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Beyond The Rim: Sheridan

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White light flooded the cockpit of John Sheridan's ship, blinding his eyes and piercing very other part of him. His body burned away. Sheridan braced for the pain but found it strangely soothing, like honey dissolving into hot tea. A voice flooded his mind.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes.” He hadn't realized before that moment what speaking “felt” like. There was voice but no lips, or tongue, or vocal chords. He gasped, but his lungs were gone and no diaphragm flexed.

“Don't be afraid.” The light surrounded him and encased him, providing a sense of mass where there was none. "I've got you."

The brightness consumed everything. Sheridan flew through blank white nothingness, without reference to distance or time. Thoughts of the life he left -- the alliance, the rangers, Babylon 5, friends and family, David and Delenn -- sifted out the back of his head along with any regret or sadness at his own passing. The memories returned slowly. His wife's face came first; not wrinkled and mourning but bright and happy like she was when they were together. His son was a young man, but he could see him as both an adult and a child. Sheridan saw the people and places he loved as a celebration, and when he heard the voice again, he knew exactly who it was.

“Open your eyes.”

Lorien stood before him, dressed in a billowing robe. He had the same long face and fatherly smile Sheridan remembered, but now glowed with youth and life despite being the oldest creature in the universe. Sheridan was standing on legs as real as the ones he used to have, dressed in an Army of Light uniform that was no longer too tight.

“Lorien...” Sheridan's throat tightened – because he had a throat again. “Sorry.”

“It's just fine, John. It's a pleasure to see you face-to-face again.”

“Where are we?”

“A transition,” Lorien said. “You might call it 'limbo'.”

“I'm not dead?”

“No, you're quite dead.” Lorien chuckled. “This just isn't your final destination.”

“What am I doing here?”

“I thought it would be nice to talk a little. How are you feeling?”

“Confused.” Sheridan pressed his lips. “Upset. Upset I'm not more upset.”

“You're in a little shock.”

“I've been dreading today for the last twenty years.”

“I'm sorry to hear that. I was going to welcome you home.”

“Home?” Sheridan's temper flared. “Home was back there!”

“Hush, hush now, John.” Lorien folded his long hand over Sheridan's shoulder. “Walk with me.”

They strolled together through the whiteness. Sheridan's feet pulled ground, but without a signpost it brought a stark lack of progress. the strategy worked, however, and Sheridan begrudgingly calmed down. Lorien's hand tightened. “Tell me about your twenty years.”

“They were good, for the most part. Of course there was plenty of interstellar drama. My home world was nearly killed by a plague, two of my good friends strangled each other to death, a place I loved more than anything is probably blown to pieces right now...” He took a deep breath. “But my world wasn't destroyed, we won the Drakh war, and I loved the people around me more than the places. I had Delenn and I had David.”

“Your son?”

“Yes, my son.”

“He's a good man. He's due for great things.”

“How do you know that?”

“The Universe knows it, and it tells me.”

“It tells you?”

“It's a living thing as well, you know,” Lorien said. “The Universe exists out of time. It didn't start and it doesn't end. It is life itself. We are it's children, made of the exact same life. All working together.”

“Star stuff,” Sheridan cracked a smile. “Of course.”

“Do you understand?”

“Not really, but I'm willing to learn.”

“Are you ready to see more?”

“Show me whatever you've got.”

Lorien clapped his back and steered him to the right. In a flash he was stepping through space onto a cobblestone road. Sheridan squinted into intense sunlight, grateful for the warmth and a touch of the familiar. When his eyes adjusted he was in a wide courtyard surrounded by tall buildings of all styles and racial origins. There were people, too. Hundreds of humans and aliens mingled together in the streets and in the open market and outdoor restaurants visible on the plaza's edge.

Sheridan stood with Lorien in the center. Behind them stood a glowing portal guarded by two angelic beings. Sheridan gasped. “Vorlons?”

“Yes.”

“We're beyond the rim.”

“That's right.”

“You mean...” He turned slowly. “It's a city?”

“It's everything,” Lorien replied. “A little bit of all races and cultures from all stages of life. This is my city. My home.”

“Your people?”

“Yes indeed.” Lorien sighed. “Now, it may surprise you to learn that I a very busy man around here, so I am afraid I'll have to leave you.”

“You're ditching me?”

“For a short while, but don't worry – I invited an old friend to show you around.”

Lorien waved toward a cafe just off the plaza, catching the eye of a minbari man dressed as an anla'shok. Sheridan studied his face as he approached, but it wasn't until they were feet apart that recognition finally dawned. “Sinclair?”

“I'm known as Valen now.” The man smiled, revealing shallow wrinkles at the corner of his eyes. “But you have my permission to call me Jeff, President John Sheridan.”

“I can't believe this!” Sheridan grasped his hand in a firm shake. “You went back in time!”

“And lived my whole life there.” Valen turned to Lorien. “Sueash wanted to speak with you.”

“I know, I am on my way.” Lorien nodded. “Take care of our friend.”

“You know it.”

Lorien gave Sheridan's shoulder a farewell pat, stepped up a ramp through the open doorway and vanished in it's pool of light.

Valen folded his arms within his sleeves.“A little much to take in, isn't it?”

“I...uh...”

“It's alright to be overwhelmed. So was I at the start of this, and I didn't have someone to meet me at the gate.” He nodded to the town. “Follow me, I'll give you the walking tour.”