The Enemy in the Mirror
(inspired by an off-hand comment on the Babylon Podcast by Tim Callendar)
'I have met the enemy, and it is the eyes of other people.'
'Shine a light into the mirror. You won't see me any clearer.
Leave the shadows dancing, dancing on their own.'
Take Me As I Am by October Project
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
"Are you sitting comfortably?"
The harsh whisper came from the shadows in the far corner. Delenn's eyes snapped open, but she didn't move. When she had finally succumbed to exhaustion and slept, there had been no other occupant of her cell. The cold stone beneath her chilled her, but not as much as that voice, an echo from past nightmares.
"I know that you are awake."
A soft shuffling sound told her that the owner of the voice was moving closer. Cautiously, she straightened her slumped figure until she was sitting upright, hands clasped loosely in her lap, endeavouring to present the outward appearance of calm acceptance of this new turn of events. Her eyes were already adjusted to the semi-darkness, but shadows clung to the figure, obscuring all but its height and distance from her. She licked her dry lips, and answered, "It is not particularly comfortable, but then I did not come expecting luxury."
"And why did you come? You must have known you were walking into a trap."
The tall figure settled down beside her on the stone bench, his long robes falling in folds around him. Skeletal fingers smoothed the creases in the dark fabric, then he reached one long thin hand towards her face. It took all her self-control not to flinch as the alien stroked one finger down her cheek, then cupped her chin in his cool, dry hand. Their eyes met and locked, neither giving way to the other.
"You are a Drakh." Delenn said, her voice kept level with great effort. Since her capture, she had seen only Centauri. Even though she was shocked by the presence of the alien, she was not surprised. It was as if two mis-matched puzzle pieces she had been turning over and over in her hands suddenly slid together, fitting perfectly. Of course, she thought to herself, then with a shudder of panic, the Drakh are behind what happened to my son? Putting aside her reactions to examine later, she continued, ''You do not resemble the Drakh I met before."
"Yes, we are Drakh." The tall alien leaned its large head back against the wall. The hard bony structure at the back of its head scraped against the stone. "It was a Messenger that boarded your ship, and he was behind a distortion shield, which afforded him both protection and disguise. You did not see him clearly; we did not wish you to. It was not yet time."
"And now it is time?" Delenn found her instinctive revulsion giving way to curiosity. If she escaped her decreed fate, any knowledge she gained of this enemy would be invaluable. "Are the Messengers another race of Drakh, or an entirely different species?"
The Drakh laughed softly. "We are three, we Drakh. The Messengers speak for us all, but we are not incapable of speech." Leaning forward he looked at her closely, "The Drakh are three, as the Minbari are three. You have met two of us, the third has been close to you for some time. It is even closer now." Laughing dryly he shaped his hands into a triangle, fingers touching at the apex, thumbs extending toward each other forming the base. "Three is sacred, after all."
Delenn shook her head and declared firmly, "There is nothing sacred about your race. You were servants, willing servants, of the Shadows. They are gone, and your time is over."
"Says the one in the cell awaiting her imminent execution," the Drakh replied mockingly. "Our time is just beginning. Earth escaped the finality of our wrath before, but they were gravely wounded. Their faith in your Alliance is fading. It was never that strong in the first place. And with the deaths of its leaders, the Alliance will fracture into pieces. We will be there, waiting, to reduce those pieces into rubble."
"Someone will arise to take our place. The Alliance will survive. Ideas are not killed so easily as people," Delenn defiantly replied.
"It is a shame your son is so young. It would be only fitting if he succeeded his father. We could work with him, I think," The Drakh's voice was mild and reflective, musing on possibilities.
"David would never work with you!" Delenn's eyes flashed fire as she vehemently protested the suggestion.
"Would he not?" The Drakh said smugly. "With the right...persuasion, I think he might. We will see. You, unfortunately, will not, as you will be dead. As will Sheridan. You both should have died long ago for your crimes."
"I have had many regrets in my life, but helping to rid the galaxy of your masters is not one of them." Delenn tried to read the expression in the Drakh's face as she questioned him. "How long have you been on Centauri Prime?"
"We have always been here," replied the Drakh in sepulchral tones. Then, incongruously, he laughed, and said, "Not long. We had to go somewhere, and we had some expectation of hospitality here. Really, you hadn't guessed? After our last encounter, you must have known we were looking for a home. 'Home is where the heart is...' Isn't that what the humans say? Here on Centauri Prime we found a refuge, if not a particularly welcoming one." Tilting his head, he considered Delenn carefully. "We are not unalike, you and I."
Delenn shook her head. "That is not true."
"We were both servants of the First Ones, chosen as their disciples in the last war before the end. The accursed Vorlons chose you to go out among the races and try to influence them to join in alliance. Our masters had us work behind the scenes, building defenses and planning strategy on the home world of Z'ha'dum. Different roles perhaps, but we played the same part in the overall story."
Delenn struggled for an answer, but there was enough truth in the Drakh's assertion to hold her silent. She was so tired of fighting. It seemed she had spent her days either fighting for the Alliance or against it. Now it seemed her battles were nearing an end. If she had entered on her long struggle against the darkness with eyes blinded by faith and trust...well, it was not the worst thing she had done in her life. Exhausted from the hours of questioning followed by hours of anxiety spent isolated in near-darkness, Delenn leaned back against the wall again and closed her eyes. "What does it matter? We were enemies then, and we remain enemies now."
The Drakh chuckled. It sounded like the rasp of scales against stone. "We are not enemies. We are the same, reflections in a mirror." Rising slowly from his seat, the Drakh examined her dispassionately. "In the ongoing battle, you have been on our side more often than you knew." He leaned over her, his face close to hers, his breath acidic and warm, and spoke to her closed face. "The work continues. It never ends, the balance shifting from order to chaos and back again. It is a natural rhythm. This is what we now understand, that our masters did not seem to grasp when they gave up and left us. They wanted an end to it; a decision, a choice. That can never be." Moving toward the door, the Drakh looked back at the seemingly defeated woman. "Time to pass the torch, Delenn. Time to die."
The Drakh paused at the entrance to the door, and looked at a lone squat candle in a niche in the wall. That, and a dim orange circle over the door, was the only light in the room. Shadows danced on the walls as the candle flame flickered. He bent his elongated head down and blew out the candle. Outlined in the door frame by the bright lights of the corridor, he turned and smiled as he passed his hand over the light switch outside. The remaining slice of light thinned and disappeared as the doors slid closed.
Delenn opened her eyes to darkness, but the lack of light no longer mattered. The black absence at least hid the shadows. It reminded her of the Ka'hel caves back on Minbar. No light had penetrated the depths of those crystal caverns, until they had been excavated approximately five hundred years previously, exposing a hidden wonder of mineral-encased light. Once discovered, the caves had been carefully preserved, left alone except for a thrice yearly pilgrimage of a select group of nine, three from each caste. When she had been chosen, she did not know what to expect. They descended in darkness, waiting in silence to see. Light suddenly shone into the darkness, and fractured a thousand times, like reflections in an endless mirror. It was both blinding and beautiful. The brightness centered on and almost seemed to come from inside the towering translucent shapes of blue and silver. During the tour, she had noticed a fissure in one crystal wall, a wound that bled groundwater into the delicate environment of the caves. The guide had told them, 'Water formed these caves and water can destroy them. The strongest material can be worn down, once a point of weakness is formed. Still, without those points of entry, these caves would never have been formed, and we would be the poorer for it.'
The questioning of the Centauri had not been gentle. They were both enthusiastic and capable. Delenn considered the possibility that they knew nothing of the Drakh and their manipulations. She had not told them anything, but she had felt the constant mental wear of their focus on her own weak points; the welfare of her son, and of her husband and the Alliance they served. Perhaps the Drakh had thought to administer some final psychological blow, but if so, he had failed in his purpose. They had sought out her weaknesses, but their attacks only served to reveal her strengths.
Like water shaping ka'helri crystals in the darkness, love had carved its pathways in her heart. It illuminated her from within. All she could do was wait, and pray, and await any opportunity that presented itself. It might well be that she would die here. Her son, having just reached maturity, had years of life ahead of him. For her his safety was the most important thing. But plans were already in motion to ensure his escape. John and she had three years left together, and it would be bitter indeed if those were lost; but the fact of the loss had been accepted long ago. As for the Drakh's other insinuations, she had nothing in common with them, and never had. Rejecting their premature triumph, she would retain her trust that the Alliance she and John had worked for so long and so hard would survive.
Assuming a meditative position, she tried to prepare mentally for what might be her last hours. Her only wish was that she could know for certain that David was safe, and that she could have one last moment with John. Tears hung in her eyes, but she would not allow them to fall. Someone might be watching, and she refused to afford them the satisfaction. Here at the end, alone in the darkness, they would see.
They had no power over her.