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Path of Balance

Chapter Text

It was a blasted tired little planet not even worthy of a name, with three aging moons that had been falling away for the last millennium as the hulk of rock long ago lost its grasp on them. The atmosphere was thin, but there was just enough for a dusty rust colored wind to blow about one lone figure silhouetted by starlight as she stands on the edge of a large ancient canyon. Weak light from the abandoning moons above reflects off the helmet that hides her features as she peers over the edge, considering. Lifting her arm, she reads a small display on her sleeve: "1.8793 kilometers." Decision made, she moves back a few meters, and then runs towards the edge and leaps gracefully into the moon kissed darkness below.

Silently she falls, pulled down by the gravity that could no longer contain the satellites, gaining speed until just before she is swallowed in the impenetrable dark of the crater a chute opens and both slide into shadow.

Moments later standing in the darkness, the parachute sprawled out on the uneven floor of the crater, she searches with eyes made for the dark, for finding what wants to remain hidden, remain unseen. There. A crack in the rock, nearly indistinguishable from all the other flaws in the wall, yet too uniform to be natural. With careful stealth, she moves towards it and feeling with gloved hands is able to find the simple latch and move inside.

Air, barely, but enough. The helmet is removed freeing her hair that falls nearly to the ground, luminescent as the moons above and braided with trinkets and bits of mementos from battles fought long ago. With deft fingers, she fastens a clasp to keep her hair from her face, revealing to the darkness tiny gills opening and closing with an even rhythm on the sides of her neck, pulling from the atmosphere any extra molecule of breathable oxygen possible.

Without benefit of illumination, she moves along the hallway, sensing light ahead before actually seeing it. Eventually she comes to an intersection of corridors and as she steps into the middle, a drac glides out from the left hallway as silent as she. She curses to herself but before she can act she is thrown against the wall with the telekinetic power granted to it by The Shadows.

Moving in ways contrary to nature, the lone drac slides towards her, hissing in menace as it dances side to side, blurring, making her dizzy. She can't help but wonder if it was it gloating. Eternally slow, it creeps forward as she struggles against the force of its mind. Reluctantly, in frustration, she gives in and relaxes. Her apparent defeat emboldens the drac and it moves more quickly to her side, peering directly into her eyes, lingering, and taunting.

The drac, to busy inspecting its prize, doesn't notice it's control of her slacking, and with one freed arm she has the grim satisfaction of feeling flesh tear, bones slice. The pain from her attack makes the drac lose his hold on her and with one more well placed attack she severs the spinal cord and the once dancing body falls heavily to the ground. The knife was crude, as crude as the latch outside, but deadly and more important to her, it was silent.

Without much effort, she drags the drac around the corner into the darkness and kneels next to the body, waiting. After an hour, satisfied that no alarm had been raised by her presence, she moves into the corridor a second time. Navigating only by a map in her mind, she hurries along the rough-hewn hall to another hidden doorway. This lock is crude and simple as well and she is almost disappointed at the ease of her entry, but brushes such pettiness aside as she gazes upon what she has traveled so long and so far for.

The room is cavernous and unlike the corridors outside, these walls are carved with meticulous care, broken only by thousands of pinpricks of light scattered like stars. The floor is the same onyx black, with an intricate mosaic that winds around the 13 coffin-like structures evenly placed in a wide circle, and it reflects the lights above giving an effect of endless space. Was the design on purpose? Did the builders intend to mimic eternity?

Lightly jumping over the rail, she lands softly on the reflective stone floor one story below and walks quickly to the sole structure that is untouched. Standing only slightly taller in height then her, she inspects it for an opening mechanism. Disappointed again by the lack of a sophisticated lock, she almost sighs as she reaches around to the small of her back and pulls from underneath her hair one of her fighting pikes. After releasing it to its full length with a soft * snit * uses the long weapon as leverage to pry the case open.

Inside is a man, his long curly black hair acting as a cloak over his naked body. She removes two tubes feeding blue fluid directly into his neck intravenously, but no other restraint held him in place. Without warning he slumps noisily to the ground. She throws the cloak she took from the dead drac over his shivering form, and then kneels down as he tries to forces his eyes open. With one arm she props him up as he struggles to speak and brushes his hair from his face.

His voice weak and shaking he says defiantly, "I am Duncan McLeod of the Clan McLeod."

She smiles, "Good morning, Duncan. I am Kierna Sinclair, of the Val'den'kai. You have been asleep for far too long, my friend. The Gathering is here."

Chapter Text

"Well, aren't you pretty," she says as Duncan lifts himself up, gaining his strength with unusual speed; a gift of his immortality. But even with his superior regenerative abilities he was still too weak to stand on his own. Kierna helps him up with the extra strength that is her gift of being a Val'den'kai.

He struggles with the over large robe, cursing as his unruly hair tangles in the sleeve.

"Here," she places a small silver clasp in his hand. Even in his state, he recognizes the trinket and feels an all too familiar tightness in his chest. It was a gift from Tessa.

Sensing his distress Kierna leans close and whispers,"It's good to remember those who loved us. It reminds us that we deserve to be alive."

Caressing it with one finger he forgets the moment and his current peril, and instead remembers his lost love. Then, with quick decisive movements and a grim expression, he pulls his hair back into a ponytail and secures it with the clasp. That simple gesture takes the wind from him and before he can slump to the ground again, Kierna catches him about the waist.

"No, no time for this. Come on," and with dizzying speed she turns him and half carries him to the stair against the wall. "Work with me Duncan," she says as they begin to climb the steps, "We have very far to go."

"Where did you get this?" He demands as they ascend.

She sees no reason not to tell him and replies, "From the Watchers. It had been passed down generations."

"Generations?" he asks, astonished.

"Yes. It's been about 270 years since Tessa gave that to you."

He is sweating with the effort and is frustrated to need so much assistance, but even an immortal will degenerate if kept stagnate. He knows it will take time to get his strength back. He also knows how vulnerable he is at this moment and trusting some woman bearing gifts is a risk, but he also knows he has no desire to remain.

"What do you want from me?" He asks finally.

"Want? Nothing."

"Then why are you doing this?"

"The game must end. It is The Gathering."

"How can you be sure?"

She stops progress as she turns to look at him, puzzled, "Can't you feel it?"

He is silent for a moment to consider, and then says softly, "Yes."

They continue on and reach the top of the stairway. She moves him to the wall so he can support himself while she opens the door a small fraction to peer out. Listening for any movements she is perfectly still. Satisfied the way is clear she wraps her arm about him again and pulls him along with her as they navigate tunnels that wind together with out much rhyme or reason he could discern.

"I hope you know where you're going," he says quietly.

"What? I'm following you."

He looks at her, startled; then is chagrined to see her lips twist into a sly smile."Fantastic," he mutters in exasperation and her smile broadens, but then grows solemn as they approach an intersection in hallways and tilts her head to one side.

"An alarm," she says more to herself than to him.

"I don't hear anything."

"You wouldn't," she says moving them both back, closer to the wall. She asks, "How's your strength?"

Realizing she asking to access her immediate resources, he sets aside his pride and answers honestly, "Returning, but slowly."

"I'm not surprised. You've been in Sanctuary about 200 years," her voice trails off; then becomes flat, emotionless. She seemed distracted, and he gets a sense that she isn't speaking to him anymore, but to a different audience instead, "And everything has changed. Humans walk among the stars now. They have suffered intergalactic war, near annihilation, and found peace. Built communities, made alliances and discovered fantastic things."

She moves a few steps into the hallway, knowing it was an ambush, but deciding to confront it head on, "Terrifying things," she continues. Duncan's head begins to buzz in the same way as when another immortal is near, but if he had been pressed to describe it all he would say that it was 'much less'. She turns back to him as he leans against the wall and to his shock her eyes are completely black, like obsidian, and with a thousand voices in one she says, "Like me."

Reaching with both hands behind her, he sees her release two cylinders, one in each hand. With a small jerk they extend to nearly her height.

"Stay behind me," she commands with the multi-voice that chills him. Stunned, he doesn't object. Slowly he is aware of a noise from the dark of the hallway. Soft, whistling.

She curses in a language he doesn't recognize, and then she springs forward as hundreds of jagged pieces of metal fly towards them. With a speed that makes him dizzy, she spins the two long weapons, smashing into the barrage of deadly shards aimed for them. Twisting and spinning with frightening accuracy, she knocks each piece to the ground and into the walls around them with each staff working in synchronicity. His ears are ringing from the clash of metal on metal but as quickly as it had begun the assault stops.

She steps back, her breathing labored, but she remains alert. Without taking her eyes from the hallway, she shrinks the bo like weapons to their original size and returns them to their clasps in the small of her back.

"Stay down," the chorus of voices calls to him over her shoulder.

Before he can object, four figures move into the light, dancing like snakes in a trance. His eyes have trouble focusing on them and for a moment he thinks to himself, "Is this a dream?" They speak in a vile hissing language he cannot recognize, but he understands a challenge when one is made. He watches as Kierna holds her ground, but notices her back stiffen in anticipation. Could she defeat these four creatures? Again, he curses his temporary immobility.

Next to him, he notices some of the metal she knocked down vibrating, trying to free itself from where it had become embedded into the wall. Again the buzz fills his head, aching and angry.

"Kierna," he begins, but she sharply interrupts him.

"I know," she says through clenched teeth. He can see from his vantage point her eyes closed and her lips are pressed firmly together.

Suddenly the metal strewn about the room springs up as if alive. The four creatures lift their hands in unison and as they gesture, the swarm speeds towards her from all angles. At the last possible moment she brings her hands up and to his amazement the pieces are halted, inches from her body on all sides. One of the creatures hisses. All four gesture again, this time angrily. The metal quivers but moves no further. Duncan can see that she is sweating with effort and all her muscles strain against the unseen force that is pushing the objects towards her. Slowly, she opens her eyes and relaxes the tiniest fraction. The metal moves in menacingly, but before they touch her, cutting her in a thousand places, her hands move and the metal reacts as if being thrown at her opponents. One by one they fall to the ground silently, black blood oozing from their many wounds. For a moment she leans against the wall breathing hard. After a few moments to gather he own strength back, she walks forward and with her crude knife makes sure all four are dead.

"What are you?" Duncan asks.

"I've told you," she replies with out looking at him.

After her grisly work is done, she turns back to him and he is relieved to see her eyes have lost their obsidian glaze and are once again the eyes of a human.

"What is 'val' den' kai'?"

"It is Minbari for 'Warrior Child'," she says with a sigh figuring now was as good a time as any, then explains in short clipped tones, "Your gift is immortality. Mine is death." She pauses and then continues softly, "It is what I was designed for, and I was designed very well."

"What are you really doing here?"

"Truthfully, I'm here because I am getting paid to be."

"You're a mercenary?"

"Independent contractor," she replies, slightly amused that a nearly 600 year old head hunting immortal could have his sensibilities offended. She kneels in front of him to look him squarely in the eye, "Look Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod, you don't have to like me, but you do have to trust me. We have to get moving, more will come." Just as she finishes speaking, the lights in the hall go out, plunging them both in absolute darkness.

"What are they?" He asks as he allows her to help him to stand once again.

"Drac," she says, "They are former servants of the Shadows, now allies of the Hand, and they fear only one thing: you."

Chapter Text

The aging vessel Alexa whispered and groaned as the Drazi at the helm swears, trying to keep the little ship in line with a Trojan meteorite following in orbit of a gas giant.

"Damn it. You broke the bit." Joe says, lifting his gaze from the small view screen. The Drazi curses again.

Joe responds as patiently as he can, "You can't force it." Asteroid mining is a delicate business that requires a meticulous nature and patience, which is why the Drazi are so bad at it. This time their quarry was a cache of pure crystals that had kept them in this piece of space for the past three months. "Ok," he sighs the rubs his eyes, "whose shift is it?"

"Third, Captain Dawson."

Captain. Joe smiles to himself. It wasn't too long ago he was found unconscious, in an abandoned escape pod with no memory of who he was. Penniless, homeless, and now a Captain; granted it was over a crew of 11 in a decrepit barley held together ship, but it was a start.

"Alright. Get 'em out there. Replace the bit, again. Let's keep it moving. We have a quota... And get Jenkins up here. These relays," he pauses rubbing his eyes again and yawing, "are sluggish."

"Sure it isn't user error?" a new voice says from behind him.

Joe grins, but doesn't turn, "User error my ass, Jenkins. An abacus would be quicker."

"What's an abacus?" Jenkins asks, deadpan.

"A piece of equipment worth more then my engineer, and it would suck up less power."

"I do not 'suck up'."

"I know. You should work on that."

"Ha, your in a good mood, despite recent set backs."

"Sleep deprivation."

"Ah, so, what's our current capacity?"

"Roan tells me it 87%. But we only have two more days before we have to head back or we won't have enough fuel and I am not dumping three months of work because of greed."

"Very sensible."

"Glad you agree. But we really do need this haul."

"What you need is sleep. I can watch the shop while I check those relays."

Joe protests, "I am trying to lead by example."

"By falling flat on your face from exhaustion?" Jenkins returns with a scoff, "Good plan."

"Good point." Joe sighs, "Alright. I'm going."

"I'll wake you if anything interesting happens," Jenkins says as Joe turns to leave.

"Is that another joke?" he asks, walking towards his quarters, and towards some sleep; the first he has had in two days.

******

"Check," the Minbari Ranger Taroth of the Mish clan says calmly.

"What? Already?" Lindsey asks, her Australian lilt exaggerated by her surprise.

"Do you doubt my accuracy?"

"No, no," Lindsey says quickly, knowing what it means to a Minbari to have their honesty questioned. She then laughs, "I doubt my ability."

Satisfied, Taroth muses, "This is a very intriguing game, not unlike ista'dro, but that allows for three players and the ranks of the pieces are kept anonymous from your opponents."

"Oh," Lindsey says without looking up from the board, "The Minbari have a strategic game with 3 sides and secret ranks? You don't say."

"I did say," the Minbari responds in earnest.

Lindsey laughs again, "I was being sarcastic."

"Ah."

"Nevermind," she says switching her concentration back to the game. She was loath to sacrifice a knight, but it was her only option. Promptly the Minbari takes the piece. Lindsey sighs in frustration.

Watching the human and Minbari was a study in contrast. Taroth, formerly of the Warrior caste, sat straight up calm and composed in her chair, while Lindsey slouched, playing with the ends of her long dark hair, frowning.

"What time have you got?" Lindsey asks evenly,with out looking up.

"We have a half hour until our mission commences."

"Exactly. We should start getting ready."

"The game is nearly complete."

With sudden inspiration, Lindsey moves a rook forward, "It is complete. Checkmate," and tries very hard not to grin. Her attempts at humility are interrupted as a clear Minbari voice cuts in over the ships communication system. In the precise language of the worker class, Ranger pilots are ordered to report for the mission briefing. The common area Lindsey and her partner are in begins to clear as other pilots immediately moved to obey the orders.

Lindsey watches with a resurgence of awe that would sometimes grip her as members of so many races would move and interact as one. She knew older Minbari ships were not built with common areas for crew members to gather. A society that valued its privacy as much as the Minbari did not need one, but after her Uncle Jefferey Sinclair had been named as Entil'zha and had opened the ranks of the Anlashok to other races, some adjustments had been made by the Minbari to accommodate and even encourage the interaction of crew.

Before her musings were complete, Lindsey and Taroth were through the doors to the mission room. The design of the White Star, while supremely ascetic, was also the height of efficiency and getting from any area of the ship to another took only a matter of moments. Eager Rangers that were waiting for their final instructions occupied most of the seats already.

"Ah, Anlashok Sinclair," a gratingly jolly voice calls out. Without looking, Lindsey can feel heads turn in her direction. "Nice of you to join us."

As the oldest of three, Lindsey had always wondered what it would be like to have an older brother. That was, of course, before she met Marcus Cole. He volunteered to be her guide on Babylon 5 years ago when she was on leave as the Persephone underwent repairs after engaging Clark loyal Omega Class ships above an unarmed colony in the Kallner system. He was charming and delightful, and the one who first planted the seeds into her mind about joining the Rangers. Little did she know then his charm could be used as a weapon; but she could barely resist smiling. She was sure her attempt at maintaining a demeanor of professionalism was a constant source of enjoyment for him.

"Am I late Captain Cole?" she asks, trying to conceal any hint of familiarity from her voice. His grin broadened, and as he turned away from her to face the room she was sure he winked, which forced her to dig her nails into her palm to keep composure as she thought, 'How does Susan put up with him?'

"Simple retrieval people," Marcus begins as he moves down the center aisle to the front of the room towards the 3D display of the Petros Makrinos system. 7 planets, asteroid belt, and aging sun, she knew it well. "The last know location of our quarry is here," he gestures to a collection of Trojan asteroids, "You've all been assigned a grid. Search pattern Beta and closed comms unless otherwise ordered by your squad leaders N'Tau, Kinby, or by me. We'll rendezvous here," he touches the display and a new segment of space comes into focus, "when the package is secured we jump immediately. Questions?"

"Guest or prisoner?" Taroth asks.

"Let's say 'person of interest'," he replies with a grin, causing the gathered Rangers to chuckle.

A human Ranger calls out from the back of the room, "He should be taken alive then?"

"Surprisingly, it does not matter." Marcus says lightly, yet hinting at mystery. She can sense the curiosity of her fellow Rangers, but none pursue the matter.

"Resistance?" A N'tau asks from Lindsey's left.

"There is always that possibility. If so, engage at will." Rangers begin to shuffle. "No more questions then?" The room remains silent. "Let's go, and in Valen's name, be careful." For a moment his piercing blue eyes lock with hers and she smiles slightly, sadly, then turns to leave, heading to her ship along with her crew mates. After the past few years working alone or with only one or two partners, Lindsey welcomed this time to work so closely with fellow Rangers as one among many.

"Do you believe this will be a simple retrieval?" Taroth aks.

"I stopped believing in 'simple' a long time ago," Lindsey replies.

As they enter the launching bays the two women, members of races that almost 20 years ago tried to annihilate each other, paused before separating. Lindsey began with the ritual Warrior class salutation, "Until we meet in starlight."

The Minbari surprises her when she responds in flawless English, "See you on the flip side."

Laughing, Lindsey turns to board her ship.

Chapter Text

Marcus watched as the Rangers under his command filed out, eager to get their mission under way. So many young faces, he thought to himself with a touch of regret. Despite his outward calm demeanor, he was nervous. He never liked command. It wasn't his style. If he was going to put anyone's life in danger, it would be his own. Susan had convinced him he was capable, no... worthy, of his own ship. Against Susan he couldn't argue, but at these moments, alone in the briefing room, waiting for... he didn't know what... he wondered if he should have.

One of the on ships crew moved silently to his side. The Minbari, an ever watchful race, could sense his unease and waited for him to initiate conversation.

"Any sign?" he asked.

"Negative, Captain."

He sighed in relief, but said nothing more as he moved to the display console. He watched as small blue icons representing the departing fighters moved away from the larger icon representing their White Star. Kierna, you had better be right about this... he thought to himself, cursing the Val'den'kai warrior he called friend.

"Keep scanning. I want to know if anything moves, even a mote, until all our people are back on board."

"Yes Captain."

"Our squads? What's their status?"

"Clear," the Minbari said calmly, "They are approaching the coordinates. They should be initiating search pattern Beta in... 3...2...1. Now."

Marcus watched as the little icons spread on cue. Right on target , he muses with pride. The two sets of ships break off in the approved pattern, using their scanners to locate their quarry.

Searching for the little mining ship was going to be tedious; made all the more difficult by the fact the details of the ship were sketchy at best. Out in this part of space, adherence to the regulations was something deemed 'opptional' by most in the trade. Something Marcus fully understood and could even appreciate. But in this instance, it made his job harder. Knowing the exact specs of the ship would have made this retrieval easier. The out put of the engines... the configuration of the power supply... all details that couldn't be obtained. The ship and it's crew more a mystery then fact. Only with information that was at best two years old, were the Rangers even sure that Joe Dawson still owned the ship and routinely mined in this section of space. In what would seem to be a coincidence, if Marcus believed in them anymore, Lindsey had known Joe Dawson during her brief time assigned to Petros Makrinos. He hadn't been the object of her assignment, but her Ranger instincts about him at the time were correct. He was someone they should be keeping an eye on.

********

"What the hell?" Jenkins looks up from his console. Giving it a light tap with his fingers he hopes the readings would change, and his heart falls when they don't.

"Rangers!" the Drazi helmsman spits.

"Calm down," Jenkins replies absently as he moves to the Captains chair. "Are they hailing us?" he asks once seated.

"Aye," the Drazi said sullenly.

"Well then," he says brightly despite his misgivings, "let's have a chat. But first, wake up the Captain."

The Drazi hits a button for the inter ship communications. A slurred voices comes over the comm, angrily, "What?"

"Company," is all Jenkins replies.

"On my way," Joe replies, his voice making it clear he was already on his way out of his small cabin.

Jenkin's nods to the Drazi to open the comm to the ship he is sure is going to complicate his day.

Her voice comes over clearly, "This is Lindsey Sinclair. I need to speak to Captain Joe Dawson."

Right to the point , Jenkins muses appreciatively.

"This is Captain Jenkins of the mining ship Alexa. Captain Dawson is no longer with us."

In the static of the open comm, Jenkins can hear the Ranger women curse and he smiles. "What happened?" she demands after a moment.

"Mining is a dangerous business Miss Sinclair," he begins, and is satisfied to hear an annoyed grunt at her sudden 'demotion', "Things happen. Men die."

She is silent a moment. Jenkins motions Joe to silence when he enters the bridge. After Joe nods his head in agreement, Jenkins turns back to the comm.

"I don't believe you," she replies simply. Jenkins looks up at Joe as he moves to stand behind him. Noting his raised eyebrow, Jenkins cuts off the comm.

"You recognize the voice?" he states more then asks.

"I might. She used to work at BoBo's. A bouncer I think..."

Jenkins interrupts, "She's a Ranger."

Joe closes his eyes and sighs. "What do Rangers want with us?"

"Not us Joe. You." Jenkins turns back to the comm, "I don't care if you believe me or not Miss..."

"Look," she cuts in sharply, "You can either put him on the comm, or I can blow apart your little ship and pick him up from vacuum. Your choice."

Jenkins cuts off the comm once again, and both men look at each other.

"Do you...?" Jenkins begins.

"Oh yes," Joe replies grimly, then motions for Jenkins to give up his seat. Once situated, Joe opens the comm. "This is Captain Dawson. Lindsey? Is that you?"

"Captain," she says more warmly, "so you finally got your own vessel."

"And you just threatened to blow it to pieces," he reminds her.

She makes a dismissive noise, but doesn't apologize. "Let me dock, Joe. It's important."

Moments later, Lindsey is climbing gracefully out of the cockpit and lands lightly on the deck of the cargo hold. Joe keeps his distance while she disembarks, but moves forward to meet her after she removes her helmet. Despite his unease, he can't help but admire her in her Ranger uniform.

"So," he begins casually, "I don't suppose you came all the way out here and strong armed your way onto my ship to trade used hopper parts."

"No," she says simply, "I came for you."

"Somehow, I don't think I should be flattered," he responds sarcastically, but she watches his face as he considers the situation with the seriousness he is trying to mask. His features flash from absorption, accessing, resignation, to decision in moments. He would have made a good Ranger, she thinks with a touch of sadness.

"My crew?" he asks.

"They can continue their run," she assures him, then adds, "We'll even leave an escort to make sure they get back to Petros Makrinos safely."

"Have I done something..." he begins.

"Everything will be explained. I promise. But we have to go now. You're in danger here."

Knowing it was useless to argue, he says, "I have to gather my things."

"Sure, Captain. But be quick."

He turns to leave, but stops just before the doorway. "You look different..."

She cocks her head for a moment, thinking, then smiles broadly. Lifting her hand to her face she says, "The scar. It wasn't real."

His eyes study her features in both the present and his memory, and replies, "You clean up good." Before she can respond, he walks out the door.

******

"Captain Cole," the Minbari says with some concern, "we have in-coming."

"Have we located our quarry yet?"

The Minbari punches a few buttons, then pauses to read. "Yes," he says finally. "They are on their way back now..." The Minbari pauses again.

"What is it?" Marcus asks sharply.

"They are moving right into the path of the other ships."

"Damn it! They must have been there the whole time. Open comms." Marcus clears his throat, then speaks clearly into the air, "Alpha Leader. Watch your port side. Ambush."

The comms scratch for a moment, then, "Copy that. We see them."

"The package?"

"On board." Lindsey cuts in. Marcus sighs, then smiles as she adds, "and cranky sir."

From insider her ship Joe asks nervously, "Friends?"

"'Afraid not," Lindsey replies grimly.

"Is this the danger?"

"A part. Hang on."

Her comm crackles. "Twelve bogies, weapons hot."

"I see them," she answers. "Drazi. Sky Serpents. Heavy fighters. Go for their lateral thrusters... and they have a blind spot in their aft directional wash."

"Acknowledged. You should stay back. Protect the package."

"Package?" Joe repeats, slightly annoyed. Lindsey smiles.

"Easy there," she laughs, then responds into the comm, "The package is secure, but I can't rendezvous without engaging. We are to far away."

"Damn," another voice cuts in, "She's right. Hope your as good as your Uncle."

"Each generation surpasses the last," she says with confidence.

"So..." Joe begins, trying to remain calm, "you know what you are doing, right?"

"Yes, Joe. Before I became a Ranger, I was a fighter pilot in Earth Force."

"Good to know," he says, not sounding convinced.

"If you want, you can close your eyes," she suggests.

"Well, aren't you helpful," he says peevishly.

The comms crackle again, "Lindsey, starboard. Ten o'clock."

"Acknowledged..." and despite assurances that it is impossible to be affected by directional changes in the vacuum of space, Joe's stomach jumps as she alters course suddenly to engage two harsh looking fighters speeding towards them. "Here we go..."

Chapter Text

Duncan whispers between gasping breaths, "Where are we?"

"The end of the tunnel," Kierna responds, breathing with just as much difficulty as he. The air has grown thinner the closer they are to the entrance. "Just outside this door and you, my friend, are free."

With her enhanced sight she can tell that Duncan doesn't smile, and she didn't think he would. The Drac had kept coming at them, and it seemed an eternity since she had revived him. He had been in countless battles, traveled the world alone, defeated many enemies; but this was different. Weakened, being dragged in the dark by a women- a thing- he didn't know, attacked over and over by creatures out of nightmare...at times they had to make their way on hands and knees, the only sense guiding him along was by feel; always tense, waiting, wondering when the next assault would come. His strength had returned eventually and he was grateful to not have to completely rely on her alone to escape his prison, but once again they sat in the dark, waiting for their next move.

"Now what?" he asks. "What's behind the door?"

Unable to see in the dark, he doesn't see her replace the helmet she had removed when first entering the labyrinth. She turns to him as he leans against the wall and says through her comm, "For you Duncan, death. But just for a little while." He is startled by the scratchy electronic voice, but the words penetrate immediately. He begins to protest, but she opens the door and the thin air he had been forcing into his lungs rushes out. Coughing and gasping he falls once again to the floor.

"Relax, Duncan. It will be over shortly." Despite her assurances, he continues to struggle, but is quickly overcome.

She checks his pulse, and sighs regretfully when she can find none. She pauses for a moment in the open doorway, gathering her strength as the fresh supply of oxygen fills her.

Renewed, she lifts him up as if he were a child and carries him into the inhospitable landscape. Placing him back onto the ground gently, she uses the strewn canopy of the parachute as a sling, wrapping him in a cocoon of silver fabric. Tying the ropes around her waist, she lifts him again and places him over her shoulder as she surveys the surroundings.

The walls are rough with many hand holds, and long vertical cuts run from the floor to the top of the chimney shaped cavern, just wide enough for her to use to carry them both up to the surface. She moves to the wall and looks up into the night sky. Faint stars glitter beyond the lip that is a little more then a mile above, but the faint light is enough for her to navigate by.

Resolved, her path chosen, she takes one last steadying breath, places Duncan back on the ground, and begins her ascent. As she climbs, the ropes becomes taught, then groan in protest as his full weight pulls against them.

Slowly, with great care, she moves them upward using her hands and feet to slowly move away from the floor of the cavern as Duncan is being pulled behind like supplies. She regretted the unceremonious way he was being liberated from Sanctuary, but it couldn't be helped. This was her only option. She dared not use any electronic or mechanical means to move him to safety. Those could be detected from too far away. Manually was the only way to assure they both would make it to the top alive.

'Well', she amended to herself, 'not alive' ... and then returned her concentration to the climb.

****

Hours later, she begins to notice the cut in the rock is becoming wider, and soon she won't be able to continue along it. Not wanting too look down and be disappointed by their progress, Kierna reluctantly peers over her shoulder. Releasing the wall with one hand, she taps the console on her arm with a spare finger from the other hand. ".47 kilometers," the display reads, and she curses. Only a fourth of the way. Dismayed, she looks back up, considering. She could move horizontally along the face of the cliff to a cut in the rock about 100 meters to her left, but that would take time... She sighs, mulling over her options. Time was running out.

The quickest path between any two points was a straight line. They were point A. She needed to get them to the top as quickly as she could. That was point B. She didn't have time to move horizontally along the face to another point, C, just to continue. She curses again. If only she could make her reach longer...yes, longer. She then reaches with her free hand behind her back for her den'bok. Using it as a brace, she opens it to its full length, wedging it between the ridges in the cut they are ascending. The ends pierce the rock and hold, like a ladders rung. Placing one foot on it, she tests its strength and is relieved when it holds firm. She moves her other foot onto the slim pole, and stands for a moment, catching her breath.

Her spirits raised, she spares a glance back to her cargo is horrified to discover it moving. He was awake! The air did have a scant amount of oxygen, but was it enough for his body to reanimate itself? For how long? He must be waking and dying over and over in this thin atmosphere. She shuddered at the thought, but there was nothing she could do about it. The best thing, the only thing she could do for him was get him off this damn planet.

Pulling out the second den'bok, she opens it about one and a half meters above the first. Climbing up onto the second pole, she balances herself and braces against the weight of Duncan's body as she reaches down, releases the first, and repeats the process. Hand over hand is replaced by pole over pole. The work tedious and mind numbing, but if centuries of living with a Vorlon taught her anything, it was patience. She put her own concerns out of her mind, tried to ignore the occasional sounds of struggle beneath her, and concentrated on the task at hand: to not fall.

*****

Duncan wakes up once again, and once again Kierna is forced to ignore him. She focuses on not thinking about what it must be like for him to wake up, wrapped in cloth, unable to breath, just to die again and again. She works hard to keep those thoughts from her mind as she had climbs the cavern wall that was nearly a mile in height, but the closer she gets to the end, the harder it is to put the thoughts aside. The lip of the canyon is tantalizingly close. Just a few more meters... The idea of his ordeal is nearly unbearable as she reaches for the final handhold and then finally being able to swing herself up and over the edge, to lay for a moment on solid ground.

As his struggles cease once again, she pulles him up and lays him on the ground next to her, then she sits down after she has decided to rest for a while before moving on. Her ship isn't that far away, but her arms and legs ache from the climb and the idea of carrying him for just those few meters to the Juvat are too much to think about at the moment. But she can't rest for too long. The sun would be up soon, and although the heat wasn't a factor, she didn't want to be caught on the plain during daylight. No place to hide.

She takes in a few more long breaths, then gets up once more and stands over the body of Duncan Macleod. He is blessedly still. She gives up a silent prayer to the universe for that before kneeling once again next to him to lift him up and over her shoulder.

"Just a little further, Duncan," she says, even though she knows he can not hear. After more then a thousand years as a val'den'kai, she can't help but wonder just when she would finally be too old for this kind of mission, "We are almost home."

In the moonlights, her way was easily made across the dusty plain to the low outcropping of rock she had hid her ship under. It had cloaking capabilities, but only from sensors. The ship could still be seen by the naked eye, unless camouflaged by nature.

As she rounds her ship to the entrance, she whispers a command. Silently the door slides open and finally, thankfully, she walks inside.

The interior lights came on at half strength as she moves into to the common area. Someone with her advanced vision didn't need it, but it was comforting none the less.

Laying Duncan down on one of the benches, she speaks another command. She can hear as the consoles comes to life, preparing to take off. She loved flying, perhaps more then anything else, but this ship- her ship- didn't require her at the helm to fly as efficiently as any other ship with a first rate pilot 'at the stick'.

As the engines power up, she moves about the cabin quickly, preparing for Duncan to wake once again. He wouldn't require much, and she wonders if she keeps herself busy to push aside thinking about what he would say when he finally comes too. She doesn't have to wait long.

His body arches as he takes in a long pain filled breath. He begins to cough and she hurries to his side. She begins to help him sit up when he pushes her back. Without argument, she moves across from him and waits.

He sits, shoulders slumped, gulping air as if it would be his last. Finally, after long moments, he looks up at her, his eyes glowing with anger.

"What the hell is going on?" he demands.

"Plenty," she replies calmly, "and it will take a while to explain. If you would prefer, you could freshen up and eat before I begin."

"I want answers," he says darkly.

"Yes. I know you do. But you should be in a better frame of mind before you hear them."

He continues to glower at her, but as each moment passed, she can see his resolve waiver.

She arches a brow at him then motions to his right to a bundle at the foot of the bench. Clean clothes, a towel, and with it a promise of a shower and shave. "Seriously Duncan. This ship is about the size of a New York apartment. I won't go anywhere while you change. I promise."

Reluctantly and with a growl, he snatches up the clothes and moves to that back of the cabin where she pointed. She shakes her head, 'Amanda was right about him' , she thinks to herself with some amusement, then sadly, 'Poor Amanda'.

******

"The who?"

"The Hand," she explains, studying the features that had been hidden by centuries of hair. Clean shaven and with newly shorn hair he was almost a different man. "We don't know who they are. No one has actually seen them. But they are very concerned about you winning the Prize."

He takes another spoonful of what she had called oatmeal before asking, "Why?"

"I'm not sure. I believe they think that with the Prize, you will have the power to keep them out of this universe, permanently."

He puts down his spoon. "So, beings that don't even exist in this universe are trying to stop me from winning the Prize?" he asks, his disbelief obvious.

"I know it sounds ridiculous Duncan, but it is true."

"So, it was this Hand that was behind forcing the last of us into Sanctuary?" He asks, thinking back to the chaos of that time. He could feel the Gathering pulling at him, but immortals had been discovered, revealed. A newly formed government agency called Psi Corp was hunting them, rounding them up. Once an immortal had been found by Psi Corp, they were never heard from again. Watchers that had once only observed tried to intervene. They had kept Duncan hidden for about a year. Constantly on the move, trying to stay a step ahead of the telepaths. He discovered it was the memories of their long lives that gave them away and he knew it was only a matter of time before he was discovered, but his stubbornness wouldn't let him give in so easily.

"No. I don't think anyone knew about the Hand back then. That was you. Immortals, and humans. They did it all on their own. Amelia was right to be concerned about Lazarus Group. After Psi Corp took over, they were infiltrated by Bureau 13 around 2020. After that, before the war to retake Earth, Clark and his Shadow allies got involved."

Duncan tried to take it all in. He remembered Lazarus Group. He had resisted helping Amelia after she had escaped from them, but had gotten roped into helping by Amanda, and surprisingly, Joe.

They were using Watchers and other Immortals to alter the Game. Even hold it off. When was the Gathering supposed to have happened? He asked himself. How much of his life was borrowed, or stolen time?

"The Shadows? Who are they?"

"Ancient enemies of the Vorlons. And that is a long story," she says, forestalling his next question, "And it has nothing to do with your current situation. It's just history."

"So, first immortals alter the game, then the telepaths. The Shadows took over and then handed us to the drac who gave us to the Hand?"

"No," she says and he sighs, "I know it sounds complicated, Duncan. Telepaths were looking for immortals and found a bunch of them, conveniently drugged in Sanctuary, thanks to Lazarus and their meddling. After that, it wasn't long before Earthgov black ops divisions took over and tried to use you all as bargaining chips in the fight for dominance among the younger races. That is how the Shadows got involved. When the Shadows were forced to leave the galaxy, the Drac took over as custodians to "the Undying", as they called you. Now that they do the work of the Hand, they did with you what the Hand wanted. And they wanted the Game to go their way."

"The Game has nothing to do with them. Why do the think I could stop them even if I did win?"

"Not just you. Any immortal, if they so chose. I guess they figure you would choose to keep them out."

"Another immortal wouldn't?"

"Would Kronos? Or Kell?"

He sighs, her point taken. "Do you think I can stop them?"

"I know we can't," she states flatly. "The Vorlons nearly couldn't, and they were millions of years ahead of us."

"So, what makes them so sure I can?"

"You defeated Arihman."

He sits back, stunned. That name brought back too much, too fast.

"I'm sorry Duncan. I didn't mean..."

"No," he says softly, it's alright. It just took me by surprise," he stands up and paces the small common room. "That was so long ago..." he says more to himself, the sits heavily on the same bench he had woken up on just hours before.

Without meaning too, his eyes wander to one of the windows, at the sickly vista of hyperspace. At least that is what he thought she called it. The swirls of black and blood red made him queasy and he quickly looked away. Or maybe it was the thought of that demon that had taken so much from him.

"How did you know about that?" he asks finally.

"I was there," she says simply, surprising him.

"How? That was... what... 270 years ago!"

"Yes. I was in Paris. It's very pretty there in the spring."

He walks back to the table and sits across from her, studying her. "I sense nothing from you, but... are you immortal?"

She laughs. "Immortal? No. Hard to kill? Yes."

He stares at her, bewildered. "Just how old are you?"

"Hmmm," she says with a smile, "Is that a polite thing to ask?"

His brow furrows and she laughs again. "Alright. This summer, I will be 1069 years old. Happy?"

"None of this makes me happy," he says, almost petulant. "Has your kind been watching us all this time? Since the beginning?"

"No. I am one of the oldest of my race. Immortals have been around for much longer then val'den'kai. But once we found out about you, some of us did join the ranks of the Watchers. Out of curiosity more then anything else."

Instinctively, his eyes move to her wrist. She sees it and lifts them both up to face him. He sighs as he sees that both are free from any tattoos. She smiles and dramatically rubs her wrists together. "Ta da!" she says, holding them up to face him again. He grabs her left wrist to examine the tattoo that had appeared.

"This wasn't there a moment ago!" he says in disbelief.

She pulls her hand back and rubs it again, enjoying herself. "See." Once again, her skin is clear of any markings.

"How?" he demands.

"Nano tech. My body is filled with it. All val'den'kai are. I can change the color of my hair, skin, eyes even, with nothing more then a thought. Comes in handy doing what I do."

"Yeah. Rescuing immortals must be a full time job."

"Hardly. You were the only one I had to get. The rest escaped about 10 years ago."

"How many?"

"Can't you tell?"

He is surprised by her question. "No," he begins, but can't help but wonder. "Should I be able to?"

"Yes... You should have been able to all along."

"I could only sense another immortal if they were close by," he explains.

"Hmmm," she says softly, thinking, "Perhaps it was because there were too many. There was never supposed to be as many immortals as there were."

'Were', he thought, but pushed it aside. "How do you know?"

"Kosh told me," she says simply, as if that explains it, but before he can ask, she leans forward, "Try to find them. With your mind. Tell me how many you can sense."

Casting her a dubious eye, he leans back in the chair and closes his eyes. Long ago, Methos had shared with him some meditation techniques that Duncan had used before being captured by Psi Corp. He tried to recall the steps; it had been so long, but the memory of his instruction was there. Clear, unaltered.

"Passive visualization," the ancient immortal intoned.

"Half of that fits you," Duncan said, not looking up from his paper as the other immortal helped himself to the contents of his fridge. "Have a beer," Duncan said around a mouthful of grapefruit after Methos had already twisted the top off.

"Thanks," he said, then threw himself on the couch, both feet promptly placed on the table. "It's a great technique I learned in the...7th century I think...Helps keep the mind limber."

"I don't want to think of any part of you as 'limber'," Duncan says, steadfastly reading the paper.

"Ha ha. You should try it."

Duncan doesn't answer.

"Duncan? Did you hear me?" Methos finally asks, unable to bear the silence.

"Mmm hmm," the Highlander says absently.

"What the hell is so bloody important that you are reading?" he asks, craning his neck over the back of the couch to look at his friend, who was doing his best to ignore him.

"Marmaduke," he finally replied.

Duncan slows his breathing, just as Methos had taught him, slow and steady. He empties his mind, letting all thoughts go with each breath. Letting his thoughts slide away, unexamined. Like bubbles floating to the surface of the ocean high above, undisturbed, whole but separate.

When his mind is clear, he let the images come, unforced, unbidden.

'Be curious about what you will see,' Methos had said.

Duncan waited.

He did not dictate, or push. He was patient.

Breathe in, hold, breathe out, slowly... in, and hold. Out, slowly.

He was standing in a garden. It was massive. The smell of the grass filled him and he let it. Slowly, he turned. It was no where he recognized. He didn't ask where, but instead took in the surroundings. The garden seemed to go on forever. He looked to his left, then his right, and almost without thinking about it, he looked up, and caught his breath.

His eyes fly open.

"What? What did you see?"

He shook his head. "A circular garden..."

"A garden? What do you mean?"

"A garden. But it wasn't just on the ground. When I looked up, it was above me. There was no sky."

He looks at Kierna as she smiles.

"You know what I am talking about," he says flatly.

"Of course. That is our first stop. You can see it for yourself. The great gardens of Babylon 5."

Chapter Text

Alpha Leader N'tau's orders were clear and calm, despite the enemy closing fast. "Evasive maneuvers, pattern Echo, on my mark...3..2..1, Mark."

The four ships break formation, pulling away from each other in random directions; the sudden movement making Joe dizzy, "Bloody hell!"

Each Ranger chooses its own course while moving inside the locking range of the ships opposite them. The Drazi, predictably, break off in response; each ship targeting the closest opponent, but most followed Lindsey and her passenger. They break off ignoring the few Ranger fighters nearby.

Her console comes alive as it recognizes a weapons lock. In response she drops sharply under the closest Ranger fighter, and as she does so the other Ranger ship swerves and targets the first Drazi ship to pass. Surprisingly, the menacing looking ship dissolves in a ball of flame. The other Drazi ships maneuvers to avoid the debris. Lindsey could have let them go, but instead flies through the dissipating debris field to go after the closest of her recent pursuers and fires on it, disabling it's weaponry.

"Are you insane?" Joe demands.

"I know what I am doing." she says absently to Joe, then responds with more energy to her fellow Ranger, "Nice shot, Barns."

"Back at ya'," came the energetic reply, and then his voice becomes clipped, mechanical. "We have three more breaking off. Heading our way fast."

"Together, we make too good a target."

"Agreed."

Her small ship swerves again, rolling away from the other. She watches in dismay as all three ships tail her trajectory, and none go after Barnes.

"Bloody hell," she says, echoing Joe's earlier sentiment.

"Why don't you move farther into the asteroid field as cover?"

"Have you ever flown against the Drazi before? I do not want to get into a maneuverability contest with them."

"Why not?"

"Because," she explains impatiently, "they will win."

"Great. I'd like to go back to my ship now please."

"You mean the ones without any defenses? Besides," she adds grimly, "the Drazi respect opponents who face them head on."

"Will that keep them from killing us?" He asks pointedly.

"Well... no," she admits.

Before he can respond, her comm breaks in, "Lindsey. They are trying to cut you off. Watch your back."

Joe curses under his breath before asking, "So. What's your plan?"

"Shoot them before they shoot us."

"And how..." he begins, but another sudden change in direction cuts his question. She had reversed the engines, coming to a sudden stop. Through the front transparent shield he can see as the two of their three pursuers fly past, surprised by her move and unable to stop. Before they can alter direction, she fires on both in rapid succession. She then turns ship around, targeting the third that had managed to stay behind her. In successive order, all three ships explode.

"Like that."

Joe is silent a moment, then says appreciatively, "Nice."

"That was too easy," she says quietly, noting on her console as both Barnes and N'tau take out two more Sky Serpents. The Drazi ships aren't as heavily armored as their Ranger Nials, but they should be harder to destroy...

"Easy? For you maybe," Joe says, breaking her train of thought. Before she can ask if he wants to fly, their ship is rocked by enemy fire.

"We're hit!" Joe hollers above the din of the alarms.

"I know!" Lindsey yells as she fights to regain control as they tumble towards the unpredictable flight path of several asteroids, but thankfully, in the direction of the rest of the squad.

"Sinclair, you have two more incoming. They're just targeting you. Why?"

"They must know I have the package onboard," Lindsey says quickly.

Joe barks, "Stop calling me that."

"Shut up, Joe." she says shortly, then switches her attention back to her comm, "Telepaths?"

"Possible."

She sighs heavily, then says, "Regroup to me. We have to shuffle."

"Agreed." Alpha leader replies.

"Can you make a blanket that big?" Barnes asks, obviously dubious.

"I don't know. Guess we will find out in a minute, won't we?"

They gather in tight diamond pattern, used since the days of dog fights on Earth. As the Sky Serpents reform their line opposite them, the Rangers begin to roll their ships, one after another. Drop, roll under the formation, pop back up in the first open space, then another, and another; the formation constantly reforming, but always moving. As they do this, Lindsey tried to calm her breathing and focus... on only one task.

"What are you..." Joe starts to ask to distract himself from the constant movement of the asteroids in the distance outside the window of the little ship that.

"Seriously, Joe," she snaps and then says with more calm, "I need to concentrate."

She can feel him brimming with a retort, but he thankfully keeps silent. Brushing her current peril aside, Lindsey recalls her studies with her val'den'kai cousin, Kierna, and tries to imagine a field... an open field. She alone stands in it...

'Now, who are you protecting?' Kierna asks. 'See them. Put them next to you...make them a part of you.' Lindsey breathes deeply, slowly. 'You can't force it. This isn't a matter of will. You have to ask for the protection. Coax it... yes. Like that...'

"Now!" Lindsey says forcefully. The Rangers break apart once again. But this time, the Drazi don't follow just Lindsey as she pulls up sharply, away from the others. Each has their own opponent to deal with. 5 to 4. "Much better," she says with satisfaction.

"In the name of Valen...," N'tau breaks in, "I'm reading 12 more Sky Serpents."

"Are you sure?" Joe asks.

"Look for yourself!" Lindsey says impatiently.

"No. I mean, are you sure they are Drazi?"

"What do you mean?" Barnes asks, surprising Joe. He hadn't realized the others could hear him as well.

"You said yourself it was too easy. I have a Drazi helmsman. Surly, stubborn, and he smells odd, but he is one damn fine pilot."

"No..." Lindsey says. "It doesn't make sense..." then louder to the comms, "Can anyone get any readings inside the ships?"

"Negative. Why?" Taroth asks.

"If Joe is right, I think we are up against a ghost fleet," Lindsey explains.

"No pilots!" Barnes says, incredulous, "that explains a lot."

"Now what?" The question hangs in the void.

"Pilots or no, we still have to get past them." N'tau finally says.

Grim agreements come in on top of each other.

The call comes over the comm, faint, filled with static, "We're taking fire!"

"That's Jenkins. They must be going after the Alexa!" Joe's voice starts to pitch high in panic.

"Damn. They know we have you...," Lindsey says quietly.

"Aren't we going to help them?" He demands.

Another shot rocks their ship, "We're a little busy, if you hadn't noticed."

A second call comes over the comm, as faint as the first, "Where are they all coming from?"

Lindsey sighs, "That's Kinby. He's there at the Alexa. He'll do all he can."

Joe asks in frustration, "But?"

"We have to get you to the White...," but before she can finish, the comm breaks in again.

"They have no weapons. Why are they firing on them?"

Lindsey curses, and can't help but wonder if they were attacking the unarmed ship in response to her hiding Joe from their telepaths.

"Kinby, how many are there?" Lindsey asks, afraid of the answer.

"About 20. They just keep coming."

Her response is cut off by her console warning of another weapons lock. She pulls up and sharply left, but the Sky Serpent stays on her. "Could use a little help here..."

"Got him," Taroth says calmly and Lindsey watches the icon of the ship dissolves.

"Thanks."

"As you say," Taroth responds, "de nada."

In spite of their situation, Lindsey laughs.

Kinby cuts in again, "Don't worry about us, get the package on board safely."

"The package doesn't want to go if it means my crew getting killed," Joe says, louder then he intended.

"Too bad," comes the harsh reply.

"He's right, you know," Lindsey says softly, then winces in pain.

"How much longer can you keep… whatever it is you are doing, up?" Joe asks.

"Not much." Lindsey replies.

Before Joe can respond, the comm interrupts once again, "Besides," Kinby says with humor, "I have a plan."

Barns cuts in darkly, "Those are the most dangerous words in the human language Kinby. Don't do anything I wouldn't."

"Barnes, there isn't anything you wouldn't do," the reply comes, followed by confident laughter.

"Great," N'tau says, and Lindsey can almost imagine the Narn rolling her eyes at the human's bravado.

*******

"We're taking fire!" Jenkins calls to the Rangers that were left behind to escort them back to Petros Makrinos, then switches to inner ship communications, "Dump the whole load!" Jenkins says again, impatiently. "We need to maneuver and can't with all that mass!"

"Sir, you can't out run Sky Serpents..." Millie says nervously.

"No. I can't, but he can," Jenkins replies grimly, pointing to the Drazi helmsmen that had just moments before been lying flat on his back after Roan laid him out.

"He's one of them!" Roan replies in disgust.

"Exactly, so he's is the only one that can out-fly them!" Jenkins yells as he moves about the bridge frantically trying to reroute any extra power to the engines. He looks at the Drazi that is still nursing his bloody nose, "Sit! Fly! Get us the hell out of here!" He commands, then slides under the console he had been working on before that damned Ranger showed up and blew his evening to hell.

The Drazi does as he is told, and once again takes the helm. Curses are heard throughout the bridge as the ship takes another shot.

"What the hell are those Rangers doing?"

"Getting in the way of the Sky Serpents from blowing us to bitty bits," the grim reply comes from Gains, the ships xeno-geologist.

Jenkins comes out from under the console and moves over to the display Gains is watching. "Are they doing a good job?" He asks, but is answered by another blow that sends him to the floor, "Guess not."

As he tries to stand again, Jenkins spots Kien and Andy Gosler as they are making their way onto the bridge. Before they can step foot inside, he yells, "Get back to the cargo hold. Help whoever is back there to dump it!"

"The whole thing?" Gosler asks, stunned.

The ship is hit again, sending both men hard against the wall.

"Yes!" Jenkins yells, then turns to Roan, "You, take over. I have to get to the engines," he starts to leave then turns back, "And don't hit the Drazi again!"

Roan growls, but agrees.

Gains clings to the console and watches the battle unfold on the screen. The Drazi is silent as he moves the little ship further into the asteroid field, taking them back the way they had just come.

"Are you crazy?" Roan yells, but makes no move towards the helmsman. The Drazi ignores him.

"Amazing!" Gains whispers, watching as the Drazi is able to weave the ship and dodges all obstacles with ease. Behind, Sky Serpents follow, but quickly fall back, as the Rangers follow up taking them out one by one.

*******

The call comes over the comm, filled with static, but the panic in Jenkins's voice is clear, "We're taking fire!"

Drazi Sky Serpents swarm at the little ship from all directions, dodging the Rangers with ease to attack the vessel.

"Where are they all coming from?" Kinby asks rhetorically.

"Looks like from further in the asteroid field...," Furlahn says calmly, ever a Minbari.

"Not that it matters," Dex says with his typical Narn urgency, "Just keep them away from that ship!"

"Agreed," Pa'dlan, the fourth member of their squad, chimes in just as she destroys another Sky Serpent.

"They have no weapons. Why are they firing on them?" Dex asks in frustration.

"They are ignoring us though, does that make sense to anyone?" Kinby asks his squad.

"Not really," Pa'dlan says promptly, "but then, they are Drazi."

"Not good enough," Dex cuts in, "Drazi are hard headed and sometimes a bit dim, but they wouldn't ignore a threat such as us to destroy and unarmed rock hopper."

"Kinby," Lindsey's voice cuts in, the comm filled with static, "How many are there?"

"About 20. They just keep coming" he replies, trying to keep his hopes from getting up, knowing that her first priority was getting Joe Dawson safely on the White Star. He hears as her ships warning system goes off, and offers up a prayer to Valen. He switches his attention to his own squad and their current situation again, "So, none of this makes sense then?" Kinby asks no one in particular, and then is stunned into silence as he watches the Alexa suddenly drops her cargo into the void of space and turn into the thickest of the asteroids. With a burst of speed the Rangers didn't think the ship was capable of, the Alexa moves away, expertly avoiding the asteroids that just hours before, it had been mining. "Well. That was unexpected," the Ranger finally says with a touch of awe as the Sky Serpents fly past the Minbari Nials in pursuit of the Alexa and leaving themselves vulnerable to attack.

"Ok people. You know what to do." Kinby says to his squad, still in disbelief at the maneuvering of the little ship that was currently out running three squads of Sky Serpents. He then offers what little reassurance that he can to his fellow Rangers on their way back to the White Star, "Don't worry about us, get the package on board safely."

"The package doesn't want to go if it means my crew getting killed," Joe says, his voice coming over the comm much louder than anyone else's had.

"Too bad," Kinby replies harshly, "Besides, I have a plan."

Barns cuts in darkly, "Those are the most dangerous words in the human language Kinby. Don't do anything I wouldn't."

"Barnes, there isn't anything you wouldn't do." Kinby says with a laugh.

"They are moving away awfully fast," Dexter cuts in.

Kinby replies with as much bravado as he can muster, "Let's get a move on then. We have civilians to save!"

"Aye," Pa'dlan replies eagerly, and on the heels of her response comes equally eager agreements from Dexter and Furlahn.

"20 to 4. I'd say that's about right," Kinby says, bolstered by their high spirits.

"19," Pa'dlan promptly corrects him.

"Right. 19 to 4. Even better."

*******

"Where in the hell are we going?" Roan demands, pinned to his seat by fear.

The Drazi doesn't answer.

"Who cares, as long as it keeps them from blowing us apart," Millie says, frantic. Her eyes are wide as she watches through the forward view screen the asteroids as they come close, and then disappear along the sides of the ship. Twice she threw her hands over her head, sure the Drazi was going to impact one.

"Are they still following us?" Roan ask Gains, who hadn't moved from his station.

"Yes." Roan curses, and is about to yell at the Drazi when Gains cuts in sharply, "but they are much farther from us then before, and the Rangers are taking them out. If we can just keep this up for a little..."

"Look!" Millie scream, pointing at the view screen. The Drazi, who had been silent in concentration curses in a long string.

"You brought us right to them! Traitor! Coward!" Roan surges forward at the Drazi, but falls sideways as the Drazi pulls right sharply, away from the mammoth ship in front of them. It was huge, taking up much of the view screen from quite a distance. The hull was angry with spikes, and no obvious port bow could be made out. As they were turning Gains keeps his eyes not on the forward screens, but his console. He watches in detached awe as several of the spikes that had been attached to the hull break off in pursuit. The ship is disassembling itself into a swarm of Sky Serpents, leaving behind a small control ship.

"Amazing," he repeats, then looks up at his crew mates, and watches in horror as Roan once again goes after the Drazi, who is concentrating on his flying and doesn't notice the large alien coming at him from behind.

"You fool!" Gains shouts, but too late. The Xoth crewman leaps at the Drazi and pulls him from his seat. The ship slows to a halt without the Drazi at the helm and the Sky Serpents catch up with them in moments.

Millie screams as the two beings fight, and Gains tries to pull them apart. He looks up at the view screen just in time to see as seven Sky Serpents open fire at the same time.

"Bloody hell," he says softly.

*******

"Oh my... what is that?" Pa'dlan says softly, staring at the large ship the Alexa had found. They watch, helpless, as the small ship makes a sharp turn, then inexplicably stop. In horror they watch as several more Sky Serpents disengage from the control ship and pursue the little mining ship, then destroy it.

Dex curses, loudly, as the other Rangers sit in silence. They are still far enough back that the other Sky Serpents haven't noticed them yet. For the moment, everything was still.

Finally, Kinby breaks in, saying what they are all thinking, "if we can destroy that control ship, all the Sky Serpents will become inert."

"Are you sure?" Dex asks, even though he knows the answer.

"Yes," Kinby says softly. But it shouldn't take all of us," he pauses, then says, "I need a volunteer."

All three immediately do so. Kinby laughs. "Well, that didn't work," then he sighs, "Let's try this. I am thinking of a number between 1 and 20."

"15," Pa'dlan says without prompting.

"5," Dex responds, but Kinby can hear confusion in his voice.

"And what number do you pick Furlahn?" Kinby asks slowly.

"None Kinby, because I am the one that is going with you," the Minbari says simply.

Kinby sighs, and then agrees.

"Cheater," Pa'dlan teases, but cannot hide the sadness from her voice.

"Alright. Furlahn is with me, you two, get back to N'tau's squad and do whatever you can to get Dawson aboard the White Star."

Reluctantly, Dex and Pa'dlan agree.

"In Valen's name..." Pa'dlan begins.

"We live for the one, we die for the one," Kinby recites, "Now go."

*******

Lindsey wipes at her face, and is surprised to see blood on her fingertips. "Oh damn," she says quietly, but it is enough to peak Joe's curiosity. He leans forward and sees the blood.

"Where is that coming from?"

"My nose," she replies, a bit peevishly.

"Is it because of what you are doing?" he asks, more curious then alarmed.

Before she can reply, N'tau cuts in over the comm, "Bad news. We have more incoming."

Inside her ship, Lindsey winces again.

" We can't stay out here much longer," Joe says loudly.

"Sinclair, can you hold out?"

"Yes," she replies tiredly.

"She's lying," Joe says.

"We don't have much choice," Lindsey cuts in sharply. "We are a long ways from the rendevous point and the White Star can't come in here for us! I'll be fine!"

"Stubbornness must run in your family," a jolly voice cuts in.

"Captain?" Lindsey says in disbelief.

"I didn't think the White Star could maneuver inside the asteroid field?" N'tau asks.

Marcus Cole responds with much delight, "Did you know that if you shoot an asteroid, it blows up?"

Sighing with relief, Lindsey watches as the White Star moves gracefully into view and begins to fire on the squad of fresh Sky Serpents that are swarming from inside the asteroid field.

"Glad to have you with us, Shok'na Cole. The package is secure, in with Anla'shok Sinclair," N'tau says, with as much formality as she can.

Now that the White Star has them under cover fire, Lindsey begins to disassemble the protective blanket she had created to shield them from telepaths. Instead, her head feels as if it is going to explode. Her breathing comes in gasps as her vision blurs.

"Lindsey?" she hears Joe say from behind her, but his voice was muffled by the ringing in her ears, "Are you alright? Lindsey!"

"What's wrong?" a voice asks over the comm.

"Sinclair is hurt. She's barely breathing!" Joe calls out, frustrated he can't move to help her.

"Copy that," Capt. Cole responds, and before Joe can ask what they were going to do, he is thrown forward suddenly as the White Star caught hold of the little ship and pulls it in.

Inexplicably, as they are pulled towards the Ranger ship, he notices the Sky Serpents stop, dead in space.

"Guess they know when to concede defeat," he thinks to himself, then turns his attention to the interior of the White Star; the little of it he can see from his vantage point.

"Not much longer, Lindsey," he says quietly, to Lindsey or himself, he isn't sure, "just hang on."

Chapter Text

Duncan opens his eyes to darkness. Slowly, he moves his hands forward and meets metal. He pushes against it, but it doesn't move.

"Hey!" he yells, "let me out of here!" But no one answers. He listens for a moment. Nothing. No noise. No light. He pushes against the metal again, but it is too close to get any leverage.

He feels himself starting to panic. Is this a coffin? Oh god! Did they bury me?

He pounds against the metal again. "Can you hear me? Let me out!"

He becomes aware that he is standing and he wants to be relieved. They don't bury people standing, but the feeling of helplessness still grips him.

Where am I? He tries to recall. He sees men and women, fleeing, fighting, dying, all to try and protect him.

"No. Just run. They can take me!" He tries to scream at them, but they can't hear. "Stop! I'm right here!" But the fighting, the killing continues, then fades. A room. Large, windowless. His vision is blurry, but he can hear angry voices but can't make out what they are saying.

"They belong to us now human. Stand aside!" he hears, then more struggling, more fighting. For him! Why?

His vision fades again and he sleeps, or is it just darkness with out thought?

Memories slide in and out, of people he has known, places he has been; Paris, at night, then London. Fritz is by his side, playing golf. Duncan smiles. Tessa, Richie, Joe... No! He sees Joe fall, blood spreading on the front of his shirt. He tries to run forward but can't move.

He struggles against what holds him still, but darkness takes him again.

Moments, or eons later, he opens his eyes again, and again his vision is blurred. He moves his hands in front of his face and is startled to see the thin hands of a woman. Pale and small, but even they are out of focus. He looks up and then realizes he can't breath. He's under water!

'Can you hear me?' a voice in his mind calls out, but it isn't his own. Kierna! I's her voice. Her hand. She is panicked, calling out over and over to others like her, but they cannot hear. He feels isolated, cut off, and he thinks it is the first time she has ever felt this. Such aloneness. Her ears are filled with the fluid that surrounds her, cutting off any vibrations. Her eyes are blurred and ineffectual. No sense of touch, taste. She wants to cry out, but can't do that either. The frustration building inside her, blinding her more then whatever it is that surrounds them both in her memory.

'Can you hear me!' she calls out again, but the thought bounces back unanswered. 'The Shadows have me! They know you are coming!'

Nothing.

No. This isn't the first time she has been so alone... he can see it. A field of snow below her, and she stands on a hill, looking down at a burning village beyond the field, surrounded by trees. Inside the smoldering buildings are the people that raised her. She looks up as several ships fly overhead, ignoring her. 'Good', she thinks grimly. They think they have won. And she moves forward through the waist high snow, still wearing her father's sweater that she had put on days before. It is all she has against the cold, but then she never did get cold.

Moving down the hill, she listens to the silence around her. All she hears are the trees groaning in the winter wind, and the engines of the Minbari ships as they move away from her village.

But they left some behind. That was their first mistake, she thinks to herself grimly, 'Because I'm going to destroy them.'

She keeps moving forward, determined, unarmed, not even sure what she is going to do, only knowing that she is the last one left of her colony. All the others were killed as they ran. Shot in the back, or from above, and that the Minbari were going to pay. But what could she do? She was still just a child. Barely fourteen... 'I'm going to kill them, one by one', she tells to herself.

Then she hears it... a voice, inside her mind, but not her own.

'We can help you', it said. She stops, listening.

'How?'

'Just do as we tell you. Then come to us.'

'Where are you?'

'You know that already, Kierna. But you have to do as we say first. Or you won't make it back.'

'Back?'

'Yes. Back home.'

She agrees.

The vision fades, and she calls out again, 'Can you hear me?'

Creatures move outside her containment, large black creatures, moving like insects. She wants to scream at them, pound them with her bare hands, but they move about as if she wasn't there. Her thoughts are thrown against the barrier, again and again, a mental battering ram, but they don't get through. She begins to grow weak from the assault, but rest is impossible.

Finally, thankfully, darkness comes, but then pulls back again.

She is lying on the floor, gasping for breath. Above her stand a woman, not quite human, with brown hair, and a human man in a dark blue uniform. The woman kneels down, concern obvious. She pulls the robe from her shoulders and throws it over Kierna; much like Kierna had done for Duncan just days ago.

"Can you hear me?" the woman, Delenn, says.

Duncan opens his eyes, gasping for breath. He sits up from his bed and calms himself. What the hell was that? He asks himself, and then becomes aware of Kierna in the other room and gets up.

"They're here!" she mumbles, and then comes awake with a start. Duncan stands in the doorway, waiting for her to catch her breath.

"Bad dream?" he asks.

"It was nothing," she replies flatly.

"Nothing?" he replies, then moves to sit next to her. "What about the underwater prison? The field of snow? What the hell was that?"

She turns to look at him, her face betraying her disbelief. Then a mask of calm falls over it, "Nothing," she repeats with more force.

"I don't believe that," he says quietly.

"It was just a dream. Get over it."

She starts to stand, but he grabs her arm to prevent her from moving. With surprising ease, she pulls it away and stands above him, angry.

"Do not touch me like that again," she warns.

"Then tell me what is going on!" he says as he stands, refusing to back down, even from this strange woman and the implied threats he knows she could carry out.

"Dreams. Nightmares. Nothing more."

"No. They were memories. Your memories."

She looks at him for a moment, and then sits back down.

"That's why you came after me. You know what it's like..." he begins.

"Don't be so sentimental."

"Then why do you look so worried?"

"Because, you shouldn't have been able to do that."

"What?"

She looks at him directly and pauses before saying, "Read them."

*******

Duncan paces the length of the cabin, "Could it be this hyperspace we are in?"

Coming back from the kitchen area, she hands him one of two glasses of water and then sits down. She shakes her head, "No. At least, I don't think so."

"Is it significant anyhow? You are a telepath, correct?"

She looks up at him, "No. I'm not," then sighs, knowing this was the beginning of another long and complicated explanation, "Not with anyone other then my kind."

"Val'den'kai?"

"Yep."

He sits down, facing her, "I have a feeling this is a 'tip of the iceberg' kind of story."

She smiles. He sighs.

After a few long moments she has decides where to begin, "The Vorlons love order. Order and obedience. This wasn't always the way. At one time, they believed in balance above all other things."

"What does that have to do with what happened?" Duncan asks.

"Maybe nothing, but you should know this anyhow," she says, then continues, "During their long... I guess you could call it "disagreement" with the Shadows over how to keep watch of the younger races, the Vorlons began to tamper with them."

"Tamper, how?"

"They created telepaths in each of the four major races: Human, Minbari, Narn, and Centauri. They did this knowing that eventually telepaths would be used against the Shadow weapons."

She stands up and moves to a small cabinet at the far end of the small compartment. Opening a drawer, she pulls out an ancient looking book.

"This is the book of G'Quan. He was a leader among the Narn about 1000 years ago, and one of many extremely powerful telepaths. He and the other "mindwalkers", as they were know, fought against the Shadows, helping us and the Vorlons to drive them from Narn and to end the first Shadow War. But despite our best efforts The Shadows were able to destroy them by convincing the normal Narns that telepaths were evil and should be purged."

"You?"

She flips open the book to an illustration. In it are reptilian looking men and women and a few of what appear to be humans, but their skin is too pale. One woman among them is Kierna, looking pensive. Duncan looks from the picture to Kierna with a puzzled expression.

"That there was my first hint to what I thought was my purpose. My dad," she pauses and then clarifies, "the man who raised me said he had named me after a Narn saint." She taps the image of herself. "The Narn Ambassador to Babylon 5, G'kar, showed me this a few years after I had arrived on the station. I knew at that moment what I had to do. So I gathered the rest of the Val'den'kai, we struck a deal with the keeper of the Machine, and we headed back into the past."

His eyebrows raise at how casually she mentions traveling through time, but he lets her continue, "I thought it was to help my human biological father, Jeffrey Sinclair, with the first Shadow War, and to put right a few injustices," she shrugs then says quietly, sadly, "I failed at most of them," and then continues before Duncan can ask, "I got a few things right however."

She smiles, and then sits back down, "but I'm getting off track. I tell you about the Narn because when their telepaths were destroyed, the Vorlons began to watch how their creations were integrated into the societies of the other races. The Centauri accepted them easily enough, and the Minbari treated them with reverence. Humans however, were following the same path as the Narn, even without Shadow interference. Those of the Vorlons that still followed the path of balance decided to again intervene."

She pauses, taking a sip of water before continuing, but Duncan interrupts, "They created you," has says bluntly.

She smiles, "Well. You're more then a pretty face after all. Yes. They created us. They convinced some of the less moral factions of Earth Force that they could have their very own army of telepaths using Vorlon DNA. Naturally the Vorlons were less then truthful, and yet they did not lie either. Using technology they had obtained during the Dilgar War and DNA from a select number of Earth Force enlistees, mostly without consent as in the case of my father, Earth Force eagerly followed the Vorlons directions, with a few modifications. They figured, 'why can't we have augmented soldiers as well as telepaths'?"

Duncan sighs at their folly, and Kierna smiles. "You would think that by now humanity would know better," he says quietly.

"Yes, you would think, but they don't. That's the problem with short life spans. Each generation has to relearn what the previous already mastered. Anyhow, we were created, but they didn't get telepaths, at least not in the way they thought. We can communicate with each other even over light years. I guess you could call it a communal consciousness. What one knows, we all know."

"That must come in handy," Duncan says, obviously impressed.

"More then you know," she says with a grim smile, "but that wasn't all. Something else the Vorlons built in was our ability to block any telepath. Even many of them at one time."

"Block?"

"The general populace feared the telepaths on Earth. Invasion of privacy, thoughts open to scrutiny with out consent or knowledge. Telepaths were being cut off from the rest of humanity and that worried the Vorlons. If pushed, humanity could turn on them, destroying a valuable weapon against the Shadows. They weren't going to allow that to happen again, so they figured if they gave humanity us, a way to combat the telepaths, then all would be integrated into society equally."

"Didn't work that way though, did it?"

"No. The alterations Earth Force made rendered it impossible, at least at first. After Sheridan's War to free Earth from President Clark, Val'den'kai have been widely employed to create 'telepathy free zones'. It's easy money. And telepaths don't mind actually. For the first time they can move about freely without fear of retribution by the normals."

"So, what does this have to do with me?"

"I'm not sure, but like I said, the Vorlons did like to tamper."

After a moment Duncan asks in disbelief, "Do you think they made us?"

Kierna shrugs. "It isn't outside the realm of possibility, Duncan. You and I have more in common then I do with telepaths. I mean, how old are you? 600? How old do you look? About 30. I bet for a while you looked no older then your mid 20s. I'm over 1000 years old. How old do I look? I have aged, but I do so much more slowly. I would wager that immortals also age, just so slowly that no one would notice. Maybe a beheading is a shortcut to an inevitable outcome."

Duncan continues to stare at her, then says quietly, "But why?"

"Why are you here? That is the oldest question in the Universe, Duncan. I can't answer that, any more then you can. I thought my purpose was clear, until the Hand showed up. The telepaths were created to defeat the Shadows. Maybe the Val'den'kai were created for more then just balance. Maybe we are another set of weapons. Maybe you are," she shrugs again.

Duncan shakes his head, frowning. He picks up the book she had left on the table and looks again at her image, hand drawn on the leather pages. He is about to ask another question when he notes her stiff posture. Her head is tilted and her eyes have gone obsidian. He can't help but shudder, noting how alien she looks.

Without a word she stands and runs to the cockpit on the other side of curtains at the end of the room. He follows and pushes the curtain aside just in time to see her hands rapidly move over the console, altering course.

"We have to make a detour," she says with a multitude of voices.

"Where?" he asks, as if he would recognize any location she gave him.

"A gaming moon in the Daleiron system," she says, her voice once again singular.

"Why?"

"They have captured some Val'den'kai children," she says angrily, without turning.

He is about to ask why that would matter, when the phrasing registers. Val'den'kai children. Not Warrior Children. It was subtle, but he recognizes the difference.

"They aren't inducted into our collective consciousness yet. They are vulnerable," she replies, confirming his thoughts, "I'll only take us a day out of our way."

"How can I help?"

"You can't. But it doesn't matter anyhow. I think someone is waiting for you on that moon."

"An immortal?"

"Yes. I think that's why they dared take our children."

"A trap."

"Yes."

"For me."

"You've been in Sanctuary a long time. Even as an immortal, you aren't yet back to top form."

"Thanks," Duncan says dryly.

She smiles, turning to face him. "You know what I mean. You aren't ready yet to rejoin the Game. Someone knows this."

"I'll be ready," he says with finality.

"I hope so Duncan. I really do."

*********

Kierna sits at the controls of the Juvat as they navigate the last of their journey in hyperspace. Duncan is in the seat next to her trying not to focus on the swirling blood red and black that had been their only scenery for the last few days, but the thought of jumpgates, as she called them, and space travel was too enticing to sit in the back and not observe.

As she keeps her eyes on the readings in front of her she says reflectively, "Some say the only things in common with all civilized societies are war and gambling. Although it seems to be true, I haven't figured out why that is. Maybe because war is inevitable among anyone with strong opinions, and gambling because for the infinite potential of any beings, there will always be someone willing to wager on the outcome... or it's just laziness. I haven't decided which."

"Given it a lot of thought have you," he says with a half smile.

She shrugs her shoulders, "Been involved with too much of both, that's all."

"You gamble?"

"I'm a mercenary," she replies with a slight smile, "I do it every day."

For a moment he looks chagrined, remembering their first few moments together, but says instead, "I can't believe that is all that is common among civilized societies."

"No?"

"If there's war, there must be times of peace."

She gives a short laugh, "Peace is just the prelude to another conflict."

"Didn't think you would be such a cynic."

"I'm old Duncan. Of course I am."

"But you don't give up, do you?" he counters.

She smiles again, "Nope. I'm also set in my ways."

"Stubborn you mean."

"Whatever works. We're almost there."

He sits up, eager to be out of hyperspace.

He watches as the blood red eddies and swirls split open onto a field of stars and the ship plunges into the dark of normal space. With the perspective of the planets to guide by, Duncan finally gets a sense of the speeds they had been traveling at as the ship moves into the system.

She begins slowing down near a large moon that revolves around a dead but fiery planet. Its surface is dark; with rivers of fire visible and the occasional flare of a volcano spewing it's molten contents on the battered ground. Despite the turmoil it displays on the surface, Duncan is struck by how beautiful it is.

"Stunning, no?" she asks, startling him with the similarity of thought.

He looks over at her, "It is."

"It's the beginning. That's what Earth looked like once upon a time. Fire and darkness."

They watch in silence as the ship veers towards the moon. Unlike the planet, the moons surface is covered with signs of life. Lights of thousands of windows winked up at them and he can see hundreds of smaller ships moving back and forth among the buildings.

"He's done well for himself." Kierna mutters, taking it all in.

"Who?"

"Origen. He owns this moon... and he thinks that includes everyone on it."

"You've meet before," Duncan states, casting her a worried glance.

"Yep. He was a handler for Earth Force. One of the men responsible for keeping us in line when we were in their... care."

Duncan's brow furrows further in concern. "Are you going to be able to do this?"

She looks up at him, surprised. "Worried?"

"Of course I am," he says softly.

"I can handle it," she says shortly, and then tries to reassure him with a smile, "but thanks."

He isn't convinced, but he decides to let it go and asks instead, "So, what's the plan?"

"Go in, find the children, and get out."

He sighs.

"What?"

"What if there is another immortal? What then?"

"I don't think we'll have to worry. If this is a trap, you'll get your chance to do your thing."

"My thing?"

She slices the air with her hand, neck high.

He sighs again.

"Look. I know Origen. He still thinks of us as the children he had cowed. Thinks he can push our buttons the way he used to and we'll dance for him. The longer we let him think that, the easier it will be to get out of there without tearing the place apart. So... I'll go in like a wounded mad women bent on getting my revenge and you'll have free run of the surface. He won't interfere with you. That's someone else's job... and those rules you know."

"You're seriously going to go up against this guy alone?"

She smiles, "I'm val'den'kai. I'm never alone."

Before he can argue further, she moves past him, back into the common area. Lifting the cushions of one couch, she pulls out a long, round case with leather buckles along the side. After righting the cushions once again, she places it on the couch and opens the black case and steps aside, revealing the contents.

He stands for a moment, staring inside, then slowly moves forward. Placing his hand on the familiar dragon headed hilt, he pulls his katana from the case, reverently. His eyes move down the blade, then up at her.

"Never thought you would see that again, did you?" she asks, head cocked to one side.

"No."

"The Watchers kept that for you too."

He focuses again on the blade then asks after a moment, "What else of mine do they have?"

She smiles again, but doesn't answer him, "Come on. We should eat before we go to the surface, and it could take hours before we are allowed to dock anyhow?"

"Hours?"

"Yeah," she says moving towards the 'kitchen', and says mockingly, "The security here is a real pain... They won't let just anybody down there. That would be dangerous."