This challenge was loads of fun. Write a story where an HL character (or characters) has a Close Encounter or otherwise interacts with any other SF continuity. This time, I decided to think big: the ultimate piece of modern storytelling--Babylon 5.

So, without further ado, The Ghost Cat presents:

Shadow of a sword

He stepped though the gate, glad to be out of the cramped confines of a commercial transport. He let out the last of the shuttle’s poorly recycled sterile air and took a deep breath of… slightly better recycled air. Another bloody space station, he had almost lost count of the last time he’d seen the Highlands. On the other hand, he thought with an inward smile, how much higher can you get? In the end, it was inevitable: sooner or later, everyone comes to Babylon 5.

He sighed as he shouldered his pack and walked up the corridor. The names may change: guards, police, Customs, security; but the lines remained the same. Waiting patiently, he was almost disappointed when he noticed the fresh-faced young officer checking ID’s. Some part of him had been looking forward to seeing old Garibaldi again.

Zack Allen was hardly paying attention anymore by the time the dark-haired human gave him an Identicard. The card scanned fine and the formalities began-- Name? Duncan MacLeod. Purpose of visit? Business. Length of stay? A week, maybe less. Zack smiled wearily as he uttered the ancient and time-honoured phrase; "Do you have anything to declare?"

The stranger returned the smile as he unfastened his baggage, reaching inside. "Just this," the carved ivory looked somewhat pale in the artificial light, but the gently curving blade shone brightly. The young officer’s eyes widened, "Is that a Ka’Toc?"

"No" the man answered calmly, "it’s a 19th century Japanese katana."

With great effort, Zack finally got out the single word: "Why?"

"I’m a collector of antique weapons. I’d like to acquire a Ka’Toc," the man pronounced the Narn word much better than Zack had, "and I brought this for its possible trade value." The security officer frowned, "If you’re a collector, then why doesn’t this have a case?"

"Sheath," said the man with a long sigh. "The word is sheath." He leaned forward conspiratorially, adding "You know how it is with space travel, they make you pay for every ounce you bring."

Zack shook his head wearily, "I understand, Sir, but it’s still considered a weapon and it’ll have to stay with us."

MacLeod frowned at this, putting on his best outraged-businessman persona, "That item is over 400 years old!"

"And it will be kept in a secure location with all our other guests’ valuables. If you do find a buyer," and here Allen expressed a serious doubt that any Narn would even consider it, "you can pick it up at Station Security."

MacLeod reached forward, "I don’t care how ‘secure’ your storage is…" suddenly he heard a rising hum from two different locations behind him. The Security Officer looked a lot less friendly, "Please take your hand away from the weapon." Mac sighed; just his luck someone would have a preference for head shots. He backed off slowly with an apologetic half-bow. This could make things more difficult.

He unpacked with the brisk efficiency of a seasoned traveller, or someone accustomed to uprooting himself at the least provocation. He didn’t have time for a long settling in. He had a purpose on the station, and it wasn’t to acquire a new weapon (though the Narn made a blade in some ways even better than the classic katana). Since the mess following the "discovery" of the telepaths, Immortals had become even more cautious against a similar event. A man standing in front of a crowd of thousands, declaring "I was dead, but I’m better now"; now that needed investigation.

The Immortal needed some way to get close to the newly resurrected John J. Sheridan, but that wasn’t going to be easy. Surely there would be as many public appearances as possible; but distant, away from any possible mobs. Meanwhile, there were other avenues to pursue.

The Garden was truly amazing, Mac could almost forget that he was in space. He passed a stone bench; paused to experience a Zen garden, and lost himself within it. An age-old warning pulled him out of the near-meditation; his hands twitched in search of a weapon he did not have. "I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."

The voice that answered was soft, but unyielding; Zen-like, yet dangerous, "I am Lennier, of the third Fain of Chudomo." Duncan paused, a moment that at any other time could have been fatal, to examine the robed figure. Not human, he thought could it be? His opponent seemed also to be assessing the situation; the Minbari spoke again, "The shadow of a sword—"

MacLeod relaxed visibly, returning the proper countersign: "can be used to cut a Shadow." This formality complete, the two sat together, as companionable as two Immortals could ever be.

Duncan broke the silence first, "when I was told my contact was to be a Minbari, I thought—"

"Ambassador Delenn?" Lennier inserted smoothly, without seeming to interrupt. "Not surprising, she is…a most exceptional person," here he paused significantly, as though daring anyone to speak against her, "but she is not of Our Kind."

"Speaking of our kind, how is the returning hero of Z’ha’dum?"

A subtle stiffening in response to that comment, "You would need to ask Lorien. It was his Life Force alone that allowed Sheridan to return from that place."

Duncan whistled appreciatively, "Force feeding a mortal Quickening, only a First One would dare try that." A fleeting smile, "And I thought Methos was strange. It won’t last, though."

"Long enough for what must be done."

The Highlander was amazed at the calm in the alien’s voice: what must be done. "Where was Kosh in all this? This is his sector, after all."

"Kosh is dead."

Again the clutch of hands, fingers searching reflexively for the comfort of a well-worn hilt. Kosh had been Duncan’s teacher, through the years after the discovery of alien Immortals, when first hints of the Shadows cut short the Game. His voice was ice cold and dangerous, "Who did it?"

Lennier almost didn’t want to answer. "Morden; but this is not the time for personal vengeance."

"That’s my decision to make," Duncan almost snarled. "Morden. Still manipulating the universe to suit his own needs?"

A curt nod, "But now he has the full power of the Shadows behind him."

The Highlander shook his head slowly, "Shadows, prophecies, Armies of Light and Darkness; sometimes I almost miss the Game. Everything seemed simpler when there could be only One."

"There is a Minbari saying, ‘A moment of risk, at the right time, is worth a thousand years of caution.’ "


"Meaning, who wants to live forever?" This time both Immortals, despite hundreds of years and millions of miles difference between them, shared a quiet smile.

At the end of this posting were the words "This tale is not finished". The response was tremendous: I had people literally begging me to finish the story. Which wasn't too much of a problem, I had more in mind when I wrote it, but thought this was a good enough place to stop. Watch this space for the extended version of "Shadow of a Sword".