Sheridan grabbed the aspirin from the medicine cabinet and immediately downed two tablets. Nearly gagging, he rushed to chase down the tablets with a glass of water. Stupid, he thought. Bester was the only person who could get him so worked up that he rushed carelessly in the middle of the night. What did that damn Psi Cop want that refused to wait until morning?
Take a deep breath, he thought. Sheridan took care of toileting and donned a reasonably clean uniform. His com started chirping incessantly. Why was he only given five minutes notice that Bester was on a transport getting ready to dock? Corwin had the duty and Sheridan ordered him to stall the docking as long as possible.
Normally, Sheridan would not extend such an effort to the Psi Cop but Bester insisted it was an emergency. Could telepaths exert their influence over communication channels? Sheridan grumbled into the com.
Corwin said, “Sir, I had to let the ship dock.”
Sheridan said, “Damn Psi Cop! Who the hell does he think he is? I run this station, not him!”
Corwin sheepishly said, “Uh, yes sir.”
Sheridan asked, “Where’d he dock?”
Corwin replied, “Docking Bay Ten.”
“I’m on my way,” Sheridan crossly said. “Make sure there’s a security detail there.”
Sheridan slapped the com onto the back of his hand as he ran out the door. He failed to notice it was upside down until he was descending in the lift. Despite the late hour, he required decorum and it simply would not do to arrive with it out of place. As no one else was in the lift, he suffered lack of humiliation of a witness to such a transgression.
As he briskly exited the lift, Sheridan tried thinking of clever declarations to deliver to express his complete anger. Two security guards joined him as he entered the docking bay. He saw Bester with a male partner and snapped, “What screw up of yours seems to constitute my emergency?”
Bester said, “We barely made it here ahead of Giles Corey.”
Sheridan hissed, “Well la-de-da. Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
Bester snapped, “You’ll change your tune soon enough. Corey is an extremely dangerous blip. I have reinforcements on the way but they won’t likely arrive fast enough.”
Sheridan stood akimbo and said, “Since you’ve gone through such trouble, maybe you’d like to tell me just what in the hell is going on that requires me to get up in the middle of the night to wipe your ass.”
Bester said, “Corey is a P13.”
Sheridan snorted, “Impossible. Even I know that P12 is the highest rating for a telepath.”
Bester said, “That’s not entirely true. I don’t have time to explain. Corey has already killed five Psi Cops and seven mundanes. He’s on his way here right now.”
Sheridan asked, “What does he want?”
“He wants to kill Ambassador Kosh,” replied Bester.
Sheridan’s first reaction was to laugh uncontrollably. No one in his right mind would try to assassinate a Vorlon. Then there was the matter of Psi Corps genuinely interested in stopping such an effort. He finally said, “I’m going back to bed.”
Bester approached and said, “We’re not fools. We know that he won’t succeed against a Vorlon but he killed five Psi Cops. We want him alive.”
Sheridan said, “That’s the company line but knowing you there’s also a hidden agenda.”
Bester said in a pleading tone, “We need to apprehend him. Do you really want Corey running around the station killing whoever gets in his way in his bid to kill the ambassador?”
Sheridan thought about it and said, “You’re acting out of character. What scares you about this guy?”
Bester replied, “It’s the way he kills. He has two preferred methods: destroying every brain neuron or squeezing the heart until it bursts.”
Sheridan snapped, “This better not be one of your tricks.”
Sheridan listened as Bester provided details on Corey. The blip was arriving on a transport called Salem Village, which was due to arrive shortly. While Corey appeared as if a harmless old man, Bester cautioned not to underestimate the blip. Sheridan never heard of a septuagenarian blip. Eventually the Psi Corps captured blips and subjugated them to life imprisonment, taking anti-telepath drugs, or joining the Psi Corps.
Sheridan had run across his share of blips and rogues over the years. They were usually young, scared, and lacking a network of familial support. He wondered how someone could run for so long without drawing the attention of Psi Corps. Bester chose his words carefully, referencing Corey as blip instead of rogue.
As the transport docked, Sheridan directed security to key points. He did not want a scene at Customs. If Corey was dangerous, he could ill afford innocent victims caught in the crossfire. He attempted to contact Kosh in case the threat was genuine but the Vorlon chose not to respond. As he looked around Customs, he realized he lost sight of Bester and his partner.
Strange, he thought. While Bester was an irritation, Sheridan did not know him as a coward. Impassioned, loyal, dedicated – not necessary without fear but always willing to do right by the Corps – that was Bester. The Psi Cop had to be around somewhere.
Sheridan watched as the passengers started making their way through Customs. He strolled casually as if he belonged there, despite the late hour that usually placed him in bed or C & C. The passengers came from a variety of planets, making his job easier of spotting an elderly human.
From the corner of his eye, Sheridan noticed Bester and his partner to one side of the area. Had they found their courage? No, it was sheer determination. They wanted Corey but were not prepared to act recklessly. Sheridan realized that Bester’s partner loaded a dart gun.
Sheridan observed an elderly man approach Customs. He seemed harmless; in fact, he appeared frail and not in good health. What about this man frightened the Psi Corps? The man noticed Sheridan observing him and gave a mock salute accompanied by a toothy grin. He felt prudence was in order and started reciting nursery rhymes in his mind.
Then he saw a dart fly through the air. Sheridan watched as Corey looked directly at the dart, which stopped in its trajectory before falling to the floor. Sheridan looked perplexed. Corey pointed his finger as if saying, “Shame, shame.” Sheridan realized Corey used telekinesis. If the man was intent on wanton killing, he played it cool. Sheridan bravely approached the man as he neared the directory.
Sheridan asked, “What is your business here?”
Corey said, “I’m here to see an old friend. Ah, the lovely Psi Corps lays in wait! They undoubtedly woke you from a pleasant slumber. I care not what story they fabricated.”
Sheridan said, “They claim you’re here to assassinate the Vorlon ambassador.”
“Posh,” said Corey. “I came to return something to him. We go back a long time.”
Sheridan asked, “How long?”
“Too long,” sighed Corey. “You’d never understand, young man.”
Sheridan said, “Try me.”
Corey said, “If it’s your intent to detain me, do so. Otherwise, let me pass. I’ve no quarrel with you. Ah, Alfred – I missed you.”
Sheridan did not like the situation as the two Psi Cops approached with PPG weapons drawn. Security responded in kind, with several guards hastening civilians out of the area as quickly as possible. Sheridan stood his ground despite being in the crossfire.
Bester said, “I need you to come quietly.”
Corey said, “Where are your stones and irons? Let me undergo the peine forte et dure, for I stand mute before you. You have no jurisdiction over me.”
Sheridan asked, “What has he done?”
Corey said, “I am a humble farmer.”
“You killed five Psi Cops,” Bester hissed.
Corey said, “Well, to that I must stand mute. To enter a plea of innocence or guilt is to concede you have authority over me and you simply do not, young man.”
Sheridan said, “Let’s just take it easy.”
Bester said, “He’s a telepath. I have authority.”
Something spooked Bester’s partner and he fired his PPG. An unseen force flung the man against the wall. The same unseen force flung Bester as well as the security guards across the room. While the men appeared conscious, none moved.
Corey looked directly at Sheridan and said, “I am to return something very important to Ambassador Kosh. Now, if you don’t mind, please step aside. No? Well, then I shall go around.”
Sheridan stood frozen, unable to move despite his best effort. He felt suffocated for a moment but then he gasped deeply as he fell to his knees. He looked around and saw others also gasping for breath. He did not see Corey, but knowing his determination to see Kosh he knew he had to act.
Sheridan issued various orders including emplacement of guards along the route to the Alien Sector. He tried getting maintenance to stop the lift that Corey used but something compelled the lift to continue its trajectory. His last recourse was to follow Corey, who already had a good head start.
As he entered the Alien Sector, he grabbed a respirator and opened the corridor door. Sheridan said nothing as Lyta arrived seconds after him. What was she doing here? Had Kosh summoned her?
Lyta cried, “This doesn’t concern you!”
Sheridan snapped, “The hell it does!” As he started running down the corridor, he noticed Corey entering Kosh’s quarters. He barely made it inside before the door closed. Then he heard angry pounding. Lyta did not have the advantage of military training.
Corey said, “It’s been a long time, old friend.”
“Too long,” Kosh said.
Sheridan drew his PPG and said, “Step away from the ambassador.”
Corey said, “Ah youth is wasted on the young! You misunderstand my intentions, but then again, Psi Corps did tell you a little fib.”
Kosh’s encounter suit suddenly expanded with the headpiece falling backwards as if hinged. Sheridan watched as glowing energy emanated from Corey’s eyes and mouth, flowing directly to the Vorlon. He stood confused, as the Vorlon made no effort to stop the transference of energy. Should he intervene? When the headpiece snapped back into place, Sheridan realized Corey fell backwards against the wall. Training dictated that he help the septuagenarian put on the respirator.
Corey said, “I’m fine. In fact, I feel better. Kosh, it’s been a pleasure.”
Kosh said, “Too long.”
Sheridan asked, “What just happened?”
Corey said, “Vorlons can break off pieces of themselves. I’ve been carrying a piece of Kosh for a very long time. It’s good to bring you back together. I shall take my leave of you now, good sir.”
“Innocent,” said Kosh.
Sheridan felt compelled to help Corey, who seemed drained from his visit. As the two walked out of Kosh’s quarters, Lyta stared with intense anger and jealousy. Corey said, “The Lady Martha Perkins once gave me such a look.”
As the two continued down the corridor, Lyta’s gaze continued to burn as she stood with arms folded. Sheridan did not care what bothered the woman; instead, he focused on helping Corey out of the Alien Sector. He labored, sharing the respirator with the old man but using it as little as possible for himself to give the septuagenarian a chance.
The two said nothing as they entered the lift but Sheridan directed the lift to Med-Lab. He regained his breath and saw Corey do likewise. Sheridan tried to process what just happened. Kosh accepted the transference of – what? In fact, the Vorlon readily welcomed it.
Corey finally said, “The Psi Corps has no authority over me.”
Sheridan gently said, “Don’t worry about that just now.”
Corey said, “The Shadows must be defeated. I was a simple farmer. When the Vorlons arrived, I thought them demons. Then they carried me across the stars and I saw the real demons. Oh, we won, but at what cost?”
Sheridan said, “We haven’t won yet.”
Corey said, “I was speaking to the last war, not the current one.”
As the lift stopped, Sheridan asked, “What are you talking about?” The lift doors opened and twenty Psi Cops stood poised with PPG weapons.
Corey said, “My boy, I was born a very long time ago. Oh, now really! I think you gentlemen could benefit from some rest after your long trip. How does that saying go? Ah yes, sweet dreams.” Psi Cops began falling unconscious, with Bester holding on as long as he could but finally succumbing. Corey continued, “Relax, young man. They’re just sleeping.”
The two exited the lift and carefully sidestepped the sleeping Psi Cops. Sheridan noticed chests rising and falling, reassuring him that the men were still alive. What powers did the Vorlons imbue in the old man? The two continued walking and then entered Med-Lab. Corey did not resist as a nurse helped him into a bed.
Sheridan said, “I just want to make sure you’re alright.”
Corey said, “My time is finally near.” The doctor on call began running various scans. Corey continued, “I’ve been around a long time.”
Sheridan asked, “How long?”
Corey laughed, “Long enough to pick up a Vorlon hitchhiker from the last war.”
“If what you say is true,” said Sheridan, “that makes you a thousand years old.”
Corey said, “Sounds good to me. I hate to disappoint you by suggesting otherwise.”
Sheridan asked, “What does that mean?”
Corey said, “Dear boy! I’ve been through two wars.”
Sheridan shook his head. The Vorlon-Shadow wars occurred every ten thousand years. Exception of course granted to the current state of affairs when IPX woke up the Shadows from hibernation. It seemed impossible. Was Corey really eleven thousand years old?
Corey said, “I don’t have to be a telepath to know what you’re thinking. You’ve done the math. Yes, I’m over eleven thousand years old. Even the Psi Corps doesn’t suspect. They just think I’m over five hundred years old.”
The doctor said, “His blood pressure is dangerously low.”
Sheridan asked, “Why does Psi Corps think that?”
Corey said, “They think I know the secret of the alchemists. The fault is mine. Something about the last several centuries, well, you see, I just didn’t feel like changing my name. They called me a witch. I knew what was in their hearts. They just wanted my land. They tried to force a plea out of me. They must have placed nearly seven hundred pounds of rock upon my chest. Once again, I had to fake my death.”
Sheridan asked, “Why?”
Corey said, “It’s simply unnatural to not be able to die. Of course, I know I’m not immortal but I am extremely long lived. Whatever peculiarity allowed me to live so long, it’s been a curse. I’ve had many wives. They called me prophet, sage, god, angel – I suppose I had enough when they condemned dear Martha. She didn’t even have the gift. Three days after my apparent death, they hung her for the crime of marrying a witch.”
Sheridan asked, “When did this happen?”
Corey sighed, “The twenty-second day of September in Sixteen Ninety Two.”
The doctor said, “He needs rest.”
“I will die,” said Corey. “It’s alright.”
Sheridan watched as Corey began to fall asleep. He felt compelled to remain by the man’s side. Then he issued orders for security to escort the Psi Cops off the station. Despite his feeling tired, he felt he had to stay awake.
“He was once called Methuselah.”
Sheridan looked up and saw Lyta standing in the doorway. She entered the room and continued, “So now you know. The Vorlons can exist outside of their encounter suits. They can share existence with another being after some surgical modifications.”
Sheridan asked, “Is that what allowed Corey to live for so long?”
“No,” said Lyta. “He really did have a seeming immortality on his side. During the last war, the Vorlons went to Earth looking for allies. You can imagine their surprise when they found him again. They studied him and could not figure out what led to his exceptionally long life. Then they altered him so he could carry around Kosh. Something about the procedure changed him. After every near death episode, he was able to regenerate within a few hours, but after the surgical procedure, it took longer to regenerate.”
Sheridan shook his head. He said, “He didn’t regenerate in time to save her.”
Lyta said, “Even with a piece of Kosh inside him, he didn’t make it in time to save his last wife.”
Sheridan asked, “Was it harder to regenerate because a piece of Kosh was inside him?”
Lyta said, “Maybe.”
As he looked at the man in bed, Sheridan shook his head. Did the Vorlons lead to this man’s untimely demise? What was it like carrying around a Vorlon? What had it been like living for so long? He thought about Corey’s words earlier. ‘Let me undergo the peine forte et dure, for I stand mute before you. You have no jurisdiction over me.’
As he laughed in appreciation, Lyta gave him a strange look. Sheridan said, “You have no jurisdiction over me. I should like to have known him longer.”
Lyta said, “It’s finally his time. You didn’t know. Psi Corps told you a fish tale. He didn’t kill anyone. They just want to know his secret to long life.”
Sheridan said, “They claimed he was here to assassinate the ambassador.”
Lyta said, “Giles told the last Psi Cop that got close to him that he intended to see Ambassador Kosh. They fabricated the rest.”
Shaking his head, Sheridan accepted it. He never entirely trusted Psi Corps. He watched as the man slept. The doctor returned and suggested that Sheridan get some rest. However, he felt compelled to remain. Corey deserved someone at his side if it really was the end. Perhaps Lyta had the same idea as she took a seat.
Sheridan asked, “How do you know what he told the last Psi Cop?”
“Kosh,” said Lyta. “Captain, Kosh knows what Giles has suffered. He was instrumental in the last two wars taking care of Earth. The Vorlons regret what they did to him. Giles really is quite amazing.”
All he could do was shake his head. Sheridan felt bad for the man. What could he do for him? For hours, he sat in vigil. When Corey awoke, Sheridan smiled and said, “Good morning.”
Corey said, “You didn’t need to waste precious time sitting here with an old fool.”
Sheridan said, “It was no trouble.”
Corey said, “I have a small favor to ask.”
Sheridan said, “If it is within my power.”
Corey said, “Don’t let Psi Corps take my body. They hope to discover the secret to immortality. Take my advice: humanity is not ready for immortality.”
Sheridan asked, “How is it that you’ve lived so long?”
“I have no idea,” said Corey. “Does it really matter? I have seen many wives and friends come and go. Is it right for a parent to outlive his children? For whatever reason, I survived a very long time. I don’t have much of it left but I’ve made peace with what will happen. Ah, young telepath, how do you like serving the Vorlons?”
Lyta said, “It has its benefits. It has its disadvantages.”
Corey said, “Always remember humanity. It’s easy to forget in the grand scheme of things. We have a destiny. We have a purpose. We chose to align with the forces at work but we are still human.”
There was a heavy sigh and Corey closed his eyes. Sheridan felt very concerned. He called for the doctor and was surprised when Franklin entered. Had he completely lost track of time? Franklin started barking orders and moved Corey to intensive care. Even Sheridan could tell that Corey was slipping away. He watched as Franklin performed various medical measures including defibrillation. Then he saw Franklin look resigned and called it.
Sheridan felt great sadness. There was nothing more that he could do. He returned to his quarters to freshen up and thought about the day. He promised not to let Psi Corps take Corey’s body. He contacted Delenn and explained the situation. He could always count on Delenn and was not disappointed when Marcus Cole arrived. The two went down to Med-Lab and saw the staff in a commotion. What upset them so?
Sheridan snapped, “What’s going on?”
“The body’s gone,” said Franklin.
Sheridan snapped, “What do you mean it’s gone?”
Franklin crossly said, “We were getting ready to put it into stasis and we couldn’t find it. The bed was empty.”
Cole said, “I’m sure it will all work out for the better.”
Sheridan shot him a glance. Then he had an epiphany. Had the ranger already worked his magic? He said nothing as the medical staff kept up its frantic search for the body. He mumbled, “Keep me posted, Stephen.”
In a fit of curiosity, Sheridan did a little research on the Salem witch trials. He learned that Giles Corey died September 19, 1692, after succumbing to the weight of the rocks from the press the authorities imposed trying to force a plea out of him. His wife Martha died three days later when the tribunal implemented the sentence of death by hanging.
Historians speculated many things about the trials, with most favoring the premise of the Puritans settling old scores. Corey refused to enter a plea. As a result, the law at the time prevented a trial until such time as the accused entered a plea. To prevent persons from cheating justice, the legal remedy was the peine forte et dure.
Sheridan wondered how Corey must have felt, completely stripped naked with a board laid upon his body while the sheriff and his deputies laid rocks and boulders in the press. On the first day, they allowed him a mere three morsels of bread. On the second day, they allowed him three draughts of water. That would be his alternating diet until he died or entered a plea.
Yet history records that Corey did not cry out in pain. He uttered no plea. Perhaps he held his cries to prevent others from making false claims of hearing a plea. When the sheriff demanded the man to enter a plea, Corey replied, “More weight.” The sheriff complied, ordering his deputies to place more heavy stones.
Sheridan wondered how Corey endured the tortuous process. The pain must have been intolerable. The principle must have been truly just for Corey to refuse to enter a plea and stand firm in his beliefs. On the third day, Corey gave up the ghost. If he had pled, his estate would have been forfeited to the government. Instead, it passed on to his sons-in-law in accordance with his will.
Was this the inspiration Sheridan needed to continue his campaign? Corey knew he could regenerate and start over again. He could never again see his family but his final act looked to their needs. Others who pled lost everything. Ultimately, his death was a protest against the methods of the court.
Something compelled Sheridan to go down to Customs. He watched as people came and went. He saw a curiously familiar septuagenarian going through Customs leaving the station. Could it be? Nah, he thought. Then the man turned around and rendered a mock salute. Wait? What? Had he imagined it?
Let me undergo the peine forte et dure, for I stand mute before you. You have no jurisdiction over me.
The words sounded as clear as when Corey first uttered them.