The Angels Come Screaming Down
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
The area was back to normal, except for the floral tributes and odd little arrangements of sticks and stones that lie scattered along the walkway lining the Zen Garden. There were pieces of paper pinned under some of the stones. Susan Ivanova picked up a errant scrap of white on the path and looked at the flowing Brakiri script on it. Another prayer, she thought as she made a rough mental translation; one of thousands that littered the garden after Captain Sheridan's miraculous rescue.
A hesitant voice said, "Good afternoon, Commander."
Susan turned to see Vir Cotto standing on the walkway, hands crossed behind his back. He nodded at her in greeting, then returned to staring upwards towards the repair crew working on the primary Core shuttle. Small one-man maintenance ships maneuvered beams into place, as repair modules inched along the line, welding the replacement rail sections into place. There were only a few places where workers had to leave the safety of the units to work on the rails. Susan was glad to see that they were being careful to wear the jetpacks she'd ordered carried at all times. There were also back-up teams on alert, ready at the nearest entrance points to the large open area through which the shuttle traveled. There would be no more 'accidents', not on her watch.
"Good afternoon, Vir," replied Susan with a slight inclination of her head that didn't quite reach a bow. She saw that he was now examining the tributes along the path. "Strange how some people react," she said, gesturing towards the display. "You weren't here when it happened, were you?"
"No, Ambassador Mollari was, but I wasn't." Vir shook his head. "I wish I had been. So many stories, so many versions of the same story. I would have liked to have seen...whatever it was." He cocked his head and looked at her curiously. "You were here though. What did you see?"
Susan shrugged. "Light, a blinding white light. Maybe the shape of wings, more like a butterfly's than a bird's. I'm not sure. I was busy, trying to get a rescue team in place, alerting Security. I didn't spend a lot of time watching, and it was over very quickly." She didn't add that once she'd wrenched her eyes away she didn't want to look back, unwilling to witness the sickening impact that had already played out vividly in her mind. The scrap of paper was still in her hand, and she placed it under a tight cluster of pale pink shell-like flowers attached to a tube that looked as if it were made of birch bark. Moving the package into place among a row of similar pleas and pledges, she straightened and looked straight at Vir. "I'm just glad the Captain made it down safely. The repairs, and the investigation into who set the bomb and how they got past shuttle security, that's what's occupying my mind. Having the shuttle shut down is playing havoc with travel throughout the station. I don't have time to worry about a mass hallucination in the Zen Garden."
"But this being, whatever it was... it saved Captain Sheridan from certain death! Everyone is saying it was a miracle!" Vir was surprised at her matter-of-fact manner. The whole station was abuzz with the tale, and pilgrims were pouring in from a dozen worlds. It was the most exciting thing that had happened in ages, and he found the very concept wonderful. Also, he admitted to himself, it was a welcome distraction from the more sobering news from Narn. He swallowed hard, fighting down the sick feeling he got in the pit of his stomach whenever he thought of the War.
"I know what it saved him from. I just don't know what it saved him for." Susan looked back up at the repairs taking place against the backdrop of the distant farmland on the far side of the core. She overrode Vir's barely-voiced objections with the uncompromising declaration. "No one does something like that without a reason."
After a moment of silence, Vir replied simply, "It would be nice to think it was simply the right thing to do." He went on, "The Centauri have many gods; even some of our Emperors have made the ascension. The household deities watch over those of their house; but they do nothing for outsiders. There are prayers and sacrifices and prophecies, but no miracles."
Susan thought of the candles she would light that very night, and bit her lip. "My people have a tradition that allows for miracles. I'm just not sure that they still happen. Not any more, and certainly not for people like us."
"Why not?" said Vir, looking at her intently as if trying to see beyond her cynicism. With a uncertain smile hovering over his lips he said hopefully, "I would like to think there are miracles." When she did not respond, he tried to strike a note of conciliatory realism, conceding, "Maybe you are right...that there was an ulterior motive behind Captain Sheridan's rescue. That what people saw was some sort of hallucination. Maybe there are no gods that intervene in our lives." He returned his gaze upwards, but not before adding thoughtfully, as if to himself, "Perhaps we need to make our own miracles."