Lost in Translation

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

Patience was never one of his strong suits. While Delenn spoke privately to Draal, he'd moved to the end of the causeway connecting the heart of the Great Machine to the rest of the complex. It was more like an underground city, or a miniature world. There was so much to see. It couldn't possibly hurt anything if he looked around a little.

He spent the next few minutes happily wandering the corridors, examining displays and control panels, gently touching levers and light-activated circuitry. Knowing he had to get back, he turned around to retrace his path, but soon he was in an area of cut stone corridors he didn't recognize. Hurrying now, trying to find the main corridor off the causeway, he'd only gone a dozen yards or so when he saw someone crouched by an open panel in the wall, low to the floor. Approaching quietly at first, trying not to startle whoever it was, he jumped back in surprise when the alien turned suddenly and fixed him with a curious stare.

"Hello?" Sheridan examined the creature. Then he added, "Hal?" in Interlac in case the alien did not speak human standard English. Its posture was bent, almost crooked, and it had reddish-brown hair that covered a good deal of its face and hands, and a wide, snaggle-toothed grin. Sheridan muttered to himself, "I didn't know anyone else lived down here."

"Not live. Work." The alien gestured towards the panel with a tool Sheridan didn't recognize. "This does not work." The alien stood and cocked its head to one side. "Zathras will fix. Eventually. Someone is lost?"

"No," replied Sheridan, "not exactly." He didn't feel like admitting he'd been poking around. Draal was a pretty recent ally, and who knew how he'd take that information. From what he'd seen so far, the Minbari would probably consider it either a good joke, or a portentous sign of some damn thing or another. "I'm waiting for my companion. We came to see Draal. I thought I'd start back to our shuttle but I must have taken a wrong turn."

"Ah. It is shuttle that is lost." Zathras stood and looked up and down the corridor. "Shuttle not here." He began to walk back in the direction Sheridan had come. Stopping at a set of tall curved doors, etched metal set in stone, he opened one door slightly and peered inside. "This is not right," he said with disgust and let the door close with a clang.

Sheridan started to remonstrate with his new guide, but instead had to hurry to keep up as Zathras scurried down the stone halls, bouncing from one side to the other, running his hands over the stone, occasionally peering back to see if Sheridan was still following. Sheridan caught up just as Zathras was closing another door, a square one of black wood with a silver ring handle in the center. "Not the one," the alien said, and shook his head disconsolately.

"Really, I think I can find the way myself..." Sheridan stopped as Zathras put out one hand to stop him coming closer.

Leaning towards Sheridan confidingly, Zathras pointed towards a shadowy archway on his left. In a stage whisper, he announced, "Never use this one." He smiled ingratiatingly. "Zathras will find ship. Zathras likes ships."

Suddenly the alien lifted his head, made a clicking noise with his teeth, and then listened intently like a dog responding to an ultrasonic whistle. "Zathras must be going. Time," he said, looking at Sheridan sadly, "Time is almost gone." As he trotted quickly away down the corridor, he shouted back over his shoulder, "What you seek? Is that way!" He gestured in the direction he and Sheridan had been originally heading.

"What the hell was that all about?" Sheridan said, confused, as he continued in the direction Zathras had indicated. Turning the corner, he almost collided with Delenn.

"You will have to do your exploring later," she said, almost laughing at his expression which was comprised of equal amounts of guilt and surprise. "Commander Ivanova and Mr. Garibaldi will be plotting our rescue if we do not return soon."

Sheridan grinned at her. "They will at that." Pointing back where Zathras had disappeared, he said, "I was just asking the way to the shuttle..."

With no hesitation, she said firmly, "There is no need. It is this way." Setting a smart pace down the corridor, she walked quickly away, without once looking back.

Sheridan stood a moment, admiring her retreating...certainty. "And they say humans are reluctant to ask directions," he said, shaking his head as he hurried to catch up with her.