Zack couldn't get a hold of the Captain on the link anymore. Or Ivanova, or Garibaldi. They’d been checking in every hour or two, one of the three of them, but he hadn’t heard from them in almost three hours. And now he couldn’t get a call through to any of them. The links were still operative - he’d just talked to Menendez, who claimed that Blue Sector was clear - so Zack found himself pretty sure that something had happened to the four of them.
He was afraid they’d been lost.
There was no way he was going to tell that to the crowd in Green One, though. All the work he’d done the last three or four hours - cajoling, soothing, promising, vaguely threatening - would be shot to hell. There’d be panic, of that he had no doubt. Zack and Raoul and Denise had come up with a good plan on their own, although they’d been waiting to hear from the Captain, get his input, before they put anything into action; they were coordinating with Menendez and another group of mostly maintenance workers who had just come back from running recon on Grey Sector. Zack didn’t like the idea of being in charge, and knew that the aliens in Green One would like it even less.
So he lied to them.
“All right, listen up!” he yelled, coming down the stairs. “I just got off the line with the Captain.” A glance from Raoul at that, who wasn’t happy about lying, but who was willing to let it go. “We’re going to wait about half an hour for one of the other teams to get into position, and then we’re going in. We’re going to march right down to Grey Sector and we’re going to get this station back online.” Cheers and shouts, and Zack let himself think for a minute, just a minute, that they might actually pull this thing off.
At first, Garibaldi couldn’t figure out where his legs had went. He was looking at them, he was smacking one of them; nothing. He also had a bad taste in his mouth. What had he eaten last? But before he could try to remember, Garibaldi became aware of the fact that he was on the floor. And what was he lying next to?
Then it all came back, in a jolt, and just as the sharp, achy feeling of pins and needles started moving through his legs, Garibaldi tried to get to his feet, find his PPG, and look around all at the same time. He ended up banging his head into the water tank he’d been thrown against, falling down again.
“John! Susan!” There were those creepy things all around, that Minbari who had given him the bugger-boos, where was his fucking gun, shit! On his feet, and the first thing Garibaldi was struck by were the bodies all around. Those slave things, lying dead here and there. And then he saw Sheridan and Ivanova, and he just knew that Ivanova was dead. She was lying on her back, her jacket unzipped, another wadded up in a ball on her stomach; the white shirt under it was no longer white, but stained a red already going brown. Sheridan’s back was to him, sitting next to Ivanova on the floor, one hand loosely resting on top of his jacket pressed on top of what must have been a serious wound.
Garibaldi made his shaky way over. Ivanova’s face was white, almost ashen. He felt his stomach drop to the vicinity of his ankles, and then her eyes opened to half-mast, looking vaguely his way. He dropped to his knees beside Sheridan.
“Susan. What happened?”
He expected a whisper, something soft and choked. A sickroom voice. Her voice was as strong as ever, but Garibaldi closed his eyes at her words, and the dead tone she delivered them in. “They took Delenn.” He looked over at Sheridan. The Captain was just looking at his own hand, resting on top of the jacket he’d used to staunch the bleeding. There was blood on his face - Garibaldi guessed that it was Susan’s. He put a hand over on Sheridan’s shoulder, but he might as well have tried to comfort a statue.
Garibaldi moved Sheridan’s hand aside, gingerly pulled back the jacket. “I don’t think it got anything important,” Ivanova said, eyes closed again. “Stuck myself with my own knife.” He wondered how much blood she’d lost. He couldn’t see very well, but it looked like she’d cut herself on the side, well away from the important stuff. Still, if she were bleeding internally, they’d have no way of knowing.
“I was waiting for you to wake up.” Sheridan was getting to his feet, not looking at either of them. He made his way over to what had been their confiscated weapons pile, scattered when the two of them had went for the weapons after Ivanova had put the whammy on the Minbari leader. Garibaldi watched him go through the knapsack Ivanova had used to carry the supplies she’d grabbed from the storage closet in Grey Sector - the welder, the chemical cleaner, and the blow torch. Sheridan was moving slowly, deliberately - he took the blow torch and went to the big double doors at the end of the reclamation room. Tried to figure out how to turn the torch on.
Garibaldi joined him, feeling stabs of pain in the small of his back and around his sides, which were nothing compared to the pounding in his head. “Let me do that, John.”
“Take Ivanova out of here. Get her to Green Sector, to Medlab Three.”
“Did they take Delenn through these doors?” Sheridan got the blow torch going, but he was going to end up blinding himself trying to cut through. He didn’t answer, just started burning a line. Garibaldi shuffled back to the knapsack, but Ivanova hadn’t packed any eye protection. He looked back up, ready to tell Sheridan that he had to stop, but he had his eyes closed, opening them periodically to check his progress and move the torch.
Garibaldi found a PPG with half a charge and two pocket knives. Then he went over to Ivanova, who had managed to sit up. He didn’t think she’d be able to walk, but then she insisted on getting to her feet and he had no choice but to help her.
“Susan, take it easy.”
“Shut up. Delenn’s pike is over there. Get it.” He looked over at where she’d waved a limp hand, and saw the silver pike on the ground, both ends covered with blood. He picked it up, surprised by how light it was. “Give it to him.” Sheridan, who had started on the second side of the square he was cutting out of the door. If he didn’t know any better, Garibaldi would think that he was completely in control - he was moving methodically, smoothly, no tremors or anything like that. But there was something in the hunch of his shoulders that made Garibaldi very worried.
“I told you to get Susan out of here.”
“You should have a weapon.” Garibaldi held the pike out, and Sheridan glanced at it. Something in his eyes, then, something hard and broken. A beat, and he turned back to his torch. Garibaldi propped the pike up on the wall next to the door, and went back to Ivanova. He grabbed her tight around the waist, holding her on the opposite side from the wound in her stomach; she wrapped an arm around his neck, wincing as she raised it. Garibaldi had to stand right where he was, blink the dizzies out of his head; they were going to be a hell of a team, trying to get back to Green Sector. And no crawling around in ducts, either - they were going to have to walk back, in the open.
Back the way they’d come, no need to hide anymore. Garibaldi turned one last time to see Sheridan start cutting on the third side.
He wondered if he’d ever see him again.
Franklin had been turning the question over and over in his mind. Finally he locked himself into his office, injected himself with some more stims, and grabbed pen and paper. He was just going to have to make a list. See which side won out, nice and objective, and then that’s what he would do.
Pros: Doing something productive. Going on the offensive. Might be best weapon we’ve got. Give me a chance to get out of Medlab.
Cons: Dangerous. Might not work. We will almost definitely need all the blood we’ve got when the crisis is over, and the injured start piling up.
Franklin stared at what he had written, looking for the one thing that would jump out and proclaim itself as the definitive reason to act or not act. He saw it, and when he did, he realized that it wasn’t the answer he wanted, deep down.
We will almost definitely need all the blood we’ve got when the crisis is over, and the injured start piling up. He circled it. There was no doubt about it - there were going to be a lot of injured people, some critically, some who would need transfusions if they were going to survive. The station had a sizeable blood supply, but only when considering normal needs; they didn’t have anything close to what they needed for a crisis of this scale. Every single unit of blood he took out of Medlab was a unit that someone would need, maybe as their last hope of survival.
And that was the point, really. If anyone on the station was going to survive, every last Carnifex would have to be driven off or killed. The crisis just wouldn’t end with a snap of fingers and a wish. Those monsters weren’t just going to get bored, decide they’d rather go play a game of poker. Maybe scheduled dockings would start piling up, cargo ships and transports and merchant vessels trying to contact the station and failing; realizing something was wrong; one or two returning home, reporting the news; someone deciding to send out help. Maybe that would happen. But if it did, it could be weeks before help arrived. They would have to save themselves.
Franklin tossed the pen and paper aside, took one minute to center himself, and then he was up and moving. He had a lot to get ready if this was going to work.
Zack led the force of mostly aliens from Green Sector, nearly four hundred strong now, toward Medlab Three. The maintenance team had stopped there after returning from Grey Sector recon, and called in five minutes ago to say that they had started cutting through the emergency bulkhead sealing off Medlab Three. Zack had sent ahead Lennier and about a dozen others; hopefully they’d be ready to get started by the time the rest of them got there. He wanted this to go quickly and orderly, as much as possible. Glancing back at the motley assortment of folk behind him, he wasn’t holding his breath.
Final approach. “All right, everyone, listen up!” Zack yelled, glad he had experience in that if nothing else. “I want Drazi and Brakiri over on the left side of the corridor - no injections for you. That’s just the way it goes. Anyone else who wants out, to the left. Everyone else, over here on the right. I want two straight lines. Have a sleeve rolled up and ready to go. I’ve seen the way all of you act when you debark onto the station - none of that now. We need this to go nice and smooth. Any questions?”
No questions, just a brittle nervous expectancy hanging over the crowd. There hadn’t been many questions when Zack first told them about the plan, either, after getting off the link with Dr. Franklin; a few Drazi had protested their exclusion, but Vitamin C would make them sick as dogs, just like the Brakiri, and it wasn’t worth it. Everyone else seemed to accept it - some with a hint of feral anticipation, others with barely-concealed dread.
They weren’t going to Medlab Three itself, but the main corridor just adjacent. They had only needed access, to retrieve syringes, the Vitamin C. There was Lennier up ahead, everything arranged with startling efficiency, tables behind him set up with vials and syringes, the volunteers ready to administer the injections. Zack had tried to pick at least one volunteer from each race, not wanting to deal with xenophobic bullshit right now.
“Mr. Lennier, you find everything okay?”
“Yes. I wanted to thank you again, Mr. Allan, for taking the time earlier to let me know that Ambassador Delenn was well.”
“No problem.” Zack rolled up his sleeve, and Lennier slid the needle into a vein. “You’re pretty good at that. I’ve had nurses up in Medlab One stick me three times before they got it in.” Lennier only smiled, that sorta ambiguous Minbari smile that Zack usually found disquieting but which now he found oddly comforting. A thought occurred to him as Lennier injected the solution in, removed the needle; I’m glad we’re on the same side.
Sheridan walked through Brown Sector, and as far as he knew, he was alone. It felt like he was utterly alone, the only man on the entire station. While earlier this sensation would have scared him, would have reminded him of childhood nightmares, would have made him want to check over his shoulder and hesitate before walking through the intersections of corridors, now he felt very little. A distant ache, just below his sternum, and he wasn’t sure if it was grief or just hunger; his thoughts were covered in a dark, sarcastic sheen. He didn’t like them. He didn’t want to listen to himself at all. So he just shut the whole thing down, let his mind slip into neutral; it was easier that way.
There was no trail to follow. No handy spattering of blood drops, or torn wisps of fabric showing him the way he should go. She could be anywhere. She could be nowhere. So Sheridan just walked, past closed door after closed door; empty halls; silence.
He held her pike. He hadn’t been able to figure out how to shrink it down, and she had made it look so easy, just the slightest movement of her hand. He felt better with it extended, anyway. The caked blood on the ends, the few clinging hairs. She’d killed five of them herself before...
There he went, thinking again.
The air recycling systems were up ahead. He didn’t think they’d have went there; too loud to hear anyone approaching, a bad place to gather. Sheridan decided to make for the primary alarm. Maybe he could get into the system, make a station-wide announcement. He didn’t know what he’d say. Normally he didn’t have a problem with the rousing speech thing, but he felt like if he tried to open his mouth now, nothing would come out. But the right message might give the creatures some pause, make them think that they more on their hands to deal with than they’d originally thought. That Minbari, who had strutted around them, commanding his brain dead slaves - Sheridan wanted him to feel fear, wanted him to worry about what was coming for him, just around the corner.
Something up ahead. He felt it before he heard it. That sharp prick of fear in the center of his mind, tearing at him. He tried to turn and run, and found that he was frozen completely still. He couldn’t even lift his feet.
There it was. A Carnifex. Eight feet tall, arms as big around as the pipes snaking overhead, claws at least six inches long. Sheridan almost felt relief. There would be pain for a little while, but then it would be over. He realized now that ever since he’d cut through the doors, he hadn’t been looking for Delenn. He’d been looking for Delenn’s body. Now he was glad that he wouldn’t have to face the sight of it. He felt like a coward.
The Carnifex lumbered his way. Sheridan let himself wait for it, quit fighting against the fear. And just like that, the terror was gone, and instead, he felt his mind filled up with promises of relief, of peace, of anything he wanted.
What he wanted was Delenn. But she was gone. And one of these things had taken her, had done God knew what to her. Sheridan remembered her screams as she had been dragged from the room. Rage bubbled up in him, thick and seductive, flames flickering out through his limbs. The Carnifex paused, claws clicking. Sheridan felt all the whispers and threats fall from his mind, and he was aware that he was still holding her fighting pike. The thing was just standing there, its bulk filling the corridor ten meters away.
Sheridan brought up the sharp end of the pike and scraped it over the palm of his hand. Blood welled up. He turned the palm face-out toward the Carnifex, let the blood drip down for a few seconds.
“Here! This is what you want, isn’t it? Then come and get it!” The Carnifex seemed torn - it lurched forward two steps, but had turned partly away, angling back the way it had come. Why wasn’t it running at him? “Come on!” Sheridan went forward himself, strong, steady steps. Then he ran at it, pike held out in front of him, and as the creature finally seemed to make up its mind and hurtle forward to strike, Sheridan stabbed it straight into the Carnifex’s gut.
The flesh there seemed half-rotten, and Sheridan felt it give way with sickening ease. He drew the pike out, a long string of black blood hanging from it. Horrible, diseased lumps of flesh slid out of the wound, which was larger by far than the diameter of the denn’bok. The Carnifex was still coming at him, swiped its claws - the tips of them caught Sheridan across his chest, and each of the four slices instantly burned white-hot. He changed his grip on the pike, brought one end down hard on the top of the creature’s head, knocking it down to its knees, which brought its head roughly at the height of his own.
He slammed the denn’bok forward again, into where the Carnifex’s eyes would be if it had any. Again that feeling that the meat and skin were hardly anchored to the bone underneath. Those monstrous teeth clicked his way, one of its hands grabbing his arm, claws sinking down into his flesh. With a cry, Sheridan kicked as hard as he could, foot planted in the middle of the Carnifex’s chest. The thing loosened its grip enough for Sheridan to yank his arm away, and it fell back some, but not before Sheridan felt his foot sink into the creature almost half an inch. He stumbled back, fell onto his back, the pike dropping from his hands.
Where was it? Sheridan panicked, and saw the Carnifex rise to its full height again. It hissed, black liquid dripping from its fangs, and it came for him. The pike was either on his left or his right, he didn’t know which. He’d only have time for one move. The Carnifex began to leap, claws extended, already slick with his own blood.
Sheridan rolled to his right. His left hand reached out blindly, hitting the wall, sliding across the floor; it closed around the denn’bok. He rolled back over onto his back, angling the pike up just as the Carnifex landed on top of him. Claws dragging down the side of his face, those teeth only inches from his throat. The weight of it was instantly suffocating; he felt the breath pushed out of him, and he couldn’t expand his chest enough to bring in another.
The Carnifex was dead on top of him. He could see the other end of the pike, sticking out of its back. With the last of his strength, Sheridan pushed enough at one shoulder to be able to wriggle out from underneath its chest, and rest there, its arm still slung over him in a parody of an embrace. Fire every place its claws had struck; blood running down into his eyes. He gulped in air, let his heart slow enough that he no longer feared it would explode. Then he crawled the rest of the way out from under the beast, pulled the denn’bok out from the other side, and continued on his way.
“Great, Zack. Good to hear. We’ll be coming your way shortly.” Franklin cut the link, turned back to Hobbs. She was injecting the last of the blood bags. “We’re good to go.”
“They’re sure Green Sector is clear, as well?”
“Pretty sure. No reports in almost five hours. And the last two recons to Grey Sector turned up nothing. They’re pretty sure they’ve all fallen back to Brown Sector, which is probably where they’ve set up their base of operations. That’s where we’re gonna go.” Franklin ran through his checklist again. He couldn’t think of anything else they’d need. He looked up at Hobbs. She was anxiously looking around Medlab, twisting her fingers together. “Dr. Hobbs? You all right?”
“Yes. I just...”
“Do you think this is a good idea? Going out there?”
“Of course not. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, though. A lot of people are out there right now, throwing themselves into the fire, and we’ve been locked away up here, relatively safe, all things considered.”
“I understand the desire to try and...make a difference. But we’re not soldiers, Dr. Franklin. This is our place, right here. This is what we were trained for. To patch up the wounded. To make the dying comfortable. We’re supposed to be here when the soldiers come back.”
“And if we were fighting a civilized battle against a civilized enemy, I would agree with you.” He suddenly saw how tired she was, the lines around her eyes. He wondered how stressful the long day had been for her, worrying about what was going to happen next, the monsters in their midst, and him, stalking about sometimes in the grip of a mania, sometimes full of barely-controlled hostility. Franklin walked over to her, put a hand on her shoulder. “Lillian. If you want to stay here...”
She smiled then, and ten years fell off her face. “I thought you’d be above pulling the oldest trick in the book.”
“What do you mean?”
As she stacked the last of the blood units on the cart, she let her voice drop down to a deep register, mocking him. “Oh, Dr. Hobbs, don’t worry about anyone thinking you’re a coward. Stay here and hide, if you’re too afraid to go. No one will think any less of you.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“No, you didn’t. I still needed to hear it. Let’s go.” She started pulling her cart - the diagnostic equipment that usually rested on it stowed against the wall, covered instead with wastebaskets and empty desk drawers filled with plastic bags of blood. A second and a third cart had already been taken out to the main corridor by the handful of patients who were well enough to accompany them. There hadn’t been many volunteers. About half the Medlab staff had wanted to come, but Franklin was a pragmatist - they’d still need most of the medical personnel to stay.
He grabbed the satchel that held all their remaining Vitamin C, which wasn't much, took one last look around Medlab, and turned to leave himself. He nearly walked into Leshke, looking at him steadily.
“I will go with you.”
“We have enough volunteers. You should stay here.” She didn’t say anything else, just followed him out into the main corridor anyway. Franklin was too tired to argue with her. He joined Hobbs and the three patients waiting there. Together the six of them pushed the carts under the gaping hole at the bottom of the emergency bulkhead, ducked under themselves, and started making their way toward Brown Sector.
Sheridan had finally sat down for ten minutes and figured out how to shrink the denn’bok down to napkin ring size after he’d gotten too tired to carry it anymore. It had started dragging on the floor despite how hard he tried to keep it straight at his side, and there was still a part of him that wanted to approach quietly.
The primary alarm system was just ahead. No guards out front. Probably didn’t figure anyone was dumb enough to just walk up here. Sheridan approached, not bothering with stealth. The door was open, and there was just enough light from the emergency lights in the hallway to see by. It took him longer than he’d expected - his brain felt like it was ticking along half a second behind the rest of his body - but he finally figured out how to get the loudspeaker system engaged, everything ready to broadcast the message he was ready to send out, without even knowing what he was going to say.
“Attention, residents of Babylon 5. This is Captain John Sheridan. I am speaking to you now in the hopes that you will join me in fighting off the enemy still attempting to control this station. There are a few important things we’ve learned. One, the very large, misshapen aliens, the ones the Minbari call Carnifex, may seem physically intimidating, but they are weaker than they appear. They are susceptible to powerful enough blows; their flesh seems rotten, falling apart. If you can, hit them with all you’ve got, preferably in teams. Second, all of the enemy aboard - the Carnifex, the mindless ones seemingly under telepathic control, and any other hostile forces - do not deal well with anger. It seems to interfere with their telepathy. So, if you find yourself paralyzed with fear while confronting them, just think about everything that’s happened to you today. Think about those you may have lost. And let yourself get really angry.” His voice caught then, and whatever else he might have said was gone beyond recall. He lowered his head for a moment, gathered his remaining strength.
“Don’t let them win. That’s all.”
Garibaldi had Susan leaned up against the wall. They listened to Sheridan’s voice, echoing through the empty corridor. Garibaldi thought he’d never heard the Captain sound stronger, more steady. He wondered how he had managed to get the message out at all. Despite himself, he thought maybe they still had a chance.
Susan wasn’t doing well. The last quarter mile or so had taken them nearly an hour. He tried once to just pick her up and carry her, but his back had spasmed, and he’d nearly fallen right on top of her. So now they just moved nice and slow, one step at a time. He tried to bear as much of her weight as he could, but the angle of his shoulders and hips, down toward her, was starting to kill him. The muscles were starting to knot up, and he was now pretty sure that he’d broken at least a couple ribs when he’d apparently been thrown into the side of the water tank.
“Don’t let them win. That’s all.” The loudspeakers cut out with a whine, and then the silence descended once more. Now it sounded thick, cloying. Garibaldi felt dull despair settle over him once again, now that Sheridan was no longer speaking to him, omniscient and powerful, that commanding voice making him think that someone else would take care of it all.
He leaned back over, arranged Susan’s arm over his shoulders, grabbed her around the waist, practically lifted her clean off the floor as they started walking again.
“We make a pretty pair, don’t we?” she asked, and Garibaldi tried to tell himself he hadn’t heard the faint slur in her speech. Then her head was dipping forward, and he shook her.
“Stay awake, Susan.”
“I’m awake.” He looked down at her as they passed right under an emergency light. It was hard to tell for sure, but he thought her knife wound had opened up again.
“So, what was your favorite vid when you were a kid?” he asked, keeping his tone as light as possible. At first he thought she was thinking, and then he thought she was taking the question far more seriously than it deserved; then he saw that she’d either fallen asleep, or slipped into unconsciousness.
Garibaldi laid her down, his ribs and back and knees protesting loudly as he tried to do so as gently as possible, which meant he had to kneel down himself. It would have been easier if he could have just dropped her.
He didn’t want to peel back her shirt, because he didn’t want to start the wound bleeding again any more than it already was. He needed something he could wrap around her middle. Why weren’t there any fucking first aid kits on this station? He hadn’t seen a one the whole time they’d been walking. Then he remembered Ivanova’s ankle. He scooted along the floor down to her feet, wincing at every movement. Delenn’s stocking, still wrapped around her twisted ankle. Son of a bitch, there this whole time. Garibaldi unwound it, then scooted back up. He got an arm under her shoulders, lifted her enough that he could wrap the stocking tight around her abdomen. He didn’t think he’d be able to finish; his muscles were trembling, his head was pounding worse than the worst hangover he’d ever had, and Susan was dead weight.
Garibaldi finished, then checked her pulse. Thready, weak. He was going to have to carry her. He just didn’t know how he’d manage. He couldn’t start sitting on his ass like he was now. Spinning his legs around, getting to his knees; Christ, he felt like he was seventy years old. Arm under her shoulder, arm under her knees; don’t lift with the gut, the last thing you need is a hernia. Take a break, make sure you got her.
Then the fear was on him, all around him, he was swimming in it. He wanted a drink, the urge almost as strong as the fear, it was all he could think about. He looked down the way they’d come, and saw the first Carnifex appear out of the shadows. Garibaldi still thought he might be able to run, Susan’s weight be damned, but then the second Carnifex followed, and the third.
Garibaldi did drop Ivanova then, even heard the back of her head thunk loudly against the floor. He could taste the fear, feel it clawing at the backs of his eyes. Then something was speaking to him, not in words, but in images, thoughts, feelings. He could have a drink. He could have as many as he wanted. Lovely, cool amber liquid, burning right down to his gut, warming him up. That good numbness, everything okay, everything nice. No problems at all; no problems that couldn’t be solved by a good smoke and a good drink.
Garibaldi thought to look down the corridor again, and the three Carnifex were close, very close. He only had to wait just a little longer. He turned their way, pulled the collar of his jacket down, turned his head to the side. He felt something at his belt, something tugging down there, but it was so far away.
They were almost to him. They were beautiful. Garibaldi closed his eyes.
Sheridan walked. No goal, no plan, no destination in mind. Just walked. He had hoped that another one would come to him, scenting the blood from his wounds like a shark, but he had seen nothing, heard nothing, sensed nothing. At one point he walked under an air vent, cool air blowing over him, and he wondered why he was cold. It was nearly half an hour later that his mind worked through the question, and realized he had taken his jacket off. He couldn’t remember why. Had he taken his jacket off? Maybe he hadn’t put it on today at all.
There was something up ahead, on the floor. Something dark. He almost walked past it, not caring enough to bother turning his head. At the last second, he did. A pool of blood on the floor, still sticky. There was something else, too.
Sheridan knelt, one little part of his mind knowing what he was looking at, the rest confused, wanting the answer. There were pieces of fabric in the blood. He lifted one of them, looked at it. Torn on one edge, like it had been ripped. Blood soaked. The other pieces were the same. Sheridan held it close to his eyes, but with the blood and the red emergency light, he couldn’t make out the color. Why did it seem that the color was important?
Pieces of fabric. Blood. Someone had been torn apart here, eaten whole. He shrugged, started to rise. A glint of something caught his eye. He looked through the fabric again, brought up the biggest piece, almost an entire garment. There was something on it. Something hard and shiny. Sheridan turned it over in his hands, but couldn’t figure out how to take it off, so he finally ripped it free. It was small. Three little rocks, on a pin.
The fog lifted. Everything crashed in on him at once. He could smell the blood, the bright, coppery tang of it. Slick all over his fingers. Sheridan fell back, kicked against the floor, pushed himself back wildly until he hit the wall. He couldn’t breathe, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the pool of blood. Delenn’s blood. The remains of her pretty green dress. Her crystal pin.
Something rough and broken tore its way out of his throat. It echoed up and down the corridor, like a wounded beast running wild. Sheridan put his head between his knees and wept.
VII. Before the Dawn