Some writers bulk at writing fan fiction. I have written fan fiction once or twice. To me playing in someone else's universe can allow me to experiment. Here I experiment with The Lady and The Tiger short story from high school.
Circles We Find Ourselves In, Part I
As the computer spoke, the darkness faded into a slow, determined glow. Light bloomed. Soon no crevice held shadow.
When the room was lit, he opened his green eyes. He blinked. He focused forward then around.
He discovered himself sitting in the captain’s chair of White Star Prime. He turned from side to side. He saw the consoles were ready for any adventure he set forth.
“Jump engines online.”
The ship was as he remembered. The white captain and executive officer’s chairs sat beside the other. The smell of metal, plastic, and sweet Minbari incense filled the air. Even in the middle of the bridge, he felt the electronics heat up.
“Waiting for coordinates.”
The thirty-five year old took stock in himself. On his person, he wore his Ranger uniform. Black boots, pants with a pullover under a dark two-tone cape. He touched his left side where his pike rested. Even his boots fit as snug as they ever did.
He slid his hand over his pendant. The cool feel of the green gem soothed his nerves. The symbol reminded him of his oath to protect the galaxy from the darkness.
“Good day, Ranger Cole.”
With a steep breath inward, he prepared himself. He had a great many questions. For one thing, the computer misspoke. Updates were given in English not Minbari.
“Computer. What is our current status?” His voice cracked with a rasp. His throat felt dry and painful. He mustered up some saliva and swallowed.
The feminine voice boomed over the speakers once more. “We are currently at the edge.”
“The edge of what?” Silence. He scratched his beard. “Computer?”
An image unfolded onto the front of the bridge. The holographic screen showed nothing. Space had no light. No planet. No galaxy. No star.
He stood up. With the flutter of his cape, he walked toward the blackness. He viewed the absence of everything.
“Computer. What is the closest system?”
“How long would it take us to get there?”
“Excuse me?” He turned around. "In hyperspace?"
“How did we drift this far from course? How long have we been here? Where’s the rest of the crew?” His British voice raised in intensity and volume. “Answer me!”
“We do not have a response.”
“Because the computer doesn’t exist, Marcus.” A familiar voice startled the Ranger.
Marcus pivoted on his heel. Instead of an empty screen at the front of the cabin, he saw a man from his memory. The past stood at hand.
“Captain Sheridan? How did you get there? What’s going on?” Marcus looked about the area. He appeared to be looking for more unexpected guests.
The man walked to Marcus and offered his hand. Both men shook each other’s hands. Smiles and elation framed their faces as the men released their holds.
The captain wore the black ceremonial outfit Delenn had prepared for the command staff of Babylon 5. Above his Earthforce insignia, he also wore a Ranger pendant. A little more gray salted his brunette, but nothing else had changed about the man.
“I thought we were on a first name basis by now.”
“You’re the commander of our forces. We’re in the middle of a war still.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Marcus.” John patted the other man’s shoulder. “You don’t know how happy I am to see you.”
“And, I you. What happened? How did I get here? Did we win against the Shadows and Vorlons? Where exactly are we anyway?”
John furrowed his brow. “You don’t remember.”
“You died before the war ended.”
“Died?” Marcus took a moment. He walked around the bridge. He thought back. “I’m dead?”
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
“We were about to confront the Shadows and Vorlons.”
“We defeated the Shadows and the Vorlons. They went to the Rim. It was another battle for which you took off during and returned to Babylon Five.”
“Why?” He shook his head.
Marcus combed his fingers through his sable brown, shoulder length hair. “I did, didn’t I? Missed the battle between us and Earthforce.”
“For love, honor, and sacrifice.”
The Ranger stepped within a meter of the other man. “How is she?”
“She’s fine. Waiting for us.”
“Is she? Why can’t I see her now?” Marcus pointed at John. “Does this mean, you’re dead too?”
“We all are.”
“All? No one survived the war?”
“Survived: yes. But you must understand, the human race isn’t like you anymore. We’ve evolved. In the last ten thousand years, we shed our physical bodies. What you see is my soul encapsulated in energy.”
“If ten thousand years has gone by, then you would’ve died long before humanity had evolved.”
“True, but the collective human consciousness which always existed has kept every human soul preserved, alive and well. Born again and again, until we became what we are now.”
“And, what exactly is that?”
“Something very different from you. You are a pure human soul. You lived a life of honor. Gave your life for love.”
“Why is that different?”
“She did the same for you. You’ve been in cryogenic status since your death.”
“Your life force energy healed her wounds. Upon her death, you were supposed to be removed from stasis and buried next to her. That never happened.”
“What? Why not?”
“You’ve got to understand the Earth government had retaken custody of Babylon Five. They transferred the containers in use before the station was decommissioned. Yours mistakenly got mixed up with the telepaths from the Shadow War. The container we thought you were in was given to the Minbari government.”
"So I was supposed to stay on Minbar?"
“Susan spoke to you everyday when she took over the Rangers.”
“She became Ranger One? I'd always assumed it would be Mister Garibaldi.”
“Nah, Michael had a different path to take." John gleamed. "You’d be so proud. She retired as General Ivanova and then came to Minbar. The mix up hadn’t been realized until after she died. After all, the paperwork had been destroyed with the station.”
“They destroyed Babylon Five? For what reason?”
“Lack of use. After the war was over, we created the Interstellar Alliance. Babylon Five was no longer necessary as a hub for trade or travel.”
“So the Earth government took custody of my body. What did they do to me?”
“Nothing. Put you and others away. One body was revived every century to see if technology and medical science had advanced far enough to revive you all. After awhile, being the last unopened container, you were simply misplaced and forgotten.”
“For ten thousand years?”
“A solar generator connected to a remote science research station keeps you preserved. You could last ten thousand more as long as an asteroid or other means of destruction doesn’t happen.”
“So how am I here talking with you?”
“You aren’t. What you see . . .” John twirled with his arms wide open. “Is part of your imagination. When your life force was drained, you weren’t actually killed. Just reduced your life energy enough to be determined dead.”
“My prognosis was death but I’m not actually dead? So now I’m supposed to run around clanking chains? And who am I supposed to haunt?”
John grinned. “After centuries of research, we figured out the alien device you used to save Susan did not kill as we understood. It was an alien punishment device. As the punishment goes, the device drains the life force from its victims but not completely.”
“So I’m alive? In stasis?”
“A low static charge has kept you in a coma-like state. The cryogenic chamber enhanced your ability to survive. The device was to trap a soul into the body as not to be released and not to be born ever again. Therefore it keeps the criminal from assaulting the species over subsequent generations.”
“A permanent solution. So why am I here? I made my choice and I’d do it again.”
“Being the last of our kind in its physical form, you haven’t evolved. We are concerned about the state of your soul.”
With a chuckle, Marcus walked to the front of the bridge. “Apparently, it’s in stasis.”
John snorted a laugh. “You always had a morbid sense of humor.”
“What’s this all about? And, no more cryptic answers. I want to know the truth. I want to know which literary source I should be quoting. Dickins? Dickinson?”
“I can’t help you with that one. I was more into Lincoln.”
“I’ll just draw from my own intuition then. So, what can you tell me?””
“When all human souls were called home to the collective consciousness, a tug of one was felt. One that was not free from its mortal bounds.”
“So I must choose death in order to continue with you?”
“In a manner of speaking, you must release your soul from your body.”
“And if I don’t? I’ll stay trapped until the power source drains and then what?”
“You will be alone. We will be gone from this place. Nowhere to go. No one to be born into.”
“How about a Minbari body?”
“That door was closed when Delenn changed. And, Minbari went to the Rim a thousand, thousand generations ago.”
“So what must I do? Willingly die, again?”
“The others in the collective and I have discussed your predicament. We wanted to find a way to restore your life. So when you do die, someone will come for you. A natural death would satisfy the balance.”
“I don’t want another life. Everything I knew, I loved, it’s all gone. There’s nothing left. Family. Friends. What do you expect me to do?”
“We know it’s difficult. The choice. Death or life and then death. The bright side is you’ll already be ahead of the game. You’ll know your soul will survive and join us.”
“What if I don’t want that? What if I want to go now? See you? Stephen. Michael. Susan. Where are they anyway?”
“I was voted to make the trip into your mind. The others have tried over the centuries but could not get in. Your Ranger training has served you well.”
“Do the Rangers still exist?”
“In a way. The Interstellar Alliance survived all but these last few hundred years.”
“It’s quite an achievement.”
“It was. The newer races, however, came and began wars- the whole cycle again. No one even remembers our names any more. The galaxy is all but empty of our fingerprints. New species have become sentient from the ashes.”
“I want you to go and see the galaxy. See if there’s anything there that could be of interest to you.”
“All I’m interested in is Susan.” Marcus smiled. “She might have moved on but I have not.”
“You were deprived of a chance. She waits for you-”
“I want that chance now. Even if it’s in my mind.”
“Your body’s already been released. Alien doctors have begun the process of reconstituting your body; strengthening your muscles; pumping your heart.”
“That’s not what I want. I want to go with you.”
The lights inside the White Star dimmed then went gray. Marcus heard a heart beat. His heart grew louder with each second that passed by.
“Stop it!” A strange male voice echoed.
Marcus and John looked around then the room shifted. With a blink of his eyes, the Ranger found himself at the Centauri Royal Court. A man rose from the throne while the others filtered from the room.
“Ambassador Mollari, but you’re not human.”
Londo swished his hand in the air. He staggered down the steps. “Ah, I don’t play by their rules.”
“Where’s Captain Sheridan?”
“Finally, not bothering us.”
“I see, you’ve moved up.”
“I was exalted to Emperor.” He gulped from a chalice. “After several lifetimes I became less like the old Republic Londo and more like Vir, well, except for my flamboyance and cunning and drinking.”
Marcus paced a few times. “But I thought I was being revived. I had to live out my life in order for me to advance.”
“Sheridan was always full of himself. This has nothing to do with evolution, but guilt.”
“Guilt? I don’t see how I’m a source of collective guilt.”
“For letting you languish for so long. Not allowing you to rejoin the collective and be reborn like the rest. They were scared. With their petty self-interest to develop, they forgot one of their own. Couldn’t face the consequences.”
“Consequences? Why would there be consequences?”
“How can they compete with your earnest nature? A true knight. Yes?”
“You speak of the Roundtable?”
“I don’t really care what shape it is. I just know you have embarrassed them and now that they need you . . . well, let’s just say, they’re a little upset.”
“Tell me how they need me.”
“Even in my state, I can see it perfectly. Think about it.”
Marcus contemplated, but could not see Londo’s inebriated point of view. Instead, he thought someone else might be able to help him: a close friend. “If I can see you, then why not the others? How about Stephen? Um, Doctor Franklin to you?”
“He has been whisked away by G’Kar. Discussion of biology versus theology. Ever since he wrote a religious text, that Narn has been difficult to live with. Pious. Saintly.” He guzzled his liquor. “Eternity has been impossible with his rants. I hope Doctor Franklin has taken him to task.”
Londo went to the large window and pulled back the thin white curtain. He looked onto an idealized Centauri world. He gestured and the Ranger stepped closer.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“This is not what I left. I left destruction. Vir. Vir did this. Reconstruction from the old into a new Centauri age. I’m so glad he never learned a thing from me. But don’t tell him I said that. I don’t want to hear the ‘I told you so.’ It would be worse than listening to G’Kar.”
Marcus grinned while Londo laughed. “So am I really dead?”
“Dead? Yes . . . and no. The human collective is new and forming. They’ve figured out that you are the only reason why they cannot move beyond the Rim.”
“Because every soul ever born in the human collective consciousness must be gathered in order for them to move on. Some of the races during our time are already there. The Centauri, Minbari, even the Narn have gone. The humans are next, but there is a problem.”
“My cryogenic stasis.”
“Exactly, and they are most eager to release you from your mortal bonds, as they say. I don’t care either way, but causing a little bit of trouble is fun. Is it not?
“I have been bombarded with information ever since I woke up. If in fact, that’s what I did. I’m not sure about this whole thing.”
“You doubt. Good. A little skepticism is healthy. Come with me, and I’ll show you what’s been going on.” Londo urged Marcus to follow. “Hurry, before they figure out where I took you.”
As the two went into the hall, the corridor turned dark. When Marcus reached the light source, he was no longer on Centauri. He was in a vast room.
Circles We Find Ourselves In, Part II will be coming next week at the same time and same Undawnted station.
Have a great and wonderful day!