He was surprised to still be alive; he couldn't help feeling that way considering how he, Doctor Franklin, and the Narn ambassador G'Kar had managed to survive the Minbari, although he had no idea what "the future" meant to the Minbari he had spoken, more like shouted at; but the negotiations had proven to be a disaster. This on top of how close he and his crew had nearly been killed by the Minbari cruiser the Black Star.
Sheridan took a moment to reflect on the two incidents while he waited with the other two in the bombed-out bunker while they had sent an emergency transmission.
When he and his former C.O, Roger Sterns (Sheridan hoped to attend the funeral, but considering how Earthforce was having problems sparing people for things like that, he wasn't going to hold his breath) had heard stories of an 'Ace' cruiser on the loose, attacking ships out of nowhere like a ghost, Sheridan had immediately started to worry while he had tried to work out how the Minbari were doing it so he could formulate a strategy to ensure the cruiser couldn't be able to get away with it for long.
But it was impossible. Ever since the war had started, the Minbari had made use of their superior weaponry and stealth technology to make short work of Earthforce while they worked to exterminate humanity for the disastrous first contact, and they had shown how efficient they were at it. The stealth technology was bad enough since it made fighting against the Minbari and locking onto their ships virtually impossible, but their weapons could slice through ships like a blowtorch through butter.
The Minbari showed no mercy, no compassion in their engagements. They destroyed ships which didn't even stand a hope of surviving the engagements. They destroyed escape pods trying to flee the scenes, which made post-battle intel hard to come by, and the most disgusting and disturbing thing of all; they had no qualms about killing hundreds of innocent civilians. There was no telling at this point just how many people had died, including those who couldn't fight back.
But the Minbari didn't seem to care about any of that. To them, all humans were to be wiped out. And for a long time, Earthforce hadn't won a single engagement; every fleet which was despatched to fight them never came back. They had been destroyed, with all hands. No survivors. That was it. Zip.
Sheridan rubbed his face as he thought of the way he had destroyed the Black Star. It hadn't been something he had expected; the destruction of the Black Star might have become the only victory in the war so far, but it hadn't been planned out with any kind of style like Horatio Nelson's plan for Trafalgar, or any one of Napoleon Bonaparte's plans. The Minbari ship had lured them into a specific part of space, using one of their equivalent of shuttles to do the job.
And when the Lexington and her battle group had entered it…
Sheridan shuddered as he remembered how fast it had been, an explosion of sparks and stanchions and bridge supports collapsing while the Lexington's structural integrity systems struggled to cope as the Black Star opened a Jump point; the unstable energy of the vortex leading into hyperspace caught the Earth ships, either destroying or severely crippling the others before the Minbari cruiser jumped out.
For hours the Lexington had been forced to drift away before Sheridan had come up with a desperate but simple solution to the problem; he had authorised the use of tactical nukes. All Earthforce ships carried a small cache of them onboard and used them for emergencies, and this definitely counted as an emergency.
Sheridan had the nukes spread out through a field of asteroids separating them from the Black Star; the Minbari had clearly dismissed them as a threat, although if that was because they'd decided to go after the more functional ships or if their captain had decided to play some sick game like a cat playing with a deeply wounded mouse, he didn't know. He didn't care either.
He had sent out a distress call to lure the Black Star into the trap, and they had fallen for it. Tactical nukes didn't need to lock onto anything; all you needed was to place them somewhere which would cause the most damage and then detonate. The blasts did the rest. The first of the bombs blew off one of the Black Star's gravimetric propulsion fins off, crippling the ship before the second blast destroyed it utterly. The victory, simple and paltry as it was, had raised hope; Sheridan had seen for himself how the morale of Earth and the Alliance, on the whole, had been brought to the lowest ebb as each new defeat after defeat just caused a further loss of life while the Minbari moved onwards closer to Earth.
But the victory had brought hope because so many people had begun to think the Minbari were invulnerable.
Bullshit. There was no such thing as an undefeatable enemy. Everyone had a weakness of some sort, it was just a case of finding one and then taking advantage of it, but the Minbari had made it hard; their ships and technology were more powerful and could take more punishment than any Earth ship, which would be destroyed in half the time while the Minbari ships which resembled something out of an aquarium, powerful and deadly. Their weapons effortlessly sliced through ships while even the most powerful Earth ship could barely lock on, never mind inflict enough damage to make a difference.
Sheridan had no idea what kind of tactics would be used with the destruction of the Black Star; it was highly likely Earthforce would begin seeding space, and perhaps even hyperspace itself with small tactical nukes that would be hard to detect - that was risky especially if the bombs had been placed in hyperspace because an explosion would cause a small scale, but effective hyperspace storm, but if it caused more grief for the Minbari then Sheridan was all for it.
Even with this pyrrhic victory, Earth was still ambivalent about their chances of succeeding against the Minbari, to say nothing of ultimately surviving the war. The Black Star victory had given everyone the morale boost they'd needed, but they were still losing the war, and Lefcourt himself said if they had to surrender in order to survive, then they would. Sheridan had no idea if that would be their undoing since the Minbari seemed hellbent on wiping them out. But he had been up for the task of arranging a dialogue with the Minbari with the Narns help; the Narns had been issuing them with weapons derived from the Centauri weapons they'd stolen during their liberation of the occupation, but what worried him the most was the Minbari must have caught wind of it. Why else would they have contacted the Narns to set this up?
While it had been brief, the meeting with the single Minbari male had actually gone well. He had seemed reasonable enough, and he hadn't seemed hostile… but what Sheridan couldn't grasp was who had attacked them and why? Was there some renegade arm in Earth's government who wanted the war to go on without caring about the excessive loss of life? Sheridan would not have put it past too many people; Psi-Corps were scum, but Sheridan doubted even they would want the entire human race to be wiped out, especially since the telepaths used normal humans as breeding stock in order to find the right number of telepaths.
But surely they realised if the war grew worse eventually the whole human race would be wiped out unless they discovered a way of stopping the Minbari?
At the same time, Sheridan wondered if it was a renegade arm of the Minbari's own government; Minbari who wanted the war to continue. If there was one thing about the negotiations which had been made very clear, it was that even among the Minbari, not everyone shared the same views. Maybe one of them had decided to covertly sabotage the whole thing, and make the war worse than it had been before?
Speculation was useless.
They didn't know and would likely never know the truth. The Minbari had been right when he had said ominously the other Minbari would blame the small group for his death. And they had. But surely it had occurred to some of them to think; if they had planned on murdering the representative why would they still have been on the planet? If they had planned on killing him, why hadn't they landed their shuttle somewhere else, somewhere out of the blast range?
But it hadn't mattered to them. The Minbari had immediately imprisoned Sheridan, Franklin and G'Kar while they had nothing else to do but mentally think about the destruction of the Narn heavy cruiser which had brought them here, and had just given them the message they'd tried to give. But who were the attackers?
But what surprised Sheridan the most was that it had only taken one message to that grey-garbed Minbari who was clearly someone in charge or very influential to order them released. But what did "the future" mean? What was its significance?
Sheridan didn't know, and he likely never would.
Author's note - I hope you've enjoyed this little one-shot. Once it popped into my mind, I needed to write it. Oh, if you have suggestions for alternate timelines for Babylon 5 - I'm doing a number of short-story collections - which are sensible and practical, then please let me know.