Kosh had known that there would be a price to pay for his decision. There were rules and he had violated the first one.
Those the younger races called The Shadows might be their Adversary, but they did not seek their destruction. Instead they sought to demonstrate to the younger races the superiority of their vision for the future of the galaxy.
They had always wanted the younger races to choose. To decide which of their ideologies was the superior. Thus they had engaged in many conflicts against the Adversary, but not since the earliest days had they taken up arms against each other directly.
If nothing else, they were too powerful, their technology too advanced. An all-out war between them had the potential to devastate the galaxy. Leave it lifeless and barren.
But this cycle was different. The war between the humans and the Minbari had crippled them almost from the start. They had lost early momentum in unifying the races of this corner of the galaxy against the Adversary.
Something had been needed to push them into believing that if they stood together they could triumph. So he had authorised the strike.
The Adversary did not pilot their vessels into battle themselves, so none of their kind had perished, but nevertheless he had violated the rules of engagement for their conflict.
The Adversary had a right to retaliate.
So he was unsurprised when he felt them approaching his quarters on the station, with their human puppet in tow.
The human’s mind radiated a smug satisfaction, and he was sickened by it. He had longed to obliterate this human from the start, but he was protected by the Adversary and could not be touched.
The Adversary themselves though, would have to reveal themselves if they wished to defeat him. And while he could sense enough of them to know that they would triumph over him, if he had learned one thing from the humans this cycle it was the satisfaction of ‘going down swinging’.
As the door opened in a shower of sparks, he disengaged the locks of his encounter suit, and even as he joined the Adversary in battle a tendril of thought reached out to the human captain, The Sheridan.
It was several days before Kosh, the last fragment of Kosh, had the energy to open his awareness, stretching and using the Sheridan’s senses as much as his own.
His ship had carried out its final mission. He would miss It. They had been together for a very long time, and had done much together.
From the stink of chronotons upon the Sheridan he surmised that the Sinclair-Who-Was-Valen had followed his destiny. Good.
Then The Lyta was there, and he looked upon her through Sheridan’s eyes and felt both pride and sorrow. She was one of the greatest accomplishments of his people, yet he had not had time to ready her for what might have to come. He sorrowed for the possibility of her ending.
His replacement arrived shortly afterwards, and he shielded his presence immediately. Ulkesh had never belonged to the same cadre as himself, and it would shame him if Ulkesh beheld him in this diminished state.
He was also concerned. Ulkesh was one of the leading members of a cadre which advocated for more direct action in the conflict. Action which was abhorrent to every fibre of Kosh’s being.
This would bear watching.
The Sheridan was one of the greatest generals they had ever deployed against the Adversary.
Never had the Adversary been defeated by the younger races at such a minimal cost. He had felt their confusion, then their anger as they were driven back, prevented from their course of action by the mismatched forces arrayed against them.
He was proud of their Chosen.
The Adversary had deployed their great weapon. The Sheridan’s fallen mate.
He sorrowed for the Sheridan. He had not known that the mate had survived as the puppet had.
But the Sheridan was not fooled by the bewitchments of the Adversary’s weapon. Kosh watched as powerful weapons were loaded aboard the White Star. Watched as the Sheridan made his farewells, leaving the conflict in the hands of his seconds, and the Delenn.
They were not the Sheridan, but they had proven themselves to be worthy of being his successors.
As they drew nearer to Z’Ha’Dum the mate grew increasingly uncomfortable with being aboard the White Star, and Kosh could feel the ship’s limited intelligence experiencing satisfaction even as he sensed the Sheridan’s own grim understanding of what her discomfort declared.
They left the White Star in orbit and descended to the surface in a human shuttle, but Kosh had watched as the Sheridan programmed in a command which would bring the ship to him after priming the weapons and knew that the Sheridan planned to sell his life dearly, as Kosh himself had done.
Beneath the surface, in the city of the Adversary, they were met by the puppet and another, the one who claimed to be the equal and opposite of the Sheridan. They disarmed the Sheridan and spoke at length, while the Adversary closed in around them.
The Sheridan revealed that he had known his mate was fallen, the puppet and the equal/opposite were disconcerted by this, and it was not long before they dropped the genial mask and used threats and intimidation, the Adversary’s favoured weapons.
The Sheridan had been crafty, and drew a hidden weapon. Kosh fed energy down his arm and into the weapon, such that it would be able to more easily fell the Adversary’s physical forms, and they fled.
As they moved, the Sheridan triggered the command to the White Star, and Kosh felt a sense of satisfaction at knowing that the city of the Adversary would soon be a smoking crater.
Once he would never have thought thusly. He had been spending too much time sharing with humans. It was the only explanation.
They came to a deep chasm, and though neither could see the bottom Kosh could sense, dimly, the presence of the Eldest. They had know he was on Z’Ha’Dum but had been unable to come to him for longer than most civilisations had existed in this corner of the galaxy.
The flaming shape of the White Star descended towards them and Kosh reached into the Sheridan’s mind and spoke to him for the first time.
Even Kosh did not know how far they had fallen. But he had wrapped his energy around the Sheridan to lessen the impact.
It had been enough. Barely. Kosh was the only thing keeping the Sheridan alive. But he could feel the Eldest. He was close. And Kosh knew, as all Vorlon knew, that the Eldest could help even the most gravely wounded.
The Eldest approached slowly, carefully. Once they had evolved past the corporeal, into beings of pure thought and energy, the Vorlon had depended upon their encounter suits to interact with the younger races.
Not so the Eldest. He could take and shed a corporeal form at will. And so he approached as he once had the earliest Vorlon.
Even the smile was the same as that depicted in their ancient writings.
The Eldest had fed energy into the Sheridan’s body, until Kosh felt it was safe to separate his own energy in order to conserve what he had left.
He knew the Eldest was aware of him, but the focus was on the Sheridan, as if the Eldest knew of his importance.
The Eldest could relate to the Sheridan as Kosh had never truly been able to, and they spoke at length, then while the Sheridan slept the Eldest moved away, and Kosh could feel him pulling together pieces of crashed ships to cobble together a vessel capable of returning them to Babylon 5.
As they sailed the stars to return to the station, Kosh reached out gingerly to sense the actions of his people, to see if the fears which Ulkesh had sparked in him had come to pass.
There. At the edge of his senses he could feel them. A vast number in close proximity. Not since the earliest days of the Vorlon Empire had they had the need to deploy such a force.
It represented sufficient firepower to obliterate every vessel belonging to every civilisation in this corner of the galaxy.
Human. Minbari. Centauri. None of them had the technology to stand against the Vorlon should they wish them gone.
And then. His deepest fear realised. His people had repurposed their ancient mining vessels.
In time long past his race had been… hubristic. They had believed they could open a pathway to heaven, and touch the face of the Great Maker. To do so they had needed to build a gate. Like a jumpgate but so much more powerful.
To build this they had required vast quantities of Quantium 40. More than could be mined by conventional methods in a hundred years. And so they had found a quicker way.
Destroy the planet then harvest the Quantium 40 from the remnants.
They had always been careful, even in their pride. They had never used the device upon an inhabited world, no matter how much Quantium 40 could be found there.
If Ulkesh and their cadre were in the ascendant. That would change.
The very thought shamed him.
As they drew near to the station he could see the silhouette of Ulkesh’s energy, a shadow blotting out the station. It stank of vindictive amusement and kindled a rage in Kosh.
That rage burned hotter when he brushed against the Lyta’s mind. She had been bright, almost like an infant of their race. But now she was darkened by pain and fear, and Kosh could taste the aftereffects of what Ulkesh had subjected her to.
To join with the mind of another sentient was held among Kosh and his cadre, the eldest of the Vorlon, to hold an almost spiritual significance. He had always been gentle with the minds he had touched, but especially with the Lyta.
Ulkesh and his ilk saw joining minds as an expedience. A means to an end. The younger races were insects compared to the Vorlon, if they died as a result of the joining they had served their purpose.
From the impressions on the Lyta’s mind only her force of will had prevented her death already, for Ulkesh had done nothing to ease the neural shock caused by the separation.
And there was more, a hint of Vorlon rage stained her energy, a darker, colder version of what he himself had once used to scold the Sheridan.
His anger then had shamed him. This enraged him.
The Eldest’s mind reached out and soothed him, but there was a definite sense that the Eldest too disapproved of what the Vorlon were doing, and more specifically, that the Eldest strongly disapproved of Ulkesh.
His people had lost their minds. It was the only explanation for the course they had set themselves upon.
It had been a long time since the last Vorlon had died a violent death. Many cycles of the conflict with the Adversary had come and gone and perhaps they had become unaccustomed to the concept of mortality.
Vorlon did not die. When they grew weary of this existence they passed beyond the rim to join the other First Ones in exploring the further reaches of the galaxy.
But Vorlon did not die.
He had. And it had unlocked a power and a fury that his people had long since denied, stoked by foolish younglings like Ulkesh.
So many worlds destroyed. So many millions consigned to the abyss. If the cycle had run its usual course some of them would have perished of course. But not like this.
Not like this.
And through it all. While the Sheridan schemed with the Eldest. While the Delenn feverishly directed the rangers to scout for fleet movements, to try and get warning to worlds in time for them to evacuate. While the Ivanova, second of the Sheridan, was speaking day and night, words spilling into the void in a vain attempt to stem the tide.
Through all this. Ulkesh lurked in his quarters and radiated a malevolent satisfaction, almost an amusement as the ants scurried around to try and stop them.
But not for long. The Sheridan and the Eldest had finished their scheming. And were ready to act.
The first blow was a feint, meant to assure Ulkesh of his invulnerability in the face of the younger races. It succeeded.
Then the Lyta went to him with honeyed words of deceit, stating that a piece of Kosh’s consciousness had survived but was being imprisoned by a human.
As expected, this insult to Vorlon infuriated Ulkesh and caused him to leave the sanctity of his quarters. To walk willingly into the trap set for him.
As the energy coursed through Ulkesh, weakening the integrity of his encounter suit. As the human security poured plasma fire upon him. They waited.
The Sheridan was grimly determined. The Eldest was feeding energy into them. Kosh was not as he had once been, in his diminished state he would have been no match for Ulkesh in the full of his power.
But together. The last of Kosh, the stubborn will of the Sheridan, and the ancient power of the Eldest. They would destroy him. Or else all would be lost.
Ulkesh’s encounter suit exploded in a shower of sparks, and the backwash staggered them. His true form towered over them, radiating a cold energy that sapped the strength from the limbs of the lesser races as he lashed out at the securiy guards.
The Delenn stepped into the open to try and rescue one of the guards, and Ulkesh turned upon her, malice in every thought.
The Sheridan stepped into the path of the strike, shielding the Delenn with his body, before turning.
And Kosh streamed forth, buoyed by his own incandescent rage at what Ulkesh had done to his Chosen. To those who had proven themselves to the Vorlon over again. To the Lyta.
Buoyed up by the determination of the Sheridan. The unwillingness to yield in the face of a superior enemy. The same determination which had destroyed the Black Star.
Buoyed up by the energy of the Eldest. He who had walked among them when they were younger than the younger races were now. When they had blinked in the dawning light of civilisation. He who had raised them up. And if necessary would cast them down.
Kosh wrapped himself around Ulkesh and drew him forth, through the hull of the station lest their battle rend it open and lose all within to the void.
Ulkesh’s ship was hurtling away from the station, Ulkesh’s will working upon it to try and get a message to their fleet, to summon them here to repay this insult to the Vorlon in blood.
So Kosh dragged Ulkesh into the ship, and in its confined space they fought. As Kosh had not fought since his earliest memories.
But Kosh had fought before. Against other First Ones. Against the Adversary back when they had battled directly.
Ulkesh had not. Ulkesh had only ever fought younger races, overawed by the Vorlon technological superiority and the strength of their presence. Ulkesh had never fought like this. Fought for existence, for survival in the face of an equal who truly wanted you destroyed.
Kosh reached into the heart of Ulkesh and silenced him once and for all, then released all his remaining energy in a wave to obliterate the ship.
As the darkness fell. He knew peaceful satisfaction.
Their Chosen now had a chance.