Exchange

Dragonlots aka Dana Bell

Kwai Chang Caine could fit in anywhere, even the dismal and hopelessness of down below. He paced along the brown corridors, taking pity on an old woman in pain, giving her a few of the precious herbs he carried in his leather satchel.

"Thank you," she whispered as she settled back into her bed of rags and rotting food.

He continued on his way ignoring the thugs as they went about their illegal business. Unless they tried to stop him, he had no intention of becoming involved. Caine had a mission to complete.

Finally he stopped before an entrance and tapped once. The door hesitated before it groaned open. He stepped into the room of darkness.

"I was summoned," he announced quietly.

A whisper reached his ears. Instinctively he turned in the direction of the sound, his body relaxed yet ready to defend himself if needed.

There was a mechanical sound like a rumbling on a drum. "I am here."

"What is your wish?"

"You know."

Taking a deep breath he slowly nodded. He'd been prepared for this long ago. Still, now that the moment had come, he was not sure if he was ready.

"I will obey," he answered as he backed against the door and slid out the narrow entrance as it opened. Caine looked back once to see the creature who kept him captive. A massive brown with black spotted shape exited and glided down the corridor in the opposite direction. Almost, he followed.

"You have a task," echoed the voice.

"I do," he agreed, as he again traversed the lawless corridors.

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Lyta disembarked the ship she'd shared with G'Kar for the past few years. Her eyes grazed around the familiar, yet not, docking bay of Babylon Five. Her traveling companion had gotten off on Narn. He hoped his absence had shocked sense into his people. Enough that they wouldn't insist he become some sort of leadership symbol.

"I wish you luck," she said under her breath.

Her footsteps echoed in the vast room. She hadn't really expected any kind of welcoming committee, but she hadn't expected the area to be completely deserted. Somehow, to her, it didn't seem right. The bay should bustling with aliens and humans.

Taking a few more steps, she stopped. At the edge of her mind something moved cloaked by a shield so familiar it shocked her. She whirled and yelled, "I know you're there."

An old man appeared from behind the silver wing of a ship. She took in his gray wispy hair and baggy khaki colored clothes. He wore some sort of leather bag over his shoulder and it rested on his hip.

"So you're who they sent." Lyta had suspected this moment might come. The Vorlons couldn't afford to leave her behind.

He spread his hands. "I am the messenger."

"And I'm their tool." She edged toward him. Maybe, if she got close enough, she could disable him with her mind and escape. Her ship wasn't that far away.

"It will not work," he said as if he'd read her mind.

"I'm not going back."

"I am not asking."

"I need to free my people."

"They have freed themselves. They do no need you."

"Look," his measured speech and refusal to get angry annoyed her. "Let's just make a deal. You didn't see me. I didn't see you."

He glanced behind him as if he saw something she didn't. "They are waiting."

"No!" Lyta tried to strike with her mind only to have thrust shatter against his solid shield. His physical attack was not what she expected next and she fell to the floor as he expertly downed her.

"You have learned nothing." He sounded very sad.

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As Caine lifted the red headed woman who wore only black, he knew he could not have bested her if he hadn't had help. He cradled her in his arms as if she were his child. He knew the other was waiting in the ship of songs. He would take her there.

He strode past ships of many sizes and shapes, amazed at the life forms which inhabited this place and time. He'd heard stories, but this was the first time he'd been off the Vorlon home world to see the marvels himself.

"Where are you taking me?" she demanded.

Caine didn't answer. It was not his place. At last, he went down the corridor leading to the bay where his master waited. He walked up the ramp to board the ship and felt the woman stiffen.

"No," she pleaded.

A doorway appeared and he walked into it. It closed behind him and he put her against a wall that swallowed her into itself.

"She will be safe," he was reassured.

"And me?"

"As we agreed."

A hole in the wall appeared and he walked out, and kept going. He did not look back. Caine felt for the woman, yet he understood she was too dangerous to be allowed to continue to wander the universe.

She was a weapon. One her masters had just reclaimed.

And to his shame, he had helped them in exchange for his own freedom.

NOTE: Using the Jack the Ripper episode as a guide, the Vorlons tended to use people in any way they wished for no explainable reason. I wondered what would happen if they used Caine. This is the story that appeared.