Showing posts with label love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label love. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Breathe in The Descent this Autumn Season

The Descent is "a darker breed of poetry."

As readers have wrote:
"As a genre poet myself, I have to tell you how much I enjoyed this."

"This is first for me. I have never read genre poetry before. I love it. Hugely imaginative and utterly unique..."

Breathe is one of those poems that settles into one's soul. So grab some chocolate and red wine. Then nestle with a blanket and a pet with a fire in the fireplace... as one reader suggested she did and enjoyed this poem in all its flavors, repeatedly. She added that: 

"The poem is as scrumptious and sensual as it is dark and deep."

So delve deep into your sultry side with each breath. 

Grab your copy today... The Descent.

_____

The Descent is getting a new cover! 

DL Mullan created the cover art to better reflect the poetry within the pages of this darker breed of poetry.

Join Undawnted in our Re-release coming this Autumn Cider Seasonal Reads 2023. Subscribe to A Novelist Idea for the details and an invitation to the Release Party.

Learn. Grow. Master... with Undawnted. 


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Circles We Find Ourselves In, Babylon 5 Fanfic and Literary Device Writing Exercise, Part VI

Marcus is now coming to grips with the reality he had created for himself.

_____
 
Circles We Find Ourselves In, Part VI

When Marcus stood, he was at his Ranger training camp. Instead of his regular teachers, Delenn stood before him in a ceremonial room. This time she wore all white. Both greeted each other with a bow.
“What are we doing here?”
She handed him a piece of red fruit. He ate the sweet flesh. She ate some herself. “You owe me, Marcus.”
“Owe you what?”
“As part of your Ranger training you were supposed to participate in the Nafak'cha. You did not. On Babylon Five you were obligated to fulfill the requirements of the Rebirth Ceremony again. You fled. Now, you will.”

Marcus blinked. She had remembered. Even though he wanted to bolt out the nearest air lock, he knew he could not. He was stuck. He had to face his fears. “I must give up my guilt?”
“All of it this time.” She held out her hand. “Also, you must give up something that means a great deal to you.”
The Ranger deliberated. He had nothing else to give. He had lost his family, colony before he joined the Army of Light. Next he lost Susan and then his own life.
He had no material possessions. He had nothing to offer her. He was befuddled. “What else can I surrender?”
“An identity that helps you wallow in your guilt.”
Reluctant, he removed his Ranger pendant and handed the gem to Delenn. That act hurt more than any other he had ever known. He needed that identity. He also realized how dependent he was on hiding behind his Ranger duties.
Her fingers clasped over the ornament. “Now, you must tell something you have never told anyone else.”
He held his breath. Tears welled up in his eyes. He did not want to say what he felt. Vocalization would make the theoretical real.
Marcus released his apprehension and breathed again. “I never realized how my decisions affected others. I always assumed I was expendable. I never thought anyone would mourn my loss. Not as they have, anyway. I just didn’t see the value of my own life. Now, I know I’m as important as every other human soul.”
Delenn smiled and handed back the Ranger pendant to Marcus. “Congratulations, Anla’shok Cole, you are now a full-fledged Ranger.”
“So I am.” He giggled as he snapped the accessory onto his uniform. “Thank you. Now for you, Delenn.”
“Me?”
“I’m not the only one participating, am I?”
She shook her head. She removed her engagement and wedding rings. “I’ve held onto these symbols for several millennia. Humans have lost what it is that makes them great. John too. I wear them in the hopes he’ll come back to me.”
“I’m your way to reclaim Captain Sheridan?”
“Yes, Marcus. I hoped you could restore the balance, but before love was lost between John and I . . .” She turned away from the Ranger. “There was never any mix up. Your cryogenic container was brought to Minbar. When Ivanova died, I kept hope alive that some way to revive you would be found. Before I passed beyond the veil, I had you sent to a medical isolation lab in the middle of unchartered space.”
            “But why?”
            “At first, I didn’t know what else to do. If you were some how alive in there, I couldn’t just cut off the machine.”
            “Then?”
            “I saw how humanity viewed themselves. The goals they were setting to improve their race. I figured someday humans would need someone like you to remind them of who they are.”
“Seems, you were right.”
            “But not at the cost of your soul.”
            “I promise, my soul and I are just fine.” He stared deep into her blue eyes. “If I must give up my guilt, then so do you, Delenn.”
“I’m sorry, Marcus, for making you go through this.”
“All is forgiven.” He grinned. “Anyway, it’s not for not. If you hadn’t hid me away, I would never know how angry Susan was at me.”
“I don’t see how that helps you.”
“You don’t stay mad thousands of years at someone unless you really do love them.”
Her eyes sparkled. “Now, to get her to admit it.”
“I bet humanity would take notice.”
“In the end, you will have a choice to make. You are in fact in stasis.”
“I’ll deal with that reality after we deal with the whole crux of this situation. Shall we?” He gestured to leave. “We have humanity to save.”
 Delenn escorted Marcus back into the Grey Council chambers. The others were present in their lit circles. Stephen and G’Kar were still missing. Londo was at his guestless party.
Marcus and Delenn explained much of what they had learned, but not everything. He kept Delenn’s secret about John. He realized speaking too soon could have a potential catastrophic affect. Then Susan would slide further away.
“Whoa, wait a minute . . .” Garibaldi pointed into the Minbari’s direction. “Delenn, you opened up this old wound as a reminder notice?”
“Someone had to.” Sinclair looked at Garibaldi. “We’ve gotten so far off track. Or, how could one soul have caused all this mess?” 
“If we . . .” Ivanova gestured in a circle to encompass everyone in the room. “All of us here. Forgive Marcus for being a suicidal maniac . . .”
“Thank you, Susan.” Marcus felt insulted.
“You’re welcome.” Ivanova snorted. “If we do, then can we please move on?”
“What’s your rush?” The Ranger put his hands on his hips.
“Rush? You’ve been asleep. We’ve actually been living this nightmare called life. I’m tired. I’m cranky and I want a good stiff drink.”
“Don’t we all?” Garibaldi raised his hand.
Delenn left her circle of light and glided to Sheridan’s area. She handed him the rings. “Here.”
“Why are you giving these to me? They’re yours. I want you to have them.”
“Because we haven’t been married, haven’t been soul mates in quite a long time. We have also lost our way.”
He took her hands in his. “I know things have been strained, but this isn’t what I want.”
“Then what do you want, John?” Sinclair commanded the room’s attention with his voice. “I suggest maybe you and Delenn should find out. Susan accompany Marcus to Londo’s palace. We’ll meet up later.”
“And what about me?” Garibaldi interrupted the exodus.
“You and Lennier get to come with me.” Sinclair grinned. “We’ve got work to do.”
 Next, Marcus found himself in Londo’s banquet hall. Susan stood near the bar. She knocked back a brown fluid. She motioned the bartender for another shot.
He went to her. “Thirsty?”
As she gulped another unit of liquor, Londo giggled. “All the perks, none of the hang over.”
“Amen.”
Marcus turned to Susan. “And what do you think of all this?”
“Maybe if Delenn and John can work out their differences, then we can go to the Rim.”
“Is that your only goal?”
With another drink in hand, Susan made her way to the table. Marcus followed and sat beside her. Lando feasted on his Spoo at the head. The two humans retired in the middle of the endless table.
“I need a vacation, Marcus. From what I remember of our lives together, it was stressful.”
“War will make you feel that way.”
“A lot of things made me feel that way.”
“You’re talking about us, aren’t you?”
“Hard to when there was no us.”
“You had no regrets when I died?”
She drank some more. “Regrets? You want a list of regrets? I spent my whole life trying to erase what you did. Give up your life for me. I worked extra hard at everything.”
“And you spent time with me.”
“You were all I could think about. All I ever . . .”
“Ever, what?”
She slammed down her glass. “You know.”
“It’s called survivor’s guilt. I had it and I passed it on to you. I’m sorry for that Susan. That is my regret. I never told you. Never showed you.”
“I didn’t either, Marcus.” Susan grasped his hand. “You were always there. By my side. I just assumed you would be.”
“I was. Every step of the way.”
She snorted a laugh then became solemn. “I know survivor’s guilt. I understand why you did what you did for me. I hadn’t realized what it would mean to me if something were to happen to you.”
“Do any of us really? We think about it. We buried it so deeply in our minds because emotionally we can’t handle the brevity of life. The people we love how they’ll disappear one by one from our lives until we’re next on the list.”
“To tell you the truth, I couldn’t have done half the accomplishments I did without knowing that someday we would meet again.” She giggled. “I thought I had to report to you. Which is why I went and spoke to your cryogenic chamber. I wanted you to know I was doing something with the second chance you gave me. I was making a difference.”
“For ten thousand years?” He stared deep into her eyes. “You have nothing to prove to me.”
“Don’t I?” Susan smiled. “I know what you want from me. I wish I could give that to you.”
“But?”
“I’m not ready.”
Marcus raised her hand and kissed the back. “If I can keep hope alive, I’ll be satisfied.”
She kissed his cheek. Both smiled. Nothing was ever over.
Garibaldi plopped down next to Ivanova. He grabbed Ivanova’s drink, smelled the contents, and placed the glass back on the table. “Wow, that’s strong. Burnt the nose hairs right off.”
“Stick to your orange juice.” Ivanova shoved him with her shoulder. “This table’s for grown ups.”
“What are you doing here?” Marcus furrowed his brow. “I thought you had something to do with Sinclair and Lennier.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Garibaldi  pointed pass Marcus. “Lennier’s Christmas Past. I’m Christmas Present.”
“Which makes me the future.” Sinclair finished with an all-knowing smile.
Marcus peered at the religious leader. “So you know how this story ends?”
“No, Marcus, that is up to you. I am only a guide.”
Susan looked around the table. “Where’s Delenn and Sheridan?”
“Their home on Minbar.” Sinclair sat down beside Lennier. “Londo has a proposition for you.”
“Yes, but I’m not interested in the dancing girls.”
“No, not the girls. The doors.” Londo sat next to Lennier. He fanned himself. “Why did you have to be clear down here? It’s uncomfortable in the summer months.”
“Explain to him about the passageways.” Sinclair smiled with a curve of sadness.
“Your utlimate joke.” Marcus turned his attention to the Emperor, but he noticed Susan never relinquished his hand. He laced his fingers in hers. “I can’t choose until I know which one is safe, remember?”
“The first door is more of the same. The other is life. Which for anyone but you is a terrible realization.” Londo sipped at his goblet. “We would be lost in this new galaxy. That and totally bodiless.”
“So it’s down to two choices again.” Marcus reclined into his chair.
“Before Delenn went off with Sheridan, she made me place two more doors.”
“Two?” Sinclair frowned. “She didn’t mention that.”
“Being part Minbari yourself, you know how weird their requests can be and without explanation.” Londo signaled for more alcohol. The servant who had followed him filled his cup. “The third door is to commune with the Minbari until such time your body dies. The fourth door will lead to a life of your choosing. Anything you can dream up will be yours.”
“Anything?”
            “Am I slurring my words again?”
            “No. I’m just in awe of your abilities.”
“So, what have you decided?” Susan caressed his hand.
“I guess I have some thinking to do. Where are these doors?”
Londo gestured. “Down the hall. Several meters. You can’t miss them. Four large gray doors.”
“Thank you all but I need some time alone.” Marcus kissed Susan’s hand one more time. He stood, bowed, and departed their company. Not long afterward, he discovered the doors.
            Marcus stood in front of the four choices. In his mind, hours had flown by. He did not know which he should choose. He knew what he wanted, but did she?
            Susan sighed as she stepped beside him. “I figured you already knew what you wanted.”
            “I do.”
            “Then what’s the hold up?”
            “Consequences. I don’t want to pass on any more guilt.”
            “We’ve dealt with our collective guilt. So what is it?”
            “Depends.”
            “On?”
            He lifted and opened his hand. “Care to join me?”
            “I won’t have a body, Marcus.”
            “I didn’t say I was choosing life.”
            “You would let go?”
          “I didn’t say I was choosing death.” He stared forward. Without moving his head, he glanced in her direction. “I just wanted to know if you would . . .”
            “Spend an eternity with the Minbari?” After a giggle, she placed her hand in his. “Whatever your choice is Marcus, I’ll support your decision. And when you’ve returned I’ll be waiting for a detailed report.”
            “Double spaced?”
            “And in Standard English.”
           Guilt vanished. For the first time, Marcus felt the weight of all his fears lift from his shoulders. Part of the reason is that he forgave other people for their trespasses. Another part was he forgave himself. The last and most critical piece is that he realized the truth about life, love, and honor.
            Never be without them.
He grinned. He had everything he ever wanted. With his mind made up, Marcus reached over and turned the knob.

_____

Read the rest of the novelette on Undawnted's Circles We Find Ourselves In dedicated page.
 
*****

*Update: all workshops and special engagements have now been concluded, and new projects are now under Undawnted's Substack.

A writer at heart, Undawnted's own creative spark, DL Mullan, began writing short stories and poetry before adolescence. Over the years, Ms. Mullan has showcased her literary talents by self-publishing several collections of her poetry. She also writes novels, designs apparel, and creates digital art. Ms. Mullan‘s creative writing is available in digital and print collections, from academia to commercial anthologies. As an independent publisher, she produces her own book cover designs as well as maintains her own websites. She is an award-winning digital artist and poet. This year, DL Mullan has begun sharing her knowledge via A Novelist Idea Newsletter. If you too want to become a Fearless Phile, then subscribe to her newsletter on Substack.


Her innovative style teaches writers how to reach their creative potential, and write more effectively.

Learn. Grow. Master… with Undawnted.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Circles We Find Ourselves In, Babylon 5 Fanfic and Literary Device Writing Exercise, Part III

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.” 
“Did it?”
“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?”
          “You know.”
          “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.
“William?”
“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.”
“You’re 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.”
“What?”
“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.”
“Guilt?”
“Ready?” Delenn’s voice entered the room.

_____

Read the rest of the novelette on Undawnted's Circles We Find Ourselves In dedicated page.

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A writer at heart, Undawnted's own creative spark, DL Mullan, began writing short stories and poetry before adolescence. Over the years, Ms. Mullan has showcased her literary talents by self-publishing several collections of her poetry. She also writes novels, designs apparel, and creates digital art. Ms. Mullan‘s creative writing is available in digital and print collections, from academia to commercial anthologies. As an independent publisher, she produces her own book cover designs as well as maintains her own websites. She is an award-winning digital artist and poet. This year, DL Mullan has begun sharing her knowledge via A Novelist Idea Newsletter. If you too want to become a Fearless Phile, then subscribe to her newsletter on Substack.

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