OUT OF THE DARKNESS (II)
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John didn't know what it was about this building, but it always made him uncomfortable. Maybe it was the architecture, for it was more like a maze than an office building. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and it just wasn't today: it was every time he came here. Reflexively he reached up to rub the back of his neck. Lennier had left them in the foyer. He told them an acolyte would be along to escort them to the council chambers.
John knew that Lennier had taken Delenn's place on the council after the war, after it had been decided by the Minbari people to reconstruct the Council. But he only knew because of his relationship with Delenn and Lennier. A young hooded Minbari approached and bowed toward the three visitors, thrusting a hand in the direction of the council chambers.
Darkness. Maybe that was the other thing John didn't like about it. It was always dark in the council chambers except for the lights of the nine and the one. Marcus had remained in the background, but Delenn stood in the middle circle with John.
/Summoned we come,/ came a voice from the dark. As the nine began to file in, /We are grey, we stand between the candle and the star.../
/...Between the Darkness and the Light./ John and Delenn finished.
/Why have you summoned us?/ cried out the appointed leader.
John said a silent prayer hoping he could express himself fluently enough in Adronado to get his point across. /I believe the darkness is stretching out its hand in one last gasp. I come before you to ask for your help, to ask the Minbari to stand with me to defeat the last tentacle of darkness./ John took a deep breath, feeling the heavy air fill his lungs. /Yesterday, I received a transmission from the new president of the Earth Alliance, only for his message to be cut off at the source. Through our sources on Earth we have learned that a coup has taken place and the president has been abducted. President Li Chang was elected by the populace and the electoral college, in a fair and equitable process. Those who were in power on Earth during the Shadow War are trying to take back control. We have tracked as many as we could, and brought many of them to justice, but others remain at large. There are still those elements in hiding whom I fear are making their last stand against the light. What I am requesting from you is not just your backing publicly, but I would like to have several Minbari cruisers at my disposal just in case the Shadow allies are preparing a final assault./
The murmuring started even before John had finished his statement. He could understand some of what was being said, but the inflection and the timbre of the other castes' language made it difficult for him to get a clear picture of what the definitive point was behind the arguing.
/Why are you even discussing this?/ Delenn shouted. /For all he has done for you, for all they have given up for us./ She approached the leader, /You, who know the depth of his conviction on the side of Light./
Moving from light to light she implored, demanded, argued. He could only watch and try to keep up. 'Was this what she was like before? He knew this could have been all hers and yet she gave it up willingly for what - him? A cause? Righteousness?'
/It's been almost twenty five years since the war between our people, we must show them that we are behind them, behind their freedom, that only as a united universe can we finally rid ourselves of the darkness. Why do you hesitate? What is it that you are afraid of?/
John reached out to her. She swung around to look at him, anger flared in her eyes. He looked at her, trying to let her know without words that maybe they were still unsure of him. For all the reverence they paid him maybe it was just lip service.
/Captain Sheridan, if you, Entil'Zha and her Ranger will withdraw from chambers, we will continue this conversation amongst ourselves. We will let you know when we have completed our deliberations./
Delenn turned on her heel and left in anger, John and Marcus close behind.
Once outside they were escorted to an office, where she let out with a fury neither John nor Marcus had ever seen before, going on and on in her native language. John chided himself for not fully learning her language as well as he could have.
"Delenn, calm down." John implored. "I could only understand some of what was being said, what is the discussion about? Will they or won't they let me have the ships? Will they stand behind us?"
Taking a deep breath, trying to find her center, she began. "They feel this is an internal matter for Earth and its colonies. That if they give you the ships, even if the shadow allies are involved, it will be breaking the treaty we signed with your government at the end of the war. That somehow if we get involved in a shooting war, we will be killing those who may possess a Minbari soul. Above that if the Minbari stand behind you it could be construed as favoritism toward Earth. Because of your relationship with me, because you have fathered Minbari children, others may see it as a shift in the balance of power from Minbar to Earth and you specifically! They are afraid of you and the power you now wield. They are afraid they will lose what power they have left as one of the older races."
"You mean to say they may be unwilling to get involved because I'm making the request. This is asinine, Delenn. If it hadn't been for my role in the war, our relationship, the children, I wouldn't even be here to make the damned request. None of us would be here to make or accept this request!"
"I know that and you know that but again they are afraid. That is what I was trying to convey to them before you stopped me."
Marcus, who had said nothing during this time finally stood up and walked toward the window. "Captain, what happens if they don't give you the ships? You must know the Rangers will follow you anywhere. We still have plenty of resources . . . "
"Yes, but they are mostly Minbari resources!" Running his hand through his hair and back down over his neck, which was still prickly, he sighed, "I guess it would depend on what their reasoning is for not giving me the ships. I have to say though Delenn, if this doesn't go well, we could be playing right into the hands of the shadow minions. Instead of a definitive and final blow, this could be dragged out for several more years to come. More people could lose their lives."
"I know John. It may also reflect badly on you as far as the other worlds see you, if you cannot convince them."
"That's the least of my worries, Delenn. What lies ahead for us and our children, for the universe itself is all that matters."
It was late in the afternoon when they were finally led back into the council chambers. Earlier John had called Tra'an to let her know they were still at the Great Hall. She tried to reassure him that they would be all right.
But as he and Delenn stood amongst the nine he could feel the uneasiness moving throughout his frame.
/Captain Sheridan,/ the leader of the Grey Council started, /we have, at great length, discussed your need. We have weighed both the validity and the consequences of what you ask. We are, however, unable to grant your request!/ With that said the nine started to depart.
"Wait a minute!" John shouted at them this time in English. "Is that it? I'm sorry, thank you but no thank you! No credible explanation! After all I've done for you, your people, my people, the universe. Even if only as 'The One' you owe me more than that. I thought we had an understanding! Or is in that in your heart you still see me as 'Starkiller'. For all I've done... can we not get beyond this, do you still feel you cannot trust me?"
The leader stopped, turned and addressed John. "Captain Sheridan, because of your position as 'The One' we granted you this audience. We have allowed your family to stay here amid the protection of our walls. We have continued to train the Rangers for the cause. Even continued our support for Babylon 5. But we feel this is an internal Earth matter and we will not commit our forces to this endeavor. This is your world you fight for. We cannot allow ourselves to become involved in the affairs of others. That is all! Valen go with you!"
John stood there stunned - mouth agape. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Delenn move, but he put out his hand to stop her. The lights of the nine were extinguished as they continued to stand there. It seemed to be a metaphor for their hopes, their fears: as if they were being plunged into the darkness again. The young acolyte came out of the darkness and motioned toward the exit. Putting his arm around Delenn, John led her from the chamber. Marcus fell in step behind them. Once out in the hallway John pushed his way through not caring who got in his way, but he quickly noticed they were all getting out of his way - as if they also knew the outcome of his meeting.
As he left the Great Hall and walked through the garden on their way to the ground car he let out a growl of anger, and during the ride back to the house, nothing was said. Each of the passengers were lost in their own internal turmoil.
'The affairs of others are not our concern? What was the war about? How could they?' John questioned the universe. 'And what did they mean, they've allowed my family to stay here? This is just as much Delenn's home, the children's home as it is for any other Minbari! Or is it because they aren't wholly Minbari . . . ' He could understand their refusal if they had stayed to the facts. If they had said they felt there was no shadow connection, but to bring his family into it as well. He could feel anger mounting inside him, consuming him, until even breathing was a struggle.
'He has given his life in every sense of the word,' Delenn cursed. 'He died for them, he fought for them, he has sacrificed everything and everyone for them, for the universe itself. Yet when faced with the challenge of being more, the council hasn't the courage to stand with him. They are again becoming a mockery, a sham, afraid of failing. But to turn their backs on him . . . ' It was more than she could bear. But the most hurtful was their admission that she and the children were no more than mere refugees on her own home world. She could hear the death knell ringing inside her head. She had tried to prove herself again and again over the years that she was indeed Minbari, but now she was ashamed. She was ashamed at the smallness of her people. 'My people . . . am I still of these people, are they still a part of me.' All the feelings she thought she had gotten over since her change came flooding back over her again. She felt as if she would drown in the backwash of emotion. She felt a sense of despair that her children would also learn of Minbar's triviality. She only hoped they wouldn't share in the pain as she did now.
Marcus could only look at his passengers, as they stared out the windows of the back seat. He had been with them from the start. He had seen the unselfishness in their duty. Their willingness to put it all on the line for others, to risk everything in the name of the Light. He could see the anger brimming just below the surface of John's features, the consternation in Delenn's comportment. He felt their betrayal. He knew they would do what was best for each other, for their family and friends, for Earth, for the universe. But Marcus was also concerned for what this would do to Minbar and the Rangers. Human and Minbari Rangers alike were dedicated to Delenn and John. Couldn't the council see what the big picture was? This was more than standing behind John, it was standing up for what was right, undertaking the difficult task even though it wasn't the popular choice.
As the vehicle came to a stop in the driveway they continued to sit there in the car. Soon however, the front door opened up to reveal David and Shana, who came running outside to meet their parents. John and Delenn turned to look at each other for the first time. Getting out of the car, David came to take his mothers' hand as Shana leapt into her fathers' arms.
"Mom, are you okay?" David inquired. He felt trepidation emanating from both of his parents. He knew something wasn't right.
"Yes, David. Your father and I didn't get the news we were expecting. That's all." She tried to smile back at her son but felt in her heart as if she was unconvincing.
Marcus hung back, not sure if he wanted to stay but Delenn had held out her hand, asking him to come in.
Once inside David took Shana's hand, "Come on, let's go play with your dolls or something."
Delenn and John looked at each other, both knowing how much David hating playing dolls with his sister. 'He's wise beyond his years. It should serve him well. He'll need it,' John thought, still seething.
Marcus sat at the kitchen table while Delenn prepared tea. John went to pay Tra'an for her time and to thank her. When he came back in the kitchen, again no one said a word.
'Nothing ventured, nothing gained,' echoed in Marcus' head. Throwing caution into the wind he started, "So where do we go from here?"
"Nothing like cutting to the heart of the matter," snapped John. "Sorry, Marcus, it's not your fault. I guess I'm still angry."
"And you have every right to be, both of you!" Getting up to pace Marcus stopped at the sink. "What are they really afraid of? Can they not see what this will mean for Minbar? They feel that if they stand with you it may diminish them. Well, as I see it, if they don't stand with you it *will* diminish them."
"I had thought when the Council reestablished itself, they would rise above their own petty fears, their own agendas to understand that we are no longer alone in the universe. Through Valen's prophecies we have become stronger, more than we were before. Whole. Maybe I was just deluding myself." Delenn sighed.
John got up to refill his cup. Looking out over the vista he knew he had to go, knew the Rangers would follow him. But if he took the rangers and left Delenn - Entil'Zha - and the children here, how would they get along. Would the Minbari treat her or them any different? He certainly didn't want to take them into battle with him. Could he leave them here knowing how the Grey Council felt about them? Turning around to look at Delenn, then at Marcus, he seemed to make up his mind. "Marcus, contact Susan, check on what their status is. Then contact Greg and tell him to be ready to leave within the hour. We can't delay any more." Marcus noting the finality of his orders, bowed and departed for John's study.
Coming over to the table, John sat next to Delenn. Taking her hands in his, he rubbed his thumbs across her knuckles. "I guess they've solved one of our problems for us. I didn't want to be separated from you and you from me. And the children. " He took a deep breath, looking over her shoulder into the back yard. "I can't believe they would treat you and the children like this after all we've been through!"
"Marcus is right about one thing," she whispered, "No matter the outcome, Minbar will never be the same. It can never be the same for me again."
He saw the sorrow in her eyes. He kissed the backs of her hands then turned them over and placed a kiss on each palm. "Let's go get the kids. We'll need to get packed and down to the shuttle." Rising he pulled her to her feet, then embraced her trying to calm her fears as well as his own.
David helped his father pack the vehicle, then helped to take care of Shana. He made sure she had all the distractions she would need for the trip. Though neither she nor David could fully grasp the situation, they both knew the old Minbari saying, 'Understanding is not necessary, only obedience is required'. Once packed they headed toward the shuttle port.
As they neared the shuttle, John noticed several of the local dignitaries standing near the craft. He shook his head in disgust. Delenn reached over the seat and touched his shoulder. There was no way he was going to endure this anymore. He knew with certainty that he was not really accepted by them. 'If they would only stop the pretenses.' Marcus pulled the ground car along side the shuttle. Delenn and the children exited the vehicle and started to load their belongings. John walked over to the officials - he didn't want to have this conversation in front of the children.
"Captain Sheridan, we are glad we can extend our greetings to you before you leave... "
John put forth his hand to stop them. "Look. I've had a long enlightening day. I'm sure that if you feel the same as the Grey Council does about me and my family, we have nothing further to talk about. Good day gentlemen." With that John turned and walked off leaving them astounded.
Entering the back of the shuttle he prepared to tell Marcus to start the engines, then he saw Lennier standing before him. "Lennier... "
Lennier, knowing what was coming interrupted the captain, "I know what you are going to say. I tried to tell them, tried to warn them. Now I know what Delenn must have gone through during the early days before the Shadow War, trying to get them to commit. I can no longer stand with them and I told them so. They are doing everyone and everything a great disservice. If it is all the same to you, I would like to join you on your journey."
"You are always welcome, Lennier. Though I want you to understand the gravity of what you do. We will never be able to return here. If we commit to the task ahead and take with us; Entil'Zha, the Rangers, my children, it may fracture what is left of your society."
"Yes, Captain. I am well aware of our actions today. But I am hopeful that by doing the right thing for the right reasons, we will prevail," Lennier said with a bow. "Now Captain, I think it's time to leave."
"Welcome aboard, Mr. Lennier! I've missed you at the helm." John said as he moved forward into the cockpit. "Is everyone strapped in? Okay let's go!"
They hadn't even bothered getting permission to depart but the tower knew who was in the shuttle and let them go anyway.
Greg met them in the docking area. "All's set Captain. Everyone is aboard and awaiting your instructions."
"Good! Set a course toward Earth. I will address the crew as soon as my family is settled. That's all."
"Yes sir!" Greg turned and barked out orders to get help for the Captain and his family. Lennier started to take his belongings to the sleep area, but Greg stopped him. "Satai, we have set aside quarters for you. If you will... "
"It is not necessary... " Lennier responded.
"Necessary, probably not! But it is done and we will honor you. Please this way." Greg motioned forward.
Lennier understood some of what John felt every time he had to go to some diplomatic function. Anonymity was what he sought as well, especially now after giving up his post.
John and Delenn had taken the children to their quarters. Sitting on the edge of the bed, they tried to explain what was happening.
"Kids," John started then stopped. 'How much of the truth do I tell them?' "I know we left Minbar in a hurry but an event has occurred that requires my leaving quickly. Your mother's help is also essential, as head of the Rangers. There isn't time to take you back to Babylon 5 or to Aunt Lizzy's on Proxima so you will have to come with us this time. We feel you need to be made aware of what is happening so you can be prepared. We are heading toward Earth and possibly into a dangerous situation. If we can, we will try to have you stay with Granddad and Grandma at the farm, with some rangers, for protection while we try and solve this crisis. Don't be afraid. You have the best people around you, protecting you, caring for you. Do you understand?"
They both nodded their heads in agreement. Delenn ran her hand over her daughters' hair. "Just know how much we love you. And if we are successful, we will never be separated again, ever."
"We love you too Mom." David said getting up off the bed then placing his hand understandingly on his fathers' shoulder, "And you too Dad!".
"Thanks son! Now your mother and I need to go talk to the crew. I need you to stay here and take care of your sister. OK!"
"Sure Dad. We'll be okay. You don't have to worry about us. I'll always be here to look after her." David smiled at his sister then back at his parents.
John got up off his haunches and walked toward the door. As it swung open, before him stood Tra'an. "Wha? What are you doing here?" He asked her with surprise in his voice.
"I am here to serve. Service is my life. That and Satai Lennier asked me to come. To . . . what was the phrase . . . give you peace of mind."
John could have reached out and given her a hug, but knew he too would probably be breaking some ritual. "Thank you!" he said bowing deeply.
Delenn also mirrored his bow as tears welled in her eyes. 'Maybe there is hope for my people after all.'
In the ready room, John and Delenn stood in front of those assembled. Everyone else would hear the announcement over the comm system.
/Gentle beings,/ he began, /Over the course of the last ten years, we have been engaged in fighting the Shadows and their allies. In trying to prevent the darkness from taking control we have lost many friends and comrades. We have seen whole worlds destroyed. And though, as a group, we have accomplished most of what we have set out to do, we are still here fighting the enemy. During one of the most pivotal wars on earth, an elder statesman knew that as the enemy neared defeat they would attempt one last desperate thrust against the side of goodness. I fear that time may be at hand for us, for the same is now happening on Earth. We have recently gained new information confirming our worst fears. In an attempt to regain control, the allies of the Shadows have abducted the new president of the Earth Alliance, Li Chang. We have tried to gather support from some of our allies but without promise. We are truly on our own. We have sent Rangers on ahead to gather more information. We will also be meeting up with several other White Stars and Rangers to secure the release of the President and to quell our enemies last opportunity once and for all. There will be several briefing sessions as we get more information and again before we enter Earth controlled space. Marcus will post a listing of job assignments needed to be completed before our arrival./ John looked around at those gathered and thought about those who were committed to this Army of Light, /Entil'Zha and I would like to express our deepest gratitude for your continued support. Without your courage and bravery, none of us would be able to walk free or to choose our own path. We are truly humbled by your commitment. Thank you and Valen be with all of us./
As John and Delenn started to leave, Marcus cleared his throat. /Captain, Entil'Zha. I speak for all the Rangers and the crews of all the White Stars in saying, even if we had a choice, we would still choose to be with you, to fight for you, with you, to live for you and if need be to die for you. Know this, as long as even one of us can draw breath, you and your family will never be alone./
Delenn walked forward to take Marcus's hand. Giving it a squeeze she conveyed to him her admiration and respect for his words. She knew they came from his heart. She and John valued him dearly. Then releasing his arm she walked back over to John as they both bowed deeply to those gathered.
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