❯ Introductions and Farewells – Intro ( Chapter 1 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

Introductions and Farewells

Story: Introductions and Farewells

Storylink: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1742603/1/

Category: Babylon 5

Genre: Sci-Fi

Author: Shall-Iin

Authorlink: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/477239/

Last updated: 03/23/2005

Words: 55136

Rating: T

Status: Complete

Content: Chapter 1 to 22 of 22 chapters

Source: FanFiction.net

Summary: David Sheridan’s life and the what it’s like for him to live as the son of John and Delenn

*Chapter 1*: Act1

« Introductions and Farewells » Marcel V. Moreau mvmoreau@iname.com or shall-iin@mindless.com

Words enclosed in * * are thoughts. Emphasised words are capitalised. Word in ‘ ‘ are in other languages, or are there for added emphasise. A line of *’s is the end of that ‘chapter’. It just means that that is the point I felt best to have a division of events or a passage of time that isn’t important to the story.

This is my first B5 story that I have ever written. I have written a few other stories, include several completely original stories. I had never had the urge to write a B5 story, because I did not think that I had the ability to add anything to the universe created by Mr. Straczynski. I had always thought that he had made such a great world, that my limited talents could add nothing to it.

Then I read some of the stories at the Alternate Universe today site. I was amazed that there were so many people who could come up with so many different ways to add to the B5 universe. I would never have come up with some of these ideas if I lived to be a hundred. After reading a few of them, I felt that a solid David story was missing. So I set about writing one.

There are many interesting ones, but few that I felt gave him justice. So few of them talked about him as what he would be. A young man struggling to find his way through life. In most of the stories, he is a completely adjusted, almost perfect being, universally liked and admired. Though some of his life has to be preordained, I do not agree that he is perfect. No living being can be perfect, so he must have flaws.

My original idea was to be a story were David learns of John’s passing. How he would react to the news and what he would do. As I wrote, I was filled with a different idea. I would write a story, which I hope to make into a series, about David’s days training as a ranger. Eventually, I will add the point of my original idea. But for now, I hope you enjoy what I do have.

I never intented to write this from the first person point of view. I have only once written a story from this perspective and those who read it agree that it was far from my best work. I never even realized that it was being written in the first person until I was several pages in and went back to check on a few things. It came as something of a surprise.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER

Only a very small number of these characters belong to me. The rest belong to their creators. JMS, Babylonian Productions, and others.

**************************Chapter 1****************************************

I was tired. We’d been fighting for more than 2 standard hours and most of my body was a mass bruise. I’d been hit so many times, I had no frame of reference for the number. Warily, I circled to the left, trying to spot an opening through the haze of blood, sweat and tears in my eyes.

I sensed, rather than saw, the blow. It happened to me sometimes. I would get these flashes and I would know what was going to happen next. I had spoken with some telepaths I knew from home. They had been unable to explain exactly how and why I could do this. They had tried a few tests, but I could not yet control this ability. If I could ever control it, it would be a great asset in my life.

I ducked the coming blow and felt the air stir above my head. My movement caused my opponent to loose his balance for a moment and I pressed the advantage. Rising, I struck him in the ribs. I hit him with two more quick blows, one to each side before I gathered my strength for a major blow.

I spun in place, my hands sliding together as I angled my weapon to cut at his knees. Unfortunately, my weakened body chose that moment to betray me. My right knee collapsed and my weapon slammed into the ground, jarring my arms all the way to the shoulders. I received another flash, seeing again what my opponent would do. But this time, I could do nothing but wait.

I did not have to wait long.

He lashed out with his blade, still as fast as it had always been. First, he disarmed me, sending my blade sailing through the air. Then, putting as much strength as he dared without risking killing me, he slammed his blade into my head, snapping me around. I hit the ground and the air flew out of my lungs. I tried to stand, but felt cold metal at my throat.

Looking up along the metal blade, I stared at my opponent, trying to contain my anger and fear.

Derhan looked down the length of his pike at me and smiled. « Well done, Davdan. If not for your misstep, I do believe you might actually have beaten me. And that is something none has done in more than twice the cycles you have lived. Not even you parents have come this close. Once, if she had chosen to remain with me and learn, you mother might have one day been able to best me. » He finally removed the pike from my throat and bowed to me.

I felt a rush of pride at his words which I quickly tried to suppress. Rangers are taught that excessive pride could lead to our defeat and ultimate doom. And, as my father occasionally told me, ‘Pride Goethe before a fall’.

« Thank you, Sech Derhan. It does seem to me, that even before my misstep, you had recovered from my earlier strikes and were already moving to block my blow. » I had risen to my knees during my reply, and now I bowed to him. Of course, my bow was several degrees lower, to show my great respect for the old warrior.

Derhan smiled again. « If you can stand, Davdan, you may join your classmates. » he nodded towards the empty spot in the circle of bodies around us. It was where I had stood before he had chosen me to spar against.

Wincing with the effort, I stood and retook my place among my peers. I stood silently, hoping that Derhan would not keep us too much longer, but I was determined to remain on my feet for as long as he held us. I would not, I could not show further weakness to my friends.

« The assignment for tomorrow is simple. I want you all to review the match and hand in a report on what you would have done differently at different points of the match. From BOTH points of view. » There were a few muffled groans at this but he ignored them for the time being and continued. « You will each receive a copy of the recording by the end of evening meal. Until then, you may have some free time. » Derhan glanced at me while the others stood patiently waiting for his dismissal. Among the warrior cast, it was considered impolite to leave a room until you superior has already done so or has told you to depart. « Shannon, Kahlen and Marcel. You will return Davdan to your quarters and see that his wounds are properly treated. I expect to see nothing wrong with him tomorrow. » he bowed to the class, who bowed back and then left.

I have to give them credit. They waited almost a full twenty seconds before they started to cheer. All of us had had several sparring matches against our teacher, but only I and four others, had managed to last more than 15 minutes against him. Most of the class could not yet even strike him. They could stop some of his blows, but could not break through his defence. So they all looked to those of us who could to avenge their bruise and broken bones.

Glancing at my friends, I whispered. « Get me out of here before they start slapping my back. » Nervously, I looked around. Even the normally stoic Minbari trainees were visibly excited.

As usual, Shannon laughed, Kahlen giggled and Marcel simply looked around with an expression of boredom on his face before catching me as my legs collapsed again.

As they helped me walk the corridors to the small room we shared, I took a few moments to reflect on them.

Each of them was in a very real sense, unique.

Kahlen was from a completely different reality. She had been brought here by a god-like being of immense power who had simply abandoned her. With her red hair and emerald green eyes, there was no denying her physical beauty. Due to her hyperactive genetic makeup, she was also a telepath and a telekinetic. She was so strong, that when Psi-Corps had learned of her abilities and tested her, she had been quite literally off the scales. They had tried to recruit her but she had laughed them off.

After that, she had explored our universe for a few years, doing odd jobs for assorted businesses and races. She had learned of the Rangers and their mission of peace and decided to see if she could find a home among them.

She could reach across the surface of a planet and read the mind of someone thousands of miles away. Using only her mind, she could lift loads of several tons. She could also lift herself off the ground, allowing her to ‘fly.’ The scientist who had studied her DNA agreed that there was something about her universe that altered the people in it, giving some of them these god-like abilities.

Shannon has a less fantastic type of uniqueness. She was Minbari. A nice, normal, completely run of the mill Minbari. Her parents were Worker Cast. They had been among the first people called when the design for the then new White Star fleet was agreed on. While working side by side with the human Rangers, they had become fascinated by human culture. After the end of the Shadow War and the Earth Civil War, they had moved to a small human colony on the edge of human space. Shannon was born there and had spent her entire life among humans. Though her outward appearance was entirely Minbari, her heart and soul were human. It was only natural that when she reached the appropriate age, she signed on with the Rangers.

And then there is Marcel. Marcel was a strange one. He was physically and mentally almost the human ideal of perfection. Of course, several genera- tions of genetic manipulation will do that to someone.

He stood 7’3″ and weighed 360 lbs. with no visible fat anywhere on his immense frame. He was muscular without being grotesquely over muscled. He wore his light brown hair at shoulder length. His eyes seemed to vary in colour from a deep chocolate to a dark obsidian.

I sometimes envied him his size. He could do things with his body that the rest of us could only dream of doing. He was a natural warrior. He did not have to be taught how to fight. He had been born and raised among a race of warriors. He took to fighting the way the rest of us took to breathing. It was quite literally a genetic imperative for him. Because of this, he was not well regarded by most of the other trainees. They thought he was more machine than person.

He was almost totally emotionless. At least, that’s what it seemed like to most people. He had no sense of humour, he couldn’t grasp the intricacies of ‘human’ interaction and was nearly devoid of anything resembling a personality.

The only time he came to life was during the combat courses. He seemed to thrive on physical battles.

It was while mulling over this that I came to a startling realization. *That is why we four were roomed together. They took the four most . . . unique trainees and stuck us together. They hoped that that which separated us from the rest of our peoples, would draw us together.* Sure, they usually did try to mix and match room assignments around among several races, but that was not how we had been matched.

*We’re not the strangest looking group they’ve ever put in one room. Hell, there are more than twenty species represented by the rangers. There are the Pak’ma’ra, the spider-like Tuchanq, the avian Seel’ay’hia, the felinoid Histayew and a dozen others.*

*It is NOT a species thing, like with most of the others,* I thought as Kahlen keyed open our small room. *Even among our own species, we’re different. Almost outcasts. Kahlen’s a mutant, Shannon is a human in a Minbari body, Marcel’s an experiment in genetic coding, and as for me, well . . . .

Well, I’m just me.

While Shannon went into the washroom to grab a medkit, Marcel and Kahlen put me on my bed and helped me out of my clothes. While they struggled to remove my pants, I remembered the first time we had met.

I was excited by the prospect of joining the Rangers and of being away from home for the first time. My parents had been very protective of me while I was a child. As I prepared to leave, they told me that I would be treated as any other trainee and that I was not to behave any differently simply because of who my parents happened to be. I told them how much I looked forward to being treated like any other person and they smiled.

When I arrived, I was given a pad that held my room assignment and biographies on all the other trainees who would be joining me. I ignored the bios and found my room.

I unpacked my belongings and looked around the room. There were four human style beds. Actually, they were more like bunks. Two of them were supported over the other two by some thin material hanging off the roof. One of the beds was quite a bit longer than the others, so I guessed that each of us had also been assigned a ‘bunk’. I looked forward to meeting the being who would be staying in that bed.

I was in the washroom, putting away a few small essentials and tidying up a little when I heard the door open. I dried my hands and came to see who it was.

I was shocked to see, what was in my opinion the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, standing by the bunks, a confused expression on her face. I swallowed and went to introduce myself. « Hi, I’m – »

« Wait! Don’t tell me. » she interrupted, pulling out an identical pad to the one I had been given. She scanned the files before facing me. « Is this thing right? Are you really- »

Her question was interrupted by the opening of the door. Two figures stood looking at us for a moment before they stepping inside. One was a female Minbari, and the other was a giant human. I had never seen anything that large before. For a moment, I thought that the bed would not be long enough.

The Minbari reacted first. « Hello. You must be our other roommates. I’m Shannon and this big lug behind me is called Marcel. » She too took out the pad and studied it. « You must be Kahlen O’Reilly. » she said to the redhead. « It’s nice to meet you. »

« And likewise to meet you, Shannon. » Kahlen replied. « Yours is the friendliest face I’ve seen since I landed. Not to mention that I’ve only seen two other females. At least, only two that I recognized as females. »

Shannon laughed. Even then, I knew that she did that a lot. « Well, thank you. I know the feeling. I didn’t see any females until I entered the room. » Shannon looked at her pad, searching for room assignment lists. I saw her eyes bulge and her jaw drop when she saw my name. Definitely NOT a Minbari reaction.

Turning to me, she bowed as deeply as she could. « Please forgive my ignorance, Alyte. I did not know it was you. I is a great honour to my humble worker self to share this room with you. »

*Now THERE is a purely Minbari reaction* I thought to myself as my face reddened. The others were turning from me to Shannon and back, confusion clearly written on their faces. I shrugged helplessly. After all, it wasn’t MY fault who I was. Nor was it my place to explain, in case they take it for bragging.

« Shannon, please.  » I begged. « I’m no one special. I’m just a trainee, like any one else here. »

She giggled nervously. I found it odd, seeing human reactions coming from her Minbari features.

 » ‘I’m no one special’, he says. What a joke. You are probably the most special person in the universe. » She glanced at the others who were now staring solely at her. « Don’t you know who he is? »

Marcel glanced at his pad. « Says his name is Davdan. »

« Check the personal files. » Kahlen suggested. She had caught on a few moments before, when I had tried to introduce myself to her.

Marcel still looked puzzled. « So Davdan isn’t his full name. Big deal. »

Kahlen and Shannon stared at him silently. He simply stared back until they were forced to turn away. I watched this byplay, amused that they had seemed to forget that I was in the room.

« Don’t you recognize who his parents are? » Kahlen asked incredulously. She had only been in our universe for four years, and even she knew who I was.

The giant shrugged. « Should I? »

« Where have you been for the last twenty four years? EVERYONE knows who they are. »

Marcel though for a moment. « 24 years? Well, since I’m only 20 ES years, I couldn’t tell you where I was for the four years before I was .. . born. But for most of the last 20, I’ve been living on a small island on a smaller world a long way from the space lanes. The only things my computer uploaded

were technilogical advancements and medical breakthroughs. I knew nothing about what was happening in the world beyond my little island. »

« A few years ago, a Ranger ship landed on my island. They were searching the ruins for something when they found me. It was the first time I had seen a human being. Last year, they came back and I left the planet with them. So no, I don’t know who these people are. »

« I’m sorry. I didn’t know. » Shannon struggled with Marcel’s revelation for a moment before turning to face me. « Well, Marcel, his parents are – »

I interrupted her. « Are not important at the moment. » She frowned, and I felt a twinge of guilt. « I am Davdan. That is the name I wish to be called while we are here. Who my parents are does not matter. I am NOT them. I am only myself. I am here because this is where I felt I belonged, for the time being. I do not want ANY special treatment just because of an accident of birth. »

Marcel nodded thoughtfully. I could see that he understood my feelings even though he didn’t know the reasons for them or why I would expect others to behave differently towards me. Kahlen also seemed to understand. But then, I had read her file. If anyone could expect to always be treated differently, it was this young woman with all her amazing abilities.

Shannon seemed to struggle with herself for a few minutes. I understood her difficulty and sympathized with her. As human as she acted, there were certain traits that her parents would have instilled in her that were purely Minbari in nature. Respect bordering on adulation for those born to a higher calling, as well as a humbleness that characterized all of the Worker Cast.

« I … will try. I … do not promise it will be easy or that I will … always be successful, but I will try. »

« That is all I can ask of you, Shannon. That is all anyone can ask of another. »

*Chapter 2*: Act 2

***********************Chapter 2*******************************************

I awoke to someone gently shaking my shoulder. My eyes opened and I blinked in the low light. I could still feel the stiffness in my muscles which meant that I had not slept through the night. Groaning, I tried to turn away from the light, but the hand held me in place.

« Don’t even think about it, buddy. It’s time to get up for evening meal. » Kahlen frowned as she looked down at me. « But first, let’s get you dressed. » She handed me a uniform and went to stand by the desk where she proceeded to study the latest assignment while I dressed.

As I finished tying my vest, I had the feeling that something was missing. I checked all the ties, but everything was fine. Frowning I looked around the room before it hit me.

I didn’t have my pike! I had forgotten to pick it up after Derhan had knocked it from my hands. Shame and fear filled me and I moaned. If one of the trainers found it, I would be cleaning the Pak’ma’ra washrooms for months.

Kahlen heard me and come to my side, concern etched on her face. « What’s wrong? »

Shaking my head slowly, I sighed. « I forgot to retrieve my pike! » I growled, starting towards the door.

Kahlen’s giggling stopped me in my tracks. Frustrated I turned back to her. « What are you giggling about now, Kahlen? »

She stopped giggling and turned serious. « Do you really THINK that the others would let you get in that kind of trouble? You’re a hero to them. »

I started to reply but she cut me off.

« And don’t you dare think that it has anything to do with you parents. How they feel about you has nothing to with them. They like and respect you for

yourself, Davdan. They would do anything for you. WE would do anything for you. »

I frowned. « So who picked it up? »

She just smiled. « Mareni brought it by while you slept. He caught it when Derhan sent it flying. He closed it and hid it in his robes until he could come by. »

I grinned. « That sound’s like something he would do. For a Minbari, he has a pretty wide mischievous streak. »

« Well, he is Warrior Cast. They do tend to be a bit less . . . formal then the Religious or Worker Casts. » Kahlen reach into her sleeves and pulled out a closed pike. « Here you go,  » she said as she tossed it to me.

I checked it over, extending it and testing the balance. It felt perfect. As if it had been made especially for my hand. Which, of course, it had. It had been a parting gift from my father when I left home.

We reached the dinning hall a few minutes later and joined our friends at a table. They had already filled plates for us so we did not have to join the throng at the service table. While most of Minbari society was governed by strict rules and rituals, they had decided that at the Ranger training facilities, meal times would be more social and less formal in nature.

« So THERE you are, DAVDAN! Mareni was just telling us about your BATTLE with Derhan. »

I sighed around a mouthful of food. I KNEW that voice. It belonged to probably the most annoying individual I had ever had the displeasure of knowing.

« Hello, Lucas. I haven’t seen you around lately. » *It was great! Two weeks without you bothering me every chance you got.* I almost slipped and said what I was really thinking.

Lucas snorted. « Of course not, DAVDAN. » The way he said my name made it seem like the vilest oath he could think of. « I just returned from my first solo courier mission. »

I tried my best to contain my anger. Lucas was always trying to goad me into a fight. His father had been on Clark’s side during the Civil war and had died attacking Babylon 5. Lucas blamed my parents and their friends for his death, and the subsequent suicide of his mother.

« Congratulations, Lucas. How did it go? » I asked as politely as I could. I idly pushed the food on my plate around. For some reason, I was no longer hungry.

« It was fine. » He downplayed his excitement, trying to seem like a seasoned traveller. « I got to fly to Minbar and back in a long range flyer. » He sighed dramatically. « It’s really TOO bad you’re too young to be let out on your own. But then, I suppose your parents do have the right to use their influence to get you in here at your age. »

A surge of anger swelled up within me. I half rose from my seat but Kahlen froze me in place with a gentle push of her telekinesis. I glared at her, unable to tell her how angry her interference made me.

She simply gave a small smile and nodded to an empty seat to her left. I frowned, trying to understand her message. When she saw that I did not understand, she lifted a finger skyward, as if indicating something of large size. Then she glanced pointedly around the table. I followed her example and her meaning dawned on me. Marcel was not at the table. And that meant that he was in the crowd somewhere, most likely making his way back from the service table.

« The only reason you’re here, DAVDAN, is because your fa-ugh! » Lucas’ eyes widened as a huge hand clasped his shoulder. There was such a look of fear on his face, I almost laughed. He knew that a hand that size could belong to only one of two people. Marcel and Derhan. The only two beings he admitted to being afraid of.

The only person Lucas hated more than me was Marcel. He had tried to hate Derhan, but since he was one of the instructor, he had to show him some respect. Not ONLY was Marcel his physical superior in every way, he was also Lucas’ mental superior. Despite spending his entire life cut off from news services and ‘human’ contact, Marcel held several doctorates in the physical sciences. There had been an elaborate computer setup that had scanned the vid networks for tech advances and had taught him everything it found.

When Marcel was ten, the computers had secretly enrolled him in a dozen universities. By the time he was thirteen, he had completed all the relevant material and graduated at the head of the class in all the courses that had been chosen for him.

Four years after that, Rangers landed on his island. They found him and for the first time in his life, he saw another human being. And two years later, after spending some time exploring the galaxy and learning how to live among advanced civilizations, he came to the conclusion that he belonged among the ranks of the first people he had met.

« Are you bothering Davdan again, Lucas? I would think you would know better by now. » The deep voice rumbled, sending vibrations through the air. Marcel is wonderful at mimicking voices. Especially Derhan’s voice.

Lucas set his face and turned. He was clearly surprised to be facing a chest where he expected to see Derhan’s face. His head tilted back and back as his eyes climbed to Marcel’s face.

« This does not concern you, FREAK. » he said when he finally caught Marcel’s gaze.

Marcel’s eyes lit up like a kid’s in a candy store, as my father occasionally said. « Any time you disrespect my shertagh, you make it my concern, skuunar. »

Confusion flickered on Lucas’ face and was mirrored on the faces of all those nearby. The words belonged to the race that had lived on the planet were Marcel was born. The race were the remnants of an advanced species that had been mostly wiped out in the last Shadow war more than a thousand years ago.

« Shertagh? Does that mean he’s your boyfriend, or your pet? And what in the name of Valen is a skuunar? » Lucas asked.

Anger flashed on Marcel’s face and was quickly gone. « A skuunar is a small rodent that is so stupid it eats its own feces and young. Roughly a shertagh in your language would be a ‘blood-brother’. The tie is deeper than that, but there is nothing sexual in the meaning. As Davdan’s shertagh, it is my duty to protect his honour and to guard his life. »

« So now he needs you to look after him now? Jeez, you’d think his PARENTS would be enough protection. »

By now, everyone within earshot was listening. I could see in their eyes that some of Lucas’ anger was mirrored by them. Many of them resented the fact that I had been accepted for training at my 17 years of age. Some agreed that it was only my parentage that had gotten me accepted. A few resented the fact that it was my skill that had earned me the right to come here.

Marcel’s grip tightened and he lifted Lucas off the floor. He held him there, at arms length, as easily as I lifted a fork. He looked Lucas square in the eyes and laughed.

« Lucas, Lucas, Lucas. I am not protecting HIM from YOU. I am protecting YOU

from HIM. » With that, Marcel let go and turned away to get to his seat.

Lucas just couldn’t let it go at that. He’s the type of person who always has to have the last word. I’m sure you know the type.

« Where are you going, you coward! Are you afraid to face me in a fair fight? » he taunted, a smirk on his face.

Marcel froze in place. I could make out the rippling of his muscles under his shirt as he tried to move. I knew why he wasn’t moving and glanced at Kahlen. Sweat was already beginning to drip from her bow as she concentrated on keeping the giant in place. She couldn’t hold him long, but I didn’t know what to do. Luckily (or maybe unluckily) Lucas helped by opening his big mouth.

He turned to stare at Kahlen. Everyone knew about her abilities, even if no one talked about it. Lucas knew that Kahlen was holding Marcel in place, and the idiot resented it.

« Well look at this. Another freak. » Lucas’ voice was so hate filled, I nearly lost what little of my meal I had gotten down. « And of course, she’s holding the big freak in place. » Lucas bent over the table and leaned close to Kahlen’s ear. He whispered something to her and I saw her eyes widen as they struck a chord. For a second, just a second, she lost hold of Marcel.

With a roar, he leapt for Lucas. There was a blur, and a pike slammed into his massive chest, knocking him off stride. This gave Kahlen enough time to order her thoughts and freeze him in place again. From my seat, I could just make out the glimmer of tears as they rolled from her eyes.

Lucas looked up at the distinctive thud and smiled. « Ahhh. So there you are. I was wondering where the last of this freak show was. »

Shannon faced him impassively. « I was in a meeting with the Pak’ma’ra. They asked me to help them with a project they were working on. » she explained, more to us than to Lucas.

Lucas laughed. « That’s hilarious. A schlan like you helping those filthy disgusting THINGS? »

Now, let me say this. A schlan, for those of you that don’t speak Brakiri, is one of the worst things you can ever call someone. It has a dozen meanings. The nearest, in human terms, would be a half-breed fool’s fecal matter with little intelligence and no redeeming qualities. Of course, that is a polite and loose translation, but I’m sure you get the idea.

I had had enough. I can control my anger when Lucas’ insults are directed to me, but to use that word when talking to my friends . . . . I have to admit, any mention of half-breeds tends to anger me. It was a sensitive topic to my family.

I leapt to my feet and pushed Lucas away from the table. He reacted quickly, drawing his pike and levelling it at me with near textbook precision. Shannon tossed me her pike, which I caught smoothly and levelled against Lucas’. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the others forming a circle around us.

As we circled each other, more people joined the circle. I ignored them, concentrating on Lucas’ eyes. These would be what betrayed his movements. I had learned that the hard way, sparring against my parents. Though my father never quite got the knack for handling a pike.

His eyes darted left, followed by the pike. Without that fractional second’s warning, he would have easily broken my arm. But because I DID have the warning, I was able to position my pike to block the blow and lash out with one of my own.

Lucas’ eyes widened in surprise. He had never expected me to be able to move fast enough to block him. He never gave me any credit for having skill, passing it off as the instructors going easy on me because of my parents. This was most definitively not true. If anything, they were harder on me than on anyone else.

We exchanged a quick flurry of strikes. He hit me once, adding to the mass of bruises on my body. Most of my strikes managed to land on him. It took less than 30 seconds for me to realize that he was nowhere near as good as I was. I could end it at anytime in any manner of ways and there was nothing he could do about it.

Looking into his eyes, I saw that he had also recognized this fact. Yet, gasping and panting for air, he continued to fight. He simply refused to allow me to win without a fight.

It was at this point where I began to respect him a little. He knew he was overmatched, yet he continued to try. He was tired, bruised and bloody, exactly as I had been against Derhan. The difference between us was that he held no hope of winning. He was simply trying to land a few lucky blows. When I had fought Derhan, I had held on to the hope of beating him, no matter how skilled he was. I never gave up hope that if I could spot a faint error, I could prevail and beat him. I would not give up. I would not give in to desperation.

I had decided to end it, when a murmur went through the crowd. I got distracted for a moment and Lucas hit me in the head. Dazed, I tried to defend myself, but I was still sore from the earlier fight. Lucas knocked the pike out of my hands. He slammed the end of the pike into my diaphragm, causing me to double over. He reared back and brought the pike crashing down on my head.

I rolled over, trying to get to my feet, only to find Lucas’ pike at my throat. There was a gleam in his eyes and I knew what he was going to do.

« So this is the GREAT Davdan? » he sneered. « Where are your parents now, DAVID? Who’s going to protect you now, Mr. SHERIDAN? Your FREAK of a mother or TRAITOR of a father? Perhaps your FRIENDS? » He looked at the people in front of him. « I don’t think so. No one can help you now, Davey. » He pulled the pike back and looked around. « This is what you’ve placed your hopes on? A boy who couldn’t do anything without his parents interference and aid? »

As he babbled on, I looked behind him, trying to find what had caused the murmuring that had distracted me. My jaw dropped when I caught sight of the figure standing right behind Lucas. The figure nodded gravely to me and pointed to the pike that was lying a few feet away. He had recognized that it wasn’t mine and guessed that I still had it hidden on me.

He then made a gesture towards Lucas, who was still ranting to the crowd, and I understood. I grinned widely and nodded. He flashed a grim smile and faded into the crowd.

« Well, boy. What do you have to say? Speak up, oh useless one. Share your wisdom with us. » Lucas was leaning on his pike, staring down at me.

« Well. . .  » I started, slowly reaching into my sleeve for my pike. « I do have to say that. . .  » I trailed off when my hand closed on the shaft.

« What? » Lucas leaned over me eagerly.

With a surge, I kicked his pike, causing him to stagger. I rolled to the side and lunged to my feet, pulling out my pike in the same motion. It extended and I struck with a back handed blow, knocking his pike away and sweeping his feet out from under him.

He fell, his head slamming into the ground with a crack. I winced, worried that I had hit him to hard. But he stirred and moaned, his eyes flickering open and looking around unsteadily.

« This is OVER, Lucas. This is the LAST time this happens. » I said as I closed my pike and returned it to my sleeve. I saw Shannon bend over and retrieve her pike, while another student handed me Lucas’. I looked down at him. His eyes had cleared a little and he was staring at me with hate pouring out of him. I sighed. « On your honour, swear that you will never approach me again. »

He looked up at me and spat at my feet. I lifted his pike, holding it horizontally in both hands.

« You will swear this, or I WILL break your weapon. »

He just continued to look at me, not even trying to hide his hate and rage.

I sighed. I knew that he would force me to do this. I gripped the pike as tightly as I could and brought it down on my knee. The metal held for a moment before it snapped, breaking in half as neatly as if cut.

« You honour is no more, Lucas Traveri. If you cross my path again, I WILL kill you. » Saying this, I tossed the broken ends of the pike at his feet and turned to leave the room. I had only gone a few steps before the dizziness caught up to me and I started to fall. Luckily, Kahlen and Shannon were there to catch me.

As they helped me stand, the crowd started to murmur again. Someone was standing in the doorway. Looking up, I smiled.

« Isthil’za veni, Enthil’za. In Valen’s name. » I said when he reached me. My friends tried to bow, and I nearly fell again. Luckily, Enthil’za reached out and steadied me.

« Isthil’za veni, Ranger Davdan. » He looked me and my friends over carefully, as if seeing us for the first time. « If you do not mind, Rangers, I would like to take Davdan to his chambers with you. We have much to discuss about what happened here today. »

Shannon blushed and lowered her eyes. She mumbled her agreement, unable to look up at this figure of legend. Beside her, Kahlen nodded enthusiastically and Marcel shrugged. They were honoured to be in the presence of Ranger One.

As they half-dragged, half-carried me to our room, I wanted to say something, anything, but I passed out again.

*Chapter 3*: Act 3

**********************Chapter 3*******************************************

I awoke back in my own bed. My head hurt and I wondered if I had another concussion. I looked around but the others were gone. Seated at the desk, watching the recording of my spar with Derhan, was Enthil’za. My father.

I sat up and studied him for a while. A smile crossed my face as I watched him. He was in his early sixties now, but he was still in excellent shape. He had served as president of the Interstellar Alliance for 18 years before refusing to run this year. He had felt that he had done all he could as president and had found another way to serve the Alliance by becoming the leader of the Rangers. Upon his refusal for re-election, the Alliance had chosen to elect my mother.

I tried to stand, but my legs wouldn’t support me. My father heard me groan and turned in the chair so that he could face me.

« Isthil’za veni, In Valen’s name, Enthil’za. » I said again.

He grinned, his teeth flashing behind his stubbly gray beard. « No need to be so formal, David. It’s just the two of us in here. »

I matched his grin with one of my own. « But how we act alone should be no different than how we act with others. Just because there is no one around, does not mean I should be rude or deny my training. »

He laughed. « You sound more like your mother every time I see you. Perhaps letting you come here was a mistake. »

Now I laughed. « You and I both know that this is were I belong, Father. »

He sighed. « I know, I know. That’s what your mother keeps telling me. » He grinned easily. « Can I help it if I worry? I just want you to be safe. I did the best job I could to make the universe safe for you, but there are still a lot of problems out there. And Ranger service isn’t exactly the safest thing to do with your life. »

« I know. But it is what I want to do. The people here, well most of them anyway, don’t care who I am. After the first few days, they stopped peppering -did I use that right? Yes. Good. They stopped peppering me with questions about you and mother and the others. Then there were the questions I really hated. » I put a vapid expression on my face and asked in a high voice.  » ‘How does it feel to be the son of John and Delenn Sheridan?’, ‘What’s it like to be the son of such powerful and well known people?’, and there was always the most embarrassing and stupid question: ‘Exactly how human are you and your mother?’. Sometimes, I would almost be physically ill. » I rolled my eyes. « What kind of person ASKS questions like that? »

He rubbed his eyes wearily. When he finally looked back at me, there was a look of such sadness on his face, I almost cried. « Has it really been that bad for you, David? We tried to shield you from the worst of it, but we knew that one day you would leave and you would learn. »

I thought for a moment. It would be easy to blame my parents for the problems I had encountered. But it would be wrong. It was not their fault how others thought of them or of me. They had done what they had thought was right. And they had been right. They had told me everything, not willing to hide the truth from me. My mother said she had had of enough hiding things from my father. She had vowed, when she held me for the first time, that she would answer any question I asked to the best of her abilities and would hide no details from me.

She had explained her role in the Earth-Minbari war, as well as all her reasons for entering the chrysalis. She told me about the time jumps and about who Valen had been. She explained about hiding the fact that father’s old wife had not died, as he had thought. She told me how hurt and lost she had felt when she thought Dad had died on Zha’ha’dum.

The worst thing they had ever told me was that my father would die before my 19th birthday. They had explained about how Lorien had saved him on Zha’ha’dum, and how he had later brought him back again when the vorlon had tried to kill him. I was thirteen the day I learned that my father was going to die. I had promised myself to be with him when he went. To let him know what he meant to me and to spend as much time with him as I could, because I knew there wasn’t much time left.

As he sat there, I realized that if my training went according to plan, this might be the last chance I had to see him. He had less than two years left before he ‘stopped’.

« I just finished watching your match against Derhan. You did very well. » he said, completely unaware of the thoughts going through my head.

*I love you father,* I thought silently, unable to say the words aloud. I had grown up in a world were such things were not said. But as I looked into his eyes as he waited for my response, I knew that he knew how I felt. I could see his love for me in his eyes.

« Not really. » I said, downplaying my role as much as I could without being dishonest. « It only lasted as long as it did because he wanted it to. »

He shook his head. « No. It didn’t. » He moved to sit on Marcel’s bed, so that he could lean closer to me. « I already spoke with Derhan. He told me that he had held nothing back during the fight. He had done his best to beat you, but it took a tiny patch of sweat on the ground to give him the opportunity to win. And even then, he told me he could barely put much strength in his blow. »

I looked at my father in amazement. Could he be serious? Or was Derhan simply being overgenerous. « I find it hard to believe. Any harder, and he would have knocked me out. »

« That’s what he tried to do! Here, let me show you. » He went back to the desk and rewound the recording to the point he wanted to explain. He started it in slow motion, right at the moment I planted my feet for my abortive spin. « Here, watch where you put your foot. » The tape played back slowly. My foot came down right on a glimmering patch of liquid. My knee buckled, and I fell. Derhan face lost it’s emotionless mask for a moment and I saw the surprise written clearly on his features. « See. He wasn’t even able to move until you slipped. He was so surprised by it that it took him a few seconds to recover and strike back. »

He moved the tape forward a few frames and zoomed in an Derhan. « Watch how he shifts his weight. He put as much of his strength as he could into this blow. »

The tape moved slowly through the frames, showing me what I had missed during the match. Derhan had hit me as hard as he had been able to that final time. He had fully expected me to be knocked unconscious. He had placed the point of his pike at my throat not only because it was the ritual ending of the match, but because he feared that I would get up and continue the fight!

It was a startling revelation. Derhan was the greatest Minbari warrior in several centuries. No one had been able to beat him in more than 40 cycles. And today, in a sparring match I had thought of as an excuse for him to get some painful points across to the students through my body, he had come within millimeters of losing. If my foot had landed five millimeters to either side of the patch of sweat, my blow would have landed and I would have won.

I just sat there for a few minutes, letting all the implications set in. « This is . . . this is amazing! » I said when I could finally speak. « How did I do that? »

My father laughed loudly. « I have no clue, son. Neither does Derhan. He’s gone over the tape several times. He did nothing different than he ever has, yet you beat him. You saw through all his feints, you caught on to all his tricks, and you were able to take his hardest blows without staying down. I’m proud of you, David. And when I show this tape to your mother, she’ll be just as proud as I am. » He snickered gently for a moment. « But I don’t think either of us are as proud of you as Derhan is. One of his students has finally beaten him. He has waited for this moment for 30 cycles. He wants you excused from his classes as a student and wants you to be installed as a tutor for the others. »

« And after watching your fight against him, and the incident in the mess hall, I agree with him. » He shook his head ruefully. « Consider it official. Starting two days from now, you are no longer enrolled in any of the combat classes. You will be helping to teach them. »

« I don’t know what to say. » I was nearly overcome with my love for him. « I don’t know if I deserve this. There are others in the class better than me. »

« Yes. There are. » he said. It was not the reaction I had expected, but who was I to complain? « And don’t think Derhan doesn’t know it either. Take your friend, what’s his name? The big one with the blank face? »

« Marcel. » I supplied eagerly.

« Yes. Marcel. He’s the one that was found on that planet on the Rim, wasn’t he? He was living with those strange aliens and the computers? »

« That’s him. » I agreed.

My father leaned close enough to whisper in my ear. « I’ve seen that set up. It was more advanced that anything else I’ve ever seen. The only time I ever saw anything that advanced that wasn’t Vorlon or Shadow in nature was the Technomages. »

I nearly jumped out of bed. « Are you saying that you think Marcel is a Technomage? »

He shook his head. « Him, no. At least, not yet. But I do think whoever setup that little habitat of his was. Hell, he’s probably the son of a Technomage or two. No one’s really sure how they get more since they refuse contact with all the other races. »

He cleared his throat and leaned back. « Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yes. You won’t be the only one excused from the classes. Your big friend, Marcel and two others are also getting cut free. »

« At least I won’t be the only one. » I muttered loudly enough for him to hear. « That way, people won’t be able to say it’s only because of you and mother, right? » I asked.

« Partly. » he admitted, his gaze sliding away from mine for a moment. « The universe is still an ugly place. It will always be an ugly place. Until everyone agrees to make it beautiful. » His eyes looked deeply into mine and I held my breath. « I don’t have much time left. It’s your turn to try and make them see that. To make them understand. People like Lucas need to be shown the way. Sometimes you’ll have to use force to make them even consider what you’re saying. Sometimes, words will be enough. And when words and force aren’t enough, you’ll need to come up with something else. »

I tried to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. « Do you know . . . how long? » I asked, licking my lips. My stomach was doing aerobics.

He looked away from me again, his eyes brimming with tears. When he answered, his voice was even more craggy than usual. « No. At best guess, maybe a year and half. »

I couldn’t keep the tears from falling anymore. All my pent up grief and anger flowed out of my eyes. It wasn’t fair that my father had lived the last twenty years knowing when he was going to die.

My father sat down beside me and threw an arm over my shoulder. He let me cry for a while, tears streaming down his own face. After I got control of myself, I hugged him as hard as I could.

« Don’t be upset, David. I had to go sometime. » he said, trying and failing to cheer me up. « It’s been a good run, David. Hell, it’s longer than I ever expected to live. Half the time, I didn’t know if I’d live through the day. » We both knew that he didn’t believe that himself.

« Does Mother know? » I asked.

« Yes. » He seemed to be far away for a moment. « We made our peace with this a long time ago. You’ll have to find your own way to deal with it. I just wish . . . I wish that I could be there to see you as a man. To see you live your life. To watch you grow and find a family of your own. »

« So do I,  » I whispered to him. « So do I. »

He cleared his throat. « Anyway, I’ve got to change. » He reached into a hidden pocket and pulled out a data crystal. « This is a message from your mother. She explains everything. We’ll watch it when I get back. »

*Chapter 4*: Act 4

*************************Chapter 4******************************************

A few hours later, we sat at a table in the ‘mess hall’, as my father called it. He had told me about what was happening at home and with our friends. I told about what had been going on here and how I was doing in the training. He already knew some of it, but I explained about my unique friends and my thoughts on why we four had been grouped together.

He agreed that I was probably right. As Ranger One, it was his duty to make sure that all the rangers finished their training with a clear understanding and tolerance for the differences of others. Each Ranger had to become fluent in at least two languages not native to their species. My father spoke fluent Minbari, Narn, and Brakiri. He also had a solid grasp on the languages of a dozen other league worlds.

Me, I spoke Minbari, English, and Narn. I had a small understanding of most of the languages used by the Alliance. Marcel was teaching me the language of the people he had grown up with, and Kahlen was teaching me an alien dialect from a race in her universe that did not exist here. I hoped to one day speak fluent Drazi and Tuchanq. They were such interesting languages.

There were a few other people in the room, throwing furtive glances towards me and my father. Since he was ignoring them, I followed his lead and didn’t acknowledge their presence.

My father had changed out of his formal robes and was sitting across from me wearing a black jacket of a material he called leather, a blue shirt, a pair of dark brown pants. I had also changed out of my ranger uniform and was wearing an outfit Kahlen and Shannon had picked out for me when we had our last leave.

It was black. The material of the shirt was soft and smooth. It felt cool against the skin, yet it was quite warm. My pants were also black, but were made of a material I had not recognized. Kahlen called them jeans, while the vendor had said they were denims. I later learned that the material was called denim, but the style was called jeans. A pair of comfortable black shoes and a pair of socks completed the outfit. They had agreed that it was a good look for me, and since they were paying, and the material did feel quite nice, I agreed to wear them. I now had several such outfits, not all of them black.

« So when’s your next leave? Your mother wants you to come home for a while. She’s even offered to clear her schedule for a week, if you can come by. » He said while sipping at his caf‚.

« Well, I have a week free in two weeks. My friends and I were planning on trying to get to Babylon 5. I wanted to see the place where you and mom met. My friends also want to see the place. We keep hearing about it, but we’ve never been there. » I leaned forward conspiratorially. « There’s a rumour going around that the place is practically deserted. Ever since the new lanes opened up, people have stopped sending shipments through. »

My father sighed and placed his cup down. « It’s true. Ever since Earth found a cheaper way to ship things, they’ve been able to cut back on the old girl. Oh, there are still people going there. Most of them for the same reasons you and your friends want to go. They want to get a sense of history. They want to see the place which was at the center of so many important events. »

« Well, I hope there won’t be too many sightseers when we get there. I wouldn’t want anyone to recognize me while I’m on vacation. » I said.

He looked me over. « Is that why you’ve let your hair grow out? So you can cover your crest when you don’t want to be recognized? »

« Yes. I got tired of everyone staring at me whenever I turned my head or left the room. Once my hair was long enough to cover my crest, people started to treat me like I was one of them. »

« Except Lucas. » My father had always had a way of doing that.

« Yes. I didn’t know why until a few weeks after we met. His father was the Captain of one of Clark’s ships during the war. He was one of those who WANTED to do everything Clark ordered. His was also one of the first ships destroyed. After the news reached his mother, she hung herself in her room. Lucas found her when her came home from school. »

« And he blames me and your mother. » My father finished. « I’ve met people like him before. How he ever got approved for Ranger Training, I’ll never understand. He must have done something to pass all the psych tests. »

« What’s going to happen to him now? And what about me? The fight today was partly my fault. »

He shook his head. « Not from where the trainees stand. They’ve all been interviewed. They all agree that Lucas started the fight and that it was not the first time he had done so. He is going to be sent back to Earth, or wherever he wants to go, with the next available shuttle. The Rangers have no room for people with his prejudices. »

« You’d expect me to be happy that he’s gone. And I am. But it’s more of a relieved kind of happy. I’m sorry that he couldn’t put his prejudices aside and try to get along with us. He seemed genuinely happy to be here. Except for the fact that he was roomed with three aliens. He doesn’t like non- humans. »

« It’s not just that. He has a problem with anyone who isn’t Earthborn or who was on the Alliance’s side during the Wars. He has problems dealing with the Mars-born and people born on other colony worlds. You just happen to fit all of his criteria for those he hated. »

« Really? I never thought of it. I thought it was only because of you and mom. »

« It was worse than that. That is a large part of it. He also hated you because you aren’t human, you aren’t from Earth, and, although it sounds odd, you are the embodiment of what the Alliance is about. Your birth was the ultimate joining together of two races that had once been enemies. »

« I see your point. And it does sound odd. I don’t feel like the embodiment of anything. I mean, how am I supposed to feel? I’m just myself. Just because you and mom are from different races and mom went through that change I’m supposed to be special? »

« Son, you ARE special. » He whispered. « You’re special because you’re the child of two people who love each other very much and never thought that they would be able to share something so . . . common as a child. I knew the moment I saw her that your mother would play a large role in my future. It took me two years to admit that to myself. To admit that I loved her and to open my eyes and see that she loved me. » He shook his head hard, once.

« But we’re getting off topic. Your mother wants you to come home. I want you to come home. You can bring your friends. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind seeing Minbar. »

« I don’t know, Dad. Marcel on Minbar? With all the Warrior cast around? And how would people react to Shannon? She’s more human than I am. Then there’s Kahlen. She’d probably go flying around, dive bombing pedestrians. »

His cheeks pulled up in a smile. « That would be hilarious. But I’m sure you can keep them in line. »

« I’m not sure. . . . » Actually, the idea of showing my friends my childhood home was intriguing. In fact, I had already decided to ask them if they wanted to come. I just had to pretend to be reluctant, for my father’s sake. It was obvious that he was looking forward to the challenge of convincing me to return home. And since we had so little time left to enjoy the game, I figured that it was only fair to give him what he wanted.

« Oh come on, David. You can’t seriously think that you mother would allow me to return home without you, do you? She wants you home so that we can have a nice family vacation, with no interference from the outside world. Before I left, she told me that you would have plans with your friends. She also made it quite clear that she did not mind if you brought them home with you. In fact, she insisted that you convince them to come. She wants to see what kind of people you’re hanging out with. »

« Why? » I asked, confused by my mother’s sudden interest in my companions.

« She didn’t tell me, but it wasn’t hard for me to guess. » He finished the last of his drink before continuing. « She wants to make sure you’ll have the kind of people in your life who will help you through your grief when I . . .stop. » He let a small laugh escape. « You saw the message. She has everything planned out already. »

The tears threatened to rise again, but I pushed them down. My father had just destroyed the game by mentioning the time limit. « I’ll ask them if they want to come. Are you sure a week will be enough? » I asked.

« No. If they agree, I’ll cancel you classes for an extra week. » He laughed sharply. « It’s just a coincidence, but your mother also wants to return to B5. That’s what the extra time will be for. She wants to share her memories of the place with you. It’s going to be decommissioned next year. »

I felt a chill go down my spine at his words and had a flash. I knew how my father would die. I was SEEING it.

« Are you okay, David? You seemed to be far away for a minute there. » He asked.

I blinked and the vision dissolved. It was the longest lasting vision I had ever had. It had also been the furthest into the future. What I had just seen was more than a year away.

« I’m just tired. Those fights today really took it out of me. » I hoped that my voice was steadier than my heart. My father’s death would secure his name in the history books to the end of time.

He nodded thoughtfully. « I guess you should be getting back. Your friends should be back by now and it is kind of late. I still have some official business to do before I can get to bed. You go get some sleep. You have a long day ahead of you. »

« Thank you, Dad. » I said, rising to my feet. He stood and we hugged, ignoring the people staring at us. « Isthil’za veni, Enthil’za. In Valen’s Name. »

« Isthil’za veni, Ranger Davdan. In Valen’s Name. » He gave my shoulders a quick squeeze before letting me go. He nodded to a few of the people in the room, who had the grace to look embarrassed at being caught staring. With a final smile to me, he left, heading in the direction of the main office.

I sighed and turned to walk down the corridor that leads to my room. On my way out, I was stopped by a hand reaching out and grabbing my arm.

« Was that really HIM? » the huddled figure asked in hushed tones.

« Yes, it was. » I said, gently removing their hand from my arm and continuing on my way.

*Chapter 5*: Act 5

************************Chapter 5****************************************

My friends sat patiently while I explained my parents offer. Their faces were controlled, so I couldn’t tell what they were thinking.

When I had first gotten back to the room they had been waiting for me. They had asked me a few questions and I answered them. I told them what my father had said about B5 and about a few other things. I didn’t mention anything about him that wasn’t public knowledge.

« Your mother wants to meet US? » asked Shannon. Her mask of indifference had slipped and been replaced by a look of pure fear.

« Yes. I didn’t have many friends my own age when I grew up. So she wants to meet the people who pulled me out of my shell. »

Shannon looked away from me to stare at the wall. Her feelings were plain to see. She didn’t think she was worthy of being in my parents home. She was as humble as any of her cast. The Worker cast had some serious self doubt problems. It came from listening to the Warrior cast deride them and the Religious cast patronize them for the last few thousand years. Despite that they should have paid better attention to the Religious cast. They weren’t quite as bad as the Warrior cast. At least the Religious cast talked about showing tolerance for all, no matter what class, clan, or race.

« Shannon, don’t let your fears conquer you. You are worth as much as any other person. Don’t let the attitudes of others dictate your belief in yourself. » I waved around the room. « Think about where you are. Think about why you came. You have proven that the Worker cast is as good as either of the other casts. You have seen the Warrior and Religious casts at their worst. And you know that you are no different than any other. The casts don’t matter! You’ve seen this. You know that it is an individual who matters, not who they were born to. » I said in a worker dialect of Minbari. I knew that the others wouldn’t understand, but I felt that Shannon deserved some level of privacy.

Shannon nodded and answered in the same dialect. I was pleased that I had remembered correctly which region her parents were originally from. « I know. But it still feels wrong. I don’t know if I deserve to meet your parents. Surely there are others more deserving of their time. »

« Shannon, you have been a good friend to me. And to my parents, that makes you deserving of their respect. I know it always hasn’t been easy for you. Hell, it hasn’t been easy for me. Do you think I miss all the stares and whispered comments whenever I enter or leave a room? People see me, and all they think about are my parents. You, Kahlen, and Marcel are the only people here that don’t walk on eggshells around me. You all like me for me, not for my parents. »

She finally brought her eyes up to meet mine. « You are a very likable person, Davdan. »

« I know. But tell that to the others. All they see is a way to get to my parents. They don’t see me as an individual. Which you have always done. You acknowledge that my lineage is . . . a little unusual. But you still don’t see me as only a way to get to my parents. Or as a status symbol like some of the others do. »

« I don’t understand. What do you mean? »

I sighed. This was had been very strange day. « Some of the other trainees are only friendly to me because they see me as a means of getting ahead. They think that by being friendly to me, my parents will give them preferred treatment over others. They don’t realize that I have been dealing with this since I was a child. And that my parents have had to put up with things like this for more than twenty years. »

She blinked. She seemed to hesitate, but she pushed on. « Then, if you wish to go, I see no reason for me to remain here. I would like to meet your parents. » She realized how that sounded and tried to explain. « I don’t mean it like that, it’s just –  »

Smiling, I interrupted her. « I understand. You want to meet them for the same reason I hope to one day meet your parents. Because they are your parents and I want to meet your family. » We had switched back to English and the others could understand Shannon’s acceptance of my offer. I looked to Kahlen who shrugged.

« Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing Minbar. And we were planning to go to B5. Might as well join your parents. Don’t take this the wrong way, David, but I’ve always wanted to meet your parents. They are, after all, some very important people. »

I smiled. « I can sympathize. I felt the same way when they spoke of people they knew. Dukhat, G’kar, Lyta. I wanted to meet them to ask them why. And to thank them. »

« Then you know how I feel. I didn’t want to impose on our friendship, but since you mother made the offer, I’ll gladly pounce on it. » Kahlen had belonged to a group of people like herself. People with their abilities were persecuted and hunted. When her abilities first manifested, her parents had thrown her out. She had lived on the streets for awhile until she was found by the group. They had taken her in as one of their own. They lived together, fought together and been a family to each other. She had been taught to control her powers by another telepath, who had financed the whole thing. She rarely mentioned them, and I supposed it still hurt that she hadn’t found a family here.

Since Kahlen and Shannon had agreed to come, it was up to Marcel to make it final. He was leaning back on his bed, his hands clasped behind his head and his feet crossed at the ankles. His eyes were half-closed and he was frowning.

« Minbar? And B5? » he asked, his voice slurred. I could tell that he was tired. He had been up for two straight days now, not sleeping at all. « Sounds good. I’ve never been there. What’s it like? » he asked.

« It’s beautiful. » I replied, eager to talk about my home now that it was agreed that we would go. « There are these waterfalls that take your breath away. The seas are immense. They’re even bigger than those on Earth. They are also colder and have a higher saline content. The cities are works of art, many of them carved out of growing crystals. There are gardens and parks everyway.

« There are living plants growing inside the majority of the buildings, giving off the most amazing smells. Animals are treated like family. There is a sense of peace that pervades the air. The Casts tend to stick to themselves, so the cities tend to be set up with this in mind. The Workers usually live on the west of the city. The Warriors live to the east. The Religious cast divides the two and also has extensions to the north. »

« No two cities are even remotely alike. Every one is designed and built by the Workers who live there. The design is agreed upon by all the clans who will live in the city. The cities remain unchanged for centuries. » My eyes watered as I talked. It had been nearly a year since I had left.

« My only concern is the people. » stated Marcel. « Will they understand me when I try to talk to them? Will we be able to talk to them? Or will we spend the whole time locked inside a guarded building? »

I laughed. « No, Marcel. We will get to talk to people in the city. My mother is planning on a dime tour of the main continent. Visiting some of the more important places to our people. The only guards you’ll see will be the ones in the official buildings. Our home isn’t guarded, except by a few volunteers from the Ranger ranks. »

« So we will get to talk to normal people in the streets? » Kahlen asked, her eyes sparkling.

« I can’t think of any reason why not. We won’t be on Minbar long. My mother wants to spend a full week on B5. This doesn’t leave a lot of travel time. »

« How do you know all this? » asked Shannon. « You didn’t mention that your father said anything about the trip, aside from asking us to join you. »

« No, he didn’t. But he did have a data crystal. » I popped the crystal out of the case where I stored all devices of that kind. « She told me how she was planning on going to B5. She always told me how much she missed me and wanted me to come home the first chance I got. She didn’t mention anything about our going with her and father. She didn’t even mention all her plans. It wasn’t until my father told me how she had sent him to ask me to join them that I realized what she was hinting at. The plans are already made, with all the preparations made for the four of us. »

« So when do we leave? »

« Two weeks from now. We’ll be gone for two weeks. »

« Two weeks? This gets better and better. » Kahlen was rubbing her hands together. « Are there any malls on Minbar? »

« Malls? What’s a mall? » I asked.

She looked at me with an expression of surprise. « A mall is a collection of stores in one building. There are restaurants, fast food joints, department stores, specialty stores. That kind of thing. »

I thought for a moment. Something about the description had triggered a memory. « Oh. Well. There’s nothing quite like that on Minbar. But there is on B5. It’s called the Zocalo. It’s got booths that sell everything and anything you can think of. »

She smiled contentedly and leaned back. « Good. The last time I was shopping, Shannon and I had to concentrate on getting you outfitted. »

« Any other questions? I’m tired. It’s been a long day. » They shook their heads and climbed into their own bunks. Marcel and I had the bottom bunks, while Shannon and Kahlen had the top bunks. Kahlen floated up into hers and then floated Shannon into her bunk. She turned off the lights and we all settled in for a few hours rest. Sometimes, having a teek as a roommate was

very handy.

*Chapter 6*: Act 6

**************************Chapter 6****************************************

The next two weeks passed quickly. Marcel and I adjusted to our elevated status. Lucas left for Earth, but not without leaving me a message by breaking into our room and destroying most of my things. Kahlan and Shannon talked about how many credits they had saved up and what they were planning on buying. Though rangers are all volunteers, they did receive a small salary. Even the trainees got a small amount of credits every month. Some of what they wanted seemed down right strange to me. After all, why would someone who can fly need a dozen pairs of shoes?

The time came and a White Star arrived. It was one of the new, sleeker designs. They were faster, more streamlined, and more powerful than the original design. My father had mentioned to my mother, who had passed it on to the Worker cast, how he didn’t like haven’t the bridge on that little extension above the main body of the White Stars. They had thought for a moment and proceeded to build him a ship without this, and other so called flaws. They were a deeper colour than the first ships, and could be manned by a single pilot. The computer could even could track the health of the entire crew.

There were even a few human style bunks, for which Kahlen was very grateful. She had never been comfortable sleeping in Minbari beds. Marcel said he didn’t mind, and since I had seen him sleep with his back bent over a chair when he decided he did not feel like moving, I tended to believe him.

When we got to the landing pad, we learned that the ship was going to be at our disposal for a while. The Worker cast had refitted quarters to fit our needs, something for which Marcel was very grateful. Though he could, and occasionally did, sleep anywhere and in any position, he preferred a flat, stiff surface.

We made our way directly to the bridge. We didn’t pass any one going through the corridors and this struck me as odd. I mentioned my feelings to the others, and they agreed. Kahlen suggested she scan for the crew, but I stopped her. Odds were, a few of the crew would be teeps.

I still can’t say who was more shocked when we got to the bridge. Me, my three friends, or the person sitting in the center chair.

I knew I was out of it. I couldn’t think of anything to say. This was one of the last people I had expected to see. I would have thought my parents might have come.

« Well, David? You just gonna stand there, or are you going to come give your Uncle Mike a hug? »

I nearly squealed. « Uncle Mike? What are you doing here? You look great! » And he did. He still looked like he had for as long as I remember. He was sporting a smallish grey moustache and a thin layering of short grey hair was growing on his head. He was wearing a suit much like the one my father had worn the last time I had seen him. Only his shirt was a soft brown whose material looked to be a match for the shirts I had in my bag. We had worn our uniforms today, deciding to change into civilian clothes on route.

He squeezed me hard, nearly cracking my ribs. « Thanks. I do my best. » he said, grinning widely. « As for why I’m here, well that ones hard to say. Why are any of us here? Is it a cosmic joke, destiny or what? Is there a meaning to life, or is it just an evolutionary quirk? Now, I don’t know the answers to any of these. Maybe your father does. He did spend a lot of time talking with that Lorien guy. You know, that guy, Lorien, he claimed to be the first intelligent being in the galaxy. Now, I’ve seen a lot and been through a lot. The Dilgar War, the Earth-Minbari War, the Shadow war and a half a dozen others. I’ve seen a lot of weird things in my life, but I have trouble accepting that I’ve been in the presence of God. »

I laughed at the stunned expressions on the face of my friends. I knew that if I let him, Uncle Mike would go on for hours with his one person discussion. I interrupted him, knowing that it was the only way I would be able to say any for the entire trip if I didn’t. « Uncle Mike, you know what I meant. Why did you come here, now? »

« Why else? I was in the neighbourhood and you parents asked me to stop by on the way there. They wanted to come themselves, but they got caught up with some last minute details before they could leave. »

« So Aunt Lise let you go gallivanting across the galaxy alone? » I asked.

« Not exactly, » he said, pushing a button on the chair’s armrest. « Lise? You awake? »

A sleepy voice replied through the intercom. « I am now, Micheal. What is it? »

« The package is aboard. Why don’t you get dressed and come on up to the bridge. »

There was pause on the other end of the line. « Give me five minutes. » There was a beep as the line closed down from her end.

« Aunt Lise is here too? » I asked. « But who’s watching Mary? »

« Actually, she’s along for the ride. »

« What? She’s here too? Who isn’t here? » I groaned. « Are Uncle Stephen and Aunt Susan coming too? »

« No. Just us. » His grin took on a less forbidding caste. « Your parents thought having us along would be a great way to catch up. It’s been so long since we’ve been together that wasn’t a galactic emergency or had a vacation. I haven’t taken any time off in the last ten years. Your mom convinced me to come, and then convinced Lise to come and to bring Mary. Sort of a family reunion, as it were. »

I started to interrupt to introduce my friends, but the door chimed open and a slim figure ran forward and through its arms around my shoulders. I was nearly knocked over by the sheer exuberance of the greeting.

« DAVID!! » screamed the voice that I barely recognized.

« Hey, Mary! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? » It had been more than two years since we had last seen each other. « How you been? »

« I’ve been great! I won a couple of tennis tournaments this year. I’ve been ranked as high as 13th on Mars, and 39th in system. » Her smile widened, and I realized for the first time how beautiful she was.

« That’s great news! I guess I had better forget about that challenge I made. » I said with a grin. « It wouldn’t do for me to be bested by a girl. »

« Mary, don’t you think it would be a good idea to let go of David so that he can introduce his friends? » Aunt Lise said as she gestured to where my friends were patiently standing.

Mary turned and saw them. Her eyes seemed to bulge in her head. « WOW! Who’s the big guy, Dave? I’ve never seen anyone that big before. »

Laughing, I made the introductions. « Well, Mary. The big one is Marcel. I don’t know if he has a last name. » I looked at Marcel, my face puzzled. He shrugged and I continued. « The red head is Kahlen O’Reilly, telepath and telekinetic extra ordinaire. The person standing next to her is Shannon of the Clan Hinnon. Also known as Shannon Hinnonson. » I saw the brief look of confusion cross Uncle Mike’s face at the human style last name. « Shannon has spent her entire life living among humans. Her parents took a human style name when they moved to the colony. »

« Kahlen, Marcel, Shannon. I want you to meet Micheal and Lise Garibaldi and their daughter Mary. »

Kahlen looked puzzled. « Are you the same Garibaldi’s as in Edgars-Garibaldi industries? »

I looked at her quizzically.

« Hey, I’m from another dimension, remember? I had to spend a lot of time studying this one before I decided to stick around. It wasn’t hard to learn about one of the biggest companies in existence. »

« Hey, thanks for the complement. » Uncle Mike said. « I’ve done my best. Look, it’s a pleasure to meet you all, but we have to be out of this space in a few minutes. We can talk more on the way, okay? »

They nodded and relaxed a little. Uncle Mike slipped back into the chair and activated the holo projection. A three dimensional display of the surrounding area of the ship flickered into view a few feet from the chair. Kahlen and Mary gasped in surprise. Neither had ever seen a White Star from the inside and knew next to nothing about the technology. Kahlen’s world was, in most ways, not as advanced as ours but in others, far ahead of us. And though Mary had grown up surrounded by hi-tech gadgets, there was a large difference between Minbari/Vorlon projections and the holos used by most humans.

The screen showed the hustle of the port as everyone scrambled into shuttles and flyers to go on their separate ways. Soon, there would be very few people remaining at the small base over the now extended two week break.

Watching the takeoff of the ships around us was breathtaking. The sight of the engines lighting and pushing the ships up into the atmosphere was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I never got tired of it.

« So how are things going for you, David? » Aunt Lise asked after we had lifted off and jumped into hyperspace.

« Pretty good. Marcel and I were excused from the combat classes. » I explained everything that had happened over the last few weeks. « I’m still having trouble with the biology courses. I just don’t find them interesting. »

« What about you? How are the three of you finding the training? » she asked my friends.

Shannon became lost in thought, while Marcel frowned and Kahlen grinned.

« I’m behind in most of the science and tech courses. » Kahlen replied. « Where I’m from, the tech is nowhere near as advanced and complex as it is here. We don’t have organic technology or biotech. We just recently really started with cybernetics. At least, that’s what most people know. »

« And where are you from? » Mary asked. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn that there was a note of jealousy in her voice.

« Earth. 2017. » She grinned at the expression on Mary’s face. « Not your Earth. I’m from a different dimension. I don’t know how I got here, or why I came, but I’m stuck here and the Rangers are my life now. »

« 2017? Wow! You must have had a hard time getting used to aliens, right? »

Kahlen shrugged, her red hair falling around her shoulders. « Not really. Earth, the Earth I was born on, had quite a lot of aliens on it. The hard part was the lack of people like me. Sure, there are telepaths, but they’re nowhere near as strong as even the weakest telepath I had met at home. »

« What about you, Shannon? » Aunt Lise asked. « How do you find the training? Did you have any problems adjusting? »

Shannon shook her head. « No. I have lived among humans and aliens my entire life. I was raised as a human by my parents. The only problem I’ve had was getting used to Davdan. »

« Davdan? » Uncle Mike asked from the chair.

« That would be me. » I explained. « When I signed up I used that name. I didn’t want people treating me like I was . . . I don’t know. Different, I guess. »

« So you took parts of you first name and last name and put them together to get a more Minbari name. » he said.

I laughed. « Sort of. When I was young and first learning how to talk, I couldn’t quite make out my name. I could sound out ‘Dave’ alright, but I couldn’t get ‘Sheridan’. I also slurred them together and it came out Davidan. It shortened to Davdan as I got older. Only a few people called me it, and it always felt more like my name than ‘David Sheridan’. »

« That explain’s why I wasn’t able to find your room like I had originally planned. » he stated. « I was checking the records for David Sheridan, who technically wasn’t enrolled. »

« What about you, Marcel? What’s your story? » Mary asked, turning back to my huge friend who had been largely ignored so far.

« Nothing much to tell. Born in a tube, raised by computers and aliens, didn’t see a human until two years ago. Genetically engineered to be the pinnacle of human physical prowess. » His shoulders moved up in what was close to a shrug. « Have a few doctorates and can fight a little. Not much else, really. »

It was one of the longest speeches I’ve ever heard from him. I guessed he must like the members of my extended family.

« Yeah. John told me about that. A Ranger ship landed on the island where you lived right? »

« Yes, sir. I had been taught by the computers and knew both English and a touch of Minbari. Enough to introduce my self, ask them who they were and to demand that they leave my island before I lost my temper. When they tried to talk to me I knew what they were asking. I just didn’t have the answers. » His face flickered into life briefly. « I still don’t know why I was born, or who set up my birth matrix. »

« That’s horrible! » stated Mary, her mother quick to echo the statement. Marcel made that little shrug again.

« I’ll find them one day,  » he said. « And I will get my answers. One way, or another. » His eyes held an odd gleam. For a moment, I pitied the people who had created him. Just for a moment. Then I recalled how lonely his life must have been, even with those aliens for company. They were no where near as advanced as his computers were. And they had no tolerance for weakness.

« Enough of this. We have long trip to make, and I’m sure you want to get a look at the ship. Mary, why don’t you show Kahlen and Shannon their rooms. Lise, you take David and Marcel. There are a few things I need to do here. We can meet up in the mess hall and go on the tour from there. »

We split up, Mary taking the girls out the door and down one corridor while Aunt Lise pulled me and Marcel in the other direction.

« Why are the quarters separated? » Marcel asked. « The four of us share a small room at the training facility. » I echoed the question.

Aunt Lise looked almost embarrassed for a moment. « We uh, didn’t want Mary to know about how integrated the Rangers are in sleeping arrangements. We also didn’t know how, uh, CLOSE you were with the girls, so we decided that for now, it would be best for all your rooms to be a little distance from each other. But you can rearrange things however you want. » she hurried to add.

I couldn’t believe it. They thought that we were . . . CLOSE. I almost laughed. « Don’t worry, Aunt Lise. We aren’t that kind of friends. »

She looked relieved. « I didn’t think so. But from what I can tell, the girls seem to be very nice people. And you can’t deny, David, that they are attractive. »

Now I did laugh. « Sure. Now. You should see them in the morning. Kahlen’s hair tends to become charged during the night and sticks up all over the place when she gets up. It takes her 40 minutes to get back in place. »

She smiled. « Somehow, I think she could make even that look attractive. She’s the kind of natural beauty that doesn’t need to dress up to look amazing. And makes every other woman in a room instantly jealous of her. »

« No, she doesn’t have to dress up. In fact, now that you mention it, she does look better with no clothes on. Don’t you agree, Marce? »

« Absolutely. No one I’ve ever seen, in my short time away from home, comes even close to Kahlen naked. »

Aunt Lise was blushing again. « I thought you weren’t. . . that kind of friends. »

Marcel grinned. I think it was the first time I had ever seen him do that. « We’re not. But when you have two women and two men sharing the same washroom and shower, not to mention having to occasionally help each other undress and dress after a hard day’s work, you do tend to see a few things. » I couldn’t believe it. Marcel was being positively social. *He must really feel comfortable with Mike and Lise.*

« I see. » Aunt Lise was still clearly embarrassed, although she was doing a pretty decent job of hiding it. « Ah, here are your quarters, David. » she said pointing at a door on her left. « Marcel’s are across the hall. You can lock the doors if you want privacy. You’ll have to change the codes. But you know how to do that right? » We nodded and she continued. « The mess hall is down one floor and is the only room on the ship without doors. Just take the turbolift at the end of this hall. Turn right at the first intersection you come to. You can’t miss it. »

She started to move down the hall. « You two stow your gear. Get cleaned up, change out of your uniforms. Meet us there in, say, 20 minutes? » We agreed and she smiled. « Good. Well. I’ll see you in twenty minutes then. » She gave me a kiss on the cheek. I was surprised to find that she had to get on her tiptoes to do so. « It’s good to see you again, David. You don’t know how much Mary’s been looking forward to it. » She shook Marcel’s hand. « I look forward to getting to know you, Marcel. »

« And I look forward to getting to know all of David’s family. » he answered, an actual, honest to god smile on his face.

When she was gone, I turned to him. « Well, now I’ve seen everything. »

He looked at me quizzically. « What do you mean? » he asked.

« I’ve seen you smile and I’ve seen you grin. I’ve never seen you do that before. »

« Sure you have. » he said. « Remember when Mareni and I had that fight, – »

« That wasn’t a smile. That, my friend was a sneer. » I shot back. I placed my palm on the doorpad, which then scanned it. Marcel did the same with his room.

« Oh. Well what about the time I hit Traveri so hard, he had to have several teeth replaced. »

« That was more of a grimace. You sliced your hand open punching through the 5 inches of plexiglass that were in the way. »

« Oh. Well, maybe you’re right. So what? »

« Nothing. It’s just that I’ve never seen you this talkative and emotional. » Before he could reply, I slipped into my room and closed the door.

« I’m not being emotional. » I heard him say as the door closed with a soft thud.

*Chapter 7*: Act 7

************************Chapter 7*****************************************

This new design of White Star was different enough from the originals that it was really a new class of ship. It carried more firepower, was faster and more manueverable and was quite a bit smaller than the older White Stars. There are only 7 decks or levels. There is no shuttle bay or cargo bay. There is a ramp that leads down from the last deck. This is the only way to enter or leave the ship, except for the one airlock found on each deck.

The last third of the ship is taken up by the engines and engineer stations. The weapon ports are almost invisible from the outside. If it didn’t have the same sleek bird of prey appearance of the old style, it would have been utterly unrecognizable as a White Star. They are not ships of war. This was a scout and exploration ship. The interior was as beautiful as the exterior.

It was a model in efficiency, wrapped in beauty, tied together with strength. As are most Minbari constructs. The number 3 was sacred to my people. Almost all was done in groups of threes. 3 casts, 3 main languages, 3 capital cities. Strength, efficiency and beauty tied together with unbreakable bonds. Warrior, Worker, and Religious. The Nine and the One. The three who are One.

The White Stars had gone through several changes. The first completed was designed as a flag ship. It had one central seat for the captain, my father, to sit in while the rest of the command crew stood at their stations a few feet behind him. It had been designed with my father in mind. It was a gift to him from my mother, and the workers who built it.

The rest of the fleet had taken the Minbari idea of three into account. There was still the captain’s seat in the centre of the bridge, but there were now stations on either side of him, slightly lower to indicate the captain’s prominence, but otherwise, no different than the stations you find on human ships. One was a comm station, while the other was a tactical display station whose main function was to control the holographic displays and hull cameras.

There were other differences, but they were mostly minor matters. There had been no individual quarters on the first models. There were a few on each of the newer ships. The controls were all the same, except that on this ship, there were four main stations. The captain’s chair, slightly forward and higher than the comm and weapons stations. And directly behind them, forming a cross, was another station. I was confused. I had seen the plans for these new ships and did not remember that station from the specs.

« This ship is a very special little thing. » Uncle Mike answered when I asked him about it. « For one thing, it was finished only a few weeks ago. It was also built with a specific crew in mind. It’s even faster than the others like it and carries a few surprises that none of the others do. »

« But it still has everything the White Stars do, right? It can open it’s own jump points and has the same weapons and shielding? » asked Shannon, her curiosity aroused.

« Yes. In fact, the jump engines on this thing are more advanced than those I’ve seen any where else. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Vorlons had built them. They require only a few minutes to heat up and cool down, unlike the ten-twenty minute cycle of most other ships. At most, it will take five minutes to cycle through the start up and shut down of the engines. »

I whistled my appreciation. « That’s amazing! I envy the crew who gets this ship. » Uncle Mike’s eyes lit up with a hidden smile that I didn’t understand. It was like he knew something that I didn’t and was enjoying the fact that I didn’t know. I hated when he did that.

« Look. I’m tired. I’ve been up for nearly 24 hours. I need some sleep. » He nodded to my friends. « I happen to know that you’ve had training on the White Stars. Why don’t you four pilot this thing for a few hours while I rest. It can be run from any of the center stations. Just pick a spot. I should be up in about 8 hours. Don’t call unless something happens, but if something does . . .  »

« We will contact you immediately, Mr. Garibaldi. » Marcel filled in, Kahlen and Shannon quick to agree.

Uncle Mike grinned. « Since we’re all friends here, I’ll let you call me Micheal or Mike. You’re friends of David’s and that makes you almost like family. Only my employees and enemies call me Mr. Garibaldi. »

« Aye sir. » « Yes, Micheal. » « Sure thing, Mike. » My friends chorused.

I grinned. « Does that apply to me? »

He let out a bark. « Hell no, kid. You still get to call me Uncle. » He left the bridge, Aunt Lise and Mary following after him. Mary seemed reluctant to leave, but Uncle Mike firmly pushed her along.

We stood still for a moment, looking at each other. As one, we grinned wildly. There was only one thing left to decide.

« I call captainhood. » said Kahlen as she leapt into the air and floated over to the command center.

« Captainhood? Is that even a word? » Shannon asked, a smaller grin on her lips.

« No, it isn’t. And I don’t think this ‘calling’ is a fair way to select who gets that chair. » added Marcel.

« Then how do we chose? » I asked.

« I know! I’ll flip you for it. » Kahlen said, her face taking on a mischievous look.

Seconds later, I found myself being turned upside down by invisible hands. I looked around wildly, trying to see what was going on. Marcel and Shannon were also hanging in mid air, their heads barely inches from the floor. Shannon was trying to keep her robes in place, as they were being pulled to the ground. Marcel simply planted his hands on the floor, in case Kahlen lost control of her powers. Though we all knew that we weighed little compared to some of the loads she had lifted, we also knew that she had never tried something like this with more than one person or thing at a time.

I looked at her and saw a single bead of sweat forming on her forehead. « Ok, Kahlen, you’ve had your fun. You can set us up right, now. »

She did so, her lips setting in a pout. « You never let me have any fun. » she whined.

« Hah. This from the girl who convinced me to switch G’ten’s ceremonial dagger with a rubber chew toy? »

« Hey, it’s not my fault that it happened to be a Narn holiday that required the use of the dagger. I’m not from around here. I don’t know any of the aliens here. You, however, have spent you life learning about other races and their beliefs. Why didn’t you know about the ceremony? » she asked.

I blushed. « I got confused with the time of year. I forgot that the Narn homeworld is a few calender months ahead of us. It was the middle of winter on their main continent. The time they celebrate the leaving of the darkness and the coming of the light. »

« What does that mean? » Marcel asked. He knew very little about the beliefs of the other races. He had learned only a little of their biology but none of their beliefs from the computers who grew him. He was having the most trouble in those types of classes.

« A thousand years ago, the Shadow War raged. Some of their ships landed on a primitive planet called Narn. They wiped out all the natural telepaths and set up bases on several continents and small islands. Eventually, a Narn by the name of G’Quon rose out of nowhere and with the help of a ‘being of light with the face of Narn’ directed the Narns in driving off the enemy. »

Marcel frowned.  » ‘Being of light’? Why do I know that from somewhere? »

Shannon idly ran her hand along the nearest of the stations, the one that formed the cross. « That’s how the Vorlons were described. My people have had a long relationship with them. They have been on Minbar for a very long time and helped Valen form the Council and without them, we would still be as we were before Valen. » Minbari can not cry. But they do have ways of showing sadness. And right now, Shannon was displaying many of those signs. « The Warrior cast was dominant and Religious were totally aloof. We, the workers, were mere pawns for them in their struggles for dominance. » Her face brightened. « Valen changed that. When he arrived, he preached that the casts were equal. The Warriors fight, the Religious pray, and the Workers build. No one cast could survive without the others. Valen even took a Worker as his mate. The Warriors hail him as the greatest of them, while the Religious worship him.

« The workers -we- know that he was a great man. He was the embodiment of all casts. He was the greatest of warriors and a holy man. But he was also a builder. He built a Minbar where all were treated equally and preference shown to no one cast or clan. Where it was safe for people to live without worrying about their safety from the wars that raged. He gave us a sense of purpose and being. He made us whole. The Grey council he created was his greatest achievement. Three members from each of the three casts, and one more. This one, the greatest of us chosen, was the leader. Worker, Warrior, Religious. It did not matter which of these he belonged to for upon being chosen, he was no longer a member of that cast. He was above the casts. His word was law by Valen’s decree. » Shannon was now sitting in the seat behind the console. She was keying in commands to the board.

She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. « Anyway. We were trying to decide who get’s the Captaincy. I believe that I will give up any claim to that title. I will take this station, if there are no objections. »

« Which one is it? » I asked.

« It is the engineering/science station. This is the station that monitors the ship functions and also has the scanning controls. » She explained. « From what it says here, we are only 35 hours from Minbar. » She looked up, an expression of surprise on her face. « This is indeed the fastest ship I have ever been on. Normally, we would still be nearly three days from Minbar. »

Kahlen smiled. « That leaves the three of us. » She looked at Marcel and I eagerly. « Either of you have straws handy? »

Marcel looked puzzled but I understood where she was going with this. My parents had occasionally made decisions about things using this ancient human process. I remembered when they had tried to explain about sex. They had had to resort to the straws to see who would have the duty of telling me.

« No. But there has to be someway to decide fairly. »

Marcel smiled. It was still strange to see him doing that. « I know how to cut it to two choices. » he said.

« How? » asked Kahlen while I echoed her.

« I also renounce any claim. » He walked around to the other side of the chair and took position at the right hand station. « This is the weapons center. I will take this. »

« Why? » I asked. « It’s unlikely it will be used. »

« Perhaps, but I would like to get to know this station better. » He scanned the controls. « Some of these weapons are unfamiliar to me and I would enjoy the chance to study them. »

« So what’s left? » asked Kahlen.

« Well, there’s the captain’s chair that your sitting in and there’s the navigation center. »

« What’s the difference? » she asked. She was losing her enthusiasm for the captaincy.

« Well, the captain is the one that makes all the decisions and issues all the orders. The navigator is the one who actually gets to make the changes in course corrections and pilots the ship. »

« Well, we already have a course set in and there are no decisions to make. What’s the point of all this? »

I grinned. Kahlen knew less about hyperspace travel than I did about her world. « Well, you see. We do have a set course. But hyperspace isn’t like normal space. There are sort of currents that push against the ship. There are things, sort of like clouds and water vapour, that bump into the ship, occasionally knocking us off course. The pilot is essential to correcting these slight changes and keeping us on course. They also have to locate the larger of the ‘clouds’ and go around them, always remembering to stay on a relatively straight course so we don’t lose sight of the beacons. »

Her eyes were glowing. « So it’s better to be pilot, than captain? In that case, you be captain. » She floated herself out of the chair and into the pilots station. She nodded to me and moved me over to stand before the chair, setting me down lightly on my feet.

Somehow, as I sat in that chair, it felt right. The chair fitted me like it had been made especially for my body. It was just the right height for my legs and the back was perfectly molded for my back. There was even a small indentation in the head rest that my crest fit into perfectly. Except for a few of the minor changes I had had done in the carvings. Shannon had a talent for bone carving. She said she had been honoured to do it for me. Bonecarvings were usually done by a close member of the family or clan who specialized in the art. Unfortunately, they hurt like hell if done improperly.

« Keep us on as straight a line for Minbar as you can, Kahlen. » I ordered, deepening my voice and putting as much authority as I possessed into it.

« Yes, Captain. » she replied giggling. The others also laughed lightly.

« Shannon, scan the area. Let me know if anything comes into range. »

« Yes sir. » The Minbari was struggling valiantly not to break out laughing as she listened to me issue orders.

« Marcel, run through a systems check. I want to be able to fire at a moments notice should something go wrong. »

« Aye Captain. » he replied, starting to run a diagnostic of the weapons systems. I sat in the chair, feeling pretty happy with my life. I was on a ship with my best friends and some members of my extended family, and I was on my way home for the first time in a year. *Life is good*, I thought to myself.

*Chapter 8*: Act 8

************************Chapter 8******************************************

We were actually on the bridge for about 9 and a half hours instead of the 8 we had thought. After the eight hours, we woke uncle Mike, he said he had some work to do, so we could stay on the bridge until he came.

It was fun. Though there wasn’t really that much that needed doing, we did learn quite a bit about the running of a ship. We also learned a few the things we hadn’t expected. Kahlen, for instance, learned that Hyperspace strengthened her already impressive telepathic abilities. She claimed that she was able to reach Minbar, but since she didn’t know anyone there, she wasn’t able to pinpoint any specific thoughts. She said she felt an overall sense of peace and general contentment. Which I have to admit, pretty much describes the feeling of Minbar.

Shannon and Kahlen tried to talk Marcel into letting them pick out some clothes for him. They used me as an example as their success as designers and I pretended to be upset. He refused, stating that the only things he would wear were his Ranger uniforms or the clothes that had been made for him. I had to admit, the fabric of the material was amazing. I had once tried to cut it with a pair of scissors. All that accomplished was dulling the blades of the scissors.

He admitted that the clothes had always been there for as long as he could remember. He said that when he had become old enough to survive outside of the incubation pod and had learned what he needed to care for himself, he had found the clothes in a dresser. They had fit him perfectly when he was young, and the same clothes had somehow stretched and grown as he had, always remaining taunt on his body. This had the effect of showing off his excellent physique to great advantage.

I asked him what his friends, the aliens had thought. He shrugged and replied that he had, when he had visited them, worn the same clothing they had. He had found those clothes also in the dresser with his more « down to earth », as the expression goes, clothing.

Kahlen and Shannon jumped on this and finally convinced him to at least think about getting a change of clothing that would let him blend in more. He shook his head and said that it wasn’t his clothes that caused people to notice him. Kahlen studied him appreciatively and told him that the tight material helped a lot, at least with the female population. I swear, I saw him blush!

When Uncle Mike finally showed up, he told us to go get some sleep. Since we had had only four hours of sleep the day before we left, we all readily agreed.

I had trouble sleeping. The bed was too soft and was flat. This was a combination, I knew, that would cause me to oversleep. Although I did my best to hide it, I had always preferred sleeping in a Minbari style bed. I found it easier to sleep and more importantly, to wake up on time, on one of those solid, slanted beds. I had always had trouble getting up from a human bed. There was just something about them that made me want to stay in bed as long as I could.

I decided that I wouldn’t be able to sleep in that bed, so I tried to think about what I could do to get to sleep. I took the mattress off the bed, and that was a little better. I studied the construction for a few moments. I noticed that the end of the bed could collapse to form a shallow angle to the floor. Further exploration led me to find that the head of the bed could be raised to something resembling a Minbari bed. I grinned, marvelled by the ingenuity of the designers. The beds could be converted from Minbari to Human and back depending on the preference of the sleeper. Deciding that a touch of padding wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, I placed the mattress back onto the now angled bed and found that there was a slightly raised border along the edge of the frame. I guessed that the designers had also implemented this so that the mattress could be used without risk of it sliding during the night.

Now comfortable, I closed my eyes and ordered myself to sleep. It was a meditation trick we had been taught to help us rest when we were in pain or when we were not mentally tired but our bodies needed rest.

A gentle musical note woke me. My eyes opened and I checked my internal clock to see how long I had slept. I was surprised to find that I had been out for nearly 9 hours.

I jumped out of bed and put on a robe. I had changed into a pair of shorts to sleep, something that my father had taught me. It was much more comfortable than the heavy robes usually worn as sleep garments by Minbari.

I opened the door to find Kahlen, wearing one of her own creations. She claimed that it was a popular outfit from her own time and world. She called the shirt a t-shirt, which I guess came from the fact that it looked sort of like a ‘T’ when it was lying flat. It was a dark blue and had some sort of corporate logo on the left breast over the heart. She had a pair of shorts on, not much different from the ones I had on except for the colour and size. On her feet, she was wearing an old pair of shoes from a style she called sneakers. I have no clue where the manufacturers got the name, for they tended to squeak and slide on the floor, making it almost impossible for anyone wearing them to sneak anywhere.

The shorts went down to her knees and were a navy blue that was almost dark enough to be purple. They were made of denim. The ones I had on under my robe were grey and were made of a Minbari material that I found to be the most comfortable for me while I slept. They were quite short and I had never worn them at the training center.

« Hey. What’s up? » I asked, inviting her in.

« Nothing. Just getting a little bored. » She looked around the room, going to stand by the desk. « Man, it’s not fair. Your room’s huge! Mine’s smaller than the turbolift. »

« Oh, come on. It can’t be that small. » I said looking around the room. I did see her point. My room was quite large by normal standards. I wondered why.

She laughed. « You’re right. It isn’t quite that small. But it’s also not this big. »

I leaned against the wall, flashing her a quick grin. « Privileges of command, I guess. I think Uncle Mike knew or guessed how things would turn out for us. He usually does. »

« Yeah, well it’s not like it would be hard to do. You’re a natural leader. »

I shook my head. « I wouldn’t say that. I just happen to be well liked. »

Now she shook her head. « You don’t get it, do you? You are so tied up in thinking about humbling your self and not taking advantage of your rather unique situation, that you just don’t see how others look to you. »

« What do you mean? »

« Davdan or David. It doesn’t matter what people call you. It isn’t even who your parents are. You are so busy trying to fit in, that you don’t realize the power that you have. »

I laughed. « I don’t have any power. I’m just a Ranger in training. »

She emitted a short snort. « You are not ‘just’ anything. You have an air of confidence about you that draws people to you. You have – let’s call it an aura- that makes you approachable. Yes, partly because of your family, you have an ingrained sense of power and the applications of power. You don’t have any official power base, but you are in a position of authority over the rest of us. You have lived with the Rangers hanging around you since, well likely the day you were conceived. »

I tried to deny it but she cut me off. « You can’t deny that people are always coming to you with their problems. Even people who don’t like you very much. Whenever they have trouble with something -rules, classes, other people, it doesn’t matter what- they come to you. Because they know that you can help them. They trust you to look after them. I told you once that WE would do anything for you and I wasn’t kidding. We would DIE for you, if we had to. Look at us, your friends. Think about us for a moment. NO one would have guessed that we would be friends. » She gave a small grin. « Let’s face it. The three of us aren’t exactly the most lovable of people. »

« Shannon’s more human than Minbari, despite her appearance. She’s ignored by the other Minbari trainees, and not because she’s Worker cast. The only reason she hasn’t had any problems with them, especially the ones who are Warrior cast, is because of her friendship with you. Sure, at first, they only did it out of fear of your parents. They might not like your parents, but very few of them have no respect for them. And they’ve learned to respect you, not because of THEM, but because of you. You have earned their respect simply by being yourself. »

I was fascinated. I had never heard anything like this before. She was telling me how other people saw me. She was explaining myself to me. « I don’t know what to say. » I said truthfully.

« Then say nothing. I’m not done yet. » She was pacing now. « That’s just Shannon. You’ve helped me too. You’ve giving me something nothing else has since I came to this universe. Since I’ve met you and the others, I’ve felt a sense of home. By being my friend, you’ve given me a home among the Rangers. » Her eyes were watering. « You have no idea how much that means to me. My parents kicked me out when they learned what I am. Then I was found by people who were dearer to me than any blood family could ever be. Because they accepted me, all of me, without reservation and without any encouragement. They loved me. They treated me like I was one of them. But I wasn’t. Not really. Their lifestyle didn’t suite me. Constant warfare had made the world a horrible place. We were hated and feared because of our differences.

« I know now that I didn’t belong with them. They took me in and trained me, loved me, but I never really felt like I was one of them. Then I was trapped here. I’ve only been here a short time, but I know that I do belong here. I don’t mean in this universe or in the Rangers, I mean here, with you and Shannon and Marcel. The three of you are more of a family than anyone else I can remember. You’ve been there for me when I had trouble adapting to the rigid order of the Rangers. You’ve helped me with my classes and with my attitude. Before I met you, I felt lost. Than I walked into that room, and you were there. You accepted me more completely than anyone I have ever known. »

« You don’t see me as a freak or as an oddity. The only thing you’ve ever asked is that I treat you fairly and that I be your friend. You’ve never asked me to use my abilities to your advantage, like my people, you don’t look at me like a science experiment like many of the others. Or like a brain dead doll only good enough to look at and to … well I’m sure you understand. » She sighed. « Poor Marcel. »

I frowned. « Huh? »

She giggled. « Always left to last, despite his obviousness. He may act like he’s an emotionless drone, but we know better. He just doesn’t know how to relate to others. He was, for all intents and purposes, alone for his entire life before coming to the Rangers. Sure, he has all those doctorates and he’s probably the strongest person either of us will ever meet, but he isn’t a people person. He can’t understand other people’s actions. If it wasn’t for you, he would probably have killed someone by now. He has no skill at subtlety or subterfuge. He says what he means. He HATES it when people don’t do the same. You’ve been able to help him learn how to control himself. By your example you’re showing him how to react and how to behave towards others. He’d be lost without having you to follow. Have you noticed that he has never really let go? I mean, during the spars. He’s never used his full strength. He ALWAYS holds back. »

« I have noticed. I thought he was just being careful. »

« He is. And he’s being careful because of you. He’s watched you and the others. He’s tried to limit himself to what you are capable of. And it’s not easy for him. You’ve SEEN him fight. You have to have realized that he is better than anyone else there. Including the instructors. » She was staring at me now and I squirmed uncomfortably.

« Yes. He is the best of us. If he were to try. But I wouldn’t say he’s better than the instructors. What about Derhan? »

She shook her head. « Even Derhan. Derhan knows it too. Why do you think Marcel was also excused from the classes? He didn’t show as much talent as you and the others. But Derhan recognized that he was holding back. And why. He’s expecting you to be able to bring Marcel out of his shell. It’s no good for the trainees or for Marcel if he holds back as much as he has. He has to at least try to look like he’s working hard. I’ve never seen him break a sweat, have you? Not in the circle, and not while doing anything else. It’s so easy for him, that he’s limiting himself. Derhan and the others want you to get him to open up and let loose. »

« But why me? »

« Because it’s what your are. Haven’t you been listening? » She leaned forward, her eyes blazing. « You were born to lead. Everyone knows it but you. »

« How do you know all this? » I asked, looking at her suspiciously.

She seemed to become embarrassed. « I eavesdropped on the instructors a few weeks ago. They were talking about our group. One of them mentioned Marcel and the whole thing came out. They discussed everything. »

« How much did you hear? » I asked, not criticizing her eavesdropping.

« Most of it. » She blushed. « I was sort of distracted at the time. »

« Oh. With what? » I asked.

Her face was almost as red as her hair. « Nothing important. »

It took a few seconds for me to get it. « Oh. Anyone I know? »

She stood and went to the far side of the room. « It wasn’t that. I was sleeping -dreaming. »

I shrugged, dropping the subject. Whoever the person was, if Kahlen ever decided to let them know, I for one would consider them the luckiest person in the universe. « Look, why don’t we stop? I’m hungry. Why don’t you go to the mess hall and see if the others are there, while I get dressed? We’ll all meet there in a few minutes, ok? »

She nodded and started towards the door. « Sure. I believe Shannon is in the temple meditating. I think Marcel is already in the mess hall. He’s been up since before I woke. I went to get a snack and he was eating. After I got dressed, I stopped by. He was still there and still eating. »

« How long ago was this? » I asked, sliding my robe off and stepping into the small washroom. I started the water of the shower running and looked around for a towel. There were a few of them on a small shelf over the toilet.

« About two hours. » she replied. I started when I heard her voice. She was standing in the doorway to the washroom, watching me.

« Then he should still be there. » I stated, looking at her in the mirror. « Now, if you don’t mind, I intend to shower and get dressed. »

She still made no indication that she would move as she replied. « I don’t mind. Go right ahead. »

I turned to stare at her, my jaw pumping up and down in the air. « Kahlen! »

She laughed at my expression. « Don’t worry, I’m going. » She shook her head and left, the door chiming closed behind her.

Muttering about her sense of humour I tossed my shorts onto the shelf, and stepped under the stream of hot water.

*Chapter 9*: Act 9

***********************Chapter 9*************************************

We reached Minbar with no complications. It was a fun trip. Uncle Mike regaled us with stories about B5. He told us about the time my father had been kidnapped by the Streib and how he had gotten free. He told us how shocked he had been when he had first seen my mother after her change. He even told us about the time he had been shot in the back after the assassination of then Earth President Santiago.

He shared many stories with us, some that I had heard and others that I hadn’t. He also filled a few of the gaps in some of the stories that I had been told. Some of them had me laughing so hard, I nearly fell out of my seat. The one about how he had over heard my parents talking about the word ‘butt’ was particularly funny. I could imagine my parents having that discussion. My mother had one of the most unique senses of humour of any one I had ever met.

Whenever he started to really get going, Aunt Lise would step in and tell us about something he had done. I had never known that he had once been a GROPOS. I had also never known that he was a recovering alcoholic. They were both candid about anything they were asked and neither tried to gloss over any unpleasant details.

We all ended up sharing stories from our pasts. I told my friends, for the first time, what I had been through a few years earlier with the Centauri. Shannon shared with us the grief she had felt when her mother had died a few months back. Kahlen told story after story about her former compatriots. It seemed that this small group of people was all that stood between chaos and order on her world. Marcel told us a myth from the race he had known. He told us more about them in those few hours than he had told is in the previous year. I realized that he really was trying to open himself to others.

By the time we landed, we were all worn out both emotionally and physically. We were greeted by a pair of Rangers, some of the ones I recognized from my childhood. They greeted me warmly, and told us that my parents were in the capital finalizing details for the trip.

I felt a twinge of disappointment that they weren’t there. I knew that they were very busy, but I would have thought that they would be at the port to meet me. After all, I hadn’t been home in almost a year.

As we stepped into the groundcar, Kahlen reached over and gave my hand a squeeze. I thanked her silently and saw her nod, so I knew that she was actively scanning.

As we rode along slowly, my friends gaped out the windows at the crystalline structures that seemed to grow out of the terrain. Their awe made me reassess the world of my birth. It had never cessed to amaze me how beautiful my world was. The world was a piece of art. Everything was a piece of the whole and it was all beautiful.

There were few other vehicles moving along the pathways and I remembered that it had always been so. People rarely left their homes or workplaces, and when they did, they preferred to walk or take less technological means of transport. I sighed as a sense of warmth and familiarity settled in my chest. For all my differences, this place was my home and these were my people.

We reached the house a little later. There were a few guards standing outside and the small flyer was on the pad. The small four person flyer had been something my father had worked on over the years. He claimed that he occasionally needed to feel the air beneath his feet. I understood. I also felt the drive to fly free of the ground and soar in the air. I was envious of Kahlen’s ability to do just that.

The guards snapped to attention and a pair of Religious cast came out of the house. They told us that they would see us to our rooms. I grinned and told them in perfect Andranoto that I knew the way, and that we would carry our own bags. They bowed deeply to me and walked back into the building. Before they got to far away, I asked them which of the guest rooms had been prepared.

The taller of the two, a male with an elaborate crest told me and added that there was a meal ready in the smaller of the two dinning halls. He asked that we be not be long, for the cooks had prepared a special welcome home feast. I thanked them, and they grinned. They told me, in perfect english, that they were happy I was home, for my mother had been sad since I had left.

Uncle Mike asked me for a translation and I told him what I had said. He grinned, amused. He too, knew the house very well. My parents had set aside a set of rooms for when their friends came over, which wasn’t all that often any more.

I showed my friends were to stow their gear while Uncle Mike and Aunt Lise went to find their rooms. They were on the next floor of the five story building. My friends were all roomed in the suite closest to my old room, where I knew my things would still be, untouched, except perhaps, for the occasional cleaning.

As I stepped into the room that had housed me for the large majority of my life, the sense of being home strengthened and I let up a small cry of pleasure. I had never thought I was homesick until I stepped through the doors into what was my private sanctum. I knew that no matter where I went, or how long I was gone, this would always be my home.

I changed into a more dignified outfit. It wasn’t exactly a match for the Ranger uniform I usually wore, but it was more respectful than what I had worn during the trip. As I finished tying the last catch, a beeping at the door announced that I had a visitor.

I announced them to enter, and my friends stepped in. For a moment, I felt a little nervous. I had never before had friends in here. This was my most private area of seclusion. No one except my parents and the rare servant had entered this room since I reach puberty.

« Well, what do you think? » I asked as I gestured at the room and down at myself.

« You look great! How come you never wore that before? » asked Kahlen as she studied my garments.

« I only wear them here, at home. They’re not the sort of thing I’d want some of the others to see me in. » I laughed. « There’s enough of them who already think I’m spoiled. Why should I let them see me dressed up? But never mind me, » I lowered my voice shyly, « do you like my room? »

« It is a very lovely place. » replied Shannon, her voice low as she studied my home. She was looking at a picture -an actual honest to God picture!- taken of me on a horse. It had been the first time I had ever seen earth. I was nine. My father had taken us there to the farm where he had grown up. My grandfather had died in one of the Drahk attacks, and my grandmother, my Aunt Liz and my cousins were now looking after the farm.

« Is this a horse? » Shannon asked.

« Yes. » I explained about the picture.

« That was a very kind thing for your father to do. He must love you a great deal. »

« He does. » I answered, watching Kahlen as she checked out the bookshelf. She seemed excited by several of the titles. « My father insisted that I have actual books and not just data crystals and computer files. »

Marcel grinned. « Personally, I like computer files. »

Kahlen snorted. « You would. You’re part computer yourself. »

We shared a chuckle and the exploration continued. There were other pictures, both paper and holographic in nature, showing me and my family at different times in my life. My personal favourite was the one of my parents taken a few days before my birth. There was such a look of happiness in my mothers eyes and in the eyes of my father as he looked down at her. Whenever I looked at that picture I knew that no matter what happened, my parents would always love me.

The door beeping startled us out of my recantation of my life. Mary and a Ranger stood at the door.

« Come on, David. Food’s ready. » she said with a grin. I shook my head. She was becoming too much like her father for my liking.

We walked through the corridors and down the stairs. The entire time, I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. Not wrong exactly. Just . . . that there was something going on that I didn’t know about. Mary was sporting a grin that a cruiser could fly through, and the Ranger with her was also trying to hide her emotions.

As we approached the family dinning room, the sense of anticipation that hung in the air grew. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kahlen stifle a giggle and whisper something to Shannon, who also bit back a laugh. I guessed that she had picked up a stray thought that she found humorous and sighed silently.

As I pushed open the doors, I realized that the room was completely black. I reached into my sleeve and grasped my pike, not knowing what to expect.

« Lights. » I called in Andranoto.

The lights came on and I blinked.

« Surprise!! » shouted the people gathered in the room.

I nearly dropped my pike. Seeing that there was no threat, I closed it and place it pack in my sleeve. Looking around at the faces of all the people I cared about, I felt my eyes water.

« Mother! Father! I thought you wouldn’t be here for a few more hours! » I said as they stood looking at me.

They were grinning and crying at the same time. I approached them and we came together in a hug. We were crying and laughing and squeezing each other, happy to be together again. I looked down at my mother and a jolt went through me. Either she was getting smaller, or I was growing.

She placed her hand on my cheek in a gesture I knew she reserved for me and my father. « It is good to have you home, David. It has been too long. »

« Yes. It has. I should have returned earlier. » I remembered my suspicions and laughed. « I must have looked foolish, standing there with my pike, ready to defend myself. »

« No, son,  » my father stated, his voice shaking slightly. « You did exactly the right thing. You went into an unknown situation ready to defend yourself. « You behaved perfectly in line with your training. In fact, I would have been disappointed had you reacted any other way. »

I was too happy that they were here, with me, to care. I tossed my arms around them again and pulled them close. I took a deep breath and the smells of my mother’s shampoo and perfumes wafted in the air. Tears were streaming from my face and I had forgotten everything except the feeling of love my parents were exuding.

My mother pulled back and looked me over critically. She reached up and wiped my eyes with her sleeve. « You should not cry in front of all these people. What will they think? »

« I don’t care. » I said, reaching up and wiping her tears away. My father was grinning like an idiot, one arm around each of us.

« But you haven’t introduced your friends. » she rebuffed, glancing over my shoulder to the doorway.

I turned my head and saw them watching us, all of them wearing goofy grins on their faces. When Shannon realized that my parents were watching, she controlled her expression and bowed low. Marcel grinned wider, nodding his head to my father, who he had already met. Kahlen was staring at my mother, an expression I couldn’t recognize on her face.

I grinned and gestured for them to come in. They did so slowly, Mary slipping out from behind them and joining her parents at the table.

« Mother, I would like you to meet the best friends I have ever had. » I said, angling my body so that I was facing them while standing in between my parents. « The human man is Marcel, he has no last name. The woman is Kahlen O’Reilly. The other with them is Shannon Hinnonson. »

« Hinnonson? » my mother asked. « You are Minbari, are you not? »

« Yes, Madam President. » she answered shyly. « My parents and I lived on a human colony. I have spent my entire life among them. When my parents moved there, they took a human style name. They took the clan name and added the word ‘son’ at the end. »

« Hinnon? I knew some of that clan a long time ago. Did your parents ever work on the White Star Fleet? »

« Yes, Ma’am. » she replied. « They were among those you chose to be honoured to be among the designers and chief builders. »

Light dawned in her eyes. « So you are the child of Geron and Hateri? »

« Yes, Madame President. I am honoured to be in your home »

« It is I who am honoured to meet you, Shannon. Your parents were good people and I was saddened by their decision to leave. » My mother gave her a brilliant smile and bowed to her. Shannon smiled back wanly. My mother tended to have that affect on people. « Please, all of you. Call me Delenn. The friends of my son, are my friends also. Be welcome into my home. » She studied my other friends while Father spoke quietly to Shannon, gesturing her to a seat.

She was facing Kahlen, who was still looking at her with that expression on her face. They studied each other for a moment, before each broke into a grin.

« It’s a real pleasure to meet you, Delenn. » Kahlen said, holding out a hand. « I’ve been looking forward to meeting you since I first got to know David. »

« Thank you. David has spoken much about you all. » My mother took her hand in hers, and instead of shaking it gave it a gentle squeeze. They seemed to communicate silently for a moment before my mother let go, her smile wider than before.

She then turned to Marcel. As she did I remembered something Kahlen had said to me recently. It seemed to be true. Marcel was always the last included in anything. Another thought struck me as I watched the small figure approach the giant who still stood by the door.

*It’s because they’re afraid of him.* I thought to my self. *It’s not a conscious thing. They just see him and react to his dominating presence by being hesitant to approach him. I’ve done the same thing myself, and I’m his best friend. He’s a warrior and it flows out of him like the sense of peace from my mother or of solidity from my father. He can’t help it. His every action and posture screams it loudly for everyone to see.*

I tuned back into the conversation in time to catch their greetings.

« Hello, Delenn. » Marcel’s face was split by a lopsided grin. He reached down and placed his huge hand in front of my mother. She looked down at it for a moment before taking it with her own. Marcel gently shook his hand up and down a few times. My mother’s hand was swallowed completely by his.

« Greetings, Marcel. Welcome to our home. » My mother studied him the same way she had studied Shannon and Kahlen. It was almost as if she was judging their worthiness to be my friends. « I have heard somewhat of you. Is it true that you were born on a deserted planet and grew up among aliens? »

He nodded. « Well, I wasn’t exactly born, as it were, but that is how it lived. »

« Were you never curious about your origins? » she asked.

Marcel seemed to think about it for a moment. « Not really. I had friends. I wasn’t alone. I not only learned everything that the computer was designed to teach me, but I also learned how to sing, and how to fight. I was able to put into practice many of the theories the machines told me. I even learned a style that combined the best of all human martial arts, and several alien martial arts. I was quite comfortable. Then the Ranger ship landed. I saw then what I was and I realized that I would have to leave. So I asked them to take me with them and they did. About a year ago, I applied to join the rangers, and I was lucky enough to be roomed with Davdan, Shannon and Kahlen. »

My mother turned to face me. « Are you still using that childhood name, David? I would have thought you would have grown out of it by now. »

I explained why I used the name I had unwittingly given my self as a child. She nodded and came back to stand with me and father.

« I understand. It can be difficult being in our position. » I knew she was speaking from experience. There was a bond between us that existed between no one else in the universe. In a way, we were the only two of our kind. She had dealt with the problems of being neither one nor the other for longer than I have.

She brightened and took my arm, leading me to the table. I recognized a few of the people standing there. There was Dranenn and Faltenn, two of my friends from childhood. Standing at the far end of the room was another of my ‘uncles’.

I turned to Uncle Mike. « I thought you said Uncle Stephen and Aunt Susan weren’t going to be here? »

« Did I say that? I seem to remember saying that they wouldn’t be coming with US. I can’t recall saying anything about them being HERE. »

I shook my head. « Hello, Uncle Stephen. » I called to the tall black man.

« Hello, David. It’s been awhile. »

I faced my mother. « Is everyone coming with us on our family vacation? »

It was Uncle Stephen who answered. « No. Unfortunately, I could only get away from the office for a few days. There’s been an outbreak of some kind on a Minbari colony world. They asked Earth for help, and since I’m the resident expert on Minbari physiology, they sent me. »

I was worried. « Is it dangerous? »

He shrugged. « It doesn’t seem to be contagious and it isn’t fatal. From what I’ve seen, it renders the victim . . . sterile. There are a few other symptoms, including homicidal rage as it nears the end of the cycle. »

« Do you know what caused it? » asked Shannon from her place a few feet away.

He shook his head. « Not yet. I think it could have something to do with the food stores that they’ve received recently. Right now, I have people going over the shipments with a fine tooth comb. I’ll study their findings when I get back. » He smiled. « Look. I’d rather not discuss it any more. I’m here for a few days to see my favourite patient and my friends. »

My parents guided me to a seat at the head of the table. It was the spot where my father usually sat, but he shooed me into it, taking the chair to my right while mother sat on my left. Marcel finally came and got a seat in between Kahlen and Shannon.

We sat and the food was served. It was a mix of all my favourites, both human and Minbari. There were even a few dishes I had learned to like from some of the other races. I was honoured that my parents would go to so much trouble.

While we ate, we talked. There would be several discussions going on at the table at one time. Uncle Mike was bragging to Uncle Stephen about how Mary’s tennis game was proceeding. Dranenn and Faltenn were talking to Shannon and Kahlen. If I had paid attention, I would have seen them almost flirting with Shannon.

Marcel was talking to Mary and Lise. I couldn’t really hear what they were saying, but Mary kept looking at me and giggling. My parents and I were in our own little world, talking about nothing and everything. My mother had recently negotiated a peace between the Centauri and the Narn that guaranteed that should either race reopen hostilities, they would have to forfeit a very large sum of money and resources to the Alliance. I wondered how long it would last. I knew that the current Centauri Emperor, Vir Cotto, was a friend of my parents and did not like what his people had done to the Narn. He would do everything he could to keep the peace. As would Ta’lon, the leader of the Narn ruling body, the Kha’ri.

Conversations drifted and mingled among the guests. I learned that Dranenn and Faltenn would soon be going to the temple for the final tests. I over heard my father whisper something to Kahlen, who was sitting next to him. I could just make out her blush in the dim light.

We talked and ate for hours. I don’t believe I had ever eaten that much in my entire life. Everything was so good! The food was magnificent, the company was the best I had had in a long time, and the sense of peace and love that hung in the air was soothing.

Eventually, we could eat no more. Marcel seemed downcast when the meal came to an end, but he cheered up when we moved to the balcony that over looked my city. To my surprise and delight, there were fireworks exploding in the air. I could even make out flyers doing all kinds of stunts. I looked at my parents and they grinned.

« How did you ever arrange this? And all for me? » I asked them quietly.

« It was not just for you. » my father replied. « They wanted to do this. Every one of them volunteered. Hell, most of it was planned by themselves when they heard that you would be coming back. » There were tears in his eyes. « They all love you, son. Every single one of them out there is doing this because they care for you. »

I couldn’t speak. I pulled him into a hug. I felt slim arms slide around me and knew that they were my mother’s. I had never before felt so happy.

Eventually, the fireworks ran out and it grew too dark to see the flyers. People started drifting off to bed, leaving me alone with my parents. We sat there, on the balcony that had always been one of my favourite places to read and play, not saying anything. We basked in each others presence.

« I am so proud of you, David. » my mother said. « You are becoming a man. »

I blushed. « Thank you. »

« I have missed you. » she said, her voice warm and filled with love. « It has been odd. Since you left, I have felt that something was missing. »

« I feel the same way, Mother. » We were sitting on the bench that stood on the balcony. My mother was on my left, and my father on the right. « It is good to be home. Even if only for a little while. »

My father was being unusually quiet.

« Is there something wrong, Dad? » I asked.

He shook his head. « No. I was just remembering the first time I held you in my arms. You were screaming and kicking and I couldn’t believe that something that small could make that much noise. Or that I could feel that much love for someone besides your mother. You were perfect. »

I tried to answer but, when I opened my mouth, I yawned. My parents giggled.

« I think you should get some sleep. We have much to do tomorrow. » Mother said, as she pushed me off the bench. I tried to protest, but she shushed me. « We have two weeks together in which to talk, David. It was a long trip and you are tired. Go get some sleep. »

I grinned. « Okay. Goodnight, Mom. Dad. »

« Goodnight, David. May your dreams be filled with joy. »

As I rounded the corner, I paused. I peeked around the edge of the wall. My parents were sitting together now, their arms around each other. My mother’s head was resting on Dad’s shoulder. I could just make out what they were saying.

« We’ve raised a good son, Delenn. He’ll be a fine man one day. He has some good friends and they will only get better. »

« Yes. Did you know that it was Shannon that changed the carvings on his crest? Kahlen was telling me about how Shannon had always wanted to become a carver. » She seemed to struggle for a moment, as if searching for the words. « John, do you have any regrets? »

He leaned back and thought for a moment. « No. Nothing much anyway. If I had to do it all over again, I would make the same decisions. What about you? »

It was her turn to consider his words. « I regret that I did not tell you sooner how much you meant to me. And that you will not be there with me to watch our son become a man. »

I felt a catch in my throat. She said the words calmly. Too calmly really. I could tell that she was fighting not to break out crying. My father tensed and pulled her closer.

« We’ve had this discussion before, Delenn. What I did had to be done, and I was the only one who could do it. You remember what I told you about the dream Kosh sent me? »

Her head bobbed up and down in a nod.

« What happened, happened. There’s nothing I or anyone can do to change it. If I hadn’t gone to Zha’ha’dum, we would never have found Lorien, the Shadows would have been stronger and we would never have been able to convince the First Ones to fight with us. »

« In here, I know you are right,  » she said tapping her finger to her head. « But in here, » she tapped her chest were her heart was. « In here, I can not help but feel cheated. »

He leaned in and gave her a kiss. « If I hadn’t gone, neither of us would be here now. David would not have been born and the Shadows would have won. I think that’s worth the sacrifice I made. » He smiled down at her. « No matter how much time we have left together, know this, my love. I WILL see you again, in the place were no shadows fall. We are old souls, destined to find each other again. »

They cuddled together and I quietly slipped away, tears threatening to fall again. It was not fair that the universe had demanded such a price of my parents. For all they had done, they deserved more than a palsy twenty years together.

*Chapter 10*: Act 10

*************************Chapter 10*************************************

The time passed quickly on Minbar. We visited some of the most important sites to my people. Among them were the hill were Valen gave both his first and his last speeches. Some of the others included were among my personal favourites. The Temple where my mother had been taught, the great waterfalls and park were my father had taught me and a few others how to play baseball.

My friends seemed to be most impressed by the waterfalls. I could understand. They were beautiful. Rising hundreds of meters high, the clear water would fall from the peak and come crashing down on the crystalline formations below, sending a cascade of fine spray into the air in all directions.

The refraction of the light through the water and into the crystals caused several permanent rainbows. These rainbows would arc through each other and the colours would merge and combine in different ways. It was a rare and wondrous sight that had always managed to fill me with pride and awe at the raw beauty of my world.

Like I had told Marcel, we were allowed to go into the city and walk around. I pointed out buildings that I recognized and we puzzled over those that I did not. Sometimes my parents would join us, and when we came to a building that I did not know, they would explain it’s purpose. But more often than not, they let the five of us (Mary just naturally joined our little group) go out and look around on our own. There was only one incident where there might have been problems.

We were walking along one of the winding roads when Marcel accidentally bumped into a cloaked figure. The figure went sprawling onto the ground and leapt to its feet in anger. He through back his hood and I recognized the face as belonging to the leader of the Wind Swords Clan of the Warrior cast.

Luckily, the Wind Swords were among the more tolerant of the Warrior cast and he also recognized us. He studied Marcel thoroughly, as though judging him. He gave a small nod and bowed to us. We bowed back and Marcel apologized in his pidgin Minbari.

Karoon looked over at me quizzically. « He is a warrior? »

I nodded, not sure yet what he was going to do.

« He has the look and feel of one. Tell him that he does not need to apologize. I should not have been walking directly in the middle of the path. My mind was on other matters and this is the first time I have been on Minbar in more years than I care to recall. » He looked me over and gave a small grin. « You are growing nicely, David Sheridan. Perhaps I could tempt you to alter you path and join the Warrior Cast? No? Well, I did not think I could. » He sighed. « You have your own destiny to find among the Rangers. » He nodded and bowed to each of my friends. « I hope one day for the chance to fight beside you all. » Marcel grinned and added his own words to this sentiment.

We went about our way and he proceeded into a building that I knew housed the records of the recent Council meetings. I showed my friends the small pond not too far from our home where my father had taught my mother and I to swim. They asked if we could go swimming, and since I couldn’t see any reason why not, I agreed. We returned to the house and got some clothing that would be more appropriate for the water and returned. Marcel had to borrow a pair of shorts from my father, and even then, they were still tight on him. But with Mary along, we agreed that it would be best if we didn’t skinny dip.

On our last day, my mother brought us to the Starfire Wheel. She told us the story of how Valen had been challenged and how he had withstood the full fury of the wheel. She also told us about Neroon’s sacrifice when she had stepped into the Wheel against Shakiri.

I was as fascinated as my friends. She had never talked about her own ordeal in the Wheel before. I had known of it, for it was in the records that she had made me study. But she would not talk of it and neither would my father. It seemed to be a sore point between them.

Things got back to a happier tone, when my father convinced us to have a short baseball game. My mother had never really understood my father’s obsession with the sport, but it was one of many things I had inherited from him. My father managed to talk my mother into playing, and she was able to convince enough Minbari to join in so that we could have two teams with nine players.

The first team was made up of my parents, Uncle Mike, Aunt Lise, Mary, Dranenn, Falten and a pair of human Rangers who were fans of the game. The other team was made up of me, Marcel, Kahlen, Shannon, and a mix of Narn, Human and Minbari rangers. Since Kahlen and I were the only ones on our team to have ever played the game, we got to choose whether or not to bat first.

Of course we choose to let my parents team bat first. We both knew that it was better to have the last chance at bat in case we were behind. We had a ball.

There is nothing funnier than watching people playing baseball for the first time. They stumbled, took wild hacks at the ball and occasionally ran the wrong way. The first time my mother stepped to the plate, I couldn’t help but laugh. She was wearing one of the baseball uniforms my father had ordered for me when I was a little younger. It fit her better than it had me. She was also using one of my old gloves. Some of the Rangers had pulled gloves out of their packs and I began to wonder just how they had gotten selected to be among those guarding my parents.

The game was fun. My father could still throw as hard as ever, though he took it easy on the people new to the sport. Surprisingly, my mother was a pretty good player. I guess she picked up a few things, watching us play. The best player by far was Kahlen. She used her ability to fly shamelessly, catching anything and everything that was hit to her in center field. There was some debate as to whether she should be allowed to do this, but we argued that if she had to contain herself, than the Narn and Minbari would also have to hold back.

They finally gave in and Kahlen continued to fly through the air to make amazing catches. The Minbari and Narn seemed to be trying to hit the ball further than each other, some of them managing to hit it more than 900 feet. Marcel was able to top them all when he hit the ball and it landed on the balcony of the house, more than 1000 feet from home plate. We all expressed amazement at his strength, but he shrugged it off, claiming he had gotten lucky.

We played several games, switching the teams around a few times. We only stopped when it became too dark to see. We were leaving early the next morning, so we had an early dinner and went to bed. It was a great day, and one of the last where we would all be able to gather together. It was also the last time I played baseball.

*Chapter 11*: Act 11

**************************Chapter 11*************************************

The trip from Minbar to Babylon 5 was uneventful. We took the same ship that we had gone to Minbar in. My parents spent most of the time in the observation lounge with Uncle Mike and Aunt Lise, leaving the running of the ship up to the rest of us. Which was fine with us. I for one was starting to really LIKE the feel of that center chair.

As we flew through the jump gates, I got my first sight of the station from the viewscreen. It had been built more than 25 years ago and was still fully functioning. It had seen some rough days and very little was left of the original materials put into it. And yet, as I looked across the emptiness of the void, I could not help but feel a sense of . . . peace. The station had been built as a bridge to peace between the many alien races.

For 25 years it had been the home of a quarter million people. People coming and going; living and dying. And through it all, it had endured. Only four people had sat on the throne of command. My father was one of them. It had become infamous during his reign. And it had also been the site of a union of peace signed with my creation.

The first commander, Jeffrey Sinclair, had started the process by becoming my mother’s friend. And it had lead him to find his destiny as the greatest Minbari to ever live. My father had first met my mother in one of the Council chambers on the station, after her metamorphosis. Sinclair had been instrumental in helping her reach the decision to go through the change. In fact, he is a distant ancestor of mine. Strange to think the he was only a few years older than my father when he went back in time to become Valen.

The third commander lasted more than 11 years. Captain Elizabeth Lochley. She had done an excellent job running the station. She had sided with Clark during the civil war, not able to turn her back on what she saw as her duty. I had met her only once, before the accident that claimed her life. She had seemed to be a friendly person. I was only 9 at the time. I could tell that there was some kind of tension between her and Mom. My father later explained that he had once been married to Lochley, when they had been in the Academy together.

After Lochley’s death, Commander David Corwin was promoted to Captain and handed the reins. Corwin was one of only two people still on station who had been there since the beginning. He had started as a lowly tech, but through hard work and undying loyalty to the station’s principal of peace, he had earned the trust of his superiors and had risen through the ranks.

The only other person remaining from my parents time on station was Chief Warrant Officer Zach Allen. He walked with a limp now. He had been shot in the leg during a scuffle a few years ago, and despite recent advances in medical treatments, there was nothing that could be done. He would walk with the limp for the rest of his life. They were trying to get him to step down and accept a desk job back on Earth. And had been failing for the last five years.

I asked for docking permission and was told that I could dock as soon as I was ready. I agreed and Kahlen turned control over to C&C. The ship slid into the docking bay. I watched as we slowed and the number painted on the wall. The number 13 flashed by every 50 feet until we came to a stop.

We had already decided to exit through the 4th deck airlock. The lower three decks were below the dock bay’s ‘floor’. We each went to collect our things, after first locking down the controls and shutting down most of the ships functions. We met my parents and the others at the airlock and we stepped through the circle and on to the ramp that lead to the slightly lower ground of the station.

There were two figures waiting for us as we stepped walked down the ramp. It was dim in the docking bay and there was nothing waiting to be loaded. It seemed strange to me that a bay would be this empty, even with the reduced shipments coming to the station.

« Greetings Madam President, Mr. Sheridan. » called out a voice I vaguely remembered.

« Hello, David. » my father answered and I knew who the two people were. « How’s the old girl been holding up lately? »

The middle aged man with the slight paunch grinned. It took years off his face and I realized that it wasn’t something he did overmuch.

« Everything’s still working as well as it ever did, which means barely. » He reached out a hand and the two shook. « How have you been doing, sir? »

My father grinned and shook his head. « How many times do I have to tell you to call me John, David? You aren’t a lowly tech and I’m no longer your superior officer. »

« Maybe. Maybe not. » Corwin stated. « But in my mind, this station will always be yours and I’ll always be the Lt. Commander that the rest of you ordered around for four years. » He bowed to my mother and then reached out a hand. « How are you doing, Madam President? »

My mother was also grinning. « David. You have known me for 24 years. I think we can dispense with all the formalities when I am not here in any type of official capacity. Besides, technically, I have no jurisdiction over you. I am not a citizen of your Earth Alliance. »

« Perhaps not, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve the respect you’ve earned with your position. You are a head of state, and EarthForce regs state that I have to greet all official heads of state with all the ceremony due their positions. »

« He’s never gonna change, Delenn, so don’t even bother to try. » the second voice was much like my father’s. It had the sound of grating stones and authority that only long years of hard use could give someone. Zach Allen stepped forward and gripped my father’s hand. « He was corrupted a long time ago and I’ve been unable to get him to change. Even Lochley gave up, and you KNOW how stubborn she was. »

« Zach. It’s good to see you again. » My father pumped the security man’s hand up and down a few times. « What are you still doing here? I would have thought that you would have returned to Earth by now. »

« They’ve been trying to get me out of here for years. I’ve stuck around to annoy the bureaucrats back home. » He shrugged and his smile widened. « I’m going to hang it up soon, though. This is my last month. »

« What made you stick around so long, Zach? » my uncle Mike asked as he took the man’s hand.

« I didn’t have any one I could trust enough to turn the job over to. But if the rumour is true, it won’t matter soon. I’ve been training this one group

for the last few years, and they’re almost ready. How you been, Micheal? I haven’t seen you since the time you came through here chasing after Bester. Did you ever find that sleaze ball? »

Uncle Mike nodded and slapped Zach on the back. « Yes. » he didn’t elaborate and from the tone in his voice, I was glad he hadn’t.

I waited patiently while the old friends reminisced for a while. Eventually, we started moving and soon, we were standing in the main corridor. There were shops and people going about their business while we passed through the security check point without stopping. One of the security men on duty tried to make us check in, but when his chief and captain both looked at him like he was a bug, he backed off. As we passed through a scanner, it went off, the light flashing and a small beepbeep issuing from a speaker on the side.

« Ah, Chief. I hate to do this, but the regs do say no weapons. Whoever set off the alarm, could you please place your weapon or weapons on this tray? I promise you’ll get them back. » He looked uncomfortable and I could almost sympathize.

Marcel shrugged and shook his head. « I can’t. » By now, all of us were looking at him curiously.

« I can’t go weaponless. If I have to, I’ll stay on the ship. I CAN’T give up my weapons. »

« Sir, I hate to say this, but if he refuses, I’ll have to arrest him. » The security guard was beginning to annoy me.

« Does the ban apply to Rangers? I mean, to pikes and other Ranger weapons? » Shannon asked, a look of confusion on her face.

The guard frowned. « No. Due to the treaty signed by both President Luchenko and President Sheridan twenty years ago, the Rangers have . . . » he trailed off when he realized who was standing in front of him. He came stiffly to attention. « I’m sorry, sir, ma’am. I didn’t recognize you. »

« That is the general idea, Sergeant. » my father said, his eyes taking in the rank of the man. « Why don’t you finish answering the young woman’s question? »

« Ah, yes sir. » He turned to Shannon. « According to the treaty, the Rangers are allowed access to all none secure Earth holdings. They are to be allowed to carry weapons as long as they agree to only use them in self defence. »

Shannon nodded. « That is as I remember reading. » She looked at me and winked. « In that case, Sergeant, you need not worry. My big friend here, will take that promise. Won’t you, Ranger Marcel? »

« Sure. » His deep voice bubbled up out of his chest, filled with amusement. « I promise not to use my weapons unless called upon to defend myself, or another. Will that suffice, Sergeant? Because if not, we have a problem. » He stood straighter and crossed his arms over his chest. The muscles in his arms flexed and he peered down at the much shorter security officer.

The man gulped and looked away. « That’s more than sufficient, Ranger. I . . .do need to ask that you catalogue what you are carrying. »

« I have my pike, and two daggers. »

I looked Marcel over, trying to figure out where he could be hiding something as bulky as a dagger. The pike was being carried in a case attached to his belt.

« May I see your daggers? » He gulped again when Marcel stared down at him. « I really do have to know where you keep them, in case something happens to you. »

Marcel finally nodded and crouched. He undid the clasp of his belt and took off the buckle. He then folded it in half. He pulled on the other end of the belt and a slim blade slide out. As it slide out of the leather-like material it became inflexible. He inserted the ornate end into the make shift handle.

« That’s one. » He said, handing it to the surprised sergeant. He then sat on the floor. He pulled off his shoe and took off the heel. He did the same to the other. He pushed the two together and there was a click as something locked. Next, he pushed forward on a section of the sole and a 7 inch blade slipped out of the front. He took the other shoe and did the same. Two smaller blades came out. He put the blades into the hilt. He then handed the three bladed dagger to the security guard. « And that is two. »

I was impressed. I had know that he always went armed, but I had now idea where he kept the weapons. The way he had handled the daggers, I knew that he had used them before. And I shuddered to think about how and why he had needed to do so.

« The dagger I just handed you is called a ‘d’k tahg’. The other is a ‘ghonDoq’. They were given to me by a great warrior when he learned of my intent to leave the island we shared. » Marcel licked his lips. « They have not left my possession since that day. » His hands were clenching and unclenching and a drop of sweat was forming on his forehead.

The guard noticed his discomfort and handed the lethal blades back. « Thank you. Just, please. If you have to defend yourself. Stick to the pike. It will save us all of us some problems. »

« I will try. » Marcel said as we began walking again. He had wasted no time in replacing his knives in their hiding places.

« So David, who’s idea was it to stick us in Bay 13? » my father asked and for a moment I wondered what he was talking about. Then I remembered that Captain Corwin’s given name was also David.

The middle aged man grinned and winked. « Mine. I felt it was appropriate, given the particular bay’s history. »

« Are those rumours still going around? You would think that after this much time, people would have forgotten that nonsense. »

The Captain shook his head. « No. The rumours are still out there. Not as many as there used to be, but they’re still being spouted by the uninformed. »

« What rumours? » asked Shannon before clapping her hands to her mouth, horrified that she had interrupted their conversation. The term ‘living legend’ is often overused now, but in the cases of my parents and their particular friends, it’s probably not much of an overstatement.

The adults shared a private grin. They had, for the most part, known each other for the majority of the last 24 years. Sure, there were the odd ones that had known each other longer, like Uncle Mike and Aunt Lise, but they were balanced by the fact that Aunt Lise had only know the others for eighteen years. It was odd to think, but Aunt Lise and my father were among the last to join the group. My mother had been on station for a year before my father took command, and Uncle Mike, Mr. Allan and Captain Corwin had already been here when SHE had arrived.

« Well, tell the young woman Dave. » my father said.

The captain turned to Shannon, who was still trying to hide behind her hands. « It’s like this. Among human’s and many races, the number 13 is considered unlucky. So when the station was built, no one wanted to use that bay. Eventually, the Vorlons signed on and sent an Ambassador. They requested the use of a bay for the Ambassador that none of the races would bother him. So the Captain, Sinclair I mean, he decided to assign them bay 13. His was the only ship allowed to dock in that bay for four years. Then Kosh, the Ambassador, was killed. A new Vorlon was sent, and he too used that bay. »

The captain shuddered. « The second Vorlon was frightening. I never actually spoke to either, but I was in the room with Kosh a few times. The second one, who also claimed to be called Kosh, FELT different. He felt evil.

« Once we got rid of both the Vorlons and the Shadows, no one even wanted to go NEAR the bay. The dock workers and lurkers claimed that they heard ‘voices’, like two people talking but when they looked around, no one was there. A few people claim to have seen a Vorlon walking around in the bay. Now, since the Vorlon’s were pretty secretive, there have been no real cohesive accounts of what this ‘Vorlon’ looked like. A few came close. But no one got it really right. »

Kahlen frowned as she floated along beside me. « What did the Vorlons look like? The only descriptions I’ve ever heard was that they were beings of light with a shape pleasing to the eyes. »

My father seemed to squirm uncomfortably. « Well. That’s true. They could look like that. For a human, they would look like the classic definition of ‘angels’. The same went for all the races. A winged being who had the face of the same race as the watcher. The Vorlons visited thousands of worlds and made sure that we would respond favourably to them when they finally revealed themselves. »

« But in reality, they were beings of energy. They were not entirely energy. They had a form and substance. » My mother had taken over where my father stopped. She had much more experience with Vorlons, despite my father’s having carried one around in him for a while. « Their physical bodies were transparent and looked somewhat like an Earth sea creature -What are they called? » She turned to my father.

« Jellyfish? »

« Yes. The Vorlons looked like Earth jellyfish. » Her eyes clouded for a moment and I knew what she was thinking about. She reached out and grabbed Shannon’s hands. « Does that answer the question? » She held Shannon’s hands comfortingly.

« Yes, Delenn. » Shannon tried to avoid my mother’s gaze. Though it had been Kahlen who asked, my mother recognized that the question originated with the shy worker.

I sighed and tried to help Shannon out of her discomfort. Speaking in the worker cast dialogue that she had been raised with, I struggled to find the words. « Shannon, please. There is no reason for you to be embarrassed. You asked a valid question. Remember what we have been taught. No one is better than another, be they Worker, Warrior, Religious, or alien. All are equal and all are valid. You have every right to ask what you did. If you had not, I would have.

« Or Kahlen would have thought of asking. Do not let the Warrior cast win. Do not let their opinions override your sense of self worth. We are Minbari. Be proud. The rest of society would collapse without the Workers. Your cast has built the world where the rest of us live. Without the Workers, do you think that we would be where we are today? »

She gave her head a small shake. « No. »

I sighed. « Shannon, I am tired of this discussion. I am tired of your lack of confidence in yourself. If you can not believe in yourself, than you have no right to be a Ranger. » I had tried everything else. Perhaps a little frankness was needed.

Shannon’s face turned to me. Her eyes were flashing and her jaw was clenched. I could feel the anger inside of her. « I will do my best, as I once told you I would. I can not help the way I was raised, just as YOU can not escape YOUR history. »

I nodded slightly. She made a good point. Though no one had ever come right out and said it, I had always known that I was being groomed to take over from my parents when they felt I was ready. I too, could read the prophecies and news reports.

And although I tried not to think about it, I knew that I had the potential to one day become the single most powerful person in the galaxy. If I wanted it and felt that I could handle the responsibility. It was a frightening thought and for now, all I wanted was to be a regular person with friends and a normal job. If being a Ranger could be called normal. Or a job instead of a lifestyle and duty.

We passed through the crowd. From the way my parents and family had talked about it, the corridor should have held at least twice as many people. Many of the shops and vendor stalls were also closed. The rumour about B5’s shutdown flickered through my mind, but I ignored it. The excitement of seeing this place, where so much had happened to my family was all that I had room for at the moment. I swivelled my head around, trying to see as much as I could.

I noticed that Kahlen and Shannon were also looking around, trying to find likely shops in which to make their purchases. On the ship, my parents had handed me a credit slip. My father said that when he had heard my mother was pregnant, he had begun setting aside a small portion of his pay (*He gets paid?*, I had wondered. *Of course he gets paid.*) in an account on Babylon 5 for me. Through B5, the account was actually in a bank that had its headquarters on Mars. At this point, Uncle Mike chipped in and said that every year, on my birthday, he had deposited an amount equal to what was in the account. The current total, as of the day I got the card, was somewhere in the neighbourhood of four hundred thousand credits.

I almost choked when they told me this. By trainee standards, I was rich! That much money could last me a very long time. It wasn’t like I actually had to buy anything. All my clothes, except for the ones picked out by Kahlen and Shannon that one time, were of Minbari origin and had been given to me by the Worker cast as tokens of their friendship. The only thing I ever really bought was food for myself and my friends. Our uniforms, pikes, and other supplies were provided us by the QuarterMaster from Central Academy. There were now several Ranger training bases on a half dozen worlds. There was even one on a Narn colony world not too far from Babylon 5.

Captain Corwin and Chief Allan brought us to a section of the station that had blue stripes on the walls. I remembered that the station had been designed so that each section was given a colour and number. So the room that I was shown to was 17 Blue 3. Marcel was in the room to my left, while Shannon was on my right, with Kahlen to her right. On Marcel’s left was the room assigned to Mary. Uncle Mike and Aunt Lise were roomed across from Mary, while my parents were quartered in their old rooms two levels up. We agreed that we would get a little rest, wash up, and my parents would come gather us in six hours. Until then, if we did leave to go explore, we were to bring at least one other and we were also to bring a link, which Chief Allan handed us from a case he was carrying.

I entered the quarters and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were about the same size as the ones on the White Star. I put away my few belongings, and logged on to the Babcom unit. I studied the layout of the station with a practised eye. We are taught that half of our effectiveness comes from our ability to know enough about the layout of where ever we were sent, that we could find a place to hid should we need it. So I studied the station. There were quite a few places that were marked as off limits for tourists due to danger from assorted sources. The Zocalo, which we had passed on the way here, was clearly marked as the central area for most people to go.

Which made sense. It did contain the most vendors and stores that tourists would likely visit. It was also one of the more secure areas on station. I looked through the stations maps, trying to find a place Marcel might be interested in visiting. He wasn’t much on safety or crowds.

After picking out a few likely spots DownBelow, I decided that I had time to do a little of personal research. I flipped through the stations, trying to find something interesting to listen to while I washed up and changed. I had been wearing this same set of clothes for almost 24 hours. I found a station that was showing a Narn opera and decided that it would do nicely. I undressed and stepped into the sonic shower. I was somewhat disappointed. I had grown used to always having hot water showers. In my entire life, I had only had to resort to sonic showers four times.

Once I finished, I pulled out one of the gifts that had been given me on my homecoming. It was an outfit in a casual style, cut similarly to my other clothing. It had been a gift from Uncle Mike and Aunt Lise. Uncle Stephen had given me the final touch by getting me a leather jacket. I put it on and tugged it lightly to rearrange the material. It felt heavier than most of what I had in the way of clothing.

I turned off the Babcom and tried to find where I had put my small stack of books. I found them in the most obvious place: the bookshelf over my bed. I lovingly caressed the spines, trying to pick one of the dog eared ancient novels. They had been my father’s during his adolescence and before that, my grandfather’s. Four generations of Sheridan’s had handled these doorways into new worlds. I carefully slid out my favourite, and, propping my self with a cushion from the small couch, laid down on the bed to begin reading.

The opening words filled me with the same anticipation they had the first time I had read this book with my father.

« The primroses were over. Towards the edge of the woods, where

the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a

brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow

still showed among the dog’s mercury and oak-tree roots. On the

other side of the fence, the upper part of the field was full of

rabbit holes. »

Soon, I was in my own little world filled with the wonderful characters created almost three hundred years before I was born. Fiver, Hazel, BigWig and the others always relaxed me when I was tense.

*Chapter 12*: Act 12

****************************Chapter 12*************************************

I awoke to a loud knocking on my door. Groggily, I removed the book from my face and swung out of the too comfortable bed. I muttered quietly to myself about the state of mind of the designers while I walked to the door. I palmed it open and blinked. My parents and friends were standing there, ready for the tour.

« Has it already been six hours? » I asked, looking at the small chrono device on the desk. It seemed that five hours had indeed passed.

« I’m sorry. I guess I was more tired than I thought. » I lifted the book I was still holding and shrugged. « I tried to get some reading done, but I must have fallen asleep. I’ll just mark my place and I’ll be ready to go. » I found a slip of paper that I used as a bookmark and placed it in between the pages. *135 already? I guess I read more than I remember.*

« Reading that thing again, David? » my father asked, a wide grin on his face.

« Of course. You know it’s always been one of my favourites. » I grinned back and placed the book on the desk. I put the jacket back on and then joined the others at the door. « So where are we going first? » I asked my parents.

My mother slipped her arm into mine and we started towards the lift. « I thought that a meal at the Fresh Aire would be appropriate since that is where your father and I first had dinner together. However, due to the decreasing amount of shipments through the station, it has closed. So, we are going to get a ‘snack’ from the Zocalo and then we will simply walk around for a time. Micheal will contact us when dinner is ready. He and Lise are preparing one of his specialties. I believe it is pronounce ‘lasagna?' » My mother looked up at my father, who was walking on her other side.

My father chuckled and nodded. « Perfect on the fifth try. » He let out a breath and rolled his eyes as mother elbowed him in the ribs. She was smiling up at him, so it was easy to see that she was not really mad.

« John, it is not my fault if your people were so insular that they each demanded a different language for every nation. On Minbar, we have had a common language used by all for nearly two thousand of your years. »

« True, but you can’t deny that even on Minbar there are regional dialects. Not to mention that each Cast has their OWN language that is usually not know outside of the cast. Except by the Religious cast who make it their business to know ALL the languages and dialects. »

My mother chose to ignore the comment and my father winked at me over her head. We rode down to the Zocalo in relative silence, Shannon and Kahlen whispering to each other in the back. I glanced over my shoulder at them and caught them studying Marcel with an evil gleam in their eyes. I pitied my friend. When those two got THAT look in their eyes, there was no telling what they were going to do.

I quickly turned away and stifled a giggled. Whatever they were planning, I knew it would be somtething that Marcel would not really appreciate at the time. He might come to be grateful, once they had pounded it into his head for a few weeks.

The doors slid open and we stepped out into the crowd. Mary, who had come along, pulled Shannon and Kahlen off to one of her favourite stores, while Marcel and I followed my parents around the Zocalo. They pointed out assorted spots where important things had happened to them. The Universe Today booth were my mother had teased my father out of a bad mood by playing on her lack of knowledge about English. The overhanging walkway were my father had first reappeared after he was presumed dead on Zhahadum. The store where my father had bought my mother’s engagement ring.

We stopped at a human vendor who was selling what he claimed was authentic Earth hot dogs. I took a deep breath and sighed. Whatever was in them, they sure did smell authentic. I ordered two and handed one to Marcel. I studied the choices of condiments, before deciding to put mustard and relish, with a few onions and a slice of cheese. My mother frowned at me and I shrugged. My father just laughed and bought himself one. He only liked them with ketchup and relish. It had been Uncle Mike who had introduced me to some of the more exotic toppings. Marcel watched us load them. Since he had never had a hotdog before, he decided to copy what I had. He then added the ketchup and topped it off with a few slices of pickles.

We started walking, my mother occasionally frowning at us for buying what she considered wasted calories. My father had put on a few pounds but was still in great shape. I guess that that was partly due to my mother’s influence on his diet. If my father had lived anywhere near earth foods for the last 17 years, he would surely have gained a lot of weight. He loved greasy foods and red meat.

I spotted the girls giggling together in a human clothing shop. I was surprised to see styles from several alien worlds displayed in the windows. Even the material seemed to be from dozens of different worlds. I wondered how the owner had managed to get such exotic stock.

My mother was now explaining to Marcel, who had nearly swallowed the hotdog whole when he had decided he liked it, how she had met my father. It was common knowledge to the rest of the galaxy, but Marcel had been cut off from us for most of his life. He didn’t understand things that the rest of galactic society took for granted.

Eventually, the girls came out of the shop with several bags. They were still giggling and I began to become curious about what they could find so funny. I had little experience with young human women. In fact, aside from the two who were only a few feet away, and the three others who were training at the same station as I, I had never been around any young human women. Mary was the only one I had ever met before signing on with the rangers. And she had never seemed strange.

We walked around for a time, my mother occasionally directing us into certain stores and areas she had shopped at. It was amazing. I had no idea that my mother had once bought an encyclopaedia set from the station. I had always assumed that as Ambassador, she had been provided with such things. She explained that while the Grey Council had done its best to inform her about human and alien customs, she had always found it best to do some research on her own.

So she had purchased items about the other races from members of that race. That way, she explained, she was able to see what the common members of that race did with their lives and how they lived. It had given her an advantage over the other ambassadors because so few people had much of an interest in learning about the complex relationships between the three Minbari Casts. She had learned some of each of the old Leagues main languages so that she could understand some of what was discussed around her when she was in chambers. Few had ever expressed an interest in learning Minbari. At least, until she and father formed the Alliance and opened the Rangers to all races in the Alliance.

Eventually, my father’s link sounded and Uncle Mike’s voice came out of it, telling us that supper was ready and if we weren’t there in ten minutes, we would have to eat cold leftovers.

We hurried into the nearest lift and back to Uncle Mike’s quarters for a homemade, authentic Italian meal.

*Chapter 13*: Act 13

*************************Chapter 13***************************************

It was a great dinner. Lasagna, made with four different cheeses and a dozen spices. Two different meats. Real earth beef and veal, hydroponically grown

Mars tomatoes for the sauce, authentic rice and potatoes from Canada. Italian bread, French Bread and several kinds of appetizers. Dessert was a mix of cakes, cookies and chocolates. The meal wasn’t entirely Italian in origin, but it was an excellent complementary mix of human cuisine.

I sighed as I patted my stomach before turning on my side. It was late and I was tired, but I was having trouble sleeping. The dinner was heavy on my stomach and I wished that I hadn’t eaten that fourth plate of lasagna, the three bowls of rice, and four pieces of chocolate cake. Not to mention all of the cookies and other little goodies. I had developed a sweet tooth during the training. I silently cursed Uncle Mike’s skills as I rolled onto my other side.

Every one had eaten more than their fill. It was a good thing Uncle Mike made three trays of lasagna because Marcel ate most of one by himself. He also ate an entire pie and a tray of cookies. He avoided the rice, but ate half of the mashed potatoes. Watching him eat was mesmerizing. He tried to apologize afterwards, but Uncle Mike made it clear that a true chef is only insulted if his meals are NOT enjoyed to the fullest.

Even Mother had had thirds, which was something I had never seen her do before. My father had stared at her incredulously as she hurriedly finished her second helping of lasagna. As she finished, she noticed him staring and flushed. Her eyebrows quirked up, as though challenging him to say something. He just shook his head and filled his plate again.

After we ate, we all sat around in the smallish common room. We talked for a little while, until Uncle Mike turned on a vid of an old earth cartoon. My mother grinned as the logo popped up and turned her head to look at Uncle Mike. He explained how he had once shown this vid to my mother when she had asked him to help her learn about human humour. My father quirked his eyebrows, and my mother explained that it had been a few months before he had arrived to assume command from Sinclair.

This vacation was indeed turning in to one filled with revelations, as after the vid Uncle Mike told us about the first time he had met Sinclair and about how Sinclair had come to be recalled to Earth. Mother then explained how the Minbari had demanded he be sent to Minbar as an Ambassador and how the Minbari had been angered by Father’s being posted as commander of the station.

Mother explained her reasons for entering the chrysalis and even explained some of the process involved. Uncle Mike told us about how betrayed he had felt when he had woken in MedLab and found that his best friend had been reassigned and that his second in command had shot him in the back.

Father than told us about the surprise he had felt at being given command of Babylon 5 since he was a soldier and not a diplomat. He then told us about the shock he had felt when Mother first appeared in the Council chambers. He told us everything he could remember and when his memory failed, Mother filled in the details.

From the time Father first learned that is former wife might be alive, to the time Mother joined the Markab in isolation. They told us about Draal, the Trigati, the first appearance of the Shadows. They shared everything and spared us nothing. I wondered why they did this, but decided to wait until we were alone until I bothered them. They had much to say and not all of it agreed with the ‘official’ and ‘public’ knowledge which already differed on many points.

Deciding that I wouldn’t be getting any sleep, I had just started reading again when there was a knock on the door. I marked my place in the book and, throwing on a robe, went to see who it was.

I blinked in the harsh light from the corridor. I felt no surprise to find my friends, dressed in dark clothing and glancing around. « What do you three want at this time of day? » I asked.

Kahlen grinned. « Nice robe. » she commented. « Look, we know it’s late, but we couldn’t sleep. Knowing you, we knew that you wouldn’t be sleeping either. So we decided to go on a tour of the stations more . . . lively areas. Now. Since you’re sort of in charge, we felt that going any where without you would be stupid. »

Shannon smiled and spoke up. « Besides, we need someone with a level head to keep these two out of trouble. »

I thought for a nanosecond. « Give me a few minutes to get dressed. » I ushered them in, and pulling a few things out of the dresser, went into the bathroom to change. I came out to find Kahlen browsing my book collection, while Shannon was picking my things off the floor. Marcel stood guard by the door, his arms crossed and his eyes half closed. « Let’s go. » I said, tossing my robe and shorts onto the bed. Shannon frowned at my sloppiness, but I ignored her. As I passed the desk, I grabbed my pike, my ID, and my credit slip. Rangers never went any where without their pikes.

*Chapter 14*: Act 14

****************************Chapter 14*************************************

After twenty-five years of operation, DownBelow was dirtier than ever. It was coated in dirt and smelled worse than a sulfur mine. Twenty-five years of dirty bodies and dirty dealings had left a permanent odour in the place. Even the safest areas of DownBelow were dangerous to newcomers. Any one who came down here who showed the slightest hint of prosperity suffered an attack.

There were no innocents in DownBelow. Every single being living here was hiding from a past. Every one of them had broken dozens of laws and station regs. They were still here simply because, especially now, with a decrease in station use and the laying off of security and station personnel, the lurkers, as these dregs of beings were called, outnumbered the station security.

I pulled the hood of my cloak lower over my head. Undoubtably, there were a few of these lurkers who had been here when my parents had lived on station. Every one said I was almost a mirror image of my father. I didn’t see it. My ears were too low and my nose not quite the right shape. I was also a little bit slighter than my father. My eyes were the same green flecked orbs as my mother. Either way, it was quite obvious for those who knew them to recognize me for who I was. And this was a trip where I intended to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

The four of us walked through the dingy corridors, occasionally having to step over a being lying on the cold metal floor. There were species here that I had never even heard of, and I had had a very well rounded education. My parents had insisted that I learn as much as I could about each race so that when the time came that I joined the Rangers, as it most likely would, than I would need to know how to treat the different representatives of the many races both in the Alliance and those who had not joined.

We walked in twos, trying to stay as far from the walls as we could. Several beings saw us coming and ran. Others didn’t even look up as we walked past. It broke my heart when I noticed that many of the people living in the slime were children. I felt a pang of guilt at the relative ease of my life and a surge of anger at the injustice of life. What had these children ever done to deserve a life in this cesspit? What had any of these people done that was so horrible that THIS was an improvement?

I was careful to keep my hands hidden in my cloak. My left hand rested on my pike while my right held the edge of the cloak, ready to toss it open should something happen. To my right, Kahlen floated a few millimeters off the ground, moving her legs to give her the appearance of walking. Right behind me, Shannon had her hands laced together in front of her chest. To her right, Marcel walked along easily, showing no outward signs of any weariness.

We rounded the corner at a junction and ran into another group of people. They flattened themselves against the walls while we passed. As soon as we were past them, they stepped out of the shadowed areas they were hiding in and more figures stepped out from hiding in front of us.

« What do we have here? » asked one of them. He was a human, slightly taller than I was and was standing a little forward of his friends.

« It looks like a bunch of kids trying to act tough by going into a part of the station that they’ve probably been told to avoid. » answered a large, dark haired human behind him. His eyes roamed eagerly over us, studying the material of our clothing. Judging how many credits we would have. « They’re sure to have a nice little collection of creds on them, Stark. »

The leader nodded thoughtfully. He was staring at Kahlen with a spark in his blue eyes. « Well, kiddies. Hand over you creds and you can leave in one piece. »

Marcel snorted. « I don’t think so little man. »

I sighed. I had hoped to avoid a fight. I felt no fear. I knew that even though we were outnumbered by almost four to one, these lurkers would not be able to defeat us. Four trained Rangers against 15 thugs with little or no training and who were not used to fighting skilled opponents? No contest. Hell, Marcel could probably take them all himself. Or Kahlen with her telekinetic and telepathic advantages.

« You stupid, big man? » the one called Stark asked. « Can’t you count? There’s fifteen of us and only four of you. The way I see it, you’re in deep shit. You don’t hand over you creds, we’ll have to do something you’ll regret. » His hand flashed behind his back and came back holding a long knife. Behind him, the others also pulled out weapons, ranging from knives to chains to homemade spiked clubs. The clubs looked remarkably like baseball bats with nails hammered through them.

I sighed again. This was a waste of time. « Look, if it’s creds you want, here. » I stuck out my hand, my credit slip held lightly between two fingers. « That card has at least nine hundred credits on it. Take it and go. »

Stark stared at the card. Nine hundred credits was a large amount to a group who lived DownBelow. Hell, it was a large amount to anyone. They would be able to eat for weeks on that much money. A shrewd look came into his eyes. I began to feel nervous. Stark was not your average lurker.

« So. You think you can fool me, kid? » he asked with a laugh. « That was too easy. Ain’t no one gonna hand over nine hundred creds that easily unless he either has a lot more and don’t need it, or he’s got something to hide. » He studied me. My head and face were completely out of sight beneath the hood of my cloak. « And I think you’ve got both reasons. » He reached out to toss my hood back, a huge hand shot forward and stopped him.

Marcel moved forward, lifting Stark’s hand high. The other man was lifted off his feet and hung in the air, staring at Marcel. His face was pale beneath the dirt.

« Take the creds and go. »

« You think I’m scared, big man? » asked Stark, his voice harsh. He slashed with his knife and Marcel’s other hand shot out to catch it on the blade. Stark tried to pull it back, but Marcel’s grip tightened. A small trickle of blood crawled down the blade. With a grunt and a twist of his wrist, Marcel yanked the knife from Stark’s hand. Several of Stark’s followers started to move, but a glance from Marcel froze them in place.

Another flip and Marcel was holding the knife’s handle. It looked tiny in his hands. He place his thumb on the side of the blade and pushed. The blade snapped.

« Listen. I am big. I am not stupid. You and your friends picked the wrong group to bother. Now leave. Before I demand credits from you. » With that, he gently dropped both the broken knife and the man.

Stark looked up at him with hate filled eyes. « Get them! » he roared. « Kill them! But keep the woman alive. We’ll have some fun with her. » With his words, the others surged forward.

I pulled my pike and tossed off my cloak, moving into a defensive position. Behind me I knew that Shannon was doing the same, turning so that we were back-to-back. Kahlen floated upward, her red hair fanning out around her head like a halo. Marcel turned his back to us, positioning himself so that he could see both groups of attackers. *We must look like some kind of weird triangle, standing like this, * I thought before turning my full attention to the attackers.

The thugs stopped and gawked, unsure. Kahlen floated above us out of reach. Though they were most likely less aware of galactic events than even Marcel, they had had dealings with Rangers before and knew what a fighting pike was. Maybe a few of them had even felt a few blows from a pike.

Stark stared at us, unnerved. He hesitated, probably wondering what he had gotten himself into. But it was too late for him to back out without losing all respect from his followers. So, pulling out another knife, he gestured towards us. « What are we waiting for? Let’s get ’em. » He screamed and ran for us. A second later so did the others.

The fighting was intense. Because of the narrow confines of the corridor, only three of them could attack us at a time. Kahlen simply floated in the air, watching. Which was fine with us. She was not much of a fighter and would only have gotten in the way on the ground.

I lashed out with my pike, knocking a bat out of the hands of the dark haired man who had spoken earlier. Before he had time to register that fact, I swung the other end around and slammed it into his ribs, doubling him over. A final uppercut and he when flying back off his feet to slam against a crate a few feet behind him. Behind me, I could sense Shannon’s movements as she knocked her opponents back.

I glanced to the side and watched as Marcel blocked a blow from a Drazi on his right with his arm, while side kicking a Narn on his left. There was a crunching sound as his foot connected with the Narn’s ribs. The Narn screamed in agony as he sailed back to slam into a friend knocking both to the floor. Marcel’s left hand moved, punching the Drazi in the side.

The Drazi grunted as the force of the blow took him off his feet. He landed just as Marcel swung his left leg around low to the ground. The Drazi jumped over the sweep, his hands lashing forward in a blow to Marcel’s face. Blood began to flow from his nose. Marcel planted his foot, and jumped. He spun in the air, his left leg lashing out level with the Drazi’s head. It was a very impressive jump. The Drazi was over six feet tall and Marcel’s foot was angled downwards when it connected with his head.

The Drazi flipped over, his head hanging at an odd angle. He slammed into the ground while two more attackers ran at Marcel, one from each side. My friend leapt back into the air in a back flip, his hands reaching out and grabbing the two attackers heads and guiding them together while he hung in the air. The skulls slammed together with an audible crack and the two humans slumped to the ground while Marcel landed once more. As soon as he had his balance, he launched himself to his right towards a group of four Drazi who paused.

Marcel looked at me and winked, wiping blood from his eyes. « You have to love a good high ceiling. » he said before retaking a defensive stance.

While watching Marcel I had forgotten to watch for movement from the attackers. One of them, noticing that I was distracting, took a swing with his bat at my head. Luckily for me, Kahlen had been watching. She stopped the bat in mid swing, several nails only centimeters from impact with my head. Panicking, I lashed out wildly with my pike, hitting the man in the groin. He dropped the bat. One of the nails scrapped my arm, drawing a long shallow line of blood.

« Thank’s Kahlen. » I said as I calmed down and positioned myself once more. « But it’s about time you helped out. »

She grunted. « No problem, Dave. And for your information, I’ve been busy helping Shannon. »

I wondered a moment at the name. No one had ever called me by that appellation before. Coming from Kahlen, I kind of liked the way it sounded. Her face screwed up and I looked over my shoulder to see another of the attackers frozen in place. Shannon’s pike spun and the frozen figure slammed into the wall to fall in a heap.

« Exciting enough for you? » I asked Kahlen, as I blocked a blow and delivered a quick strike of my own that had the Narn attacking me jumping back and tripping over the body of his friend.

« This isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it will do. » she answered.

The sounds of fighting diminished and were slowly replaced with groans of pain. I glanced around and was almost disappointed to find that all of the attackers were lying in heaps on the ground. « I guess it’s over. » I stated.

Marcel looked around, an eager look on his face. Seeing that all of the enemies had been dealt with, his face became a mask of disappointment. « That’s all there was? » he asked. Despite his skills, he was bleeding from a few minor cuts and his nose would be slightly crooked from now on.

« Hey, Big Guy, be happy. » stated Kahlen. « You took care of most of them. Including this creep here. » Kahlen had lowered herself to only a foot off the ground. She was hovering over the one called Stark. He tried to get up, but Kahlen kicked him, sending him tumbling back to the ground. « This one, I’m almost tempting to burn. »

Shannon shook her head. « The scum isn’t worth the hassle, Kahlen. Can you imagine all the paperwork that Chief Allan would force on you? She was breathing heavily, and the bluish mark on her head was much more visible than usual. The sight stirred something deep down inside me and I looked away quickly. It didn’t help. My gaze had wandered to Kahlen, who was sweating and breathing heavily, her chest rising and falling rapidly.

Kahlen sighed. She licked her full lips and glance at me. « You’re probably right, Shannon. » She looked around and grimaced. « Speaking of Security, what do we tell them? »

« We tell them nothing. » I said. « We leave now, go back to our rooms. We’ll get in touch with security in the morning. Some of these people will most definitively need medical attention. » I pulled out my link and made a short call to MedLab. « Let’s move. » I gathered my cloak and heading back the way we came.

We exited the lift and made our way quietly to our quarters. Shannon and Marcel disappeared quietly into their rooms. Kahlen seemed to hesitate, her pupils wide and her lips darker than usual. She stood at my door, looking at me.

« Well. » she said. « That was interesting. »

« We’ll have to do it again sometime. » I said, a little uncomfortable with the way she was staring at me. The adrenaline from the fight was still coursing through me and something seemed to hang in the air between us.

« Yes. We will. » She looked like she wanted to say something, but she closed her mouth and turned to walk to her room.

My mouth was as dry as a desert. « Wait, Kahlen. » She stopped and turned back to me. « Would you . . . like to come in? For a drink or something? » My heart was pounding in my chest.

She looked at me for a moment before breaking into a wide grin. She walked back towards me, her eyes filled with something I wasn’t completely able to recognize but that I knew was reflected in my own. « I’d love to come in for a drink . . . or something. »

Nervously I keyed open the door and we stepped inside. It hissed shut behind us, locking for the night.

*Chapter 15*: Act 15

**************************Chapter 15 **************************************

I woke up slowly, savouring the way my body felt. The sound of the shower was the first thing I heard. I smiled as the memories of last night floated up into my mind. I turned and grimaced, glancing down at my arm. The wound I had taken was bright pink. Kahlen had run a dermal regenerator over it, fusing the skin back together. She had done the same to the few other injuries I had received. Only the one on my arm was still visible.

The water turned off and the washroom door slid open. *She must have used the sink to wash her hair.* I thought lazily to myself.

« Good morning sleepy head. » Kahlen called as she stepped in to the outer room. « I was wondering if you would ever wake up. » She leaned up against the doorframe, a thick woolen robe wrapped around her.

« Good morning yourself. » I said, sitting up on the bed. Sometime during the night, we had lowered it into a human position. « Since you’re still here, wearing MY bathrobe, I guess last night wasn’t a dream. »

She grinned and sauntered over to the foot of the bed. She climbed up until her face was only inches away before she answered. « Not unless it was the most realistic dream ever. » She leaned in and kissed me. I happily kissed her back. She slid her arms around my neck, while I wrapped mine around her waist. We stayed that way for a long time.

« Then we both agree that it really happened. » I stated when I pulled away so that we could breath. I fell back into the bed and she fell with me, snuggling up to my side like it was the most natural place in the world for her.

« You’d better believe it. » she said, as she used my shoulder for a pillow. Her wet hair was still dripping, but I didn’t mind. Quite the opposite in fact. « So what now? » she asked.

« What do you mean? » I countered, confused.

She giggled. « What do we do now? Do we tell the others about last night? Was it a one time thing because of all the energy left over from the fight?

Or is there something more between us? »

« Well, I for one certainly don’t want it to be a one time thing. » I stated, kissing the top of her head. « As for telling the others, do you honestly think they don’t already know? They MUST have seen the way we were looking at each other after the fight. »

She sighed and pushed herself closer against me, tossing one leg over my legs so that she was half-laying on me. I felt my body begin to react to her presence. « What about the other thing? Do you WANT more? »

« I don’t know. It’s kind of a shock, really. I never in my life expected this to happen. » I smiled down at her. « I’m having trouble believing that it really happened. That WE happened. »

She turned her face up towards mine and pouted. « Don’t you find me attractive? »

« In Valen’s Name, yes!! » I replied. « Never doubt that, Kahlen. You are the most beautiful person I have ever known. What I’m having trouble believing is that YOU were attracted to me. »

She looked me up and down speculatively. « What do you mean were? I find you

very attractive. » Her eyes met mine and I noticed the same smouldering haze

in them that had been there the night before. « In fact, right now, I find you incredibly attractive. » She kissed me again, more passionately this time and shrugged off the robe. I reacted and soon, neither of us were speaking.

Some time later, I opened my eyes to see her step into the washroom again. « What’re you doing? » I asked, as I watched her naked form gliding away from me.

« Taking another shower. » she replied, fiddling with the old fashioned controls until the sonics reached a comfortable level. « You sort of messed up the reason for my taking one in the first place. »

I propped myself up on the bed so that I could watch her better. « Me? If I remember correctly, it was you who – »

« That’s not the point. » she insisted. She glanced over her shoulder in my direction. « Well? »

I sighed. Now what? « Well what? » I asked.

« Are you joining me or not? There’s plenty of room for two in this stall. »

I didn’t bother to answer. I hoped out of bed and made my way to the washroom just in time to see her slip under the steady sonic vibrations. Grinning, I closed the washroom door and joined her.

*Chapter 16*: Act 16

***************************Chapter 16 ************************************

The door chime sounded just as I finished dressing. Kahlen was sitting on the couch, reading one of the books I had brought along. She looked up at me and sighed. She marked her place in the book and returned it to the pile.

« Come on in. » I called out. The door opened and Shannon stepped in. She smiled and started to greet me but stopped when she noticed Kahlen.

She frowned for a moment, probably wondering why Kahlen was here this early. Then she noticed that Kahlen had on the same clothes from the night before. She threw me a startled glance and shot a quick look at the bed. Seeing the rumpled state of the blankets confirmed what she had already guessed.

Shannon got control of her face as Kahlen stood up and came to my side. I wrapped one of my arms around her should, and she slid one of hers around my back.

Though she had no eyebrows, Shannon was able to move her facial muscles in a manner that would have raised her eyebrows. A slight crinkling in the skin over her left eye was the only visual sign of the adopted human gesture.

« Well. I see. » she seemed to struggle for a moment with her voice. « I came to find you Davdan. It’s almost time to meet you parents for breakfast. I tried to contact you Kahlen, but you were not in you quarters and your link

was deactivated. » She gave us a good once over and I felt my cheeks redden. « Now I see why. »

« Shannon, I – » Kahlen began but Shannon cut her off.

« Do not worry Kahlen. » She smiled. « I am not being judgmental. I am happy. For both of you. » She glanced at me. « And later, you can tell me all about last night. » Even though the words she spoke were upbeat and positive, you could tell that something was bothering her.

« It’s a deal. » Kahlen said, walking away from me and hugging Shannon.

« Hey, now. Wait a minute here. I thought- » Kahlen and Shannon glared at me and I stopped.

« You have no say in this, Davdan. » Shannon stated. « It is a girl’s prerogative to speak of these matters with their closest friends. »

« Does than mean I can tell Marcel? » I teased.

They stared at me for a moment before regaining their composure. « Of course not! Men always turn such things into boastful accounts of their prowess. » Shannon said.

« And how do you know that, Shannon? » I asked. Her eyes widened and she clapped both hands over her mouth.

She mumbled something into her hands that I couldn’t hear.

« Could you speak up, Shannon? I didn’t hear you. »

« I said: With my better hearing, I used to be able to hear the boys discussing their conquests in the change room at the high school I went to back home. »

I snorted. « Do you really think that I would do that? » I asked. « Last night wasn’t a conquest. It was a sharing. »

Shannon shook her head. « I guess you wouldn’t. And neither would Marcel. » She grinned. « Besides, Marcel will figure it out just as I did. There’s just something of a glow about the two of you. Like you had shared something immensely private and pleasurable. »

Kahlen smirked. « It WAS extremely pleasurable. In fact, I’ve never felt as much pleasure as I did last night. »

I felt a surge of foolish male pride shoot through me at her words. I felt my own lips curling up in a contented grin.

« Really? » asked Shannon, her voice filled with doubt.

« It was the best I’ve ever felt in my entire life. » Kahlen stated, grinning up at me. The memories of last night seemed to be affecting her for she was now floating nearly a foot off the ground. « Except of course, for this morning. »

Shannon frowned again. « But if last night was so special, what could have been better this morning? »

Kahlen didn’t answer, just come over and squirmed even deeper into my embrace. I felt a tingling as she replaced her arm around my waist.

You have to give it to Shannon, she got the message in record time. « Oh. OH. Oh my. » she said. She blushed and turned her eyes away. Shyly, she raised her eyes back to Kahlen’s face. « Was it really THAT good? » she asked in a tiny voice.

Kahlen smiled. « Even better. » She floated closer and kissed me.

« Wow. » Shannon said in an even smaller voice. She shook her head and spoke louder. « We really do have to get going. We’re supposed to meet your parents at the officers mess. »

« Sure. » I replied, releasing Kahlen who pouted prettily. I was tempted to skip the schedule and ask Shannon to tell my parents I was busy for a few hours. Gathering my strength, I picked up my link, pike, and credit slip. « What time are we supposed to meet again? I seem to have forgotten the schedule. »

« We have until 09:30. » Shannon stated. « After breakfast, we need to go over

to security to give our statements about the attack last night. Mr. Allan already figured out that it was us who were attacked. »

I whistled. « That was fast. I wonder what gave it away. »

« The types of wounds the thugs sustained, I would imagine. » replied Shannon, her eyes still avoiding my face. « Fighting pikes leave very distinguishing bruises. »

« As do Marcel’s hands, I guess. » stated Kahlen. « It’s not like there are a lot of giant supermen around. Very few people, from any race, could have done what Marcel did to those scumballs. »

« There is also Marcel’s size. Few humans get to be much over 6′. Marcel is more than 7. When Mr. Allan talked to a few of the less . . . damaged individuals, it was easy for him to guess what had happened. » Shannon stated.

« You’ve got that right, Shannon. » Kahlen frowned. « I have to change. 0930? Good, that gives me about an hour. » She gave me another kiss and left, leaving me and Shannon alone.

We stood there for a few uncomfortable minutes, not sure what to say.

« Well? » I asked.

Shannon looked thoughtful. I could almost see the wheels turning in her head. « You had better be careful, Davdan. Kahlen is my friend. I don’t want to see her get hurt. »

« She’s my friend too. » I reminded her. « We’ve been friends a lot longer than we . . . than whatever we are now. Whatever happens will happen because we both want it too. Just like last night. It happened because we both wanted it to happen. »

Shannon smiled. « I realize that, probably better than you do. Can you keep a secret? »

I looked at her incredulously. « Of course. »

She leaned closer to me and lowered her voice. « Kahlen’s been in love with you for a long time Davdan. But she cared too much about your friendship too risk losing it by pushing anything on you that you might not be willing to accept. Don’t blow it. »

I looked at her in frustration. « I would never do anything to hurt her. I care about her a great deal. »

« Just don’t play with her. » she pleaded. « Kahlen may act all strong and put together, but she’s had a very difficult life. She’s hundreds of years and a whole other dimension away from all the people and things she cares about. The only thing she has is our friendship. »

I looked her straight in the eyes and nodded. « I would never do anything to risk losing Kahlen’s friendship. »

Shannon studied me for a moment, thinking. After a few seconds, she nodded. « I know. I AM happy for you, Davdan. You and Kahlen have always seemed to so alone. Even with Marcel and me. »

« She has reason to feel like she’s all alone. » I pointed out. « There is no one like her in our universe. »

Shannon smiled tolerantly. « And as you keep forgetting, the same goes for you, David Sheridan. » Her hand made a gesture towards my head.

Self-consciously, I rubbed my neck at the base of my crest. « Yeah, well. At least I have my mother around. Kahlen has no one. Except for the three of us. »

« And now, most especially, you. » she added, a grin breaking out on her face. « Look, we still have a lot of time. Why don’t you wait here for Kahlen, while I try to see if I can find Marcel. He wasn’t in his room either. »

I chuckled. « Try the food vendors on the next level. I noticed on the map that there’s a few of them on Blue 4. »

She nodded. « Leave it to Marcel to go for food before we’re supposed to get together for a meal. He never stops eating. »

I finished the familiar complaint with her. « And he never gains any weight! » Laughing, Shannon left while I picked up my book and picked up where I had left off.

*Chapter 17*: Act 17

***************************Chapter 17*************************************

We made it to the appointment with my parents with a few minutes to spare. Shannon had been right. Once Kahlen had finished dressing in one of the outfits she had purchased the day before, we met up with Shannon and Marcel in the small eatery on Blue 4. Marcel took one look at us and grunted. The only comment he made was « It’s about damn time, » before continuing his snack.

It had only taken Kahlen about half and hour to dress, which was very good for her. Shannon had also decided to wear something different that day. After she left my quarters, she had returned to her own to slip into a pair

of slacks and a sweater. She had tossed on a ballcap much like my own except for being specially made much larger, turning the bill backwards to cover her crest.

Marcel was dressed in the same black outfit he always wore. I briefly wondered if it was always the same set or if he dozens of completely similar outfits. Than I remembered his dresser from the dorm and that he only three sets of the strange clothing and that they were nearly impossible to tear and almost as hard to dirty.

When we reached the table where my parents where sitting, they gave only a slight start at few visible bruises on our bodies. I recognized that the lack of reaction meant that they knew of the attack and were curious about what had happened.

« Marcel, what happened to your nose? » my father asked, as he stared at the crooked red lump in the middle of my friends face.

« I ran into a fist. » he replied, scanning the food counter.

« We know about the . . . scuffle, » my mother said. « But we did not know that any of you had been injured. » She turned a questioning gaze on me and I nearly broke out in a sweat. Somehow, I didn’t think that this was the best time to inform my parents of the changes in my relationship with Kahlen.

« I, uh, got a scratch on my arm. It wasn’t deep and Kahlen helped me clean it and patch it up last night. » I threw this out, hoping to distract my mother’s probing gaze. My mother is a very perceptive person.

My father spoke up. « Why didn’t you call for Security? »

« It wasn’t much of a fight, really. » Marcel said, answering my father. « There was only fifteen of them. Nothing we couldn’t handle. »

« Besides,  » added Shannon, before my mother could ask something else, « there wasn’t time. Davdan handed them a cred slip when they asked for it but the leader, I can’t recall his name, was just smart enough to realize that if we were eager to hand over THAT many creds, than it must mean that we had more on us. »

« He was called Stark. And he was wrong. » I stated flatly. « That was all I had on me. If I had had more, I would have given it to him. It’s not like I need a ton of creds. »

My parents snorted at the same time. « That’s what you think. Even WE carry a few credit slips around, just in case. You never know when you might be need to buy something. »

« Are you certain that you are fine, David? » my mother asked, her gaze once again turning to study my face.

I squirmed in my seat. « I’m fine, Mom. My arm’s a little stiff, but it’s nothing to worry about. »

My mother’s eyes widened slightly and I knew that she knew. She gave a me look that said ‘we’ll talk later’ before turning to the others. « And what of you? Did any of you receive a wound that should be looked after by a doctor? The MedLab is still one of the best facilities you will find. »

Marcel grunted. He had just sat back done after a visit to the food vendor. « I guess I could stand to have someone take a look at my nose. »

« I floated above the fight out of reach. None of them touched me. » There was a slight emphasis on her words that cause my mother’s thin eyebrows to raise slightly. Any doubts that I had held about her knowing were dispelled in that moment.

Shannon sighed. « I have nothing more serious than a few small scratches. »

I frowned. There was a hitch in her voice as she spoke, as if she were hiding something. « Shannon, what happened? »

« I told you- »

« Do not lie and do not understate you words, Ranger Hinnonson. » I said harshly. Several nearby officers turned to see what was happening. « I gave you an order. Obey or defend yourself. »

Kahlen gave a startled squeak. Marcel raise his eyebrow and Shannon paled. Each room was assigned one student who was nomally in command of the others. Their behaviour reflected on that student so it was in the best interest of the chosen student to make sure his roommates were on their best behaviours and obeyed orders. I was the one chosen for our room, though I rarely exerted any authority. *(Woo! Hoo!)*

Shannon took a breath. « Okay. I was sort of stabbed by one of the scum. It isn’t too deep and I cleaned it out very well last night, but I couldn’t fully close the wound myself. »

« Why didn’t you say anything? » asked Kahlen. « I would have helped. »

Shannon blushed. « I was ashamed that those filthy vermin had been able to score a mark on me. I am a Ranger. Filth like that should not be able to get through my defence. »

My mother let out a breath and stood. « Come with me. » she commanded. « Both of you. » she said, shooting a look at Kahlen, who nodded meekly.

Shannon stood automatically. There was an air of power and authority about my mother that was almost palpable. « Yes, Enthil’za. » My mother smiled. Though she had given up that title to take on the mantle of responsibility of the President, most Rangers considered her as still being our leader. She and my father were two aspects of the one, so it did not matter who was the OFFICIAL leader. They were both Enthil’za, just as they were both President, and nothing either of them said was going to change that fact.

The three left for the MedLab while we sat and watched them go.

« How are you going to explain to Security? » my father asked, taking a bite out of a piece toast.

« The truth seems like a good idea. » I stated, biting into my toast. « We went for a walk, ended up down below and were attacked. We defended ourselves to the best of our abilities while trying to keep from seriously harming the attackers. »

My father sighed. « One of the attackers, a Drazi, has a broken neck. Dr. Tolern thinks that he will never walk again. Another, the one called Stark,

is going to lose the use of his hand. »

« Anything else? » Marcel asked before stuffing an egg into his mouth.

« Some broken bones, a few concussions. Nothing else serious. » My father took a sip of his drink and shook his head. « I just don’t understand why you went DownBelow? And don’t give me that line about ‘just happen to get there’. I don’t believe it for a second and neither does your mother. »

I had never heard that tone of voice from my father and hearing it now, a chill went down my spine. I could now understand why so many people had come to be afraid of my father’s temper. « The tour you and mother planned was great and we enjoyed it. But we wanted to see more. We wanted to see the REAL station, not just the tourist traps. We didn’t look for trouble, but it found us anyway. »

Instead of a lecture on the hazards of foolish reasoning, my father chuckled. « I guess your mother did plan a rather . . . dry trip. But that is understandable given what all of us have been through in our lives. » He reached over and slapped my shoulder. « And you are still young so you would

want a little excitement in your lives. At least the four of you are able to take care of yourselves. It’s just that this station had such a big impact on our lives, and we wanted to share some of it’s meaning with you before . . . .  » He trailed off and looked away.

« Before the end. » I finished. I watched him as he jerked his head in a quick nod.

« Your mother wanted to show you all the places that meant so much to us and

held such good memories for us. From the council chamber where we first met, to the garden where we would sometimes meet to talk, to the restaurant where we had our first ‘date’. » His voice tightened and I could here the underlying sadness. « So many of those places no longer exist. But as a dear friend said to us ‘When we leave a place, a part of us remains behind, like fingerprints and a part of it comes with us. Echoes of all that we were, all that we are and all that we might become.’ I have come to believe that statement a great deal. »

Marcel blinked. « That sounds like something G’kar might have said. » he stated.

My father looked at him in surprise. « How did you know that? »

My tall friend shrugged. « The book of G’kar is required reading for trainees, along with a large portion of religious texts from several dozen races. »

This time my father blinked. « I had forgotten all about that. » he said mildly.

« Father, should we head to Security? » I asked. « Surely they are awaiting our arrival and Kahlen said that we were expected at 10:30. And it’s now . . .  » I glanced down at my wrist before remembering that I didn’t have a chronometer on. I shook my head ruefully before glancing up at the large crystal chronometer posted on one of the walls. « It’s 09:35. »

« Let’s wait until you mother gets back with your friends. » my father suggested, finishing his odorous drink. A waiter, one of a very few, passed by and my father passed him the cup for a refill.

A call came from behind me and I turned to see Uncle Mike, Aunt Lise, and Mary.

I grinned as they pulled up seats to the table. If I knew uncle Mike, the first thing he was going to say would have something to do with last night.

The only question was which event he was going to remark on.

« Good morning, all. » he said cheerfully, casting me a glance. « How was your night? » he asked.

Marcel lifted the corner of one lip in a tiny lopsided grin. « A lot of fun. Wouldn’t you say so, Davdan? » he asked, a twinkle in his eye. I fought the urge to strangle him, and only barely restrained myself. Why did he pick now to start acting like a human being and devolop a sense of humor.

« Certain parts of it were very interesting. Others were . . . regrettable. »

I stated, my eyes shooting daggers at Marcel.

« Oh? What happened? » Mary asked.

I raised one of my thin eyebrows and looked at Uncle Mike, who shook his head. *So he hasn’t told Mary about our little adventure last night. Good.*

« We went for a walk and got into a bit of a fight. » I told her. My sensitive ears heard her father mutter that it had been more of a pier six brawl than small scuffle, but I ignored him.

« Did any of you get hurt? » she asked, her voice holding a note of concern for us.

« Not really. I scraped my arm, Marcel was cut on the palm, and his nose might be broken. Shannon is gone with Kahlen and Mother to get a small wound seen too that she couldn’t stitch herself. » I glanced at Marcel who smiled and nodded. « Well, nothing serious anyway. » I amended when I noticed my mother returning with Shannon and Kahlen. Behind them, the waiter returned my father’s cup and three others, two of which I could tell contained the same dark liquid of my father’s and the third of which contained orange juice.

« Good morning, Micheal, Lise, Mary. » my mother stated as she smoothly slid into the seat beside my father.

« ‘Morning, Delenn. » They replied, each around a small mouthful of food.

Mary turned to Shannon, who had returned to her seat next to Marcel. Kahlen

sat down across from me and was blushing faintly. Briefly I wondered asking

her what they had talked about while the doctor was taking a look at Shannon, but remembering my mother’s frankness when she had explained certain things to me, I decided that it was best for me not to know.

« How bad was your wound, Shannon? » Mary asked.

« Not overly so. A few minutes with a cauterizer to seal the edges after a disinfectant and cleansing were all that were required. » Shannon smiled. « It was in an awkward place, which is why I could not tend it myself.

While they continued to talk, I noticed that my mother was whispering something in my father’s ear. From his startled reaction and the quick glances he shot at me and Kahlen, I knew what he was being told. I looked at Kahlen and she shrugged and grinned weakly.

I glanced up at the chrono and felt a sense of relief. « I’m sorry, but I just looked at the time and we have to get going if we’re to make it to Security in time. » Standing before anyone could protest, I pulled away from the table and started forwards. My friends followed along, a stuned look on their faces. I heard my mother call out just as I reached the door and cringed.

« David, do not forget to meet us in C&C when Chief Allan is finished with you. »

I agreed and hurried through the door before she said anything else.

*Chapter 18*: Act 18

***************************Chapter 18 *************************************

We stepped into the lift and Marcel turned to face the door, shaking his head at the four people who moved to step on. Shannon moved off to one side, while Kahlen and I moved to the back, as far from them as possible.

« What did you say to her?!! » I asked in a hoarse whisper. No need for either of us to clarify who I was talking about.

« Nothing. » she replied, looking in my eyes. « As soon as we got in a lift, she turned to me and asked me how long we had been sleeping together. »

« She actually asked that? » I demanded, horrified. This was worse than I had thought.

« Well, not in those specific words. » She frowned as she tried to piece together the conversation. « She scolded Shannon a bit for not having gone to the MedLab last night, but that didn’t last long. Just long enough for me to relax and think that she might not have put it together. Than she turned to me and asked me . . . .

« Her exact words were : ‘Tell me Kahlen, how long have you been intimate with my son?' » Kahlen took a breath and continued. « I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that she was asking me that! Sure, she could have asked if she was curious, but to come out like that, no lead up, no small talk first . . . . I was terrified. »

I sighed and gave her a hug. She was tense at first and I could understand why. This change in our relationship was still new to both of us after all.

I could also sympathize with her reaction towards my mother. I was still caught off guard by her sometimes, and as my father had once admitted, even HE was sometimes surprised by her.

« Believe me, Kahlen, you are not the first, and you wont be the last person

to be surprised by my mother. I think she likes to shock people like that. »

I held her close and breathed in her scent. It reminded me of the smell of the morning dew after a nights gentle rain. « Go on. »

Even though I couldn’t see her face, I knew she was blushing. « I told her that last night was the first time we . . . . Well that it was the first time. Then she asked if I enjoyed myself. »

Now it was my turn to blush. « What did you say? »

« I told her that I had never felt anything so . . . pleasurable. When she heard that, she gave a small grin. She asked me a few more questions like that, mostly about my . . . past experiences and what I hoped for our relationship. I told her that I had no past relationships and that no matter what happens between us, we would always remain friends. »

Shannon turned her head and grinned. « Tell him what happened next. »

Kahlen’s eyes widened and she looked down at the floor, her face almost matching her hair. « I can’t tell him that!! » she stated, shocked.

Shannon’s grin grew. « If you don’t, I will. » she said firmly.

Kahlen sighed. « Alright, alright. » But she stopped speaking and tensed up in my hands again.

I moved my hand and lifted her face up to meet mine. « Tell me. » I urged silently.

She gave a small smile. « She started to ask for more . . .’intimate’ details and then she gave me a few tips on physiology. »

I frowned. For the moment, the subtext eluded me, then I caught the gist of what she was saying. My mother had given her instructions on how to . . . . That was definitely not something I should ever have had to picture.

« She did what?! » I gasped.

Kahlen’s smile widened at my reaction. « She told me where most of the erogenous zones for a human male and a Minbari male would be. She also said that I should, and again, I’m quoting her : ‘take the time to explore his body as thoroughly as I want to because sex is supposed to be pleasurable for all involved, not just one partner.’ Then she said that I should insist that YOU take your time and explore MY body as thoroughly as possible. » Marcel let out one loud humph, while Shannon giggled and Kahlen smiled up at me.

I groaned and wiped my face with my hand. « I can’t believe she actually said that. » *At least she didn’t mention the Shan Fal* I thought to myself.

« Well, you’d better believe it, because I intend on following her advice. As soon as possible and as often as possible for as long as possible. »

I sighed melodramatically. « Well, if you insist . . . .  » Then I pulled her into a passionate kiss. Behind us Shannon ‘oohed’ and ‘ahed’ while Marcel wondered out loud how long it would last before one of us broke for air.

The kiss lasted until the lift stopped moving and the door opened. We stepped out, Kahlen and I holding hands. There was no more reason to try and hide that our relationship had changed.

*Chapter 19*: Act 19

******************************Chapter 19*************************************

We were in Security for almost two hours. First, we had to fill our complaint forms, so that the thugs could be arrested, than Chief Allan had to take our statements. Individually, and with no chance to discuss it amongst ourselves. They needed each of our accounts of events and they also had to make sure that no one was pressuring the others to recall things they didn’t.

We told them what happened from each of our points of view. As expected, no two of our reports matched exactly. But that is what is expected to happen. Everyone’s mind works differently and also has a different reaction

to certain stimuli. As long as the key events matched and agreed without being perfect, leaving a well measured room for personalities, beliefs, concentration, etc… then our statements were accepted at face value.

Sure, our statements matched more than most, but then, we ARE being trained

as observers and watchers. The main duty of a Ranger is to watch, record, and report. They are only to interfere in matters of life and death and in cause of a matter of galactic significance. Meaning war, plague, upheaval, and incompetence. Rangers do not enforce their views on any member of any race. Each race is free to manage their people on their own and in their own ways. So long as when it comes to dealing with each other, they observe a few common laws and rules.

We were than interviewed together, so that we COULD help each other out. Kahlen explained how she had felt and heard the anger and intentions of the group, while Marcel added that it was mostly his own restlessness that had lead to our being DownBelow. Shannon added that she had seen at least two more people hiding in the shadows. Thinking back I recalled seeing a slumped form behind one of the crates that I had assumed was sleeping, or had already been mugged.

Mr. Allan agreed to send a few men to check it out, and Shannon gave him the directions. I had no clue how she had done it. I had gotten lost after only a few turns. DownBelow was, like the rest of the station, colour coded. But the years had stained all the walls a dirty, dusty grey-brown.

Next, we did a sort of line up. Since most of the gang were in a secure MedLab, Marcel and Shannon went to identify them with a pair of guards, while Allan took Kahlen and I into the holding cells to id those that had been patched up and released into his custody.

We did and a few minutes later, our friends walked in with the guards. They

had recognized some of the people being held in the secure MedLab, but not all. After all, best estimates rank the Lurker population at just under 150,000.

The chief thanked us and told us that if we remembered something us, to link him immediately. We agreed heartily and stood to leave. Before we got to the door, he called us back and advised us to steer clear of DownBelow for the rest of our trip. From the tone of his voice, it was clear that his ‘advice’ was really an order. Since we didn’t want any more problems, and I for one had more important things to think about than a walk on the wrong side of the tracks (as my grandfather would put it), we nodded and told him that we would not be going near the place.

We left to meet my family in C&C. Chief Allan asked us to tell Uncle Mike to add an extra seat at the table for him that night and to remind my parents that he had some free time the next day and that they should get together to reminisce about old times while we went shopping with Mary.

*Chapter 20*: Act 20

***************************Chapter 20 *************************************

The shopping trip was a success. Or so the girls told me. Personally, I couldn’t understand why they needed half of the stuff they bought. They hit me up shamelessly for money when they started to run low, and since I’m such a sucker for a pretty face, especially after the previous night, I handed Kahlan my cred slip and told her to go nuts. Me, all I wanted was a few more shirts, maybe some comfortable shoes and a book or two. After I gave her the card, she, Mary and Shannon took off, dragging my poor unfortunate friend with them, determined to instill in him that most elusive of qualities in a man- fashion sense.

Since I knew that I’d have some time to myself, I went to the nearest kiosk and purchased a paper. I leafed through it, looking for anything interesting when I came to the LifeStyles section and found, much to my surprise, an article on my family. The reporter quoted several sources ‘close to the family’. I was shocked at some of what I read. Apparently, since I had not been seen in public anywhere on Minbar or in Alliance space since I had joined the Rangers, the reporter speculated that I was under some type of protective guard and that my parents were terrified that someone was going to try and kill or kidnap me. I had a good chuckle at the thought.

As the night before last proved, any kidnappers or assassins would be in for a tough time trying to get through me and my friends. I was confident that the Ranger training was such that it would allow me to stand up to any attackers who had not undergone a similar regime of combat and strategy training.

The ‘source’ stated that I was a fearful, angry young man who wished to do nothing but stay out of the public eye. He also said that I was something of a playboy and that many of the female staff had fallen under my sway. I nearly choked. A bystander asked me if I was alright and I nodded, not trusting my voice. That was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard! The sum total of my experience with the opposite sex stemmed from the previous 2 nights adventures with Kahlan. Other than that, the only interaction I had had with any woman, human, Minbari or otherwise, was in the course of my daily life at home and my training at the Academy.

I folded the paper and went to look for my friends, eager to see what they thought of such ridiculous statements. I wondered, as I made my way through

the crowd, what kind of a person this reporter was to write such stupendous

lies and if there even was a ‘source?’ It also crossed my mind that perhaps

the article had been sponsored by political enemies of my parents. There was a pretty anti-Sheridan feeling to the entire article. Some of it came all but right out demanding that they both resign their posts and give them to some deserving person(read human) not a member of the current administration.

It didn’t take long to find them. After all, they hadn’t left more then ten minutes before. I found them in a gift shop, near the customs area. It was filled with Babylon 5 logos. Shirts, tea mugs, ballcaps, and even underwear were all proudly proclaiming themselves as coming from B5. There were dolls (action figures) of all the important people over the last twenty odd years. I spotted Mary and Shannon giggling over these while Marcel, holding several heavy looking bags and packages was standing next to Kahlen, who was leafing through the assorted books. Most of which were of the ‘Unauthorized Biography’ of so-and-so or the ‘real truth behind the events of’ such and such a time or place.

I snorted and turned my back on the useless and tasteless nicknacks and tried to find something of interest in the shop. As I leafed through the collection of modern novels I was surprised to find a book about me. I picked it up and stared at the cover. It showed me from before the Centauri incident. I was suprised to note the differences from the boy I had been to the young adult that I now was. I opened the book and there was a much more recent photo of me. It was of my last session with Derhan, right before I slipped on the tiny invisible patch of sweat. Looking at the picture, it was easy to assume that I was about to defeat the Minbari warrior. He was out of position, off balance, and his eyes betrayed his emotions. For the book to have this picture meant several things.

First, someone inside the training compound was leaking information, and second, it was very recently published. The second was a mild shock, but the first was a serious breach in security. No one, no one outside of the Rangers was supposed to know where I was. I walked to the counter and paid for the book. Looking around, I spotted a quiet corner and moved into the shadows, activating my link.

« Enthilza, Madam President. » I called quietly into the device. « We have a problem. » Taking a breath, I continued. « There’s been a security breach at the academy. » I wanted to say more, but I knew that I had said enough to get their attention and the rest could wait until we were all together and I could show them the book.

It didn’t take long for my parents to get back to me and to direct us to a conference room. We stopped at our quarters to drop off the shopping bags. I had a bit of a surprise when I entered mine. Kahlan’s things had been moved to my room and put away. Seconds after I noticed this, the door swooshed open and Kahlan walked in with her bags. She raised an eyebrow, much like my mother does, and smiled. She put the bags on the bed and started to rumage through the closets and dresser for her uniform while I finished pulling on my own.

« Who do you think did this? » she asked as she began to undress.

« My mom. » I stated. « This is the sort of thing she likes to do. Quiet, sneaky, and embarrassing as hell to bring up. Remind me to tell you about the time I found some interesting books in my room one day after my mom walked in on me in the bath. »

Kahlan chuckled at the mental picture my comments gave her. « That must have been horrible for you. Poor boy. » She reached over and ruffled my hair, also carressing my crest.

I shivered at the contact, reminding myself that she probably just forgot that Minbari head crests were extremely sensitive to the touch. And that, despite the demands of my body, we didn’t have time to pursue the reactions her touch was causing in the rest of my body.

I grasped her hand and stared into her eyes. « Kahlan, as much I like that, you should remember that Minbari crests are extremely sensitive and we don’t have time to continue what you’re making me want to continue. » I placed a chaste kiss on the palms of her hands and released them. Grabbing the paper and book from the desk, I motioned for the door. « Now let’s go find the others and show these to my parents. Someone’s managed to get a spy into our training grounds and that’s a security risk I’m sure they want to squash. » I ignored the cute pout on her face and gave a gentle slap on her ass. « Get going, girl. »

Kahlan jumped at the slap and mock glared at me. « Oh, I’m so going to get you for that, Daveyboy. Your ass is mine. »

I gave her a grin as we left the room. « Only if I can have yours, lover. »

Kahlan smirked and gave me a short, passion filled kiss. « You could have taken it any time since the day we met, lover. »

Laughing we nearly ran into Marcel as he leaned against the wall near Shannon’s room. Seconds later, Shannon came out, wearing the jeans and pullover sweater with the B5 logo that she’d bought.

We reached the office with plenty of time to fill our friends in on what my mother had done. On the way there, my dad had commed us and told us that everyone would be there, since this was a major security issue. He also mentioned that he’d hold off on assigning punishment duty until we returned to the training center.

At least one good thing came out of the whole incident: Kahlan and I were together. Though I wondered how Mary would take it. I always suspected she’d had a bit of a crush on me, but she’s always been more of a sister to me than a potential mate. Hopefully, she’d grown out of the crush by now, and if not, she’d be able to handle the new relationship.

*Chapter 21*: Act 21

It’s been a long time since I added to this, so I hope this doesn’t disappoint. I spent a few days writting this, so I hope it’s a decent length, even if it’s not all of what you want. Please people, start reviewing. There’s not a lot of reviews considering how long the story has been online.

All characters except those I created belong to whosoever owns them. Please try to remember and not sue me for attempted theft as I am only borrowing these people in order to fill my otherwise empty life with more tales of the wonderful worlds which have unfortunately been brought to a close or set aside by their rightful owners.

STORY STARTS HERE

I frowned as I finished explaining what I’d found to my parents and the other officers. They had remained calm as my friends and I told of al we had discovered and shown them the copy of the book that we had purchased. My father’s face had become set when he saw the photo on the jacket of the book, as he immediately caught the implications of what was displayed. Not having been witness to those events of only days before, my mother and the others were less annoyed and more puzzled by the evidence before them.

« Look, what I’m trying to say is that someone at the training camp is feeding restricted information to some one with the ability to publish it to the general public. This image was taken the day Dad came to get me, less then a week ago. And now it’s turned up on teh cover of a book that claims to have detailed information on my private life and the supossedly secret training methods of the Anla’shok. » I explained again, finally getting through to all as the implications of the words and images in the slim volume sunk in. « Some one among the Anla’shok and the trainees is betraying their oaths of loyalty in return for either money or some other gain. It could be someone who’s just jealous of all the attention that’s always on me, or it could be someone who is working against the Rangers and the Alliance. »

« Whichever one it is, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we find out who is doing it so that we can put a stop to it. We can’t let this person continue to leak vital information regarding Anla’shok personnel to the public where any potential enemies might be able to pick it up and use it to damage the Alliance. There’s enough problems getting some of the races to remain peaceful without having them learn of the inner workings of the Anla’shok training facilities. » Kahlen stated when I paused.

« Not to mention the possible threats of attack on the training ground or against David when we are on training missions. » Marcel added from where he was standing near the door.

The gathered group had likely more experience in covert operations and infiltration then any living group. Not even the remains of PsiCorp could equal the equival years of eperience gathered in that conference room. Each realized what exactly was at stake with the revalation of a traitor in the ranks of either the trainees or the trainers at the Anla’shok facility. If one facility was infiltrated, who could say if all were not compromised.

« Do any of you have any idea of who it could be? » my mother asked, as she kept glancing from me to Kahlen while practically ignoring hte others besides a cursory greeting.

I sighed and rubbed my temples, already getting a headache over the posibilities. « The first that comes to mind is Lucas, but I seriously doubt its him. Unless he’s too stupid to look into who he’s working for. »

My father looked at me sharply and Uncle Mike took the book from the table. « Why not? He certainly seems to hate you enough to do this. » my dad asked.

I gave a weak grin. « Because he doesn’t just hate aliens, dad. He hates anyone not from Earth. And the publishers for the book, and the companies that own them all are from Mars. In fact, « I turned to face Uncle Mike. « Edgars-Garibaldi have a rather large stake in the company that published the book. Nearly 42 percent. Only ONYX owns more, at 47 percent. And would anyone like to guess who owns ONYX? »

My parents looked impressed that I could have dug up that much information on my own, but really, Shannon and Marcel had done all the work. It was amazing how well those two oculd work together to search through restricted, classified, and nearly non existent mainframes. I gave credit where it was due, and again asked if they knew who owned the company.

They talked amonst themselves for a few minutes, and Kahlen squeezed my thigh, nearly making me loos track of my trains of thought.

« None of us have any idea, but there are a few suspects. But from the way you’re acting, I don’t think the usual names would matter. »

Grinning widely, I took out the sheets of flimsy and slid them over to my father. I watched as his face clouded and he stood and started pacing the room, muttering angrily under his breath. I noticed the concern on my mother’s face as she took the sheet my father had left on the table and was rewarded with the flash of rage that took over her face as she read the sheet before standing and stalking over to my father. They wrapped their arms around each other in comfort, and for a moment I almost regretted having found the information.

« So, who owns it? » Uncle Stephen asked, unable to see the sheet my mother had crumbled and thrown across the room.

« Lady Eraly, third wife to former Lord, now lawn fertilizer, Lord Refa of the Centauri Replublic. And a group of several of Refa’s closest allies and associates who have not yet been, shall we say, brought to task for their dealings with the Drahk. » I stated calmly, not letting any of the memories rise to the surface. I had had several bad experiences with various Centauri, yet I held no hatred for them in general, onyl those that had sought to harm me and my parents. Lady Eraly had now moved to the top of that growing list.

Everyone started swearing and muttering threats against the Centauri. No one had forgotten what had been done to me in my first encounter when I was just nine. And no one had forgiving them. Sure, Emporer Mollari was dead now, and Emperor Vir had gone a long way to redeeming the Centauri’s reputation, but he couldn’t just overturn millenia of social and economic policy overnight without crushing the Centauri from within, but he was slowly making slight adjusments and improvements to their laws that would make them more acceptable to the general Galactic community. I personally held no anger towards Mollari, as I was aware of the fact that he had been subjected to the control of a Keeper for almost 12 years by that time, and though I had been spared that fate myself, I had been quite close to it. The keeper had been only inches from inserting itself and taking me over before I was saved by a Ranger spy.

Shaking my head to dispel the bad thoughts, and taking comfort in the gentle gaze given to me by Kahlen, I refocused on the current situation.

« Look, there’s nothing we can do about it. They are extremely wealthy, very well connected, and have good reason to want revenge against the Alliance. And what better way to hurt the Alliance then by attacking the 3 people who are quite literally the foundation and living breathing symbols of the Alliance. » Uncle Mike stated in a dry tone.

I blinked, once again reminded of the fact that my parents and I were considered as being the highest symbol of the Interstellar Alliance. My parents for being responsible for it’s founding and as President and Enthil’zha of the Anla’shok, and I was often thought of as the living enbodiment of interspecies cooperation. Being the first ever human/Minbari child, many looked at me as something of a novelty. Lucas was far from the first to insult me for my mixed heritage, and it was hard as I grew to realize that I would never quite fit in with either of my genetic brethen. It was difficult to say, but there wasn’t really a polite way to name what I was. Mixed breed, Half-breed, Cross-breed, Hybrid. All carried rather unfortunate images in the minds of most people. Though myself, if someone asked, I usually prefered Hybrid over the others. It was a less harsh sounding term. The others were usually used when speaking of births between different breeds of animals. Hybrid was usually reserved for plant life. Crossgerminated flowers and trees and the like.

« So what can we do? Even with the resources of the Rangers and the Alliance, we’re still outgunned when it comes to sheer monetary influence. The, let’s call it a consortium, has wealth and influence with all of the Centauri, own large parts of the economic structures of the Alliance worlds, and even have large percentages of ownership in many major Earth and other human corporations. If they pulled the plug on those companies, the entire economic structure on which the current galactic community is supported would collapse in on itself. » Marcel stated. He shuffled uncomfortably at the door, not liking all the attention he was receiving. My friends and I all knew that Marcel preferred to stick to the background and not draw attention to himself, something we all found amusing since his sheer size and physical presence always drew the attention of everyone around him as soon as he entered a room.

« So what can we do about this Consortium? And how is Refa’s wife in charge of it? » Aunt Lise asked. She’d had her own share of corporate battles over the years, even before she married Uncle Mike.

Shannon stood and handed out a few copies of the information she’d gathered. « Appearantly, she is the last survivor of her family, and is the mother of Refa’s heir. Despite his actions against the Centauri people, Refa’s family had enough pull to keep his heriditary position for his heir. Luckily, his son is an idiot. Eraly is the real threat. She’s gathering those who oppose Vir and trying to get him off the throne. Luckily for us, there are Anla’shok stationed all over the Centauri capital and Vir’s personal Guard are all either Ranger trained or of inpeccable loyalty. That’s not to say that someone might not betray Vir, but we have enough loyal people to protect him and get him out of danger should that happen. »

My mother had calmed enough to rejoin the conversation. « Is there any chance this could lead back to one of hte Shadow’s agents? Like the Drahk? »

« That’s a possibility, but not a certainty. » Shannon stated. « It’s unlikely the Drahk, as they were nearly wiped out and the few remaining have left this area of the galaxy to regroup. It’s too early for them to be a threat, but they might have left some of the other servants behind with some keepers. That’s what we have to find out. We need to find some way to detect if someone is infiltrated by a keeper. We already know that telepaths won’t work. So we have to find something else that would work that doesn’t depend on the subject knowing what was happening. »

« That’s were you come in, Uncle Stephen. » I said, turning to the older man. « You need to work out some type of device that will scan a person from a distance and give us detailed readings of their bloodwork and genetic material. Something more portable then the diagnostic tools that are currently in use. Preferably something handheld and which can be hidden in a pocket. I don’t know how long it will take, but the faster you can do it the better. »

Uncle Stephen sat back with a startled expression on his face. « No one’s ever tried to make one that small before. The closest I’ve ever seen were Minbari, and even they were at least three times the size of what you’re asking for. »

I nodded. « I know, Uncle Stephen. But Marcel’s willing to grant access to the technomage devices that were left with him. They’ve been on the planet under protective shielding that no ones been able to access it, even though some people have tried, according to him. »

Marcel nodded and removed a slim device like a link. He pressed a few buttons on the button, and a 3d holographic display appeared in the air above. It was nearly as advanced and realistic as I’d heard Vorlon holographs were. In the display was a scene of a nearly tropical forest leading into a large beach type area with an immense lake or ocean that stretched into the horizon. The view panned in a circle and I noticed that scattered here and there on the ground where remnants of various tools and machines that had been destroyed. There were glossy areas on the sand and blackened area on the grass gave testimant to several landings and takoffs of various craft. Seeing no living beings around, the view shifted to show a rather complex array of machinery, the purpose of which none of us knew. Behind the machinery was a low shack, solidly build of heavy timbers and stone. There were signs of inlaid wiring and piping, showing that while looking rustic, the small home had been fully equiped with most modern conveniences.

« This is were I lived most of my life. » Marcel stated, staring at the display with an odd look on his face. It took me a moment to realize that it was home sickness. He missed his old life, even if he was being more challenged then he had been there and was experiencing more then he ever had on that small island of the small planet. « As you can see, the shielding system has kept it out of any ones hands. I’ll copy the access codes to a single link and give it to a trusted Ranger and someone here to go and get it when we return to the training grounds. We,  » he gestured to the four of us, « Will look into trying to find out who’s spying on our training. You’ll have to assign people to try and check the other training facilities. »

Uncle Mike leaned forward. « While John and Delenn look into that, I can try and backtrack some more of the financial aspects of the Consortium. Edgars-Garibaldi Industries can make inquiries into buying some of their stock, and see what happens. I’m sure they know about my involvement in the Shadow War and the Drahk Offensives. If they see me looking into their little conglamorate, they’ll want to find out why I’m looking into them. They will likely concentrate most of their attention on me, and the rest o fyou will be able to act more or less without interference. Well, without whatever interference they normally run with your lives. »

I leaned on the table, concerned for my uncle. « Wouldn’t that make you a target? What if they tried to hide what their doing by going after you? » I asked.

Uncle grinned. « I’ve been a GROPOS, been shot in the back by someone I considered family, been subject to the PsiCorps mind control, the Shadow War and Drahk conflicts, and being president of one of the richest companies on Mars, have fought of my fair share of hostile takeovers and assasination attempts. I might be older then I ever thought I’d live to be, but I’m still capable of handling myself. »

Anyone who spent more then a few minutes in his presence was able to tell how competent Uncle Mike was, even as he approached his sixties. Hell, he was in better shape then most of the starting trainees, some of whom were almost a third his age. He and my father were the benchmarks in my mind for what I wanted to be like when I was near their age. Of course, thanks to my mixed physiology, by the time I was sixty, I would look like a man in his mid thirties. I was aging at almost human norm now, but careful testing by Uncle Stephen and the best Minbari doctors and scientist had shown that as I got older, my aging would actually slow down. There were traces of alien genetic material that they’d only found in my father, and which were a legacy of his time with THE First One, Lorian.

Lorian was an enigmatic being who claimed to have been the first sentient being in the galaxy. There was apparently a lot of evidence to support that since while he had not taken an active role in any recent galactic events, he had brought my father back to life, and his very presence had both terrified and attracted both the Vorlons and the Shadows. Even the other races known as the First Ones had only returned to aid the Alliance once he had gone out with Aunt Susan and Uncle Marcus to search for them. His presence was alike a beacon to them and they had only aided at his behest. I certainly believed his claims, as that little bit of material I had from him seemed to be responsible for the slight telepathic and precognitive gifts I had. I was also unusually healthy, all things considered. While I was widely considered the first hybrid, there had been successful pregnancies and births of interspecies couples. Unfortunately, those few children tended not to survive long as the conflicting genetic material fought to direct the body into geneticly programmed patterns that could not support the fragile life.

I was really the first fully successful and viable hybrid. And with all that my parents had undergone, I had the genetic material of human, Minbari, Lorian, and even Vorlon from the time my father carried a piece of Kosh within him. Even my mother had carried Kosh’s essence at one time, and any one who carried a Vorlon was touched by their presence. So really, I was a mix of 4 species, not just two, which would complicate things even further if anyone found out. There was really no telling how the 4 different genetic heritages would change and interact as I got older. Lorian and Kosh’s DNA seemed to be keeping my father younger hten his actual age. While his face and hair were now starting to show it, the rest of him still had the form he had held at the time he’d met Lorian.

Uncle Mike’s response had again sent my into my own little world of reminicing about my parents and my genetic heritage. Kahlen squeezed my leg and brushed against me lightly. I looked to the faces sitting across the table from us and leaned away from the table. « Okay, so Uncle Mike will look into that part of it while the four of us search our facility, and Dad gets people searching through the other facilites. Mom, what are you going to do? We need to keep this as quiet as we can. »

My mother smiled at me, pride filling her eyes as she studied me. « I am proud of you, David Sheridan. You have trully grown into a remarkable young man. I am honoured to have been granted the right to call you my son. You show here, today, that you are a true leader, and I am now confident that when the time comes, the Alliance will be in good hands under the guidance of you and your friends. »

I blushed even more then when I caught her calculating stare and questions the day before. A rush of love for my parents filled me, and I realized that it was not just my own love for them I was feeling, but that I was picking up their love and pride in me. Unable to weather the intense feelings alone, I stood and went around the table to hug my mother, practically lifting her from the ground. My father came over and embraced us both, and I grinned as I realized the sensation I felt at being engulfed in his larger frame must be similar to what my mother felt when I hugged her. While I was slightly taller then my father, I had no where near his muscular build and took after my mother’s slim, but toned frame.

The meeting broke up soon after, and we went our separate ways for what we all knew to be our last day on the station. Uncle Mike and Stephen went off with Marcel, talking about various ways to possible come up with technologies that could help us aside from the palm scanner. Mary and Aunt Lize went off with Shannon to talk about how she felt about being raised in a mainly human environment, following human traditions and religious holidays while maintaining a Minbari belief system.

The only ones left were my mother, Kahlen and myself. I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I nervously tried to think of something to say in order to head off the coming storm of questions. I had no doubt that a between my mother and my lover, I was about to have all my secrets and idiosyncrocies aired, dissected and discussed. All those embarassing stories of my childhood, the odd happenings at the facility, everything that could possibly embarass or humiliate me would be shared between them. I looked around desparately for something to distract them from the conversation, but saw nothing.

Resigned, I kept my mouth shut as the conversation started with my mother, in her typical fashion, asking how well Kahlen had slept. They stood and walked out of hte room, and without any sign acknowledging me, I followed behind them silently, my head hung low and my posture one of a child being punished. As we passed various crew, I received several sympathetic looks from the men, and amused looks from the woman. Sighing, I resolved to never let myself be cornered by my mother again. Though deep inside, I knew I would crumble under my mother’s brilliant and diverse questioning in future interactions. I never could keep anything from her.

TIME BREAK

The rest of our trip passed quietly. Marcel was mostly closeted with Uncles Mike and Stephen, with Shannon and Kahlen alternating between my mother and Aunts Susan and Lize, leaving me to talk about possible ways to track the spy or spies in the Ranger ranks. We left B5 and headed back to the facility, the adults letting us run the ship without interference, though my parents and Uncle Mike at times seemed to almost be testing us as whenever one of them came to the Ops Center, they’d start throwing out questions a bout the ship and it’s abilities to us.

Luckily, it was a dull enough trip, except for when Kahlen and I were off duty, that we had plenty of time to study all the speces during our shifts. Kahlen and I were busy during our downtime getting to know each other better. We went through the small collection of books I had brought, taking joy in being near each other as we snuggled on the small couch in our quarters.

Every hour in the Ops Center, I crew more attached to the wonderous chair at its heart. I wanted nothing more for my future then to take this ship out and explore the galaxy with my friends by my side. Perhaps travel through Vorlon space, which was still considered off limits by most species. Maybe even search through the Rim planets for First One technology.

Of course, I knew that none of my plans would happen, at least not for some time, but still, I did wish that it was possible.

Eventually, we reached orbit of the facility, and were given permission to land. One of the improvements on this vessel was that it was easier handling in atmospheres for planet landing then the whitestars, though this came at the expense of a shuttle.

Kahlen guided the ship to a near textbook landing, with only a minor jolt at touch down. We gathered in the loading dock for a last few moments to finalize plans and say farewells.

« I want you to be careful, son. We don’t know who or how many people the Consortium has here on this base. Keep your senses up and watch your backs at all times. » He gave us each a hug, and stepped back in time for my mother to step up.

« I find it harder everytime we part to say farewell, for you are growing and each time I see you again, you have changed so much from what I hold in my memories. » She stated, tears glistening in her eyes. « I am so proud of you, my son. You have grown into an excellent young man. And are becoming a fine leader and warrior. Your trainers speak very highly of you, of how skilled you are and yet how little you allow pride to rule your actions. You accept their praise for you accomplishments, but do not wallow in it like so many others have done since time began. One day, you will be a beacon of hope for all, not through your birth and bloodline, but because of your own accomplishments and skills. Your bring honour and pride to all who know you well, and I eagerly look forward to seeing what you will be capable of in years to come. »

She turned to face my friends and I realized for the first time that the four of us were facing my family. « I am proud of the progress all of you have made. I have received reports regarding all of you and you are all among the most proficient of your training group. Each of you on your own has a great future ahead of you, but together, together you may accomplish feats that will astound the galaxy. Resist the temptations of personal fame and glory, and remain true to each other. Allow nothing to separate you from each other, and you may become even greater then any of you dream. »

She bowed and stepped back to my father’s side. Together, the four of us bowed, and turned to walk down the ramp. We reached the bottom and turned again to look up into the ship. We were all surprised to see them following us down the ramp once we had turned from the ground.

« What’s going on, Dad? » I asked. « You guys sticking around for a while? »

My dad grinned and shook his head, placing a large arm around my mother’s slim shoulders. « No, son, just have to debark to go and catch our ride. »

Puzzled, I stared for a moment. « Your ride? I thought you guys were taking this ship home. It’s a prototype, right? Shouldn’t it go back to the shipyards for testing. »

Uncle Mike grinned and stepped towards me, placing one arm around my shoulders and holding something out to me in his left hand. « No, David, our ship is over there. » He turned me to face another landing pad where I recognized the White Star that had become my father’s personal vessel over the years. He turned me back to the ship we had traveled on. « This, this ship is for the four of you. » He stated, handing a small device to my numb hands.

I was too stunned by his words to speak, but Shannon was much less overwhelmed then me. « What do you mean our ship? We are still cadets and have no standing to have our own ship. »

Uncle Mike chuckled and nodded to my parents. « Ask them, it’s their idea. I just added a few personal touches to make it more comfortable for human sensibilities. »

As one, we face my parents, onyl it was immediately clear by the rigidness of their posture and the stone masks in place of their usually expressive faces that we now face not John and Delenn Sheridan, my parents, but Captain John Sheridan and Ambassador Delenn of Mir, Presidents of the Interstellar Alliance and Enthil-zha of the Anla’shok, The One who IS, and The One who WILL BE. We bowed as had been drilled into us and greeted them as we were taught.

« Enthil’zha Veni, In Valen’s Name. We live for The One, we die for The One. » we intoned formally.

« Enthil’zha Veni, In Valen’s Name. » my parents replied. Two Ranger One’s studied us as we stood at attention in our full ceremonial robes. My father spoke first. « Due to the nature of the current situation and with the approval of your instructors, the four of you have been graduated from the training and granted all rights and priviliges of full Anla’shok. You are assigned to remain at this facility in a cover capacity. You are to pose as normal trainees until such a time as you have discovered who is passing confidential information out of this base. In order to aid your covert assignment, this ship has been assigned as a training vessel for the purpose of helping the training missions such as the tracking, courier and exploration missions. Each group of 4 trainees is being assigned a class of ship similar to this, though mostly from the other Alliance races as this is the only one of its kind at this time. »

My father paused and my mother stepped forward. The sheer presence of the two as they stood in full command mode was enough to cause shivers of excitement to course through our bodies. I had lived with these two people my entire life, knowing of hte deeds they had accomplished and the awe others held them in without ever really understanding that awe. To me, they were simply my parents, Mom and Dad. The woman who’d given birth to me and bathed me as a baby, and the man who’d taught me how to ride, and fish, and play baseball. The people who had instilled a joy in the simple things in life, like friends and family, and stressed those over materialistic needs. The people who had taught me to read and tie my shoes.

But here, now, on an alien world millions of millions of miles from where I was born, and the place I called home, I saw for the first time, just what others saw when they looked at them. I could feel the air crackling with the power they exuded with an ease and comfort I hoped to one day emulate. There was no doubt in my mind, that these two were indeed capable of inspiring the near worship that had sprung up around them, that they could accomplish anything they set their minds too and that nothing and no one could stand in the way of their finishing what they started. I saw and believed for the first time in my life, taht these two could have fought off the Shadows and drawn together an assortment of sometimes hostile races into a peaceful alliance of coexistence and defense. Before me stood not my parent, but two figures out of modern legend, the scourge of the Shadows, and saviours of the galaxy.

A sense of pride filled me as I stared at them in awe, knowing for the first time just how important it had been for them to live a somewhat normal life like the one I craved and how the two of them had been chosen to be the ones of to save the universe from the Shadows. For there were no others who had the strength of will and convictions as the two beings who stood before us. No others would have been able to carry the vast burden of holding together the Alliance and fighting off the doomsayers and mal intentions of their enemies. Other’s might have been able to survive the physical battles, but only these two could have survived the mental anguish of caring for millions of lives as though they were your own families. I was honoured beyond all words that I had been allowed to have been their son, that the Universe had given me to these two beings. That my soul had been chosen to be given to their personal care and to absorb their essence and knowledge.

I was fighting off tears as my mother spoke, filling the silence left by my father.

« This ship was made specifically with David in mind, and designed to fit the needs of all four of you as you are his closest friends. Everything onboard has been coded to the four of you, and was built with your physical and physiological needs in mind. You may have noticed that even the bridge was designed with your specific needs in mind. The command chair and pilot’s seat were crafted to conform to David and Kahlen’s bodies. The offensive and defensive consoles were crafted to fit the needs of Marcel’s larger body and strength. The sensors and other systems were crafted to fit Shannon’s Minbari physiology and human instilled sensibilities. Each of you are the best in your particular fields, though you are also the most well balanced of all ranger trainees to have finished the program in quite some time. While there are those who might be individually superior to each of you, even in your chosen specialty, together, the four of you are beyond compare. No other quad has even approached the level of cooperation and coexsistence as the four of you. You are 1 soul in four bodies. As long as you continue to believe in each other, and work together, there are no obstacles too great for you to over come. » My mother took another look at us, before bowing. « It is time. Rejoin your friends and seek out those that wish to harm all you hold dear. Do not be afraid to put your full training to use. You have been given full access to all ares of the base as well as full authority to use whatever means needed to find the culprits. Make us proud, my son. You are all children of my heart, if not my blood. » Tears were running down all our faces as we bowed to each other and went our separate ways. The four of us to our quarters, and the others to my fathers ship.

We were both saddened and heartened by the parting, for while we would all miss the presence of my parents and other family, we were filled with pride and honour that they trusted us enough to leave us on our own to find the betrayers. Filled with pride, love, and joy, we set out with determination to solve the issue and bring peace back to our world. It was the first steps into adulthood for us, and we were determined not to falter. Untold millions counted on us, even if they were not aware of that fact yet. It was up to us to bring an end to this evil. And end it we would.

*Chapter 22*: Conclussion

All characters except those I created belong to whosoever owns them. Please try to remember and not sue me for attempted theft as I am only borrowing these people in order to fill my otherwise empty life with more tales of the wonderful worlds which have unfortunately been brought to a close or set aside by their rightful owners.

This is short, but I hope it’s good.

STORY STARTS HERE

I was coming off my shift on the bridge when it happened. I saw it clear as if I was there. My father, sitting alone in his seat of his ship, staring into space as he waited for the end. I saw the appearance of an alien I had never seen, yet always known. I heard the voices repeating questions asked of beings around the galaxy in the years before my birth.

‘Who are you?’

‘What do you want?’

‘Why are you here?’

All spoken in voices I may never have heard myself, yet who’s owners were known to me. Kosh, Morden, Lorien. I heard others I didn’t know answer those questions. Lando Mollari, Mike Garibaldi, Marcus Cole, and thousands more. I heard my father telling them what he thought.

‘Get the hell out of my galaxy, the both of you!’

Other words and images flashed through my mind. Images of the Battle of the Line and the destruction of the BlackStar. Images of my mother’s training for the Grey Council and the death of the greatest of leaders. Images of Valen in his life as Jeffrey Sinclair. I watched as the battle between my mother’s fleet and Earthforce came to a climax and heard her speech.

‘Only 1 human captain has ever destroyed a Minbari vessel. He is behind me. You are before me.’

I felt the pain and sorrow they felt as they witnessed the travesties performed by the Shadows and their allies. I could almost see the bonds of love grow between them, despite the resistance initially offered by my father, and surprisingly, by my mother. Her confusion about whether she could still be Minbari after the Chrysalis and her efforts at learning to control her new body. The joy they felt in my birth, and the pain at knowing my father would not live to see my life unfold beyond childhood.

I stood in the hall, tears streaming my face as I witnessed my father’s last moments in this universe. Sorrow filled me as I thought of all the things he would miss, and the things I would miss sharing with him. I wondered what he’d say if he’d been able to learn that soon he would be a grandfather? I knew he’d be happy for me, and for Kahlenn, but he’d also worry about the possible problems our child would suffer due to the combined heritage it would inherate. We’d likely argue playfully with my mother and Kahlenn on whether it would be a boy or girl, and refuse to allow Uncle Stephen to tell us in advance. He’d spend hours of time and credits purchasing or building things for the baby, only to receive a shock if it turned out we were wrong. Not that it would matter to him, or to myself, but I knew he’d secretly hope for a girl as much as I am.

I knew the one true regret, the one thing my father wanted more then anything, was to be able to provide my mother with a daughter. A carbon copy of his perfect wife for the next generation. Someone who I would look out for and look after and who would tease us mercilessly about my life. I knew it bothered my mother too, at times, that she had not been able to have another child, and I could feel her now, wishing more then anything that at this moment, she could have another child to remember her beloved husband as he passed beyond the veil.

I felt a second spark of life coming from my mother and realised that at least part of their regrets would be put to rest. My child would grow up with it’s aunt and my mother and I would regale the pair with stories of my father’s exploits, both public and private. We’d share chuckles over the appalling lack of culinary skill he displayed and take pride in his accomplishments as a diplomat, despite his long stated belief that he was a soldier first, and diplomat second. We’d dissuade them from the nearly mythic awe which was fast becoming common place and tell them of the real man who had wanted nothing more then to bring peace to his people and live his life quietly with his family.

My mind was drawn back to Lorien and my father as they stood. I witnessed the light increasing on the bridge of his ship and in the last moment before they dissapeared, I saw my father look me in the eyes across the vastness of space and heard his voice in my mind.

« I love you David. Tell your mother how happy I am and tell my daughter the truth about her father. »

Before the light grew too bright and I was forced to draw my mind away. When I looked back, all I saw was the empty ship, it’s systems closing down and the organic components dying. The ship had been my father’s personal ship ever since it was commissioned and in it’s own way, it was honoring my father by putting itself to sleep and allowing it’s soul, if a ship could be said to have one, to join my father’s in the great beyond.

I came back to the present when I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to look into my new wife’s eyes. I didn’t need to say anything, for she could see in my eyes that what had happened. Having no secrets from her, I opened my mind and let her see everything I had witnessed and felt, sharing with her my grief and pride. She embraced me, and we held each other tightly, the slight buldge of her stomach reminding us both of our responsibility to the future. My father might be dead, but his death was a fitting end to the growing legend surrounding him and would puzzle scholars and newscasters for generations. It was up to me, and soon, my child and my sister to make sure the truth behind the legend of John Sheridan was not lost.

It was our task to ensure that people did not only remember the great, wondrous things he was responsible for, but also recalled what had been trully important to him:

Family.

With my arm around my wife, I strode back onto the bridge, knowing that my mother would need us soon and that we had best finish out exercise as fast as we could and return to Minbari.

It was time for the Sheridans to gather and say their farewells.

AN:

So, what do you think? A good end? Or do you want more.

As you might have noticed, the story is called INTRODUCTIONS (where I introduced the characters) and FAREWELLS(where we say goodbye to John and see how David reacts).

As for the plotline of the Consortium introduced in the previous chapter, I am willing, should people ask for it, to write about the search for it’s members and the results of the possible conflict. So, please, if you want more, please review or email me.