Neroon had spent a restless night in the crew's quarters, the only bright spot being he was once again sleeping on a Minbari bed at a proper angle. He wore borrowed fatigues, though without the Ranger insignia, and retained the Centauri boots he'd scavenged from a wreck; the boots resembled those worn by the Warrior Caste and made a satisfying noise as he strode through the corridors of the Maria towards the captains stateroom. He was certain deep down that Dancer would refuse his offer and return to Earth with the child, the child whose eyes had so captivated him since he first looked at her the night of her birth.
Strange that; the birth of his own children merely left him with the satisfaction of having contributed to the next generation of warriors though he grew to love his children once they were old enough for their personalities to emerge - Shenar, always curious, perhaps too much so and Khevren, looking to become the perfect warrior, as he believed his late mother Davyan to be, and too young to know there was no such being. Oddly enough, there were times he missed Davyan too, though their union was arranged by their clans to cement arrangements between them. The animosity between the Star Riders and the Wind Swords was legendary; it was one reason why he and Shakiri were always at odds.
The Maria was far smaller then the Ingata, his beloved warcruiser - where it was now and who commanded it he knew he must find out once this meeting was over - so it did not take long to arrive at his destination. He stood outside the cabin door and looked about. The passageway was empty; there was no one to note his momentary pause as he girded himself for disappointment before he entered.
The room was much as he left it last night though this time Dancer was seated at the table trying to convince the child to eat a morsel of the temshwee eggs that were served for breakfast on board the ship. The little one grimaced but ate it. As he entered, Dancer set down the spoon and pushed back a lock of her hair then looked up at her visitor. She appeared about the worst that he had ever seen her, brittle, as if she hadn't slept at all. She wore a blanket about her shoulders which slipped a bit as she reached for the cup filled with some hot liquid. Jade took the opportunity to slide off Dancer's lap and rush to Neroon.
Dancer took a long sip then set it down; her hand was shaking and it was just as well the cup was almost empty. Then, taking a deep breath, she asked, "What was your mother's name?"
As Neroon lifted Jade, he acknowledged that he had thought of many things she might say but this was definitely not one of them. While Jade ran her fingers along his headcrest he replied, "Alihan."
She nodded and, indicating Jade with a jerk of her chin, said, "May I present your oathdaughter Jade Alihan Sinclair."
He looked from her to the child then back again. "You accept?"
"Reluctantly but yes, I do accept."
Jade chimed in, "Roon, Minbar, home." He looked into her eyes as she gazed at him fearlessly, innocent of the knowledge of the number of humans he had killed in the war. "Does she understand what this means?"
"Not really. She just knows that we're going to Minbar, your home, and she's pleased with that."Home?
Now that might be an obstacle seeing as his family and clan thought him dead and would not easily accept his return with a human oathdaughter...and her mother but it was enough for now that the human had acquiesced. He had fought many battles in his life; this would just be one more. He handed the child back to her mother and turned to leave. "I will make the necessary arrangements for the ceremony."
"Oh yes. I want this well witnessed so there can be no later repudiation by anyone once we are on Minbar." He was almost at the door when he halted and added, "Why did you accept? Yesterday I felt sure you would refuse."
"Oh I meant to." He turned around to look at her. "But then I had a dream, at least I think it was a dream..." her voice trailed off as she stared into the distance, looking toward a wooden box on the floor. "I dreamt I saw Jeff as he was when he was Valen. He stood beside Jade's bed and said only one word...bridges."
"Uh huh." Turning, she faced him once more. "Ever since the war he wanted to build bridges between our peoples so that there would never be another Battle of the Line. It's why he accepted the command of Babylon 5 and stayed on even though everyone gave him such a hard time," she said, looking pointedly at him. "I guess my subconscious was trying to remind me of that."Or was it more than that?
he wondered. To have Valen himself approve this move...no, it couldn't be. The human was probably right and it was only her inner voice speaking to her in her dream. He exited and went to find the Shok'na.
The ceremony took place in what the humans called the rec room that doubled as a mess; with Ranger efficiency the tables were already set for the next meal but had been moved to one side to make room for the occasion. Gathered there were the three principles and the other survivors from Limbo plus Shok'na Montoya and his shok'nali Rastenn along with several other Minbari Rangers who would bear witness for their respective castes and clans.
It really wasn't much of a ceremony, at least for the Warrior Caste, as it was most often made before a battle or on the battlefield itself. The religious had a far more complex ritual and the workers used it as a time to relax and celebrate. Dancer, having been briefed by Neroon, lifted Jade then Neroon took the child from her mother's arms and before the witnesses said, "I, Neroon, of the family of Malkh of the Star Riders Clan of the Warrior Caste of Minbar, do, in front of these witnesses, claim this child as my own, body heir of my family, my clan and my caste. Let no one here or elsewhere deny this."
Dancer then took Jade back and acknowledged his vow, saying, "I declare that my child is now Jade Alihan Sinclair of the family of Malkh, of the Star Riders clan of the Warrior Caste of the Minbari."
At the sound of the full name there was some murmuring to be heard among the Minbari and he saw one of them whisper to Montoya then rejoin the other witnesses as they dispersed. When the door swooshed closed behind them, Montoya walked over to Dancer. "Sinclair? As in Entil'zha Sinclair?"
Dancer nodded; from the safety of her mother's arms, Jade reached out to touch the Shok'na as he held his hand out to her. "It was said that he loved a Ranger who went missing in battle. Her name, if I recall correctly, was Sakai."
"I'm Catherine Sakai," she said tersely, "but for now I remain April Dancer."
"Of course," Montoya affirmed. "So the child is the daughter of Entil'zha Sinclair?"
"She was," said Neroon, coming closer to them. "She is now my oathdaughter." He didn't like the way the discussion was going. He feared the human might try to talk her out of her decision even though it was now irrevocable...at least from a Minbari perspective.
"No one knows what happened to Entil'zha Sinclair. It is not known whether he is dead or alive. What if he returns?" Montoya asked Neroon.
Neroon exchanged glances with Catherine as he replied, "He will not be returning. He went to do what he had to do in order to see the Shadows defeated. I am fully aware what is due to his memory and I intend to do my best for his daughter since he cannot be here to be her father." He meant it more now then when he first made his offer.
Montoya looked from Neroon to Catherine then asked her, "Are you sure you really want to go through with this?"
"The oath has been made; there is no going back," she answered. Hearing that, Neroon's fear abated as he watched Catherine put Jade on the floor, both of them keeping watch as she toddled over to one of the seats by a dining table and attempted to climb into it. The human would keep her word; she would not retreat from the course they were on.
"The fat's going to be in the fire when this gets out." Montoya said as he too watched the toddler, now becoming frustrated at being unable to climb up
"We count on the discretion of you and your crew not to discuss it elsewhere until we have a chance to reveal it to those who need to know first." Neroon warned Montoya. A matter transmitter would make an awesome weapon as troops could easily be moved from planet to planet. Of course there was that little matter of the searing heat and radiation but if that could be solved...
"Yes of course." Montoya began to take his leave as Catherine moved to help Jade then looked back at him questioningly.
"What of Limbo?" she asked.
Montoya felt the full weight of Neroon's gaze as he replied, "There is no Limbo...from now on it will be referred to as Erewhon so that no one will be able to find it if ever the news of the matter transmitter gets out. I have left a small contingent of Rangers there with enough supplies to last a while. Once I've made my report to Entil'zha Delenn, research vessels will be sent out and will relieve the Rangers there."
"I hope that will be enough. I suspect all over known space beings are attempting to find and utilize what the Old Ones left behind." She reached Jade and lifted her into the chair but had to remove the small knife on the placemat, giving her the spoon and fork to play with instead. Holding it in her hand and running a finger along the blade, she continued, "We are as children playing with dangerous things the adults carelessly left behind and I suspect terrible things may result."
"I fear you are right," he said, then stood tall as he added, "but in Valen's name, we will stand against the darkness as we have done since his time." Behind him the door opened and the youngest Rangers entered to prepare the rec room for the next meal.
"Hungry," Jade declared as she smelled the food.
Catherine sat down beside Jade then looked up at Neroon. "I guess we'll be here for awhile."
He nodded and left followed by Montoya; the ceremony was over and there were things he had to attend to.
As the images faded Neroon became aware there was someone in the observation chamber with him. He turned around to see Catherine leaning against the opening.
"Watching your own memorial? Isn't that a bit morbid?"
"I needed to find out exactly what happened after I...departed."
She straightened up and entered the chamber. "And what have you discovered?"
"My half-brother Tarahn has become the Alyt of the Star Riders. It is a good choice." He paused then continued, "Shakiri is now little more than a figurehead Shai Alyt. The clans have lost their respect for him but will not remove him from the leadership of the Warrior Caste as it would mean having to admit we were in error to chose him after Branmer's death...and were wrong to follow him into conflict with the Religious Caste."
"You hate him?"
"He convinced us to break Valen's law against Minbari killing Minbari and," he gave a small bitter laugh, "he bestowed command of the Ingata to his nephew, not one of the Star Riders as would be customary. Gedaer could not plot his way out of a bag...to think my ship is now in the hands of an incompetent like that is all the more reason to try to find a way to depose Shakiri."
"I don't suppose Shakiri will make it easy for you."
"No he won't but," he said looking at Catherine, "I will not endanger my daughter...or you. Speaking of my daughter - where is she?"
"I left her with Tr'Gan who wants to spend as much time with her as possible before we reach Minbar and she finds a way to return to Narn." Catherine glanced down at her fingers which were playing with the fabric of her caftan then looked directly into Neroon's eyes. "Thank you."
Uneasily he looked at her. "Thank me...for what?"
"For finding the sign of the Thieve's Guild."
"You were the one who knew what it was."
She smiled shyly at him. "I guess we did it - both of us; we got Jade and ourselves off Limbo."
"That we did and we're bringing her home," he said with a tone that caused the mechanism to display a picture of Minbar. "I wonder how being on my world will affect her."
"I'd worry more on her effect on Minbar; I fear that Minbar may never be the same again," she retorted as she left the chamber leaving him to continue his research on the state of his homeworld.