Shannon (kungfuwaynewho) wrote,

The Bloody Ones - Chapter Eight

9 February 2260

0630 hours

There were a lot of sounds in the silence, if you listened closely enough.  Sheridan listened to the hiss of the air recyclers.  One of the vents up the way had something caught in it; whatever it was rattled with a sound like a playing card stuck between the spokes of a bike wheel.  He listened to the creak of metal.  The station was always moving, rotating.  He forgot that, sometimes.  There was something else, too, a scurrying noise that took him a long time to decipher.  He realized finally that it was a rodent of some kind, probably between the bulkheads, maybe with a little rodent family.  He tried to think about a cute little rodent family, and then his brain was sliding down those rails again, back to the pool of blood he still sat in front of.

Sheridan wished he could return to the numb apathy of before.  Now he felt scrubbed raw, exposed to the elements.  His mind was no longer his own; no matter how hard he tried to focus on something else, he could not keep from imagining what had happened to Delenn.  He kept seeing her dragged up here, still screaming his name.  She would have fought hard, resisted as much as she could, but it wouldn't have done any good.  The Carnifex would have used its claws and teeth, tearing at her beautiful face, her skin.  How long had it taken?  How long was she aware of what was going on?  How much had it hurt?  Even considering that last question filled Sheridan with so much pain he nearly gagged on it. 

Sheridan looked at the brooch in his hands.  He had cleaned it as best he could, but knew her blood was still trapped in a hundred different little nooks and crannies.  Now that he thought about it, that was good.  He wanted to carry her around with him.  He pinned it to the front of his shirt. 

He stood, looking down again at the pool of blood.  Her dress, torn to shreds.  Why was her dress here?  They hadn't found piles of clothes anywhere else.  The Carnifex seemed to eat them along with what body parts they took.  Why had this one ripped her dress off?

And then it came to him, and the blood left his head in a swift rush, and he had to crouch down.  The Minbari.  He must have...must have raped her before he gave her to the Carnifex.  Sheridan reached down into his pocket, took out Delenn's denn'bok.  Felt the cool metal in the palm of his hand.  Such a little thing.  So appropriate a weapon for her to carry.  Deceptively innocent, yet dangerous.  So appropriate to use it to kill the thing that had hurt her.  Sheridan felt everything fall into place, a feeling like his entire life was just a prologue to this moment.  He didn't care how long he had to walk, how many monsters he had to kill, what he had to do.  He was going to find that Minbari, and he would make it beg him for death before he was finished with it. 


0700 hours

Ivanova came back up to full consciousness with a snarl.  She had been dozing, damn it, and the big Drazi carrying her back to Medlab had managed to bang her feet against the wall for the third time.  The movement not only woke her up, it made her feel like her gut was busting open.  Again. 

"Sorry," the Drazi said, and Ivanova was pretty sure she didn't hear a shred of actual compassion in his voice.  He had been pretty pissed when Zack had tasked him to take her back to Green Sector.  The Drazi had complained quite strenuously about needing to stay, to fight.  Even as she'd been succumbing to lovely, fuzzy dark sleepiness, she'd been impressed by the way Zack had stood his ground, firm yet not overly aggressive.  He had more steel in his backbone than she'd supposed.

Ivanova couldn't see Garibaldi, but she could hear him.  Or, to be more accurate, she could hear the wheelchair he was sitting in, one of the wheels squeaking in such a way that Ivanova was sure it had been intentionally designed that way just to irritate her.  Talk about pissed - the Drazi had nothing on Garibaldi.  Every now and then his voice would float up her way.

"I just need a fresh PPG.  I'm fine," he was saying now.

The Brakiri pushing him replied right back in a smart voice.  "Okay.  Get out of the wheelchair, then."  They had done this back and forth a couple times already.  Ivanova heard Garibaldi sigh, and then let herself drift back into a doze.


0715 hours

Delenn had just run, no plan at all but to put distance between herself and the Minbari.  She wondered now why she hadn't killed him when she had the chance.  But there was a difference between killing that Drazi slave, who had not been himself, who probably welcomed the release, and who had been killing someone at that moment himself, and killing someone fully aware of his actions, who was at that moment defenseless and at her mercy.

Prevarications.  It wasn't only her life on the line, it was the girl's, too.  Laetitia, who tripped and stumbled again.  Delenn tried to be patient, not get frustrated, but she was having to expend far too much energy just keeping the human up on her feet and moving. 

"Can we rest?" she was asking now, and Delenn grabbed her arm, tugged her back to her feet. 

"No.  We must keep moving."  But to where?  Perhaps the Minbari was still unconscious.  Perhaps he had decided that these two were not worth the effort, not when he had a whole station to plunder.  But even as Delenn considered those options, she didn't think them to be true.  She had defied him, several times over.  She had hunted out his weakness and exploited it.  He would not let her go.  Getting out of Brown Sector would be difficult, indeed.  Delenn still thought their best chance was to get back into the ductwork.  She didn't know which ones spanned the station, though, and didn't want to get lost inside the walls.

Still holding Laetitia's hand, Delenn ran to where she thought the nearest access stair was located.  They would go up as far as they could, then make for Grey Sector.  The Minbari would more than likely expect them to try to get out as soon as they could, not go deeper in first.  Delenn could only hope that she was right.  It was the best idea she had.


0730 hours

After he'd climbed up to the next level - Brown Twelve, he thought - Sheridan decided that he would go ahead and do what they'd set out to do in the first place.  He'd get the power back on, open up all the doors, put the station back to rights.  Hopefully it would draw the Minbari out.  But it needed to be done anyway, and he was already here.  Lights were up on Fourteen, so he jogged up two more flights of stairs, feeling the cuts and scrapes and bruises and bangs all over his body protest in a symphony of pain.  What was his pain to what Delenn had felt?  A paper cut, a scratch.  He pushed himself a little harder.

Down the corridor.  He'd never walked the station like this, not in the year-plus he'd been here.  Never had seen so much of it.  It was easier to reduce it down to Sectors and Levels, and the God's honest truth was that he pretty much kept to certain places.  He didn't think he'd ever even been on this level.  But Babylon 5 was a big fucking place.  Even if a hundred of those things had landed, they'd be spread pretty thin.  It was going to take a long time to root them all out.  They would need to gather them in one place.  Then hit them hard.  Sheridan didn't know how to go about doing that, though.  The lights first.  Then, he'd think about it.

Around the bend, and there was secondary power, up ahead.  Guarded by two Centauri zombies.  They turned, sensing his approach, running his way with teeth bared.  Did they think they looked scary or something?  Sheridan extended the denn'bok, still just walking, and as they ran up to him he swung at one, then the other.  Bang, bang!  They fell, one careening into the wall then onto its stomach, the other down to its knees.  Sheridan turned back, shoved the denn'bok right into the spine of the one on the floor, severing it, then he beat the other's head in a few times.  And then a few times more, just to be sure. 

Secondary power.  Light controls here someplace.  Sheridan stood in the center of the room, let himself just feel everything.  Like looking at one of those 3D comics his great-granddad had collected; just let your eyes unfocus and the picture will pop right out.  There, against the far wall.  He wondered, not for the first time, why they didn't shut down the systems and then just break everything.  Smash in the control panels, tear out all the wires.  Maybe they had never had to deal with prey that fought back.  Maybe the guards had never failed at their duties before.  He flipped switches and hit buttons and tapped on displays, not a clue what he was doing, just letting the back of his brain handle it all. 

Then he was on the floor, eyes watering, sure he was blind.  Clapped his hands over his face, crying out.  It took a minute, slowly drawing his fingers back, letting the lights hit his face with his eyelids still screwed shut, then just resting closed, and then finally he was able to open them fully.

Bright lights.  People would be a lot less scared with bright lights. 

Now to open up the doors.


0800 hours

Zack and Raoul and Denise had all agreed that the best place to set up shop was right on the central corridor in Brown Sector.  It was the most wide open space closest to the probable base of operations for the monsters, and they didn't want to have to deal with narrow hallways and twists and turns.

Zack had hoped to run into the Captain before this point; he would have been happy with Ivanova and Garibaldi, no doubt about that, either, but they'd been banged all to hell when they'd found them.  Said Sheridan had marched straight in after Delenn all by himself.  Not that Zack could blame him, really.  Still, he did not like being in charge, not at all.  He didn't want to be the one responsible if this didn't work.

Franklin and his team had joined up with them not ten minutes ago.  Lennier and his volunteers from before helped the six from Medlab One set everything up.  They arranged the buckets and wastebaskets and empty desk drawers and anything else that would function as a receptacle out on the ground, leaving lanes they could move through.  Then they opened up the blood units, poured them in. 

"And they're all dosed already?" Zack asked, finding the sight of so many people handling that much blood unsettling even after everything else that had happened this day.

"Did it before we ever left."  Franklin finished dumping out the last of the blood on his cart, and then the kids Zack had tasked to help them clean up - when the fight started, they didn't want anything in the way for people to trip over - grabbed the cart and the empty bags and fell back to their reserves at the transition between Grey and Brown Sectors; the young and the old, the Drazi and Brakiri who hadn't been shot up with a nice big fat dose of Vitamin C.

The air was suddenly filled with screams and cries, and for a split-second Zack wondered if the destroyers were already here.  But then he was crying out with everyone else, throwing his arm over his eyes.  The lights!  The lights were back on!  Slowly, everyone blinked back tears and looked up.  Smiles, laughter, a little crying - Zack was pretty sure he saw Londo take a quick swipe at his eyes.  Then murmurs, all around.

The Captain.

The Captain got the lights back on.

Captain Sheridan did this.

Zack was thinking the same thing.  When Sheridan's voice had come on over the loudspeakers, they had all stopped dead in their tracks on their way to Brown Sector.  Everyone listening, rapt.  Get angry.  That stops them from being able to get in your head.  So simple, just like opening the doors.  Zack had wondered if the others felt what he felt, the love for his Captain that was the purest love there was, the love a soldier has for the man who leads him into battle - if Sheridan asked, he would throw himself into the fire without a moment's hesitation, follow him into hell itself.  Looking around then at the mostly alien faces, Zack thought that most of them did.  Now with a grin he turned to Franklin, expecting to see the same look on the doctor's face, the look he was seeing again all around him - the Captain was alive, the Captain was in the thick of it, all alone, and as long as he was with them there wasn't a chance in hell they wouldn't win.  But Franklin didn't seem to notice that the lights were back on, didn't seem to feel the same sudden rush of hope in the air.  He was just staring down at the bucket of blood at his feet.

"This is a good plan, doc."

Franklin didn't seem convinced.  "Hopefully it'll draw them out, at least."

"Sure," Zack said, listening as Menendez came in on the link - still no sign of anything in Blue or Green.  His team was coming their way.  "The air recyclers draw from the center, push the air out, then the rotation helps force it back down.  All this blood down here - they'll smell it, sooner or later.  And they'll have to come."

"I'm afraid they'll know it's tainted."

"Even if they do, we'll be ready and waiting.  And anyone who doesn't make it, they won't be a casualty.  They'll be a weapon."  Zack found it a comforting thought, and then shook his head.  He shouldn't be comforted by the idea that if he died and some freak alien monster ate him, at least he'd take it down with him.  But it was true, it did make him feel better.

"That's the last of it!" Raoul shouted, and they finished clearing up and took up their hiding spots.  A lot harder to hide now, without thick shadows everywhere, but Zack didn't mind.  Lights were better.  Now they just had to wait.


0815 hours

They'd finally stopped on Brown Thirteen when Laetitia could not climb anymore.  She had collapsed, and no amount of tugging and pulling and yanking on Delenn's part could get her to stand up again.  Delenn sat beside her, hand on her back, putting her face close to the girl's. 

"Laetitia, we cannot stay here."

"I'm so tired."  Delenn rubbed the human's back the way John had rubbed hers, in the ducts, after she had killed the Carnifex.  Humans found physical contact reassuring.  Delenn found that she did, too; more than she had before her change.  Now that she was sitting down, she realized how tired she was.  It would be so easy to just lean back, close her eyes, and rest.  Her left side was a riot of pain, and she gingerly felt along her ribs.  At least nothing was poking out through the skin. 

Knowing that she shouldn't, Delenn rested her head against the wall, her arm still around Laetitia.  She closed her eyes.  Just for a minute.  She would just give her ribs a brief reprieve.  Then they’d be back on their feet, and Delenn would get this girl out of here.    


0830 hours

It had seemed so simple.  Turning the lights back on had turned out to be hardly any work at all, so opening up all the doors should have been just as easy.  But as Sheridan walked his third lap around auxiliary systems on Brown Fifteen, which is where he thought those controls were located, he finally had to admit to himself that he was in the wrong place.  Then where the hell was he supposed to go?  He'd tried calling out on the Babcom, but it was still down.  Nice for everybody else to pitch in, he thought, picking up the first thing his hands fell on and flinging it across the room.  Whatever it was, it sure broke to hell with a good, satisfying sound. 

As much as he would like to be able to just check every possible room in Brown Sector, he didn't have the time.  Anyone who hadn't figured out how to get out of their rooms by now?  Fuck 'em.  He'd done enough.  Now he was going to hunt him a Minbari.  He let himself feel all those old prejudices and hatreds from the war.  That was always one of the hardest parts about being a soldier - you had to hate your enemy, let yourself see him as nothing but a thing, so that killing him wasn't anything to lose sleep over.  And then soon as the war was over, you had to turn around and pretend like the hate had never been there.  Couldn't hold onto it, oh no.  Couldn't nurse it, couldn't remember the friends you'd lost and the pain you'd suffered.  Just let it go, soldier. 

Not now.  Not this time.  He was going to find that son of a bitch, and then he thought he'd take a page from Ivanova's playbook.  Maybe she'd like to hang that bone from the wall of her quarters.  Thinking of Ivanova made Sheridan remember the last time he'd seen her, white as a ghost, bleeding out on the floor.  She might be dead by now.  Sheridan couldn't even see for a minute, the rage and hate were so intense.  The Minbari had done that, too. 

Why hadn't he come for Sheridan yet?  Why was he just letting him run all over Brown Sector?  Sheridan was tired of running.  He was going to march straight back down to primary alarm and make another broadcast.  And this time, he was going to call that Minbari out.  They were a prideful bunch, really full of themselves.  If Sheridan challenged him, he'd come.  He'd have to come.  And then he would die.

Down the corridor to the access stair.  Time to go back down.


0845 hours

Delenn came awake with a start.  Someone running down the stairs above them, not two floors away.  She grabbed Laetitia and hauled her upright, the movement on her broken ribs creating a pain so intense she had to bite her lips to keep from screaming out.  The Minbari must have crept into her mind while she was sleeping, learned where they were; now it was coming for her, so close. 

She pushed Laetitia in front of her, wanting her out of the stairwell first.  Then she slipped around the corner herself, made herself stand quietly even though every instinct was screaming at her to run.  Even barefoot, though, she was afraid that would make too much noise.  She grabbed Laetitia, held her in front of her, and clapped a rough hand over the human’s nose and mouth.  Then she bit her lips again, tasting warm blood in her mouth.  Even with those precautions, their breathing sounded loud enough to be heard in Grey Sector. 

Whoever it was kept going down the stairs.  He hadn’t heard them.  One of the slaves, apparently; the Minbari would have known they were hiding just out of sight.  Delenn waited until she couldn’t hear the footsteps thundering down the stairs anymore, then she took the girl’s hand and pulled her down the corridor behind her.


0900 hours

Lennier huddled against the wall behind a stack of crates, between two human maintenance workers and a Centauri woman.  The woman was so excited, Lennier had to keep turning around, glaring at her.  She would look down, seemingly chastened, and then a few minutes later he’d feel her bouncing on her heels, whispering under her breath.  “I’m going to kill a Bloody One.  Just like I always wanted to.”  Finally he had had enough.

“If I die because you cannot stay silent, my clan will be very upset with you.  They may feel the need to avenge my death.”  That seemed to do the trick.  Her eyes got very wide, and she finally sat down, and this time she stayed quiet. 

Lennier wished he felt as excited she did.  He had been close enough to hear Zack get as much information out of Ivanova and Garibaldi as he could before they’d been taken back to Green Sector.  Delenn, taken.  Sheridan had gone in after her.  Or, at least, that’s what they had thought.  But not long after that he’d made a station-wide announcement, and then he had apparently restored the lights.  He wasn’t looking for Delenn; Sheridan was running through Brown Sector on his own, putting the systems back online.

Lennier tamped down his anger.  Sheridan had to weigh one life against a quarter million.  That he had chosen to fight for the station as a whole should not surprise Lennier at all, should not give him pause.  But he thought about Delenn, dragged into the Carnifex’s lair, maybe even now still alive.  Someone should go in after her.  It should be him.  He thought about backing out of this space, creeping down until he could get out of the staging area, down to the nearest stairs, up a level or two, then back into Brown Sector.  He could do it.

Lennier tightened his grip on his denn’bok, then turned.  He only took one small step before he saw the faces behind him.  Scared, anxious, defiant, excited.  All of them ready to sacrifice themselves to save the station.  Almost at the edge of his sight, Lennier could see Vir’s face, pale and terrified and yet resolute. 

He turned back.  Settled into his place.  Lennier would fight.


0930 hours

No one stood in Sheridan's way as he returned to primary alarm.  Better for them.  There had been a fleeting moment as he had descended the access stair when he had thought he'd felt a presence, but no one showed himself and the moment passed so quickly he wasn't sure it wasn't just his imagination. 

Sheridan tried to plan what he was going to say, decide which words would most infuriate the Minbari, would be most effective in bringing him into the web.  But he couldn't think.  Words were completely inadequate to express what was still churning through him, the fury that was keeping him marching down the corridor, keeping him alert, keeping him up on his feet.  Sheridan was dimly conscious that there was something underneath the fury, a dark grief that he could not face right now.  If he let himself turn that way, he wouldn't be able to do what he needed to do. 

Before he knew it, he was there.  He flipped everything on, and then Sheridan was speaking, hearing himself echoed out in the corridor, his voice filling the station.  He could feel his face tightened in a sneer, could feel his fists clenching at his sides.

"This is the Captain.  I have a message for one person in particular, and you know who you are.  You think you can hide from me?  I will hunt you beyond the Rim if I have to.  I will hunt you every day until I find you, even if it takes the rest of my life.  The only hope you have is to run and hide.  Are you going to hide?  Are you too scared to meet me out in the open?  Too afraid of Starkiller?  You know where to find me."


0945 hours

Delenn and Laetitia stood still as statues in the center of the corridor, looking up toward the nearest loudspeaker.  John's voice, filling the air again, and this time Delenn didn't hear anything broken or lost.  This time, the anger she could hear behind every word made her a little afraid.  Whether she was afraid for the Minbari to whom John was clearly speaking, or for John himself, she couldn’t tell.

"You know where to find me."  The loudspeakers cut off, and Delenn wanted to scream at them, at him.  What are you doing?  Why are you saying this?  Do you want to be killed? 

“Laetitia, is anyone with him?”  Maybe he had met up with others, and they were preparing an attack...?

“I don’t know.  I’m only a P4,” the human said, tears limning every syllable. 

Delenn let go of the girl for the first time in hours, and paced up and down the corridor.  Quick steps.  John still had to be in Brown Sector, had to be relatively close.  For some reason, he was baiting the Minbari, trying to tempt him into a personal fight.  Delenn knew, no matter how much she might wish otherwise, that there were no others with him, no planned attack.  Then she remembered the pool of Corfo’s blood, her torn dress.  Oh, Valen.

“I have to find him,” Delenn said, going back to the stairs.  Laetitia followed, crying softly.

“I thought we were going to Grey Sector?”

“The Minbari will kill him!”  She waited for the girl to catch up, and then made herself jog, feeling every part of her body scream out.  John must believe that she was dead, that she had been killed by the Minbari.  And now he was looking for revenge.  Normally she would pity any being who stood in John’s way, but the Minbari was something different.  She couldn’t help the knot of dread growing in her stomach.

Then Laetitia was digging in her heels, coming to such an abrupt stop that she jerked Delenn’s arm hard enough to make Delenn fear she had pulled it out of the socket.  The jolt of pain that hit her shoulder temporarily banished the pain from her broken ribs.

“Laetitia, we have to go.”  The human’s emotions were flowing through the connection of their joined hands, but there were no words to decipher this time.  It was just a scream, a horrible, hopeless scream.  A Carnifex came around the turn toward them, alone.  No attempt to enter their minds, paralyze them with fear or with promises.  It just came at them, and seeing one in full light for the first time was enough to make Delenn fear that she would go mad.  It didn’t even appear to have skin; all she could see was rotten flesh, exposed veins filled with black blood, cancerous tumors and gaping sores.  She could see the thing’s sharp fangs, rows of them, and Delenn knew in one single second of absolute clarity that those fangs would be the last thing that she saw.

It was only a few meters away when it stopped.  Delenn looked wildly around, trying to see who had come to save them, but they were still alone.  The Carnifex opened its mouth even wider, and the sight was enough to make Laetitia moan.  Delenn felt her knees go weak, and was afraid she would faint, something she had never done before in her life.  Then the Carnifex’s tongue slipped out of that mouth, flicking out this way and that, seeming to lead the Carnifex up to the air vent in the wall.  Its tongue slid between the vent grating, and then it lifted one massive fist full of claws and smashed the vent into the open duct behind.  It clawed at either side of the duct, ripping the metal bulkhead into shreds, and Delenn was able to force herself to move to the opposite wall, pulling Laetitia with her.  It was good timing - the Carnifex turned, ran past them down the hall; if they hadn’t moved, they would have been trampled.

A long minute passed, and they just stood there, watching the Carnifex disappear out of sight, and then waiting for its inevitable return.  But it was gone.

“What...Delenn, what happened?”  Delenn didn’t know, and didn’t care to find out.  She wanted to find John.  He had to be here in Brown Sector, but where?  Delenn shook off Laetitia’s hands, knelt down right in the middle of the corridor, ignoring the way it felt like her broken ribs were rubbing together, and closed her eyes.  She shouldn’t need candles or a particular place to meditate, and realized that she had begun to rely too much on the peace and solitude of her quarters. 

Where was he?  She knew the answer.  She could feel it, somewhere inside her mind; she just had to find it.  Delenn pushed aside the thousand different pains, the fear and worry and fatigue, the jumble of thoughts.  She quit searching, quit demanding an answer from her mind.  She opened herself to the universe.

"What happens if there's a hull breach?" she asked.  They were in her quarters, in absolute darkness.  The alarm had finished its braying cry, and now all she could hear was his breathing.  He still had his hands on her arms, and the warm pressure there made something low in her belly twist in a strange way.  She wasn’t aware of how close they were until she realized she could feel his heartbeat under her palm.

"Emergency bulkheads should drop, seal it off.  I don't know why we lost lights; all primary systems have about three levels of redundancy, and everything's housed in the center of the station.”

Delenn’s eyes opened, and she slowly rose to her feet.  “Center of the station.  Brown One.  We need to go back down the stairs.”  Without waiting to see if Laetitia were following, she headed down the corridor.


1015 hours

Sheridan crouched behind a pallet about fifty meters down the corridor from primary alarm.  He had a wall at his back, and was able to watch the approach coming and going.  He’d expected the Minbari by now, and wondered if someone else had found him first, if someone else had gotten his kill.  Instead of making him feel better, the thought just made him angry.  He needed to kill the Minbari; it was important. 

Someone was coming.  Sheridan made sure he had a good grip on his denn’bok, bounced up and down on his heels a few times.  He didn’t want any delays in jumping out of his hiding space.  No cramps, no pins and needles.  He needed to be fast and quiet.  He wanted it over quick, and then he would take his time.

But it wasn’t the Minbari.  It was a human, and as he came closer, Sheridan could tell he was wearing an EarthForce uniform.  One of his men.  One of his pilots - Menendez.  The pilot stopped outside primary alarm, looking inside the room, then up and down the hallway.  Then inside the room again - very calm.  He must have heard Sheridan’s last message and come to check it out.  Menendez and his team had been very efficient the past day; the last time they had checked in before the four of them had been ambushed and their links destroyed, the group of pilots had racked up eight Carnifex kills.  Maybe there weren’t as many of them on the station as Sheridan had thought; maybe they had finished them off.  Including the Minbari.

And just like that, Sheridan felt nothing but relief.  It was over.  He could go back to his quarters, lock himself inside, and figure out what the hell he was going to do next.

He stood, walked up to the pilot.  “Menendez!”  He turned, and then smiled at Sheridan, a great big smile completely free of affect.  Sheridan had had no idea it would be this good to see another person again, another one of his own.  He jogged up the corridor, a hundred questions jostling to be asked first.  How did you finish them off?  How many casualties?  What’s left to be done?  And most importantly - who killed the Minbari?

Sheridan was only a few feet away when he finally realized that Menendez’s smile wasn’t relieved or warm or friendly - it was mindless.  By then it was too late, and the thing that had once been one of his men was on him.


1045 hours

Down the stairs.  Each step its own little hell, complete in and of itself.  ‘Hell’ was a word Delenn had looked up ages ago, after hearing the humans use it in a variety of expressions and situations.  What the hell? was the most common; it was used when the speaker seemed angry, confused, even pleased.  Delenn had been able to understand the concept of heaven; it was easy to imagine the desire for a paradise, a place with no troubles and no worries.  But hell?  She hadn't been able to help but wonder about a culture that spent any energy imagining a vile, horrid place, full of torment and unending pain.  Now, she thought, the simple truth was that she had led a very sheltered life.  Even what she had thought to be the agony of the war with the humans was nothing, really; she had been safe and sound on the Valen’tha throughout.  Her worries and seeming anguish had been a matter of philosophy only.  A construct, something she felt only because she chose to.

But now she understood.  This was hell.  Every time she took a breath, there were two different pains, both of equal intensity but still quite different; one when she inhaled, one when she exhaled.  A separate pain as she came down each step, her weight shifting from side to side.  Her shoulder still ached; the bottoms of her feet felt burned raw; her head was swimming; she was still aware of her thirst, and under that, of a bone-numbing fatigue.

John.  John is close.  The thought kept her going.  She would find him, before the Minbari did.  He would see that she was alive, and that there was no need for vengeance.  They would steal away, and find a quiet place to hide.  Something had drawn the Carnifex away.  Something it had sensed in the vents.  A trap?  Let the rest of them deal with it; the two of them would wait it out.  There was no more they could do.

Laetitia’s hand squeezed hers, and the first coherent thought in hours surfaced in her mind.  Delenn?  Someone’s coming, a few floors down.

They were on Brown Three, so whoever it was must be close to the central corridor.  John? she couldn’t help but wonder.  But then Laetitia was drawing her out of the stairwell, just behind the corner.  Footsteps.  More than one person.

Delenn peeked around the corner, wishing that the lights were still off.  It was much easier to hide in the dark.  She was sure that whoever was coming would spot her, but she had to know. 

The Minbari, who was moving much slower than he had earlier, but who was still moving.  Delenn did her best, but couldn’t keep a wave of hatred from flashing through her mind.  She waited for the Minbari to sense it, to look her way with those awful eyes, but he just kept climbing.  Behind him, a man in an Earthforce uniform, with an unconscious figure slung over his shoulder.  John.  A string of six Carnifex followed.

Delenn clapped a hand over her own mouth to keep from shouting out.  A wave of overwhelming pity and sympathy from Laetitia wrapped itself around her like a thick blanket, and she could feel the human start to pull her down the corridor, away from the stairs.  Delenn shook her head, feeling the motion as though it were happening to someone else.

Delenn.  We have to go.  This is our chance.

I won’t leave him.

They’re leaving the station.  I could see it in his mind; he’s losing control.  Something has happened to the rest of the monsters.  They’re leaving.

I have to get John back.

Delenn, you can’t!  There’s nothing you can do.

Where are they going?

To Downbelow.  There’s a docking bay.  He’s sent word for a ship to pick them up there.  Delenn, you saw how many of them there were.  You don’t have any weapons.  You can’t do anything.  I’m sorry.

Delenn wrenched her hand out of the girl’s grasp, then turned and grabbed her by the shoulders.  Kept her voice under control, but firm.

“You go down this corridor.  Hide if you sense anyone coming.  Get into Grey Sector.  Someone will find you.”

“You can’t leave me!”

“You’ll be fine.  Just get to Grey Sector.”  Delenn concentrated on sending something warm and good through her hands - the feeling she’d had in John’s arms, the feeling of being safe; she didn’t know if Laetitia could sense it, if there even was anything to sense, but it was all she had to give.  Then she left the girl, and went back to the stairs.  One last journey into the dark.

IX. Watershed
Tags: b5, fic, j/d

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