"Come," G'Kar's voice was irritable as he answered the insistent buzz of the door bell. He had spent a long day on security detail, trying to do the job and keep his people motivated at the same time. These times were hard, and he knew things were likely to get worse before they got better. If they ever got better.
Sighing, he turned off the vid he was perusing and turned to see the door swish open, revealing a cloaked figure standing against the lighted hallway.
G'Kar got to his feet, instantly coming to a ready stance, his large hands held at his sides, the long fingers curled into his palms.
The cloaked figure stepped into the dim, candle-lit room, raising one hand in front of his chest in a placating gesture.
As the door slid shut, G'Kar peered at his visitor, finding odd discontinuities in his appearance. The cloak was Minbari, the hood completely hiding the face within, but it fell smoothly, with no sign of the typical bony crest. The hands were slender and pale-skinned, and the tunic, pants and boots worn under the cloak had a distinctly human feel to them.
When the door was safely closed, G'Kar stepped closer to his visitor, looking down at him with obvious suspicion.
"Yes?" the Narn growled.
G'Kar couldn't see it, yet, but he could feel the answering smile. The hands lifted up to take hold of the hood and yank it back.
"Hello, G'Kar," said Earth Ambassador Jeffrey Sinclair.
Once they were both seated, G'Kar's curiosity got the better of him.
"What are you doing here?" he asked bluntly. "I thought you'd been assigned to some diplomatic post on Minbar."
Sinclair smiled, leaning back in his seat. "I was. I'm presently the Earth Ambassador to Minbar, even despite the chaos back home. They haven't gotten around to worrying about me yet. As far as everyone knows I'm still sitting quietly on Minbar, and I'd prefer to keep it that way."
G'Kar lifted his protuberant chin, his eyes glittering, though more with surprise than anything else. "Indeed."
Sinclair met the former Narn Ambassador's gaze firmly. G'Kar had changed dramatically in the last two years. A change much for the better, even if the reasons for it had not been good ones. They had all had to grow through these difficult times, grow or be destroyed. The choices had not been easy for any of them. G'Kar and his people had suffered greatly, and that was one of the reasons Sinclair had taken the time to talk to the Narn leader before he went to face the task ahead.
"Indeed," he echoed gravely. Sinclair paused, drawing a deep breath to give him time to try to formulate the words. He knew and understood so many things now, but it was hard to find the words to pass on that comprehension to someone else. But he owed it to G'Kar to try.
"Delenn told me that you understand some of what is happening."
G'Kar's features managed to become both forbidding and anguished all at once. Sinclair found himself wondering how he could ever have thought the Narn were inexpressive. A thousand emotions flew across G'Kar's face in a bare instant before he clamped down control. Slowly nodding, G'Kar indicated a silent yes.
"Good," Sinclair said, inclining his head in unspoken sympathy. "G'Kar, if there had been anything I could have done... please know that I would have not hesitated."
G'Kar fixed him with a fierce red stare, which Sinclair met openly, his eyes clear, his angular face serene.
Finally, the Narn looked away, his eyes flickering around the room before returning to Sinclair as he spoke. "Yes, I believe you would have."
"Thank you," Sinclair said with heartfelt sincerity. Then he leaned forward in his chair. "Your people suffered terribly at the hands of the Darkness which is returning. It was a bitter part to play, a heavy burden to bear. And it will not be forgotten. But, it will also not be the last." He swallowed, his dark amber eyes fixated G'Kar with an intense stare. "Time is growing short. I do not have much left to me. I need your help, G'Kar."
G'Kar looked narrowly at the Minbari-cloaked human in front of him. It did not take much to realize that there was a wealth of meaning buried beneath Sinclair's somewhat cryptic words. Taking one question at a time, he focused in on the first question that occurred to him.
"What do you mean by 'not the last'?"
Sinclair sighed, his eyes dropping as he ran a suddenly tired hand though his hair. When he looked up, his gaze was somber. "It is my turn, G'Kar."
"Your turn for what?"
"I must return to the beginning."
G'Kar nearly groaned aloud. "Come on, Sinclair, you're beginning to sound like a Minbari. Or worse yet, like that blasted Vorlon."
Sinclair couldn't help it; he broke out into a warm throaty chuckle, his brown eyes sparkling.
G'Kar did groan this time, shaking his head in frustration. "What's so funny?" he demanded.
Sinclair broke off abruptly, his entire demeanor becoming grave. "Perhaps nothing. This is hard to explain, but I feel that since you have sacrificed so much for the cause already, that you had a right to know that you weren't alone. And I need to ask a couple favors of you. Not so much for myself alone..."
Something in Sinclair's voice and expression stilled the irritable words forming on G'Kar's tongue. He closed his mouth and looked up sharply. His voice was soft, however, when he did speak.
Sinclair nodded, but answered with a question. "What do you remember of the first Great War?"
G'Kar looked thoughtful. "The Shadows came to destroy everything. They formed a base on our world from which to launch against others. Our people didn't understand, we had not yet reached the stars, but we knew they were evil. We were ready to fight, but we had no chance. Not alone. Then the Minbari came, led by their Great Leader, Valen. He met with our leaders, including G'Quan, and formed an alliance against the darkness. We were joined by the Vorlons and a few other races, and we fought long and hard, finally succeeding in driving them away. We did not destroy them all, but we won a thousand years of peace. At least, peace from them."
Sinclair nodded. "What do you know of Valen?"
G'Kar gave him a surprised look, but shrugged. "From G'Quan's writings, he was extraordinary, especially for a Minbari. He had an ability to understand other peoples' ways, to see things no one else saw. He was a prophet, a warrior and a diplomat. It was he who held the alliance together, who led all of the races in the fight against the Shadows. Without him, we would have lost the war. The Minbari practically worship him, and even our people remember him. G'Quan wrote thus, that we should never forget the name of Valen. And so, once a year, those of us who still follow the way of G'Quan say a prayer in remembrance of Valen's name."
Sinclair nodded, his mouth twisting somewhat wryly. It was an odd expression and sparked G'Kar's curiosity. "What does ancient history have to do with what is happening now? Why the concern with Valen? He's a thousand years dead."
Sinclair sat silently for a moment, trying to find a way to explain that wouldn't sound totally insane. Finally, he sighed, gritted his teeth, and threw it out. "Not exactly, you see... I'm Valen."
He got the response he expected. G'Kar stared at him wide-eyed, then started to laugh. Sinclair waited patiently, wincing inside. Even though he'd come to accept what was and must be, it was difficult to even speak that knowledge aloud.
G'Kar laughed, then looked to Sinclair, expecting him to share the joke. The human stared at the Narn somberly, seriously.
"You're joking," G'Kar said. Sinclair gazed quietly at him.
"You're not joking! By G'Quan, Sinclair, have you gone mad?"
"Perhaps," Sinclair replied dryly, the corners of his mouth twitching. Then he sighed, and tried again.
"I know it does sound insane, but it's the truth. I will be Valen. My whole life has been leading to this, even though I did not know it until very recently." He leaned forward to emphasize his words. "Did you know that the Minbari chose me to be Babylon 5's first commander?"
G'Kar gave him a surprised look. "No. Surely Earth made the choice."
Sinclair shook his head. "No, it was the Minbari--or more precisely, it was Delenn."
Now that did not surprise G'Kar quite so much. His expression turned thoughtful. "And she came to Babylon 5..."
"To watch me. And prepare for what was coming."
"Which explains why a member of the Gray Council would be sent to fulfill an Ambassadorial position."
It was Sinclair's turn to looks surprised. "You knew?"
G'Kar smiled, delighted to have scored that point. "Yes. I found that much out, though I never knew the reason." He studied Sinclair carefully. "You were the reason?"
Sinclair nodded. "Yes. And then when things started to get moving, she arranged for me to be removed to Minbar. To prepare me for what would come and to allow me to safely begin to assemble an army against the darkness. Human and Minbari learning to work together."
"The Rangers?" G'Kar asked.
Sinclair inclined his head in agreement. "Yes. At first, all we could do was watch and wait, and even now, there is little more we can do. But the time to fight is coming closer day by day."
G'Kar waved his hand, dismissing familiar knowledge. "Yes, but even so, what does this have to do with you thinking you're Valen?"
Sinclair smiled wryly. "As you said, Valen was quite a prophet. Actually, he--I--simply knew history well enough to give some good predictions. One thing Valen did--I suppose I will have to do--is leave a few things stored away. The Minbari are very good at following orders. Valen left a couple of sealed containers, with instructions to open them on set dates. One was opened three days ago."
G'Kar's eyes widened as Sinclair reached into his cloak and drew out a brown envelope. Holding it up for G'Kar to see the writing on it, he added softly, "This sat in a Minbari temple for over 900 years."
The Narn was able to read the name on it easily, and it made his skin tingle with an odd sort of electricity. The very air in the room seemed charged. His eyes never moving from the letter, G'Kar asked with surprising calm, "What did it say?"
Sinclair shook his head, returning the letter to its place within his cloak. "That's for me alone. All that matters is that I wrote it. From the past."
"But how?" G'Kar exclaimed, getting up to stalk the room. Turning back to Sinclair who remained seated in his chair, he gesticulated widely. "You're here, how could you possibly be there?"
"Do you remember hearing anything about Babylon 4?"
"I know it disappeared suddenly, and that the region of space surrounding where it was is now forbidden territory. Then it suddenly reappeared for a short while and your people evacuated the crew. Strange things are said to exist out there."
Sinclair nodded. "I was the one who quarantined the area. There is a large rift in time within that region, with massive tachyon emissions that can be deadly. We lost a pilot--he died of old age. He was only 30 Earth years old."
G'Kar shivered in sympathy, coming back over to sit down opposite Sinclair. His expression was still confused. Sinclair held up a hand, gesturing to him to wait.
"When Garibaldi and I went to evacuate the crew, we found the entire place caught in a time distortion. Everyone kept having time flashes, where you'd see yourself forward or backward in time. And there was an alien aboard, of a race I've never seen before, who said that his people were taking the station through time to help in a great war. He said they were fighting a great darkness."
G'Kar's eyes widened. Sinclair smiled wryly.
"At the time we assumed he meant they were taking the station forward, but we were wrong. Babylon Four was taken backwards through time--a thousand years, to be exact."
"What?" G'Kar leaned forward in his chair, startled.
Sinclair ran a hand through his gray-edged brown hair, then looked up to meet G'Kar's red eyes. "Delenn confirms this. The Minbari have a record of it. Their primary base of operations in the war was destroyed by the Shadows, but a replacement arrived, suddenly, out of nowhere. The Gray Council has kept a record of that station for all this time, holding it secret--until now."
G'Kar snorted. "Typical."
Sinclair grinned, shrugged. "It was necessary. And they didn't know what the station was or where it came from until Delenn came to Babylon 5."
"All right, Sinclair," G'Kar growled. "Even if I accept this about Babylon Four, what does it have to do with you being Valen?"
Sinclair chuckled softly. "G'Kar--the station can't take itself through time; someone's got to do it."
G'Kar's eyes widened. "You mean you...?"
"Yes," Sinclair nodded. "Within two days, we will take the White Star, enter the rift and go back six years in time, and secure Babylon Four. Then I will take it back a thousand years so that it can replace the destroyed base, and serve as a rallying point for the Alliance of the Light."
"Sinclair, I've always wondered, and now I know for sure--you're completely insane!"
The human broke out laughing. When his mirth had subsided, he smiled wryly. "You could be very right, G'Kar." He sobered quickly. "But it must be done."
"All right, but I still don't understand how you end up as Valen, even saying you go back in time. You're human, Valen was Minbari." G'Kar couldn't quite believe he was going along with this human craziness, but he had to allow that it certainly wasn't a dull conversation.
Sinclair sighed. This was the hard part, even for him, to accept. His mind had a tendency to skew away from the details of it, even though he committed to the path without question.
"Remember Delenn's change?" he asked softly.
G'Kar felt like his eyes were going to pop out of his head. "The cocoon thing she did last year?"
Sinclair simply nodded again.
"But she was made half-human..."
"And I'll become Minbari. It's in balance."
"By G'Quan!" G'Kar swore. For a moment, he almost believed, but...
"This is insane!" he repeated helplessly.
Sinclair spread his hands out. "Perhaps. But no less so than anything else that is happening right now. G'Kar, I have to do this. Without B4, without Valen, we will lose the last war. A thousand years of civilization wiped out instantly. Not only will we lose the present battle, there won't be a present to save--not as we know it. This is history, it has already been done, we must simply make sure that it happens again." Sinclair frowned as he reconsidered his tenses, but gave it up quickly as not worth the confusion.
G'Kar was speechless. He sat back and regarded Sinclair for a while. The human leaned back also, resting his hands in his lap, clasped, his expression serene--waiting. He let G'Kar consider, and the Narn's mind was racing in circles. This was insanity, but then that could be said for most of the rest of the universe. The Centauri aligned with the Shadows (well, not such a big surprise, that), and the Minbari aligned with the humans. Or at least with the rebel humans. The Earth Alliance split on itself, and the Shadows... the Shadows were there. G'Kar had said once that sometimes you had to give up all you were to save all that you had...
But Valen? Valen was the stuff of legends. He ranked second only to G'Quan in Narn myths. A Minbari leader who spoke Narn, who understood the ways of their people nearly as well as he understood his own, a prophet who had spoken with the voice of the Gods...
G'Kar couldn't quite square the image with the man sitting in front of him. He knew Sinclair. He was good man, yes. G'Kar respected him deeply. More, perhaps, than any other human he'd ever met. He was smart, resourceful, honorable, and had always had a touch of spirituality about him. G'Kar was more religious than he liked to let on, preferring to be seen as a warrior, as such was prized by his people. But he knew true spirituality when he saw it, and Sinclair had it. As well as a remarkable ability to open himself up to other's ways. G'Kar still owed him for the G'Quan'Eth ceremony--Sinclair had managed not just to find a way to allow G'Kar to meet the most important religious ceremony of the Narn year, he had saved G'Kar's honor as well. He had understood more deeply than G'Kar would have ever credited him with being able to do.
But still... Valen?
Sinclair was still watching him, silently, patiently. The corners of the mobile human mouth were tilted upward slightly, just the slightest hint of humor bleeding through the calm of his expression. The dark somber eyes lit from within, burning with an intensity that never lessened. G'Kar focused on those amber orbs, his own red eyes glowing in response, and he suddenly froze. His breath caught in his lungs, and he shifted in his seat as though stung.
Sinclair tilted his head to side, ever so slightly, as though encouraging G'Kar to speak. The Narn didn't bother. His mind was elsewhere, and his body followed quickly. Darting across the room with surprising speed for someone his size, he came up short in front of a small painting. He hesitated, glancing back at the watching human, then shrugged, and pressed him palm into the corner of the frame. Stereotypical hiding place that it was, the security locking mechanism was the best that could be bought. It took several minutes for G'Kar to enter all the appropriate codes, and let his retina and spot pattern be read. Finally, the door to the small safebox swung open, and G'Kar withdrew the contents with reverential care.
Closing the box, he came back over to sit down opposite Sinclair, holding a ribbon and cloth-wrapped bundle of parchments. Sinclair simply lifted an eyebrow. G'Kar smiled faintly.
"G'Quan's Book is widely known among our people. The copies are reproduced by hand in exact replication of the originals. But that record was a deliberate one, a summarizing done by G'Quan so that our people would remember. This," he looked down with loving regard at the bundle in his lap, "this is what remains of his private diaries. They, too, have been reproduced through the centuries, and passed from father to son, the pieces split for protection among several Narn families. This is the section I inherited from my father, and the only one I am aware of which survived the last Centauri invasion."
Sinclair leaned forward, his eyes sparkling with interest. "What does it contain?"
G'Kar smiled more broadly, waving a hand in the air. "Mostly family stuff, appointments, thoughts, feelings..."
His voice trailed off as he opened the bundle cautiously, placing the ribbons and cloth on the table, then fanning out the parchments in his lap.
"And..." Sinclair encouraged.
G'Kar found the page he wanted and lifted it out ever so slowly, taking great care not to damage or wrinkle the paper. Finally he looked up at his guest. "And the record of the arrival of the Minbari to our world."
Sinclair bolted up-right in his chair. "G'Kar..."
"By G'Quan!" G'Kar interrupted him, his mouth dropping open, his eyes darting from his lap to Sinclair and back again and again. He lifted up the page in his hand to the light, tilting it sideways, narrowing his eyes, then looked back at Sinclair with an expression of stunned surprise. "How could I not have seen..."
"Seen what?" Sinclair had lost his seemingly imperturbable calm, and he was almost trembling as he leapt up to stand beside G'Kar, trying to peer over his shoulder. G'Kar turned to him, and lifted up the parchment to hand it over to the human.
Sinclair took it with unsteady hands, as though almost afraid to see what was on it. Yet his only response was a long, deep sigh, and a widening of his chocolate-colored eyes.
G'Kar simply watched him, waiting as Sinclair dropped himself down beside G'Kar, propping his elbows on his thighs and holding the page by the edges with the fingertips of both hands.
"I knew," he whispered. "I knew it was so, and yet... God, G'Kar, it's like looking into a twisted mirror." He held the ancient drawing up higher, tilting it from side to side. "It's me, but it's not me. I knew..." He faltered, suddenly unable to find the words.
"Knowing in your mind that something is right isn't always the same as feeling it is right," G'Kar said softly. His eyes glazed over with a red sheen as he stared blankly at the far wall. "When Delenn told me why the Gray Council had decided to keep silent about the Shadows, even though they knew millions of my people were going to die, in order to save all the rest--I knew they had made the right choice. But my heart still can't quite accept it. My mind, perhaps even my soul knows... but my heart still aches. A part of me still denies it." He clasped his hands, squeezing them so tightly together that the muscles and sinews bulged, the skin bleaching with the pressure.
Sinclair turned, and carefully returning the inked sketch to the table where the rest of the document lay, he reached out to touch G'Kar's arm. "I'm sorry," he said, his voice husky with emotion. "Believe me, I know. The Minbari have been acting under Valen's..." he swallowed hard, "my instructions, for close to a thousand years. And yet, the Earth-Minbari war happened. They nearly destroyed Earth; a quarter of a million humans died. There was no warning from Valen, except for vague prophecies that only made sense after events had already occurred. How could I do that, G'Kar? How do I let that happen when I could stop it? How?"
His voice shattered on the last word, breaking G'Kar out of his reverie. The Narn turned to meet Sinclair's haunted amber eyes.
"Why shouldn't you warn them?" G'Kar asked. "Surely there is no need..."
Sinclair shook his head. "The Earth-Minbari war was the reason for the Babylon project. Earth would never have put out the effort otherwise. The fear of another such conflict was the sole motivating factor. Without it--we wouldn't have B5 now as a base of operations against the Shadows and we wouldn't have had B4 to take back to help in the last war. Babylons Four and Five were created because of the Earth-Minbari war, and without them, both wars against the Shadows would be lost."
Sinclair fell silent, but G'Kar answered painfully.
"And so another sacrifice is made." He closed his eyes, and buried his head in his hands. When he finally looked up at Sinclair, the human was staring off into space, his expression shuttered, his eyes glazed.
G'Kar stared at him for a moment, then surprised himself by taking hold of Sinclair's hand. The human jerked, startled, then fixed the Narn with his burning gaze. "It must be done," G'Kar told him.
Sinclair nodded, not quite able to speak yet. His earlier fluency had given way to an anguished silence, the weight of what had seemed a distant truth now settling down on his shoulders as an invisible, but staggering weight. G'Kar met his intense gaze with a growing calm. "You will do what you must."
Sinclair nodded again, grimly.
G'Kar smiled at him, squeezing his hand, then letting it go. "And I will help. Ask what you need of me, it will be done."
"Thank you," Sinclair said softly, his voice still harsh, broken.
G'Kar shook his head. "I could not do otherwise. G'Quan himself followed at your command; how can I do any less? I am honored to be at your service."
"No," Sinclair protested, slowly refocusing back on the moment at hand. "What we do, we do together. Then and now, we are all an equal part of the struggle against the darkness."
G'Kar hid a smile as he formally bowed his head to the man sitting beside him. "As you say. But you did come to ask something of me, did you not?"
Sinclair sighed, running a hand through his graying hair. His eyes closed for a moment, and then opened, refocused, the serenity back into place as though it had never been gone. "I need you to teach me."
"About your people, about G'Quan. As much of your history as you can in the short time remaining to me, as well as the basics of your language. I'm fluent in the language of the Minbari religious caste, Adronado, but I haven't had the time or opportunity to study other languages. Adronado is not easy." He grinned. "I just hope it hasn't changed too much in a thousand years. The scholars say that it hasn't--that they have carefully kept to the old ways. Count on the Minbari to ritualize daily language as well as everything else."
G'Kar returned the smile, though it turned into a grimace. "I'm not sure I can say the same for ours. Not daily speaking, at least. The ceremonial language, especially that of our faith, has remained relatively constant, but standard usage has changed. I am not trained in such things, but I can teach you some of the formal language used by our priests. It is probably the closest to what would have been spoken in G'Quan's time. The written language, at least, has not changed too much."
"It will have to do," Sinclair rubbed wearily at his eyes. "I only need enough to begin to communicate. The rest can be learned when it is needed." He chuckled abruptly. "I've got a thousand years, and yet, I'm running against the clock. I must go soon, too soon."
"Then we will begin," G'Kar said firmly. "Garibaldi still has my copy of G'Quan's Book, but I know much of it by memory."
Sinclair started, as though he had been struck. G'Kar anxiously asked, "Are you all right?"
"Yes. It's just..." Sinclair gazed sadly at G'Kar. "Michael must not know I'm here until after I'm gone."
"Why? I had thought he was your friend."
"He is!" Sinclair rested his chin his hands, staring downward at the floor. "But if he finds out what I am doing, he'll either try to stop me or try to come along. I can't let either happen. I wish it were otherwise, but I can't take the chance. He is needed here, and what I have to do, has to be done alone." He smiled wryly. "I wouldn't put it past Michael to try something crazy if he knew." His voice turned hard. "I won't allow that to happen."
G'Kar nodded his understanding. Sinclair turned to him. "But when this is over, when I am gone... G'Kar, promise me you'll talk to Michael. Try to help him understand why I had to do this. He's going to be hurt, and he'll need someone who not only cares, but understands what he is feeling. I think you can do that better than anyone. Please, if you do nothing else, promise me you'll be there for Michael."
G'Kar closed his hands into fists and thumped them against his chest, bowing his head. "I promise. By G'Quan, I swear it."
Sinclair slumped in his seat, going limp as the tension holding him upright suddenly released. His head fell forward into his arms, his body trembled. G'Kar gasped, reaching out to wrap massive arms around the man's shoulders, restraining him from tumbling forward. The Narn cradled the shaking human for a few moments, then released him as soon as he started to move.
Sinclair rubbed at his face with his right sleeve, then turned red-rimmed eyes to G'Kar.
"I'm sorry," he said.
G'Kar smiled, squeezing his shoulder. "Don't be. This is a difficult time for us all. But as you said, we will face it together."
Sinclair smiled, warmly, the light returning to his eyes. He nodded, then drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "All right." He pointed to the documents piled on the table in front of him. "Let's start with these. Tell me what they say."
G'Kar picked up one page, scanned it briefly, and began to speak.