liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

Africander Fic: Facing the Heart In Darkness; Part 23/?

It is with great sadness that I read Andreas Katsulas died today at age 59. Most of you Babylon 5 freaks know him as G'Kar, the character who really was the heart of the whole show. 

In my mind, the story of Babylon 5 was the story of both Londo and G'Kar. The character arcs of these two is what held me right to the end and fascinated me beyond the telling of it. A lot of that was due to the actors who played them. They outshone everyone and made it look easy. They effortlessly danced across my television screen week after week and made me wonder at their talent. When they played off each other, it was nothing short of magic.

Besides Babylon 5, I also remember Katsulas  from his bit part in Max Headroom as one of the network executives. Ahhhh, Max Headroom. Now that was a damn fine genre show that, in many ways, had a certain prescience to it. It's stunning to see how much he had done in genre television. He'd also been in several Star Treks and Alien Nation  (one of the more underrated genre shows, IMHO). 

The loss of Katsulas, maybe even more so than the loss of Richard Briggs, is a heavy blow on Babylon 5. JMS has said that Briggs's loss had indefinitely delayed any new Babylon 5 continuation because he had to go back and write the script. The loss of Katsulas is really the nail in the coffin. G'Kar, more often than not towards the end of the series, was the voice of JMS himself.

The funny/sad commentary I remember from JMS regard Katsulas was: 1) Katsulas was a chain smoker and during his breaks could be seen smoking in his G'Kar mask, which was a very strange sight; and 2) Katsulas believed that G'Kar was a better-looking and sexier man than he was, another thing that JMS found very strange.

So far, Bill Mumy (damn, I do love that man) is the only one who has a personal message up on his Web site, although to be fair, not everyone on the cast even has an a Web site. 

So, in honor of Katsulas, today's Babylon 5 ElJay Cut Text Quote is one from G'Kar. As it so happens, it's very appropriate.

For the Scatterlings and Orphanages Africander Fiction Challenge by ludditerobot.

For all previous parts, go here.
Continued from Part 22.

Mr. Harris’s sudden change in demeanor left me confused and intensely worried for my personal safety. He had gone from open friendliness, to malevolent anger, to weary acceptance in the course of moments, with no hint or warning when one emotion would supplant the next.

I mumbled my agreement to do as he bid, and quickly turned to escape the hut and my close proximity to a man that was clearly unstable. As I crossed the threshold, however, I couldn’t resist one final look over my shoulder.

Instinct guided my eyes to the carved hyena mask on the wall and I shivered at the sight.

Once I had escaped the hut, fury took over my mind. I stormed over to Radar and Dave and informed them of Mr. Harris’s desire to consult with his man. Before they could ask me anything about my meeting, I turned my back on them and stormed to my guest hut.

It was with shaking and enraged hands that I pulled the laptop from my backpack.

Laugh at me, would he? Threaten me and insult my intelligence, would he? Denigrate my training as a Watcher, would he? Treat my Watcher heritage as if it were no more important than his own pathetic bloodline of drunkards and fools, dare he?

We would see just who would have the last laugh.

Mr. Harris was obviously emotionally unstable. He lied to the Council about his activities. He presented a false picture of himself to his people here. He actively engaged in deception and secrecy to the point where he and only he had the full picture of what he was doing in Mali and why.

He would pay for treating me like an ignorant child.

My fingers flew across the keyboard as I recounted every discovery, listed every suspect item and action, and discussed every impression I had of this most despicable man.

It was with a feeling of triumph and a song in my heart that I reread my message. However, by the time I was finished, my smile had dimmed and the song had gone out of tune.

The man himself was obviously a menace, but…

The report needed to be more judiciously worded, I thought.

In its current format, Dave might be splashed with the mud in which Mr. Harris had so thoroughly immersed himself. My impression of Dave was most favorable. He was clearly educated and knowledgeable in his field. He was working honorably with a Slayer in Dogon country, despite his traumatic introduction to the world of vampires and Slayers. He was about to be invited to London for an interview for admission to the Watcher’s Council. Frankly, we desperately needed the bodies and if Dave was everything he presented himself as being, there was no doubt in my mind that he would be an asset.

True, Dave might be lying and Council might very well be ignorant of his existence. However, Mr. Giles had championed Dave’s application, at least according to him. I was fairly certain that some discreet inquiries with Mr. Giles’s office about the matter would not be unwelcome. After all, I was officially here at Mr. Giles’s behest. It would be more suspect if I didn’t at least check in with Mr. Giles’s people than if I did. Inquiring about Dave would be the perfect excuse to show that I was fully committed to the mission of conducting a resource review of Mr. Harris’s Malian operations.

I went back and completely rewrote some paragraphs. I shrewdly rephrased some sentences. I carefully exchanged certain words for less inflammatory alternatives.

I reread this less pointed missive. Although I was satisfied that Dave was better isolated from the madman ruler of the village, Sister Ig and her school was not. While I had not yet met Dr. Mboto or Nurse Reilly and so was unable to judge them for myself, I was nevertheless uncomfortable to note that the health clinic was in equal jeopardy. I had promised myself that I would do all I could to preserve both, as they did provide some very necessary services to the civilian population. Certainly in the case of the health clinic, the Malian government believed it to be an asset as both Dr. Mboto and Nurse Reilly were supposedly operating with the government’s knowledge, a fact that I could prove or disprove easily enough by inquiring with the hospital in Djenné.

Whether or not I agreed with the reasoning behind opening those facilities to civilians, and whether or not I agreed with their very existence seemed to me to be utterly beside the point. Innocents relied on the existence of both. I couldn’t find it in my heart to deny those innocents. True, if I reported their existence I would not be the one making the decision to shut them down or cut off access, but I knew that the Council would not stand for things to remain as they were it if it knew.

Which, I suppose, in a round about way, meant that it was my decision after all.

Once more I went back and began the arduous task of altering my report, hoping that it would be enough to at least spare the health clinic and the school for at least a little while longer.

I reread my message again and I felt my shoulders slump.

As furious as I was over Mr. Harris’s threats with regard to Liwaza, I couldn’t deny that he might have a small point. This business with the Highland Facility did need to be looked into. I still thought that Mr. Harris was wrong to keep Liwaza here. However, if Mr. Giles had strongly suggested hiding Liwaza, a contention that Dave had supported when he told me to ask Mr. Harris about the girl, then maybe there was a very good reason for it.

Frankly, I didn’t need to use Liwaza against Mr. Harris right this moment. I could certainly keep information about her situation in reserve for a little while longer until I had a better handle on the real situation at Inverness. I could easily enough ask Sister Ig to take me to Djenné a week from now. I could easily enough go to the Hotel Tapama and pay the proprietors for the use of the telephone. I could easily enough ring up one of my colleagues still working in the Council’s headquarters and ask them to investigate the situation. I was fairly certain that someone would be willing to take a trip to Inverness by rail or car to look into the matter if it came down to it. I already knew enough key information that discovering the truth shouldn’t be that onerous for someone living in London.

Once I had the truth about Inverness, then I could decide how or if I should use Liwaza.

I admit that I didn’t like the idea of staying one more second in the village, let alone another week. However, if I wished to take down Mr. Harris without putting Dave, Sister Ig, or the health clinic with its as-yet unfamiliar-to-me doctor and nurse at risk, I would need to take my time and conduct a thorough investigation anyway. In the meantime, I could write my reports very carefully until I had all the information I needed.

I went back to rewriting my report.

My task done, I reread what I had rewritten with a deep, satisfied sigh. It was in the middle of this final review that I realized that all I had left against Mr. Harris was a list of petty complaints that, in absence of the other information, painted me as a petulant child. My list of concerns seemed to consist almost entirely of the fact that he failed to meet me personally at the airport, entrusted my safe passage to a young Slayer and a young boy, and had quarreled with me while he was in the midst of a vampire crisis. Even my complaint that he was teaching the girls a “secret language” looked foolish, especially since the language in question was publicly available to anyone with Internet access and was known to Star Trek fans. Furthmore, Sister Ig, without any prompting from me, offered to teach it to me before I returned to London. The secret language, in essence, was not what one would call “secret” by any definition of the word.

“I’ve got nothing left!” I exclaimed.

My fingers itched to rewrite the report again, but I stayed my hand. Part of the reason was because I didn’t wish to wrestle with the bloody thing yet a fifth time. Part of it was because I knew that writing my first missive to Mr. Wyndham-Pryce while I was still irate over my initial confrontation with Mr. Harris would make my report less credible. I needed to allow my anger to cool so I could think more clearly about how I should proceed. I also needed to have certain pertinent facts before me — such as Dave’s application to be a Watcher and whether or not the Highland Facility was nearly the horror house that Mr. Harris made it out to be — before I could judge what could and could not be used against my foe.

Most importantly, I needed a better investigation strategy.

Truthfully, I had been thrown in over my head. What little background I had on Mali and Africa at-large came almost entirely from travel guides geared toward the adventure tourist. Many of the bewildering sights and sounds over the past few days had thrown me off my pace and had thoroughly toyed with my normally level head. I had stumbled forward through revelation after revelation, but I had not thought on how all the pieces fit together. Although I had asked questions, thinking back on it, I had allowed conversations and events to carry me forward. I had not been able to exert influence in these conversations, nor had I been able to direct them.

This would have to change if I was to assemble a coherent picture of the monstrous Mr. Harris.

A clear mind, I decided, was my best weapon. Mr. Wyndham-Pryce was right. Keep my head down and my ears and eyes open. I would much better serve my cause if I presented a humble face to Mr. Harris and showed myself open to his authority. I could excuse our earlier disagreement by claiming shock at his revelation of the Highland Facility and pleading exhaustion due to my long journey to his village. Almost certainly his natural egomania would exert itself if I led him to believe that I recognized his superior nature. He would most likely become less cautious in word and deed once he believed me under his thrall like Dave and Sister Ig.

In truth, dear reader, I believed that I would be able to find plenty of evidence for the removal of Mr. Harris from Mali within mere weeks. Dave himself told me that Mr. Harris had engaged in unethical and illegal behavior to ensure the founding and continued existence of this village. I would almost surely find something in that area that would serve my needs most satisfactorily.

Besides, I highly doubted that Mr. Wyndham-Pryce expected any report at all from me before the week was out. I had only arrived in Mali two days ago and had been in Mr. Harris’s village for less than a day. I could hardly claim to have thoroughly investigated Mr. Harris’s activities in so short a time.

Yes, I decided, better to err on the side of caution and delay any written report for yet a little longer. I would no doubt have both more and much better intelligence on Mr. Harris’s unfitness to serve if I followed this course of action.

Smugly satisfied with my decision, I shut down the laptop and closed the lid. As I did so, I heard the sound of a motor and the crunch of wheels. Dave, no doubt, departing on his errands.

I looked out the window to see that the sky had turned blood red with the sunset and I frowned. Given the nature of the crisis that resulted in the evacuation of the village, Dave would no doubt be facing danger as he rearranged the placement of the Slayers to allow for coverage of Djenné. I hoped he would not be seriously injured, or worse, killed before he heard whether he’d be called in for an interview.

He’d hear next week, he said.

That’s when realization hit me with the force of a blow. I sat straight up on the mudcloth-covered bench.

Mr. Wyndham-Pryce had to know about Dave’s application. He absolutely had to. According to what Dave told me, he first petitioned to join the Council no more than six months ago. Although his application had only been submitted to the full Council the week before we met, I was not fool enough to believe that a powerful, well-connected man like Mr. Wyndham-Pryce was unaware of Dave’s unprecedented circumstances and application as it was reviewed by the Screening Subcommittee.

Suddenly, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce’s statements to me made terrible sense.

We have on our hands a cadre of woefully unprepared people working in the field as Watchers. They have not undergone the rigorous training required for such a position…

Yes, those words could be applied to Mr. Harris, but you would have to squint very hard to make the statement fit. However, those same words had the ring of truth when applied to Dave.

Much as I disliked Mr. Harris, I could hardly call him “unprepared” for dealing with the reality of Slayers and demons. The man grew up on a Hellmouth and had associated with no fewer than three Slayers, for heavens sake! He fought in no less than seven apocalyptic actions, one against the First Evil itself and another single-handed against an unknown enemy, if the record could be trusted. Although Mr. Harris’s training in combat and research was not formal, I highly doubted that Mr. Giles allowed Mr. Harris to operate in the field without providing the necessary guidance and education.

If anything, Mr. Harris was very well-prepared and very well-trained, albeit not in the traditional Council manner.

Dave on the other hand…

Dave was new. His “formal” training consisted of six weeks in this village, and even he allowed that one would have to define “formal” very generously if one wished to meet that criteria. His track record on the field of battle consisted of less than a year, positively nothing compared to Mr. Harris’s considerable field experience. Dave had a PhD in anthropology, true, but it was only one PhD. Compared to the lifelong education Watchers were subjected to, he did not nearly have enough.

Destroying Mr. Harris, I realized, was simply a means to an end. The true purpose of my mission all along had been to derail Dave’s petition to join the Council. That it would also unalterably put Mr. Harris under the firm thumb of the Council — a worthy goal as far as I was concerned — and could harm Mr. Giles’s standing as First Watcher was merely a side benefit.

If Mr. Harris were discredited within the next few weeks, Dave’s application would be placed in dire jeopardy. If I proved that Mr. Harris was not the sort of man in whom the Council could place its trust, how could the Council in good conscience place its trust in a potential Watcher that had been discovered by Mr. Harris?

And if Mr. Harris were proven to be untrustworthy, it would also reflect badly on Mr. Giles. Ergo, even Mr. Giles’s assurances that Dave was qualified for membership and his application worthy of consideration could also be rightfully called into question. After all, Mr. Giles would have shown poor judgment by trusting a man he’d known for years. How could the Council believe that Mr. Giles was showing good judgment in supporting a man he had never met in person?

What’s more, Dave wouldn’t just have to win the right to interview; he would actually have to be interviewed. As the First Council had never accepted Watcher applicants outside of the Watcher bloodlines, the pace of interviews would no doubt be cautious at best, especially if the Council viewed it as a template for future petitions from other qualified outsiders. If anyone at any point had any reason to doubt Dave or the circumstances surrounding his request, the process would be delayed while the Council members consulted on how and whether they should proceed.

Then, if Dave’s application for membership was approved, he still had to undergo the ritual tests and take the necessary sacred oaths. This, too, would take time.

A quick calculation on my part told me that if Dave was invited to London for an interview, it could be up to a month before a final decision on his fate was reached. If the Council accepted him and allowed him to progress to the ritual tests and on to taking the sacred oaths, it could take up to three months.

I groaned.

At any point up to the very moment Dave took the Final Oath that would bind him to the Council, any unfavorable report on Mr. Harris could very easily bring Dave’s progress to a standstill. If Dave had impressed the Council prior to such a report, his application might still be allowed to go forward, but the damage would be done. The taint of Mr. Harris’s involvement would place Dave under suspicion. It would take a very long time indeed for Dave to be free of it, if ever. That is, of course, assuming that Council didn’t fire him as it once did Mr. Giles. Only in this instance, Dave could be tossed from his newly won position because he had the misfortune to be discovered by Mr. Harris.

I wanted to scream. I had been played for a fool. I clenched my fists with the overwhelming desire to do violence. It took extreme exertion on my part to force myself back under control.

Mr. Harris had to be brought to heel. The evidence was too overwhelming. His very attitude, the words he uttered in my presence, his activities in Mali, the reports given to me by Mr. Wyndham-Pryce, and the reports given to me by Mr. Giles’s office all pointed to a man who, no matter what his experience, really did need to be under better scrutiny. On that point, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce was correct.

However, preventing potentially qualified individuals from applying for membership, especially at a time when the Reformed Council’s resources were stretched so thin seemed to me to be wrong-headed. Besides, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce might be able to stop Dave’s application from going forward. He might not be as successful in stopping other applications from other individuals. However, by sabotaging this unprecedented event, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce could manipulate circumstances so that the bar was set impossibly high.

Yes, one wanted quality in a Watcher. Yes, one did need to be very careful about whom you allowed to walk through the front door. Yes, one wanted only the best sort of man or woman in which one could place the Sacred Trust.

What one did not want to do was bar qualified and prepared people from ever bothering to make the attempt.

Before the terrible events of 2002, the First Council had every right to insist on a closed membership. There were applicants from Watcher bloodlines to spare. There were so many people in the employ of the Council that not everyone was blessed with a task of any importance. Using myself as an example, prior to 2002 I would not have been Head Archivist and Statistician for the Sunnydale Project. I would have been, at best, a library aide dreaming of the day when I could serve as a mere file clerk for such a project.

This was the autumn of 2004. Times had changed. We didn’t have enough Watchers to adequately staff the headquarters. My own position in the old days would have been two positions, not one, and both of those positions would’ve answered to a third individual. At best, the Head Archivist and the Head Statistician would’ve been very far removed from the First Watcher’s office. Yet, I answered directly to that same office. In essence, Mr. Giles was, on paper at least, my direct superior.

We did not have enough Watchers to pair up with all the Slayers in the world. There were girls in residence at the Devon training facility still waiting for a Watcher to be assigned to them. Granted, it seemed that everyone around me at headquarters were scrambling for such an assignment. It wasn’t lack of enthusiasm for the work that prevented the expeditious creation of a Watcher-Slayer team. It was for want of people.

Even I, as lowly and as far removed from the field as I was, could see that Council needed educated and qualified people if it hoped to survive this tumultuous time.

What’s more, I resented being lied to about the real purpose of my task. I resented being used as a tool and treated like a fool.

While I couldn’t say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dave was worthy of becoming a Watcher, if he was to be believed he had more than earned the right to give it a go without the shadow of Mr. Harris hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles.

My best course of action was to simply observe Dave in the field. Given the current crisis, I would have ample opportunity to see with my own eyes if he really was the sort of man the Council needed. If I judged him to be fit with my admittedly limited experience on such matters, I would only have to wait a week, perhaps two, to find out if he would be allowed by the London Watchers to progress to an interview.

I could hold off filing anything damning for a week or two. If nothing else, I could only benefit from the extra time, since I might find a way to construct my reports so both the health clinic and the school could be spared the Council’s axe.

If Dave did win an interview, I could simply continue filing vague reports that gave voice to “suspicions” about Mr. Harris’s character, but I could also plead that I lacked proof to bring any charges against the man that were more serious than a parking ticket. It would fulfill my obligation to Mr. Wyndham-Pryce without disrupting Dave’s attempt to be officially recognized by the Council.

If the Council found Dave to be unfit and rejected him, it would be on his own merits or lack thereof. Mr. Harris’s disgrace would have no bearing on it. If Dave was allowed to take the Final Oath, I need only wait awhile longer, perhaps a month, for Dave to more firmly establish himself before unleashing a full negative report on Mr. Harris.

Much as I didn’t want to commit myself to a four- or five-month tour in Mali under Mr. Harris’s watchful eye, I couldn’t in good conscience do otherwise. At the very worst, I figured, it would give me time to find ample evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Harris and find a way to ensure the survival of the health clinic and school.

My conscience would be clear. I would stop a dangerous man before he irreversibly harmed the Council or posed a threat to its work in Africa. I would allow a second potentially qualified man a chance to become a Watcher. I would help the health clinic and school plant their roots more firmly in the soil of Mali, to the point where the Council would have to tread carefully to uproot either one.

I smiled.

I knew I would sleep the sleep of the just that night.


Tags: character: ensemble, character: oc, character: xander, fanfiction: 2006, fanfiction: buffy the vampire slayer, fanfiction: facing the heart in darkness, fanfiction: fic-a-thon

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