by Helen E. Davis

"Why are you doing this?" Captain John Sheridan screamed as the shadowy forms slipped closer. They flash visible, then invisible, a brief iridescence as if cycling through the spectrum of light. Crowding tight, they pushed him back against the cold metal wall of the Babylon 5 space station.

Already he had watched as their ships sliced apart the station, sections falling away as friends and acquaintances tumbled into the big nothing. Delenn's screaming as the creatures overwhelmed her, one white hand the last bit to be drawn into the inky darkness. Londo's laughter, high and maniacal, as panicked people swirled around him like the folds of an enormous cape. Cheers rising from Down Below as Lurkers looted their final moments away. And Geribaldi giggling gleefully because finally, just now, the coyote had caught the roadrunner.

"There heads at last," stated one of a pair of figures in medieval dress. "As I said it would, Guilderstern."

Suddenly Sheridan found himself running through empty hallways, his footsteps muffled, pure horror at his heels. Ivanovich called his name; he stopped and turned back. She stood at parade rest, her uniform gleaming with polish, then snapped to attention. "At your service, Captain."

"Hurry!" he screamed, throwing out a hand toward her.

A thin red ray cut between them. She fell away, still at attention, still perfectly in form. At his feet a chasm opened to a star-studded emptiness while heat and fire exploded overhead. He fell but now the stars were the lights of the gardens, rushing up to meet him. Where was Kosh? Would he come in time? The alien, exposed and radiant, played at a chessboard with a figure swathed in black cloth, and the pieces were the ambassadors and their aides. A putrid tentacle slipped from the dark robe to pick up the black rook, Morden, and sweep the white bishop, G'Kar, from the board. As the Narn screamed in rage, thirteen eyes opened beneath the hood and burned with eternal flame.

Behind Sheridan, monks chanted out the names of God, counting down to the end of the world.

Where was the bomb? He had to find the bomb. They had only seconds now, and the only hope for millions of people was his finding the bomb and casting it in the outer darkness. He scrambled through access tubes and ran through Down Below, searching desperately. Vir was there, grinning like a maniac, a medieval pike in his hands. "Where is Morden? I must find Morden. I promised him this, and I must keep my promise."

"Playing a game. In the garden."

"It's always a game. All it has ever been. Do we matter? Of course not, we're just markers to be swept off and put away until next time. But now the game will end." He raised the pike to his shoulder.

A non-noise caused Sheridan to turn and look behind himself. Shadows filled the hallway, flowed on every side, forced him back against the wall. "Why?" he screamed, through the rawness of his throat.

"To cleanse the Universe," the leader intoned in a rich, mysterious voice.

"To cleanse it? Of what? And why?"

"Of evil. The final age is coming, the reign of the great pure one. All imposters shall be destroyed, all those lacking must be shut out. You, and all like you must be destroyed, for you are less than perfection."

"And what makes you the judge over all creation?" Sheridan could feel the wall dissolving behind him. "What gives you the right to be guardian of the Universe?"

"What else?" The shadows grew and merged into a single intangible mass. The shape of a hat came clear, and the sweep of a giant cape. "Who knows better what evil lurks in the heart of men?"