Fatal Error

Spoilers: Season Five, Meditations on the Abyss/Darkness Ascending, through the beginning of Movements of Fire and Shadow

(There are references to, and paraphrasing of, dialogue from the first two episodes in this piece.)

Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.

"Love alters not when it alteration finds…."

September 9th, 2262

The Drazi cadet was much faster than I had anticipated, as well as stronger. I have grown used to working with the humans, and neglected to adjust adequately for the thicker musculature of the Drazi. My initial blows were ineffective, which allowed him to penetrate my defenses, and land the blow that knocked me out of the competition. I will not make that mistake again, and for a while I will carry the scar to remind me.

Cadet Lennier touched the pad on the screen of the com-tablet to close his journal entry for the day. He was alone in the communal sleeping area, but others would be coming off shift and arriving to take their turns to rest soon. He himself was going on duty in another half an hour, which didn't leave him much time. He'd started the journal on a whim, back on the station, the same day he'd received confirmation of his acceptance into the Anla'Shok training program. The tablet had accompanied him throughout his journeys, from the Academy on Tuzanoor, to the first ship he'd been assigned to, to this outpost used by the Rangers of various worlds to train with, and against, each other.

The idea of keeping a personal record of this sort was foreign to his culture, but he had found it a great aid and comfort in the last several months. He opened the file again, and touched the screen to look back to his very first entry….

January 18, 2262

I have long observed the humans' habit of keeping a personal record, not only of events, but of their thoughts and feelings about these events. I have never completely understood why they do this; to my knowledge it never became customary among Minbari, although there are rumours that Valen himself kept such records, and destroyed them before he disappeared from our history. I suppose, now that I reflect upon it, is not unnatural that Valen did so. It seems to be for them a sort of written or verbal meditation; an attempt to clarify the mind. In any event, I have decided to keep such a journal during my training. Others, more capable that I, will write the history of what came before this time—the battles, the wars, the departure of the First Ones, the formation of the Alliance. This is simply my own story, of my own battles, and of my own journey. In Valen's name.

He'd continued the custom of using the Earth calendar, as was accepted practice during his time on Babylon 5. Smiling ruefully at himself, he acknowledged that, while it was a practical solution, it also served as a connection to his past, and to Delenn. He sighed, wondering if he would ever be able to think of her without pain. The decision to leave the station, and continue his service to her at a distance, by becoming Anla'Shok, had been a good one. He wasn't faced with seeing her every day, working in close proximity to her, witnessing her happiness, and remaining discontent with her choices.

His comlink chimed, and he answered it. The Ranger on duty in communications informed him there was a message awaiting him, which he could access at any terminal. He thanked her, and rose from the floor, where he had been sitting, legs doubled under him. Swiftly crossing the room to the wall terminal next to the door, he entered his personal code to retrieve the message. It was from Delenn.

September 9th, 2262, continued

Delenn has called me back, for a mission. She says it is something only I can do for her. I will go, of course, how can I not? She needs me. I am to contact her as soon as I arrive. I have worked hard to be ready to serve her; but am I ready to face her?

Lennier managed to make it through his shift; he had been assigned to overhaul the short range flyers maintained by the outpost, which were used for transit to the larger ships that remained in orbit around the planet. All cadets performed maintenance or support jobs during training. His mind wandered badly, and he made several errors. Luckily he caught them all before his supervisor arrived at the end of his shift to check his work. Before he'd started his task, he'd requested permission to speak to the commander of the post as soon as possible. If he was going to get to Babylon 5 as quickly as Delenn had requested, he would need to take the next ship, which was due to leave in two days. The next one after that wouldn't leave for another two weeks.

September 10, 2262

I applied today for permission to take leave from my training. I think they were pleased to grant it; twice now I have been called in by my commanding officer and ordered to slow down, to take my time--told that the journey is what is important, not the speed with which I reach my destination. They don't understand what drives me to push myself faster and harder. I know I must continue to work to become a better person; a more worthy, more deserving one.

I contacted Delenn to let her know when I would be leaving. She has asked me to meet her in Downbelow. Is there some reason she cannot be seen with me, or that I cannot be seen with her? It seems unnecessary, and dangerous. Hopefully I will understand better once I know what my mission is to be.

Lennier made sure to finish or leave careful notes on all his projects. He spoke with the trainers personally, thanking them for their efforts to teach him, and explaining that his absence was to be temporary. He flushed at their honest appreciation, and was especially pleased when his fellow cadets arranged a special meal for his last night on the post. They all seemed gratified at his certainty that he would return. When he had left the station, his main purpose had been to find some way to fulfill his vow to serve Delenn without having to be near her. What he had found was a purpose for his life, and a group of people who shared that purpose.

September 11, 2262

I depart in the morning for the station. The last time I was there was the occasion of the Brakiri Day of the Dead. I have told no one of what happened there, of what Morden prophesied would happen. I have told no one of my fears, and of my hopes.

She wants me to return; she needs me. Am I running towards my fears, or away from them? Is there hope in the journey, or does hope lie in the destination?

It wasn't a long journey from the Ranger base back to Babylon 5, which was all to the good as far as Lennier was concerned. He found himself growing increasingly anxious the closer they came, the closer he came to her. He'd spent a good part of the last nine months trying, first to suppress, and later to work out, his feelings for his mentor. The journal had helped; he now understood why the humans used the records. Once he'd given himself permission to write down anything he felt, he found it extremely freeing to allow his baser emotions rein. He raged against her union, and castigated the fate that had led her to it. When he looked at his private thoughts in black and white, he realized how extreme and unfair they were. He still felt them, but at least he could set them aside, and get on with his work. He hoped in time to reconcile himself to Ivanova's maxim, that 'all love in unrequited', but he wasn't there yet.

This would be a test of sorts, to see if he could approach the flame without the impulse to self-immolation. He'd found that hope burns, and that the fire is difficult to extinguish.

September 12, 2262

I have been practicing all the rituals of calming that I was ever taught. How can it be that I am nervous to even see her? We worked so closely for so long, shared so many dreams and fears, went into danger together…I will not let this control me. She is my friend, and she is happy with her chosen mate, and that is all that need be considered.

When Lennier arrived on the station, he debarked with only a few fellow travelers. It was the middle of the night, station time. He found a communications terminal and sent the prearranged signal to Delenn's personal link, letting her know he had arrived. He set off for their rendezvous in Downbelow with the strangest sense of dislocation. The station was both familiar and strange. He recognized a few of the station personnel, mostly security guards this time of night, but no one he knew well. None of them seemed to recognize him. He got down to Brown level with ease, but took a wrong turn on his way to the club where Delenn had indicated he should meet her. His uneasiness deepened as he searched for the shortest way back to his destination. The lurkers were everywhere, it seemed. Perhaps it was so obvious only because he had been away; first to Minbar, where no one was allowed to lose themselves as these poor souls had done; then on board ship, and the Ranger stations, neither of which had any surplus population. Some of the people he was passing gave off an aura of hopelessness, others of danger. He smiled grimly; perhaps they sensed a little of both from him as well. He hurried onward; this was not an area where Delenn should be wandering, alone, at night.

September 13, 2262

The meeting with her consisted of equal measures of joy and pain, of familiarity and strangeness. She has changed. I have changed as well. I told her I would never leave her, yet I did. She also left me, as was to be expected; the process had begun before I left her service. She still trusts me, to accomplish what she wants done, and to keep it between ourselves. I have kept her secrets before; why should this be any different?

Lennier had been given a berth on one of the White Stars that were stationed at Babylon 5, providing security and transport for Alliance staff. He was to rendezvous with White Star 27 in two days. The ship was located on the edge of Centauri space, and was a joint training and patrolling mission. He spent his time on the outward journey looking over the information Delenn had passed along to him; locations and details of all the known raider attacks. There were also a few reports of missing ships; those might also be victims of the pirates. The details were sickening. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the attacks. The ships were destroyed, and all the inhabitants either slaughtered, or left for dead. There did not seem to be any looting, or prize-taking, just vicious assaults on innocents.

September 14, 2262

I am on my way to my new assignment, on White Star 27, on the edge of Centauri space. It feels odd that my commanding officer is not to be told of my mission; almost duplicitous. Delenn has her reasons and they are not to be questioned. Still, it makes me uncomfortable that they will not know.

Captain Montoya was an intriguing sort of human. He had seen this naming of ships before; several of the StarFury pilots on the station had painted names on their flyers, and even painted pictures on the sides. He supposed it was a human tradition, and wished he had the time to research it. Though he was growing comfortable in his dual role as trainee and Delenn's personal agent, it left him little spare time. The Captain was obviously aware of the raids, and engaged in attempting to discover their source. He wondered if Montoya suspected his mission; it was unusual for cadets to be transferred in the midst of an assignment. The work was hard, and the training interesting, but the nights were…difficult. When he had first left the station to begin his training, he had found it hard to concentrate in the pain of separation. His thoughts kept drifting back to the life he had left behind. Although he had assured Delenn he would return, he began to doubt he could ever control his feelings enough to complete that promise. Especially in that grey hour before sleep, his mental discipline would slip as he relaxed, and his thoughts would wander into places they should not go. He tortured himself with dreams and fantasies that, in the cold light of practical day, he knew could never come to pass. As time had gone on, he was better able to choke off these thoughts at their inception, recognizing them as they started to take form, and turning his mind ruthlessly away. Now that he had seen her again, he found his control crumbling, withering away under the memory of her green eyes, fixed on him in the dim light of the passageway in which they had talked.

September 16, 2262

I still do not understand why she did not discuss my mission with Sheridan. I told her he did not know her as well as he should. It occurs to me that perhaps she does not know him as well as she should. She said Sheridan considered me a friend. I do not see that consideration in him. I believe he sees in me a comrade-at-arms at most. Why does she think he would not want me to go? Is it really just to protect her, or does he doubt my commitment, or my abilities?

The denn'bok had collided with the side of his head, and the only reason he didn't have a concussion was his protective headbone.

"Are you all right, Lennier?" his Minbari trainer asked him impatiently. "You really should have seen that coming. Report to the medical facility, and return if the medics agree you are able. Otherwise, take your rest shift now. I will expect better from you tomorrow."

Lennier managed to bow towards the stern, stocky Minbari, who was engaging them in ritual battle practice. He blinked away the small trickle of blood from a previous blow, and left in turmoil. Unarmed combat had always been his specialty, but he had thought he was improving with the denn'bok. Perhaps the lack of sleep was beginning to tell on his preparedness. When he couldn't sleep these days, he simply arose, and worked on the Centauri code some more. Time was short, and he was impatient for successful results to report to Delenn. To tell the truth, he was impatient to speak with her; to see her, even through a comscreen, again. He found himself guiltily enjoying this secret with her, even though he realized, in moments of sober reflection, that he was playing with fire. Still, a small thrill went through him at the thought that she trusted him with this. It was something they shared, something special, and separate. He should sleep. Tomorrow, the Captain was sending a few cadets out in flyers for some special training.

September 19, 2262

The training session today has set me thinking. The mission I am on is dangerous, but it is vitally important. What would it mean to her if something happened to me? Would she mourn my loss? I have watched her walk into danger again and again, watching her risk her life for her causes, obeying her instructions to simply stand aside. Would my demise cause her one tenth of the grief that her loss would cause me?

Lennier re-doubled his efforts to crack the code, but it eluded him. Something about the messages was bothering him, but he couldn't pin the thought down somehow. He'd taken to using his normal meditation time, and much of his rest time, to work on the puzzle, and he could feel the loss in his equanimity. At times, he paused to consider if his single-minded pursuit of the answer Delenn required was contributing to his loss of focus in other areas. Every time he found his mind resting on her, he realized how much his hard-won control was fracturing. He even started to wonder if her secrecy presaged some problems between her and Sheridan. Every time his mind started down that path, he managed to stop it; but each time he went a little further in his suppositions.

September 23, 2262

I am close to the answer; I know I am. I do not expect Captain Montoya to go against the orders of Sheridan, but I cannot fail Delenn. I will not fail her. I told her I was ready, that I would make it happen, no matter the cost, and I will.

Captain Montoya paused outside the door to the small computer room off the crew's sleeping quarters. The light was on, as he expected. He entered without knocking, as was the Minbari custom. Again, as he expected, he found Cadet Lennier sitting in front of the console, working. "You should get some sleep. We jump first thing tomorrow, and we will be going directly to Babylon 5."

The young Minbari obediently laid down his tablet, but kept sneaking glances at the comscreen.

Montoya continued, "You did the best you could. Others will continue this work, and we will find the evidence of who's behind the attacks. Now go, and rest. That's an order." He left the room, shaking his head.

Lennier sat quietly for a moment, considering his options. He picked up the tablet again.

September 23, 2262 continued

The desire to be Anla'Shok must be pure and unselfish---you must not let anything get in the way of that desire. That is what I told Findell. I am about to disobey my commanding officer, but surely it is a higher duty to obey the instructions of Entil'zha? If not, perhaps this is to be my betrayal. If so, I do not regret it. My allegiance is first to Delenn, then to the Anla'Shok. I will not let anything stand in the way of my service to her.

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His return to the station was awkward. Both Delenn and Sheridan were there to meet him, and he thought for a fleeting moment, that she was going to embrace him in front of her mate. He stepped back, and her arms fell empty. He accepted their thanks, pleased with their praise. He would be expected to present his evidence to the Alliance in council. Afterwards, he believed it would be war, and that both Delenn and Sheridan already knew it. He had thought they were done with war, at least for a little while.

After the evidence was gone through, bit by damning bit, the council erupted. The ensuing confrontation between the members of the Alliance who thirsted for revenge, and those who urged restraint, were tense and near violent. He had to intervene when a Drazi got too close to Delenn. Afterwards, Lennier asked for leave to return to his quarters. He was still weak from the physical and mental effects of his mission, but in addition to resting, he wanted to mull over his prospects. Sheridan had asked him to stay on the station a little while longer. Lennier hoped that meant another mission, and part of him longed to be ordered to stay, near to Delenn. The more rational part preferred a posting far from here, and far from her.

October 5, 2262

I do not know what to think about this new mission, accompanying Delenn to Minbar, so that she may speak with the Grey Council. It will be a dangerous journey, and part of me wishes Sheridan had not asked, and Delenn had not agreed, that she should make the petition in person. Sheridan spoke with me privately, afterwards, telling me to take care. I believe he wished to convey his trust in me to keep her safe. I will do so, of course, but for her sake, not for his.

Part of me rejoices in time spent with Delenn, without the presence of Sheridan to complicate matters. When we are together, without him, we fall back into our old friendly ways. I find I miss our friendship sometimes, a friendship which changed as my feelings for her deepened into something stronger. Those feelings must remain unspoken. She has made her choice, for good or for ill.

I cannot forget her words, regarding her mate, "He knows me, but he also loves me. And sometimes the one gets in the way of the other." I understand that conflict very well. I must not let my love interfere with my duty to the Anla'Shok, and to the Alliance. I must be strong…for her. We live for the One; and we die for the One. Entil'zha veni.