn claims you're here to make a difference in this war but so far, I ain't seen a lick of proof to back that up. Whatever habits you may have learned back on Centauri Prime, they don't go over very well here. You're in my territory now, capiche? And I don't give a rat's ass if you are a Ranger. You break even one of my rules, and your ass will be on a transport out of here so fast that – "
"Mr. Garibaldi," G'Kar interrupted his voice insistent. "She simply fell."
Cady dropped her gaze, an indefinable feeling rushing over her at the Narn's defense of her actions.
"Yeah?" Garibaldi asked, finally pulling away from her. "Well, let's just hope she doesn't fall down again, huh?"
She remained silent as Michael Garibaldi left them. Her stay on Babylon 5 certainly wasn't starting out with a very auspicious beginning. She wanted to place full blame on the Narn beside her, but she knew that he had done little more than annoy her, and she'd reacted to that when she simply should have ignored him. That would be her response to his presence from that point on. She would pretend that he wasn't there; each and every word he spoke to her would go unacknowledged and unanswered.
Taking a slow breath, she looked down at her knuckles, cut open and bloody from the pounding they'd taken against the Narn's face. It ached to flex her hands, and she frowned a little at the damage. Finally, the silence beside her caused Cady to bring her head back up, only to find G'Kar watching her. So much for ignoring him.
"What?" She snapped, unnerved by his unrelenting gaze, unnerved by…well, everything about him, truth be told.
He shrugged slightly. "It is merely that earlier you referred to me by my name."
She blinked. "No, I did –"
She paused, recalling the conversation in her head and realized that he was right. She'd called him G'Kar. She hadn't meant to do that, and he certainly didn't deserve such an acknowledgement from her. Bristling slightly, Cady considered hitting him again, just for good measure, but one more blow and she'd likely break her hand. Her fingers were aching as it was.
Deciding to go back to her vow of ignoring him, she pushed past the Narn, and headed for the staircase. Apparently not easily put off, she heard his heavy footfalls following directly behind her. It was incredibly childish of her, but Cady picked up her pace, hurrying up the stairs in an attempt to outdistance him. Unfortunately, he kept up with her, all of the way to the top of the steps and out of the darker recesses of Down Below. Her body was screaming at her by the time she stopped on the small landing that opened onto another set of steps leading into the market place. It was screaming something about choosing her opponent a little more carefully next time. And maybe insisting on the use of her denn'bok.
Not that she'd ever admit to such a thing.
Cady took a deep breath and pursed her lips. "I was so about to wipe the floor with you," she remarked off-handedly.
The Narn drew up beside her, and she tried very hard to ignore the comical expression of disbelief on his face. He began to lean past her, glancing through the Zocalo and to the stairs behind them. Just as she lost her patience and was about to ask him what in the Hell he was doing, G'Kar turned to face her.
"I'm sorry. Did you have a backup plan that I was unaware of? An army, perhaps?"
Cady's mouth twitched in its attempt to form a smile. Refusing to give him the satisfaction of her amusement, she turned quickly – too quickly, her head yelled at her – and headed back toward her quarters.
She could still hear G'Kar laughing as she rounded the corner.
November 17th, 2260
Holding the empty breakfast plate up in front of her, Cady peered at her reflection, making a face as she gently prodded the bluish-colored skin around her left eye, and the dark red cut at the corner of her mouth. She supposed she could have quietly healed herself last night, no matter the Minbari's protestations, but she could not take the chance that those who knew of the fight between her and the Narn would ask questions. Besides, in a way, they were badges of honor to her. Citizen G'Kar could have easily wiped the floor with her, (and instead of acknowledging the fact that he'd obviously held back from doing so) Cady preferred to believe that she'd simply withstood all he had to give. He probably didn't look much better than her at that moment anyway.
"My dear Lady Caderina," the familiar voice of Ambassador Mollari intoned behind her. "There is a nasty little rumor going around that you and G'Kar had a bit of an altercation yesterday."
Setting her plate down, Cady glanced up as he leaned against the bar beside her. "You know better than to listen rumor, Ambassador."
"Yes," he drawled as he reached out and cupped her chin, turning her head from one side to the other as he examined the bruising. "But I have also learned that, more often than not, rumors have a funny way of proving true."
She sighed as he released her chin, and flashed him a guilty grin.
"While I have to say I have often fantasized about taking a swing or two at G'Kar, I've never actually given in to the impulse, Caderina," Londo commented, a hint of censure in his voice. "I can't imagine what your parents will say if they hear of this…"
"Hopefully, they won't," she responded, voice dropping slightly as she glanced around to see if there were any other Centauri lingering nearby. "And truly, I should have done a lot worse!"
"Is that so?" Londo asked his long brow furrowing. "And just what was it that led to this rumored altercation?"
"Oh, you know Narns, Londo. It doesn't take much!" She shook her head. "A group of them decided to get revenge on the Kyra name through me. They ambushed me in Brown Sector. That… G'Kar appeared and talked them out of it. Oh, he made me so mad! As if I couldn't have taken care of them on my own, let alone file charges against them for anything they would have done to me had he let them. But oh no! He had to stop it – gave some pretty little speech to them about freedom and whatnot. And most of them went on their merry way."
Londo appeared confused. "So, how exactly did you end up exchanging blows with G'Kar?"
"I told you – he made me mad," she explained with a shrug. "So, I challenged him. Almost had him too, if Garibaldi hadn't shown up."
"Yes," Londo concluded with an amused grin. "I can see that."
Cady reddened slightly. "You're making fun of me."
"Not at all, dear lady," he denied heatedly, reaching out to squeeze her hand. "I'm certain you put G'Kar very decidedly in his place."
"Well, maybe not entirely," Cady admittedly in a soft tone. "He's very… strong – er, for a Narn, that is."
She felt her face warm as she remembered how he'd pinned her against the wall, holding her with only one arm. It was an odd reaction to the memory, and she frowned a little as she wondered at it. That G'Kar had referred to their battle as 'foreplay' still unsettled her as well. Had he actually been… flirting with her?? She mentally shook her head at the thought. No, he certainly wouldn't have the gall to do such a thing; if he had, then she would have been forced to knock his head off with her denn'bok. The thought was just… it didn't make sense, was all. He had to have been taunting her, trying to throw her off her guard. There was no other explanation for it.
"… And then the Pak'ma'ra tried to chew my arm off."
Cady blinked from her reverie, glancing over at Londo. "I'm sorry, what?"
He shook his head, smiling at her. "You were off in another galaxy, apparently. I had asked if you planned on pressing charges against G'Kar for his attack on you."
She stared at the man beside her for a moment before slowly shaking her head. "No. I mean… well, it wasn't entirely his fault, Ambassador. G'Kar didn't actually attack me. I sort of… prodded him into it."
"Come now, Caderina," Londo intoned. "We all know what the Narn are like. They're a violent and rash race. G'Kar has attacked me more than once; it's not so much of a stretch that he would do the same to you." He reached out once more to cup her chin, turning her head from side to side as he regarded her wounds more carefully.
"I should think with a few well-placed pictures of you back on Centauri Prime, our people would be outraged enough to demand G'Kar's blood. For now, we've allowed his sanctuary here to go uncontested. But with the proof of him attacking one of our women? Well now, bounty hunters by the dozens would come here to collect the prize on his head. The majority of which would be paid for by the Kyra House, I am certain."
Cady shifted uncomfortably in her chair, eyes darting away from Londo to stare across the Zocalo. As a dutiful Centauri citizen, she knew she should have jumped at the chance to add a few more charges to the long list of crimes committed by G'Kar against her people. After all, the only witnesses to contest a claim of his attack on her were other Narns, and what did their word truly count for? Michael Garibaldi could attest to the fact that she'd told him she had fallen, but it would be his word against hers, and the people of Centauri Prime would likely not listen to him anyway. It was a sound plan, easily executable. Still, she balked at the idea, her conscience nagging at her.
"No," she commented quietly. "I'm afraid I can't agree to such a plan, Ambassador."
Londo frowned. "And why not? Who would it hurt, Caderina?"
She knew she couldn't explain to him that lying to get Citizen G'Kar captured or killed didn't set well with her. Instead, she told him, "My parents would demand that I return home. They'd say I had no right being off-world where I could so easily get myself into trouble. It would make me look weak, Ambassador. And they would use it to take away any amount of independence I've gained for myself. I'm sorry, but I can't allow that to happen. Even for the sake of the Centauri Republic."
Surprisingly, Londo smiled. "Well now, this is as good a reason as any, hmmm? The glory of the Republic is just as easily achieved without the sacrifice of one of our beautiful ladies."
Worrying her lower lip, Cady found herself thinking about the hushed conversations she'd heard back on Minbar regarding the Centauri working with outsiders to achieve their recent victories against the Narn and others. She'd ignored the majority of it as the talk of the envious; the Centauri Republic never needed the assistance of others to attain their glory in the past, why would they need such a thing now? But whispered words, including those of her own father, had pointed toward the Shadows quietly gathering allies within their ranks, and so many of the reports regarding strikes claimed by the Centauri included mention of ships of unknown configuration. Cady had continued to refuse to acknowledge the facts as they were pointed out to her but she slowly found herself beginning to doubt her resolve. If Londo were so prepared to twist facts to gain what he desired, who was to say there weren't others within her government who wouldn't reach even further? The thought disturbed her, just as the encounter with the man known as Mr. Morden in the ambassador's quarters the other night had. There had been something dark and sinister about the man, something she'd immediately recognized as wrong, and yet just as easily understood that she'd had nothing to fear from him.
For the moment.
Glancing back over at Londo, she found herself asking, "Ambassador, I wondered if you might know… "
At her pause, he raised an eyebrow. "Well, what is it, Caderina?"
"Back on Minbar, there were rumors… "She shook her head, finding that she was having difficulty forming the question she wanted to ask. It seemed rude to even mention. "Well, the Centauri Republic has certainly done well in its quest for territory – "
"Territory that rightfully belonged to us, young lady," Londo pointed out, shaking a finger at her. "We had laid claim to many colonies long ago. It's the territorial races – like the Narn – which took them from us. Our government had grown weak, allowing such things to happen."
"Yes, I understand." Cady nodded. "But, it all has happened so fast, Ambassador. I know I'm no expert on our military, but I never realized we had the forces to escalate a war on so many fronts."
Londo pursed his lips, silent for a moment as if considering how to respond. Finally, he agreed, "We do not. Which is why I have been advising the Emperor that we must begin to pull back. We have once more cemented our place as the Lion of the Galaxy. We don't truly need more than that."
It wasn't enough of an answer. "How did we get here, though?" Cady prodded. "Those rumors… people said we had outside help. Other ships – "
"My dear Caderina," Londo interrupted, giving her a slow and strangely sad smile. "You of all people should know better than to listen to rumor, hmmm?"
Patting her hand gently, he turned and walked away without another word. Cady watched him go; blanching slightly as she realized he'd turned her own words back on her. It wasn't a confirmation; but it hadn't been a denial.
She glanced back down at the empty plate in front of her, and realized her reflection had become unclear.