Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by Babylonian Productions and JMS.
Spoilers: For all five seasons of Babylon 5; more obscurely for the Psi Corps trilogy.
Thanks to: Karabair, who was there for me on short notice!
Author's note: This story was written for the Remix Redux Ficathon 2008, based on "To Memories, Comitted" by Leyenn. You can find the original story here:
The title is an incomplete quote of a quote: "I have become death, the destroyer of worlds," is the quote from the Mahabharata Oppenheimer recited after the first successful test of the atom bomb. It seemed very fitting for Lyta and her arc.
I Have Become (Death) (The J. Robert Oppenheimer Remix)
Years ago, long before either of them had even heard of Babylon 5, Alfred Bester told Lyta Alexander that the truth wouldn't set her free. "It will circumscribe you," he said. She was a young intern then, and she had just watched him deal with a serial killer who preyed on telepaths. Bester's method of dealing had made the serial killer look like the more harmless person. The whole incident ended Lyta's short-lived ambition to work for MetaPol.
She hadn't believed him, of course. But like many of the platitudes that smug son of a bitch uttered in her presence, it had become true, in its own, twisted way.
You never forget your first. Lyta had injured a couple of people when leaving the Corps after they attempted to debrief her about Kosh, but she hadn't actually killed anyone until Talia Winters. She had known it was inevitable, of course. Whoever carried the Control personality inside would be wiped out once the password was sent. The Control program wasn't just your usual activation of a dormant secondary personality, with the first personality still intact, just surpressed; it was a complete replacement. Which meant that the original personality would be dead, and whoever sent the pass word would have killed her. It was necessary, Lyta had told herself in advance. Necessary to expose the spy, necessary to keep Babylon 5 safe. But she hadn't counted on Control being another telepath. It had seemed far too obvious for the Corps.
She hadn't counted on it being Talia.
The last time she saw Bester before leaving Babylon 5 with G'Kar, he was being treated for a gunshot wound in Medlab. Lyta wasn't supposed to be there, of course. Like Garibaldi, she had been told to stay in her quarters for the duration of Bester's time on the station. Unlike Garibaldi, she had no problem making people believe she did just that while entering Medlab at her leisure. What was left of her old scruples had been burned away when Byron died, and her anger and grief all but consumed her as she watched Stephen Franklin treat Bester like any other patient.
Bester noticed her. She meant him to. She wanted him to be aware of who killed him before she struck.. What she didn't expect was the familiar echo printed into his psyche.
You didn't? That surprises me, Bester 'cast at her, weariness mixed with anger of his own, but no fear. After all, you know what happens when you don't separate quickly enough from another telepath who dies, don't you, Lyta?
There was a difference, though. He had tried to reach Byron, to stop Byron from killing himself, to stop the others, too, and hadn't been nearly fast enough to shield himself when they had died. Their death screams, bound by the fragment of Byron's psyche that Bester had managed to touch, would remain with him until he died.
Lyta turned around and left Medlab without doing anything at all. He was still wrong, though. This wasn't what had happened with Talia at all.
You never forget your first. It hadn't been a romance, exactly. Between her arranged marriage and her crush on her mentor Ironside, Talia Winters wasn't really available anyway. But she and Lyta had known each other, two young telepaths hungry for an off-world assignment, impatient to get away from the sterile comforts of Geneva. They had been friends, of a sort. When Lyta had gotten her assignment, they had celebrated, had gotten drunk together, and between Lyta's joy and Talia's frustrations about her husband and Ironside both, they had indulged in one night of no-strings, no-regrets sex; that was how Lyta had lost the rest of her virginity.
Lyta hadn't thought about it in ages. She did when seeing Talia again, but it didn't stop her. She sent the password. It wasn't until the wave of horror and betrayal, the scream of a dying mind hit her that she realized the full implication, and then the Control personality screamed at her with Talia's physical voice as well.
Lyta had her shields up, though. That was the irony. She had known a death would come. She wasn't reaching out, and so there was no connection.
By the time Garibaldi dragged Talia Winters' body out of the room, her psyche had screamed her last, and had vanished, unheld.
Travelling with G'Kar did odd things to you. He carried his own ghosts with him, but mostly he was so curious about everything they found on their journey, so vividly interested in every creature that Lyta found it impossible not to be swept away from time to time. She remembered how her first glimpse of a Vorlon had drawn her out of her old life and had enabled her to travel in a way no human had before. The wonder that had filled her, instead of the unending rage and bitterness.
She would never trust someone the way that she had trusted Kosh again. Not with everything that had come after, especially through the Vorlons. But Lyta found herself telling G'Kar about some things of the past that were a bit more removed from the core of her anger. She told him about Talia, and then she told him what she hadn't told anyone else; that Kosh had given her the illegal recording he possessed of Talia Winters' mind.
"I do not think you can capture a soul in crystal," G'Kar said.
The Minbari would probably disagree, given the abhorrence they felt for the Soul Hunters. Lyta shrugged.
"Probably not. But that's not the point. Something of her is there, I can sense it – an echo, if you like. I don't know what it would do if you fed it back to her current self. Maybe it would erase the Control personality without doing anything else and leave her a vegetable. Maybe it would do nothing. But maybe it would restore something of the original Talia."
G'Kar didn't ask her why she had never told any of this to Garibaldi, Ivanova or indeed any of the Babylon 5 command crew. He just looked at her, and his glass eye seemed to record Lyta's own psyche.
"Maybe I didn't want someone else to be their pet renegade teep. They might have kicked me out altogether. With all the shortage in quarters," Lyta said acidly. G'Kar kept silent.
"Fine," she said. "I didn't want to get their hope up. Funny as it might seem, I actually care about these people."
"I think," G'Kar said, "we need to go back before we can go forward on our journey, Lyta."
Finding out what happened to Talia Winters wasn't easy, especially given the increasing level of violence and paranoia between telepaths in the aftermath of Byron's death. Lyta's sources among the resistance didn't have access to silent sympathizers in the Corps anymore; by now, everyone was forced to choose sides. While rummaging through Garibaldi's psyche for her own purposes during her last months on Babylon 5, Lyta had come across a memory of Bester implying Talia was dead, but had discarded it as not proving one thing or the other, since Bester was clearly trying to get an reaction out of Garibaldi when he said it. Still, in the end she decided he was probably in the best position to know. She asked G'Kar to arrange a meeting, promising she would not kill or otherwise harm Bester unless he attacked her first. "He's not interested in pissing off the Narn Regime by harming you," she added, "because he doesn't want aliens getting invested in Earth politics when it comes to telepaths. So I think he'll respect your diplomatic immunity."
"But you do not doubt," G'Kar said, looking up from his writings, "that he would want to talk to you?"
"Of course he will. You see," Lyta replied, and the smell of burning flesh invaded her memories again, "we're family. He'll always believe that. And as long as he lives, he'll never stop working for a family reunion."
Mundanes would see him as unchanged, but Lyta could sense the increasing death toll eating at him, could sense that inner emptiness rising and that fragment of Byron still causing his psyche to bleed everytime he tried to suppress or extract it, and she was glad.
"Travelling agrees with you, Lyta," he said, sitting down opposite of her. If the Vorlons had not touched her, she wouldn't have gotten anything from him. His shields were up, diamond-hard and flawless, as P12 levels were, but she had long stopped measuring her own powers by human labels.
"Talia Winters," she said, refusing to indulge his pretense at politeness. "Did your goons kill her once she was debriefed, or is she still alive?"
He inclined his head. For once, he didn't smile. There was something familiar in his dark eyes, and it wasn't the sense of Byron, screaming in his head.
"We didn't kill her," he said seriously. "You did."
Of course. Mr. Bester loved his little games, and making her feel guilty was probably something he regarded as easily done. She raised an impatient hand. "You know exactly what I mean, so don't waste my time. Is she still alive?"
He lowered his shields then. Not that it was necessary; she had already slipped in and started to search. It didn't take long. Abruptly, Lyta drew back and sat up, but the image wouldn't let go. She stared at him in horror.
After her debriefing, the telepath born as Talia Winters had been given a new name and face, and was supposed to go on a new mission. Then she disappeared. Bester had not heard from her again until coming to Babylon 5 with the proposal of an alliance. His lover, Carolyn Sanderson, had not been the only telepath familiar to him on the vessel he enabled Sheridan to capture. But Bester, ever someone to hold information back in case it could be useful, had never told anyone that he recognized another name among the frozen beings the Shadows had planned on installing as their operating systems. Those same telepaths Sheridan had later used to defeat Clark, after Lyta had woken them up and sent them to their deaths.
"I told you," Bester said softly. She saw herself in his eyes, dressed in black leather, ready to go to any lengths, to use anyone for what she believed was due to her and her people. "The truth will never set you free."
After that, Lyta couldn't just resume her journey with G'Kar. Besides, he said he needed to visit Centauri Prime, off-limits as the planet was these days, "because Mollari clearly cannot manage on his own". Lyta found herself on Babylon 5 once more, under an assumed name, passing through controls as invisibly as she wished. Like a shadow, she thought, and headed towards one of the less popular bars to get drunk. Tomorrow, she'd resume her life, start to organize the resistance better, maybe even remove Bester's restraint from Garibaldi after he donated more weapons and money for the cause. Today, she simply wanted to get drunk.
She hadn't sat down long, holding that useless crystal in her hand, feeling the faint echoes of a long gone mind imprinted on it, when a very much alive and equally familiar mind swam into her presence. Apparently, she wasn't the only one revisiting old haunts. Looking around, she spotted Susan Ivanova, currently curtly dealing with an unwanted admirer. Lyta sighed. She had not known Ivanova very well during her time on Babylon 5; for obvious reasons, the Russian had avoided her whenever possible. After Ivanova's decision to accept command of a ship, Lyta had not expected to see her again. But here she was, another pilgrim wandering through the debris of the past. Lyta was hit by the flash of a memory; Talia's hand on the back of Susan Ivanova's neck. It wasn't her memory.
One night, she thought, fingers closing around the crystal until she put it away. And then we're done. There is nothing more I can do for you.
She rose, and walked over to where Ivanova was still subjected to a non-ending stream of bad chat-up lines.
"I don't think she's interested," Lyta said, and when Ivanova looked at her in surprise, there was the promise of oblivion in her eyes.
You never forget your last. Lyta had seen her future when she looked at Bester; the one-night-stand with Talia Winters' lover was a last reprieve from that as much as it was anything else. She didn't say anything about this to Ivanova, of course, and she certainly didn't inform her about Talia's fate. Maybe there wasn't that much difference between Lyta and Bester anymore, but she would not be gratuitously cruel. There was still Kosh's crystal with Talia's scan, though, and as Lyta woke first, she put it in Ivanova's jacket.
They were probably of an age, but Ivanova appeared terribly young to her as they passed the morning in awkward conversation after the Captain had woken up and got dressed, all defensiveness, while Lyta felt mostly amused.
"I don't think I'd miss you, Susan," Lyta said, and the relief of it, of finally being done with her regrets, almost overwhelmed her. "If you fade away into your job and I never see you again, I really wouldn't be concerned."
"Glad to know I'm such a memorable lay, after all that," Ivanova said, glaring while fastening the last clasp of her uniform, evidently not noticing the crystal inside. Lyta shrugged and smiled.
"Just make sure someone does remember you, Captain. It's a terrible thing to be extraordinary and forgotten."
You never forget your last. Lyta struck her final and devastating blow against the Corps at the expense of her own life, and several thousand others. She knew it would end the Telepath War for good; she knew it would end her own existence as the most efficient human-shaped weapon the Vorlons had created. There would be nothing left of her; no DNA to breed or clone with, no mental imprint to copy.
But she would be remembered. The minds dying around her, with her, did not include Bester's. She had felt him get away at the last moment, and she had not stopped him. There would be nothing left for him now, nothing but memories, and maybe there was justice there, at last.
She closed her eyes. He had been right, all those years ago; truth never set her free, nor anyone else. But her death would.
Eyes open once more, she sent the command.