Title: In the Shadow of Giants
Author: B5Crusader@geocities.com Date: 09-11-97 Revised: 2-14-98
Notes/Dedication: In the Shadows of Giants was written during the Long Wait of '97 when rumors abounded about the future of B5. This story is about a group of Rangers, with little to do with the Babylon Station, or all our fav characters there (Delenn makes an appearance here as Entil'Zha, but it's small.). Hope you decide to stay and read it any way. Special thanks to Viper (y'know who ya are) for letting me borrow David O'Kelly & the Mavornine, your Babylon Project RPG character, for this story.
Devenn scrambled over the broken and dusty terrain. The blowing dust obscured everything and added a surreal quality to the craggy terrain around him. He could easily look at the sun, nearly set behind the jagged peaks and spires that seem to thrust out of the ground, as common as trees in a forest.
'A forest of dead stone.' Devenn thought darkly to himself.
The wind howled, stirring more dust into the air. He was wheezing from a combination of the dust and his exertion. He wasn't sure how long he'd been running. He heard the sound again and increased his speed, pushing himself beyond his limits. He had to reach the pod. Had to reach Jan. He would be safe then. He could rest. More importantly he needed to get the water to her.
Devenn tripped smashing his head into a rock, but felt little of it. He quickly rose thankful his race was endowed with the extra external bone to protect their skull. He quickly checked the water canisters he carried and was relieved to see they were intact. He noted the jagged rock his head struck had chipped a small piece out of his crest as he started to run.
After a few steps, Devenn heard the sound again. It was much louder this time. He knew it had found him. He stopped and pulled his denn'bok from his tunic. He could the hear the strange hissing twitter of his pursuer intermixed with an odd sound that seem to be a mix of humming and buzzing. For some reason it reminded Devenn of insects he'd seen on Minbar as a youth. But he knew these were no insects. Whatever it was that hunted him was ruthless in its quest and highly cunning. It also had killed everyone else under his command except Jan.
He assumed a relaxed fighting stance carefully listening and watching what he could despite the shifting dust that choked not only his lungs but robbed him of a clear view of the area.
He sensed more the saw or heard a movement behind him. Without even thinking he lashed out with the pike but struck nothing. He turned his head to see his attacker. The eyes of death shone back at him. Then he was engulfed in darkness.
Anla'shok Janice Covell groaned slightly at she shifted to try a more comfortable position and was reminded by her body of her broken leg. She sighed and leaned back against the life pods hull.
"Dammit, where are you Devenn?" She muttered having noted the path of the sun since Devenn had left that morning to get water from a lake two kilometers away. Though a short distance the rugged terrain made any trek to and from the lake difficult at best. Considering the situation they were in now, it could prove fatal.
Jan shook her head in slight disbelief at what had happened. Seven days ago she had been just another Ranger, assigned to Devenn's White Star 24. Their orders had been quite clear from the Entil'Zha. Recon this area of space once known to have been a place where the Ancients had walked. A simple enough mission considering the First Ones had left the galaxy.
Janice snorted in disgust. "Someone forgot to tell those *things* out there that." She muttered to herself, as she remembered well what happened.
The mission had been by the book and rather boring for the entire crew. That was until the appearance of a strange alien ship none had recalled hearing of or seeing. They knew it wasn't a Drakh ship, which was what many suspecting the Entil'Zha was looking for. But it had proven just as dangerous.
Within moments of Devenn's first attempts of communication they strange alien ship had fired. Jan had been in the docking bay preparing a shuttle for any possible first contact with these aliens, when the ship shook violently and she had been engulfed in darkness and pain as something very large and heavy had landed on her.
She had awaken three days ago to Devenn's bruised and worried face and quickly realized they were in one of White Star 24's life pods. She knew White Star 24 was gone and so said nothing. The pods only occupant, a Minbari named Teleran, had merely watched in silence.
Devenn had managed to land the pod on this barely habitable world but in doing so had damaged the communications array. All three of them had not feared any more trouble knowing that when they failed to make their scheduled report the Entil'Zha would send part of the Fleet to find them.
Two nights ago Teleran had gone for more water. He had never returned. Janice had remembered hearing a faint oddly buzzing sound shortly after Teleran had left, but hadn't considered it anything more important than the planets local insect life. When Devenn had found what was left of Teleran and informed her of what happened she knew the events were connect.
Those *things* had followed them and killed Teleran. Devenn hadn't believed at first until yesterday morning when something had tried to break through the door of the life pod. It had left after a few PPG blasts but neither got a good look at it.
What little Jan had seen vaguely reminded her of Earth insects.
The reminder sent a shiver down her spine. Jan looked out at the almost completely darkened sky. Then she heard it. The strange buzz-hum again. She tensed and grabbed her PPG rifle, glad that the Minbari had been more than willing to allow the human Rangers to carry firearms in addition to the pike she had qualified for. The buzzing was getting louder. She knew they were getting closer. In that moment she knew Devenn wasn't coming back and she would not survive the next thirty minutes.
Suddenly angry, Jan dragged over a small box container ignoring the stabbing pin from her broken leg. In a little while it wouldn't matter. She quickly unlatched the case and carefully pulled out a thermal grenade.
She smiled grimly at it. The Minbari disliked thermal grenades intensely. They were weapons of outright brute force. Minbari preferred weapons of finesse and skill. Despite this, the late Entil'Zha Sinclair had insisted these weapons be available for the Rangers. Jan gave a quick silent prayer of thanks to him for that. As these things had killed all of her comrades it seemed only fair to return some measure of the favor.
The buzz-hum was almost intolerably loud now. Jan knew there was more than one this time. She jumped slightly at the loud thump against the access hatch noting that it buckled slightly.
'So much for Minbari superior technology.' Jan thought grimly to herself.
The strange creatures quickly ripped through the access hatch. Three insect like creatures stood before her as if considering her. Jan smiled and bowed as well as her position would allow.
"Entil'Zha veni! In Valen's name." She grinned irreverently as she spoke the words wondering if they understood her defiance. She released the thermal grenades trigger and went to the place where no shadows fall.
Kennall silently watched the woman before him, admiring her attention to detail and how she quickly made her decisions without any reservations and doubts. Not that he would ever expect anything such thing from Entil'Zha, of course.
Kennall found himself silently comparing her to the first Entil'Zha he had known. In many ways she was like Jeffrey Sinclair, the Entil'Zha he had trained under and followed since he passed beyond. He continually found it interesting that two people from different cultures, let alone two distinct races, could be so similar. He took this similarity to mean that she had truly been destined to become Entil'Zha.
Kennall allowed himself a small smile as he remembered the first time he had seen Entil'Zha Sinclair, then simply Anla'shok Na. Ranger One. He had been more than a little shocked to see his sister, Sasharr, amongst the first potential Ranger recruits. They had rarely spoken since the terrible war with Earth in which she had fought in and he had avoided out of conscious. To see her willing to pledge herself to a *human* had been shocking.
Kennall suspected that the Sinclair had convinced the Sechs to place Sasharr and himself together in training as much as possible to break down the decade old barrier between them In the end it had worked and Sasharr and he had healed the rift between them. His nightly meditation always held a small prayer for Sinclair in thanks.
Entil'Zha Delenn had proved just and concerned and interested in the Rangers under her command as Sinclair had been. She had even inquired as to the well being of his sister, who had been assigned to one of the new training camps in Drazi space.
Though such interest in private lives was greatly disturbing to most Minbari, the Rangers were different in that regard. Entil'Zha Sinclair had left a decidedly human mark of concern over the welfare of all the Rangers even in their private lives. Kennall had in fact found it reassuring that Entil'Zha had, perhaps unknowingly, continued the practice.
Kennall allowed himself a light chuckle. 'Besides no one could keep a secret from the Rangers for long.'
"What's so funny, Ken?" The human ranger sitting next to him asked with an odd look on his face.
Kennall looked over at Raymond Ortiz and simply smiled. Ortiz's face flushed in embarrassment as he realized he had addressed Kennall by the nickname the human Rangers had given him.
He smiled gently at the young human trying to reassure him that he had done nothing to offend Kennall. Unlike many Minbari, Kennall enjoyed the human's nickname for him. He had over time come to learn that amongst humans using the first name indicated at ;east some form of friendship. To be given a nickname by them was a clear sign of close friendship and comraderie.
"Nothing of great importance." He replied simply.
"Then why waste your time on idle thoughts?" Asked the dour looking minbari sitting beside Ortiz.
"Because idle thoughts can give birth to dreams and inspiration." Kennall responded to Serron, purposely quoting a favorite proverb said to have been spoken by Valen.
Serron merely looked back towards with Entil'Zha, disapproval clear on his face. Kennall merely sighed inwardly. Serron was from a long line of religious caste family known for its strict and timeless ways. Kennall thought of them as more archaic and outdated, unbending to the need to change as times changed, but kept these thoughts to himself.
"Serron, may I speak with you now?" Entil'Zha Delenn asked, with a gracious bow of the head.
"As you wish, Entil'Zha." Serron replied and quickly moved toward her. Ortiz followed Serron reluctantly. Though he was Serron's assistant Kennall knew the human disliked the older Minbari intensely. The fact that Serron seemed to barely accept the human Rangers around him did not improve the situation. Kennall often wondered why Serron even bothered to join the Rangers if he disliked humans as much as he appeared to.
Kennall watched the meeting quietly hearing very little of what the others spoke of. He was still uncertain as to why he had been called here. As a member of Serron's crew aboard White Star 57, he would have been informed of their mission when the time was proper. He could only assume another complaint had been filed against him by some disgruntled Minbari.
Kennall smiled warmly at that. He had been in trouble with the more reserved members of his society ever since joining the Rangers. His fascination with humans and their culture had got him into much trouble, the worst being the infamous 'Long Island Ice Tea Affair'. He still thanked Valen only the building had burned to the ground and no one was harmed. He was even more thankful that the human Rangers had covered up the incident with a story of a chemical accident, though he had been shocked that they would lie for him. Honor demanded he respect their decision.
Now he counted several dozen humans as close friends compared to only a handful of Minbari. He supposed his odd fascination with humans and his refusal to acknowledge his Clan for their actions during the civil war made him something of an outcast to some. In summation he knew he was, as the humans say, a black sheep. Outcast. He no longer cared. He was happier now than he ever had been.
Kennall was startled out of his reverie to see Delenn looking at him with curiosity and amusement in her eyes. He quickly rose from his seat and bowed deeply to hide his embarrassment.
"My apologies, Entil'Zha. My thought were else where."
She smiled gently at him in amusement.
"I gathered that. Please sit." She indicated that he take one of the now vacant chairs.
"Thank you." He quickly sat again wondering why she had called him here.
Delenn regarded him momentarily before speaking.
"You are not like many Minbari I have known. Are you, Kennall?" She asked quietly.
"As I do not know whom you have or have not known in the past and the present I can not say, Entil'Zha." Kennall replied neutrally.
"Delenn, please. I do tire of that title at times."
"As you wish, Enti...Delenn."
She smiled slightly.
"I was referring to your record amongst the Rangers and your relationship with the Humans."
"Another complaint?" He asked resignedly.
"I shall make whatever reparations and punishment you deem necessary."
Delenn looked surprised.
"Punishment? For what? Lennier investigated the incident quite thoroughly. You acted honorably."
Kennall smiled in embarrassment for her praise.
"I did what needed to be done. Nothing more."
"Delenn, may I ask why I was summoned here if it was not for the incident?" Kennall asked politely, slightly embarrassed by his directness.
"I have an assignment for you regarding White Star 57's mission to find White Star 24."
Kennall listened intently as Delenn explained what he was to do. When she had finished he sat back in the chair in thought. The assignment was a challenge but one he was certain was dangerous given the information Delenn had *not* told him.
"Which ship shall I use if not the White Star 57?" He asked after a moments thought.
Delenn smiled at Kennall knowingly. A smile he could not help but mirror on his face.
"I have been informed by Anla'shok Sasharr that the "Kathleen Mavornine" is available for use."
Kennall's smile grew at the name of the freighter turned tramp ship.
"And how is Captain O'Kelly?" Kennall asked.
"He is well, as is his crew. They came out of the fighting well. The Mavornine was a little battered as I understand it but otherwise in excellent condition." Delenn replied.
Kennall knew full well that Captain O'Kelly was a Ranger who operated in the more "shadier" sides of the Ranger's Operations. A human who had survived the Battle of the Line David O'Kelly had used his fame to get the freighter after resigning from Earthforce in disgust. A year later O'Kelly had rescued Sasharr from a rather drunken and irate crowd on Mars. They had become fast friends and when Sinclair had reformed the Rangers Sasharr had brought O'Kelly and several other human friends in to train.
O'Kelly and his crew were all Rangers. They did the jobs that no one else could publicly acknowledge. Branded pirates, bootleggers, and traitors by many only a few knew who and what they were. Kennall had worked with them several times during the Narn-Centauri War, the Shadow War, and even Babylon 5's short war to retake earth from Clark. He knew the truth and numbered O'Kelly and his crew amongst his best friends.
"Good. They'll be perfect for this operation."
"I thought so as well. It will be good for them to do something. The Mavornine has been idle for too long. I think they shall enjoy the challenge." Delenn agreed.
"Delenn, do you wish them to do this because you fear the Drakh may be operating in that sector of space?" Kennall asked pointedly.
The indication of Delenn's surprise was a minute widening of the eyes. After a moment she nodded slowly.
"Yes. They have been too quiet of late. The Drakh are dangerous enough when they are openly attacking. For them to be silent this long worries me greatly."
"You believe they may attempt to invade or perhaps even destroy several races and their worlds?" He asked.
"It would not be beyond them. They served the Shadows well. The learned much from them. Too much for me to ever sleep well again. They are like the Shadows in many ways but unlike the Shadows. They have no purpose, no goal that we have yet determined. That is what makes them dangerous."
Kennall smiled grimly and stood.
"If the Drakh are there, I shall find them and report back so we may stop them as you see fit."
"Thank you." Delenn stood and bowed gracefully.
"Valen light your way, Delenn."
Kennall quickly left the room never seeing the sadness that quickly entered Delenn's eyes. Nor did he see the single tear trickle down her cheek or the soft almost inaudible words she spoke.
"In Valen's name, forgive me."
Kennall glanced thru the view port and smiled slightly at the sight. He could tell by the look of disapproval on the Minbari pilot's face that he did not like what he saw. Thankfully, the pilot said nothing and simply initiated procedures to dock with the vessel they approached.
Kennall had to admit that the "Kathleen Mavornine" was not much of a ship to look at from appearances. It was obvious that the ship was of human design with its rather blocky shape. Even more obvious is that the ship had been through many scrapes from the battered and mismatched hull plates. But Kennall was one of the few alive that knew better than to think that the old freighter was an easy target.
The Minbari pilot nodded silently to Kennall, indicating that he was cleared to leave the flyer as soon as he was ready. He bowed in the traditional manner and turned to leave only to feel a slight tug from the pilot.
"Are you sure you wish me to return to Babylon 5?" The younger Minbari asked nervously as glanced out the window at the shadows along the shuttlebay's gantry.
"Yes, I am sure. Return to Entil'Zha and report that Captain O'Kelly and I have started the mission." Kennall stated and quickly exited the shuttle before the pilot could say anything more. Kennall waited patiently in the airlock as the Flyer exited the freighter.
At the all clear sound Kennall quickly entered the bay which was now quite chilly and headed to the cluster of people walking towards him.
"Ken, y'old bonehead! How're you?" David O'Kelly practically bear hugged Kennall, who could not help but smile what most assuredly would be described as a sappy grin. Kennall was sure his ribs would be broken despite humans being generally less strong than Minbari.
"I am well, fuzzball. Sasharr sends her regards." Kennall replied jokingly as David O'Kelly released him to allow the rest present to greet him.
The other five present Kennall knew well. Terelis and Shellenn, the two Minbari, bowed respectfully though their open grins took away much of the solemnity and reserve most expected from Minbari.
"*You both have spent far too much time amongst these humans.*" Kennall joked in Adronado.
Terelis laughed as Shellenn answered with a grin. "*Well as the humans say...When in Yedor...*"
"*That's Rome...*" interrupted Cora Akiyama.
"Whatever." The three Minbari intoned in english causing the human female to laugh.
"Come here you." She gave Kennall a quick hug and backed away as he started chuckling.
"What?" She asked.
"Just remembering the first time you 'hugged' me." Kennall replied humorously.
Cora's face flushed crimson in remembrance of their first encounter on Minbar. Kennall had always known that his people were famous for understatements but he had never took the description "open and loving person" to mean being embraced by a strange alien female he had just met. Fortunately, Kennall liked humans and Cora had learned quickly not to go around hugging Minbari.
"How have you been, Buster?" Kennall asked as he shook a large dark skinned humans hand.
"Been good, Ken. A little boring since the war ended and all, but good." Derrick "Buster" Kipketer replied his with teeth seeming to gleam from his dark features. Kennall was still surprised by the size of Buster for he had seen few humans much taller than the Minbari. Kennall had no doubts that Buster could easily match a Minbari warrior blow for blow with his great size and strength.
"Boring, Buster? Ha! What 'bout those raiders two weeks back, hmm?" Thomas Tulloch asked mockingly as he bowed his head slightly to Kennall.
"Raiders?" Kennall asked interested.
"Twas nothing. Just raider scum like we used to take care of back before the Shadows got busy messing with things." David replied dismissively.
Buster grinned slightly. "Yeah was kinda like the good ol' days"
David snorted lightly and waved the rest to follow him. "Ken, Sharon and Jason are up on the bridge. You can tell us what Entil'Zha wants us to do this time while we head up there."
Kennall quickly followed the others noting as he always did the mixed and matched clothes. Some Minbari, some human, some Kennall wasn't sure where they found it. He couldn't help but feel slightly out of place in his traditional Ranger uniform. The only reason he did not was because everyone wore the Ranger pin. It was the only thing that made them not look the very raiders they kept an eye on.
Despite their rather disheveled appearance, they were some of the best Rangers alive. Kennall knew all the humans had served in Earthforce at one point or another. David and Buster had been in the Earth-Minbari War. The former a pilot and survivor of the Battle of the Line, the latter a gropo who had fought it out at Vega and Proxima. The others had been in Earthforce after the war but left as quickly as they could for various unspecified reasons. Kennall was too polite to ask even though to do so amongst humans was not viewed as such an invasion of privacy as Minbari did.
"The mission is rather simple." Kennall started.
"If it were simple, Delenn would *not* have brought us in." David interrupted his arms waving to indicate his ship. Kennall smiled slightly.
"Perhaps, David. But in this case you are correct. One of our White Stars disappeared in Sector 540." His words instantly caught the attention of all in the lift. All of them knew White Stars didn't just disappear and there were few vessels that could match their abilities.
"What do you mean disappeared?" David asked quietly.
"I mean as I said. They have disappeared. Delenn is extremely concerned." Kennall replied.
"Drakh." Buster said grimly.
"That is not confirmed." Kennall pointed out.
"But that is Entil'Zha's suspicion, is it not?" Shellen asked grimly.
"Yes." Kennall replied simply.
"Damn! I hate fighting the Drakh." Cora muttered.
The rest merely nodded their heads in agreement. They had encountered the Drakh several times since the Shadow War had ended. Each time the encounters had turned violent. The last encounter three months ago had seen the destruction of a small colony belonging to the Abbai before the Drakh attack fleet had been destroyed by Captain O'Kelly and his ship.
"Which ship is missing?" David asked.
"White Star twenty-four."
"That is Devenn's command." Buster interjected.
"You know Devenn?" David asked his friend.
"Oh, yes. Very well. We trained at Tuzanor together before he got shipped off to Zagros 7. He's resourceful and smart. He'd have found a way to report in by now." Buster stated matter of factly.
"Then you believe White Star twenty-four is destroyed?" Kennall asked.
Buster merely nodded his head with a sad look in his eye.
"Well there is no point in worrying about it right now. We shall see what we shall see. Its a three day trip from here to sector 540. We can decide on our option between now and then." David said bruskly.
"And if Twenty-four is gone and it's the Drakh that are responsible?" Cora asked.
Kennall smiled darkly at the others as he answered.
"Entil'Zha had you assigned to this mission for a reason. If it is Drakh then we shall, in your usually efficient way, rectify their mistake. Permanently."
"Dammit. Three days and still nothing." David O'Kelly practically growled his words. The others on the bridge merely nodded in silent agreement.
The 'Kathleen Mavornine' had arrived at the last known location of White Star twenty-four eleven days ago. Nothing had been found. No debris to indicate an accident or explosion. Nothing that indicated an attack. Nothing but empty space.
Kennall was as concerned as the rest of the Rangers. While ships in the past had disappeared in this area of space, those occurrences had been before the last of the First Ones had gone beyond the Rim. Like the others Kennall had come to the assumption that White Star twenty four had been destroyed despite the lack of evidence.
"Shall we continue on to the star system I mentioned?" Sharon Mulvaney, a pale Mars born human, asked.
David looked over at Kennall who merely nodded in return. "There is some indications that the fourth planet is marginally habitable by Humans and Minbari. Perhaps we may find Whitestar twenty-four there."
"Maybe." David responded dully. They had already searched six other systems and found nothing.
"Aye, sir." She nodded to Jason Rengle, who quickly checked the tramps weapons array. Satisfied he nodded silently to Sharon.
Several hours later the 'Mavornine' was in orbit of the planet in question. Sharon frowned deeply as she watched the reading of the console in front of her.
"Captain! I think we've found them."
David and Kennall were instantly at her shoulder to view the information for themselves. After a few moments Kennall nodded.
"That is a Vorlon signature. And the distress beacon matches the last code assigned to Whitestar twenty-four." Kennall confirmed.
"Can we get a communications link?" David asked Buster.
"Negative. The signal is weak at best. I'd guess they're low on power and decided to concentrate on sending instead of receiving." Buster replied quickly.
"All right. Let's do a fly-by. Volunteers?" David asked.
"I will go." Kennall stated.
David nodded in agreement.
"I request to go as well, sir." Jason Rengle stated.
David looked at Kennall in askance, knowing Jason was the newest Ranger among their number. Kennall smiled and turned to the young Ranger.
"I would be honored if you would join me."
Jason grinned and quickly followed Kennall to the launch bay.
While the Kathleen Mavornine had once been an Earth freighter, the ship had been heavily modified since Captain O'Kelly had acquired the ship after the Earth-Minbari War. The earlier modifications had been simple. Newer weapons and cargo hold to handle David's more "interesting" cargo and customers. After joining the Rangers the Mavornine had been used to shuffle Rangers from various locations. After the incident at Zagros 7 Entil'Zha Sinclair had the Mavornine heavily modified. She now possessed several weapons and control systems scavenged from older Minbari cruisers and a cargo bay had been converted to carry a trio of fighters, a single battered Starfury and two Minbari WindStar fighters.
Kennall knew that Jason was grinning at the prospect of flying a Minbari fighter. The older Starfury simply could not enter the atmosphere while the two Minbari fighters could easily do so. Kennall had to admit even he felt a small thrill at piloting such a craft. The Warrior Caste disliked those not of the caste using the fighters. The idea of a human piloting was unthinkable, but Entil'Zha Sinclair had insisted that all Rangers receive at least simulator training for the fighters. It was another policy that Delenn had retained.
A few minutes later Kennall's fighter was followed by Jason into the atmosphere. The weather was unexpectedly bad. High winds and dust made things slightly difficult to see but Kennall trusted his fighters equipment and his own abilities to not worry about this.
"Fighter Two. Do you see anything?" Kennall asked.
"Negative, Fighter One. This weather makes it difficult to see anything at all." Jason replied.
Kennall and Jason searched the area of the beacon for nearly thirty minutes without any luck.
"Perhaps we should return to the ship." Jason suggested.
"Yes, Perhaps..." Kennall's voice trailed off as he hit a clear patch of sky and instantly noted the charred remains of an escape pod.
"Jesus..." Jason whispered as he too saw it.
Kennall quickly confirmed that signal was coming from the escape pod. It was obvious from the damage that there was no possible way the ruined pods remains could be sending the signal.
"Fighter One to Mavornine." Kennall quickly opened a comm line.
"Mavornine, on-line. What do you have?" David's voice came back concerned, knowing Kennall would not have reported in unless he had found something.
"DO you remember Corianna?" Kennall said, trying to be subtle. He was certain they were now being watched. He hoped David would catch his inference.
"Yes, Fighter One." David replied after a moments silence. "I seem to remember you had a number of drinks then."
"Oh yes, Fourteen. Just like Ericsson." Kennall replied relieved to see David understood him perfectly.
"That boring, huh? Okay, return to the Mavornine." David replied sounding very much like a bored patrol Captain.
"Roger, Mavornine. Let's head back Fighter Two."
The two fighters quickly burned for the waiting freighter. Twenty minutes later Kennall was rushing to the bridge. David had gathered everyone there. All looked at Jason and him in anticipation as they came onto the bridge still wearing their flightsuits.
"Well?" David asked without preamble.
"We saw an escape pod. Destroyed. There was no way it could be sending the transmission." Kennall said. Jason merely nodded in agreement.
"A damned Drakh trap." Cora muttered.
"I don't think so." Kennall said instantly getting strange looks from all.
"Why not the Drakh?" Buster asked as if he were considering a possibility he had thought unimaginable.
"It is not their way. They have little use for subtlety." Kennall stated.
"True. That's something the Shadows were *not* able to teach them apparently." Cora agreed.
"Then who?" Jason wondered.
"I think we are about to find out. I am picking up spatial disturbances. Jumppoint forming." Terelis reported.
"Show me." David ordered.
The others quickly moved to their positions as Terelis complied. The ship that appeared before them was one none had seen before. Oddly cylindrical it tapered off at the rear. Four short, almost finlike projections from the nose of the vessel. The ship seemed to have an organic texture to its mottled green and black hull. The sight of it sent a shiver down Kennall's spine and filled him with foreboding.. The only other race to have done that had been the Drakh.
"Does anyone else think we've just met something really, really dangerous?" Buster asked quietly.
"Uh-huh." Jason murmured softly.
"Incoming transmission." Terelis reported as he engaged the bridges speakers.
A loud hissing sound filled the room making all wince. A cross between a hum and an annoying buzzing sound seemed to grow and fade without discernible pattern.
"Can we translate that?" David asked, the sound obviously grating his nerves already.
"No. I've sent language codes already, but they seem to be ignoring them." Terelis reported.
"Or they simply don't understand them." Kennall pointed out.
After several minutes all were about to give up when the transmission from the unknown ship changed. Interlaced behind the words the buzz-hum was still there along with what sounded like chittering.
"Mavornine." The strange voice sounded genderless to all of them and without emotion.
"This is the Mavornine. Captain O'Kelly commanding. Who are you?" David asked carefully.
"Why what?" Kennall asked confused.
"We seem to be having trouble in translation. Do you know what happened to any ships in this area?" Kennall asked as David nodded for him to continue.
"Yes, but we've detected the remains of one of our ships on this planet. Perha..."
"Ours." The voice interrupted. To Kennall it sounded angry.
"The planet? We don't want the planet. We just want to know why one of our ships is down there." Kennall pointed out.
"Fire. Gone. Leave now."
"We merely wish to learn what happened to them. Do you know what happened to them?" Kennall asked feeling dread rising in him.
"Swarm?" Kennall asked in confusion. Who ever these aliens were they were not making sense.
"Skri'takh." The word was hissed and barely audible.
"What is Skri'takh?" Kennall asked, stumbling over the unfamiliar word slightly.
"Skri'takh swarm. Speak Skri'takh."
"You are Skri'takh?" Kennall asked looking at the others who seemed equally baffled.
"Skri'takh." To Kennall it seemed the tone of the response indicated an affirmation and growing impatience.
Kennall decided to try another tack to get any information these Skri'takh may have concerning White Star twenty-four.
"Do you know if the Drakh have been in the area?"
"Sit'ri'ki Drakh!. Ki'iki'liss sh'liski!" The obvious hatred was clear in the response. It was the first clear understanding between the two ships despite no translation.
"I take that to mean they dislike the Drakh" Buster muttered.
"Could you please repeat. We do not understand?" Kennall asked diplomatically. He had heard humans say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. These Skri'takh did not seem to like the Drakh but Kennall wasn't sure that meant they were good allies against the Drakh.
"Skri'takh swarm Drakh. Skri'takh nourished."
Kennall paled as he realized what these Skri'takh were saying. They had killed and eaten the Drakh. That meant they had "swarmed" White Star twenty-four as well. They talked about it as if it were no more important than discussing a previous meal. Kennall's stomach turned at that sudden thought.
"Thank you for the information. We shall leave now." Kennall said quickly and cut the link.
"What the hell are you doing?" David asked in surprise.
"Didn't you hear them. Skri'takh swarm Drakh. Skri'takh nourish." Kennall repeated.
David paled in sudden realization. "When you asked about our missing ship they said "swarm"."
"They destroyed Whitestar twenty-four." Cora said, horror at what that implied in her voice.
"We better get out of here. If they could destroy a White Star as easy as it appears they have we are in serious trouble." Kennall noted.
"Energy discharge from Skri'takh ship." Terelis reported moments before the bridge seem to explode in light. Kennall felt something large strike him. He fell into darkness and fire.
And a noise that seemed miles away.
Kennall groaned slightly as something shook him slightly causing the pain in his head to flare in intensity. More sounds he did not recognize seemed to be in the distant. He wanted to sleep. Not emerge from the warm, dark and safe place he felt himself in. Again he was jostled. He tried to ignore the accompanying pain.
More noise, louder this time. When shaken again he weakly pushed the disturbance away from him. The darkness was lifting despite his wishing it to remain.
"Dammit, wake up Ken!"
'I know that voice.' Kennall realized grogily. He tried to open his eyes but the light seemed to increase the pain in his head. He tried to speak hearing what sounded like a inarticulate croak.
"Okay, come on Ken. Just open your eyes now. Come on." Kennall now recognized the voice. He tried opening his eyes again. Though still painfully bright Kennall could see the blurred image of a human in front of him.
"Dav..." He was barely able to whisper the name.
"Welcome back to the land of the living." David O'Kelly said, smiling.
Kennall smiled in return, feeling surprisingly better as he returned to full consciousness. "Didn't....know....I was....dead." He replied his voice sounded raspy even to him.
David chuckled lightly. "We were worried about you. You took a nasty hit."
"Good thing you guy got bones on yer head." Jason Rengle replied with light humor in his voice. For some reason Kennall found this extraordinarily funny and started laughing between coughs of pain he knew indicated he had cracked some ribs.
After recovering he glanced back at David in concern noting the scrapes, bruises and burns on the thirty-three year old human Captain.
David looked down for a moment saying nothing. It was then Kennall realized they were not in the Mavornine's spartan but efficient medical center. They were in the 'Mavornine's main cargo bay. He looked back at David who now stared at him.
"We're on the planet. The Skri'takh hit us hard up there. It was either fight them and die up there or try to make it planetside before the engines died."
"How long have I been unconscious?" Kennall asked sitting up carefully to avoid any movement to worsen his battered ribs and aching head.
"Four days." David replied neutrally.
"What has happened?" Kennall asked, expecting the worse. He was not disappointed.
"We landed on the planet relatively intact but Thomas was killed in the same explosion that injured you. We buried him the next day." David informed Kennall softly.
"In Valen's name." Kennall murmured softly in shock.
"It gets worse. Two days ago Shellen was attacked and killed while trying to repair the communications terminal on the bridge. The noise we heard sounded like those we heard when communicating with the Skri'takh ship. Whatever it was ripped through the access hatch to the bridge. We..." David sucked in his breath as searching for the strength to say what Kennall knew was coming.
"She is dead." Kennall finished for his friend.
"Yes." David said simply. He handed a battered Ranger brooch to Kennall. The Isil'zha stone had actually been shattered and the metal slightly twisted. After a few minutes silence and shared pain between them Kennall handed the brooch back.
"Well, we missed our check in with White Star fifty-seven yesterday. I imagine Serron will be here in a matter of hours. We just have to hold out until then." David said as he turned to grab something beside him Kennall could not clearly see.
"I think you may need this." David said casually as he placed the weapons next to Kennall. He recognized it instantly.
"Don't ask. Let's just say we 'found' it 'lying around' somewhere and leave it at that." David said as he brandished an Earth Alliance Auricon PPG Rifle, a weapon illegal to possess if one was not a part of Earth Force. Kennall knew better than to ask and quietly took the Sha'ann in his hands.
He smiled slightly to himself as he remembered training with this weapon is his youth, before he followed the calling of his heart and joined the Religious Caste. The Warrior Caste greatly restricted access to the Sha'ann, even within the caste. To find it here in the possession of a human indicated it had been stolen and sold on the black market or had been given to David. Kennall decided that how his friend came to possess it was not really what mattered. Survival was.
"The others?" He asked as he carefully stood.
"Making sure the cargo deck and launch bay is secured. The Skri'takh control the rest of the ship, well...what's left of it anyway." David answered.
Kennall got to his feet slowly with David's help, barely able to stop a painful moan. "We should join them."
David produced a small communications device, favored by the Rangers for its unobtrusive appearance and small size, from an inside pocket of his overcoat. "O'Kelly to all Rangers, report." He commanded in Adronado.
"All is quiet here, sir. Nothing outside the main hatch. Terelis has heard nothing for several hours now." Came the voice of Cora Akiyama.
"Nuthin' here either, Dave. They haven't tried to get into the launch bays yet." Derek reported in.
"I suppose that's something in our favor. Has Sharon been able to get either of the Wind Stars up and running?" David asked.
There was a momentary pause before the answer came back. "Negative, Dave. Even with all of us working on them there's no way to clear the debris away. The hull practically crushed them when we crashed." This time it was Sharon Mulvaney's voice.
"Damn! Okay, forget the Wind Stars. Is everything else in place?" David asked ignoring Kennall's puzzled look.
"Yes, sir." Sharon answered.
"Good. Keep the links open."
"Dave? How's Ken doing?" This was Cora, her voice full of concern and worry.
"I am fine, Cora. There is no need to worry about me." Kennall tried to sound as reassuring as possible. He could tell by the frown on Jason's face and the bemused expression of David that he had failed miserably. He shrugged at them silently as if to say 'Hey, Minbari don't lie. What did you expect for my first attempt at lying?'.
"Good to hear you voice again, Ken." Came back Cora's voice. Kennall could tell she hadn't bought a word he'd said but was willing to go along with it for now.
"Head's up, I think we got trouble coming. Listen." This was from Buster. A light odd buzz-hum could be heard through the link.
"We'd better get..." David started for the launch bays when Kennall grabbed him.
"Wait. Listen." Kennall whispered.
David's face paled slightly as he too started to hear a light buzz-hum. This time the sound was not from the link. Jason looked up at the ceiling. "Oh my god..."
"David! We've got them coming here too." This was from Cora, her voice oddly calm. Kennall knew her well enough to know that this apparent calmness meant she was terrified. The buzz-hum was getting louder.
"Everyone! Get to the launch bays. Now!" David ordered.
David and Jason took off in a sprint down the narrow corridor that linked the cargo bays and the launchbay. Kennall was slower but worried little knowing Cora and Terelis were coming behind him. He could hear their running steps and the light clang of their boots on some of the metal debris. By the time Kennall reached the launch bay he was gasping for breath and feeling the sharp stab in his side in every breath.
"Jesus, Ken. Sit down!" Sharon Mulvaney quickly had him sit on an empty packing container. After a few minutes the pain seemed to fade a little. Kennall wasn;t sure that was good and hoped he wasn't bleeding internally. That would be a complication they could ill afford.
As soon as Cora and Terelis sprinted into the room, Derek slammed the hatch shut and engaged the seals. Kennall concentrated on watching Derek, Jason and David using everything they could find to reinforce the barrier at that hatch and the other hatch leading to the rest of the ship. He needed something to keep his mind off the pain. The buzz-hum of the Skri'takh was no help in this case.
The humming had gotten louder, almost unbearable in its intensity. Terelis seemed to be wincing at the noise. Kennall didn't blame him. The sound was extremely annoying and seemed to be adding to his already throbbing headache.
"Hope that keep them out." Sharon practically yelled to be heard.
No sooner had she spoken, than something very large and very strong slammed into the hatch door. causing it to buckle in and cracking the seals. Kennall stood quickly and looked into the eyes of death.
Kennall quickly brought up his Sha'an and let loose with a volley of PPG blasts.
The creature jerked back at the sudden weapons fire and fell dead before it even seemed to realize what happened.
To Kennall the creature reminded him of a Thranxtil with only two legs and two arms, as well as a dark brown exoskeleton. The texture of the exoskeleton seemed to be similar to those Kennall had seen on Shadow vessels. Unlike the Shadow vessels oily black skin, these creatures had a variety of hues and highlight of greens and yellows.
Kennall did not have much time to consider this as three more of the Skri'takh filled the place of the one that had fallen. Sharon blasted another before the barricade was pushed aside and dozens more entered the room.
For a long time all Kennall saw was the flash of PPG fire from he and his fellow Rangers weapons and horrifying buzz-hum of dying Skri'takh. It wasn't until he saw a Skri'takh get a hold of Sharon Mulvaney that Kennall realized they were actually being pushed back from the entrance.
Sharon screamed and managed to stab the creature in the eye with her combat knife. The Skri'takh hissed in obvious pain and anger. It's three clawed hand quickly swiped down Sharon's face. Sharon stabbed the alien again, this time near its shoulder. The Skri'takh easily tossed her behind itself to the other awaiting Skri'takh.
Kennall renewed his fire with fresh fury as he heard Sharon begin to scream over the now louder buzz0hum of the Skri'takh. The wounded Skri'takh took the brunt of the withering fire and quickly fell.
But as before, when one fell another two Skri'takh seemed to take its place. After a few moments Kennall heard Sharon's screams end. Kennall tried t ignore what this meant and kept firing.
"Kennall...come on. We're getting out of here." He heard David yell to him.
Kennall quickly ran to the last available hatch as the other Rangers covered him. He hadn't even realized the others had been pulling back.
Buster quickly opened the hatch and went outside.
"Move it!' David ordered as he and Terelis covered the others escape into the blowing dust filled wind.
Kennall stopped just outside of the hatch and leaned against the battered hull of the White Star trying to make the stabbing pains in his side go away. Starting to feel dizzy he slid down to rest, leaning his head against the hull. It felt oddly warm and comforting.
Despite the roar of the wind he heard rather than actually saw Buster close the hatch and seal it. Everything seemed disjointed and surreal to Kennall. The pain seemed to be fading now.
"Ken! Ken wake up?" David's voice. It seemed urgent but so far off. A soft echo. Something shook him but Kennall kept his eyes closed.
They had been wrong, he decided. Sinclair. Delenn. Sheridan. The Rangers. All of them. The Darkness wasn't so bad. It wasn't dangerous. He felt safe here. The pain was less. It was the light that hurt. Burned away the mystery of the universe and let all see what was in a harsh glare of indifference.
A stabbing pain made Kennall realize what was happening. He was so tired. Hurt so much. Despite this he forced his eyes open and tried to focus on the blurry forms before him.
"David! He's awake." Kennall concentrated on the face before him until he finally recognized it as the worried face or Cora Akiyama..
"Good. We got to get out of here. Now!" David shouted over the wind.
"Ken, can you move? We have to go. The Skri'takh are..." Cora started to speak.
"Coming...I...'member..." Ken said weakly and started to rise.
When his leg's nearly gave out on the first step he felt Cora help support him. He nodded his head tiredly in thanks but said nothing. The dizziness he felt told him he'd lost a great deal of blood.
The Rangers quickly headed for the nearby hills as quickly as possible. Cora and Kennall ended up as rear guard more out of concession to his wounds than intent. Kennall simply could not keep up with the others and Cora refused his repeated demands that she join the others. He remembered their final argument over this point very clearly.
"I'd rather die here with you at the hands of the Skri'takh than spend the rest of my life knowing I had left behind a dear friend to die a senseless death." She had stated.
"So you would die a senseless death with me?" His reply had been meant to be scornful in an attempt to get her to leave him.
"Yes." She replied evenly.
"Why?" He had asked, incredulously.
"Because you are my comrade, a fellow Ranger. But more than that, because you are my friend." She replied.
"That is selfish." Kennall stated.
"Damned straight it is, Ken. Thought you knew we humans sometimes do things because it's selfish, not because its the right thing to do or the necessary thing to do." Cora said.
Ken had smiled tiredly at that. "I suppose that is more true than I thought."
"Good. Let's stop wasting breath and get moving." Cora had simply ended the conversation and helped him stagger forward.
An hour later the two Rangers found themselves standing at the base of the foot hills trying to visually search for the others, despite the blowing dust. They could hear the buzz-hum of the Skri'takh still following them.
"I can't see a fraggin' thing!" Cora muttered angrily.
"We better get going up there anyway. The Skri'takh sound like they are getting closer." Kennall noted, as he grimly considered his chances of even getting to the top of the first hill in his battered condition. He felt so tired he was certain he would fall if he took even a single step.
Cora helped Kennall stumble up the hill without comment. Kennall could tell she was worried about his slowly worsening condition. Kennall had decided not to tell her he was certain he had sustained more internal injuries during the fighting. The emotion he saw in her eyes told him she already had guessed what had happened.
Half way up the hill, Cora stopped as Kennall started coughing violently. When had stopped she noticed the blood on his hands and mouth that he had tried t wipe away before she saw it. Cora glanced at the rest of the climb to the top of the hill before looking worriedly at Kennall. He was much paler than normal.
"We're going to rest when we reach the top of the hill." She stated and started to help him forward again.
Kennall merely nodded feeling to weak and nauseated to argue.
Less than three meters later Kennall heard a familiar whine. Without thinking he pushed Cora down just before the first of the PPG fire struck his left shoulder spinning him backward. Kennall could not help but cry out when he hit the ground on his battered ribs.
It took Kennall a few moments to recover enough to help Cora, who was now firing burst after burst of PPG fire towards the base of the hill. Kennall quickly joined his own weapons fire noting with some satisfaction that the Cora had apparently killed or incapacitated many of the Skri'takh in a few short moments.
That satisfaction quickly faded when PPG fire started striking near them from behind. Cora looked at him, the fear in her eyes matching the fear in his heart. Kennall quickly placed his palm against her chest in a sign of friendship and respect.
"I've got them." He whispered. Cora nodded and continued to fire.
Kennall flipped himself on to his back, ignoring the resultant pain, and let loose with a long, sweeping burst from the Sha'an before returning to short burst into the blowing dust that the hostile fire emerged from.
He could hear the shrieking whines of apparent pain and rage from the Skri'takh but quickly realized he and Cora seemed to be having little effect. They were rapidly closing in on both of them, despite the withering fire the two Rangers laid down. Kennall could now actually see the approaching creatures in the rapidly dimming light.
"Ken, I'm outta energy caps!" Cora yelled to him. A quick check of his satchel revealed that he had no energy caps for Cora's PPG rifle. Before he could even inform her of this, three PPG blast struck her tossing her body into his.
Snarling in rage, Kennall fired another long burst into the advancing Skri'takh. He took some small satisfaction in seeing several fall and no longer move. His sudden burst of fire seemed to daunt the Skri'takh as they stopped their advance.
Kennall quickly took the opportunity to drag himself and Cora into a small indentation in the hill that could provide better cover from the weapons fire. Cora groaned in pain and looked at Ken sadly. Kennall merely nodded at her unsaid words.
He and Cora quickly put compresses on her wounds but could do little more as the Skri'takh started firing again. This time their fire seemed more concentrated.
Kennall hoped that this meant they didn't intend to 'swarm' them. He silently vowed to end it for both he and Cora if it came to that. With that thought Kennall started to switch firing between the two advancing groups of Skri'takh, certain he and Cora would be dead soon.
A sudden large explosion followed by a sudden volume of weapons fire from the top of the hill surprised Kennall as much as it apparently did the Skri'takh. The Skri'takh turned their attention to this new threat, but were seemingly being wiped out before Kennall's eyes.
"What the hell was that?" Cora asked, the pain in her voice obvious.
"I do not know." Kennall replied as he turned to look back down the hill. The Skri'takh were actually fleeing into the dust filled view. A few power PPG bursts struck several as they ran.
In moments all Kennall and Cora heard was the howling of the blowing wind. The two Rangers tried to scan for who had helped them but could see nothing. After several moments both simply laid back and rested against the rocks.
To Kennall it seemed like he had just closed his eyes when he heard the crunch of a foot step nearby him. He was instantly awake and pointing his Sha'an at a large shadowy figure before him carrying a weapon he recognized.
"Drakh!" He spat out angrily and pulled the trigger.
The super charged burst of plasma exploded dangerously close to the feet of the Drakh. Close enough for the creature to jump back with a strange raspy hiss. The Drakh put its hand forward as if to placate the wounded, struggling, screaming Minbari before it.
Kennall would have noticed this odd behavior had he not been lying on the ground trying to comprehend why his arm was numb and seemed to refuse to work. Try as he might he couldn't get it to move. To raise the PPG to destroy his enemy before it killed him.
The pain from his other wounds seemed to darken his vision for a moment. He fought back the light headedness he felt, ignoring the roaring wind in his ears. Something grabbed him and tried to push it away with his good arm only to be further reminded of his injuries by another burst of pain.
He struggled as best he could but to no avail. He was being held down and could do nothing about it. All he could hear was the incessant wind. Realizing the futility of his struggles through a haze of pain he relaxed, feeling the prick of a syringe. He kept his eyes closed the entire time.
'They haven't killed me yet. Their mistake. Fraggin' Drakh!' He smiled inwardly at the human term he found quite appropriate in this situation. He could wait. Rangers were patient. And he was far more patient than most.
He was surprised that the pain seemed to be easing. After a moment he realized the winf he heard was voices. Recognizable and friendly. He slowly opened his eyes to the dark face of Buster, grinning at him with gleaming white teeth.
"Buster?" Kennall rasped.
"Hey there, Ken. Welcome back to the living. Thought you'd decided to take off on us there." Buster patted him gently and looked away at something.
"What about the Drakh?"
"They're here to help us, Ken." The voice of David O'Kelly said as he leaned over into Kennall's vision. A dribble of blood ran from a split lip on David's grinning face. The snick sound of a collapsing pike brought Kennall fully awake.
"You stopped me from hooting the Drakh?" He asked as he sat up slowly.
"Yeah. Too bad I forgot to duck. I forgot how hard you Minbari can hit when you're injured and pissed off." David said with a forgiving grin.
"I'm sorry. What about Cora?" Ken asked with great concern.
"Don't' worry. Terelis and Jason are taking care of her. They already headed back to basecamp with her." David looked around uncomfortably. "We better get moving as well."
Kennall couldn't help but stiffen as he saw the all to familiar form of a Drakh approach them. The Drakh stopped a few paces away and gestured to the trio of Rangers. In instant later the globe it carried started to glow.
"Come. Skri'takh return soon."
"Well, you heard the man. Feel up to a little hike?" Derek asked as he picked Kennall off the ground easily.
"I do not think I have a choice." Was Kennall's wry statement. He nodded too tired to feel even the slightest bit embarrassed at being carried like a small child in the large human male's arms.
"You don't." Was David's reply as the trio followed the rapidly retreating form of teh Drakh.
Kennall did not really remember much of the hike to the Drakh encampment. He slipped in and out of consciousness being awakened each time by a gentle, but firm shake from Derek. Though it irritated him, he said nothing aware his fellow Ranger was simply trying to keep him awake. With the condition he was in, slipping into a coma made death a certainty.
He sighed in relief as he found himself in a small cave, covered with his own tattered cloak. A small fire burned nearby. The illumination revealed several Drakh nearby. He was relieved to Cora sleeping next to him, but worried at the too pale color to her skin and her shallow, watery breathing. In the fire light she looked far younger than her thirty two years, almost childlike.
The sound of approaching people drew his attention away from her. David and a Drakh sat across from the fire from him.
"Kennall, this is D'rin, the Drakh's commander here. D'rin, this is Anla'shok Kennall." David gestured to each of the aliens.
Kennall bowed his head respectfully, hiding his distaste of the Drakh behind and emotionless mask, his voice precise and polite. "I am honored to meet you D'rin."
Kennall tried to ignore the surprised look David gave him at his obvious lie. The Drakh did not seem to understand the meaning of the look and simply bowed its head in return. "Honored to meet you, Anla'shok."
Kennall was surprised at the apparent sincerity of the Drakhs words and looked at David questioningly. David shrugged uncertainly.
"Kennall, D'rin and his crew were sent by the Drakh to find some renegades from their fleet." David started.
"The Skri'takh." David simply nodded at Kennall's words.
"Yes. The Skri'takh are a race that allied with the Shadows but were kept far from the fighting by the Drakh, who were charged with watching over their development. The Skri'takh that are here apparently went renegade destroying several Drakh ships sent here to stop them."
"Stop them from what?" Kennall asked, suspicion in his voice.
"From launching an attack against some of the less advanced races. The Drakh believed they might even target primitive races without any space flight capabilities." David explained.
"Why? What would be the point?" Kennall asked in shocked disbelief.
"Not know. Skri'takh not like Drakh." This came from D'rin.
"Why are you helping us?" Kennall asked the Drakh commander.
David glanced at the Drakh uncertainly before answering for it. "The Drakh had a communications device that was broken. The only technician they had that could fix it died soon after they crashed here. I made a deal with them. We fix the transmitter and they guarantee us help and safe passage off world."
"Home. Report." Was the Drakhs sudden words, hissed and drawn out.
"I see." Kennall stated neutrally.
"I've got Terelis working on the transmitter. He seems to think he'll have it back on line soon. We'll be broadcasting on both the Fleet's transmission frequencies and the Drakhs. Who ever shows up delivers the others to a neutral rendezvous point." David explained quickly, hoping to ease the distrustful look on Kennall's face.
"Doesn't seem like a very good plan." Kennall replied.
"It's not like those Skri'takh are going to give a choice in the matter." David pointed out. Kennall merely nodded.
The arrival of a second Drakh, scarred and bloodied ended any further discussion as it spoke to D'rin. The Drakh commander hissed in apparent anger and rose quickly, gesturing to David. "Come. They swarm."
"Aw hell!" David shot a look to Kennall before following the Drakh out of the cave. Kennall could tell David was worried. Both knew perfectly well what the Drakh had mean about the swarm.
"Wh...where..." Kennall quickly leaned over to see Cora's brown eyes slowly looking around with a disoriented, half unfocused gaze.
"It's all right, Cora. We're safe for now." Kennall assured her gently pushing her down as she tried to rise.
"Ken..."Her voice was weak and frail, as if it had taken all her strength to speak.
"Shh, my friend. Rest. We shall be rescued soon. David has found a way for the Fleet to know of our situation." He assured her with more confidence than he felt.
"But the Drakh..." She protested weakly.
"Are the least of our...your concern right now. Just rest. I will be here."
Cora smiled painfully and willing acquiesced to Kennall's instructions. That worried him greatly. Shared experience with Cora had shown she did not allow herself to give in to physical pain, not matter how excruciating. That she would do so now meant only one thing. Something Kennall would not allow himself to consider. It was too painful.
She coughed lightly and realized she was shivering slightly.
"Are you cold?" He asked. She nodded wordlessly as she closed her eyes for a moment.
He silently, and quite painfully, slid himself closer to her. Gently he repositioned her to lean against his shoulder, only seeing her wince once in pain. He then wrapped his cloak around both of them slowly and carefully. Cora smiled in silent thanks to him.
"Minbari." Came a long hissed, almost whispered voice. Kennall turned to see one of the two injured Drakh gesturing at him with a small cylinder. Kennall recognized the container and nodded once. The Drakh tossed the container, Kennall easily catching the cylinder despite having only one good arm to use.
He heard the liquid inside the canteen and smiled and bowed his head to the Drakh. "Thank you." The Drakh simply leaned back against the cave wall again.
Ken nugged Cora awake, wishing instead he could join her. He was so tired. Without a word he helped her sip down several mouthfuls of water. The water seemed to ease her coughs as she leaned against him again. When she would take no more water he took a small sip and set the canister aside.
For a long time they simply sat there in silence, too tired to speak. In even far more pain than they could voice. Crying out would be pointless. So they remained silent, savoring what comfort the presence of the other gave. Relieving pain and suffering in ways rarely mentioned and oft over looked by others.
A hiss-like angry sound brought Kennall fully back from the lethargic state he had slipped into. Above him stood the second of the two injured Drakh. It's left shoulder and arm were badly mauled. Skin seemed to stripped from the alien's limb and a dark fluid Kennall assumed was blood seemed to flow slowly, albeit freely, from the wounds.
It looked quite angry.
"Death." It hissed.
Before he could do anything the Drakh swung some heavy object that appeared to be conduit piping or a metal bar. Kennall could not tell.
Cora screamed as the weapons struck her fully in the torso with a blow Kennall was sure was sufficient to kill her. The sound of cracking bones and Cora's suddenly worse coughing confirmed what he suspected.
He extended his pike and tried to parry another blow from the angry Drakh. Unfortunately he was weak and unable to completely stop the blow. He was however able to divert it taking much of the pain to his own badly damaged shoulder, causing him to cry out in pain.
His vision swam for a moment by forced himself to remain conscious. Sensing the third blow he tried lashing out with the pike. It landed solidly on the Drakh's chest but seemed to faze the alien not at all.
The Drakh suddenly jerked in three quick successions as his chest seemed to explode, bits of cauterized flesh and blood filling the air with the unmistakable scent of burned flesh as the body fell before them. The smell of plasma seared tissue filled his nostril and made him want to gag.
Kennall looked over to see the other Drakh slowly putting away what appeared to be a type of PPG. The Drakh simply stared back without any apparent emotion.
Cora groaned and Ken quickly pulled her close and check her wounds. He gently probed her torso, easily feeling the tell tale signs of broken ribs. She was breathing shallowly, blood flecking her lips as she coughed much harder. and much more painfully, than before.
"Ken?" She whispered.
"Be quiet now. Rest. Help will be here soon." Kennall said quickly. Cora shook her head slightly, a sad smile on her blood spattered face.
"No. I'm dying. Aren't I?" SHe asked slowly. Her gaze intent, unflinching.
Kennall looked down for a moment, debating internally with himself. Torn between duty and friendship. Between compassion and respect. She was his friend, his comrade. He wanted to comfort her as a friend. As a Ranger, an honored member of the Anla'shok, a comrade he answered as only the truth, and respect, would allow.
SHe sighed deeply at that and closed her eyes.
Kennall was shocked to see the sudden calm, peaceful look that came to her face as she opened her eyes again. He could see it! Her soul shining bright from her brown eyes. No more pain, no more loss. Only acceptance. It humbled him and embraced him with a strange joy he could not describe.
"I'v never believed in much of anything, Ken. Until the Anla'shok, anyway." She smiled reufuly at that. "I all ways liked the Minbari way of dealing with loss. Tell me about the place where no shadows fall." She whispered gently. As with her eyes he heard only acceptance. No pain. No fear. No regrets.
Kennall made her comfortable, cradled against his chest as he began to speak. He told her everything he could remember. The place were no shadows fall, of Valen and his great war and even greater faith, of Valeria, of the Minbari belief in shared souls. Of everything.
He continued to speak even as he heard her breathing deepen, her head loll gentle against him as she started towards her final sleep. Held her close and allowed the tears to fall as he spoke of faith and the universe. Kept speaking even as he heard her final breath. Heard the death rattle in her throat. Held her empty shell closer as he repeated the prayer for the dead until he no longer felt her presence, her soul watching him as he wished her a swift and joyous journey to the soul-form. To her next life.
How long he spoke, he did not know. Did not wish to ever know.
Slowly, heedless of the tears and his own pain, he gently lay her body down. Seeing the empty brown eyes staring at something he could not see, he closed them respectfully. He murmured another prayer and carefully covered her form with her cloak.
He was startled as he saw an alien hand place a small obsidian object with silver etched writing be placed upon the cloak. Looking up he realized the other injured Drakh now kneeled next to her body. It's head was bowed deeply as if in great respect as it gestured and hissed almost melodically. After several moments it stopped, stood and silently walked away.
As if sensing Kennall's confused, anguished thoughts the Drakh turned to him and gestured. "Honorably died. Honorably remembered. Cora Anla'shok remembered on the winds of time. Honored dead. Drakh will know. Will speak of Anla'shok with respect. Noble warrior."
Kennall nodded numbly, stunned at the respect and reverence in the Drakhs gesture and words. Shocked to realize the Drakh had a sense of honor, of compassion and nobility he had never realized existed with in them.
The two bowed deeply to one another and simply stared at the fire in silence. Their own thought too alien for the other to comprehend and more than sufficient company for either of them.
David came running in with a smile on bruised, dirty his face that instantly fell at the site of the cloak covered body, the dead Drakh, and the two seemingly emotionless, almost dead eyes of the Ranger and the other Drakh as they turned to look at him.
The joy David had felt a moment ago plummeted to a sick, empty sensation in the pit of his stomach as he looked into the bleak, empty eyes of Kennall. He'd been too late to save her. And perhaps to late to truly save him as well.
"What is it, David?" Kennall asked dully.
"White Star 57 has arrived in orbit, along with 12 and 32. The Skri'takh ship was easily destroyed and the Skri'takh here on the planet have seemed to disappear. A shuttle is being sent to pick us all up." David informed them simply and left after Kennall nodded his head in acknowledgement.
'I'm going home.' Kennall thought. He was not surprised to feel not an ounce of joy and happiness at this thought. Only emptiness and loss. A part of him would never leave this world again.
2 Days later. White Star 57. Sigma 957 Star System.
The final Drakh started to walk up the ramp to the Drakh shuttle and stopped suddenly to face Kennall, who leaned heavily against the nearby wall silently. The Drakh slowly approached and bowed.
"Keep promise. Drakh will remember." It said.
"I know." Kennall replied sadly, as the two earned several strange looks from the survivors of the Mavornine and the White Star's own crew.
The Drakh started to leave again but stopped as Kennall spoke again. "Can there ever be peace between us? We seem to have more in common than I thought possible. Can we not at least try to understand one another?"
The Drakh considered. When it spoke, all understood its words perfectly. None so more than Kennall himself. "No. We live in the echoes of those far greater than us. We walk in their shadows, surrounded by their actions, the deeds, their history. What was, was. What is shall all ways be. We live in the shadows of giants."
There was a long pause as the Drakh turned to leave. Before entering the Drakh transport it spoke again. "I'm sorry."
"So am I." Kennall whispered and exited the launch bay with a great heaviness upon his soul.
Kennall simply sat and listened as David O'Kelly gave his report on the events surrounding the destruction of White Star 27 and the Mavornine, the Skri'takh, and the unusual (and quite short) alliance with the Drakh.
The Entil'zha listened intently, as did her husband President Sheridan and the Interstellar Alliances chief of Covert Intelligence. Kennall didn;t really listen to the rooms discussion, but noted the occasional glance the Entil'zha cast his way and the notes Mr. Garibaldi tapped into his computer from time to time.
He focused his attention on Delenn. He could see her compassion and concern for him and all the others who had survived the Skri'takh incident. Could still see the greatness in her. Could still respect her. But his admiration for her seemed less. Her brightness seemed tarnished some how.
Something seemed to be missing now. Kennall wasn;t sure what. Had she changed? Or had he changed? He mused over this.
"Kennall?" He was startled to feel a small gentle hand touch his shoulder. He stood quickly, feeling a twinge of pain as he did so.
Delenn stepped back with a slight look of embarrassment competing with a look of great concern. "Are you feeling well? I could have Doctor Franklin come here if need be."
"That is not necessary Entil'zha. I was merely surprised. I did not mean to be distracted by my thoughts. I have been most rude." Kennall looked down ashamed.
"No apologies are necessary. Please be seated again." She gestured gracefully and smiled.
Kennall acquiesced silently, noting the room was empty, the others having gone to other pressing matters elsewhere.
"I wished to know if you've come to a decision." Delenn asked calmly.
Kennall looked at her in the eyes, not challengingly. But with open regard as he studied her for a moment. Hoping to see the answer in her jade eyes. He did not. He sighed lightly. "I have decided to remain with the Anla'shok. In memory of her and of the others."
"And what of yourself?" Delenn asked, obviously uncertain about Kennall's dubious answer.
"I am not certain. I will stay until I know that this is what I am called for, if I can still serve knowing what happened. Knowing what you did to us." Kennall answered bluntly. There was no anger in his voice, only acceptance.
Delenn looked down trying to hide the sudden tears that appeared in her eye. Kennall saw it anyway but made no comment. He knew as well as she the pain and loss as a result of her decisions. "I am truly sorry."
"We live for the One. We die for the One. Entil'zha veni. In Valen's name." Kennall stated simply. Spoke in a manner, with a devotion, only an Anla'shok could possess.
"In Valen's name." She whispered and lifted her head. The anguish in her eyes unsettled Kennall more than he wanted to admit. Unsettled his already confused state.
"Did you know about them? The Skri'takh?" Kennall asked suddenly, surprising her.
"No. I only suspected the Drakh. Not these Skri'takh." Delenn admitted.
"What had been done about them?"
A cold, mirthless smile passed over Delenn's face for a moment. Gone as quickly as it had appeared. "THey have been eliminated. Permanently." Was her calm reply.
Kennall nodded his head silently and rose. "If we are concluded, may I please go and rest now?"
Delenn nodded, standing quickly to return Kennall's brusk bow. He quickly strode to the room's exit stopping when he heard her call his name. He turned and looked at her awaiting the question.
"I am told you spoke with one of the Drakh shortly before they left. What did you speak of, if I may ask?"
Kennall simply stared at her for a moment, seeing the intense curiosity in her gaze. A wariness in her demeanor.
"We spoke of things great and small, terrible and wondrous. Of history and the future. Of light and dark. And of the shadowy echoes of history. Good day to you, Delenn. Valen be with you."
With that Kennall left to rejoin his friends and comrades, leaving Delenn to ponder his words with great weight and consideration.
Outside the station, the universe watched, waited and considered as the echoes of history reverberated on a thousand worlds. Of tales of wondrous good and unspeakable evil were related from one generation to another in memory of those first ones. Of legends to remind those that would walk the stars like giants.
"The past tempts us, the present confuses us, and the future frightens us.
And our lives slip away, moment by moment, lost in that vast, terrible in
between. But there is still time to seize that one last fragile moment.
To choose something better, to make a difference as you say. And I intend
to do that."
- Centauri Emperor Turhan, Babylon 5 2259.