Are you ready for Part III? So what have you learned so far?
What emotions are evoked through setting? What philosophies are discussed? How does the characters move the story along?
Circles We Find Ourselves In, Part III
All nine circles lit. A figure each stepped into one of the five spotlights. Marcus recognized most members of this Grey Council: Captain Sheridan, Michael Garibaldi, Susan Ivanova, Lennier, but not the hooded man.
The Ranger surmised the missing members would appear as necessary. He was curious about the absent associates. His interest peaked when two of the circles dimmed into a medium gray as opposed to the spherical bright lights and rectangular dense darkness that surround him.
“Greetings everyone. Marcus.” Sheridan clapped his hands once and rubbed them together. “Delenn said to begin and she would arrive soon. Jeffrey Sinclair will moderate. Londo’s somewhere, drinking, I presume. Stephen and G’Kar, well, that’s a discussion for another time.”
“Considering we haven’t seen them in over two hundred years?” Garibaldi snickered. “Maybe we need to send out a search party. Huh? Anyone?”
“They’ll be fine on their own.” Sinclair took off his hood. He appeared human. “Good to see you again, Marcus.”
“Respects, Entil’Zha.” He bowed. “Although, I thought you would appear as Valen.”
“For today, I’m as you last saw me. Gray hair, wrinkles, and all from the second temporal field exposure.” He looked at the other council members. “Please, continue.”
“We’ve come together to add our two cents in and get your decision.” Sheridan turned to the Ranger.
“Will I die?” Marcus laughed.
“I’m sorry, I am missing something?” Garibaldi gestured with an open palm. “What’s so funny about that?”
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m already dead. This is a grand illusion.”
“Not like you haven’t had them before.” Ivanova raised an eyebrow.
For her attire, she wore her Earthforce Captain’s uniform. Her brown hair with golden highlights was pulled back into a severe bun. Blue eyes remained stern.
“True.” He turned his whole body toward Susan. “I’ve heard many things, from many people. I’m not going to give an answer one way or another until I know the truth.”
“The truth is . . .” Ivanova stepped out of her light and went to Marcus. In front of him she stood but she remained in the gray area. “Humans like yourself are selfish, egotistical maniacs.”
“Susan.” Sheridan protested.
For a moment, Ivanova put her hand up to quell the objection. “I want to hear what he has to say in his defense.”
“My defense? I gave my life for you, Susan.”
“Why? It wasn’t out of concern or adoration. Those are immature notions. We’ve learned since then. Whatever you had deluded yourself into thinking was not your true intent.”
“How would you know what my intent was? You were unconscious.”
“And happy to die. That life for me was over.”
“Well, I didn’t see it that way.”
“Of course, you didn’t. Did you ever?” Ivanova pointed at him. “You have no idea what you put us through.”
“Tell me, then.”
“The part of me that still remembers . . .” She shook head. Tears welled in her eyes. “Stephen couldn’t even say your name for months afterward. And, I? I can’t even put into words the agony I suffered. I was supposed to die. A warrior. A veteran. A hero. And you took that from me.”
“You became one of the greatest warriors and leaders the humans and Rangers ever knew.” Lennier bowed when he had everyone’s attention. “The galaxy would have suffered the greater loss of your contribution, Entil’Zha.”
“See, there was a purpose in my sacrifice.”
“But it was for the wrong reasons, you selfish bastard.” With haste, Ivanova wiped the tears away. “You didn’t want to live. You lost your brother, everything, and then became a Ranger. So I became the justification for your untimely exodus.”
“I love you, Susan. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
“You put your life on the line for Delenn during her Ranger One ceremony. Did you love her too?”
“She was important to the cause. You were important to me.” He stepped closer to her saddened glare. “Are important to me.”
“Ooo! You don’t understand what you did. To me. To us. I was supposed to die. You were supposed to live.”
“And I would’ve put you in stasis. In ten thousand years, we would nonetheless be having this conversation. Just this time, you would be in the center instead of me.”
“There’s no reasoning with him.” Ivanova balled up her fists. She stormed off and muttered curses clear back to her circle of light. “None!”
“Just like the good ole days.” Garbaldi chuckled.
“I think what Susan means is that you were more than happy to end your life for whatever reason you entertained. It wasn’t about her.” Sinclair broke Marcus away from his locked gaze with Ivanova. “Life was meaningless to you.”
“Contrary to popular belief, I was not hell bent on dying. I rather believe I’d live forever.” He looked at himself. “Seems I was half right.”
“Then what were you doing?” Garibaldi scratched his bald head. “I mean, c’mon, you were in love with Susan. I get that. So you traded places. You were healthy and fit. She was horribly mangled. Never to breathe again-”
Sheridan tilted his head in frustration. “That’s not helping, Michael.”
“All I’m saying is: you would’ve done it for Delenn. I would’ve done it for Liz.”
“This isn’t about us.”
“Isn’t it?” Marcus looked to Sheridan. “From what I understand of the situation, humanity never dealt with its emotions. Shucked them aside for the sake of progress. You’ve forgotten what it is to be human.”
“Yes, they have.” A creature stepped into one of the circles. Very tall, and bald, strange eyes gleamed in the harsh lighting. Thin and long from head to legs, the being stood out amongst his peers. “Ready for the Rim, are you?”
“Lorien.” Sheridan smiled. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Tired, I was. I am. Resting in the stars, but I was curious about this dilemma.” His cream robes with gold detailing glistened in the blue aura that surround him. “Had to experience the summation of the human race for myself.”
“I remember now, the Shadow War.” Marcus snapped his fingers. “The Vorlons and the Shadows gave us only two choices: chaos or order. It’s what I’m hearing now. Die or live to die. Choose.”
“And what is your choice?” Lorien motioned with his pale fingers.
“Neither.” Marcus saw the confusion on their faces. “I don’t want to live. I don’t want to die.”
“You choose to remain?” Lorien smirked. “As you are?”
“Yes. I don’t believe the human race is ready for the Rim . . . yet. If I’m only given two choices, then humans have devolved. Declined into the pettiness of the Shadows and Vorlons- not defeated their ideology, but adopted it.”
“You would hold us back?” Ivanova huffed. “This is the kind of stuff I had to put up with. You were always going around instead of through.”
“Because I’m a selfish bastard?”
“Damn straight.” Ivanova paced in her circle.
“You do realize you’re holding back the entire human collective consciousness?” Garibaldi shrugged to Marcus’s nod. “Okay, well, I’m going back home now.”
“Wait a minute.” Sheridan stopped Michael. “No one’s going anywhere until we solve this.”
Marcus folded his hands in front of him. “I have nowhere I have to be.”
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Ivanova ceased her movement as Marcus’s reaction was a deep laughter. “Ah!”
Garibaldi raised his brow. “Maybe a little too much.”
“While you were evolving, had you ever stopped to wonder why you left me in stasis? I’m sure someone had to know my name hadn’t been checked off the list.”
“That was my doing.” Delenn entered a circle. She removed her cowl. “I hid Marcus away from humanity.”
“Delenn. It’s good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you too, John.”
“Why did you do that?” Sheridan’s visage played in wonderment. He appeared more enamored with her presence than upset with her actions. “Marcus had the right to evolve with us.”
“I’m wondering that myself, Delenn.” Marcus turned his whole body toward her location. He noticed her pink satin robes with purple sleeves now had blue ribbons and navy sleeves. Her brown curled hair had gray streaks in the bangs. In the time between meetings, she had aged. “Why did you conceal me?”
Delenn turned her attention to Marcus. “Since you adopted our culture as a way of life, the Minbari are prepared to take you, as you are, to the Rim. When your body finally dies, your soul will be released. Bound to a body, your mind is welcome to explore. And later, your soul to commune with us.”
“But that doesn’t answer the question.” Marcus tapped his finger on his chin. “Why go through all this?”
“To offer you a third choice.” She smiled.
“But none of the choices lead me to any destination that I would like to go.” Marcus glanced to Susan.
“Don’t look at me. I’m pissed . . .” Ivanova held herself and looked up. “Actually, I can’t believe how mad I still am at you. I have had countless lifetimes. Married in some. Children. Alone in others. I’ve run the gambit.”
“Maybe because you are at the center of this controversy. The heart of the matter. The reason humans cannot accept my soul: humans cannot deal with their emotions. Isn’t that right, Delenn?”
“Doesn’t matter what you evolved into, if you can’t remember what it is at the core of your species.” Delenn frowned. “If you truly want to venture beyond known space, then you have some work to do. Emotions to deal with. Choices to make.”
In Marcus’s peripheral vision, he saw Lorien and his swirling blue lights disappear. He noted the alien appeared older than he remembered. Lorien was indeed too tired to expend his energy on their petty squabble. He did not even say goodbye.
“And if we do this . . .” Sheridan stepped toward Delenn. “Then are we able to-”
“There you people are.” Emperor Mollari staggered into the Grey Council chamber. He pointed toward Marcus. “I should’ve known the Minbari absconded with you. It’s always so gray in here. Well, I have great news: party at the palace. You’re all invited.”
“Londo, this is not the time.” Delenn went to meet him.
“Oh, then when is it?” Mollari dodged her and headed straight for the Ranger. He pulled Marcus out of the light. Once he exited the circle, Marcus was in a grand Centauri hall.
A feast was set. A long table with fine chairs, dinnerware, and related items anchored the room. The centerpiece was a large chandelier high above them.
“Sit. Drink. Let’s have a celebration. I have these dancers you should check out in the next room.” Mollari winked. “Very provocative.”
“Where are the others?”
“Angry but they’ll catch up.” He sat at the head of the table. “Takes them some time.”
Marcus sat to the Emperor’s left. “Are you ever sober?”
“I hope not. Tell me if I ever am. I would like to correct the tragedy immediately. What’s eternity without entertainment? Huh?”
Servants placed food on their plates and drinks in their cups. The smell was fabulous. Marcus’s appetite was awaken.
“Don’t worry, since Minbari are coming, no one gets alcohol unless they ask. And believe me, I ask.”
With a grin, Marcus sipped his fruity tea. “You were going to show me what this was all about.”
“Yes. Yes, I was. But since the Minbari have tipped their hand and the humans look dumber for it, I’ll tell you: guilt. Your guilt. Their guilt. It’s all about guilt.”
“You said before.”
“I did? You can’t expect me to remember everything I say.”
Marcus chuckled. “Anyway, I don’t have any guilt.”
“About your life, you do. You lived while everyone else around you perished. That’s guilt.”
“When I saved Susan, my guilt similarly disappeared.”
“Of course, I finally got to repay the universe for allowing me to outlive my usefulness. Balance was restored.”
“Suicide does not cause balance. That’s what you did. No matter how you try to spin your good deed. You caused the perfect inequity: guilt. The gift that keeps on giving. Jumps from one person to the next. I love sharing it myself.”
Marcus thought for a moment. “That’s why Susan is reacting to me the way she has.”
“You placed your guilt onto her. It rooted into the human collective consciousness so deeply that it keeps the humans from moving on.”
“That’s why Delenn kept me in stasis? Doesn’t make sense to leave me . . . In a few lifetimes reborn and the human race would’ve found balance.”
“With the Minbari, who knows? Eat. That’s good Spoo.”
Two loud voices echoed down the nearby hall. Marcus perked up. “Is that Doctor Franklin and G’Kar?”
“Yes, yes. Always going on about their damn ‘ologies.” Mollari gulped his drink and waved for more. A servant poured a brownish liquid into his shiny, gold goblet. “Biology did this. God did that. They’re both wrong.”
“Or, they’re both right.”
“Actually, I played a trick on both of them. That is why you cannot go through the two solid gray doors until you know which exit is safe.”
“Because of a joke?”
“The best one ever invented. They haven’t stopped arguing about it in centuries.”
Marcus gestured toward the passageway. “May I?”
“Of course, you’re not a prisoner. But I must warn you: their discussions can get a bit overheated.”
“I think I can take care of myself.” The Ranger smiled, stood, and left the grand banquet hall.
Once in the corridors, Marcus followed the voices of Stephen and G’Kar. No matter where he turned he could not catch up to his friends. He felt he was on a different plain of existence.
“Stephen? G’Kar? Anyone?” The lights flickered. “Oh, not again.”
“Marcus.” Lennier rushed to the Ranger’s side. His creamed colored robes with muted green architectural shoulder pads moved with him. “There you are. I went to the throne room, but Emperor Mollari was not there. Delenn sent me to find you. Come with me.”
“Wait. Lennier.” Marcus did not move and Lennier ceased his motion. “Is this all about guilt?”
“It’s about a great many things.”
“But I’m not the test taker, I’m the exam proctor, aren’t I? Am I correct in my assumption?”
“You always had a way of seeing a situation from a unique point of view.”
“Then why all the secrecy?”
Lennier exhaled. “It’s not for me to say.”
“What can you say? Or should I enjoy the Spoo with Emperor Mollari?” After a moment of silence, Marcus moved away. “Good day.”
Lennier grasped his forearm. “I could never keep a secret from you. Let’s find another place to discuss the matter.”
Marcus followed his Minbari friend into a small room. Lennier shut the door behind them. He stood in front of the Ranger.
“Guilt is one reason for the test. But there is more than life and death at stake here.”
“Such as?” Marcus lifted an eyebrow.
“Happiness. True love. Soul mates.”
“And how do I achieve these ends?”
“Do as Susan complained: go around the obstacles they set out for me? Interesting plan.”
“I would suggest . . .” Jeffrey Sinclair entered the room from a wall. “involving Londo.”
The men turned to the new arrival. Each bowed to the other. The triumvirate was complete.
“Why do you suggest him?” Lennier stared at Sinclair.
“In his intoxicated state, he has no problem blurring the lines between species’ consciousnesses. Or committing acts of kidnapping, disorderly conduct- Need I say more?”
“What do I have to do, Entil’Zha?”
“Face your guilt, Marcus.”
“Well, I must start at the beginning . . . with my brother William.”
“Then that’s exactly what you’re going to do.”
With a snap of Sinclair’s fingers, Marcus found himself in his corporate office. He sat at his desk. Not a luxurious room, but he enjoyed the exclusivity and quiet of the four walls.
Arisia III was as he recalled. The miserable volcanic planet spewed radioactive gases and soot. Even in the orbital far above the planet, the filters could not clean out every particle in the air handler system. Grime seemed to accumulate on his paperwork every hour of every day.
He brushed the sorrel specks aside. In the air, the soil smelled the same: musty and acidity and putrid. As the powder danced in the light, shimmers of metal and mineral floated. Twinkles of tiny individual fireworks brightened his day as they succumbed to artificial gravity.
He exhaled as he reminisced. The company had been his father’s mining colony. A venture he inherited. One his younger brother did not support.
Marcus held William accountable for his unreliability. He needed his younger brother’s support. He could not run a successful colony by himself. He required help.
When he looked up again, William sat in a guest chair on the other side of the desk. His bright smile illuminated Marcus’s dreary countenance. How he has missed his kid brother.
“It’s me, Marcus.” The young man Marcus remembered stared back at him. His Ranger uniform hung perfect on his slim shoulders. Dark crew cut hair was sleek and shiny. Blue eyes widened with a lift of his brows. “We have something to discuss.”
“Yes, we do: my guilt.”
“I didn’t listen and you died because of my stupidity.”
“That’s not what happened and you know it. The fault was mine. The guilt is mine.”
“What do you have to be guilty for?” Marcus leaned forward in his chair. His elbows sat on the desktop.
“I left you with all of this. I didn’t want to be saddled with dad’s company, so I traveled the galaxy looking for adventure. An adventure I brought home to you.”
“You were warning me.”
“Did a bang up job. Everyone except you got killed. I should’ve faced you, not sent a note.” He folded his hands together on his lap. “It was my responsibility. You were my responsibility.”
“I was the older sibling.”
“But I was the Ranger. If I had come in the first place, not waited until the Shadows were on top of you, things would have worked out differently.”
“Would they have?”
“Yes. I would have taken care of you. The way you took care of everything else and I didn’t have to worry about mom or dad or this place.” William pointed toward the ceiling. “I strapped you down to a life you never wanted and I’m sorry for that.”
“You feel guilty for leaving. I feel guilty for staying.”
“Two sides of the same coin.”
“Looks like we both got cashed out early.”
“Can you ever forgive me?”
“If you can forgive me for never forgiving you in life.”
“Done.” William reached over the desk and offered his palm.
Marcus shook his brother’s hand. “Done, then.”
“There is one more matter I would like to discuss: my toy soldiers.”
“My army men, two inches high. Green and gray. When I was nine, they vanished right after we had a knock out drag out and dad had to separate us.”
“You told on me. I was grounded for a month. You’re lucky that’s all I did was beat you.”
“So you had nothing to do with my missing men?”
“I never touched them.” Marcus simpered. “I had the dog eat them.”
William laughed with Marcus. “Very nice, is that the reason Boss was so sick?”
“I never thought a beagle could turn green. The onboard doc was quite perplexed until he pumped the dog’s stomach. I’m surprised dad didn’t tell you.”
“He was so mad at both of us for interrupting business as usual, he probably forgot.” The lights dimmed. “Well, that’s my cue.”
“You can’t stay?”
“We’ll see each other soon enough. You have to take back some of what I dished out.”
“Ready?” Delenn’s voice entered the room.
Circles We Find Ourselves In the final installment, Part IV, will be coming next week at the same Undawnted time and same Undawnted station.
Here's Part I and Part II, if you missed it. Part IV is next.
Here's Part I and Part II, if you missed it. Part IV is next.
Have a great and wonderful day!