Into The Wind

By Ben Weiss

Rating: G

Spoilers: 'Z'Ha'Dum', 'Sleeping In Light', 'A Call To Arms', 'Crusade'

Summary: Is there a solution to the Drakh plague?

Disclaimer: Let me first say that the characters and ships and story lines and other things in this story are not my own, but rather the creations of JMS, who brought Babylon 5 into the world just about ten years ago (from the time I finished this). I simply took creative license to create a short fanfic in appreciation of what he has done and the awesomeness of it.


Earth Year 2260

"Then, once Kosh's belongings are loaded into his ship, it will activate itself. The ship was made for him— it was a part of him. In a curious way it is alive. It cannot live without him... so it will grieve, as we do, in its own way and perform its last duty in memory of Kosh."
–Delenn of Minbar

The yellow-green Vorlon ship exited the main docking plaza from its personal, secure Bay 13 of the Babylon 5 space station. It wasn’t moving nearly as fast as it would have normally, but it was in mourning for its dead master. Kosh Naranek had been brutally murdered by a group of Shadows just a few days prior. After the initial shock that the conscious ship had felt due to its symbiotic connection with its master had worn off—a relative hit to the groin—it began to follow the ritual carried out by any other Vorlon ship that had suffered the same loss.

While making the short, yet tiring, trip to the jumpgate above Epsilon Eridani 3, the planet that Babylon 5 sat by, the ship decided that its course would take it by Corianus 6. Kosh once had a vision—which it had chosen not to share with the rest of the Vorlon population—that the last stand of the Vorlon race would take place there. Though Kosh did not know how or why or when this would come to pass, it knew where. The ship thought that it would pause in that system as a short ex ante factum memorial to any of the Vorlons that may die there on their Last Day.

After sitting in the Coriana system for contemplation, reflection, and rest, the ship resumed its course. The final destination would be Vorlon space, where it would commit its final act: to fly itself into the Vorlon home star. Their homestar was actually not called "Vorlon", which was how it was known to the younger races, but actually "naratlh-anazhe-eht" in ancient whispered tongue, like a breeze in the trees, of the Vorlons when they spoke, before total telepathy had set on.

The ship continued cruising in hyperspace the remainder of the way back to the heart of the Vorlon Empire, making no more stops; but still, the trip took twice as long as usual. During the whole journey, it kept its concentration focused on the Music, the harmony of the Universe, so as to not lose sight of its sole remaining goal. The Music, however, was becoming harder and harder to hear as the ship’s own life-energy was steadily slipping away.

When the ship made its final jump out of the sub-dimension known as hyperspace, it nearly stopped right there altogether out of a mix of despair and energy depletion. It didn’t though. It knew that it must continue on, for Kosh. Kosh had sacrificed everything, including its own life, for the future of the younger races; this was something that none of the other Vorlons were willing to do any longer—thousands of years ago, maybe, but not anymore. Damn their pride! The ship thought to itself as it sat brooding on the outskirts of the naratlh-anazhe-eht solar system. It nearly led us to our destruction three times before. Will it do so again?

Then the ship made itself resolute in what it was sure to be its final purpose. It put all the energy it could muster into its engines to accelerate for its last plunge into the star. With the sudden surge of power, the Music seemed to swell in its intensity, and the ship shot forward towards naratlh-anazhe-eht.

With the Music so fresh and surging in its mind, the ship knew that if it had understood emotions as the mortal beings Kosh had given everything for had, it would have wept because of the sheer power of everything in that single moment.

The ship, whose velocity had now increased to close to light-speed under its own forces, began a mental countdown until it came in contact with the massive blue super giant star.
7...
6...
5...
4...
3...
2...
1...

And everything stopped. The ship, the Music, even time; everything stood still in the Universe. Everything was being held between moments…between tick and tock.

Then the ship heard a new Music come softy into being as if an orchestra had switched pieces after the briefest of pauses. A calm but sure voice added itself to the unified plethora of soft melodies. "Who are you? What do you want? Why are you here? Where are you going?"

Without trying to comprehend what was happening, the ship answered, "Arak Kosh. To serve the last memory of Kosh Naranek. To die in naratlh-anazhe-eht. The Star." The ship was so utterly confused and exhausted that it had even lost its Vorlon insistence to not answer the general question, "What do you want?" It was what the enemy, the Shadows, were so resolute upon knowing of others…and following through on, often with twisted and disastrous results.

"No," the voice said serenely, yet sternly. "You will come with me for now. You see, they are pivotal in the Universe. They are what bind many of the other races together. If the long night comes and they are unprepared, you will return to the end of the beginning…for them. Kosh would have wanted it." And then, the first of the First Ones, vanished without a trace beyond space and time. The Vorlon ship was enveloped in the blue ball of energy that the First One had become, and the Music played strong and clear again.

Earth Year 2271

A small fleet of various ships from many races of the Interstellar Alliance had gathered at Babylon 5. But among their separate businesses, they were all there because of the knowledge that a countdown was approaching zero.

"It was four and a half years ago that the Drakh attacked Earth. When they saw they would not be able to destroy it with the Shadow Death Cloud in their possession, they fell back to their second offensive: the biogenetic plague, which was also likely of Shadow construction. They released this into Earth’s atmosphere at the end of their failing battle.

"Though the plague was designed specifically against all Terran life-forms, namely the Human race, Earth has been quarantined to prevent any possible spread to humans who were not on Earth at the time, or to any other race. Our best minds in the ISA estimated that this plague would take five years to fully adjust to Earth physiology. There are only six months left in that prediction and we know little more about this now than we did in the beginning.

"With this little time left, even I can no longer hold out hope for Earth. I am at a loss of what to do, knowing the fate of all life there. We have had ships such as the Excalibur and the new, more advanced Explorer-class fleet, not to mention many other ISA ships searching worlds on the Rim and dead worlds in other parts of the galaxy that may have been thriving in the Great War over a thousand years ago for clues of one kind or another. Some of the more scientifically advanced races within the ISA have tried countless numbers of possible solutions, very few of them giving any promise of any kind. "And now, I fear, to quote the President of the Earth Alliance during the Earth/Minbari War, ‘that we stand at the twilight of the human race’ again."

ISA President John Sheridan closed his address to the gathered ISA members by giving a moment for anyone to say anything else. The two Drazis exchanged a few quiet words with each other, but no one else offered anything. There was a quiet and somber mood in this particular conference room. With nothing else to be said, the group silently dispersed. Nothing could be done, and a whole planet was on its deathbed; they all knew this.

On the way out, Sheridan caught up with Captain Matthew Gideon, the commanding officer of the ISAS Excalibur. "I’d like to ask you to take me back to Minbar, Captain. Delenn is leaving shortly on a Whitestar to take care of some more urgent affairs back home, but I’ve a few things I’d like to do here first. Besides, most of my time in space since becoming President has been in a Whitestar. I mean, I love those ships, but give it long enough, and anything can seem to get boring. I’d also like to stop by the Coriana system, too." President Sheridan was known for being very casual when he wasn’t in a setting where formality was a necessity.

"Not a problem, Mr. President," Gideon replied. "What time would you like to leave?"

"I have a meeting with Captain Lochley late tomorrow morning, so how about 1400 hours?"

"Yes, sir. I’ll have the Excalibur prepped and the crew ready to go. See you then." Gideon turned to head to the docking bays, calling on his communicator for a shuttle to be prepped to return him to his ship. Sheridan began walking to the Zocalo for a drink. He hoped that Ta’lon might be there, but strongly doubted it.

Sheridan made his way through the crowd in the Zocalo corridor. Some moved politely out of his way as he approached; others he had to dodge around as he went to his favorite of the many drinking establishments in this area. It was still right where he remembered it being. He took a seat and gave his order to the slightly-portly, grey-haired human bartender, who swiftly put a glass in front of him, filled three-quarters of the way full with a concoction of ingredients. Sheridan took a sip of his Jovian sunspot. While savoring the flavor of one of his favorite drinks—of which he had been greatly deprived of on Minbar—he took notice that the shop directly next to this one had not moved. The president of the ISA chuckled softly as he noticed two old action figures on prominent display on a front rack. Still in their boxes stood action figures of himself (in Earth Force uniform) and the Narn ambassador of the time , G’kar. While taking another sip of his drink, Sheridan recalled how G’kar had gotten so mad because the toy representation of him was not 'anatomically correct'.

A short while later, Sheridan finished his drink, said his good-bye to the bartender and stood to walk away. Before heading back to his quarters, he scanned the corridor, looking for Ta’lon. No sign of him; Sheridan had enjoyed their discussions very much, and had missed them much more than Jovian sunspots. While not disappointed, Sheridan was a bit saddened. Is such an emotional combination even possible? He asked himself as he walked down an empty hallway. Of course it is, he responded to himself. Anything is possible on Babylon 5, he mused.

When he got back to his room, Sheridan lay down on the bed and recalled that the bartender that had served him his Jovian sunspot had worked at that same place when Sheridan had been captain of the station. He was surprised that he remembered that Sheridan preferred his sunspots a bit stronger than they usually come.

"J…John?" a voice asked from behind him.

"Dad! I thought you and Mom were back on Earth, so how can you be on B5 with the quarantine in place?! But thank God you’re safe!" John Sheridan said as he embraced his father. "Yeah. It’s looking pretty bad for home right now, huh," David Sheridan said. "I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just feel that there should be more that I can still do…but there isn’t." Sheridan felt a lump growing in his throat. "It’s a dark time…"

Only silence came from John’s father.

"…It’s almost night…" the younger Sheridan continued softly.

"It sure seems that way," David began. After a thoughtful pause, the thin, balding figure of John’s father continued, "You know, when you were young, I taught you never to start a fight, but to always finish one. Now I have another piece of advice to give you, passed on from an old friend of mine. 'When the long night comes, return to the end of the beginning.'"

"I don’t understand," John replied after a moment.

"I know you’ll figure it out in time. You always do. But I have to go now, son."

"Why? We’re on B5; we have all the time in the world."

"Some of us do, some don’t."

Then John Sheridan woke up. He was in his VIP suite on the station, but his father was nowhere to be seen.

It had all been a dream.

When the long night comes, return to the end of the beginning Sheridan repeated to himself, still not grasping any meaning. He knew he had heard it before, years ago, but couldn’t remember from whom. Then it came to him.

Captain Lochley had told him. And she had heard it from a dead friend as a message passed from Kosh, also from beyond whatever grave Vorlons go to when they die.

The dream must have been from Kosh, or rather that tiny bit of Kosh that was still left in his mind. There had been a time when the Vorlon had implanted a part of himself in Sheridan’s mind, but a short while before the end of the Shadow/Vorlon War, Sheridan had been touched by Kosh Ulkesh, too. The only thing to have saved his life from the rage of the prideful (and fearful) Vorlon was the remainder of Kosh Naranek. Most of Kosh Naranek had exited Sheridan’s mind then to fend off the other Kosh, but some of him must have remained...a tiny imprint still held within him.

"When the long night comes…," Sheridan said aloud in his empty room. What does it mean? Sheridan continued to ponder possibilities as he showered, dressed, and wandered to one of the four main observation domes of the station. He would often go to one in the wee hours of the morning—like now—when he couldn’t sleep, and watch the stars as the station rotated in space. Sheridan found it very soothing. As he entered observation dome 3, John Sheridan noticed a metal plaque on the wall, just to the right of where the window began. Being curious about this new addition to his once-regular relaxation spot, he strode up to read it. It turned out to be a very familiar document, copied into a gold plate and attached firmly to the wall.

The Universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice. The language is not Narn or Human or Centauri or Gaim or Minbari.
It speaks in the language of hope. It speaks in the language of truth. It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion. It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul. But always, it is the same voice.
It is the voice of our ancestors, speaking through us, and the voice of our inheritors, waiting to be born.
It is the small, still voice that says:
We are one.
No matter the blood, no matter the skin.
No matter the world, no matter the star.
We are one.
No matter the pain, no matter the darkness.
No matter the loss, no matter the fear.
We are one.
Here, gathered together in common cause, we agree to recognize this singular truth and this singular rule:
That we must be kind to one another.
Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us. And each voice lost diminishes us. We are the voice of the Universe; the soul of creation, and the fire that will light the way to a better future.
We are one.

The Declaration of Principles for the Interstellar Alliance
Written by Citizen G’kar of Narn, 2262
Placed here in memory of G’kar
by Ambassador Ta’lon of Narn

Sheridan backpedaled a few steps to the middle of the floor, and took up his customary stare out the window, reminiscing about his times, good and bad, with G’kar. The assassination attempts on Londo, the request for amnesty after the Narn-Centauri war began anew, his spiritual enlightenment while being in a brig cell for a while, the creation of the Declaration of Principles, Sheridan’s hurried swearing-in as ISA President which closed with the Narn saying, "Good. Done. Let’s eat," and seeing G’kar and Lyta walk down the catwalk to their ship as they left their troubled lives on Babylon 5 to find new adventures of their own together.

As he was wondering what fate the universal winds might have brought upon those two, John found himself feeling one thing only: I miss you, G’kar.

"You didn’t have to walk me to my shuttle, Captain," Sheridan said to Elizabeth Lochley.

"I know, but it’s protocol. You know that if President Lefcourt were here, I’d do the same."

"I can’t believe he became president of Earth Alliance. But he seems to be doing a pretty good job even though his health is fading. Lefcourt’s just seen too much action."

"You’ve seen more," Lochely said. "I guess the younger generation is a bit more resilient than the older ones are, though," she joked.

Sheridan laughed a little. Then he became serious and somber. "I don’t know when I’ll be coming this way again. Probably not before…" He could hardly bring himself to say it. The end. "…Well, if you ever get out by Minbar, Delenn and I are always happy to have you visit."

"Yeah, right. I won’t get that far away from B5 while I’m still in charge—it just won’t let me." The captain winked. "Well, you should probably get going."

"Yes, I suppose I should. Thanks again, Captain. It was nice seeing you." Sheridan held out his hand to shake.

"It was nice to see you again, too, Mr. President." She shook his hand. Now that the formalities were over, she said, "Take care, John."

Sheridan just nodded and walked through the doors to the small transport shuttle that would take him to the Excalibur.

The boxy shuttle, tapered some at the front, was being piloted by one of the Excalibur’s crewmen. It flew slowly from its parking spot on the docking ring to the closest door to the main docking bay. The large airlock door closed under them, and then the blast doors opened before them. The red lights and the interlocking notches of the doors could lead one to imagine an image of a mouth parting, leading from one maw to that of open space. The shuttle exited Babylon 5, flew straight long enough to escape the minimal gravity that the exterior of the rotation station gave off, then turned and headed toward the huge Victory-class destroyer. From this vantage, the destroyer looked very menacing. The bow was a quadranted circle with four big guns sunken into the middle. This was connected to a long neck and then to the large body. From the body sprouted three large wings—one on the top, two on the bottom and off to the sides, which housed crew quarters, many other systems, and ended in the three Quantum/Gravitic engines, and at the fore tip of each of these was the beginning point of the destroyer’s Vorlon-design super cannon.

The Excalibur was parked to the left of the station keeping with Babylon 5’s forward orientation. The shuttle flew towards the bow of the massive ISA ship, the crewman making only slight course corrections, then patching the shuttle’s computer in with the Excalibur’s for docking. The transport then dipped below the bow and flew on a straight line along the ventral side of the ship’s long neck and neatly into the main docking bay. Captain Gideon was waiting to greet the ISA President. "So on to the Coriana system we go?" Gideon asked as he and the President walked down a corridor of the ship.

"Yes. And I just got some paperwork transmitted to me this morning about some new Alliance colony endeavors that I’ll have just enough time to read over it all before we get there."

"And what, may I ask, do we plan to do there, Mr. President?"

"I don’t really know, to tell you the truth. We don’t need to be there long. I feel called there. Perhaps it’s just a psychological thing to go there before the long night." When the long night comes, return to the end of the beginning.

"The 'long night', sir?" Gideon stopped walking at a door labeled 'VIP quarters'.

"Before the Drakh plague fully kicks in. Delenn was actually the one who suggested I come by here on my way home. I think she wants me to remember some of the productive things I’ve done in my life so I don’t beat myself up too much with the Drakh Plague. She keeps insisting that I helped usher out the first ages of the Universe."

"A 'returning to the beginning’s end' Minbari philosophy?"

"Yes, I guess so."

"Well, Mr. President, have fun reading your colony reports," Gideon said with a half-suppressed grin.

"I’ll let you know when we approach the Coriana system, and I’ll be on the bridge if you need anything."

"Thanks, Captain. I’ll see you in a little while." Sheridan touched the door-activation button and entered his temporary room, got himself a glass of water, and sat down at the desk. From the computer, he patched into the ISA hyperspace relay network to get into his information account; a message came up prompting for a voice identification. Sheridan spoke directly to the computer: A’ Fel Delenn De’Sher. He had picked up a fairly passable Minbari accent—according to Delenn, at least—when speaking in Adronato.

A group of lights began blinking rapidly on a number of the bridge station readouts. Gideon called for a report. His Asian, partly-telepathic XO, Lt. Matheson quickly scanned his consoles and told his captain the situation. "The long range sensors have picked up a larger than usual number of ships in the Coriana system. The computer is still working on identifying the silhouettes."

"Bridge to President Sheridan," Gideon said into the ship’s internal communication grid.

"Sheridan here," came the reply from the arm-rest speaker the command chair.

"Sir, you might want to come to the bridge."

"Darn. I had just gotten to a good part in the colony reports, too."

Gideon saw Matheson grab at his attention, then mouth one word. Gideon understood his second-in-command perfectly, but wished he didn’t. The captain’s expression changes to one of concern right away. "Mr. President, sensors have detected a number of Drakh ships in the vicinity of Corianus 6."

"I’m on my way."

Gideon had just finished ordering a communiqué be sent to the nearest three Whitestars to request their assistance in case a conflict arose when Sheridan stepped onto the bridge. "What’s going on?" the President asked.

"We’re fifteen minutes away from entering the Coriana system, and then another fifteen to the planetary space. A group of small Drakh ships have been seen sitting in a cluster near the planet. The nearest Whitestars have been called, and I have also gotten in contact with a few other ISA ships if we need them," Matheson reported diligently.

"Good thinking," Sheridan applauded verbally. "This ship is a destroyer, but, against a swarm of Drakh raiders, we would not fare well because of our size. How soon until we know more about the number of Drakh ships, and what’s the ETA of the Whitestars?"

Gideon replied this time. "We’ll know more about the ships when we jump out of hyperspace. Whitestars 109, 11, and 16 were patrolling a little further out than we are right now but should rendezvous with us a few minutes after we exit hyperspace."

"Okay. Let’s see what happens. Keep us on course, and keep the sensors trained on the Drakh." A few minutes later, the Excalibur jumped out of hyperspace, still cruising towards Corianus 6 at a good fraction of the speed of light. A blue jump point opened a few hundred kilometers starboard from the destroyer, which spawned 3 of the Minbari/Vorlon hybrid warships called Whitestars. They formed up along the starboard side and requested an update. Matheson filled the captains in as Gideon read over another sensor report.

Looking over to Sheridan, he said, "There are 40-some raiders all clustered around something, but none are moving. What do you think we should we do?"

"What is it they are clustered around?" Sheridan asked. Another bridge officer had obviously been anticipating someone asking that and was working on a long-range identification. "I’ve got a visual on screen," she said.

Both Sheridan and Gideon looked at the main view screen (which was a computer visual readout being shone on a usually clear window on the bridge—one of the newer refits), and both were equally stunned at what they saw in the middle of the mass of brown Drakh ships. Two rounded cylinders, one about a quarter the size of the other, and connected by four attaching cables. Off the end of the smaller cylinder were four long prongs. The whole thing was a molted yellow-green and black-grey, and easily identifiable to the whole crew.

Sheridan wasn’t sure who said it first, but whoever it was had been one hundred percent correct when she whispered, "A Vorlon ship."

Even though all Vorlon transports look almost exactly the same to both eye and sensor, Sheridan felt pulled to this one in a strange way. "We need to bring that Vorlon ship aboard. Do whatever it takes, but get it on the Excalibur and keep it intact!" Sheridan ordered.

Going along with the Rules of Engagement that the Excalibur operated under, Contact was to be established first. "You should probably try talking to them. If I identify myself as the president, they’ll probably try attacking us for sure. The Drakh never have been fans of me, or the ISA."

Gideon knew that Sheridan was right. He nodded to the communications officer, a black-haired, brown-skinned woman, to open a channel to the Drakh Ships. At her nod of affirmation, Gideon said, "Attention, Drakh ships. This is Captain Matthew Gideon of the ISA destroyer Excalibur. You are in ISA space, and are not authorized to be. Please tell me what you are doing here and why you have a Vorlon ship in your midst."

For a stretched moment there was silence, but then a transmission cut over the speakers and the voice of the ship’s computer cut in, translating the reply from the Drakh. "We found this Vorlon ship here, and we intend to leave with it. We are simply waiting for a ship to come and carry it away, but we will not have you disturb us." The transmission was cut off there abruptly.

"Sir," Matheson said from behind Gideon and Sheridan, "The Drakh ships have taken up an offensive position…and are moving toward us on an attack vector, guns charged.

"Launch Starfuries, prep all guns, and all hands to battle stations," Gideon belted his orders to the crew. "Have the Whitestars form up in attack formation."

As the destroyer and its contingent of Thunderbolt fighters neared the perimeter of minimum weapons’ range, someone on the bridge chimed in, "I’m getting odd readings from the moon, sirs."

"Our primary concern is that Vorlon ship. Keep the sensors on the moon and let me know if anything new comes up," Sheridan replied.

Matheson gave an update at this open opportunity. "Three minutes until the Drakh ships are within weapons range. They are forming themselves up in attack waves. There is a small ISA battle group that is jumping in…now…" Out the bridge window another swirling blue jump point opened. "That adds two Drazi Sunhawks, four Vree saucers, and the Narn cruiser G’Qeel to our offensive."

"Good. Good." Sheridan said. "Relay the orders to them about the Vorlon ship."

"Mr. President, you outrank me by a lot here, both politically and in military rank." Sheridan knew where this was leading. He didn’t really want to take command of the Excalibur again, but he couldn’t find any way to refuse. "You may command my ship during this battle if you wish to."

"Fine, fine, Captain. But here come the Drakh. Prepare to fire!"

Gideon moved to Matheson’s usual post where he could help coordinate weapons fire and communications between the ships.

The officer who was working the sensors piped up, sounding much more urgent this time. "Mr. President! Those sensor readings I was getting earlier from the moon turned out to be more Drakh ships. Four medium-sized battleships to be precise."

Sheridan ran opening moves through his head quickly before making his orders. "Use the main fore guns to take out a few waves of the raiders. Then move to intercept the larger ships. Leave the rest of the raiders to our fighters and the ISA ships. I want two of the Whitestars to come with us, as well as the G’Qeel."

"I’ve relayed that to the battle group. I’ve also received word that the Minbari ship Telche’ar and the Warlock-class EAS Titans will be here in moments," Gideon said calmly.

"Good, captain. Now, fire at will!"

Four yellow beams lanced out from the bulbous bow of the Excalibur, igniting a few of the smaller Drakh ships in momentary flames before they became scraps of their former selves. After a few seconds, the Excalibur’s job there was done, and it veered port to meet the coming Drakh battleships, two Whitestars forming up on its flank.

Sheridan watched the battle they had just left moments on a readout screen. The Thunderbolt fighters were really no match for the raiders, but they weren’t faring too bad. The ISA ships were working in good conjunction to draw fire away from the Vorlon ship while still destroying targets and dodging the light blue beams of enemy weapons’ fire. "When the Titans gets here, have them help destroy the rest of the raiders. Their railguns will do some good there; have the Telche’ar form up with us. Take aim at the battleship second to the left and fire!" Sheridan was watching the battle, observing the crew that was temporarily his, and issuing orders with the discipline that four wars had given him (not to mention being commander of Babylon 5).

Another volley of yellow beams flew from the center of the destroyer’s bow, hitting the Drakh target head on. The long, flat brown ship who hadn’t yet been in effective weapons range began to pitch downward. The crew of the G’Qeel saw this and took advantage of it, tossing a volley of energy mines and red particle/laser beams at the exposed belly of its target, doing serious damage. Another series of shots from the Victory-class destroyer and the Drakh ship was effectively blasted in half.

By now, the other three Drakh battleships had entered firing range, and light-blue beams began slicing through space, narrowly missing their targets.

"The Minbari ship just jumped it; the Titans did a few moments ago, as well," Matheson said, keeping the rest of the bridge crew updated.

"Have our two Whitestars work on slicing up a Drakh ship. How are we doing back by the raiders?" Sheridan asked about the status of that battle.

"That battle started going our way for us when the Titans jumped it. Few of the raiders are left. Half of our fighters are gone, though, as are the two Drazi ships. Two Vree ships are damaged and have left the fray. One is gone. The Xill-class Vree saucer is also still working on picking off the last Drakh raiders. The Whitestar that stayed behind is also quite damaged, but keeping a defensive position near the Vorlon ship." Gideon was very thorough in his report.

Sheridan looked at a view screen again and watched as the Whitestars danced in and out of Drakh quantum discharge beams, then flying in low across the broad dorsal hull, firing a mix of pulse shots and slicing beams, wreaking havoc of the ship’s systems.

When Sheridan’s seat shuddered under a blast impact, he was brought back to his command barking, yelling for evasive maneuvers and firing the aft cannons. He saw the huge Minbari teal-colored fish-like ship come into view just in time to witness it fire all of its forward cannons at a Drakh ship, nearly destroying it then and there. The Telche’ar took a bad hit immediately, though, losing about half of its top fin. A volley of fusion missiles racked the damaged Drakh ship, rupturing the hull completely in some places, breaking the whole thing apart.

"Two down, two to go, although the Whitestars have pretty much taken care of the battleship they attacking. The remaining Vree is finishing up the last three raiders, but sadly, not many of our fighters will be returning." Lt. Matheson gave the update this time.

"Take us out of the battle and let’s go pick up that Vorlon ship."

The Excalibur turned around as another flight of missiles flew past it to rattle the lateral hull of a battleship. The Vree saucer skimmed along the Excalibur’s neck, down around the body, and zoomed onto aid the Whitestars on their target by unleashing a torrent of green antimatter particles right down the ship’s spine. However, it wasn’t quick enough to dodge a laser beam from the Drakh ship. The saucer abruptly exploded, shards flying into the battleship it had been attacking, as well as into one of the Whitestars. That sent the Whitestar careening out of control momentarily, but the pilot soon fought back the control and brought the ship to a standstill to begin any auto-repair that could happen. The Minbari ship powered up its powerful antimatter cannon, which was placed where the dorsal fin connects with the body, and fired it at the recipient of the missile volley. There were fireworks in space of the beam hit the ship’s reactor, sending the whole thing to slag. The last Drakh ship was also a burning corpse of what it used to be.

"Good work, people!" Sheridan shouted. "What’s the status on that transport?"

"I’ll have the Vorlon ship has been brought into the docking bay, Mr. President."

Sheridan hastily made his way down to the docking bay, when just outside the doors he saw an old friend.

"Susan!"

"Mr. President," Susan Ivanova smiled.

"Admiral Susan Ivanova," Sheridan said with a hint of awe in his voice. "What ship were you on?"

"I’m the commander of the Titans."

"Ahh, yes, should have guessed. Very impressive ship...under very impressive commanding."

Susan began to ask, "So, was this a large-scale Drakh incursion or—" The President, however, was walking through the doors into the landing bay. "Is that a Vorlon ship?" she then continued in disbelief. "I thought all of them had left for the Rim and beyond!"

Sheridan turned around to answer her question. "All Vorlons did go beyond the rim—all the living ones at least. This here…this is Kosh’s ship. I guess it never made it to wherever it goes when its partner dies."

Then Sheridan actually looked at the Vorlon ship…or what was left of it. It was resting on a set of clamps that raised up from the floor, but on the whole, the ship was not in the best shape. Two of its propulsion petals had been blasted off completely, and the whole body was pocked and blackened with scorch marks, either from stray weapons fire or debris hitting it. Even one of the front weapon prongs was gone. He ran up to the ship, completely forgetting that it had its own defenses that kept anyone besides a Vorlon from getting close to it.

When he had gotten within a few feet of the alien ship, Sheridan came to a stop and slowly reached his hand out to touch it. When his hand came but a few inches from the ship’s organic hull, he felt a strong static-like field, and when he pressed against the field, he heard a musical hum in his mind. Then Sheridan mustered his courage, for no conscious being, save for a Vorlon had ever been this close to a Vorlon ship, let alone touch it. But right now, he was and he did. He pushed his hand easily through the static field, walked into the ‘head’ of the ship, and disappeared right into the ship without any sign of a hatch opening.

He felt his body melt away; only his consciousness remained with him, as it was him. He looked down but saw only a glowing where his body should have been. He guessed that the ship took apart his physical form, molecule by molecule, and that Vorlons existed in their ships as part of the ship’s consciousness. Strange, amazing, pure, frightening, relaxing: they all described how he felt in this incredible…state of being.

Looking around, everything was so indescribable, blinding in both light and dark, dullness and color…yet he felt so natural. He also became very aware of the Music that Kosh often referred to, the harmony of the entire Universe.

W…Who are you? Why are you here? A voice asked softly.

He looked around but saw no place where the voice should have come from. Kosh…Kosh, is that you? Sheridan realized his mind was being probed.

I am a part of Kosh as you are a part of Kosh…I am Arak Kosh.

He realized that whatever traces of Kosh were left in his mind had allowed him to enter his ship. That voice must be that of the ship.

Follow, Arak Kosh said.

He moved forward, not necessarily walking or floating…just moving around the consciousness of the ship, following the concentration and the feelings and the Music. He came to a sphere that had bolts of purple and red energy crackling from the center to the outer edges.

Wha…What…What…

What do I want? He finished the question for the ship, figuring that it couldn’t bring itself to ask the enemy’s question.

After a pause—probably the shock at hearing the Question asked directly in its consciousness—the ship responded, Yes.

He thought for a while. It seemed like an Eternity. It seemed like a split-second decision. I want my people to live. I want a cure to the Shadow/Drakh plague that will soon destroy all life on Earth.

That is a dangerous request, the ship said. For both of us.

Why? he asked.

Are you willing to pay the price of your death?

It seemed a little odd phrasing to him, but, if his life meant the saving of the whole planet Earth, then yes, he would surely pay the price.

Yes, I will do it.

Then so shall I. LEARN.

All that Kosh and the Vorlons had ever known flooded his mind. That which was essential stuck in his memory, and everything else flooded back out. He Learned. And, for a brief moment, he Understood. All but one thing, that is.

What is the price I will have to pay, exactly?

You will not die near to the one you love.

I do not understand. What is your price?

You will. And I will die. You must go now.

But...There is so much I want to ask you.

I cannot tell you any more.

He seemed to think there was a tone of urgency in the ship’s voice. It was dying. And before it died, it needed to do something. Can’t I stay with you? he asked the ship.

No. The Universe has need for you yet. You have time to live. We do not. We must go. You must go.

How do I leave here?

Listen to the SONG, not the MUSIC.

Isn’t it the other way around?

To get here, yes. Not to leave. GO. NOW. Open unto the breeze. Listen to the SONG, not the MUSIC.

Cryptic Kosh, as always, especially since he was being told the opposite of the normal version of that saying. He tried to focus on the ‘words’ of the song rather than the music. It all became blurry. Harmonies didn’t sound right. And then, for an instant, he was everywhere and he was everything. And he was at peace with his destiny, because he knew there would be more after he died.

He understood.

He walked out of the ship. Everything was exactly how it was before he entered the ship, down to the crewman in the midst of dropping a tool; yet it had felt like hours Sheridan understood. He had known it in the back of his mind the whole time, too, but until now, he didn’t have the necessary things to carry out the task.

The plague on earth was of Shadow manufacture. When he had gone to Z’ha’dum with Anna, the Shadow-brainwashed copy of his first wife, she said that if anything even remotely Vorlon touched them, the Shadows, they would die. If Sheridan could get Kosh’s ship into a fine enough powder, then put it in the atmosphere, the Vorlon particles would destroy the plague particles…the only problem was getting an equal number of both.

Suddenly, there was a blinding flash of light. "Mr. President, I’ve got no idea how, but we’re in orbit of Earth. Sheridan took a long look at the ship, thinking that it would be the last time that he would ever see his friend, Kosh. He began to walk out of the launch bay, and Ivanova picked up pace right behind him. When they got to the bridge, only a few moments later, he noticed that Susan was dumbstruck by the command area of the Excalibur. He didn’t worry about that right now, though, and instead turned to Captain Gideon. "Open the docking bay doors."

Sheridan watched on a video feed as the Vorlon ship slipped out of the Excalibur’s docking bay and start gliding towards Earth. Gideon stood to protest. The President wasn’t surprised he did this, seeing as last time an ancient alien race got this close to Earth, the whole planet ended up with a terminal plague. Sheridan simply put a hand up to keep Gideon an the rest of the bridge crew from speaking.

When the long night comes for you, return to the end of the beginning... for destiny.

Sheridan knew it was the ship that was talking in his mind. He welcomed it, savored it, then let the feeling go as he watched the ship fly itself into Earth’s atmosphere, its remnants being flung around the whole planet in the winds.

Earth Year 2281

Sheridan sat in the commander’s chair of a small Bluestar scout fighter, staring into empty space in the Coriana system. Actually, he couldn’t see or move anymore. The former commander of Babylon 5, President of the Interstellar Alliance, was just sitting there, blind and immobile, waiting for the end and thinking about how much he wished Delenn could be there with him just then. But she couldn’t. It was part of his destiny—and hers.

Just before the last strands of consciousness slipped his body, a voice shattered the veil of silence and a light began to ripple across Sheridan’s closed eyes. "Who are you? What do you want? Why are you here? Where are you going?" someone asked from beside him.

There was a trace of recognition of that voice in Sheridan’s mind, but being unable to place it, he marshaled his strength and spun in his chair enough to face the speaker who had come out of nowhere.

"Lorien!" Sheridan exclaimed softly, utterly surprised. He was so happy to see his old friend again. Lorien was just sitting there. His odd gold crown with red jewel in the center was placed perfectly on his tall and lumpy head which hinted towards great wisdom. His grey beard hung as it always did in the front gap of his cape’s burgundy collar, which curved upwards. The First One cocked his head, looking at Sheridan with his golden eyes, and asked calmly, "Did you think we had forgotten you? We have been waiting for you."

Sheridan knew the 'we' meant the rest of the First Ones. "Beyond the Rim."

"Yes."

After a moment of thought, Sheridan said tiredly, "There’s so much I still don’t understand."

"As it should be." Somehow, Sheridan knew Lorien would respond that way: calmly, quietly, and sagely…and enigmatically.

There was a pause before Sheridan spoke again, and what he said came out as more a sad statement than a question—he already knew what the answer would be. "Can I come back..." He felt a tear at the corner of his eye because he knew this was the end.

Lorien looked at him softly and replied with a hint of shared sadness. "No." Then his tone changed to a more hopeful one as the ancient being continued, "This journey has ended; another begins. Time…to rest now."

With that said, a bright light filled Sheridan’s mind, blinding out any remaining darkness, and, in the light of his mind’s eye, Sheridan saw the past. His past. Among the many things he saw were his parents, the Agamemnon, Babylon 5, Delenn, his son David, his friends gathered at his table one last time just yesterday—and he saw Earth, the way he had seen it a year ago: a white, green, and blue planet, thriving with life and healthier than ever before. Kosh has left a legacy, whether he wanted to or not, Sheridan thought. Kosh gave Earth its cure... and life again.

And then Sheridan saw into the future for only a moment and he saw... peace. "Well, look at that," he said in awe and to no one in particular. "The sun’s coming up."

And with that last statement in that life and time and space, John Sheridan felt a soft breeze blowing around him, and he cast his fate into the wind, transcending his old self, and went beyond the Rim with Lorien. And Kosh. And with a part of all those who had touched his life. To explore the mysteries of the Universe.

Back on Minbar, Delenn felt her husband getting ready to go. John had already left on a small ship, but on a much different, more personal level, she sensed that he was at the end of his run, wherever he was. Unable to endure lying awake in their bed at this time, she donned her robe and walked outside, taking a seat on the bench she and John had sat at a few days ago to watch the sun come up.

She was breathing deeply of the cool morning air as the sun began cresting the horizon, its first light being reflected and refracted on the crystal spires of Tuzan’oore. Delenn lifted her hand to greet the rays of new daylight as they spilled over the Minbari landscape, and just as the warmth of the light reached her hand, a breeze came by and she felt him go. But she was able to send some of herself across the stars to go with him.

And she felt some of him come back in return.

And Delenn smiled.

[END]

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