Sorry for the languages errors, I lost track of my english speaking beta reader and I suppose I let some french language structures in my english phrases.

Chapter 6: On the edge of truth

Risia 3, four days later

David's smart brain was decoding the encrypted message Inesval sent him. He contacted him the day before about the ship with the bio-armor hull he had seen with Avaier.

Inesval's message was short and laconic, very Minbari. He had written he knew about that kind of technology the ship they saw had and had discovered a prototype had been stolen in one of the Ranger bases some months ago. But he couldn't say them more except continue their investigation to find the final cause of all that.

David didn't want to speak and showed the message to his partner. They were in their quarters during the afternoon's pause and the other Rangers were resting in the rooms around. David felt tired because of the ambient heat but he knew it was the ideal moment to work on his mission because they were really alone.

He lay on his bed and looked thoughtfully at the ceiling. It was like trying to solve an equation with multiple unknowns, he still lacked some of them and a great part of the truth was escaping him. They knew at least the ship was a stolen prototype, and that could lead them to an internal complicity. But what Ranger could do such an illegal thing? That was an impossible thing to imagine for him because he had been raised in the respect of the Anla'shok's values. But, as much he was thinking to all the problem's aspects, it was the only possible solution. He looked at Avaier.

"Seems we will have another short night tonight…" he said very slowly.

The meditating Minbari opened his eyes.

"I'll stay up, you'll sleep before me and you'll replace me after." he answered.

David wanted to protest but only sighed. Was his fatigue that obvious? Yes, he was tired but he knew he could hold out because of his quarter of Minbari blood. Minbari didn't say things very clearly, but he was used to this way of doing with his mother. Avaier couldn't advice him directly to rest, so he told him his own way.

Finally, he closed his eyes and Avaier awoke him about half an hour after to go back to the training. David rubbed his eyes, went to the bathroom to put some water in his face and followed the Minbari. Outside the dormitory, the heat was still high and he began sweating before really moving. That planet was really an ordeal for him and he was beginning to understand his masters were right when they said about individual organization. He had to find a way to reconcile his mission, his training and his own health. After all, he always saw his parents not counting their work hours and giving all their forces for the Alliance, he had to find his own way to do the same as a Ranger. If the mission would last longer, he'll have to trust Avaier more and try to rest a bit more to keep himself in good shape for action.

But, for me moment, he had to concentrate on his bare hand combat training given by a Minbari master. His adversary was a Human taller and bigger than him but, after receiving some punches, he found a way to put him on the ground using the fact he was lighter. Panting, he got back on his feet and felt a pain in his chest. He prayed it wasn't a broken rib but he was relieved when the pain lessened after some minutes and when he found out he didn't suffering while breathing. He would take care of that later, in his quarters.

Luckily, his second combat went better and he wasn't hurt. He remarked he was becoming better in combat disciplines. At least that mission would have been useful finally. But the heat was making things more difficult, even if his body was adapting quite well. When he came back in his quarters for a little time before dinner, he checked the bruise he had on his chest. It wasn't very serious, no rib broken, and he sighed with relief. Searching in a fabric bag, he took out a little pot containing a traditional minbari remedy and put some of it on the bruise. The freshness of the salve lessened the pain and he felt better. He'll just have to be careful the days after and he mentally thanked his mother's initiative for giving him that pot.

"Are you feeling better?" Avaier asked

David nodded.

"Yes, it was just a bruise, no need of a doctor here." He answered with a reassuring smile.

With slow and steady movements, he took off his robes and lay carefully on his bed. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep using meditation techniques, but the result wasn't what he expected. Instead, he stayed into an half asleep state until Avaier awoke him urgently during the night. David jumped out his bed without taking on entirely his robes on his night clothes and, grabbing his denn'bok, he followed his comrade. Avaier's minbari ears did hear well: a ship was approaching. Judging the very light noise, it was the same ship they saw three nights ago. David's eyes accustomed to darkness and he could, as before, see two veiled figures going to the ship. He frowned in an effort to see better but, near him, Avaier slightly moved. As a Minbari, he has a better night vision and something had caught his attention.

Seeing the ship was about lifting off again, David extended his denn'bok and wanted to prevent it to do so but Avaier held him with a negative head's movement. He tried to free himself but Avaier was stronger than him and he didn't succeed until the ship lifted off.

"What did you do? They're gone now and we won't catch them! " he said angrily.

Avaier's blue eyes posed on David with calm determination.

"I think I know who they are, I recognized one of them." He murmured very calmly, "He was limping because I hurt him during the training two days ago. It's the Drazi named Hazak"

Avaier had a very good sense of observation and he could recognize persons at their physical structure. He was pretty sure of himself about one of the smugglers' identity. It was that David suspected: an internal complicity.

The two boys sneaked in to their quarters but, as silent as they could be, it seemed their luck quota was over. In the corridor near their quarters, Ranger Pradesh was standing.

"You two, come with me" he said severely.

David had a cold sweat. Was Pradesh part of the traffic and would he put them in jail after uncovering them? But for now he couldn't avoid to follow him, so he tried to stay calm, as if he didn't fear anything. After all, he was a Sheridan, he wouldn't fear prison or disgrace because his parents survived to far worse and he didn't want to dishonor them.

Pradesh entered his office and observed the two teenagers during a long time before speaking.

"So, can you explain me what you were doing outside at this hour of the night?" he asked with a harsh voice.

David and Avaier looked at themselves, but none of them said a word. They didn't want to betray Turval and Inesval's trust and they weren't sure Pradesh wasn't involved in all that.

Pradesh looked alternatively to the two apprentices and his dark eyes stopped on David, then he started speaking again.

"It seems you aren't what you appear. How could they entrust apprentices with that kind of investigation? These robbers are professionals; you could have been killed…"

David and Avaier looked at each other, puzzled. If the chief of the camp was doing his own investigation, so why did Turval send them here?

Pradesh continued, "I can understand what's going on in your heads. You are wondering about me and my role in this traffic and, if you have any information, you won't give them to me. You can think what you want about me, I don't care, but don't do any foolish action without telling me. Is that clear?"

The two teens nodded and Pradesh finished, "Be careful and trust no one. You especially, Mister Kennedy…one quarter of yourself cannot lie. Now, go back to your quarters and rest, there is very little time left until dawn…"

Still surprised by Pradesh's reaction, David and Avaier went out his office and returned to their quarters. None of them could say a word, they didn't understand. Back in their beds, they stayed eyes wide open during a long time, hoping all the pieces they had could find a meaning…