Disclaimer: The Great Maker, JMS, and the grand high Mucky Mucks own Babylon 5; I'm just playing in the sandbox for a little bit. I am of course making no money from this, obsessions can be like that. No copyright infringement is intended.

Rating: To be safe, I would rate this one as PG-13, for language and elements of violence, namely torture.

Timeline: No more than nine months after the events of the end of season 5. John and Delenn are on Minbar in the facilities for the Alliance.

Summary: Mars is having difficulties gaining it's full independence from Earth amid the terrorist activities of some rouge telepaths.. Sheridan, as the President of the Alliance travels to Mars to participate in negotiations with Earth for Mars independence. Possibly some AU for some elements.

Author's Notes: This is my first attempt at an actual fanfiction story, and not just a ficlit. To be honest, I found writing a full fanfiction story far more difficult than an original short story. To date, I have only written two, this one, and Deus ex Machina for the Farscape venue.

Most of theMinbari phrases are not words of the "true" Minbari in Babylon 5 and are of my invention.

This is my last re-post, since my first post of this story went the way of the Dodo. Should be the same, except for typo correction.

As with my other stories, time breaks are shown by ellipsis and the first three words in boldface.

Feedback: Always appreciated, especially for this one as a short story and not a ficlit.

Mars Rising

A gentle breeze danced through the silver leaves of the mallorion trees that graced the balcony of the presidential quarters, causing them to sigh softly. The breeze shivered the delicate leaves brightly before it danced its way to the quiet figure standing before the railing of the balcony. Whispering through Delenn's rich dark hair, the breeze played gently with the long tresses before it kissed her cheek softly and danced away. She reached up to brush a loose strand back behind her ear and smiled quietly. The crystal spires and temples of Tuzanor glimmered before her in the early evening light. The beautiful city embraced the sunlight and sent it sparkling in a dance of joy through every crystalline structure. Delenn's smile echoed that joy, making her inexpressibly beautiful to the man that stepped quietly out onto the balcony with her. He smiled too, standing there a moment to appreciate the sweet pleasure of seeing the woman that he loved more than life itself.

John walked over to stand just behind his wife. "You look happy," he said softly.

Delenn reached behind herself without looking and drew her husband's arms around her. John smiled softly, and pulled her into his embrace until his wife was leaning lightly back on his chest. She sighed happily as John brushed a tender kiss along her temple.

"I am happy," Delenn murmured.

John tenderly rubbed his thumbs where they rested over Delenn's hands, lying lightly on her swollen belly. He bent to whisper in her ear, his breath warm and soft as his lips brushed against her ear gently. "I can see that," he whispered, a smile lingering in his eyes. "Have I told you today that I love you?"

"Yes," Delenn said softly, "but feel free to tell me as often as you like."

John chuckled lightly and whispered again tenderly in her ear, "Li'faa cha'du miya, Delenn. You are the beloved of my soul."

Delenn smiled, remembering when he had first learned that phrase of Minbari. "Miya la'faa cha'du, John. Mi'ushaa kimara Ulanni, mia na'eysu myallna , y'mias laa'sulanii. You my love, are my sky, my sun, and my moon."

"My brightest star," John whispered, and bent to nuzzle Delenn's neck tenderly. She sighed softly and tilted her head to the side to better revel in the caress. For a moment, John lost himself in the feeling of being with his wife and the warmth of her in his arms. He lived for moments like this, and John let the complete bliss of it fill him until he felt as if he fair glowed with it. It was with great reluctance that he pulled away at last.

"Ah, love," he sighed, his voice holding an underlying sadness.

"John?" Delenn asked quietly, turning to face her husband.

"Delenn, it's Mars. Between the pressure on the Provisional government from its people, and Earth's reluctance to acknowledge Mars as an independent stateā€¦" John turned to look out over Tuzanor. "It's getting ugly, Delenn, and we have to solve the problem of Mars independence before it turns into another civil war. Earth can't take that, not again." He took a deep breath and reached tenderly for his wife, his hands gentle on her arms.

"I have to go there, Delenn. If we can get President Luchenko, the Mars government, and myself in one room, maybe we can get this solved and avoid a potentially very ugly conflict."

"Go to Mars, John? Now?" Delenn spoke quietly, her hands moving unconsciously to rest lightly on her very pregnant belly.

John turned back to his wife, taking her arms gently. "Delenn, it has to be now. It has to before this reaches the point where Earth and Mars see violence, see a civil war, as the only answer." John answered with conviction. "I have to do this, Delenn. There's nothing more that I can do from here, and I can't just stand by and do nothing." He reached up to gently brush her hair back from her face, his hand lingering on her cheek.

"I don't want to leave you, Delenn, but we have to solve this." He lay a hand lightly on hers where it rested on her belly, "I will be here, Delenn." He looked deeply into her eyes, "I will be here."

Delenn nodded gently and John kissed her tenderly. "Even if the whole universe stood between us Delenn, I would return to you. I will be here, Delenn." John kissed her, a soft brush of lips...

"President Luchenko's office and the Mars government representative have both agreed to using the Anla'shok as security and couriers as per your request Mr. President. Though I don't think that President Luchenko's office is it too happy about it, and they only agreed because both the Mars representative and the Alliance insisted that it was necessary. We have arranged for a secure location here on Mars for the conferences, and the Earth president and her staff will be here in four days." The young human ranger spoke to Sheridan via a comm screen in his office. The serious woman wore her auburn hair back in a severe braid, and the uniform that was so familiar, withher pin worn proudly on her duster.

"Thank you for the report Ms. Belo." John Sheridan responded.

"Mr. President," the young woman answered with a nod as the screen went to black.

John gathered up the last of the papers that he would need for the conferences on Mars, and placed them in a diplomatic case. Carefully then, he reached for the small image of Delenn that sat on the desk. He smiled as he traced a fingertip over the image of her cheek, illuminated in the picture by a crystalline wash of sunlight. Tenderly, he tucked the image into an inner pocket of his jacket just as Delenn herself entered the room.

"A White Star is waiting, John," she said softly. John paused a moment to take in the beautiful image of his wife standing there in a halo of glimmering light. As always, he was struck by an overwhelming sense of love for her. He nodded silently and gathered up his diplomatic case. When John reached Delenn, he brought a hand to her cheek and held it there lightly as he bent to kiss her tenderly. When they broke their kiss, John looked deep into her eyes, loosing himself for a moment in their warm depths.

"Ahh, Delenn," he sighed.

Delenn smiled softly. "Go now, John, and when this rope is untangled, return to me."

John smiled at that and nodded briefly before he turned to walk out the open doorway, case in hand...

A day into his journey from Minbar to Mars, John stood a facing a comm screen in his quarters on board the "Maria," a White Star commanded by Ranger Captain Montoya.

"That woman is impossible," the blonde woman on the screen spoke tersely.

John waited patiently for Theresa Halloran, Head of Covert Intelligence for the Alliance, and currently serving as a liaison for the Mars Provisional government, to be finished with her expressions of barely contained anger.

She began to pace, her image moving across the comm screen. "I did not fight, loose men and women for our independence, see blood spilled for a free Mars, only to see it slip away through the bureaucracy of Earth Gov." Theresa paused, stilling herself before the comm screen once more. "I will not see my people loose everything that they have fought and died for, not now, not ever," she vowed fiercely.

Sheridan nodded grimly in acknowledgment of her words. "I understand your anger, but the last thing that any of us wants to see is this turn into another civil war." The President let his words settle quietly.

Theresa took a deep breath and visibly calmed herself. A cool reserve slipped into place over her face. "President Luchenko and her staff will be arriving in three days. Everything should be in place for your arrival."

John nodded once more.

Another figure stepped into view of the screen to speak quietly with Theresa. She excused herself and turned to listen to the well dressed diplomatic aide. The serious dark haired man spoke quickly and stepped away as the Intelligence Head turned back to the President.

"Some of President Luchenko's staff have arrived early." She did not look happy as she said this, an expression of distrust on her face. "I need to go see to this, Mr. President."

"We'll speak more on this when we reach Mars." John responded.

Theresa nodded. "Mr. President," she closed the conversation and the comm screen went dark.

John gave a tired sigh after the screen had gone to its default status.

"Mr. President." A human Ranger stood in the doorway, waiting for acknowledgment. John turned to look at the younger man. "Mr. President, one of President Luchenko's security officers wishes to speak with you." The Ranger waited for John's response, a simple nod, before speaking a Minbari phrase to bring the image of a young man up on the comm screen. Quietly, the Ranger left and John turned to speak with the tense officer shown before him.

He was a young man, new to his rank if John didn't miss his guess, and somewhat self-important in a slightly insecure way. "Wants to prove he deserves the promotion," John thought, not unkindly.

"Mr. President," the sandy haired young man greeted John. "My name isMajorJeremy Harrison, I'm heading the Security Detail for President Luchenko's diplomatic visit."

Hearing the name, John realized who this young officer was, the son of a very prominent general, General Alexander Harrison. "No wonder he's out to prove himself," John thought, "that's a big name to live up to, or down, depending on who you ask."

As if seeing something in John's expression, the young officer straightened his slightly rumpled gray Earth Force uniform and spoke, his tone crisp, "I have some concerns regarding the presence of the Alliance Rangers being used as a security force for these proceedings."

"What concerns to do you have, Major Harrison?" John asked calmly.

"Why is a Minbari military force serving as security for Earth Government negotiations?" Major Harrison asked, his voice crisp and formal.

"Major, am I to understand that I have been misinformed, and your office did not agree with the arrangement?" John asked diplomatically.

The young officer gave Sheridan a cold look. "My office was informed of your request, Mr. President."

"Informed," John thought, taking in the crisp stance of the young Major and his coldly precise speech. "He was ordered to accept the Anla'shok presence, and he doesn't like it one bit," John thought, noting the wounded pride and some unnamed emotion lurking under the surface of Major Harrison's cool mask.

"Major, both the Mars provisional government," John noticed the brief look of derision pass across the young man's face at the mention of the Mars government, "and President Luchenko agreed that the presence of the Anla'shok was acceptable due to the Alliance interest in these proceedings." John answered calmly. "If you have concerns that do not include allowing their presence, then perhaps we could address those," John finished tactfully.

"I will not have them interfering with the operations of my detail, Mr. President." Major Harrison spoke, his voice tight.

"I assure you Major, there will be no interference from the Rangers in the internal matters of your office. That is not their intent." John assured the young officer.

Major Harrison did not look the least bit reassured by Sheridan's statements. If anything, the president's assurances were met with a brief look of suppressed annoyance on the part of the young man.

"Mr. President," the young officer said by way ending the conversation and shutting down the comm connection before Sheridan could respond.

"Well," John spoke softly to himself, considering what this latest development might mean for the negotiations. But before he could get very far down that direction, his thoughts were interrupted by a Minbari aide.

"Mr. President," the Minbari spoke, his voice accented and hesitant with a language not his own, "what do you require for your midday meal?"

"I'm not hungry. Perhaps later, thank you," John responded absently, his mind still on the upcoming negotiations.

"My apologies, Mr. President, but I was requested to look after these matters. I have given my word that I would do so." The Minbari aide managed to sound both apologetic and certain, subtly bringing the matter of honor to the conversation.

"I see," John answered. And he did. Delenn had obviously spoken with the aides on board ship, and most likely those going with them planetside as well. He smiled wryly. His wife most certainly did not play fair.

"I don't suppose there are any oranges on board are there?" John asked.

"I believe we do have a small selection of Earth fruit Mr. President," the Minbari aide answered. "Would you like some flarn and tea with oranges Mr. President?"

"That will be fine," John answered.

The aide bowed, and left to see to his task. John smiled wryly as he thought of his beloved wife back on Minbar. "Worry wart," he whispered fondly...

John Sheridan was restless. He hated this part, space beneath him, but with no place for him in the operations of the ship. He couldn't even find distraction with preparing for the Mars conference, he had done all he could, and anything more would have to be done on Mars itself. He sighed deeply and stretched.

"Delenn's right," he whispered ruefully, "my head would implode." John shook his head, smiling wryly to himself. Then, with a decided nod, he left his quarters, intent on going for a walk. He wandered the passageways, no particular destination in mind, trying to work out his restlessness.

Unbidden, a memory of what had happened the last time he went for a walk on a White Star came to mind. John's surprise and anger at Lennier's betrayal had dimmed somewhat with time and distance. He could even begin to understand why Lennier had done it, at least a little bit. John wasn't sure he could forgive the Minbari aide, not quite yet, but he did know what it was like to love Delenn, even if he could never see himself doing what Lennier had done. "But I suppose Lennier never imagined he was capable of it either," John thought quietly.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of combat coming from down the passageway to his left. He walked in the direction of the sounds until he came to their source. In a large practice room, a small group of Ranger trainees were working on their skills at the Minbari fighting pike. In pairs, two Minbari and four human ranger trainees practiced the fluid movements that combat with the pike required. One of the human fighters noticed Sheridan watching and was distracted enough that his Minbari fighting partner was able to sweep her pike low to the floor and bring his feet out from underneath him. He looked embarrassed a moment, then rose and bowed first to his partner, then turned to bow to the president. His partner took note of the second bow and turned herself to notice where Sheridan stood. She bowed as well, showing her respect. The other combatants stopped in their practice as well, and bowed to Sheridan where he stood in the doorway.

"I'm sorry. I did not mean to interrupt your practice," John spoke.

The eldest of the gathered students spoke, a serene tone to his voice, "We are honored by your presence." The Minbari fighter bowed once more, his stance showing more than anything else his warrior caste background.

"Does the President wish to participate in our exercises?" the youngest, a Minbari coming from the religious caste spoke eagerly, much to the chagrin of his companions. Before any of his companions could stop him, the young trainee was moving toward the president, holding his pike before him. When he had reached Sheridan, he bowed and spoke, "If the President wishes, he may use my weapon. I would be most honored."

John looked to the proffered weapon and took it up gingerly.

"Forgive my brother Ranger's presumption, Mr. President," the eldest spoke. As he did so, the young Minbari looked chagrined.

As much to redeem the young Minbari in his companions' eyes, as anything else, John spoke. "No offense taken. I would be honored to participate."

A measuring look came into the Minbari warrior's eyes before he bowed.

"Taro," the senior trainee spoke, and another warrior caste born Minbari approached, "Perhaps you would like to practice with the President."

Taro bowed.

The president bowed and spoke, "An honor to meet you Taro, I'm John." Sheridan noted the looks of the trainees as he introduced himself, a mixture of surprise, and on the human faces, approval. Then he followed Taro to the center of the room. The other trainees moved outward to watch the two combatants.

Both men bowed and faced one another across the open space between them. Taro began to circle and John matched his action. Then Taro was swinging his pike, moving to bring the weapon across John's side. John brought his own pike down, deflecting the blow and then quickly thrusting his own weapon forward in an attempt to hit his opponent's center with the end of the pike. Taro was quicker than the lunge and stepped back, bringing his pike in to block.

Both men went back to circling, assessing each other. Again, it was the young Minbari that attacked, feinting low to the left and bringing the other end of his pike down, trying to hit John's right shoulder. John blocked the blow, and swung his pike out to hit Taro's side. Again, Taro was too quick for the blow and turned sideways, avoiding the hit. In response, the Minbari brought his pike low, trying to sweep John's feet out from under him. John jumped though, keeping his feet and turning to block Taro's next blow.

John's pike caught at Taro's in the block, allowing him to swing the other end out to connect with Taro's unprotected side. The Minbari warrior staggered back, but quickly recovered. Again, the two fighters circled. This time, when Taro feinted low right, he made another feint high left, only to complete his lower movement and catch John a blow low on his left leg where John was just an instant too slow to block.

John went down on his knee, but blocked Taro's descending blow and pushed him away hard enough that the Minbari staggered back. John took the opportunity to rise, and before Taro could fully recover, landed another blow to the warrior's other side. It knocked the wind somewhat out of the ranger trainee, giving John the chance to turn and bring his pike low, sweeping the Minbari's feet out from under him. Before Taro could respond, John brought his pike to stop just above the fallen warrior's exposed throat.

"De Farhurst, I yield," Taro answered.

John stepped back and held out his hand to help Taro rise. Once the Minbari was on his feet, they bowed to each other. A small chime echoed lightly through the practice room.

The elder trainee spoke, "It is time for meditations." He turned to bow to the president with the others before they began to gather up their things and leave the practice room. The last to leave was the youngest trainee. John stopped him and offered the pike back to the eager Minbari.

"If the President wishes, he may keep it. It is only a practice pike, but it may serve," the young Minbari said, his voice one of quick earnestness.

"I am honored," John answered. He bowed in return to the Minbari as the young ranger trainee bowed and left the practice room.

John made the pike return to its compact size and considered it there in his hand. Suddenly he winced as a persistent pain made itself known coming from his leg. "That's going to bruise," he thought somewhat ruefully, then shrugged lightly. He'd had far, far worse in his life.

Now, with the worst of his restlessness cured, John made his way back to his quarters...

In a large office in Earth Dome, Major Harrison stood at attention before the General and an impeccably dressed man standing next to the senior officer. "I've arranged for the necessity of President Luchenko and her delegation arriving early on Mars," General Harrison was saying. "That should provide you ample time to see to arrangements there before President Sheridan arrives."

The General slid something forward across his desk and Jeremy stepped over to pick it up. "That contains the codes to establish a secure channel to myself and Mr. Eddings." It also contains all the specifics regarding your mission." The data crystal lay lightly in Jeremy's hand as he stepped back.

The impeccably dressed man standing next to the General stepped forward until he reached the younger officer. Jeremy noted the controlled expression of the fanatic in the man's eyes and inwardly shuddered. While Jeremy certainly believed in the cause, he was disturbed by the fanaticism that some of the members of Earth First seemed to possess. As a military man raised by a career officer, the necessity of discipline and control had been drilled into Jeremy since he was a child. Outwardly though, none of Jeremy's thoughts reached his expression as messenger pressed another data crystal in his hand.

"Mr. Eddings said to provide you with this," the messenger said in a rasping voice, as if he did not use it much.

Jeremy felt a sliding touch across his mind and realized that the messenger was a telepath. He shuddered, and the telepath smirked smugly. Jeremy suddenly had his hand wrapped tightly around the little man's throat. "Do that again, and it'll be the last time," he said, his voice low.

"Latent telepath," the man choked out, "why aren't you Corps?"

"Enough," the General's voice, full of command, brought Jeremy back to the matter at hand and he released the little man from the choking grip. The little man stepped back, rubbing his bruised the throat and eyeing the major with a wary look.

"What is it?" Jeremy asked.

"Information," the messenger said, and nothing more, blatantly attempting to be difficult.

Jeremy waited a moment before stepping forward, menacing the smaller man slightly. The messenger stepped back and spoke quickly, "Information for the telepaths. It should convince them to help."

Jeremy nodded and turned back to his father. "If that is all, Sir, I will go see to the remainder of the arrangements for my Security detail?"

"Dismissed, Major. Good luck," the General said.

Jeremy saluted and left the office...

"Twenty-four more hours," John thought, "twenty-four hours and we'll be in Mars space." President Luchenko would already have been on Mars four days by the time that the White Star arrived. John felt a moment of frustration, Earth Gov had sited scheduling conflicts for the unscheduled early arrival of the Earth President on Mars, and there was nothing to say against it. There was no proof that that wasn't the case, or that the President's office meant anything by their early arrival other than what it appeared to be.

John winced slightly as he settled on a comfortable chair in his shipboard quarters. He carefully removed his shirt and gingerly touched the purple bruise forming on his right shoulder. He rotated his arm and hissed at the bright flare of pain that resulted. After his first experience with the Minbari fighting pike, he had decided that now was the best opportunity to practice. Once he had reached Mars, there would be no time, and who knew when more time would be available once he returned to Minbar.

He was in the process of putting back on his shirt when the comm screen came to life. The image of his beautiful wife made John catch his breath for a different reason. Too late, he realized that Delenn would see the vivid bruise and it was far too late to hide it. John chose to not acknowledge it and hoped his wife would not be unduly concerned.

He continued to button his shirt as he greeted his wife, "Hello, Delenn."

"John, what has happened?" Delenn asked, her voice rich with concern.

"Damn," he thought, "the last thing she needs is to be worrying about me right now," John thought with a burst of guilt."How are things back home?" He asked quickly, trying to distract Delenn from any possible worry.

Some of his guilt must have shown on his face though, because Delenn responded, "John?" her tone making it clear that she would not be diverted in her concern.

"It's nothing. I fell. No problem, it'll be gone in a couple of days." John answered quickly, trying not to wince as he shifted the shoulder.

"John," Delenn prompted, her concerned and determined eyes looking into her husband's.

"It really is nothing, Delenn," John spoke soothingly. "I've been practicing the pike and someone got through my guard is all." John spoke calmly as he relented to the quiet pressure of his wife's eyes upon him.

Delenn looked like she wanted to say something more, but she simply nodded instead.

"I had to do something, Delenn. My head was going to implode," John said, a wry, charming smile on his face. His explanation did as he hoped, and his smile grew bigger when he saw Delenn respond with her own gentle smile.

"John," she said, as her face turned serious once more, "the Anla'shok report that there is more evidence of rouge telepath activities on Mars. There was an attack on a hospital facility, with a message."

"Remember, Byron," John completed her words before Delenn could, his voice grim.

"Yes," she answered.

"Damn," John swore fiercely, then sighed deeply. "I hate to say it, Delenn, but even with this news, the telepath problem will have to wait. We have to deal with the matter of Mars independence first before we can work on any other problems. Besides, if we can get Earth and Mars into the Alliance, it will make working on the telepath problem that much easier. At least then, both governments will have a more vested interest in solving the problem." John sighed once more and rubbed at his eyes. "If they can acknowledge that there is a problem."

"John, you're tired, you should rest," Delenn admonished.

"There'll be plenty of time to rest later," John replied absently. "Ahh, love," he sighed, the simple words holding a universe of longing and love in them.

"Rest, John. Remember, Na'chus duvaa," she spoke gently, reminding him of the Minbari phrase that would bring the sounds of soft rain into his quarters on board the White Star, and of the memories that the phrase brought to mind.

John smiled softly. "I love you, Delenn."

"Goodnight my love," she responded before the comm screen went blank.

With care, John rose from his chair. Delenn was right, he needed to rest. He'd be no good to anyone tired. And maybe a rest would help to clear his mind of the ever increasing worries that were filling it. He made his way to the bed and began to get ready to sleep. As he lay down, he smiled and spoke softly, "Na'chus duvaa." Immediately, the sound of falling rain filled the small room and John fell asleep to the sound of rain, pleasant memories of his father, thoughts of his beautiful wife, and soon to be born child...

"This is White Star shuttle requesting clearance for landing," the ranger serving as pilot for the small shuttle spoke with the landing facilities on the Mars surface.

"White Star shuttle. Clear to proceed, ready to receive package," a woman's voice came back over the receiver.

The aforementioned package, John Sheridan, President of the Interstellar Alliance, sat in the seat next to the pilot, a case of diplomatic papers at his side. Two more rangers were seated just behind him, there to serve as a light guard. The warm red light of Mars filled the shuttle as it entered the thin atmosphere and painted the figures within in it with shades of burnt umber and sienna.

It was only a few minutes of atmospheric flying before the landing facility was in view. The pilot deftly made his adjustments and gave control of the precise landing to the ground computers. As the shuttle made its way into the landing area, the warm Martian light was chased back by the facility's artificial light. And soon enough, the shuttle was docked and Sheridan and his escort where making their way out of the ship. There to greet them, was a small diplomatic party lead by the Alliance's Head of Covert Security.

"Mr. President," Theresa said by way of greeting.

"Ms. Halloran. I trust that everything is ready to proceed as scheduled," John responded.

Theresa nodded. "And it's a good thing you arrived today. My government is more than ready to have this settled, with President Luchenko well on her way back home with her staff."

"Have there been problems?" John asked, a somewhat weary tone shading his voice.

"Nothing major so far. More like petty annoyances and grievances, bruised egos mostly," Theresa answered darkly. "I just don't think it's going to stay at that level much longer if we don't get this resolved soon."

John nodded grimly in response. By this time, they had made their way into the main facility and began to head down a series of corridors that would lead to quarters set aside for the foreign heads of state. Finally, they rounded one last corner where they were greeted by another ranger and a dignified older man. The serious ranger's auburn hair was held back in its customary severe braid and she wore her ranger uniform proudly. The elder gentleman stood calmly to the ranger's right, dressed impeccably in a civilian suit.

The ranger bowed deeply and greeted the president, "Mr. President."

"Hello, Ms. Belo," Sheridan acknowledged the young ranger.

"Mr. President, this is Mr. Krinski. He has agreed to serve as your aide planet-side," Ranger Belo introduced the man next to her.

Theresa spoke, "Mr. Krinski is a member of my staff here planet-side," she confirmed the man's placement.

John looked over the elderly man, assessing him in light of this information.

"Mr. President," the elderly man held out his hand and offered the president a firm handshake. "it is an honor to serve. Be assured that I will serve you to the best of my abilities," he assured John.

"Allan Krinski is a capable man of much wit and intelligence," Theresa asserted significantly.

John nodded his understanding of her statement.

"Well, I'll go report to the Mars delegation that you have arrived on schedule, Mr. President. If you will excuse me," and Ms. Halloran walked away, followed by her own security officers.

"Mr. President," the ranger said and bowed.

John nodded, and the young ranger left to attend to her other duties.

John turned and entered his quarters. Furnished simply, the rooms were about the size of his old quarters on Babylon 5, and like them, showed a functional military hand in their arrangements. John moved to set his diplomatic case on a low table against the wall, noticing that his other things had already been delivered. The aide had followed John into the rooms and now stood in dignified attendance near the door.

"Entil'za Delenn left a message that she would contact you directly at eight am, Minbari Standard time, Mr. President," the aide spoke briskly, using the proper Minbari title for Delenn. "President Luchenko's staff will be apprised of your arrival. The kitchens have been informed that they are to serve you dinner here in your quarters in one hour, Mars time. The other delegations have confirmed that opening the negotiations at nine am Mars Standard time tomorrow, is acceptable. If there is anything else you need?" Mr. Krinski concluded.

"I believe that that will be all for now Mr. Krinski, thank you," John answered.

"Good evening then Mr. President. I will meet you here tomorrow morning in time for the negotiations," the aide said as he left John to the privacy of his quarters.

John looked to where the diplomatic case sat on the side table. With a determined air, he gathered the case and sat at the small dinner table with it and got to the task of preparing those papers that he would need first thing tomorrow morning. He was still at the task a little over three hours later, integrating the new documents from both the Mars government and President Luchenko's office, that had arrived with his evening meal. Immersed as he was in his task, it took John a few moments to realize that the comm set in the far wall was demanding his attention.

"Communication from Minbar, receive?" the computer repeated its query.

John looked up from his papers with a smile. That would be Delenn. Setting the papers aside, he made his way to stand before the comm screen.

"Computer, receive communication," John prompted the computer, the smile growing on his face as he saw that it was indeed his wife on the screen. She wore loose cream and dusty rose pink robes that complimented her warm skin and soft hair. Her long dark hair was worn loose, curling around her face and over her shoulders. A single tendril danced softly across her cheek, and John's fingers ached to be able to brush it back gently. The bright early morning light of Minbar seemed to embrace the beautiful Minbari woman, as if it too, loved her as much as the man standing before the open screen did.

"Hello, John," his lovely wife greeted him softly.

"Good Morning, Delenn," John answered, referring to the time there on Minbar.

A bright smile graced Delenn's face as she felt the warmth of her husband's love, even from so far away.

"You are so beautiful, Delenn," John spoke, his voice tinged with longing.

Delenn laughed lightly,"John," she breathed, but before he could say anything more, and urgent chime filled the room, and John excused himself long enough to open the door with a command.

In stormed a very angry Theresa Halloran. She clenched and unclenched her hands and her normally cool demeanor was broken. She stood just inside the doorway and swore, "Bastards, damn terrorist bastards!"

"Ms. Halloran," John tried to speak to the enraged Intelligence agent.

"What the hell do they think they're doing? Do they think that the Mars government will help them after they do something like this?" Theresa raged, her usual crisp voice lost to the anger she was feeling.

"Ms. Halloran," John tried again to get the woman's attention.

This time he succeeded, and Theresa seemed to realize who she was talking to and where she was. "Mr. President. Entil'za Delenn," she greeted them both.

"John," Delenn began.

He nodded softly to the comm screen and mouthed, "I love you," so that only she would see. Delenn smiled as she ended the communication. John turned back to Theresa only when the comm screen had gone to its resting status.

"Now, Ms. Halloran, perhaps you could explain what this is all about," he began.

"This is what this is all about," she said, holding up a small data crystal. Without any more words, she strode over to the comm and placed the data crystal in itscrystal port. She stepped back as images of a bombed out building filled the screen. Clearly visible were the bodies amongst the wreckage. Visible, because they had been arranged around a crossed out symbol of the Psi Corps burned into the ground. Completing the tableau, scrawled in either blood or red paint on the one standing wall were the words, "Remember Byron."

"Damn," John said underneath his breath.

"Nine of the most influential members of the Mars Provisional government, dead," Theresa spoke grimly. "And the only evidence as of now, of who's responsible, is on that wall."

"Are we certain that this is really the work of rouge telepaths and not some other group using them as a convenient scapegoat?" John asked.

"We're determining that now, though it does seem likely that this is the work of rouge telepaths here on Mars," Theresa answered. "It fits with the pattern of their activities to date. And the people killed and displayed, were members of the government that were willing to agree to allowing the Psi Corps to deal with resident telepaths, even after independence." Theresa looked back at the images on the comm and her face took on a grim cast. "Unfortunately, they were also the ones with the most financial and political influence that could be brought to bear to convince EarthGov that Mars independence is necessary and can be achieved over the negotiations table, and not the battle field," she finished.

"What is the Mars government saying about this?" John asked.

"Amongst themselves, the remaining members are worried how this may affect the proceedings. They feel like their feet have been cut out from underneath them. The rest don't have the same amount of pressure to bring against Earth if they need to. And the more level headed members remaining, are somewhat worried about those quietly advocating civil war as the best solution will start to do so not so quietly anymore. The ones that want war, have a louder voice now, with this latest incident," Theresa answered with a dark quiet voice.

"And to Earth, what are they saying?" John asked in a voice that mirrored Theresa's.

"That this should not stop the negotiations. That even though it is a tragic event, they know that the deceased members would have wanted them to proceed, so, for their sake, and the Mars people, the government will continue on with the process as planned." Theresa reported quietly.

"And Earth, what are they saying?" John continued to assess the situation with a determined air.

"My information says that they are going to take advantage of this if they can. They know that the Mars government has been weakened. If Earth can take advantage of that weakness, keep Mars as a colony, or at least make sure that we are so undercut at the negotiating table that Mars will have to look back to Earth for support, it will serve their aims," Theresa paused only a moment before she continued, "To the Mars government, they are offering their condolences and offering to postpone the independence negotiations."

"What is Mars' position on that?" John questioned the intelligence agent.

"That Earth would be given an advantage in delaying," Theresa answered promptly.

John nodded. "Then we proceed as planned. I'll confirm with the other delegations. And Ms. Halloran, use the Rangers if you need to, let's find out what's going on with this telepath resistance."

Theresa nodded and left the room.

"Damn," John whispered...

The negotiations had been going on for eight hours now and tempers were flaring, nerves frayed. Members of each delegation were tired, and nearing the dinner hour, hungry. John looked to his left where President Susanna Luchenko sat, her chief advisor to her left. The elder statesman was whispering something urgently to her under the cover of the angry shouts coming from the members of the Mars and Earth delegations that sat opposite the heads of state on a tiered arrangement of seats.

Then, John looked to his right where the Speaker of the Mars Provisional government sat, his chief advisor also whispering to the head of state urgently from his left side. Finally, he looked straight ahead to the tiered seats before him. Theresa Halloran was looking grim, and Talonryn, the E'da Se'k of the Anla'shok on Mars, sat stoically, his Minbari composure untouchable.

Slowly, John rose from his seat behind the outer curve of the horseshoe table that the heads of state sat at. "Ladies and gentlemen," he tried to gain the others' attentions. "Ladies and gentlemen," he repeated after a few moments when he did not receive a response the first time. "Ladies and gentlemen, please," John tried one last time and finally succeeded in quieting the room.

"I think that we can agree that we're all getting tired and a little on edge," he said, looking left and right where both President and Speaker were nodding in agreement. "I propose that we call an end to negotiations for today and pick this up tomorrow."

"I concur," President Luchenko said, her eastern European rich as she spoke diplomatically.

"I do as well," agreed Speaker Winter, his voice showing hints of his own weariness at this point.

"I believe we are adjourned then until tomorrow morning?" John looked to the President and Speaker for confirmation. Both nodded and rose, their respective Chief Advisor and Security falling in around them, followed by the other representatives, five in each delegation.

John sank back down into his chair. "It never ends," he muttered beneath his breath. Then E'da Se'k Talonryn was standing before the Alliance president just opposite the table. John rose and bowed to the older Minbari.

"E'da Se'k Talonryn, thank you," John said.

The older Minbari spoke with quiet dignity, "We serve the One," and bowed before he left from the west double doors of the large room. John returned the bow and watched the Minbari exit. Then with a sigh, he joined Theresa in the center of the room.

"That could have gone better," she said with a cynical smirk, refusing to give into her natural sense of disappointment.

John only nodded. He couldn't figure out yet how to get through to either government that Mars independence was the best thing for both of them. Earth wanted to join the Alliance, but they didn't want to give up Mars, one of their largest, most financially beneficial colonies, no matter that joining the Alliance would more than make up for the loss. Mars didn't want to make any concessions to Earth, feeling themselves the victims of imperialism on the part of her government.

"What a mess," Sheridan muttered under his breath. Louder, he spoke to Theresa, "When do you think that you will have any new information to report about the terrorist attack?"

"I'll find that out tonight. There should be some reports form my operatives waiting for me. I can tell you more tomorrow," she responded.

John nodded his understanding.

Theresa nodded her head slightly and made her own way out the right double doors of the conference room.

John took one last look around the room and left to make his way to his own quarters. As heexited the room, he picked up two Rangers as a guard. They simply fell in behind him without a word and followed him to his door. John turned to bow to the two Minbari, as they would certainly expect it, and they bowed in turn, taking up their posts at the door.

With a sigh, John prepared some green tea and sat at a small table, going over the papers that he would need the next day, and trying to think of a way to get the two other governments to see reason. "It's going to be a long night," he thought...

John sat in frustrated silence, once more surrounded by the raised voices of the delegation. His thoughts this morning echoed his thoughts of the other night, "It's going to be a long day."

"No, no, no!" Anthony Roman was yelling in the face of his Mars counterpart, Demetri Ryan. "That is not acceptable."

"Mars will not have its independence in name only," Demetri yelled back fiercely.

"Gentlemen, this is solving nothing," Susanna Luchenko spoke calmly, her eastern European accent lending her words a kind of tactful weight. "I suggest that we all calm down," she said as she waited for both speakers to sit and calm down. "Mr President, Mr.Speaker," she said, looking to the other two heads of state, "I further suggest, that the other members of the delegations be allowed a small break and we shall continue to discuss some matters."

"Very well," said Nicholas Winter, Speaker of the Mars government.

"I agree," John spoke in a calm, if somewhat tired voice.

Both the Earth president and the Speaker dismissed the other members of the delegations to a lunch break. Both Heads of State informed their delegations that they would be notified when they were expected to return.

"I will see to procuring lunch for you, Mr. President," Mr. Krinski said, and headed out of the conference room.

"Thank you," John said...

The three Heads of State sat around a small round table that had been brought with their lunch, a light meal of tea and small sandwiches. The conversation had started to move in circles now that they had been speaking for almost three hours. Most of the sandwiches were gone, and the tea had gone cold long ago, when John finally said, "President Luchenko, it is as simple as this, if Earth wishes to be a member of the new Alliance, then the Mars vote has to be honored. Mars has voted to be independent, if Earth wants to take its place among us, you must acknowledge this."

"I'm not certain that I like the way that that sounds," President Luchenko spoke quietly, her voice cold.

"I'm sorry to hear that, President Luchenko, nevertheless, it is important to say," John spoke, his voice diplomatic, but firm.

"President Luchenko," Speaker Winter spoke, "we don't want to forget our first home. Earth is a part of us, our home before this. But now, Mars must stand independent. And by doing so, I believe that both Earth and Mars can grow stronger, in this new Alliance of President Sheridan's."

"I believe that my government will accept Mars independence, but only if Mars accepts some compromises. Loosing most of our colonies affects Earth, surely you can see this," Susanna spoke to Nicholas before she looked to John, "and we will not do so in the face of extortion."

"It is not extortion, President Luchenko, merely a reality to be acknowledged," John spoke assuredly.

Susanna sighed quietly. "I will speak further with my government. I think for now though we can go no further until I do so."

"I too will speak with my people about what we have discussed here, perhaps there is some way out of this that will satisfy both our governments. For now, I believe we should resume out talks tomorrow," Speaker Winter said, a trace of weariness in his voice.

"I agree," President Luchenko spoke, finally allowing a trace of her own weariness to enter her voice. And, in a moment of quiet honesty, "My presidency seems to be one inconvenience after another." She smiled a bit wryly as she spoke and rose to exit the room.

The Speaker for the Mars government nodded to President Sheridan and also left the conference room. John returned Nicholas' nod and remained sitting at the table for a moment before he rose and made his way down the corridors to his quarters...

John set the papers down on the table next to a small collection of data crystals with a weary sigh. "It never ends," he thought, looking at the piles of Alliance paperwork and information that he needed to get through for the Advisory board of the IA. He stretched and sighed once more, his restlessness starting to get the better of him now. "Enough," he thought, rising up from the table and grabbing his jacket.

With a determined air, John headed out into the corridors trying to work out his restlessness. With no particular destination in mind, he walked the corridors with no other purpose than to simply walk. Occasionally a window would show him the deep Martian night, the stars like bright diamonds against the rich velvet of space. Suddenly, a figure appeared before him in his path.

"Major Harrison." John said, noting the young officer's cold eyes and precise stance.

"Mr. President," Jeremy greeted the older man. "No Rangers?" he asked, his words clipped.

Before John could say anything, Jeremy stepped forward, talking calmly and coldly. "That's too bad really. It might have been more interesting that way."

Then, quickly, before John could react, the young officer had stepped forward and slapped something on John's hand. Sheridan looked at the back of his right hand with a eerie sense of deja vu as he realized that the younger man had slapped a tranquilizer patch on his hand. Already, he could feel the drug entering his system as his eyes began to loose focus.

From where Jeremy had stepped back, he spoke, "I understand that it worked very well last time," referring to when Garabaldi had been under the control of Bester and had done the same thing.

"You'd think I'd learn, wouldn't you?" John asked, his voice slurring the cynical words as the drugs filled his bloodstream.

"One might indeed, Mr. President," Major Harrison said in his cold precise voice. "I suppose you're wondering why. Well, you'll find out soon enough," he said as John finally slumped to the floor, the drugs much stronger than any Garabaldi had used.

Two men in loose dirty clothes stepped into the corridor. One man tugged at his shirt, speaking in a disgruntled voice, "These are disgusting."

"It's only until you get him to them. Now quickly," the Major ordered his two men.

The two men walked forward and picked up the unconscious President, wrapping a dirty cloak around him, hiding his face and form beneath its grimy folds. With the president supported between them, it gave the appearance of two drunks helping their passed out buddy home.

"Go through the kitchens, they'll be empty at this hour. If anyone catches you, you're on your own," the major spoke crisply and walked away.

"Well, let's get this over with," the older of the two men said to his companion.

The two men shifted the weight of the man between them and made their way to the kitchens. The major had been right, at this hour, no one was there to note their progress. Calmly, the two men walked out into the Martian night beneath Mars Dome 1...

John woke to the sound of machinery humming. His head was pounding, and it felt as if his limbs were made of lead. His arms were very effectively tied behind his back and his legs were tied together at the ankles with a rough rope. A blindfold kept him sightless and a gag had been placed in his mouth.

He was shifting, testing the bonds that held him tight, when he heard the soft voice next to his chair, "You are quite secure. If you struggle, I am certain that you will only hurt yourself, and that's our job."

Hands removed the gag from his mouth and held a glass to his lips.

"Drink," the telepath said, "I assure you, it will not kill you. Not yet, we need you alive."

John refused to drink anything, holding himself still in the chair.

The cup was removed and he felt a stinging slap across the left side of his face. The cup was placed to his lips again and the voice spoke once more, "When you are given a direction, I suggest that you follow it."

Again, John refused to drink from the cup, and there was another slap across the other side of his face. When still he refused, he felt a pressure begin to build in his mind.

"I will tell you one more time Mr. President, drink, or a slap is not the worst that you will get. I assure you, it will not kill you, but continue to refuse, and you will know pain."

Suddenly, the pressure in his mind ceased, and he heard a gasp from the person in the room with him.

In a rusty voice, thick with the remainder of the drugs that they had given him, John said, "Stay out of my mind."

"I told you that it wouldn't work," said another voice, this one a man's rough bass, directed to whomever had slapped John. Then directed to John himself, "That's right isn't Mr. President? You were touched by the Vorlons, and no one comes into contact with the Vorlons without being changed. That's okay though, we have other ways. You will give us what we want." Then addressed once more to the other person, "Leave us now, I will call you if I require assistance."

John heard steps on a hard floor moving away from him and his unseen companion. A door at the far end of a small sounding room opened and closed as the other person with the cup left. He heard the man begin to pace carefully back and forth before him.

"I'm debating how much to tell you Mr. Sheridan. Of course, in order to get what we want, I have to tell you some things. But how much? How much do you need to know, and how much is too much?" The man spoke in his deep voice.

The man continued to pace a few moments in silence before he spoke once more, "Of course, I'm certain that you believe that you will escape. 'The first duty of every prisoner is to escape' and all that. I assure you, there is no escape, whether you believe that or not is of no concern to me, simply know that it is true, no matter what you believe."

The man stopped and only the sound of machinery could be heard. For several moments there was nothing else forthcoming from John's captor, then, "Let's put this simply," he said suddenly. "We want a homeworld of our own. Earth, Mars, none of them can, or will give us one. The Interstellar Alliance can. We want to have a homeworld of our own, free from Psi Corps and free from mundanes. We're tired Mr. Sheridan. Tired of being your chattel, and tired of being cannon fodder for Mr. Bester and his Psi Corps. We don't want to be in his little war. We could give a damn what happens to Earth or Mars. We just want someplace of our own, away from all you damn mundanes." John's captor paused once more for several moments before continuing, "We are going to hold you for ransom. A planet for us, and you go free. If we are denied, you're dead. As simple as that."

With that, the man walked across the room, leaving John by himself...

"What do you mean that none of your Security saw anything?" Theresa demanded, coming face to face with Major Harrison as they stood in a small conference room with Speaker Winter, President Luchenko, and E'da Se'k Talonryn.

"I mean exactly that Ms. Halloran. None of my men and women saw anything. Nor are they responsible for this. I am in charge of the Security detail for President Luchenko, who, as you can see, is quite safe. He's responsible for President Sheridan," Major Harrison said, indicating E'da Se'k Talonryn. "I said that I did not see why we were using a Minbari military force for security at these conferences," the young officer added darkly.

Theresa looked as if she was about to say more, but before she could do so, President Luchenko spoke, "Ms. Halloran, while I understand your concern, and am certain that we all share in it, Major Harrison is correct, it is not his duty to see to the safety of President Sheridan. I will not have you or your staff questioning the capabilities of my own." Susanna Luchenko looked to where the Intelligence Head stood. "I do offer the cooperation and help of my staff to the finding of President Sheridan, and his recovery.

"Major Harrison, please see to helping Ms. Halloran and E'da Se'k Talonryn in coordinating an investigation of this matter."

A look of disgust so brief as to be almost unnoticeable flashed across the young officer's face before it was just as quickly suppressed. "Yes, Ma'am," Major Harrison said, giving President Luchenko a crisp salute. He turned back to Ms. Halloran and spoke crisply, "I will speak to my people again in regards to anything that they may recall having seen and return to you with any information in a few hours. I trust that that we can coordinate any other joint efforts in this matter at that time?"

Theresa looked over to E'da Se'k Talonryn, who nodded slightly, then back to Major Harrison, "Thank you, Major." Next she turned to the Heads of State, "Madame President, Mr. Speaker, thank you, if you will excuse me, I will begin to see to efforts to discover what has happened to President Sheridan." With that, the Head of Covert Intelligence exited the room, followed by E'da Se'k Talonryn, who bowed briefly as he left. Major Harrison followed suit, saluting President Luchenko as he left the room as well...

"What are we going to do, Sir?" asked Lieutenant McDonald.

"Exactly what the President has ordered of course, lieutenant," Major Harrison replied calmly.

"But, Sir," the lieutenant objected nervously.

"Are you questioning me, lieutenant?" Jeremy Harrison spoke coldly to the man.

"No, Sir," Lieutenant McDonald answered.

Jeremy looked to the other Security officer with them, "And you, Lieutenant Enriquez? Do you have anything to add?"

"No, Sir," the dark haired man answered, "Earth First, Sir."

Major Harrison nodded, pleased. "You are both true patriots. As long as people like you stand up for Earth, she will remain free from alien corruption. History will remember us gentlemen, as true sons of Earth, willing to do anything it takes to keep our planet free of alien influences and alien governments. Dismissed."

"Yes, Sir," both junior officers said and saluted as they headed out of the small offices provided to Major Harrison.

As soon as the other two men had left, Jeremy turned to the comm screen. He had adjusted a secure frequency for the comm that would allow him to talk freely with his contacts on Earth. He accessed this now and the image of an older distinguished man came up on the screen. General Alexander Harrison looked impeccable in his blue Earth Force uniform, the left breast of which was covered in the marks of honor of his rank and service. His silver hair and beard were finely trimmed and his blue eyes were severe and intense as he regarded his son.

"Report," the general said in a deep voice.

"The first part of my mission is complete, Sir," Jeremy reported to his father, his own voice pitched to match the deep severity of the older man's. "I do not anticipate any difficulties with implementing the second half, though I do admit to some reluctance to do so, Sir. Is it really necessary? Lieutenants McDonald and Enriquez are both good men and officers."

"Are you questioning my orders, Major?" the general asked, unknowingly echoing his son's own earlier words to his officers.

"No, Sir. Of course not," Jeremy replied promptly.

The general sighed with apparent sympathy and sincerity. "It's never easy, son. No one likes to do it. We take responsibility for the lives of the men and women beneath us. Of course you don't want to sacrifice your men. But they would agree that it is the right thing to do if they knew. If Sheridan's allies think that your men helped the telepaths because of their family ties to them, then any possible suspicion will fall squarely on them. Earth First will have no chance of being implicated, and continue to be free to fight for Earth's freedom from alien influenced people like Sheridan and his allies. And with Sheridan out of the way, we can hope that President Luchenko will see reason. Earth cannot join Sheridan's Alliance," the general concluded.

"Of course, Sir. I understand, Sir," Jeremy spoke formally. "I will report when the second phase of my mission has been completed."

"Good luck, Major," General Harrison told his son and closed down the comm.

Jeremy Harrison sighed softly, then set about preparing the proof that would be needed to implicate his officers in the kidnapping and delivering of Sheridan to the telepath resistance...

John Sheridan was bleeding. Several small cuts covered his exposed flesh. None of the cuts were life threatening, but the blood covered his skin in dark rivulets, some darker and older, other cuts fresh and still bleeding. The dusky Martian light of the second morning of John's captivity blinded his eyes when blood did not cover them. And through blood, light, and pain, Sheridan watched the small woman that stood facing him, a knife held loosely in her delicate hand. Her blonde hair was held back in a short pony tail and her blue eyes were as pleasant as if she were having a simple conversation, and not torturing the man before her.

Almost casually, the woman slipped her hand forward with the knife and repeated one of a dozen questions that she had been attempting to get Sheridan to answer, "Where do you have Carolyn Sanderson," referring to Bester's still cryogenically frozen lover. Another slip of the knife, another question, "Where is Lyta Alexander?"

A man opened the door behind her and walked over to where she stood. Lightly, he placed a hand on her shoulder, a look of mild concentration on his face as he spoke to her telepathically. The woman nodded slightly, and left the room, leaving the man alone with the captive.

"She's really rather good isn't she? It looks far worse than it really is Mr. President. You see, we believe that you possess some information that we would like very much to have. And of course, we need something to show your people that we are serious," he explained as if compelled to do so. With that said, the man took pictures of the bleeding man before him, as calmly as the woman had tortured him.

John looked back at his captor through the welter of blood about his face, his eyes defiant.

"You brought this upon yourself you know. Had you simply given us a homeworld when Byron asked, none of this would be happening now," the telepath said reasonably.

"The Alliance refuses to give in to the demands of terrorists," John said, a quiet determination in his voice.

"And how else do you propose that we get your government's attention, Mr President? No, too long have the governments of the mudanes used us for their own purposes. Too long have we been denied even the most basic of human rights, freedom from our oppressors. No more, Mr. President. And we will do whatever it takes to see that your government listens. If you die here, remember, it is because of your government, because they would not listen." And with that, the telepath began to leave the room. He opened the door, but before he left, he spoke quietly," Someone will be in to get you cleaned up and provide some food. I suggest you take this for the kindness that it is." Then he was out the door, closing it behind himself...

"Anything?" Theresa asked the elder Minbari standing before her.

"Nothing as of yet," E'da Se'k Talonryn answered. "I have all the available Anla'shok seeking information on the whereabouts of President Sheridan."

"Damn it," the Intelligence agent swore with feeling. She looked to the calm Minbari, "How can you be so calm about this?" she asked fiercely.

"The Universe knows what it is doing, Ms. Halloran. All we can attempt to do is listen, and the Universe will provide us with all the answers that we need," Talonryn said with calm conviction.

"Well, I wish the Universe would speak up because I sure as hell don't want to be the one to tell Entilza Delenn that her husband is..." Theresa stopped before she completed the statement.

The elder Minbari looked with sympathy to the human woman and bowed before he left the room. Theresa sighed and dropped into a chair behind a desk in the small office that she was using. A chime came at the office door.

"Enter," Theresa said.

As the door opened, Ms Belo entered the room. The Ranger looked very solemn as she set a small data crystal on the desk in front of the Intelligence Head.

"Some of our Rangers just found this," the young Ranger explained.

Theresa rose and placed the data crystal in the open information port of the comm screen on the north wall of the office. On the screen appeared the image of a much battered and bruised Sheridan. He was covered in blood from the many cuts all over his skin and his breathing seemed somewhat shallow.

A deep male voice started speaking over the image, "As you can see, the President is still alive for now. As you can also see, the request that I am going to ask you should be taken very seriously. We will release President Sheridan back to you, when we receive certain assurances from his government that we will obtain a homeplanet of our own, free from Psi Corps and mundanes. Be assured, as long as our demands are met, we have no intention of killing the president. But the longer this takes, the more he will know pain, and I can assure you, we know a great deal about how much pain one can receive and still live, after all, mundanes have been doing it to us for years."

"You can give us an answer by sending someone to Central Park, Mars Dome 1 at any time. But keep in mind, the longer this takes, the less I can guarantee that Mr. Sheridan will be returned in a pleasant condition. Oh, and if you think that you can trick or capture us, just remember, we don't need the president then, and he'll be dead before you ever find us all." The image faded to black.

Theresa turned to the Ranger. "Where did you find this?"

"We found it this afternoon on the body of a dead Psi Cop in the transport tube for this dome. I brought it to you as soon as we had found it and examined the area. We found nothing but the Psi Cop and the crystal. No other trace of whoever put them there," the Ranger answered grimly.

"I want this crystal examined. I want to know anything we can find out about who these people are, and where the president is," Theresa said, her voice determined.

"I'll see to it now," the Ranger said and stepped out of the office on her way to complete her assigned task...

John woke painfully on his third morning being held captive with a cracked a dry mouth and an aching skull. Grimly, he lifted hishead at the sound of the far door opening and closing behind three men. One, the slender man that seemed to be this group's leader, sang softly as he entered, "we will come together in a better place than this..."

"I've asked them to hold you, Mr. President, may I suggest that you don't struggle, it'll only cause you more pain than need be," the leader said, ending his song, and stepping aside as his two large companions approached the chair where Sheridan was tied.

Sheridan twisted as the two large men approached, trying to avoid their restraining hands. The larger of the two grinned, his teeth very white in his pock marked face.

Casually, he grabbed John's arm and wrenched his shoulder out of place. John bit back a cry of pain.

"As I told you Mr. Sheridan, let's not make this any more painful than need be," the other telepath said.

Once the two larger men had John restrained, the third telepath walked over, and John noticed that he was carrying a needle carefully in his right hand. The telepath's eyes followed to where John was looking and said, "We're curious Mr. President. Having been touched by the Vorlons, we cannot reach into your mind easily. Perhaps with this, we will be able to. The Psi Corps is very good and making all sorts of drugs. They experiment on blips and others you see, and quite conveniently for us, we have ways of obtaining the results sometimes. Now, hold still," and before John could struggle, the talkative telepath had injected the contents of the needle in John's right arm. Once he was done, he reached into a pocket on the inside of his jacket, withdrawing a small object. Almost casually, he tossed the object, the picture of Delenn that John had carried from Minbar, on John's lap. Then he and his companions stepped back.

"Very pretty, Sheridan. It would be a shame if she was to become a widow so soon into her marriage. Or worse," the leading telepath said, "if something were to happen to her during your time here on Mars."

Before John could respond, he felt a burning sensation radiating from the puncture wound of the needle. The burning traveled up his arm, then began to spread through his body, working its way through his bloodstream. Dimly, he felt a slight pressure in his mind that quickly slipped away.

"Damn," his main captor swore. "Well, it seems that we can rule that one out as a possibility. Never fear, Mr. President, there are others to try. Of course, we'll have to wait for that one to clear from your bloodstream. See you in a few hours then," and he and his companions left the room.

John felt the burning increase, as if his very veins were on fire. His stomach suddenly cramped, and even tied, John's body tried to curl in around its pain. When he shifted, his dislocated shoulder flared into a bright almost intolerable agony. The pain continued to increase, burning through his system, and his body writhed, sending the picture of Delenn falling to the floor with a small thud.

"Delenn," he gasped, then mercifully, passed out...

"John," Delenn gasped, waking in the cool Minbari night. A dreadful feeling of distress filled her and she sat up trembling in bed. Her hands rested lightly on her swollen belly, feeling the distress of her unborn child as well, as the baby kicked fiercely within her. She tried to slow the rapid beating of her heart, attempting to reach a state of peace. After several moments, her heart was no longer racing, thougha terrible sense of pain still filled her.

Delenn rose and wrapped a robe about herself and made her way to the comm screen in theliving area of the presidential quarters. With an outward seeming of calm, she requested a connection to the offices of E'da Se'k Talonryn. After a short wait, the elder Minbari appeared on the screen.

Attempting to maintain her outward seeming of calm, Delenn bowed respectfully to the E'da Se'k of the Anla'shok assigned to Mars. The elder Minbari returned her bow and spoke quietly, "Entilza Delenn."

"What has happened E'da Se'k Talonryn?" Delenn asked simply.

For a brief moment, Talonryn felt the urge to protect the woman on the screen before him. She had been the one to give his life purpose once more after the Earth-Minbari war had taken everything from him, even his anger and need for vengeance, by introducing him to the then unacknowledged Anla'shok. She had allowed him to find a new meaning and honor to his life when he had felt those things slipping from him. He did not want to see her harmed in any way.

Talonryn looked to the leader of the Anla'shok and said, "Anla'shok couriers have been dispatched to Minbari to report on the events occurring on Mars."

Delenn was quiet, considering this, knowing that whatever had happened was something that would shake the Alliance, hence the use of couriers and not this form of communication. On a deeper level, she knew that something was terribly wrong with John, and she felt a pain as if her heart was bleeding.

"The delegations from the Mars government and Earth continue to negotiate the terms of Mars independence," Talonryn spoke quietly.

"Thank you, E'da Se'k Talonryn," and Delenn bowed simply to the man on the screen before her.

Talonryn returned Delenn's bow and said, "Entilza Delenn," watching as the comm screen went blank as the Entilza of the Anla'shok ended the communication. He gave a deep heartfelt sigh and went to prepare Ms. Halloran for the arrival of the Entilza on Mars...

Major Harrison waited patiently in the back of the Drazi shop. The Drazi himself lay dead a few feet away. Jeremy looked with disgust a moment at the dead alien before he spat on the body and walked over to sit on some closed crates. Intelligence given to him by Earth First had shown that the Drazi was secretly supplying telepaths with weapons. It served Earth First's purposes for this mission well. "Stupid bastard," Jeremy muttered.

After a few minutes, Jeremy found himself becoming quietly angry. "Where are they?" he thought with some impatience. The longer he waited, the harder he would find it to complete this part of the mission. He respected both of the officers that served under him. He did not really want to do this.

"Enough," he cursed his weakness silently.

Finally, he heard what he had been waiting for, and he allowed an icy calm to encompass him.

"Sir?" Lieutenant McDonald said as he entered the small back room looking for his commanding officer. Neither he nor Lieutenant Enriquez even blinked at the sight of the dead Drazi. If anything, there were brief pleased looks for the death of the alien before both men turned to their commanding officer. As each turned to face his CO, their pleased looks were quickly changed to ones of surprise. But even those looks were quickly gone as Major Harrison shot them both square in the chest with the Drazi PPG.

Both bodies hit the floor heavily, coming to rest not far from the body of the Drazi weapons dealer. Jeremy stepped over and carefully placed data crystals detailing involvement with the activities of the rouge telepaths on each of his officers' bodies.

"I'm sorry gentlemen. But be assured, your deaths will serve a purpose; will serve the cause of Earth."

Calmly, Jeremy walked away and out of the back of the shop, never noticing the drifter settled in the alleyway...

"Are you certain that you want to do this, Joseph? Blue Melange can cause irreversible damage to a telepath," John heard dimly from where he slumped in his chair.

"I know what I'm doing, and I can't ask anyone else to do this, even if I wanted to. It's my idea, so it has to be my responsibility," a deep male voice answered the woman.

"Joseph, why do this?" The woman's voice held a sincere note of concern for the other telepath in it.

"Because Kate, I think that we're going to have to kill him. Its been six days, and still no word from the Alliance but sending Rangers to try to ambush our people. It's likely that they will refuse to accede to our demands. And if that's the case, we need to learn what we can now, so we have some more to fight with."

"He knows where Lyta his?" Kate asked, referring to one of the things that the Red Hand, their Cell, wanted to know.

"He knows, he was there when she left Babylon 5. And this is the only way, the other drugs are ineffective, and it doesn't appear that he's going to break to torture. Besides, those Rangers are getting closer to finding us, not to mention that damn Mr. Garbaldi's people."

"But Joseph, Blue Melange? Please, I'm asking you to reconsider," a deep silence followed before the woman identified as Kate spoke again, "what if something happens, Joseph? As you said, he's been touched by the Vorlons, what if with the Melange..." her voice trailed off.

"Kate," the man's voice began.

"We need you, Joseph, " Kate said simply.

Silence fell as the two telepaths returned to speaking mind to mind. After several moments of only hearing his ragged breathing loud in his ears, John heard steps leaving the room. A door opened and closed as Kate left, and John felt, more than heard, Joseph's heavy steps moving toward him.

"Mr. Sheridan, believe it or not, I had hoped that it would not come to this," Joseph spoke quietly.

John coughed raggedly.

"Your government refuses to acknowledge our request, meaning that you no longer serve any purpose for us other than information." Suddenly, Joseph blew a bright powder into John's face, causing him to cough and inhale. "A crude method I admit, but effective enough." Suddenly, John heard the sound of a Minbari fighting pike being extended a few seconds before he felt the blow on his shoulder.

"Pain increases the effects and makes things happen faster," Joseph explained, as if he needed to. "Let's get this over shall we," he said, and hit John in the chest, breaking a rib...

Mr. Garabaldi stood patiently in the doorway waiting for E'da Se'k Talonryn and Theresa Halloran to acknowledge his presence.

"She's coming here?" Theresa asked, her voice fierce. "What is she thinking?"

"If you're referring to Delenn," Michael said from his place by the door, "she's probably thinking that she's going to do everything that she can to make sure John comes back to her in one piece. And I say God help anyone that stands in her way."

Theresa rounded on the former Head of Covert Intelligence, "You," she said, her voice low, "what are you doing here?"

"Let's just say that old habits sometimes die hard," Michael replied.

"And what does that mean?" the Intelligence agent asked.

"Look, I'm not trying to step on any toes here. You're excellent at your job, and I sure as hell don't want it back, okay? But it turns out that the people involved in this are not only my friends, but people that have saved my ass more than once. I figure it's my turn this time. Here," he finished, tossing a small data crystal to Theresa.

She caught it deftly, "What's this?"

"Information about certain people that are involved," Mr. Garabaldi answered.

"Information? What kind of information?" Ms. Halloran prompted.

When Michael said nothing, Theresa sighed quietly and placed the crystal into an open information port. Files scrolled down the screen and Theresa looked askance back at Michael. "I don't suppose you're going to tell me how you got a hold of this much classified information?"

Michael gave her a wry look.

"I didn't think so. Okay, so, what does it all mean?"

"A 'friend' of mine saw your Major Harrison enter and leave the Drazi weapon smuggler's shop. And he very keening observed that the two lieutenants did not leave after they had entered," Michael said darkly. "He very kindly shared this information with me which lead to me digging around a little."

"Should I ask how you convinced this new 'friend' to share?" Theresa replied, a world of meaning in her voice.

"Believe it or not, I can be a really charming guy," Michael said casually.

Theresa looked as if she would say something, then seemed to think better of saying anything else about the matter, and let it drop.

"Mr. Garabaldi, are you saying that the Earth government is involved somehow?" E'da Se'k Talonryn asked.

Michael turned to the elder Minbari, "No. Not directly. Major Jeremy Harrison appears to be though, and as it turns out, is a member of Earth First. And both Lieutenants Enriquez and McDonald were also members, quite a coincidence wouldn't you say?" Garabaldi paused a moment, letting the others consider this before he said, "Earth First would like nothing more than to see Earth as far away from any 'alien influence' as possible. And John represents everything they hate; him, Delenn, and the Alliance."

"And with Sheridan here, they saw the perfect opportunity to get rid of him without any reason for someone to suspect them," Theresa said grimly.

"Blame the telepaths," Michael confirmed. "Everything I've been able to come up with is there," he said, indicating the data crystal. "Major Harrison may have been quite careful with his information, but Lieutenants McDonald and Enriquez were not."

"So, do you know where they're keeping the president?" Theresa asked.

"Not yet, but," and he turned once more to the Anla'shok E'da Se'k, "if I can work with the Rangers, maybe together, we can figure that out."

"That will be acceptable, Mr. Garabaldi," Talonryn said.

"Leaving me to deal with Major Harrison and the fit that the Earth delegation is going to throw, not to mention the block it's going to throw in front of the negotiations," Theresa said grimly.

"Like I said, I don't want the job back," answered Michael...

John lay curled up on the floor, having been removed from the chair finally. He was a mass of bruises and cuts and his breath was coming in ragged gasps. The Melange was burning through his mind as well, bringing forth a kaleidoscopic whirl of images, thoughts and memories. Out of the corners of his eyes, phantom images taunted him in the shadows. Reality blurred before John and his inner world was heightened to a painful clarity, making him vulnerable to the telepathic pressure that Joseph used to enter his captive's mind.

Joseph himself crouched next to the injured man, his eyes dark pools of color without pupils and a few tears of blood slipping from them. The telepathic drug was working in him as well, bringing his telepathic abilities to a heightened power. Where he had been a P7 before, now he was well past a P12 for this brief time. It was one of the reasons why the Blue Melange was dangerous for telepaths, it had the potential to burn them up in a burst of power.

Almost casually, Joseph tossed something in front of John. The president refused to take it up though until Joseph planted the compulsion in his mind that John had to pick it up. With trembling fingers, the bruised man picked up the object before him. It was the image of Delenn, radiant in the crystalline light of Minbar. John instinctively focused on the image, the drug heightening his thoughts and making it impossible for John to concentrate on anything else but the image of his wife before him.

Joseph slipped into John's mind as the president narrowed his focus down to the image before him. Without regard for anything but what he wanted to accomplish, the telepath ripped through John's mind, tearing his way through it in search of the information that he wanted. John's mind relented to the onslaught, ignoring the pain and the possible damage that the telepath may have been causing. It was one of the dangers of the drug for non-telepaths, the damage to the mind, and the very real possibility that the person could loose himself and all that he was, entirely focusing on one image, thought, or memory.

The Martian light was fading now, as Joseph ripped through John's mind, feeling a great sense of urgency. The drug's immediate effects only lasted a few hours and Joseph knew that his time was short. He had to find what he was looking for now...

Garabaldi pointed to a building on the screen before him and E'da Se'k Talonryn. "There," he said, "that must be where they're keeping him. See, that's the same woman from the other data crystal showing the bombing of the government building." Michael pointed out the small blonde woman entering the innocent looking building in Mars Dome 1.

Talonryn nodded, "I agree," he replied. "Now, we must determine how we can safely remove the president."

"I believe that I can help with that," said Theresa as she entered the room. "It turns out that the rouge telepath Cell is called the Red Hand, and their activities have made some of their other telepath friends a bit upset. They're planning on hitting the Cell tomorrow."

"How do you know this?" Michael asked.

"You're not the only one with 'friends' Mr. Garabaldi, and you sure as hell don't have the market cornered on charm," Theresa replied dryly.

Michael nodded, a wry smile on his face. The smile faded quickly though as Talonryn spoke, "Can the president last another day? It has been six days that President Sheridan has been hostage to these people."

"If we use the attack of their fellow telepaths as cover, it should be easier to reach the president and get him out. With the Red Hand distracted by the attack, we should be able to avoid any unnecessary injury on our part, for both our operatives, and the president," Theresa said.

"The president's survived worse," Michael said, sounding as if he was trying to reassure himself as much as the other two people in the room with him.

"It's the best option so far, unless either of you have something better to suggest," Theresa asked, hoping somehow that they may have indeedhad something better to offer up. When neither offered any other suggestion, the Intelligence operative spoke, "Then let's figure out how to do this"...

The General's face was stern and cold as he spoke with his son. "I do not understand how this could happen. Your position has been compromised and you have failed in your mission."

Jeremy sat very still listening to the cold voice of his father over the secure channel that had been established.

"These aliens, these Rangers, know that the telepaths have not been working alone," the General stated flatly. "They have linked you to Earth First, you have endangered the cause, and therefore endangered the Earth."

"Sir, I'm confident that they cannot prove anything for certain," Jeremy answered his cold father.

"Even if I were to believe that Major, it is enough that they suspect your involvement, and that of your officers. You should be made aware that we will deny our involvement in this matter. You are on your own in this, Major," the General said crisply, letting his son know that his associates were about to allow the Major to take the fall for everything.

Before Jeremy could react, the door opened and he faced the darkly dressed assassin. The woman quickly threw the Drazi knife that she had been holding loosely in her hand.

With a wet sound, it entered Jeremy's chest and he fell heavily to the floor, dying.

Make sure all evidence that could implicate us is removed," General Harrison ordered the assassin.

"And the body?" She asked.

Jeremy coughed wetly from where he lay, blood draining from out of his mouth. Dimly he heard his father's answer before he quite struggling and allowed himself to fade, "Leave it. Major Harrison is no longer our concern."...

Theresa stood with two rangers before the open door of the small room that Major Harrison had been using as an operations center for his detail. In her hands, the Intelligence officer held a paper, permission to arrest the Major for his crimes on Martian soil. But before them was a gruesome sight.

The body of Major Jeremy Harrison lay darkly on the floor.

"Why?" asked the young Minbari ranger standing next to Theresa.

"Because this way, he takes it all with him," replied the human ranger.

"Damn," Theresa said quietly. "Let's find out if he left anything behind at all that'll be of use...

Joseph tore through John's mind. He had found memories and knowledge of the Vorlons buried inside the battered man's mind, and following these thoughts, he reached thoughts about Lyta, and Bester, and the Psi Corp. Brutally, he sifted through these thoughts, seeking information.

While Joseph did this, John focused on the image of his wife. It was like she was there with him; he could see her before him; feel her presence near. She spoke to him, "John," she said softly. She reached out to him, and John found himself reaching his hand out for his wife.

"Delenn," he whispered.

"John, come back to me," she said, her voice warm and tender. "John, come back," she said once more, her voice rich with love.

"Delenn," John's hand reached forward, brushing something metal. It was the fighting pike that had been in John's pocket and the Cell leader had used. Joseph had set it down once his attack turned from the physical to the telepathic. Now John grasped the pike in his hand.

Joseph, lost in the effects of the drug, had not noticed his captive's movement. With a single-minded determination, the telepath sifted through the contents of John's mind. John lifted the pike, gasping as the pain cleared yet more of his mind. He rose, and now, finally, Joseph realized that his victim was not where he should be. The telepath reached for his own weapon, a PPG at his hip.

With a pained gasp, John raised the pike and swung at Joseph's hand holding the weapon. Joseph dropped the PPG as the pike dropped onto his hand. With a growl, he stepped back. He sneered at John before him, swaying in pain from the abuses that his body had suffered, and the strain that he was putting on it now.

"And what are you going to do now, Mr. President?" The telepath grated out mockingly.

John stood up straighter, ignoring the pain, and thrust the pike forward quickly.

Surprised, it caught Joseph in the gut, knocking the wind out of him. Before the telepath could recover, John swung again, sweeping Joseph's feet out from under him. But that had taken the last of his strength, and John collapsed to the ground.

Gasping, Joseph stood up and kicked the pike out of John's hands. John felt the telepath try to reach into his mind once more, but John was stronger than the drug now, and Joseph grimaced as he was blocked. Before Joseph realized what was happening, John dove for the gun, wincing in pain as he did so. Quickly, he shot the surprised telepath in the chest. Joseph's body fell to the ground with a heavy thump.

John slowly rose, gasping at the pain in his chest. With a sense of dismay, he heard the door open as the telepath Kate entered. Her dark eyes took in the scene at once, and she reached for her own PPG. But, even as she was aiming the weapon, she stopped, her arm upraised with PPG in hand. Slowly, she lowered her arm, and John watched as the telepath's already dark eyes turned completely black.

"Hello, Mr. Sheridan," she said, her voice not her own.

"Ms. Alexander," John replied, his voice grim.

'Kate' smiled. "I'm glad you're still alive," she said.


"Of course, your death serves no purpose. Alive, there may be a way yet to use you to serve my interests, and that of my people," Lyta said through the woman that she was controlling. "Had I known what the Red Hand was doing, I would have stopped them earlier."

"What do you want, Ms. Alexander?"

"For now, to get you away from these people, and to help you forget any of this ever happened," she replied. "I know that you think that I can't touch you, and normally, you're right, but with the drugs in your system, I think that I can make you forget. Can you walk?" she asked carefully.

With a wary expression on his face, John answered, " I believe so."

"Good, then listen carefully. Take the door out and move down the right corridor, it's clear for now. Simply walk down the corridor until you reach a break in the hall. Take the left way, then another right, walk until you reach a large metal door. That's the exit. And Mr. Sheridan, don't waste time trying to look for me, you don't have that much to waste."

Seeing no other ready options open to him, John did as the voice said. She had been right, the corridors were surprisingly clear for the moment, and he limped his way down them. 'Kate' followed him, eerie in her possession by the other telepath. And once, when another member of the Cell almost caught them, 'Kate' shot him coldly with her PPG, commanded by Lyta to do so.

Eventually they reached the door and stepped outside into the Martian night beneath the dome. After they were far enough away to be clear of the sight of the people inside the building where John had been held hostage, Lyta spoke through Kate once more.

"Do not fight me Mr. Sheridan, I like Delenn and wouldn't want to make her a widow."

Before John could fully react, he felt a pressure behind his eyes. Lyta had been right, there was just enough of the Blue Melange left in his system to allow Lyta to reach into his mind.

"Remember nothing of the Red Hand, or of my help in this," Lyta planted the mental block, knowing that Sheridan might be strong enough to remember. But she also knew that the block would last long enough for her purposes.

Then, suddenly, she forced Kate to hold the PPG to her own head and shoot herself. The Psi Corps agent had served her purpose as far as Lyta was concerned. "Besides," Lyta thought, "it serves that bastard Bester right." Lyta killed Kate, knowing that she was Bester's illegitimate daughter. "That's another one for Byron you bastard," she thought with a grim sense of justice...

"Where did you find him?" Garabaldi asked as he ran down the hall to where a Minbari ranger and Mr. Krinski carried Sheridan between them.

Mr. Krinski answered, "we found him stumbling into Central Park. We need to have a doctor look at him quickly."

"Here," Michael said, taking the burden of his friend from Mr. Krinski, "go get Dr. Dawson, quick," referring to President Luchenko's personal physician.

Mr. Krinski moved with a speed that belied his age as he went in search of the doctor.

"Let's get him to the infirmary," Michael said. "Hold on, John," Garabaldi told his friend and former commanding officer as he and the ranger made their way to the government installation's small medical facitlities...

Delenn walked slowly into the corridor from the landing bay of the Mars conference center. She walked carefully, her belly heavy with her unborn child. Even so, Delenn was graceful and her presence appeared serene, for all that her heart leapt with concern for her husband.

She and the four Anla'shok were greeted by Michael Garabaldi and two human Anla'shok.

"Delenn," Garabaldi greeted the Entilza.

"Mr. Garabali, where is he? Take me to him please," she replied.

"Delenn," he began and then took a deep breath, "Delenn, he's been... it's not..."

"Michael, take me to him please. I need to see him," she said softly.

Garabaldi nodded quietly and he lead the way...

Dr. Dawson greeted them as the reached the small infirmary, "Entilza Delenn," he said, greeting Delenn with her Minbari title."My name is Dr. Dawson. I'm President Luchenko's personal physician assigned to her by Earth Dome. I've been looking after President Sheridan."

"I would like to see my husband."

"Of course, Entilza Delenn, but I feel that I should tell you, President Sheridan's taken a great deal of injury." The doctor paused, his face solemn as he tried to think of how best to break the news to Delenn. " The telepaths used Blue Melange. He...he may notrecover Entilza."

Delenn nodded quietly, her many years of training allowing her to hide the terror that those words made her feel.

Dr. Dawson stepped aside and Delenn entered the infirmary alone. As the door closed behind her, Delenn gasped quietly at the sight of her husband before her. He was lying on a recovery bed, machines beeping around him as they monitored his life signs. He seemed a mass of bruises and injuries. His face, his arms, every part of him, covered in wounds and ugly green and purple bruises.

Delenn walked forward slowly until she reached her husband where he lay on the bed. Gently, she she touched his brow and then leaned forward to kiss him lightly on the lips.

"John," she breathed. "Oh, John, I'm here; we're here."

John did not stir from where he was. Restlessly though, his eyes moved behind his closed eyelids as he dreamed.

"John," Delenn whispered once more, "I'm here. I love you."

Slowly, she settled on a chair next to her husband's bed. She took John's hand in her own and watched over him as he slept...

Agent Allan Krinski stood quietly in the small office before Ms. Halloran.

"Report Mr. Krinski."

Agent Krinski handed a small data crystal to the Head of Intelligence. "This is what we have found so far. As best we can tell, Major Harrison had been a member of Earth First for quite some time, as had certain members of this Security Detail. Those who are still here have been taken into custody with President Luchenko's permission. We are questioning them now. But my first guess is that they knew nothing of this plot to abduct President Sheridan. Major Harrison, it seems, only trusted this plan with a few select officers."

"Lieutenants McDonald and Enriquez," Ms. Halloran said.

Mr. Krinski nodded in confirmation of the statement. "And as best we can tell, Earth First seems to have indeed been using the rouge telepaths to cover up their own involvement. We cannot find any of the telepaths though. The Red Hand has either relocated, or been eliminated by others in the telepath resistance."

This time, it was Ms. Halloran's turn to nod in understanding.

"So what you're saying is that we have no where to go with this," Theresa said, her voice dark and dry.

"For now, unless one of the other Earth Force officers talk," agent Krinski replied.

"Which you don't think will happen," Theresa said grimly.

For which Allan had no reply...

Delenn paced the quarters that John had been given for the negotiations, clearly upset and angry, and unable to hide it.

"Delenn," Michael began, but before he could say anything more, Delenn had turned to leave the room, a determined look on her face. Michael felt that he could do nothing but follow in the Minbari woman's wake.

"John's gonna kill me," Michael thought. "Delenn," he began once more, but she seemedtoofocused to even acknowledge Michael,and continued heading to the main conference rooms consumed by an air of determination.

Delenn paused only long enough to make a shallow bow to the two Anla'shok standing guard duty before the conference doors, before she entered the large room. Both Anla'shok returned the bow and stepped aside making no effort to stop either the determined Entilza, or Mr. Garabaldi.

Michael remained near the door as Delenn moved to the center of the room. All conversation stopped and every person in the room focused their attention on the regal Minbari before them.

Without premable, Delenn began to address the gathered delegation members, "There are some dreams worth dying for, and even more that are worth living for. A good and brave man lies in the medical facilities here, for just such a dream. And yet, now, instead of fighting for this dream of peace, you all gather to shatter it. I come to now to say, enough."

"The Alliance sees great strength and potential in your people. We see that you could achieve great things, but only if you put aside your need for this conflict. We give you this chance to move past the need for war to solve your problems. We give you a chance to join us in peace. If you choose peace, we will welcome you gladly into the Alliance. We hope that you chose peace."

Suddenly, Delenn gasped and clutched at her belly. Then, she fell to the floor to the concerned outcries of those gathered...

Delenn lay gasping on the medical facility's bed, writhing in pain. Dr. Dawson and his staff were at a loss. They had tried their best to help the Minbari woman, but they had never seen anything like this. Concerned for his patient, Dr. Dawson had contacted Dr. Franklin with the emergency. They had been fortunate that the Earth Gov Head of Xenobiology was on Mars for another matter of research.

"Where is Dr. Franklin?" Dr. Dawson asked, concern lacing his voice as tended his patient.

As if on cue, Dr. Franklin entered the room and headed directly to the medical bed.

"Right here," Dr. Franklin told Dr. Dawson. Then, to Delenn, "Delenn, it's me Stephen. I'm here to help."

Delenn turned pain filled eyes to Stephen in acknowledgment of his presence.

"I'm going to help you and your baby through this," Dr. Franklin said confidently...

"You're doing good, Delenn," Franklin said from where he poised at the foot of the bed as he helped the Minbari woman.

Delenn gasped as another contraction came over her.

"Nurse," Franklin ordered, "help me here."

A nurse quickly made her way to the doctor and traded him places so that he could move to stand next to Delenn. Carefully, Dr. Franklin felt Delenn's belly, making certain that the baby was still positioned properly. Already, he had had to shift the infant twice when it had unexpectedly turned. Franklin wanted to avoid using a c-section for the birth, worried about its possible safety in this unusual birth.

Once certain that the infant was still positioned properly, he instructed the Minbari woman to finally push. She gasped in pain.

"That's right, Delenn, keep pushing," Dr. Franklin continued to instruct Delenn.

Delenn groaned, the pain filling her.

"Push, once more, Delenn," Franklin directed again.

And with a squall, the baby entered the world. The nurse rapidly moved to tend to the infant. None of them were entirely certain how the genetics affected the situation, but they did what seemed right, what certainly needed to be done such has cleaning and checking heartbeat.

Where Franklin still stood by the medical bed tending to Delenn, he swore softly, "Damn."

"She's bleeding out," he thought in a sort of angry desperation."Damn, got to get this bleeding stopped."

The baby," Delenn gasped.

"The baby's fine, Delenn. It's time to help you now," Dr. Franklin said.

"Nurse," Stephen said, calling for another nurse to help him. A young man dressed in blue scrubs made his way to where Stephen had begun to prepare to operate on Delenn.

Medical alerts began to indicate that Delenn's blood pressure was rapidly dropping.

"Oh no you don't Delenn," Dr. Franklin said firmly, and began to operate...

"Delenn," John gasped from where he lay a few rooms away from his wife...

Garabaldi sat outside the small operating room as much out of his own concern for his friend, as for the injured man that lay somewhere down the hall. Concern was clear in his voice as he asked Dr. Franklin as he left the operating room, "How is she Stephen?" Garabaldi almost dreaded the answer. If anything had happened to Delenn, he didn't think John would survive it, especially now. With relief he heard Stephen's answer.

"She and her son are doing fine now. They're resting," Stephen said. "I have to go tell John." The doctor's own relief was clear in his voice.

Michael nodded and headed down the corridor with Stephen to where Sheridan was recuperating.

"What happened in the negotiations?" Stephen asked.

"After Delenn, they got it together. It took all day, but Earth and Mars have finally come to an agreement. Mars is a free world, and both planets want to petition the Alliance to join," Michael answered.

"Good," Dr. Franklin said, nodding, pleased to hear the news.

Finally, they reached the door to Sheridan's room. They entered to see the Alliance president sitting up in hisbed. John looked to his friends as they entered the room, hisworry plain on his face."Stephen, Michael," he said,acknowledging them, but clearly needing to get past everything so that he could learn of his wife and child.

"Hey," Michael said by way of greeting.

"John," Dr. Franklin said, "We have some news. There's someone you should meet," The doctor stepped over to help Sheridan up from the bed...

John sat by Delenn's bed where she lay cradling their son. He wore a large proud grin on his face as he reached out to gently brush the cheek of his child. He looked to Delenn and lay a caressing hand against her cheek. Gently, he brushed his thumb along her cheek where it rested.

"So beautiful," he whispered.

Delenn smiled softly.

Again he looked to where his son lay in Delenn's arms. David's bright blue eyes took in everything with an intelligence and awareness that fully human babies did not often possess. His small bonecrest was pale against his dark fuzz of baby hair, still soft. Wrapped in a small, soft, purple blanket, John and Delenn's newborn son looked quite tiny.

John gave a lopsided grin, "I imagine that there are rituals that need to be observed."

Delenn smiled gently. "Yes," she said, "but we have some time. They can be performed once we return home."

John smiled quietly.

"Soon," John said, "Dr. Franklin says he would like to keep all of us for a few days; make sure that we're all okay."

Delenn nodded.

"And the negotiations?" Delenn asked.

"Michael says that they have come to an accord. Mars is free, and both planets want to petition the Alliance to join. It doesn't solve the telepath problem, but, one step at a time," John said somewhat grimly.

Delenn nodded.

David cooed in his mother's arms and both of his parents smiled fondly.

"Mi'ushaa kimara Ulanni, mia na'eysu myallna , y'mias laa'sulanii, Delenn," John said softly, his voice full of love.

"Li'faa cha'du miya, John," Delenn whispered, her own voice soft with all of the love that she felt.

"One perfect moment," John thought, "and I'll cherish it forever." He looked to his son. "It may not be a perfect universe, but I'll do everything in my power to give you the stars, my son."

Gently he reached over to kiss Delenn, a soft brush of lips. "I love you, Delenn."

She smiled softly and cherished a complete moment of happiness with her family...

Author's Final Notes: I'm not really sure about this ending. Any constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated.