ACYLOTES OF THE FALLEN GODS

By Geeta

 

 

 

   Disclaimer: All characters and the entire Babylon5 universe are the sole property of JMS, Warner Brothers etc. This fanfiction is not intended to infringe on these rights nor is it for any other profit than just the fun of writing.

   Credit: My thanks to Cris Wilson for finding me a beta reader and to Joan Wallace for beta reading.

 

 

 

 

*****

    It was strange for him to be floating in the cold blackness of space alone and unprotected against a void that destroyed every entity from ancient massive stars to young and seemingly insignificant humans. Ironically it was this void, this blackness that gave birth to everything, this womb like ambiance that allowed life itself to be born from swirling masses of gas and dust. Stranger still was the fact that he was oblivious to his vulnerability. The only awareness he had was of the world below and the two armies fighting on either side. Armies of light and dark, the universal chess pieces, equal and opposite. The battle had endured for some time now. Clearly the dark ones seemed to be losing, retreating into the surrounding blackness. The light ones appeared to change at their departure, losing some of their quintessence. To him they looked less like beings of light and more like children, angry children who turned their rage towards the world below.

   

   

   Captain John Sheridan awoke with a start. He sat up breathing hard in the dark. It did not take long to realize that the darkness was the darkness of his quarters, not the vacuum of space.

   "Time?" he said

   "The time is 0300 Earth standard time," a computerized voice responded.

   Three a.m. The same time he had awoken during the past three days, prior to which he had had the recurring dream. The dream he discovered he could never quite remember. The only vague recollections were of light, strange cherubic faces and feelings of urgency, even danger. Shaking his head as if to shake off the memory, he got out of bed and headed towards the shower. He could never go back to sleep after awakening from these dreams, resulting in a decision to get a head start on his day.

   ---

   The White Star cut through space swiftly and elegantly as it bore its passengers towards Babylon 5, its body glistening with the reflected light of each star it passed. It was a ship like no other, part Vorlon and part Minbari, its small size and delicate, sculptured appearance often masking its deadly fighting capabilities. The White Star could outfight, out maneuver and outrun almost any opponent if need be. The perfect combination of grace and power it served as the ideal implement of the rangers, an elite fighting force who swore equal allegiance to Captain John Sheridan and Minbari Ambassador Delenn.

   "Ambassador," a voice said

   "Yes," Delenn replied

   "You said you wanted to be alerted before we made our final jump back to Babylon 5."

   "Yes Lennier, thank you," Delenn said as she made her way towards the bridge.

   She always liked to be on the bridge when they arrived at their final destination. To her there was something comforting about seeing the place whether it be a planet, her home world or Babylon 5 lying against the tapestry of night as her ship vaulted out of hyperspace. Ensconcing herself in the command chair she gave the order to jump. Before the order could be obeyed Lennier spoke up.

   "Delenn I'm picking up what appears to be a distress signal."

   "How far?"

   "Approximately twenty standard minutes from here," he replied

   "Alert Babylon 5 of our delay and change in course," she ordered," and convey these instructions to the rest of the fleet."

   Roughly twenty minutes later their ships were near the coordinates from which the distress signal originated. They had slowed to approximately one third their original speed as their instruments searched the darkness for the possible source of anguish. A low beeping sound from Lennier's station herald success.

   "Scanners indicate one ship…….." Lennier's words were cut off by an astonished gasp.

   "What is it?" Delenn asked, rising out of her chair and heading towards her attaché's station.

   "The ship," he replied regaining some of his original composure "appears to be Vorlon."

   "Vorlon?"

   Anticipating her next request as he so often did, Lennier activated the viewer, allowing them to visually confirm what the scanners had indicated. The Vorlon vessel or more accurately the projected image floated above the White Star's deck, giving it an almost macabre appearance. Like a ghost back from the dead Delenn thought.

   "Life signs Lennier?"

   "Five human," he replied without moving his eyes from the image in front of him "their condition is stable but the ship is damaged extensively and cannot maintain them for more than three hours. The engines have also sustained damage and is incapable of propulsion."

   "Then we will have to tow it back to Babylon 5," she said heading back to her chair and simultaneously giving instructions to execute the rescue.

   ---

   John Sheridan circled the empty room that once served as the quarters of the late Ambassador Kosh, his hand gliding gently along the surface of the wall. It felt cold to the touch, smooth, almost perfect. In a way it reminded him of the Vorlon, cold, immaculate and standing in silent judgement of him, of Delenn and of all the younger races. He stared long at the wall, having the strangest feeling that it was staring back at him, peering into his mind and soul. He wondered if it was searching for Kosh, for the one it had silently observed for so long.

   "I have always been here."

   He whirled around half expecting to see Kosh standing behind him but there was nothing there. Mentally he chastised himself for his stupidity. Kosh was dead, and the part of him that had merged with his consciousness was gone too. The only thing left were fragments of memories that haunted his dreams. Apparently they were seeping over into his waking moments now, making him hear Kosh.

   "Next thing you know I'll be talking to the damned wall," he muttered.

   The room to him suddenly felt colder and claustrophobic, almost like a sepulchre. He needed to go outside and get some air. Unfortunately there was no air outside. Hell that didn't matter he was going anyway.

   ---

   There was nothing like a walk outside to lift one's problems Sheridan thought as he stepped out of the turbolift.

   "Captain! Captain Sheridan!" an impertinent voice bellowed from behind.

   And there was nothing like stepping back inside to make them come crashing down on him again.

   "Yes Ambassador," he said turning to face an angry looking Drazi," What can I do for you?"

   The Drazi's words came in an angry torrent.

   "Ambassador," Sheridan said firmly, trying to calm him.

   It didn't work. The Drazi raged on about his problems, demanding to know what Sheridan would do to solve it.

   "Ambassador," Sheridan said again, trying not to let his irritation show. He didn't take kindly to people screaming demands in his face. To him that was just a polite way to threaten someone. And he sure as hell didn't suffer threats lightly. He was about to try once more to pacify the Ambassador when his com link beeped. Never in his life did he think there would be a day when he would be glad to hear it.

   "Sheridan go."

   "Captain," came the voice of Commander Susan Ivanova, "Ambassador Delenn just got back."

   Despite himself, John smiled at the mention of Delenn's name. At the thought of her, he could feel some of the weight of his earlier troubles being lifted.

   "There's another thing," Susan continued "She's brought company. I think you should meet us in docking bay thirteen."

   "If you'll excuse me Ambassador," Sheridan said, "there's something I have to attend to. We can discuss your concerns at the next League meeting."

   With those words Sheridan extricated himself from the Drazi's presence and headed off towards the docking bays.

   When Susan had said Delenn brought back company the last thing he expected was seeing a Vorlon ship parked in space dock. But there it was, the living vessel resting tranquilly on the floor. Seeing it evoked a feeling that was like a jolt through time, back to the day when he had first seen Kosh's ship parked in the identical spot. As he neared the ship he could see Dr. Franklin hustling his medical team back to the med bay with what looked like humanoid figures encased in translucent, green membranes.

   "John" Delenn called to him as he neared.

   "Glad to have you back," he said, smiling and taking her hand, "and I see you brought back company."

   " We received a distress signal from sector eighteen" she replied, "There were five humans on board. Dr. Franklin just took them to the medical bay."

   "Sector eighteen?" cut in Susan, joining them as they headed towards the medical bay "That's a long way off from the Vorlon home world. Wonder what they were doing there?"

   John couldn't help but notice the note of surprise in Susan's voice. Hardly anyone else would have, Susan Ivanova was not a woman who was was easily surprised or scared, nor would she openly show it if she was. But he knew her long enough to recognize her subtle display of emotion. He didn't blame her though. The Vorlons had left, supposedly taking their entire fleet. The last thing anyone expected was for one of their ships to be docked in Babylon 5.

   "More importantly we need to know who they are," Sheridan replied "Are they telepaths left over from the Shadow war or humans taken by the Vorlons for other purposes. We need to know…."

   His voice trailed off and for a moment he seemed to forget the present time, his mind being slowly drawn into a labyrinth of dreams and memories.

   "John?" Delenn said softly," John are you alright?"

   "Huh? Oh yeah…I'm fine, fine…just remembering a dream I had. It's nothing…"

   She studied him worriedly. Ever since Kosh had touched his mind and since he came back from Z'ha'dum, John's dreams had been strange, yet somehow they reflected events that happened or would happen. They were rarely ever 'nothing' as he claimed.

   "I'm fine Delenn," he said once more trying to reassure her.

   It didn't work but she did not press the issue further. Instead the three of them hurried off to the medical bay in silence.

   ---

   The humanoid figures lay in the isolab, stretched out side by side on examining tables. Attached to each were a multitude of tubes and wires, which connected to various computers and medical equipment. To Sheridan it looked like a scene from an old, twentieth century horror movie that featured a mad scientist experimenting on humans in his lab. Something that Garibaldi might watch.

   "So what can you tell us about your new patients doc?" Sheridan asked

   "Well at this point, not very much. They seem to be in a type of stasis, probably induced by the membrane surrounding them. From what I can tell though they don't appear to be in any immediate danger, so we haven't tried to remove the membrane. Frankly I 'm not exactly sure what will happen if we take it off."

   " Are they human?" Susan asked, staring at the figures.

    They were still, lifeless, almost like corpses. The bits of their faces that showed through the membrane were neither tranquil nor troubled. Rather they bore a look of silent determination. In fact their whole demeanor, despite it sleeping state, seemed purposeful. The purpose she couldn't conceive at this point but she didn't like it. Not one bit.

   "That's the amazing part." Stephen said, his professional disposition giving way, being replaced by his intellectual fascination with the unknown. Susan could hear the excitement in his voice as he spoke.

   "They look human on the outside, anatomically having a human make up, same internal organs and basically metabolic processes are the same. But when you analyze some of their blood components and certain brain areas, well it's like nothing I've ever seen. I'm still waiting on DNA analysis."

   "Brain areas?" John said, "Are they telepaths?"

   "It's possible though I can't confirm it until I see the results of the DNA analysis. This may go beyond telepathy though. Like I said it's like nothing I've ever seen before."

   John studied the faces of Stephen's slumbering charges. For some reason they looked familiar to him. Maybe he thought to himself, they were faces known to Kosh. After a moment he spoke again.

   "They look like kids Stephen."

   "Probably in their late teens, early twenties," he replied.

   He shook his head regretfully as he stared at them. The sight of them moved him. He could feel his emotions rising, a mixture of anger and sorrow swirling around violently in his consciousness, like a whirlpool in the middle of the ocean. He closed his eyes and reopened them. In the blink of an eye the passions were gone and the sea was once again torpid. He turned away from the bodies.

   "Look uh, I still have more tests to conduct. Hopefully by the time they're done I'll be able to tell you more,"

   And hopefully by that time we wouldn't be staring oblivion straight in its' face, Sheridan thought, realizing silently that he was beginning to sound like Susan. Maybe the last war with the Shadows and the Vorlons had made him paranoid. Maybe, he thought, glancing once more at the figures cased in green, paranoia isn't a bad thing. There was nothing more to be gained in the med lab. He could theorize worse case scenarios elsewhere and leave Stephen to his work. Thanking Stephen briskly the three left.

   "Dr. Franklin," one of the assistants called, "Could you take a look at this?"

   "Yeah, on my way," Stephen replied.

   If he had stayed, if any of them had stayed, they probably would have noticed the hands of the sleeping parties contract simultaneously into fists, and then slowly release again, to lie once more in the prostrate, deathlike manner at their sides.

   ---

    John sat in his office staring at the pile of reports in front of him. He shuffled through them idly, not really reading them. Yet he knew what most of them said. Reports about supply ships being attacked as they tried to bring cargo to Babylon 5, reports of how many made it, how many didn't. Other reports of how many fighters were destroyed or damaged in defense of these ships, how many of his people died fighting off raiders and Earthforce ships and finally reports of what was going on back home. President Clark was continuing his dark reign, and the assault of propaganda directed at Babylon 5. An assault John knew to be the preliminary stage to another physical attack on the station. He didn't know when it was coming but there was no doubt in his mind that it was. And they had to either be ready for it or be in a position to strike out and make a stand against him. Much as he was grateful to Delenn for her assistance in defending the station in their last confrontation with Earth, he did not want to place her in that situation again. She had her own burdens to bear. Clark was his problem. He looked at the reports again, all his problems stacked neatly on the desk waiting to be addressed. The only thing missing was one more crisis, just to balance out the stack. He couldn't help but wonder if that crisis had already arrived and was lying dormant in the med lab. A knock on the side of the doorway interrupted his brooding.

   "Yes," he said, looking up.

   Susan Ivanova strode over to his desk, speaking as she approached.

   "I'm sorry to interrupt.."

   "It's okay Commander," he replied, "so what can I help you with?"

   "We've been getting reports about attacks near a jump gate in sector thirty one, a lot of our major supplies have been coming through there lately."

   "Earthforce?" Sheridan asked grimly.

   "I'm not sure, our ships aren't the only ones that were hit. I was thinking of taking one of the White Stars and checking it out."

   "It's a good idea, we need every supply ship we can get. Clark is one thing but the last thing we need is attacks by outsiders. You can take White Star 12 and I suppose Marcus wouldn't mind going along as translator."

   Why did it always have to be Marcus, Susan thought at the mention of the man's name. She wondered if it was some grand conspiracy on the part of the universe to slowly drive her insane, using Marcus as the instrument. Or maybe it wasn't the universe at work, maybe the Captain just had one heck of a sadistic streak in him.

   "Fine, just tell him to be onboard by thirteen hundred hours or he can follow behind in a space suit."

   ---

    "White Star 12 requesting permission to leave Captain. Any last instructions?"

   "Aside from the usual Egyptian blessing, no," Sheridan replied, "Tell them they're clear for departure lieutenant."

   "Aye sir."

   John watched as the jump gate activated, surges of energy pouring forth along the struts and then spiraling into a bluish portal at the centre. The White Star lurched forward seeming to be sucked in by the gate, rather than driven forward by its own momentum.

   As the White Star disappeared through the gate it appeared to pull the energy along with it, both vanishing out of sight almost instantly. All that was left in their place was the night, quiet, tranquil and endlessly stretching out towards infinity. He stared at it and sighed. It was so easy, he thought, to be seduced by the stillness, by its serenity, to be drawn into its blanket of false security. But that was something he couldn't afford to do. Not at this moment and perhaps not for a long time.

   "Lieutenant you have the bridge," Sheridan said turning and heading for the door.

   "Yes sir," Corwin responded.

    He sat once again in his office, looking over his schedule. It was for want of a better term a quiet day. No attacks other than what Susan had mentioned, no incidents and the League didn't convene until later. Yes a quiet day indeed, like the calm before a storm. With those words in mind his eyes drifted down to Stephen's medical report. A knock at the door interrupted his reading.

   "Come in," he called without looking up.

   He heard light footsteps and the mild rustling of silk as it swept across the floor. His eyes didn't have to leave the paper, nor his ears hear any address for him to know who was standing before him. This was someone whom he could sense by her motion, by her fragrance and sometimes even just by her presence.

   "Delenn," he said before she could speak.

   "If this is not a good time.." she started.

   "No, no," he said gesturing for her to have a seat, an invitation that she gracefully accepted.

   "So how can I help you?"

   She hesitated momentarily before speaking. It was all he needed. Just one moment to study her countenance, her eyes and he knew what was troubling her.

   "Your concerned about the Vorlon ship?" he asked.

   "Yes," she said, "and so are the others. They're going to want answers John."

   "I know" he said, "and I'm not sure what we're going to tell them."

   He got up, moved away from his desk and started pacing as he walked, hands clasped behind his back.

   "I don't even have all the answers myself. I talked to Stephen about the DNA analysis earlier and from what he told me it's not human. In fact he still doesn't know what to make of it all. Honestly I don't know either."

   He paused, took a breath and continued on again. It seemed as though he was no longer speaking to her, rather it was as though he was just talking, trying to get the words out in front of him where he could see it and make sense of it. She studied him silently, knowingly. She did not interrupt however, but listened thoughtfully as he carried on.

   " We knew the Vorlons abducted humans from time to time, changed them, used them. That's what those kids could be. But something doesn't feel right. I don't know what. And the last thing we need is people panicking, thinking that the Vorlons are back. That's why I've been trying to keep this low. But we can't keep this under the mat forever, you're right we going to have to find answers fast. I'm surprised some of the others haven't come pounding on my door already."

   "Well they probably decided to start at my door first for a change."

   He started to say something to her, from the look on his face she guessed it to be an apology. She rose swiftly yet gracefully and came over to him. Placing her hand gently on the side of his face she spoke, cutting him off.

   "But that is not why I came to see you."

   Under her touch he could feel some of his agitation melting. He even allowed himself to smile.

   "Oh, why then?"

   "I was concerned about the ship" she started, "about what its presence might signify, but I was also concerned about the effect it has on you."

   "Effect on me? Delenn wha..?"

   "John ever since it arrived you've been somewhat…distant. Granted you have not had much sleep in the last three days but I saw the way you looked in the med lab.."

   He sighed in response and moved over to the couch. She followed and they both sat down.

   "I've been having this dream lately, I keep getting flashes of it, more so since the ship arrived and for some reason I keep thinking of Kosh."

    He didn't bother to tell her that earlier today he thought he had heard Kosh. After all he didn't want her to think the man she was going to marry was totally nuts. No he figured she could live with him knowing that he was only partially crazy, not all the way.

   She sat quietly thinking before she spoke.

   "This would not be the first time Kosh has tried to reveal something to you through your dreams" she pointed out.

   "Reveal what? What does it mean? Assuming it means anything at all!"

   He sighed again. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately.

   "I've got bad feeling about this Delenn," he said, shaking his head.

   She could offer no words of consolation to him as she was getting the same premonition. Instead she reached for his hand. He held her's tightly as they sat together alone, not speaking, just thinking and waiting.

   ---

   James Black headed into the isolab. At this hour the place was virtually isolated. No one but a few of the other medical technicians would be around. The place was silent, save for the hum of electrical equipment and the sound of his own footsteps echoing softly as he walked. He didn't mind the silence; in fact he had grown to like it. Most people would have been creeped out, not only by the silence but by the bodies lying unmoving on the beds. He wasn't bothered though.

   Back on Earth he had worked in a morgue, silence and bodies didn't scare him. He had to admit though this situation was a lot different. Firstly these bodies were not dead; they were merely hibernating within their gelatinous encasements. And secondly he had heard that they were found in a Vorlon ship.

   Of course he couldn't confirm that part but you never knew, strange things were always happening around here. Over the years he had learned to be eclectic. He whistled softly to himself as he approached the sleeping figures. It didn't matter what he heard he still had a job to do.

   He walked over to the computers to which the patients were attached, checking the system to make sure everything was the way it should be and monitoring any changes. He worked silently at the console for a while, occasionally changing the tune he was whistling. After a moment he stopped and listened. He thought he heard something, a soft tapping maybe. He listened. Nothing but the routine noises. He looked about; he was alone in the room. Turning around he started work again, this time not whistling.

   Tap, tap, tap, tap.

   He stopped dead, his fingers still hovering over the buttons. He heard the sound again amidst the pounding of his heart and the sound of his breath coming in slow, shallow gasps. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw movement coming from one of the bodies, a hand maybe, rapping gently on the membrane above it.

    Swallowing hard he somehow managed to turn around and face the body. It lay silent and unmoving. He approached nearer, his legs straining to carry his reluctant body, until he was standing over the sleeping party. Nothing. No motion, no change whatsoever. He was probably just imagining things, his mind being influenced by all the weird stories he heard from the pilots.

    Sighing he took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face, he hadn't realized it but he was sweating profusely. Then it happened. He didn't see it coming; the cloth was over his eyes. A pair of hands burst out and gripped him by the throat. James dropped the handkerchief, reflexively his hands grabbed on to the ones that assaulted him and tried to pry them off. He would have screamed, probably tried to but the fingers were pressing against his larynx, cutting off the sound.

    The sound was not the only thing they cut off, James realized as he gasped for air. His legs trashed wildly under him, trying to propel his body away from danger. It was a futile and exhausting attempt. Gradually they slowed down and then stopped. Even his hands relaxed their tenacious hold and fell limp at his sides.

    As James Black gave into the blackness he could hear the tapping sound again; it sounded different, kind of like the flapping of angels' wings he thought. It was more prominent now, and came from all the bodies around him. It was the last sound he ever heard.

   ---

    Sheridan looked around the room grimly. The five beds that were once occupied by the sleeping parties were now vacant. The only sign that they were ever occupied were the crumpled sheets; stained with green, jelly like fluid. The fluid was not confined to the beds, but had dripped down and in some areas was splattered on the floor and against equipment. Wires and tubes, stained also, lay torn asunder on the floor. It was as though the five 'kids' as he had earlier called them had literally burst out of their cocoons and started tearing at everything. And the only person who could tell them for sure what had happened had been killed in their little temper tantrum. The storm had finally hit and he knew it wasn't over yet. He turned at the sound of a door opening to see Zack Allan, chief of security walking in.

   "I talked to a security guard who was outside the room. Says he was hit from behind doesn't remember much of anything. Doc's checkin' him out now."

   "Damn it!" Sheridan responded, grinding his teeth "Tell your people to seal off exits and do a level by level sweep. I want them found before something like this happens again."

   "Yes sir."

   "And tell them be prepared to defend themselves, from the looks of things they're extremely dangerous but do not under any circumstance provoke an unwarranted attack."

   "All right people you heard the Captain," Zack called to two guards at the doorway "Let's move!"

   They all headed out the door including Sheridan. He had to go find Stephen and see if he could tell him anything that could be useful in finding and if necessary stopping those beings, whatever they were. As he left the room he noticed that there was no trace of the green jelly anywhere else. He would have thought that they would be dripping of the stuff. Stopping he took a look back in the room, speculating vents and anything that could be used as an exit. There was nothing, all clean except for the initial mess near the bed.

   He turned back and headed off to his initial destination.

   ---

    Susan sat in the command chair of the White Star with an impatient and somewhat annoyed expression on her face. Her investigation was uneventful; they had checked out the area and collected debris from what appeared to be the reported firefight but had, to her disappointment, encountered no trouble. Not that she had anything against peaceful moments; she welcomed it as much as the next person, but what she did not welcome were things that apparently came too easy. Ease tended to make people relax and let their guard down. There was an expression, never look a 'gift horse' in the mouth, but there was also a story about a particular Trojan horse. On the topic of Trojan horses, she found herself wondering about the Vorlon ship on Babylon 5.

   "How long before we get back?"

   "Not for another three hours," Marcus replied.

   She sighed and then spoke again.

   "Wonder what's going on right now?"

   "Well since neither you nor I are there, can't be anything too exciting."

   She gave him half a smile. His sense of humor could be at most times a real pain but sometimes she welcomed it a bit, just a bit. She sat back in her chair and tried to relax. It was no use, her mind drifted to Babylon 5. She sat staring straight ahead wishing that she could somehow mentally will the ship to go faster.

   ---

    They moved silently among the crowds of people in down below. They were dressed identically in what looked like green, form fitting suits that spanned their entire body, covering all except head and hands. The material looked alien, it's shade and tone changing constantly as they moved, like a chameleon changing skin tones to suit its' environment. The 'clothes' they wore were not what made them conspicuous. Rather it was their demeanor, the proud confidence with which they moved and the cold surety in their eyes that bordered on arrogance.

   They did not walk huddled together nor did they wander about like the lost souls that settled in this area. Instead they moved as soldiers, purposeful, coordinated, four of them fanning out on either side of one central figure, like star furies on an attack vector. They didn't speak to each other, at least not aloud, nor anyone else as they moved. Their icy stares were enough to communicate thoughts and emotions to crowds of people, who parted like the Red Sea when the five neared their proximity. They walked for only a few moments before they all stopped.

   The frontal figure, a boy of probably twenty, looked over head, his black eyes surveying the ceiling above. He studied it, his forehead creasing thoughtfully. He looked as though he could see through the metal to the levels above. He stood staring, motionless for a long time. The stillness of his face compounded by his alabaster skin and chiseled features gave him and almost statue like appearance.

   After a moment he smiled thinly. The smile was barely visible, looking more like a trick played by the movements of light and shadow across his face rather than the contraction of muscles, and it carried no joy. Rather it carried the coldness of a steel knife, a coldness that could only be warmed by blood.

   ---

    "Deceased is Black, James, male, age thirty five, occupation medical technician. Cause of death asphyxiation. Visible abrasions appear on the neck and over the area of the larynx. There appears to be no other visible signs of physical assault on the victim's body…presence of skin under the nails indicates he put up a fight."

   Stephen sighed as he regarded his colleague. He hated post moterms, more so if he knew the victim. He didn't know Black outside of work really, but he knew enough to know that he was a good technician and a good person. He sighed again, the only silver lining was that he wasn't a family man. He looked up just as Sheridan entered. Switching off the recorder he walked over to meet him.

   "Stephen," Sheridan started gravely.

   "I was just finishing up the autopsy…"

   "Well?"

   "To put it mildly he was strangled," Stephen replied. His tone hardened as he continued. "His larynx was crushed, from the markings on his neck I'll say they killed him with their bare hands."

   "There's another thing, I've been analyzing the fluid from the membranes." Stephen said motioning John over to a microscope.

   "Clearly it appears to be organic and it's responsive to certain stimuli like light, heat, electrical impulses.."

   "Responsive? It can move?"

   "Watch" Stephen said, turning on a monitor," I'm firing an electrical charge of about seventy milivolts."

   John watched the as small glob of green jelly recoil from the voltage.

   "That's not all, it also appears to have the ability to camouflage itself," Stephen said, pressing keys on the computer's console. In response to his actions the background against the green gel changed, evoking corresponding changes in the gel itself.

   John observed with a disturbed look on his face.

   "Stephen, aside from what was left on the bed there was none of this stuff anywhere else.."

   "Yeah I noticed that too. It's possible that it merged with them somehow, it did seem vital to their sustenance when they arrived."

   "Merged?" he said, pausing and then adding," Could this gel convey any of its properties, it's ability to camouflage itself?"

   Stephen hesitated before responding. He knew what John was driving at.

   "It's possible. Though the effect may not be able to be sustained for prolonged periods. In fact they may be able to do it only at intervals..."

   "Great!" John responded forcibly, "They're somewhere on this five mile long station, probably invisible and we're supposed to find them."

   "What about docking bay thirteen? Maybe they'll want to get back to the Vorlon ship."

   Sheridan didn't respond. He stood thinking, a grim expression on his face. He had already considered that, in fact had hoped that all they wanted was to get their ship and get the hell off his station, maybe go home. But he knew that was not their intention. He didn't know how but he knew their coming here was not a coincidence. This was where they were supposed to be and their coming symbolized disaster not only for Babylon 5 but the rest of the galaxy as well.

   ---

   Soon…were his words. It echoed in their minds like a cold wind through leafless, desolate trees in a winter forest.

   Soon we will fulfill our destiny, that which we were created for.

   Yes the rest responded simultaneously, telephatically.

   Soon the darkness would be purged.

   And then the traitors, the infidels would pay!

   They moved off again to their destination, all but one who lingered behind. She appeared to be the youngest of the group, her youth and beauty giving her an almost angelic bearing. She unlike the others did not have their statue like visage. Rather her large, deep-set eyes betrayed her emotions. They looked like whirlpools now, raging with confusion, doubt and seemingly fear. This was not what Kosh had wanted. Not what he had wanted at all.

   ---

    It was pathetically easy to slip pass the guards he thought. They walked swiftly and stealthily, veiled in the once green jelly. Now the substance had no colour, rather it was transparent, allowing light to pass through giving the image that it was not there. This image it conveyed to its wearers allowing them to be virtually invisible to security. Not that being spotted would matter. They could easily deal with these inferior beings.

   But now was not the time to alert the others, especially the one called Sheridan of their presence here nor about what they were planning. He was different from the others; they had indirectly seen his mind. It had been touched. He could be trouble, definitely, unless things went as planned. And apparently it would, the four thought as they stood in the darkness and listened as the door of the room they were in slid open.

   "Lights," Delenn said as the door closed behind her.

   The light flashed on, its soft glow bathing everything in the room. Turning she gasped at the four figures standing calmly in one corner of the room.

   She didn't have time to speak, to act or to move, as several translucent, green tentacles burst forth from the figures and grabbed her. Two entwined itself around her arms, one around her face, covering her mouth and the other around her legs.

   It drew her struggling form forward slowly, tightening its grip as her body protested. The one on her face seemed to change form, flattening and spreading out to encompass her entire face. Reflexively she closed her eyes as the substance made contact with them. It burned slightly, the sensation being accompanied by a sharp, acrid odor.

   She gagged and tried not to inhale the chemical that was effusing from the mask like gel. It was futile, her lungs cried out for air, forcing her to breathe in the vile compound. The unpleasantness did not last for long however, as the chemical had the effect of a sedative. She was not aware exactly what happened in the moments after breathing in. She was vaguely aware of the room spinning and her legs giving way under the weight of her body. She crumpled to the floor and the tentacles retracted from her face whilst the others drew her prostrate form closer.

    They moved out in the open now unable to hide themselves. Not that it was ever necessary, especially now. They had what they came for. They saw the guards approaching them. They knew they were not the only ones. There were others who would try to stop them, try and fail.

   "Hold it," one of them called, "You're gonna have to come with us. You won't be harmed but if you.."

   He did not finish his sentence. It was cut off by his cry of agony as a thick, slimy, acidic substance sprayed out, seemingly from the out stretched hand of one of the four individuals he had been addressing, and landed on his face. Others that moved to assist met the same or similar agonizing fate.

   Zack could hear the commotion as his team rounded the corner. He yelled frantic orders into his comlink, trying to mobilize other teams into the area. They heard them coming, their boots stomping on the metal decks, saw them take up position, getting ready to fire, their fingers hovering over the trigger.

   They could even sense them starting to apply the pressure ever so gently. As they started the one who held Delenn swung her unconscious form forward, removing the green covering so the guards could see whom they held.

   "Don't shoot!" Zack yelled, "Repeat do not fire!"

   "Oh hell," Zack swore as he watched them go.

   "C&C this is security, put me through to the Captain."

   ---

    It felt like déjà vu, John thought as headed into the alien sector towards Kosh's old quarters. It seemed ironic that he was drawn here earlier this morning just a few hours before the Vorlon vessel had arrived. Now he was back, completing the circle so it seemed. Of course this time he had a security team with him just in case he was not the only one drawn here.

   As they approached the doorway, he waved them into position, giving his orders as a combination of gestures and whispers. Two guards lined the side of the doorway, while others waited further back, ready to act if needed. John drew his PPG with one hand and with the other pushed a button on the side of the door, causing it to slide open.

   He entered, his eyes surveying the room cautiously; his body poised ready to defend against any attack. All his senses were working now, refined by military training and years of experience and his mind processing all sights and sounds, preparing him for the unexpected.

   And the unexpected was exactly what he got, though this time it had not chosen to manifest itself in the form of an attack. Rather it incarnated as a small, childlike figure sitting motionless in the corner of the room. Her back was to the wall. On hearing him enter she rose slowly and turned to face him. Other than that she made no movement.

   "Who are you?" John demanded

   She smiled at the question.

   "Who are you?" she mirrored.

   "He used to ask that," She continued looking around the room. She then fixed her gaze on Sheridan and he got the feeling that she was staring straight into his mind.

   "But you know that don't you? A simple question. Just three words. But the answer that was the hard part. You still don't know who you are. Or maybe you do know but you don't want to know."

   He didn't respond. His mouth tightened, his fingers closing in around his PPG.

   "They are not here," she responded to his thoughts, "No, I 'm not here to distract you, to lure you off your guard while they attack."

   "Where are they?"

   "Where they are you cannot be, at least not yet for the sake of everyone on this station."

   He was angry now, it showed on his face, in his voice.

   "What the hell do you want? What do they want?"

   "Wrong question," She responded somewhat coldly.

   Her tone made him think of Mr. Sebastain, the Vorlon's inquisitor.

   "Not like him. More than him," she said, "Though we share the same purpose, to serve the Vorlons. Though they are gone now, their legacy remains. As does our purpose. Though it is now corrupted."

   "Purpose? Corrupted how?"

   "To fight against the darkness. They feared you would fail…thought you had died. They went mad with fear so they began to destroy all that had been touched by the shadows. Like angels fallen from grace they were, and they commissioned us to serve them. Now they are gone. And we remain. And the others cling to their purpose. It is all they have left. They will stop at nothing to cleanse what had been touched. And when they are done they will make you pay for denying them their divine right of destroying the shadows, and for driving the Vorlons from this place."

   "And your purpose?"

   "To help you stop them," she said.

   "How? What are they planning?"

   "You know. Kosh knew. He told you," she said moving towards him.

   "Remember," she said as her eyes locked on to his.

   He staggered back, trying to break the invisible connection between them as memories flooded his mind. His head pounded. It felt as though they were drilling through from the recesses of his brain straight into his eyes. When it was over he heard his comlink beeping.

   "Sheridan go."

   "What! When? Damn it!" he ground his teeth as he gave the last order, "Let them go, or they'll kill her and everyone else here!"

   He looked at the girl angrily.

   "They're on route to the Corianna system?"

   "Yes" she said, "They won't kill her yet. They will keep her alive to use against you in case you try to interfere. Through her they believe they can control you."

   He wasn't listening, he already knew why they took her, not just because she had led along side him in the war but because they knew that they could use her to bring him to his knees. She was in a way his strength and his weakness. He pushed aside his worry and focused instead on a plan to get her back and prevent the destruction they were bent on causing.

   "C&C put me through to Epsilon, get me Draal," he ordered, his mind still working out the details of the plan, "and contact Ivanova, find out her E.T.A." he added as he stormed off towards the med lab to find Stephen.

   ---

    The crews of the four White Star ships stared blankly ahead of them. They moved mechanically, performing their duties remotely under the control of the four humanoid figures that had each boarded one vessel.

   Delenn lay curled on the floor of the bridge, unconscious. It was not time to wake her yet. They would wake her after their trip to the Vorlon world to collect the Vorlon planet killer. Wake her just in time to see Corianna six die and then Centuari Prime and all the worlds that had allied themselves with the dark ones.

   And then they would take care of Babylon 5 and Sheridan, assuming he had not already done something foolish and had been killed. They had left him for her. It was her right after all. She had been chosen to serve Kosh and Sheridan had been the one who was responsible for him revealing himself to the Shadows before they were ready, the one responsible for his death. Yes, vengeance was her right. They hoped she would wait though. Wait until they had finished and all he had valued was gone.

   ---

    John sat somewhat apprehensively inside the Vorlon vessel, his body being slowly engulfed by a green gelatinous substance produced by the living ship. He didn't like the idea that he had to travel semi conscious inside the ship, being off guard for the duration of the journey. Not that he was totally worried about his companion. No, he remembered her from the dreams he had been having. Kosh had somehow put the memory of her, of all of them in fact, in his mind. But then there was always the chance that he had misinterpreted the dream. At this point though, that was a chance he was going to have to take for his plan to work, for Delenn and perhaps for everyone in the galaxy.

   ---

    Susan Ivanova stood staring out the window of the White Star. The waves of hyperspace surrounded the vessel, the currents trying to pull it in their chosen direction. The attempts were fruitless, the vessel held firm. She couldn't help but notice how deep the surrounding red was though, almost like blood. She turned away from the window and headed back to the command chair to wait. It was all she could do. Wait. And wonder if John's plan was going to work.

   ---

    The White Stars hovered motionless in space, one jump away from the Vorlon homeworld. They would wait for her here. Apparently Sheridan was more foolish than they had thought, and he had to be taken care of sooner that had been expected. That didn't matter. All that mattered was the task that lay ahead. Only one jump stood in the way of it. And nothing and no one would stop them now.

    It wasn't long before the Vorlon vessel arrived at the Jump point, stopping below the level of the White Stars.

   Are we ready? Its' passenger asked telepathically.

   Yes, he responded

   Good, she replied, trying to block her thoughts from him, hoping he wouldn't sense it. She knew he could feel that something was wrong, could feel him pushing slightly, trying to get pass the barriers in her mind. If he wanted to, she knew he could burn through and find what he was looking for. She just hoped that she could hold out long enough.

   You're hiding something, he said coldly, yet calmly.

   I hide nothing, she replied while moving her ship closer to the White Star that he was on. In the hidden part of her mind she could feel Sheridan regaining consciousness. They would have to act soon, as she would not be able to blanket both his thoughts and hers. And she could feel the boy's thoughts growing more insistent, more impatient. The gentle probing now felt like tiny drills piercing the membranes of her mind. He was beginning to detect something abnormal, though he wasn't sure what.

   What are you hiding? He demanded, his thoughts pounding in her mind. Tell me!

   The pressure was increasing now; she could feel the walls crumbling. Suddenly a loud shriek echoed through the night. The boy turned rapidly towards front of the ship, his eyes fixed unbelievingly on the image of two shadow vessels coming out of hyperspace.

   "How?" he asked astonished.

   He had momentarily forgotten the girl on the Vorlon ship. It was enough time for her to recover, and to act. Mentally manipulating the vessel, she induced it to release a life pod like vessel, containing both Sheridan and herself.

   The pod hurled itself towards the White Star, merging successfully with and penetrating through the hull, depositing its passengers safely on the inside. The pod opened releasing its passengers. Sheridan was at this time fully awake and already taking charge of the situation.

   "Does he know we're here yet?" he asked

   "Not yet."

   "Good but we better hurry, Draal's images won't distract him for long."

    The four White Stars that had originally positioned themselves to Jump towards the Vorlon homeworld were now moving in pursuit of the Shadow vessels. They watched as the vessels swung around a moon, out of sight. The boy reached out with his mind, trying to detect them but there was nothing. The shrieking sound had stopped, something was wrong.

   Stop! He ordered the others who were pursuing the ships.

   It was a trick. She had betrayed them. She was here now with Sheridan. He would make her pay, make them both pay.

   Resume course for the Vorlon planet.

   He sat silently on the command chair; his hands clasped casually together, his back to the entrance through which they would come. She could not harm him, she was weak and she knew it. He could feel the doubt in her mind.

   As for Sheridan, he couldn't see into his mind but he was just a mortal man, a mortal man who had died once before and would do so again easily. He heard them approaching, heard the door opening. At that moment he swung the chair around to face the two of them. His arm shot out towards the girl, accompanied by the flow of the jelly like substance.

   The force of the impact threw her against the wall of the ship, the gel molding around her body, pinning it down. Sheridan brought his PPG up simultaneously, preparing to fire. Before he could the boy turned and dragged Delenn's slumbering form in front of him.

   "I would not do that" he said, speaking aloud for the first time, "Drop it,"

   "Drop it or I'll kill her" he said again when Sheridan hesitated.

   The gun clattered to the floor.

   "Now we end this!" the boy said, as the tentacles shot towards Sheridan.

   "Now we do," John replied, as he stabbed at the appendage with the device concealed in his hand.

   The boy screamed as the electric current conducted its way up through the gel to the rest of his body. He dropped to the floor, writhing in pain as the substance separated off his body. John watched as it seemed to take on a life of its own, attempting to move back unto the boy's body.

   "No you don't!" he said, grabbing his PPG from the floor and firing at it until it was reduced to a burnt mass that lay lifeless next to the boy, who was curled into an almost fetal position.

   "He's alive," the girl said, "but he won't be any more trouble."

   John wasn't sure exactly when she had escaped from her encasement and frankly at that moment didn't care, as he hurried over to where Delenn lay. Gently with the device on a lower setting he administered a small electric current to the green membrane that surrounded her. As with the boy, it retracted from her body but without the violence of the previous instance.

   "Delenn," he said propping her body up against him.

   "John," she whispered drowsily.

   "You're going to be okay," he said to her.

   "How long does the sedative last?" he asked the girl.

   "The effect should wear off in approximately one hour now that the membrane is off."

   "Good," he replied lifting Delenn off the floor, "What about the crew?"

   "The mind control is also temporary, they should be restored in about the same duration."

   "We can't wait that long, set a course for the Vorlon planet, and get me a link to White Star 12."

   ---

    White Star 12 shot through space, speeding after its other three counterparts that were swiftly heading towards the Vorlon planet. The ships were equal in speed and power; catching up to the three and stopping them before they reached their destination was therefore a task that rested solely upon the skill of her commander. This, compounded by the fact that Commander Susan Ivanova was trying to achieve the desired goal with a minimum casualty, proved a very formidable task indeed.

   "Can we get any more power to the engines?" she asked

   "We've already rerouted all that we can spare, we're going as fast as we can without compromising life support and weapons systems," Marcus replied.

   "All right," Susan said.

   She wasn't happy with the reply but her emotion didn't change the facts. What she had to do now was concentrate on devising a way to utilize the facts to her advantage rather than brooding over what she could not change.

   "Stay on them and target their engines. For now we'll concentrate on immobilizing them."

   For now she thought silently as Marcus relayed her instructions in Minbari. But if they got closer to the planet they'd have no choice but to take out both ships and crews.

   "Any word from the Captain?"

   "Not yet….wait we have a signal coming through"

   "Susan," came John's voice, "What's your status"

   "We've managed to immobilize one of them and disabled weapons but the other two are heading for the planet fast.."

   "We're almost there," he replied, "Do what you have to but don't let then get down there, and don't get too close to the planet or you'll trigger the automatic defense systems."

   ---

    White Star 12 raced through the night, its lasers cutting through the darkness. Its movement was a combination of evasive maneuvers as well as pursuit form, following the White Star that was heading towards the planet, whilst simultaneously dodging the lasers of the other one which had turned in mid flight to face Ivanova's ship and open fire.

   Acknowledging the speed at which the second ship was heading towards the world, Susan pushed her reservations about destroying the ship and crew aside and gave instructions that allowed the vessel to be destroyed. Without pausing to witness the fiery demise of the ship, White Star 12 raced ahead to ensure that the remaining fighter met the same or similar fate. It was not a task she enjoyed, destroying the crews, people who were supposed to be her allies, and probably friends of the crew of the vessel she commanded.

   In fact the scenario hit too close to home, reminding her of Babylon 5's current standing with Earth. In the past months she had been forced to take the same action against people who were once comrades and fellow officers. The only difference in this case was that the crew onboard the other White Star didn't have any choice in the actions they took. They were the unwilling servants of the beings that controlled them, they couldn't do anything to stop it, except Susan thought glumly, be sacrificed at her hands.

   The destruction of the defending ship was a sudden, unanticipated move on the part of the beings abroad the other White Star. Apparently they had underestimated their opponent, assuming them to be weak and unwilling to make the sacrifice.

   "The ships changing course." Marcus announced, "It's heading towards us.."

   His words were cut off by a tremor to the vessel as their ship took a hit from a laser.

   "Damage report?" Susan shouted, regaining her balance.

   "Minimal, the skin absorbed most of the impact."

   "Good, keep on them."

   Susan watched as the ship evaded the shots fired, returning the fire whilst moving slowly towards them. She didn't like the duel; there was something odd about it. The ship's attack was not as vicious as she would have expected. Rather it seemed to be sparring with them, like amateurs in a karate match. Suddenly the ship broke the pattern, doing a dive downwards.

   "Come about," Susan ordered, "They're trying to get behind us!"

   White Star 12 back flipped just as the other ship rose up.

   "Forward guns fire!"

   Beams of energy impacted head on with the emerging vessel, which erupted in a fiery explosion.

   Susan sighed but her countenance did not reflect relief. Rather it exposed the trouble preying on her mind. That was too easy.

   "Oh hell! Get back towards the planet fast! And give me visual of the other ship!"

   The image of the planet floated down, along with the paralyzed White Star.

   The crew watched in horror as a small pod like vessel released from the White Star and began drifting towards the planet.

   "Can you get a shot?"

   "Not at this distance," Marcus replied, "Susan it's falling fast, by the time we're in range it would already be within the radius of the Vorlon's defense parameters."

    Whatever reply Susan was going to give was cut off by a flash of lasers which concentrated on the pod. Like the two other ships, the pod exploded in a flash of green light. She had expected the shot to come from John's White Star and was somewhat surprised to see that it originated from the Vorlon vessel that Delenn had rescued from space. The ship had entered the orbit of the planet after the pod and was now descending into the atmosphere.

   "Susan you all right?" came John Sheridan's voice.

   "Yeah," she said sounding more annoyed rather than relieved.

   John was slightly amused at her tone. Only Ivanova could witness the aversion of an event that could have spelled the end of the galaxy and sound like the whole scenario was just one grand irritation rather than a crisis of epic proportions.

   "The crisis has been averted," John said as he proceeded to give instructions for the White Stars to return to Babylon5.

   "What about the Vorlon ship?" Susan asked.

   "I don't think we'll be seeing it again."

   "Then it's over?"

   "For now," John replied gravely, his mind thinking about the message the girl had left before she had boarded the Vorlon vessel. Beware, she had said, we are not the only ones who want vengeance for the war. His mind wandered to Z'ha'dum, to the ships he had seen leaving the dead world. A chill ran down his spine. Suddenly he was much more aware of how cold space was.

   ---

    John sat with Delenn at his side, her head leaning on his shoulder, his arm draped gently around her. They were in her quarters now, after a brief spell in the medical lab, where Stephen had confirmed much to John's relief and as promised by the girl that had helped him, that Delenn was okay. They had been talking for some time about the events that had transpired.

   "In a way," Delenn was saying," I almost feel sorry for them.."

   "Sorry for them! They were bent on killing you, not to mention destroying most of the known galaxy.."

   "Yes," she replied her tone calm," but it was all they knew, they were created to serve the Vorlons and when the Vorlons fell they followed."

   "Like acolytes unto fallen Gods," Sheridan commented.

   "Yes, and they are the reflection of the Vorlon's falling, their mistakes."

   The word mistake made him remember the recorded message the Vorlons had left in Lyta Alexander; that had been delivered to them during their encounter with the phenomenon of thirdspace. Thirdspace had been the considered to be the Vorlon's mistake, their grand failing. He wondered if this was another of their mistakes, how many more there were and how many more they would encounter. The chill he felt earlier came back. Drawing Delenn closer to him, they both sat silently again, just thinking and seemingly waiting.

 

*****

 

 

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