Memory in Shadow
Disclaimer: Babylon 5 and its characters don't belong to me.
"Memory in Shadow"
by Christine Anderson
aka Anla'shok Ivanova
When you remember us, remember that we tried. Remember that we gave it our best shot- life, existence, and the love that abides- I'm sorry, that allows- no borders.
Remember that none of us meant for it to be this way, not really.
No. Not even Morden. The death of his wife and daughter, and then the thought that they might be forever trapped in time and space at the moment of their deaths, it broke him, and then it drove him mad. He went to the Shadows willingly, hoping that the dark ones could release him. And that is really their greatest strength- that they can do anything, even the nearly impossible, for a price.
What was left of Morden was willing to pay that price. I wasn't. I was anchored rather than broken, and they could give me nothing I wanted.
Serve or die. You say that they didn't kill me? You are wrong. Everything that was good in me, everything that made me who I am, they took. All I could hold on to, in the end, was my name. Anna Sheridan. And some vague memory of my husband- a concept that after a while didn't mean much.
Anna Sheridan. John's wife.
That was who I was. Wasn't it?
Except that once I had been more, so much more. I had been a woman who would never have described myself as someone's wife.
They put me into that ship, made me its heart...and the most terrible thing about it was not that it happened, but that I knew it had happened. Not all the time, but I did know. I knew that once, once there had been something more. And I think I wept there in the heart of the machine, for what I had forgotten I'd ever lost.
And then they reached for me again, the Shadows, whom I was taught to regard as...the liberators. The liberators and their machines made me forget the few things that ever came back. Wiping clean the slate of my memory.
I never knew how to stop it. I tried- God knows I tried.
Once I thought I was close to free- when the techno-mage, Galen, destroyed my first ship. I had thought then, that I would die. The machine wanted to live, to serve, to strike, but Anna- Anna wanted to let it all go, the pain and the fear and the darkness, all those years in the dark alone.
But I survived. I survived, and though Galen tried to save me from that fate, I was given in time to another ship.
It was the mage who pulled from me the memory of my name, and remembered it. Thus did a telepath serving the Shadows learn it, thus was I taken from the ship, given new directives and instructions, ones I did not understand.
I was commanded by Shadows, ordered by a human called Justin, and prodded relentlessly by the same telepath who had found my name- ordered and commanded to remember. To remember my husband, John, and my life before Z'ha'dum.
And I tried. Wanting, needing, to please them, I tried. I tried harder than I ever had before, and at the end I had only fragments of what seemed to have been someone else's life. I did not understand that life had been my own. I was the heart of the machine. My name was Anna. That was all.
Again and again they asked, what is the first thing you remember?
Joining with the ship. Becoming its heart.
Later, then. What else do you remember?
The techno-mage. Galen. He was kind to me.
Flesh is so fragile, I thought. So weak. Not like the ship. I felt Justin's slap across my face, and the skin burned as if on fire. Tears fell from my eyes; I cried, not knowing why. I did not understand shame, or the sort of anger that goes with it. All I knew was a longing to shriek the war cry and hurl my crimson energy at this one who had struck me- but there was no more crimson, and the cry did not sound the same.
And he sneered at me. Kind, what is kind?
Kind was... Kind was Galen, who had tried to end my pain, who had tried to free me the only ways that he could.
I thought, and in the end I didn't say that. Instead I said, "Kind is...a friend. Like John?"
He seemed to like that better, or at least well enough that he did not hit me again.
But I never knew John Sheridan, not really. Not the way the woman who had been his wife had known him. I tried, but I couldn't remember. In the end they decided it was enough that I fool him for a time, to influence him to come to Z'ha'dum. I am not sure John ever really believed me; I couldn't judge human thought from their expressions or movements, the way I probably could have when I had been one of them.
I was to pretend that I loved John, but I hardly knew how. I was lonely and sick for a home that was not Z'ha'dum, but was not the home of the woman I had been, either. I wanted, strangely, the one called Galen, who had never asked me to be anything, only tried...
Only tried. The way I tried, and the others had tried to help me remember...
I wanted to cry as I had when Justin hit me, but I did not want John to see the tears. I understood that his wife would not have cried.
He doesn't believe me, I whispered to Morden. Morden had known Dr. Sheridan, been her friend. But he knew Anna, too, and that comforted me somehow.
Morden told me not to worry. It doesn't matter, he said. He's here. You did well.
But I hadn't, had I? Doing well would have been if he had believed me, if I had been able to remember more, and if I had been able to connect myself somehow to those memories. I was afraid, of the Shadows' displeasure, and of Justin's, but they hardly seemed to notice me anymore. They had John, which was what they had wanted all along.
Justin put his hands on my shoulders, a gesture that meant something to the humans. Was it supposed to be friendly...paternal, maybe? I didn't remember, and so the gesture was nothing to me. He was still the one who had struck me, and I counted him as an enemy.
I don't know what I counted John as. I felt detached from him the way I felt detached from the memories, as if he would always be a stranger to me.
At the last, their plan failed. Maybe he had known all along, had planned it this way all along.
I did not know who I was, or who I had been, and I did not have whatever it was that my heart longed for- the machine, and the sense that once in my life, I had been loved- but at least I was free.