DOCKING BAY TWENTY-FIVE

By Tamzin Grey

 

 

 

   "Good luck to you in your holy cause, Captain Sheridan." The Inquisitor's beautifully modulated tones echoed around the empty hangar. "May your choices have better results than mine. Remembered not as a messenger, remembered not as a reformer, not as a prophet, not as a hero, not even as Sebastian, remembered only as... Jack."

   Head lifted, gazing into the distance, Sebastian turned away and walked towards his ship. Sheridan thought about the details he had found on the computer; horrific killings, women's bodies dismembered with gynaecological skill, sexual perversion at its most revolting. Although he realised that Delenn hadn't been touched in that way, the very thought of her confined in a cargo compartment with that monster made him sick. Even more disgusting was the realisation that the Vorlons - Kosh - harboured such a creature, considered him 'ideally suited' to their purposes. He realised his shoulders were aching with tension and relaxed his muscles with a conscious effort. He could feel his whole body trembling slightly, but there wasn't much he could do about it. He shoved his hands in his pockets and tried to look nonchalant.

   He looked again at the Vorlon ship, now being lifted towards its airlock on the huge vehicle hoist. Where had Sebastian gone? He hadn't seen any door open or airlock cycle. In some ways the ship looked more like a recumbent animal than any artefact of technology. Was it really alive, self-aware? Sometimes he wondered which was the servant and which the master, especially after Kosh's ship had scanned him with that peculiar green light. He was relieved that this one and its grisly passenger were off the station, but he was also deeply disturbed. It wasn't just the shock of the torture, though that had been bad enough. It wasn't just the doubt, which would never leave him, about whether he had truly been willing to bear that torture through to death rather than see Delenn suffer in his place. It wasn't even his lack of understanding of how he could have been said to have passed any sort of test when his part had been entirely ignominious, allowing no choices and no decisions.

   'The right people, in the right place, at the right time.' To do what? For Delenn, he didn't know and didn't think she was about to tell him. For himself, he was beginning to understand, and fear. He had to go to Z'Ha'Dum, come what may. Kosh had warned him that if he did that, he would die. But Anna might, just *might* be alive there. Every day of the ten weeks since he had discovered that had been a mental rollercoaster of speculation, hope and fear. Could he dare hope to find her, to see her again, to hold her in his arms, to kiss her...? The thoughts were almost too painful to bear, but he could no more stop them than he could stop breathing. Was it simply selfish to hope she had spent three years as a prisoner of the Shadows, in God alone knew what conditions? How could he stay here, function in his job, appear calm and in control, when Anna was perhaps suffering unimaginable distress? And yet, 'if you go to Z'Ha'Dum, you will die.' Was that how it was to be, some sort of Orpheus story in reverse, perhaps to see his Euridice for one instant, then die? Ten weeks of headaches, cold sweats and sleepless nights, and he thought he had come to terms with it. To see Anna for one moment, to have a chance to give her back her life, for that he would gladly die. He had almost begun to weave a scenario for himself, a comforting fantasy of romantic death in the arms of his rescued beloved, a scenario he now recognised as sheer self-delusion.

   'Are you willing to die friendless, alone, deserted by everyone? ... *that's* what may be required of you. Friendless, alone...' without Anna. Once more he tried to face the truth he could hardly bear to confront, that by any rational analysis of the situation Anna was almost certainly dead. But even for the smallest chance, he had to go. 'If you go to Z'Ha'Dum, you will die... friendless, alone, deserted by everyone. That's what may be required of you. Are you willing...?' How could he *possibly* face that?

   How could he not?

   Sheridan turned away from the empty docking bay, back to the station and his friends and comrades, his face sombre.

 

*****

 

 

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