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An Exercise In Hope

By Revever

Scifi / Drama

From The Valley Of Dead

"You don't see yet, Genry, why we perfected and practice Foretelling?"

"No—"

"To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question."

(...)

"The unknown," said Faxe's soft voice in the forest, "the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. (...) Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable—the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?"

"That we shall die."

"Yes. There's really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer. ... The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”

Left Hand of Darkness” Ursula K. Le Guin


Londo Mollari walked through the permanently busy corridors of Babylon 5 with some exasperation. He was certain, absolutely certain, that there was something he had forgotten, something incredibly important, yet he could not pin down what it might have been about. Realizing that he had just spent the last fifteen minutes wandering aimlessly and was near the docking bay, at customs, did nothing to appease his irritation.

Then a scream caught his attention and he noticed a Narn woman, quite old, clothed in ragged dress. She was covered in dust and blood, and seemed completely misplaced between other people, other races too, for there was no other Narn around. From amidst curious, but generally indifferent, crowd she pointed her trembling finger at him.

'I know you!' she screamed.' You are Londo Mollari! You are the one who destroyed our world! You killed my children, my parents and my beloved husband! And you killed me, but you should know that a Narn will never stop fighting back! We won't forget!'

She started to run towards him, but he wasn't able to move, despite the clear danger. All he could do was to look around, but people weren't looking back. If anything, they were avoiding looking at him or at the Narn woman at all. And G'Kar was nowhere around. Even if he had promised to be, even if he had said he wanted to be his bodyguard. But maybe G'Kar too thought that the woman was right. Londo surely though she was.

He didn't defend himself when she plunged a knife deep into his chest and caused him to fell hard onto the ground.

Awakening on the floor beside his own bed was only a moderate relief. The whole room was spinning madly and it took him entirely too much time to sit upright and disentangle himself from the bedsheets. And the bottle of brivari on the nightstand was completely empty even if he didn't remember drinking it all. Maybe those little creatures commander Ivanova was once telling him about were real after all. What were they called, little buggers? Gremlins?

Londo went gingerly to the bathroom, where he splashed water over his sweaty face. Then he dressed fully, deciding he had had quite enough sleep that night. Especially with dreams like those. Too bad this one wasn't prophetic, it didn't seem like anyone was going to attack him in this manner in any nearby future after all.

It was only 04:00 Earth time, but there were many places on the station that were not sleeping. Or nice, quiet places which were dead asleep, if he wanted one, too. He left his quarters and headed for the Dark Star. Why not, he thought. There were times when it was perfectly normal for him to be there at this time. Why not again?

But somewhere in the middle of his way he turned and went to a quiet place instead, where in a dead end corridor a big window was placed on the ceiling, allowing to watch stars, passing by as station rotated slowly. Londo watched it for a moment, feeling like being dragged underneath and leaving sky high above. As this only irritated him, he made a motion to turn around, only to pause, when he heard footsteps.

'Ambassador' said Lyta Alexander emerging from behind the corner. 'I didn't think I would meet you here.'

'Yes, the universe is full of surprises, as ambassador G'Kar loves to remind me' answered Londo somewhat acerbically. 'He usually adds that it is a wonderful thing but I would not go that far, hm?'

Lyta Alexander looked at him thoughtfully, with slightly narrowed eyes.

'I suppose not' she said noncommittally at least.

'You suppose not... And what are you doing here at this hour, if I may ask?'

'You may, but then I may need to erase your memory.'

Londo heard that phrase in so many jokes, that at first he didn't take her seriously. Only a moment later he registered deadly and empty look in her eyes.

'I will not ask, then 'he said simply.'

Lyta Alexander came closer then and stood beside him in front of the window.

'Do you remember, Ms Alexander, that you once threatened me with a nightmare so deep planted, that I would wake up every night screaming?' Londo said in a conversational voice. To his own surprise he needed to say some things aloud, but preferably not in front of people who were close to him. Not to Vir and also not to G'Kar, that meant.

'I do.'

'I did it myself, quite capably. '

She didn't answer but Londo didn't mind.

'Have you heard of the Valley of the Dead by any chance, Ms Alexander?'

'Only the human one. The Valley of the Shadow of Death, to be precise.'

'Well, we Centauri have one too. It is an old legend, older than the Empire, about the wronged souls crying from the Valley of the Dead for the revenge.' He shook his head. 'Now, Ms Alexander, I must go. I must go before I feel the need to erase your memory, which of course is impossible, just as about everything else these days. Goodbye.'

The next day, when he and Vir were sitting at Zocalo, and Londo was laughing from the bottom of his boots at some recently heard joke, Lyta Alexander, passing by, regarded him with thoughtful expression.

'You are very cheerful, ambassador' she said.

'Yeees, I thought there's no need to broadcast my misery to the entire universe' replied Londo quietly and snappy, irritated that she just reminded him of their nightly conversation. 'I wouldn't stand it being sulky and whining, after all it has the most wonderful way of happily playing with people's lives, yes?'

Ms Alexander didn't answer. She took the chair and sat down at Londo and Vir's table.

'Perhaps I have an offer for you, ambassador.'

Londo could not help, but shudder from sudden memory of Mr Morden offering him his services. Judging from closed and wary expression, so did Vir, even if they both knew that Lyta Alexander was fighting against Shadows. But she was not quite the person she was a year before, everybody noticed that.

'No more deals with the devils!' quipped Vir suddenly. 'No more! Londo, you mustn’t!'

'Deals with the devils, Mr Cotto?' asked Lyta Alexander calmly, as Londo failed to say anything. 'Hardly. Shadows are gone. And as for anything or anybody they've left behind I'm the one equipped with Vorlon knowledge of dealing with them. So why wouldn't you just listen to me and then decide if I'm really the devil?'

'Alright, Ms Alexander' said Londo. 'What it is you wish to discuss?'

'Telepaths' matters of course. In exchange for long–distance ships we could explore new parts of galaxy and share with you our discoveries...'

'Until you find your new world, yes, Ms Alexander? Why are you proposing this to me of all people? Ah, I guess no one from Earth wanted to talk with you. Too scared of your Psi Corp? But I'm afraid that I'm in no position to help you as well. There is no way I could arrange for a ship for you. And I'm not sure if I want to in the first place.'

'Then I will continue my search of opportunity, ambassador. But perhaps you could make me an offer of your own. I promise I will consider it carefully.'

'Yes, I am sure you will. But for now there is nothing I can think of, Ms Alexander.'

Lyta Alexander left, and then, of course, Vir was looking at him quizzically and even with concern.

'Where were we when that insufferable woman interrupted us, eh?' asked Londo loudly. 'I distinctly remember that we were laughing at something terribly funny, weren't we?'

'Oh, yes, yes.' Vir tried to smile, then gave up and looked at Londo seriously. 'I hope she and her telepaths will find some suitable place of their own. You weren't here when Byron died. But I was. Poor Lyta...'

'Poorness doesn't have to do anything with that. Remember, Vir, that in politics we don't get what we deserve, only what is logical consequence of our action.'

'Is it not the same?'

'No, Vir. Ms Alexander and her telepaths might have gained more if they were more subtle and cunning in their dealings. Now, tell me what I have planned for today.'

Vir blinked and answered promptly. Short and to the point for there was nothing planned, or rather each and every thing was canceled. Londo felt somewhat anxious at that. What logical consequences were in this, if any?

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