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How Many Parsecs to Babylon

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"Where is Babylon?"

Jochaanan pauses; he's never been asked this before. The old rhyme has never before been interrupted, but then Anaais is growing up and the same simple pleasures can hardly be expected to content her.

He thinks for a moment, and then answers: "Far, far away," he tells her, "at the bend in the river."

"Which river?"

"The river of stars. Do you remember the constellations I showed you?"

Anaais nods.

"And you remember the river? The river in the sky?"

She nods again. "Eridan," she says.

"That's right. And Babylon was at the bend in that river."

"How could you get there if it was in the sky?"

He smiles. "It was a long time ago," he admits. "In the third age, when the humans drove out the gods and the monsters; when ships of steel sailed between the stars on the sea of fire that flows behind the walls of the world. It was before the walls closed and the sky burned and we forgot how to fly."

"What was Babylon like?"

"It was a shining palace in the dark between the worlds," he replies. "A hall of heroes where the Starkiller forged his Army of Light; where valiant knights rode out on their winged steeds to do battle with evil. They say that it had a tower of steel and glass, five miles high, which turned ever around and around to face in all directions, so that Starkiller could never be surprised by his enemies."

Anaais sits up in her bed; clearly this is more to her taste now than nursery rhymes. "Was Starkiller a chieftain?"

"He was," Jochaanan agrees, "although not always. He was a sailor first, and a warrior, and the captain of the galleon Agamemnon. He took fire from the gods and used it to strike down the monsters which lurked in the darkest corners of the galaxy, then turned that flame against the gods themselves." He isn't sure of this bit exactly, but it is as good as he can remember.

"Why did he attack the gods?" Anaais asks.

Jochaanan smiles; he is more confident of this bit. "In the first age, the gods were distant and let humans go about their own business, but in the second age they walked among us as lords and masters. Some ruled openly and others hid, pulling strings like a puppeteer. Starkiller declared that the dawn of the third age came when humans decided that they would no longer be ruled, but would rule themselves, and he made Babylon his capital and home to his knights, and his queen Delenn."

"Did they have adventures?"

"Oh, so many adventures."

"Will you tell me about them?"

"I, uh..." Jochaanan stumbles, having exhausted most of what he knows.


He breathes a sigh of relief, and nods. "Yes," he says. "I'll tell you about them tomorrow."

She smiles and settles back to sleep, and in her weary voice recites the words she knows so well:

Shadow, Hand and Vorlon,
How many parsecs to Babylon?
A lifetime's ride on a beam of light.
Can I get there 'neath the cloak of night?
If your ship be yar
And your jumps be true
You'll be there before the night is through.