Title: Darkened Souls, Part 2: To Walk In The Sands of Blood

Author: B5Crusader@geocities.com
Date: 01-22-98

Dedication/Notes: This is part 2 of Darkened Souls. This part is relatively harmless. A little harsh language here and there, but not much else. Sorry it took so long to write. Anyway, Enjoy.

Syria Planum Dome, Mars 2250

Jeff quietly slipped into the bar and settled into his preferred booth near the back exit. His eyes quickly identified everyone present, noting nothing appeared out of place or unusual. The barmaid quickly brought him his usual beer and left just as quickly after he had paid her.

Though the beer was no better than swill in his opinion, he savored it slowly. Delenn would punish him if she detected more alcohol than contained within the drink. He felt fortunate that she even allowed her few human servants to the occasional alcoholic drink.

More importantly, though, he was waiting for someone. Mars had become tense in the last year. Whether it was the Minbari presence, the wretched conditions humans lived in, or the simple bitterness that so many Marsies seemed to have inherited from the planet itself , Jeff was not certain. All he knew was something had to give.

Last winters food riots and the spring anti-alien protests had been brutally crushed by the Minbari Warrior caste in all the domes except Syria Planum. Delenn had surprised even him when she had refused to allow the Warriors to punish the humans in both cases. Even more surprising was her generous distribution of food and necessities to the human population in the aftermath of both instances.

Jeff had been placed in charge of both details and had done exceedingly well. The populace of Syrian Planum had become more supportive of Delenn, working harder and faster than the other domes. He had unofficially become her human representative amongst the people. He passed along the people's complaints to Delenn and generally helped maintain the brittle peace of the Dome.

He had been deemed a traitor by some, a savior by others. All of this he found rather ironic. A human representative of the Minbari working to overthrow the very aliens that enslaved his world. A soldier trying to free his people by any means. That was all he considered himself. A man just doing his job.

As he was now.

His eyes casually glanced at the new arrival to the somewhat seedy bar, giving no indication that he recognized the man in question instantly. The balding man quietly obtained a drink from the bar and quickly slipped into the booth with Jeff.

"How's thing hanging, Mike?" Jeff asked in the bored tone that many human workers used after a long days work on Mars.

Michael Garibaldi was anything but another worker out for a drink. Mike ran the darker side of Mars that the Minbari chose to ignore. He could find things no one else could get: drugs, people, weapons, information. He was a major player for the human resistance and the only contact Jeff allowed himself to have with Earthforce.

They also happened to have been best of friends since Jeff had saved him from the Minbari execution squads.

Michael Garibaldi shrugged indifferently. "Well, I aint any taller so I guess I aint hanging." Mike looked over Jeff's somewhat battered appearance, noting the healing scar at his temple with a frown. "How 'bout you Jeff? That boney bitch still riding your ass?"

"Delenn's been good to me lately." Jeff gestured to his head. "This is from a Warrior named Sinoval."

"Another one to add to my payback list." Mike growled angrily.

"No need, Mike. Delenn allowed me to take his hand for his trouble." Jeff smiled and placed a small blue cloth wrapped package on the table. Damp dark spots showed were some of the blood had seeped through the cloth.

Mike chuckled as he quickly took the package and placed it in his overcoats pocket. "How thoughtful of her. I'll put it with the others in your collection."

Jeff took a small gulp of his beer, grimacing at the foul smell and bitterness of the brew. "So any news from your family back home?" Jeff asked.

"Yeah, got a call from my brother John. Seems he's gotten permission to come to Mars." Mike said cheerfully.

Jeff smiled one of his rare true smiles back at Mike. Inside his mind he was already recalling all the planning that had been done for this day. Death was coming to Mars, and hell along with it. "Well, that calls for a celebration. When does he get here?"

"Some time tomorrow." Mike answered before chugging down his beer.

"Not much time to plan a party, is it?" Jeff noted.

Mike shrugged and rose from his seat. "No problem. I already got some friends getting things started. I got to get going. Y'know how Lise gets when I'm late." Mike grinned sheepishly.

"See ya tomorrow, Mike." Jeff waved as he gulped down the last of the beer.

After a few minutes enjoying the relative peace and quiet of the bar he rose and exited the building. Tonight was one of the two nights a month Delenn allowed him off for his own time with his family and friends. He intended to do just that.

He stopped looked up at the cold, glittering stars above the protective covering of the Dome and actually felt none of the excitement or anticipation he had expected. He simply felt at peace.

And tomorrow the world will be bathed in blood again. This time Minbari blood. Jeff thought grimly and continued on to his destination. He had a little boy to see.

Councillor's Quarters, Syria Planum Dome, Mars

Delenn smiled as she looked up at the stars through the Dome protecting the inhabitants of Syria Planum. The gentle scent of the plants in the small garden reached her nose, making her feel at peace.

Strange that I should find such peace here. In this place. Viewing constellations alien to me and enjoying the scent of even more alien vegetation. She thought to herself.

She turned her eyes down towards the small plants and went over to her favorite. A small bonsai tree, carefully and exquisitely trimmed, sat there. Though not of Minbar, it reminded her of home. But that was not why it was her favorite.

For the last several weeks she had wondered at Jeffrey Sinclair's apparent interest in the plant. Part of his duties for her were to ensure the human staff maintained her quarters properly, including the Garden.

She had been surprised to see him berate the gardeners for tending the plant. She had simply left the matter to him and continued her efforts to stop the growing rise of Free Mars incident in Syria Planum. In fact she had completely forgot about the plant until today.

After cleaning up the mess from the incident with Sinoval he had joined her in the Garden. As usual she had him meditate with her and later discuss the current situation of the human populations both on Mars and Earth. As in the past she had found his insights very helpful and informative.

When she dismissed him for his night off she had been surprised to see him remain, instead of quickly heading to the door eager to see his two year old son, Joshua. Instead he had silently walked over to a partially hidden section of the Garden and returned carrying the small plant cradled carefully in his hands. He had gently set the bonsai on a low pedestal in front of her and bowed deeply.

"This is for one who has shown me much and taught me even more. For helping me to see beyond what is and what was. For helping me see the possibilities of tomorrow." He had spoken in Adronado. In her stunned silence as she stared at the tiny tree he had quickly left. She had instantly adored the tree and its intricate pattern made by the trimming. Her fondness of Jeff grew imesureably in that instant.

I knew I was right about him. About all of them.

She as much as anyone was responsible for the blood lost by Humans. But she had realized in the last terrifying moments of the War just what the humans really were. It had taken all her accumulated power to end the slaughter, but in the end it had stopped.

Many still thought it foolish. It had done little to slow the decline of the human race. She had fought long and hard but eventually lost in many of the most terrible decision that had come later. The death squads, the concentration camps, the mass sterilizations, the forced mating programs, the refusal to retake the human colonies that had become enslaved by numerous other races. All of it she had fought against and lost.

Slightly less than two billion humans were now known to exist. Over half had been sterilized. The rest never allowed to leave the confines of their solar system. They were slowly being killed off. She could not allow it to happen. They were key to the Darkness that was coming. As many times as she had lost in the decision regarding humans, she still had the support of many powerful Minbari, who had started to listen to her and believe what she said. Things were being put into motion by her supporters that would one day free the humans so that they may attend to and complete their part of the prophecy.

Some would call her action treason. Those who read prophecy knew better.

I will bridge the gap of hatred between our peoples. I must if we are ever to be free. All of us.

She turned from the Garden to return to her work. She knew she was running out of time.

EAS Phoenix, Transfer Point off Io, Sol System

"We're running out of time! Get the fragging targeting array back on line!" John Sheridan snapped at the weapons officer.

The lieutenant quickly finished his work. "Targeting array online now, sir!" His voice cracking slightly as he looked to the main tactical displays nearly filled with approaching Minbari War Cruiser.

Though obviously heavily damaged, the sleek Sharlin Cruiser seemed to destroy everything in its path as it advanced toward the now heavily damaged Hyperion Cruiser.

"Forward gunners, fire everything you've got."

Instantly the space around the Hyperion lit up as all available weapons opened up on the monstrous ship approaching them. Nearby Earthforce manned fighters, varying wildly in size, shape, and design added their own weapons fire to that of the Phoenix.

John gripped the arms of his command chair so hard his knuckles were turning white. He was gritting his teeth out of tension as much as pain as he stared at the whittling fire and explosion engulfing the Sharlin Cruiser. Almost willing the enemy ship to die.

The Phoenix shook violently as another blast from the War Cruiser struck the Hyperion class vessel. More sparks flew from already damaged conduits and terminals, lighting the dimly lit bridge. An instant later the Minbari War Cruiser exploded.

The Starkiller smiled grimly to himself and nodded to a weary and bloodied Marcus Cole. Cole wiped the blood seeping from a gash on his forehead away and opened the fleet comlink.

"This is Sheridan. Status."

"All Minbari ships destroyed but one that fled into hyperspace. All we have now is a few remaining enemy squadrons." Captain Maynard reported.

"Our losses?" John asked, expecting the worst.

"Twelve ships lost, not counting El taking out the cowards on the Prometheus." Was the reply.

"Damn!" John grumbled. Twelve capitol ships lost in return for three War Cruiser!

"Fighter strength?" John asked hopefully.

"Fifty percent losses best guess. Maybe more."

Damn! Damn! Damn! John thought angrily. No turning back now. "We continued to Mars! Let nothing stop you. Earth's counting on us. All of humanity is counting on us. Sheridan out."

"Orders, Captain." Lieutenant Cole asked, unnecessarily.

"Helm, plot us a course to Mars. Best speed. Have all fighter wings regroup and refuel on a rotational basis." Sheridan ordered.

"Yes, sir." Marcus quickly relayed the orders.

Sheridan for the first time noticed the condition of the bridge.

Nearby lay the corpse of his First Officer, blood still slowly seeping from a piece of shrapnel that had crushed half the woman's skull. A young ensign he had never even learned the name of slumped over his workstation, in a peaceful sleep the young man would never return from. Conduits snapped and popped with sparks and a light smell of burned electrical conduits and coolant permeated the room. Pieces of metal and plastic littered the room. He knew they were lucky to be alive. This alone hardened his already cold heart. If it's the last thing I do, I will make them pay. Every last boney one of them!

I'll bathe my home in their blood if that's what it takes!

He was going to Mars. Then home to Earth.