What Do You See In a Reflection?

Characters: Dunstan Kordieh

“It’s not right that he simply stay here, without any question asked,” said Turval.

“I agree. We must determine the truth of his claim,” said Nelier. The two Minbari, elders and teachers of their fellow Anla’shok, were sitting alone in Nelier’s rooms. Light from several dozen lamps and candles, reflecting off crystal and glass sculptures, made the place seem like a wizard’s workroom. “If he was insane at the time he sabotaged thePhoenix, we should help him restore himself. If not, he must face punishment.”

“There’s another problem. If he was insane, why was it not seen when he first joined the Anla’shok?”

“Don’t all humans seem mad to us, sometimes?” asked Nelier. “But you are correct. We must ensure this doesn’t happen again, so we must determine exactly the state of Kordieh’s mind, then and now.”

“A series of deep scans, by a Human telepath?”

“Better than one of our people, certainly. But would he consent?”

“I believe he would. Though he really hasn’t much choice.”

“Who then? We know Anla’shok Santiago is a powerful telepath, but given her visits to Kordieh here, she may well be biased.”

“I know of another,” Turval said. “Alisa Belden. She was brought to Minbar by Entil’zha Delenn some years ago. Human, but trained in the use of her gift by our people. She even knew Entil’zha Sinclair before he left us, I believe.”

“Would she agree?” Nelier asked. “It will be an unpleasant experience, at best.”

“Leave Miss Belden to me,” said Turval. “Go speak with Kordieh and explain what we have discussed, and we will meet again tomorrow.”


 

“Are you always so quiet as you sit here, Dunstan Kordieh?” The only sound that had been heard for several minutes before Nelier’s question was the roosting of the temshwee in the rafters of the little temple overhead.

Kordieh turned toward the old Minbari teacher, his eyes bright in the dim light of the setting sun, slanting through the temple walls. “Usually, yes. I do all my screaming inside my head, Sech Nelier.”

Nelier hesitated a moment. “It is not clear to me if you are joking, or expressing your feelings about our proposal.”

“Both, I suppose,” Kordieh said, sighing. “Everyone, especially the Minbari, have been very polite. Painfully so. But I’ve caught some of the looks, when they think I can’t see them.”

“I think I understand. No one is quite sure what to make of you, as you humans say.”

“I do want to clear my name — as much as it ever can be, anyway. I want to prove I am telling you the truth. I want to earn the right to join the Anla’shok again, and serve with honor. But …”

“But?”

“I am frightened, Sech Nelier. Very frightened.”

Nelier smiled, and his voice was as kind as his eyes. “That, Dunstan Kordieh, is all the proof of your sincerity I could ask for.” He rose and bowed, movements which Kordieh echoed with alacrity. “We will tell you when it is time.”


 

“You are no longer Anla’shok.”

The words echoed strangely, and there was something odd in the reflection of the Isil’zha pin — his Isil’zha pin — that Captain Hale held in her hand.

Then he realized why. He was standing in an airlock, and she was on the other side.

She said nothing else, but stepped back and slapped a switch on the wall, all the time keeping her gaze locked with his. The hate in that gaze burned straight through to Kordieh’s heart. The airlock door irised open and the air blasted out of the chamber, carrying him with it amongst a roar of voices.

He could only distinguish one, as he struggled to keep his last breath inside his body.

“Wake up, you bastard!”

And he did.


 

Opening his eyes, the stern face of Sech Turval standing near him was the first thing to come into focus. Struggling to shake off the dream, Kordieh stepped off the bed and bowed, then tried to put his sleeping robes in some kind of passable order. “I … forgive me, Sech Turval,” he said. “Have I overslept?”

The old Minbari’s features softened a little. “No, you have not. However, Miss Belden will be arriving soon, and you should prepare yourself. I will meet you in the dining hall in one hour, and conduct you to the room we have prepared.”

Kordieh nodded, and bowed again as Turval departed. Alone, he slumped back against the bed, unable to bring himself to move despite the lack of time. He couldn’t get rid of the image of Captain Hale’s eyes, blazing brighter than her hair, tearing into his soul. He wondered where she was, and what she had done with the sheet of paper he had given her. Still back on Earth, most likely, and he wouldn’t have been surprised if she hadn’t torn the paper to pieces the moment he was out of sight.

He’d begun to glimpse traces of compassion in some — Darquin, for example — after he’d made his confession; but even in Tuzanor, there had been none from Hale. That must have been why his unconscious seized her image, pasted into her eyes all the hate that Kordieh had felt from others, and most especially from himself.

Standing naked in front of the mirror, he looked at his pale, gaunt body and sighed. This was all that he was, all he had ever really been. One man, alone. And now, he had to open himself — be even more naked than as he now stood — to a human being he’d never met. And what she found would decide whether he could begin his life over again.

Or whether, maybe, it would end right here.


(c) 1999 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.