by Soledad

Author's notes: For disclaimer, rating, etc., see Part One.

This particular story ends here. Yes, I know it's far from finished, but I don't want it to become one of those 100 chapter-monstrosities nobody really wants to read. The tale itself will be continued, though. Look out for the sequel: Kansas 2 – The Yellow Brick Road. Since I've had the members of the Memory Alpha group vote for a possible outcome and various plot lines, there'll be enough stuff for at least one sequel. Probably more, but I won't promise too much.

Some of the dialogue, as before, is directly taken from the episode "Grey 17 Is Missing".


Babylon 5 – MedLabs

Delenn and Lennier were standing in the anteroom of the Intensive Care area, watching Marcus through the glass wall. They'd given room for the two Voyager crewmembers, young Harry Kim and the fierce half-Klingon woman, who insisted to visit their new friend. As Dr. Hobbs had only allowed a limited number of visitors, the two Minbari felt they owed it to them. After all, if not for their stubborn friendship, Marcus would never have found in time. And without the holographic Doctor of Voyager, the Ranger wouldn't have a chance, even if he had been found in time.

Now Marcus was back from Voyager, in MedLab again, unconscious, IV-tubes attached to his arms. Dr. Hobbs had diagnosed three broken ribs, extensive bruising, a crushed liver, internal bleeding and several other injuries, each one of them severe enough to kill him. But, as Mr. Garibaldi had put it, Marcus was too stubborn to die. The Holodoctor had succeeded in stopping the internal bleedings and had operated on him – with the assistance of Dr. Hobbs – but as much as he'd have liked to use on the Ranger the very advanced bone-knitting device, he didn't dare to do so. Marcus' strength was strained to the limit of his endurance; his body didn't have the reserves the bone-knitter usually needed to work. So the Ranger had to allow his ribs to mend on their own – at least for the time being.

Delenn felt incredibly guilty. Not only because of what had happened in DownBelow between Marcus and Neroon. She also reproached herself for not having realised how overworked and malnourished Marcus had become. As humans said, the Ranger had been running on pure adrenaline for quite some time… and nobody noticed.

Of course, Marcus had always been good at hiding. Sech Turval had been worried about the young human's motivation to join the Rangers from the beginning, suspecting that Marcus might have been a death wish, based on what humans called "survivor's guilt syndrome". But he was so able and successful in everything he did, that the others responsible for the Anla'shok chose to ignore Sech Turval's warnings.

And now this…

"This should never have been allowed to happen," Delenn said reproachfully; she was well aware of the fact that Lennier must have had some part in the recent events. Marcus was resourceful, but there were some things he simply could not have learned without Lennier's help. Warrior Caste databases were only accessible when one knew where to look. "Not for my sake."

Lennier, however, didn't look particularly guilty. In fact, he looked like someone who was very certain that he had done the right thing.

"If not for your sake, who else's?" he asked mildly.

Delenn glared at him, hesitating between anger and disbelief. "He could have been killed!"

Lennier sighed. He hated to bring this to her attention, but someone had to. These were the times he almost hated his job.

"Delenn," he began, choosing his words very carefully, "all we know is that we will die. It is only a matter of how, when, and whether or not it is with honour. Marcus did what any of us would have done."

"I do not want anybody to get hurt in my defence," Delenn said, almost tonelessly. Too many had been hurt because of her choices already, humans and Minbari alike. Unfortunately, she couldn't speak to Lennier about this. About the nights spent awake, haunted by the memory of exploding ships, dying people, screams and blood and despair. All because in a single, unguarded moment she had given in to her grief and vengeful wrath.

Lennier sighed again, not knowing about all this, but dedicated to put her mind at ease.

"Respectfully, Delenn, I think this is the one thing about your position that you don't yet understand. You cherish life. Life is your goal. But for the greater part to live, some must die. We'll be harmed in its defence – and yours. There's no other way. Now, the doctors say that Marcus will recover, and that is what matters."

Their conversation was interrupted by Harry and B'Elanna leaving the IC area. They both seemed worried. Delenn looked at their face, then back at Lennier again.

"Will he recover? Are you certain about that?"

"The Doc says, yes, as long as we don't let that one anywhere near him," replied Harry.

Delenn turned and saw Neroon entering the MedLabs with long, purposeful strides.

"Have you come to finish what you started?" she asked accusingly.

Neroon gave her a cold gaze. "If I had wished him dead, he would be dead."

"Then why did you stop short?" B'Elanna asked, clearly not believing him.

"That is between the two of us," Neroon replied, recognizing her as the alien female whose fighting skills Rastenn had praised in such high tones. He could see that she was a fierce one. He liked what he saw a lot. She could have been a female Minbari warrior, had she been born on the right planet. "I would speak to him alone. One warrior to another. Then I will go."

"He will not hear you," the young human male with that open face and gold uniform said. Neroon still didn't know who he was. But if this human had close contacts with the Anla'shok, he was probably worth watching.

"Then I will speak briefly," the warrior said with a thin, ironic smile.

"The hell you will!" B'Elanna hissed in rage. "You really think I'd allow you anywhere near him?"

"You really think you can hinder me?" Neroon replied, pleased by the challenge.

B'Elanna gave him a narrow look. "Don't overestimate yourself, Minbari. You have no idea what I'm capable of… with the right motivation."

"I'd love to test your abilities… under the right circumstances," Neroon said, unperturbed. "But right now, I need to speak to the Anla'shok; and as I've broken tradition to let him live, I have every right to do so. You can accompany me if you wish."

"You bet I will," B'Elanna growled, marching after him back to the IC area. Dr. Hobbs came running from her office, startled, but B'Elanna gave her a soothing wave. "Don't worry, Doc. If he tries anything, I'll tear his head off."

Neroon stopped at the bed of the Anla'shok and looked down at his own handiwork. He felt regret – not for having beaten up the human so badly it would have been enough for several deaths. That was not his fault. It was the human who had challenged him to the death. But he felt regret for having acted in rage, with deliberate cruelty. That had not been honourable.

"Denn'Sha, you said," he murmured thoughtfully. "To the death. And death there was. The death was mine. To see a Human invoke the name of Valen, to be willing to die for one of my kind, when I was intent on killing one of my own. The rightness of my cause disappeared. Strange, that a Human in his last moments should be more of a Minbari than I. Perhaps it is true, what Delenn said. That we are not of the same blood, but we are of the same heart."

He waited for an answer, but there came none. None, that is, but the alien woman's muttered comment about something being so 'very Klingon' and about him being a little slow to understand things. He didn't care. It was the Anla'shok he wanted to make understand his motivations, but the human seemed still unresponsive. Neroon turned to leave. There was nothing more to say.

"Next time..." The rough, weak voice stopped him mid-stride. "The next time..." the human was struggling to speak. Neroon leaned closer. "You want a revelation..." the Anla'shok went on. "Could you possibly find a way... that isn't quite so... uncomfortable?"

Neroon and B'Elanna stared at each other in utter disbelief. Then as one, they burst into laughter, causing the two Minbari in the anteroom startle and Dr. Hobbs comes running from her office again.

Green Sector – Vir's quarters

Three hours later

Vir was quite devastated about the recent events. He was glad, of course, that Delenn had not been assassinated, after all, but his beliefs in Minbari integrity had been shaken badly. That a Minbari would even consider killing another Minbari was a terrible disappointment for him. Up to now, he had thought that of all people the Minbari would be the ones whose honourable acts one could count most. Obviously, even Minbari had very different interpretations about honour.

His comm unit beeped again, and – to his surprise – the computer announced a call from Rastenn again. This time, however, through an open channel.

"Greetings, Vir," the young warrior bowed his head respectfully. "Am I interrupting anything of importance?"

"You mean aside from my laments about Minbari not being any better than other people?" Vir riposted snidely.

"I regret that we have caused you such disappointment," Rastenn said in a strange tone that made Vir unable to decide whether or not he was speaking seriously. Nevertheless, I hoped that we could continue our… conversations in the near future. I have realised that I learned a lot through our… acquaintance, and I would prefer to learn more."

"That would be a little complicated, would it not?" Vir said. "What, with you returning to your warship and all."

"I will not remain aboard the Ingata," Rastenn revealed. "Alyt Neroon wants me to stay on Babylon 5 for a while."

"Why? To spy on us some more?" Vir felt positively hostile. After all, Rastenn had lied to him… well, if not exactly lied, he had not been completely honest, either.

To his surprise, the Minbari grinned. "That, too. But mostly, to learn about these humans who have come with the strange starship. It is a legitimate demand of our Caste, after all. But I also have to start my courtship, while I am here… in case the one chosen for me would prove to be the right match."

"You are getting married?" Vir asked, in his surprise forgetting that he was actually angry with Rastenn. "That's quite… sudden, isn't it? Or have you known about it?"

"No, it has occurred unexpectedly," Rastenn shrugged. "Besides, it is only courtship, right now. It can take a long time with Minbari, as you know. And if we decide we are not good for each other after all, we can still decide against completing the bond."

Vir knew about the millennia-old Minbari tradition of matchmaking, of course. He also knew how different it was from the similar Centauri custom. Minbari, at least, did have a say concerning their own marriage. Centaur, as his own fate proved quite painfully, did not.

"Is he here, on the station?" he asked, his curiosity overcoming all other possible feelings.

Rastenn nodded. "I will introduce you to her, if you want," he offered.

The offer left Vir rather flabbergasted. Minbari being the most private beings of the known universe (save the Vorlons, of course, but they were different in everything), this was more than unexpected. It seemed that Rastenn had been honest with wanting to keep their… friendship in tact, after all.

"I… I'm honoured, of course," he replied, trying very hard not to stutter, and failing, as always.

Rastenn grinned again.

"I'll move to the station tomorrow," he said. "I'll contact you after I got settled."

Voyager – Captain's Ready Room

Aboard Voyager, Captain Janeway was sitting, once again, with Chakotay and Tuvok, having tea. Well, the two men were having tea. She was having coffee, of course.

"This is it, then?" she asked quietly, clearly disliking the whole idea. "We'll just discard the Prime Directive and get involved in the affairs of this universe, changing their history at will. Is this what you want?"

"We certainly don't want it, Captain," Chakotay answered calmly, "but I don't see any other way. Our presence has already changed the history of this universe beyond repair. We can't just lean back and keep out of the events. Sooner or later, we'll have to choose sides anyway; right now, we still have the luxury of making that choice of our own free will. Soon, we might not have it anymore."

"Besides, these humans have asked for our help," Tuvok pointed out. "In a purely technical manner, we would not violate the Prime Directive by assisting them. They have not yet formally turned against their own government. All they have done was defending themselves."

"And what if they do?" Janeway asked. "What if this escalates into an all-out civil war? Tuvok, I'm sure you see it as clearly as I do that they won't have any other option."

"Probably not," Tuvok agreed. "But if we tried to make contact with EarthGov, that would no doubt lead to the result of Voyager being confiscated for research, our technology getting into the wrong hands, the non-human crewmembers being quarantined and the human ones being taken into custody."

"Aren't you a little paranoid?" Janeway asked doubtfully. Tuvok shook his head.

"No, Captain. I have done extensive studies on EarthGov's official announcements in the recent days. I have compared these announcements to the actual actions of the Earth government, as documented by Interstellar News and the information given to us by Captain Sheridan. The scenario I have just offered you is a result of logical deduction, nothing more."

"Perhaps," Janeway said. "But siding with Babylon 5 and their allies would also mean our technology getting into hands there do not belong."

"Not necessarily," Chakotay intervened. "Look at it this way, Captain: While helping these people against the Shadows, whatever those might be, it would be us to handle our own technology. We won't let anyone else touch our ship. Or our weapons."

"And what if we needed to help them against their own government?" Janeway argued. "Just like we had to do when you went to find Lieutenant Ayala? Surely you can see that that is quite a different thing."

"Of course I see that," Chakotay nodded. "And I actually agree with you in that matter, Captain. I think when it comes to a confrontation with EarthGov, we'll have to decide in every single case what to do. We can't make a general rule to that in advance."

Janeway shot Tuvok a questioning look. The Vulcan nodded slowly, thoughtfully.

"I agree with Commander Chakotay," he said. "This is a unique situation no Starfleet ship has ever faced… aside from Captain Kirk's Enterprise, that is. But even the mirror universe they have visited was quite… different from this one. The front lines there were much more clear."

"Indeed," Janeway sighed in defeat. "Very well, gentlemen. We're in… for the time being. As for the rest… we'll see."

Here ends "Still Not in Kansas".

The story will be continued in "Kansas 2 – The Yellow Brick Road".

Copyright: Soledad Cartwright 2004-11-07.