|A Dark, Distorted Mirror||Background History|
THERE are beings in the universe billions of years older than any of our races. Once, long ago, they walked among the stars like giants, vast and timeless. They taught the younger races, explored beyond the Rim, created vast empires. But to all things there is an end. Slowly, over a million years, the First Ones went away. Some passed beyond the stars, never to return. Some simply disappeared....
Not all the First Ones have gone away. A few remained, hidden or asleep, waiting for the day when they might be needed - when the Shadows come again....
So ran the Minbari legends, and histories, and prophecies. A thousand years ago the Shadows attempted to rise in power, but they moved too quickly. An alliance was formed against them, consisting of the Vorlons, a few remaining First Ones, the Minbari and others.... At a time when defeat seemed inevitable the Minbari were saved by Valen, and the great battle station he brought for their use. Valen brought not only victory for the Minbari and their allies, but he brought them peace as well. He equalised the three castes, formed the Grey Council and ended centuries of in-fighting. Before he left, passing beyond and into legend, he also left his prophecies, of the time when the Shadows would come again, and of how the Minbari would need to unite with the other half of their soul to combat this Ancient Enemy.
Over the years the Minbari read and memorised Valen's prophecies, preparing themselves for the day when they would come to pass. That day is now, in the Earth year 2258, but the Minbari are not ready. They have been touched by the Darkness they sought to oppose, and their own deeds may be responsible for the victory of that very same Darkness.
It began over ten years before, when the Minbari first made contact with a race called humans. These humans were young, ambitious and powerful, and already making friends among the Centauri and the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. The Minbari leader Dukhat had been observing these humans for some time and had passed his curiosity on to his aide Delenn, later a member of the Grey Council.
When the first contact came there was a misunderstanding, and a terrible tragedy. Mistaking the Minbari gesture of welcome for a threat, the humans opened fire on the Grey Council. Dukhat and others were killed and the remaining members of the Council, divided over future action, turned to Delenn for the casting vote. In one moment of rage and grief, she began the terrible war.
The humans were outmatched from the start. None of their allies was willing to lend any military aid, and the Minbari, fuelled by grief and madness, were technologically over a thousand years in advance. The one moment of hope came when Captain John Sheridan of the EAS Babylon managed to destroy the Minbari flagship by trickery. The Minbari were incensed by what they saw as his 'dishonourable' victory and took to calling him 'Starkiller'.
Not that it mattered either way....
The Minbari tore through Earth's solar system and contemptuously ignored the human colonies on Io and Mars, making for Earth itself. Many of the human ships were caught out by this sudden surge towards the homeworld and were unable to make it back in time, including Sheridan's Babylon. In a desperate move, the Earth Government ordered as many ships as possible thrown up around Earth in a futile bid to halt the Minbari advance. It was called the Line, and it failed. The Minbari fleet, led by Shai Alyt Branmer and his lieutenants Neroon and Sinoval, smashed through the Line as though it were made of paper.
Somewhere, something went wrong. History rewrote itself, God blinked.... the reason doesn't matter. One man who unknowingly held the information that would end the war, Jeffrey Sinclair, attempted to ram a Minbari ship after witnessing the annihilation of his squadron. He blacked out, and vanished from history. The Minbari tore through the Line and proceeded to reduce Earth to slag and rubble, wiping out the entire centre for the hopes and dreams of the human race. A few people tried to escape in those last, desperate hours, but no survivors were recorded.
The Minbari's blood-lust did not end with Earth, as they then turned to Mars, where many members of the Earth Government had fled to hide in exile. But as they reached Mars, so did other ships - all the ships who had been too late to join the Line, but who knew what had happened to their homeworld. The leader of these ships was Captain Sheridan and his Babylon.
Many experts tried to analyse the reasons for Sheridan's success at the Battle of Mars, hoping it could reveal a weakness against the Minbari. There was no great secret, however. Sheridan and the Babylon simply became a force of nature during that battle, driving the Minbari back and daring to assault the very Grey Council itself. Sheridan's attack left two of its members dead and three more crippled.
Eventually however, he knew that he could not win. Sheridan's attack had bought enough time for refugees to flee the red planet. One of those refugees was a young man named David Corwin, who was taken aboard the Babylon during the battle and who managed to make his way to the bridge, even taking over for a part of the battle.
The pitiful remains of the Earth Alliance fleet managed to escape from Mars, but the Minbari, further incensed by more death, proceeded, in a display of childish spite, to do to Mars what they had done to Earth. And they discovered something shocking.
Buried beneath the Martian soil was a ship belonging to the Ancient Enemy. When it was exposed to the surface, a signal went out. Acting in panic and madness the Minbari destroyed the ship, but were left with the question: had there been anyone to hear that signal?
And thus began their preparations for the Great War which was surely coming.
Firstly, the Minbari had to replace the slain members of their Grey Council. For the religious caste there came Lennann, chosen at the behest of Delenn. For the warrior caste, there came Sinoval. He was a young man; powerful, skilled and ambitious. Branmer and Neroon both recognised the spark of greatness within him, but it was greatness marred by a fatal pride and confidence. In his youth Sinoval had seen a vision of Valen in the Dreaming, a vision that prophesied he would fulfill a great destiny, a destiny he intended to achieve.
After the Battle of Mars, it suited the Minbari to believe that perhaps the Enemy was not such a threat after all. Perhaps no one had been able to hear the signal. Perhaps re-forming the Rangers would be premature. Perhaps Valen's prophecies were not yet being fulfilled. Humanity was smashed, Dukhat had been avenged. There was no need to worry.
A few months later, their complacency was ended. A second Shadow ship was uncovered, on the moon Ganymede. This time, the Grey Council elected to wait and see if anything came to answer the signal. A ship came, a ship belonging to the Ancient Enemy. The Minbari tried to oppose it, but they were as outclassed as the humans. Four Minbari cruisers were destroyed and both Shadow ships escaped. A loss, certainly, but the Minbari now knew for certain: The Enemy had awakened.
Still fuelled by the madness of the war, the Grey Council formed the Rangers, consisting almost solely of the warrior caste, and led by Branmer, the greatest of Minbari generals and a man with one foot in both the warrior and the religious caste. Sinoval did not join the Rangers, but was content to watch. Sinoval had greater concerns, and greater secrets. The Dilgar warlord and scientist Jha'dur, called Deathwalker, had been given sanctuary by his clan, the Wind Swords, after the defeat of the Dilgar by the humans. As time passed all who knew of this died, and Sinoval was left sole bearer of this terrifying secret. His arrogance, however, meant that he tried to use her knowledge for his own aims, while she, of course, was doing the same.
Branmer did well, and his aide Neroon seemed a certain successor to him. For a while the humans were forgotten, but they certainly did not forget the Minbari.
In the aftermath of the war, humanity tried to rebuild and consolidate their defences. A few colonies still survived, but they knew that they needed allies. The Centauri were weak and cowardly, and had no wish to antagonise the Minbari. The Non-Aligned Worlds were bitterly divided and too weak. The Narns, however, were strong.
Moving quickly, the Narns began to take over the surviving human colonies. Most were mining colonies or scientific outposts, but the expanding Narn machine engulfed them greedily. Humanity did not like the situation, but it was a choice between the Narns or the Minbari, which was no choice at all. The Narn government - the Kha'Ri - eventually agreed to protect the survivors of humanity, but at considerable cost - an extortionate proportion of all incomes, taxes and the unlimited aid of humanity's fleet, such as it was. With no choice, humanity accepted, and set up a Resistance Government on Orion 7.
Still, the immediate few years after the Line were largely marked by relief. Humanity was still alive, they had powerful protectors, and the Minbari seemed to have ceased their assault. Perhaps they had found their respite. It was during this time that Captain John Sheridan married his girlfriend Anna, and within a few years they had a daughter, Elizabeth. It was also during this time that Corwin, rising fast in Sheridan's wake, met an ambitious, haunted lieutenant named Susan Ivanova, and they fell in love.
It was not to last.
Conflict between the Narn and the Centauri was always going to be more a matter of when rather than if. Narns had long memories and many of them had lived through the brutal occupation of their homeworld. Having driven the Centauri away and taken to the stars, the Narns were thirsting for revenge. Bolstered by their new acquisitions from humanity, and observing the Centauri Republic slowly collapsing into decadence, political games and apathy, the Narns launched their counterstrike, demanding help from their new allies - the humans.
At first the Centauri were being driven back, outmatched and out-classed. A few lucky successess, however, showed them that there was potential here for victory. Emperor Turhan died during the second year of the war, and with his death a new faction emerged in Centauri power politics consisting of an ambitious trio of nobles - Londo Mollari, Antono Refa and Urza Jaddo. Swearing loyalty to the new Emperor - Turhan's son, Marrit - they began to turn Centauri fortunes around.
The mighty Narn war machine was shown to be not so mighty after all, and had it not been for Captain Sheridan's - somewhat forced - interference the Narns could easily have found themselves defeated and occupied again. As it was, the war simply ended. There was no peace treaty, no armistice, simply a mutual pulling back and rest, ready for another attempt.
There was, however, one very significant event during the dying days of the war, which was to change the history of both peoples. Launching a desperate attack, a Narn force - led by the great leader G'Kar - attacked the Centauri supply centre at Gorash 7, where Londo Mollari was visiting on a diplomatic mission. The attack was a failure, but the Narns did achieve some damage. Events transpired that Londo and G'Kar were trapped together in one of the planet's desolate mountain ranges. Londo recognised G'Kar from his vision of his own death - strangled by the Narn on the steps of the Imperial Throne. It did seem as if the vision would come true twenty years early, when a huge black ship flew by overhead. Londo had dreamed about this as well, and was surprised when G'Kar revealed that he knew what the ship was.
The Ancient Enemy spoken of by the prophet G'Quan had returned. Trapped and alone, G'Kar relayed to Londo everything that he knew about the enemy - their brief occupation of the Narn homeworld a thousand years before, their annihilation of all the Narn telepaths, G'Quan's writings about them. By the time each was rescued, they had sworn an unspoken pact to prepare for the coming of this Enemy - and to fight them.
As time passed, the Grey Council began to change. Over half of their number had been inducted into the Council since the beginning of the war. A newer, fresher set of beliefs was coming to the fore. Some of the older members, especially Hedronn of the workers, tried to maintain the path of Dukhat's day, but he was in the minority, as others from Dukhat's time either retired, such as Jenimer, or sank into obscurity, such as Matokh.
It soon began obvious that the Council was polarising around Sinoval and Delenn. Many remembered that Delenn had been Dukhat's aide and his chosen successor, but there were some who argued that Dukhat's ways had been wrong - that with the Enemy returning the Minbari needed to stake their claim forcibly as leaders of the younger races - and backed Sinoval. There was still plenty of time before the period of mourning for Dukhat was over, but it was a situation which would only worsen with time.
Delenn's path was soon entwined with that of another, however - Alyt Neroon, aide to Branmer and one of the most prominent Rangers. During the early days of the Narn / Centauri War there was a small handful of Centauri fanatics who hoped to arrange an alliance with the Minbari, by turning the Minbari's by now famous anger against the Narns. Delenn would be kidnapped and killed, and this would be blamed on the Narns. The Rangers managed to learn about this plan, and Neroon was responsible for foiling it. As he worked with Delenn on this the two found themselves in a deep attachment, which eventually grew into love.
Delenn was increasingly torn in several directions - her duty to the Council, her love for Neroon, her duty to her clan, and her search through Valen's prophecies. Ever since the attack on Earth she had experienced the nagging feeling that something had gone wrong somewhere, and that she had to find out what. Prompted by curious and nonsensical remarks from the Vorlon ambassador to Minbar she continued her search, and steadily, involuntarily, relinquished power in the Council to Sinoval.
Humanity was not standing still throughout all of this. It took them a while to settle and rebuild, but with the aid of the Narns they managed to go some way towards regaining their prior status. Sheridan's actions during the Narn / Centauri War had brought a new awareness of humanity's position, and the Resistance Government began to pave the way for a possible strike back against the Minbari. This would be long and difficult, but the Resistance Government began to initiate the Babylon Project - a series of highly secret, confidential missions that would eventually restore humanity to greatness.
The second such mission involved a number of manned expeditions to desolate planets out on the Rim, hoping to find items of alien technology - or better still, allies. Plans were drawn up and assistance provided by the mysterious Psi Cop Alfred Bester, who ran a hidden Psi Corps colony which had somehow escaped the attentions of both the Minbari and the Narns, or so everyone thought.
One of the volunteers for this mission was Lieutenant Susan Ivanova. She embarked on the Babylon 2 mission and did not return. The exact circumstances of what happened to her were not revealed until some years later, but it became known that she found a planet called Z'ha'dum, and beings who inhabited it.
The Babylon 2 mission was a partial success, however, as was the Babylon 3 mission. The Resistance Government began the first stage of the Babylon 4 mission - the construction of a heavily armed, secret and powerful space station, located deep in hidden space - a base of operations for a counterattack against the Minbari. Sheridan and the Babylon scouted out prospective sites and the most likely location was an apparently long-deserted planet in the Epsilon Eridani system - a planet called Euphrates. Plans were drawn up and resources purchased and arranged, and building was all set to begin when the fates of Minbari and human became intertwined once again.
The Minbari had temporarily forgotten about humanity - at least, most of them had. Sinoval had never forgotten Sheridan's attack over Mars, and his aide Kalain still remembered his shame as he held back, terrified, as Sheridan made that attack. For the most part however, the Grey Council was concerned with the threat of the Shadows and left humanity alone. That came to an abrupt end.
A number of Rangers were pursuing leads on Shadow activity when they stumbled into space controlled by humanity. Terrified of another attack, the human ships opened fire once again. The Rangers' garbled reports alerted Branmer and the Grey Council of what was happening, and Kalain, the nearest Minbari captain in the area, took decisive action, bringing his fleet into the Orion system.
The battle was as short and as decisive as the Battle of the Line had been. Had it not been for the return of the Babylon - out arranging the Babylon 4 mission - Orion 7 could easily have gone the same way as Earth. As it was Kalain eventually pulled back, ordered by a Grey Council which had other and greater things to worry about, but he had done enough. Orion 7 was in ruins and humanity had to retreat to their last surviving independent colony - Proxima 3. Humanity's space fleet had been decimated and countless thousands killed - including Captain Sheridan's daughter Elizabeth. Sheridan reacted to this with a cold fury and buried himself in his work, concentrating on holding the redrawn lines of defence and supervising the transportation of the refugees to Proxima. His wife Anna, left alone, crawled into a bottle and stayed there.
The Babylon 4 mission and any hope of fighting back against the Minbari had been shattered, and humanity had to concentrate on rebuilding once again. The new Resistance Government formed at Proxima - consisting of President Marie Crane, Vice President Morgan Clark, General William Hague, General Laurel Takashima and Mr. Welles, Head of Security and Information - declared that simply feeding and looking after humanity would now be their priority concern. The heart had gone out of humanity with the fall of Orion, and several of their leaders, Generals Franklin and Netter and Captains Maynard and Hiroshi, were all dead.
G'Kar had not been idle since the end of the Narn / Centauri War. He had returned to the Narn homeworld and resigned from the Kha'Ri, dropping out of public sight. With his aide Ta'Lon at his side he set up a shrine to G'Quan high in the isolated G'Khorazhar Mountains, from where he would begin the formation of his own Rangers. He made contact with a number of people who respected and admired him, or who owed him favours - including Councillor Na'Toth, Minister Londo Mollari and others, including a Vorlon who appeared mysteriously at the shrine one day. No one knew what he and G'Kar said to each other, but from then on the Vorlon would seldom be far away.
The fate of the true Rangers, however, was not as promising. Branmer was an old man, and dying. His aide Neroon secretly doubted his own ability to lead the Rangers, not feeling that he was the right person. Neroon's crisis of faith came to a head when he was sent on a mission towards the Rim, a mission to obtain certain artefacts used by the Shadows. Ta'Lon had been sent on that same mission and the two crossed when Neroon was attacked by a Shadow Warrior-servant of the Enemy. He would have died had Ta'Lon not killed the Warrior and helped heal him.
Afterwards Neroon and Ta'Lon talked, and Neroon realised where his place lay - at G'Kar's side - but he was still torn by other loyalties. He returned to Minbar for a meeting with Branmer, to whom he explained his feelings and what he had learned. Branmer urged him to follow his heart, and was happy that there were others fighting for the cause he fought for. Neroon then went to Delenn and told her about what had happened. Although she loved him she realised that their destinies lay in different directions, and they parted sorrowfully.
A few months later Branmer died, leaving no clear successor. Neroon was gone and none of the other Rangers was competent, willing or able to lead. The Minbari Rangers declined, while G'Kar's grew.
The Centauri had been revitalised by their survival and success during their war with the Narns, but the aftermath of the war revealed the very same cracks that had almost torn their society apart before the war. The new Emperor, Marrit, was a young man and competent enough, but he lacked the majesty and authority of his predecessors. Meanwhile the alliance of three that had forged this new state soon began to break apart.
Londo Mollari was becoming engrossed by his other concern - his alliance with G'Kar. So much so that he missed a great deal of what was happening on his doorstep. Urza Jaddo, a war hero and respected diplomat, was elevated to the position of First Minister, and Forwerd Refa took exception to this. He, perhaps bolstered by the ambition of his wife, Lady Elrisia, began assembling a new power-base, one that owed nothing to the Emperor or the Centarum. Eventually, and just in time, Urza found out about this and brought Londo's attention back to his home. The two of them confronted Refa and broke apart much of his power-base.
They were left with a quandary, however. Refa was too powerful a person to be charged and executed, and he still had many allies on Centauri Prime. Londo and Urza therefore 'promoted' him to the position of Centauri Ambassador to Minbar, a post with little authority and less power, as the Minbari were loth to listen to the Centauri on matters of any importance whatsoever.
Londo and G'Kar had other reasons for this appointment, however. G'Kar needed information on the Grey Council's actions. Refa would be ideally placed to gather such information and so they needed someone close to Refa. Thus, before Refa left, Londo arranged his attaché - a young, nervous man named Vir Cotto. Londo had been observing Vir for some time and had decided that he was appropriate. Vir was thus inducted into the Circle of Light and went to Minbar with Refa, the latter privately believing that Vir's appointment was an off-handed insult.
All sides were preparing their forces and setting up their allies in a very cold war - a war that became much hotter in the year 2258, when the Shadows made their first decisive move.
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