The Telepath War: Part V

Death Shall Have No Dominion

AU 2273


Some Minbari phrases and titles from the Earth-Minbari dictionary, assembled by John Hightower.

Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.



Anilia Cotto was walking down an empty corridor towards the double doors leading into the garden outside the IA headquarters. She'd been spending as much time as she could in the garden since she'd arrived on Minbar. The first day had been a blur, being shown her rooms, then a flurry of meetings; first a private one with President Delenn, and then a brief one with several other ambassadors. She spent even more time that afternoon and this morning with Minbari telepaths poking around her mind, pulling out her memories of the Drakh, and putting them on display. Her head hurt constantly, although the telepaths complimented her on her ability to share thoughts across species. Apparently it was not a common trait.

Reaching the simple wooden bench that she had chosen as a retreat, she collapsed onto it. It stood by a small raised pond, level with the bench seat. There was a short, tumbling fountain at the rear where the rough stone wall rose to a triangular peak. She had found the garden on her way back to her rooms after her first meeting with Delenn, which had left her both impressed and stunned. The President was both the most personable and the most frightening person she had ever met. Leaning over to run her fingers through the cool water, she watched the eddies swirl around them. She felt like she'd been plunged into a rushing stream, carried away from her home, her brother, her friends, and her cause. She'd never been more scared in her life; not even in the jail cell with Lennier. She smiled slightly. The Minbari was so steady and reliable; she found herself wishing he was here. Perhaps it had not been the best idea to make him promise to take her place assisting Ker. She would never forgive herself if something happened to him on Centauri Prime. On the other hand, she also could not stand the thought of anything happening to Ker.

"Hello?"

She looked around wildly for a moment before noticing a child standing just behind her.

"Did you come to feed the placa?" He held out a small clear bag. "I brought some crumbs. They like the dark ones best."

She shook her head, "What is a placa? Do they live around here?"

He laughed and pointed at the water, "There's one nibbling at your finger!"

Jerking her hand from the water, she saw a smooth spotted animal slide further into the deep of the pool. "Do they bite?" she asked in fascination.

"No! Well, they bite the crumbs, but that is not what you meant, is it?" The boy sat on the raised edge of the pond, balancing the bag of food on the stones. He reached inside, and pulled out a handful, "Now, watch." He carefully let them fall from his fingers onto the surface of the water.

Anilia watched in interest as the placa rose, one by one, to the surface, seemingly taking turns to feed on the crumbs. There was no fighting or splashing; just the orderly rise and fall of the animals, their whiskered snouts breaking the surface and sending ripples along the dark water. You couldn't seem them until they were almost at the top, as the sun didn't penetrate very far into the pond. Anilia took a moment to look at the boy feeding them. He looked human, with light brown hair and bright blue eyes, but was dressed in Minbari clothing, although his robe was short, and he was wearing louse trousers under it. He seemed vaguely familiar. He looked up and flashed her a brilliant smile, and she was startled to realize he strongly resembled John Sheridan. She knew he and Delenn had a child, and she guessed this must be him.

"I am Anilia Cotto…" she began.

"I know. You're Vir's sister, aren't you? What's Centauri Prime like? I've never been there. I've never been anywhere…well, twice to Proxima, and one I went all the way to Earth! When I become a Ranger, I'm going to go everywhere!" After this burst of enthusiasm, he fell silent, then hurriedly added, "Oh, and my name is David Sheridan, Secha Cotto. I am very pleased to meet you." He gave her a deep bow.

She inclined her head in return, "And I you, David Sheridan. Do you come here often, to feed these…placa?"

"I don't get the chance very often. I have lessons, all the time. There is a small pond in the garden outside our home, but it's not big enough for placa."

"How did you come here today, then?"

He looked around, furtively, and whispered, "I told my tutor I had forgotten my book at home, and he let me go back for it."

"Did you go home?"

"Of course! Minbari do not lie…the book is here," and he showed her an inner pocket in his robe. "I went and fetched it, and the bag of crumbs for the placa. I'll go back soon and finish my lessons." He scattered the last of the crumbs on the water, and sat on the bench next to her. "It is too nice a day to spend all of it inside, studying. Don't you agree?"

She had to smile at his appeal. "Of course. And you are entertaining a guest of your mother's, aren't you? A very necessary task."

He beamed in reply. His face fell a bit then, and he said, "Have you seen my mother today? I haven't seen her since this morning. She's been terrifically busy lately, and Dad's away, too…though Mother says he'll be back soon."

Anilia thought the child sounded lonely. "How old are you, David?" she asked.

"In Earth years, or Minbari cycles?" he asked seriously. "I am eleven years old. I wonder how old I would be in Centauri…what are the Centauri units of time?"

Anilia laughed, "We measure time in decats. I don't know how they would correspond to years or cycles! Tell me about your tutors, your friends…I know nothing about Minbari culture! Are there no schools; are all children taught at home or do you have tutors due to your parent's status?"

David looked down, and bit his lip, "I'm not sure exactly. I'd like to go to school, but I think my parents are afraid."

"Afraid of what?" Anilia wondered at the child's trust in her. Was she so non-threatening, or was his world so secure that trust came easily to him? If the second, why would his parents be afraid to let him go to school?

David said, with a touch of sad defiance, "I am different, Secha. Different from everyone." He unconsciously reached up and ran his hand through his thick hair, briefly revealing the vestigial bone crest hidden within.

Anilia suddenly realized what he was talking about, a human-Minbari mix, truly he was different from other children, human or Minbari. Trying to comfort him, she confided, "I know what that is like. When I was only 5 years old, my mother found out that I could see into her mind."

"You are a telepath? That must be wonderful…could you tell what she was thinking?" He paused, and then asked anxiously, "Can you tell what I am thinking?"

"No," she laughed. "First of all, I have taken vows to not do so without permission of the person who wants scanned. Also, I have to try, and I am not trying, I promise you! Still, it was hard when I had to leave my parents and go to a special school for telepaths. I think I would have preferred to stay at home. That is why I never met my brother until we were both adults. He was born long after I left."

"It must be nice to have a brother, though. I wish I had one. I have cousins, but they are older than me, and I don't see them very often. They live on Proxima."

"Well, I miss Vir already. He is my little brother. Perhaps you could stand in for him while I am here?"

David said, "I think that would be all right. If you were my sister, would you tell my mother I delayed going back to my tutor?"

"I certainly would not! We would have to stick together on these things."

"That's good."

He sounded relieved, and Anilia wondered if his mother was strict with him. She didn't remember her own mother well, but Vir said she had been loving and indulgent with him.

"Secha?" David started.

"Call me Anilia, please." Even a child speaking her name would be better than no one. A lump formed in her throat, as she faced once again the realization of her exile.

"Are all telepaths related in some way? My tutors have told me some of the news, about the homeworld, and it seemed like they wanted all kinds of telepaths to go there."

Anilia was silent for a moment. "I think, what they meant, is that what we have in common, that is, telepathy, is more important than our differences."

"David!" The voice sounded across the garden, and they both jumped. David looked up and shouted in joy, then pelted across the lawn towards the two approaching figures.

"Aunt Susan! Is Dad home?" He flew into her arms, and received a bear hug in return.

"He's home, squirt, and so am I!" Susan lifted David off the ground with her return embrace. "Your Dad's with your Mother, but they'll be looking for you soon. Shouldn't you be at lessons right now?"

David, once returned to his feet, made a polite bow to Turlann, who accompanied Susan, and pointed back towards Anilia. "I was talking to Secha Cotto. She's very nice, come and meet her." He took Susan's hand and pulled her along in his enthusiasm. Turlann followed, more slowly.

"Here she is! This is Anilia, Aunt Susan. Anilia, this is Susan Ivanova. She leads the Rangers."

"We've met, David," Susan said gently to the boy, letting go of his hand. She bowed to Anilia, and said neutrally, "Sera Cotto. I hope you had a pleasant journey."

"It was most pleasant, and I was pleased to hear that Lennier had been freed."

Susan bowed her head in agreement, and Anilia continued, a little anxiety entering her voice. "I heard nothing regarding Ker, or the others. Do you know anything of their future plans, or of Lennier's?"

Susan restrained her temper with difficulty. The silly woman knew what Lennier's plans were. Then she realized that Anilia had probably heard little of what had happened after she'd left Centauri Prime, and she sat down beside her on the bench. "Turlann," she said, "perhaps you could escort David inside. I'm sure his parents are looking for him, and if not, his tutor surely is."

Turlann nodded, and said, "I will return shortly." David bowed to Susan and to Anilia, and then went off with Turlann, pelting him with questions the two women could hear clearly all the way to the building.

"Anilia, I'm afraid I have some bad news…" she stopped the Centauri woman's questions with a gesture and continued, "Vir is fine, and Ker, but two members of the rescue party were captured. I'm afraid the Emperor had them killed."

Anilia tensed, and asked, "Who?"

"The woman at the Palace, Larra, and a telepath named Cilla. I am truly sorry."

Silent for a moment in her shock, Anilia stared at Susan, then said, "Larra? Great Maker, she had so little to do with all this! She only helped us out of friendship…and Cilla? She was so young, just out of school. She had just been betrothed, to another telepath. Did anyone tell Runne? He must be devastated!" She stifled a sob, then asked tentatively, "What of Ker? Is he continuing with the rebellion? What will he do?"

Susan sighed. How did she luck into this job? "The rebellion was crushed. Most of the telepaths have either left Centauri Prime, or are in hiding preparing to leave. Ker decided to go to Mars, to join up with Lyta Alexander, and work with her on establishing the telepath homeworld."

Almost afraid to ask, Anilia said timidly, "Did Lennier go with him then?"

Susan counted to ten before she answered, "Of course he went with him! Isn't that what you wanted? What you asked him to do?"

Anilia lifted her chin defiantly, "He was free to agree or not. I didn't force anything on him, if that's what you thinking."

"That's not the point! You couldn't force him to do anything he didn't want to do, but asking him to stay on Centauri Prime was putting him at great risk, and for what? There wasn't much he could do to help Ker there; you must have known that!"

Anilia replied somewhat miserably, "I didn't think that far ahead. I just knew I was going to have to leave, and they needed help." At Susan's accusatory look, she snapped, "Are you upset that he promised to help, or that he promised to help me?"

Susan stood at that, and said icily, "I'm afraid I have to go. I have a great to deal to do. Have a pleasant stay on Minbar, Sera Cotto. Once again, I am sorry for your loss." As she turned and walked away, she fervently hoped she wouldn't be seeing Anilia again any time soon.

Turlann had quickly found David's tutor, who had searched the complex, and was on his way to the garden when they encountered him. Entrusting his charge to the relieved Minbari, he informed him that the boy was wanted at home. He then returned to the garden. When he got back, he found Anilia alone, trailing one hand in the water, looking quite downcast.

He approached quietly, uncertain whether she wanted company at this time, and wondering where Anla'Shok Na had gone. Ivanova had asked him to look after Anilia, help her 'settle in' as she put it. The Centauri didn't look up, and he stood for a moment, then made up his mind. "May I join you?" and he sat down beside her. "You've made a friend, you know. The boy spoke quite fondly of you as we walked."

She looked up at him, and smiled. "He is easy to like. He reminds me of his father."

"I always found him more like his mother myself, but then I know her rather better than Entil'zha Sheridan."

"How long have you known them then? And, by the way, it is good to see you again."

"And you also, Sera. I first met Delenn over twenty years ago. I joined the Anla'Shok just after the end of the war."

"The war against the Shadows? I know little of that conflict, I'm afraid."

Turlann smiled, "No, the war we waged against the humans. I am rather older than you think."

"The Rangers are a mystery to me. On Centauri Prime they are feared, and despised as agents of the Alliance. My brother tells me they do valuable work, and then you came to rescue Lennier..."

"Perspectives differ." Turlann inclined his head towards her. "Would you like to hear more? It seems you may be staying on Minbar a while, and it might help you to know some of our history."

Anilia nodded eagerly, and Turlann proceeded to give her a condensed version of the over thousand year history of the Anla'Shok. At the end, she sat in silence, digesting what she had heard. Turlann slipped into silent meditation, awaiting any questions.

"Where does Lennier fit into this? Is it solely his relationship with Sera Ivanova that led you to come to Centauri Prime? Or did President Delenn send you; he works for the Alliance, does he not?"

Turlann hesitated, some of the issues she was raising were personal, and he was not sure he should be discussing them. On the other hand, the Centauri female was involved already, and it might help her to understand the situation. "Lennier was Anla'Shok at one time, but is no longer. Anla'Shok Na leads us, but is not yet one of us; though she is progressing rapidly through the training, and will soon take her vows. This is somewhat rare actually. Many leaders of the Rangers are not Rangers themselves. Delenn took some training to familiarize herself with our traditions, but Entil'zha Sheridan has had none."

Anilia looked confused, but focused on one piece of information. "Why did Lennier leave your group? Was this before or after Ivanova took over as leader?"

"Long before. And that story is not mine to tell. You may ask Lennier when he returns, but do not be surprised if he does not answer; he seldom discusses it."

Anilia changed tacks. Leaning forward, she asked, "Why was Ivanova angry that Lennier went with Ker to Mars? I thought she was worried he would not be safe on Centauri Prime…so why not be pleased at the change in destination? Or is she just annoyed he is not coming back here immediately?"

Turlann was grateful he'd taken the few moments to arrange his thoughts in meditation. This was a tangled web of emotions he was being asked to navigate. "Her worry is that Mars is no longer safe. Word came soon after Lennier and Ker left that a hostage situation had arisen there. Some children are involved, and there are protests and riots; the situation is both confused and perilous. She worries because she cares, not only about Lennier, but the others involved, friends and also innocents caught up in the fighting."

Anilia settled back onto the bench, and exhaled. "That is unfortunate." She closed her eyes, and rubbed her temples with the palms of both hands. "I wish my head would stop aching. Your telepathic investigators are quite thorough."

"I can get you some medication for your pain. Have they finished their work yet?"

"I think so. I hope so…it was interesting though. Your people have some novel ideas on telepathic interrogation and recording."

"If you are interested in such things, perhaps you could work with them. I know a need for psychic healers has recently arisen, and they are short-handed. Could you do such work?"

"I don't know," Anilia said hesitantly. "They tell me I can walk in Minbari minds quite well for an alien. I had little difficulty sharing my memories with Lennier in the cell."

Turlann mentally filed that piece of information. "When Lyta Alexander was here, she worked with our healers helping some of the telepathic veterans of the Shadow War. Apparently, there are delayed effects of their efforts fighting the Enemy, showing up even at this late date."

Anilia sat up straight. "Well, I wanted to continue helping Ker, and our fellow telepaths. If he feels the best way is to assist Lyta Alexander in her work, maybe it would be good for me to continue her work here. Can you put me in touch with someone so I can volunteer?"

"I am certain I can. Thank you, Sera. It is good of you to care for those who fought against the Shadows. It was not your war."

"If Lyta and Ker are right, then we telepaths need to join together. So perhaps I am on their side. Perhaps, in a way, it was my war. Perhaps it is all part of the same war."

Turlann rose, and offered his hand to assist her from her seat. They walked together in companionable silence, back to the IA headquarters building.

***********************

The following morning Susan headed to her class. Normally she disliked meditation training, but she hoped it would work today. She needed to stop her thoughts from circling around things she needed to do and didn't know how to, and things she wanted to do but could do nothing about. Just working out what that meant should take up all her class time. The idea that she could learn to clear her mind, and let it drift to a focus point without settling on a problem that needed solved was foreign to her, and yet she knew it was central to Minbari and Ranger training. It was part of who they were, and she needed to learn it. She entered the classroom, bowed to the Minbari teacher, and took her place on one of the raised platforms designated for the students. She went through the mental discipline necessary to clear her mind, but she couldn't focus because she had a nagging feeling people were watching her. Opening one eye, she looked around, and saw several of the trainees staring at her. Looking ahead, she saw the teacher was similarly bemused by the lack of attention in the class.

"May I ask what is distracting you today?" The Ranger in charge addressed the class in general. Susan thought he wasn't including her, but he pointed at her directly, and then repeated the question.

She hesitated, and he repeated the question. "I am distracted, I admit. I hoped to gain the insight from this class to address my problems, which are many and varied."

"The others seem to be focused on you. Perhaps you are the problem?"

Susan held back her temper with some effort. "I don't think so, with all respect, Sech Lathon. I am not at fault here. Unless the fault lies in my being here at all."

Lathon was silent for a moment. "Let us ask the class their opinion, Anla'Shok Na. Class, is it your opinion that the presence of Ranger One is disruptive, and will impede you from completing your studies?"

The various species in the class looked at each other with dismay. Finally, one Minbari trainee spoke up, "It is not. We are honored by her presence."

Susan squirmed in her seat, and said abruptly, "I am just another trainee while in class, Ranger, and I expect you to act as if I am. It is important to me that I learn what you have learned, experience what you experience. I need to be one of you if I am to lead you."

The class muttered its approval, and there was a smattering of applause from the humans in the class.

Susan expelled an annoyed breath. "You don't understand." Hesitating, she finally said, "I don't understand, and I need to. That's why I'm here." To herself, she thought, if I am going to ask the Anla'Shok to change, I must understand what I am asking; what will be lost, and what could be gained, in the process.

Lathon nodded, and said to the class. "Resume your meditations, class. If Secha Ivanova is to be a Ranger, she must be allowed to continue her studies. She is, as she says, one of us."

The others returned to their positions, eyes closed. Susan, however, found her eyes stinging with tears. What she was going to ask would change the Rangers irrevocably, and it would be her responsibility, and hers alone. She prayed she was headed in the right direction with them. This was something she could not easily discuss with Lennier, not with his history. Still, she found herself wishing he was there.

**********************

Lennier's ship was approaching the final jump to Earth Federation space, and it would be short hop from there to Mars. News of the barely controlled chaos on the planet had reached them, and was causing some dissension on the ship. Ker was moody, and anxious to join Lyta and offer his assistance. Maeve Callahan was also eager to get down on the planet and help. He had been reluctant to include the young Ranger in the landing party, but Susan seemed to trust her and want her along, so he had agreed.

Lennier seemed to be alone in his doubts that they could accomplish anything. He'd contacted Garibaldi, and someone from Edgars Industries would be meeting them at the port. He was taking a minimal number of people; the small flyer with the ship seated four, so the three of them and one other Ranger would be going. He thought another human would be best, and had chosen Jason Walker. He had trained on Mars, which might prove useful. He had impressed upon them that they must strive to remain neutral in the face of the ongoing crisis. That would not be an easy task; the terrorists were broadcasting pictures of crying children and frightened adolescents, and conditions within the school building were deteriorating. They had food and water, as it was a boarding school, but there had been damage to the electrical system which was affecting heating and cooling as well as lighting. The situation could not go on this way for much longer.

Taking a break from the command chair, Lennier had walked to his quarters. He needed to collect his thoughts before they arrived. He had thought about trying to contact Minbar, but he had no idea what he could say, to either Anilia or to Susan. He had been feeling more and more guilty about the promise he had made to Anilia to assist Ker in his mission. The mission had changed, the venue had changed; what had not changed was his uneasiness about his motivation and commitment. He knew it had been both necessary and expedient to get Anilia off Centauri Prime. Her evidence was important to the Alliance, and her safety on her homeworld was not assured. It had comforted her to know that he would stay and help Ker in any way he could. He had kept to himself the fact that his assistance would be limited and short term.

As for Susan…there he had to rein in his emotional response, which, as always, threatened to overwhelm his ability to think logically. He reached his quarters, entered, and sat before the low table set in one corner of the room. Taking the time to set up a ritual meditation, lighting candles, reciting prayers, let him center and calm himself. His hands went through the familiar motions automatically. It was comforting in a way he could never explain to others. As his mind emptied itself of the frustrations of the day, he could feel peace flowing into and through him. The candle flame flickered and then settled to a steady tranquil glow. Now he could let himself look at his feelings and actions without the turmoil and ache that thoughts of his lover brought forth recently.

He had been shocked at her rescue attempt on Centauri Prime: shocked that she would defy her superiors, shocked that she would abdicate her leadership of the Rangers, shocked that she would place herself in physical danger. Deep down, he could not quite believe she had done all that for him. She had asked if he would not have done the same. He had replied that he would; but truth be told, he was not certain of that. He had been trained early and well in the paths of obedience, and though he was no longer a naïve Temple acolyte, he was still Minbari, and accustomed to following the orders and directions of those acknowledged as his superiors. Years and experience had tempered that response, yet it remained an integral part of him.

That was part of what puzzled him. She had been trained in similar fashion. The human military had its codes and traditions of service and obedience; not as strict or all-encompassing as the Minbari religious and Warrior caste, but the roots were the same. Was it that her feelings for him were that strong? Was that a good thing? Then there was her Anla'Shok training. The training was designed to allow its members to use their initiative, under the aegis of training them first extensively in the beliefs and goals of the Anla'Shok, so decisions made by individuals were those that should be made, that would be made by any other Anla'Shok. It was a merger of the ideas of personal and collective responsibility, an attempt to combine the best of human and Minbari traditional strengths. When the Anla'Shok had broadened to include other species, the training had of necessity changed too. Now the Anla'Shok was being asked to change again, and Susan would be at the forefront of that change. Although he trusted her leadership, he found her recent actions unsettling. He found his faith in her not as secure as it was, and that thought disrupted his hard-fought for peace of mind.

The door chime rang to complete his coming out of meditation. He sighed, and rose to his feet to greet his visitor. "Enter," he said, and the door opened to reveal Ranger Callahan.

"May I come in, Sech?" she asked, her tone deferential, but self-confident.

"Certainly. How may I be of service to you? I'm afraid we have not had much time to speak with one another, but I wanted to thank you for your part in my delivery from captivity."

"You are most welcome, but I had little to do with the actual mission. I followed Anla'Shok Na, as I always will."

Lennier was struck by her loyalty, and wondered if that was why Susan had chosen her for this mission. Then a second, disturbing thought hit him. Maybe she wanted someone of her own choosing on this mission. She had been quite upset that he was fulfilling his promise to Anilia; did she think he had some other motive in doing so?

"Sech Lennier, I wanted to ask you something."

Lennier gestured Maeve to a seat at the small round table in the corner of the room. Quarters were small on these White Stars, even for the command staff. His room had a tilted bed, a table and two chairs, and the low meditation table. It all felt quite familiar to Lennier who had spent the last few years mainly aboard ship. He sat down and faced Maeve expectantly. She was looking down at the tabletop and her face was hidden behind a curtain of wavy black hair. When she did not immediately speak, he felt compelled to put her at her ease. "We should arrive at Mars tomorrow. The others should be back on Minbar by now, or soon." He watched her fidget a bit in her seat, and went on, "How long has it been since you took your vows?"

"Not long. Centauri Prime was my first mission. I was assigned to Anla'Shok Na's ship, and voted to go with her when she defied Entil'zha and the President."

Lennier suppressed a look of pain, and said, "I see. She values your dedication, I know."

"That's just it!" Maeve burst out, her blue eyes blazing. "I feel more loyalty to her than to them…is it possible to remain an Anla'Shok with this attitude? Who is the One that I have to live and die for? Valen himself, or some modern equivalent? Something doesn't feel right about this." She grew more agitated as she continued. "There was a vote, and many of us voted to accompany Anla'Shok Na, but many voted to stay. It was unlike anything I'd experienced in EarthForce, except maybe volunteering for a dangerous or suicidal mission. This wasn't going to be that bad, it seemed to me…" Her voice trailed off, and she started to apologize. "I am sorry for burdening you with this. It has been preying on my mind, and I know none of the Rangers aboard well enough to talk to. None of them made the decision I did, in any case, as they all came with Entil'zha. You know Anla'Shok Na well, it's obvious, and I had hoped you could help me understand what was happening. Was she right to go? What will happen when she gets back? Are the Rangers going to survive this?"

Lennier sat in silence for a moment. He had no idea what to say to the confused young woman, and her fears echoed his own deep concerns. Finally, he spoke, "In the end, we put our trust in others to guide us when our path seems uncertain. You put your trust in Susan Ivanova, and that is a wise course, I assure you."

Maeve smiled briefly, and nodded in agreement. "It will have to do, I suppose. Thank you, Sech Lennier, for hearing me out." She rose, and bowed to him.

He sat, lost in thought for a moment, then called out. "If you need to talk again, please do not hesitate to ask."

She turned at the door, and said, "That's great. I was so worried. The last thing I would ever want to do is to betray the Anla'Shok."

He sat in stricken silence, her final words echoing in his ears, for a long time afterwards.

***********************

The flyer landed at the main spaceport outside Burroughs, and the small group left it docked in the long term docking bay, as they were uncertain how long they would be staying. The four of them walked down towards the exit to the main terminal, each lost in their own thoughts. Jason and Maeve walked behind Lennier, as if they were guarding him, which made him supremely uncomfortable. He had asked Ker to walk with him, but he had shrugged off the offer, and lingered behind the two Rangers, who were careful to keep an eye on him. It was obvious Ker had never been off-planet, he closely observed everything, although he tried to hide his interest behind a wall of indifference. Lennier was the first to spot the blinking guide-bot floating in midair, with the Edgars Industries logo flashing in blue lights. He gestured to the others, and followed the 'bot into the terminal and towards the exits. As they neared the glass doors, he heard his name called.

"Lennier! Hey, over here!"

Looking down the wall of doors, he spotted a familiar face. "Mr. Allan?"

Zack ran up to him, and stuck out his hand, "Hey, I think we can skip to Zack, don't you?" He shook Lennier's hand enthusiastically, and added, "It's been a long time, hasn't it? The Chief sent me to pick you guys up and bring you straight to him and Lyta." His voice dropped, and became serious, "So much has been going on, and none of it good. We're hoping you or the others might have some ideas on what to do. Those poor kids…" His voice trailed off, as he escorted them out a door, and into a private groundcar, a luxury on Mars, emblazoned with the EI logo.

"What is the situation then," Lennier paused, then politely added, "Zack?"

"Well, you've probably heard the basics on the way here. But the situation is a stalemate, a real Mexican standoff. Nobody knows what to do. We've got some ideas, but the Marscops have shot them all down. PsiCorps is going ballistic, but no one knows what they're really thinking, or planning. Meanwhile it just gets worse and worse for the kids in the school." He fell into silence, as they sped through the empty streets.

"Where is everybody?" The question came from Ker. "Are the streets always this uncrowded?"

Zack shook his head. "Martial law. There were so many protests and counter-protests, normals versus teeps, and it started getting violent. There's a curfew, and limits on the size of groups allowed on the streets. It's helped, but bottling people up is adding to the tension."

He stopped, to indicate to the driver that they should go to the back entrance to the building. When the car stopped, he got out, and carefully looked around the parking area. It was isolated and guarded by both electronic surveillance, and a live guard at the gate, but he was not going to take any chances, not after what had happened at the studio. Privately he thought the electronics were probably more reliable when it came to teeps.

After they entered the building, he took them straight to the lift. At the fifth floor, they exited, and he walked down a carpeted hallway to a paneled wooden door. Zack hit the door chime, placed his thumb against the keypad for identification, then said his name aloud for voice authentification. The door opened, and he indicated they should go in.

Lennier had just entered the doorway, when he was slapped on the back. Instinctively he reached back, grabbed the arm of his assailant and twisted it around.

"Ow!" said a familiar voice. "Let go, willya? You Minbari never watch your strength around us mortal men."

He hastily let go, and apologized profusely to Garibaldi, who waved it off, although he rubbed his forearm ruefully. "When will I learn? So how are you, Lennier? How's Susan doing?"

"She is well, Mr. Garibaldi. It is very good to see you again, even under these circumstances."

"You want to try Michael?" Garibaldi looked beyond Lennier, and said, "So who are your playmates?"

Pointing to each person in turn, Lennier introduced the others, at the same time wishing the humans would stop asking him to use their first names. He'd never gotten over the feeling that it was disrespectful. Still, it seemed important to them; apparently he'd crossed some threshold of friendship unbenownst to him. "Maeve Callahan and Jason Walker are Rangers, as you see. This is Ker Turro; he is from Centauri Prime, and is anxious to locate Lyta Alexander."

"Is he? Well, here she is." Lyta was standing in the doorway to the bedroom.

Zack hurried over, and said, "Are you feeling okay? It's only been a few days; the doc said you should take it easy."

She took a moment to smile at Zack, then addressed Ker. "I remember you. Things didn't go well on Centauri Prime, did they?"

Ker bowed to Lyta, and came over to her. "They did not. Have you heard much news from there?"

"Not really. It's just that everything seems to be going wrong. What happened?" She stiffly walked over to the couch and sat down. "Tell me," she said, indicating that Ker should sit next to her.

Garibaldi took Lennier into the kitchen area, announcing they would prepare some refreshments. While they were apart from the others, he took the opportunity to quiz Lennier. "So what do they think? John and Delenn, I mean? I gather Lyta talked to them, but I'll bet she didn't tell them everything.

"I do not believe they were aware of all of her plans, no. I have not had the opportunity to speak with Delenn, but I have spoken with both John and Susan. They are very concerned that this situation does not escalate further than it has. The violence has spread to many worlds now, and it is difficult containing it with the situation here so unstable. Many of the telepaths on those worlds are looking to Ms. Alexander for guidance."

"Well, the situation here is impossible. The teeps holding the kids won't talk to the government, PsiCorps wants to go in and take them out, the government is terrified of the repercussions if there's a slaughter. No one wants to take responsibility for making the final decision, and conditions in there just get worse the longer they wait."

Lennier looked thoughtful, "And what is Ms. Alexander's suggestion? It seems she is at the center of the matter."

Garibaldi sighed, "She wants to try and talk to them, of course. Neither the government or PsiCorps will even consider it…they're half convinced she's behind the whole thing."

Lennier cocked his head, "Is she?"

"Honestly?" said Garibaldi wearily, "I don't know. She's capable of it, sure. She seemed totally surprised and shocked when the news came, but with teeps you can't tell. She could have influenced me to see it that way." He briefly filled Lennier in on what had happened at the studio.

"And what is your role in this? Why are you helping her? Why have you been helping her all this time?" Lennier tried to keep his voice neutral. It was something they all wondered, but he was certain the answer he received would not be complete.

"I just wanted to help her out. She was in a jam, and needed somewhere to park the money she got from G'Kar, and keep it growing for her project. She couldn't handle it from where she was, and she was at the point where she didn't trust many people."

"She trusted you?"

"I guess." Garibaldi sounded defensive now. "She knew I didn't like the Corps, and this was a fairly benign way to get back at them; challenging their authority over human telepaths by giving the teeps an option, a homeworld to go to. Money management is part of what I do now anyway. It wasn't hard to get some of the bean-counters at Edgars to get her set up with a portfolio, and send her cash when she and G'Kar needed it. Nothing wrong with that."

"I never said there was. It is understandable, but is it not a problem now?"

"A public relations nightmare is what it is! Lise is going to skin me when she gets back from Earth. She's only been gone two weeks, family matter…who would have thought it could all go wrong so quickly?" Garibaldi set out for the living area with two pitchers filled with juice and water.

Picking up the tray Garibaldi had filled with food and glasses, Lennier followed. "Who indeed?"

Ker and Lyta were still deep in conversation, some verbal, some obviously mind-to-mind. It was disconcerting when they would suddenly break off speaking and stare at each other intently. One would nod, then the conversation would pick up again, at a totally different point. Zack was chatting with Maeve and Jason, trying to put them at ease and succeeding. After they had all gathered around the low table in front of the couch and served themselves, Garibaldi stated what was on all their minds.

"What are we going to do next?" He was looking at Lyta as he spoke, his mouth half full of sandwich.

She pursed her lips, and answered, "You know what has to happen. I have to talk to them, get them to release the hostages. But I need some guarantees, and I need access! Until we get that, it can only get worse. And the longer we wait, the more likely it is that PsiCorp will intervene. They won't want the children hurt, but it is extremely damaging to their reputation to allow blips to challenge them like this. If they go in, it will be a disaster."

"It's already a disaster," broke in Zack. "They've killed some of the teachers already…the government can't give them immunity now! Somebody's got to go in and break this up, and like it or not, a lot of people will probably get killed."

Garibaldi said, his voice hard, "I've talked to the Council over and over. They're petrified of making the wrong move; they're under pressure from the Corps, the media, the general populace, EarthGov. They don't trust you, and they don't really trust me anymore, and they are not going to do a damn thing!"

Maeve spoke up then, "Can we get her in? Can the Rangers help?"

Lennier looked over at her, and speculated, "Possibly. If Ms. Alexander is willing to take the risk that she will become another hostage…there must be a way."

"The police have the whole place cordoned off! No one can sneak in there!" expostulated Zack.

"We walk in the dark places, where no one else will go. I am familiar with that area." recited Jason, then resumed his silent observation.

Lyta cleared her throat, "I still have some contacts in the telepathic underground here. No, not this group!" She said hurriedly as they all stared at her. "From long ago, when I was on the run from PsiCorp here. They might know a way in. They rather specialized in finding secret ways in and out of PsiCorp facilities."

Ker looked at her with open admiration, "It is a risk, Lyta. You do not know these people. They must be desperate, or they would not threaten children."

"I may not know them, but I know their desperation. I can talk to them; I know I can. Besides, isn't it worth the chance? If we don't intervene, the government will try to wait them out, they will grow more desperate and start killing people, and probably sooner rather than later, PsiCorp will go in. It will be a bloodbath, in any of those scenarios. Please help me get in there, and at least try to settle this peacefully." She looked around the room, pleading with her voice alone, resisting the impulse to intervene mentally.

Lennier looked at Garibaldi, "What is your opinion?"

"What's yours? Do you speak for the Alliance?"

Silent for a moment, Lennier answered slowly, "I speak only for myself. I was sent to gather information and observe. If it were up to me alone, I would assist Ms. Alexander. It seems there are few options, and this one seems to offer the most hope, although it is slight."

"I agree with Lennier," Ker said quickly.

The two Rangers looked at each other, and both nodded in agreement. Maeve spoke, "It's this plan or do nothing."

Garibaldi was silent, sitting on the edge of his chair, rolling a glass back and forth between his palms. Zack was standing behind him, open-mouthed in dismay. "You all are crazy! We can't go into the middle of a hostage situation just like that! They'll either kill us too, or take us hostage and add to the problem. C'mon, Chief! This goes against everything you ever taught me about this sort of thing!"

Garibaldi looked straight ahead, focusing on Lyta. "Your responsibility, your decision. I say go ahead."

She nodded decisively and said, "Get me a secure line. I'll try to contact my associates."

**********************

They agreed to keep the group small and not to contact the local Rangers, as the fewer who knew of their plans, the better. Lyta was going, of course. Lennier had insisted that he go to represent the Alliance. He could reassure the telepaths that the homeworld concept at least was supported by the IA. Maeve and Jason were coming, as Rangers were always useful, and Zack insisted he accompany them. The only problem was Ker, who desperately wanted to go, but really had no role, and being Centauri, would stick out. Lennier was torn; his primary mission was to assist Ker in aiding telepaths, and to protect him. How could he do that without including him in the mission? He had hoped his duty would be done once he got Ker to Lyta, and he could leave the telepath to pursue his goals. As he wavered back and forth, Lyta finally said, "Another telepath might be useful! Let him come along—we need to get going."

Garibaldi offered to outfit them, but Lyta pointed out that weapons would be fairly useless against telepaths. So they went unarmed, and with a minimum of supplies; some water, lights, some medical supplies. They left the building after dark, and met one of Lyta's contacts in the parking area behind the building. He led them to a nearby building thru back alleys, inside and down steps to a sub-basement, then through ventilation tunnels for what seemed like miles. They had to dodge the occasional guard and maintenance worker, but the tunnels were empty for the main part. After a solid hour of walking, he stopped, and pointed to a side door in the tunnel. "You go through there, up two sets of steps, left, then down a corridor about half a mile. There's a door on the right, marked with the omega sign. That's the entrance to the basement of the school. We don't know where they are in the building, and they will be on the alert for scans…"

"They won't be able to tell they're being scanned." Lyta said definitely. "I'll find them."

He nodded, and went on, "You can get out this way, of course, and we'll have someone watching the exit in case you do, but hopefully, you'll come out the front door, with the children. Good luck." Then he disappeared into the shadows.

Zack took point, with Lyta behind him, followed by Ker and Lennier, and the Rangers taking up the rear. Maeve lingered behind, and whispered to Jason, "Do you think this is going to work?"

Jason said softly, "No. But it might. In any case, it will be a death with meaning and honor. What more could we want?"

As they approached the door, Lyta touched Zack's arm. "I need to find them before we go in. Wait here for a moment." She went up to the door, and laid her bare hands flat against the cold steel surface. Closing her eyes, she went completely still for several minutes. Finally, she opened her eyes, and said, "Get me some light over here." Taking a datapad from her pack, she quickly sketched out a plan of the building. "The kids are in these back rooms. No guards inside I think, though it's hard to be sure. The frightened thoughts could be coming from the captors as well as the captives at this point. There are about a dozen adult telepaths scattered throughout the building, one at each entrance..." She quickly indicated where those were. "Then there's a group of four or five of them in one central room. They're probably the leaders, trying to decide their next move. That's where I need to go. Lennier, you're with me, and Ker too, I suppose. Zack, could you and the others go in first, and take out the guards at the entrances? I'll block your thoughts so you can sneak up on them. Get close, and slap these on them." She handed each of them a strip of round tabs. "Garibaldi got them for me. Peel the tab off the paper, place it directly on bare skin, and they'll get a mega-dose of sleepers instantaneously. Once their telepathic powers are neutralized, I expect you can deal with them." The three nodded and took the tabs. Lyta continued, "Meet us outside the central room. Don't be too long. You don't want to miss the fun." She smiled, mostly at Zack, who responded faintly. She took each one's hands, and stared into their eyes for a moment, installing the blocks. She lingered a bit over Zack, saying reassuringly, "The block will fade in a few hours. Trust me." Then she turned to the others, and said, "Let's go."

Lyta led them through the deserted halls towards the central room, an auditorium of some sort or perhaps a cafeteria. Lennier was trying to prepare himself mentally for what would undoubtedly be a challenging interview. He kept a close eye on Ker, but the Centauri showed no desire to stray far from Lyta. Occasionally she would flatten against a wall, and they would hear nearby voices, but they saw no one. When they reached the large room, they saw it had one wall entirely of glass, and they would have to walk by it to reach the door. They lingered in the hallway for ten minutes, then fifteen, then twenty, hoping to see their comrades returning. Lennier tried to raise the Rangers on their links, but they weren't working for some reason.

Lennier jumped at the touch on his sleeve. It was Maeve. "I took out three of them. They are restrained and won't be bothering us." He reached forward, and touched Lyta, indicating that Maeve was back. Looking down the hallway, past the wall of glass, he could see Zack and then Jason, appear from the shadows and stop by the door. Each held up three fingers. That was nine of the terrorists down. They could see two people clearly in the lit enclosure, and shadows indicated there were more inside. They still had no idea where the explosives were located, what would trigger them, or even if there were any. While Lennier was still considering how to obtain that vital information, he heard a ringing announcement inside his head…

"I am Here."

He looked to see that Lyta had walked into the corridor, and turned to face the glass wall. Holding his hand to his head to quell the rising headache, he notice Ker doing the same thing. Zack and the others seemed unaffected, and he reasoned it must the effect of the blocks Lyta had installed. The telepaths inside had faced Lyta, and he assumed they were talking telepathically.

Lyta turned back to them, and gestured them forward. "They're willing to negotiate. Step forward, slowly. I've told them who you two are."

Lennier whispered to Maeve, "Stay out of sight and see if you can remain undetected. Once we get inside, locate the children. See if you can neutralize any guards, and get them ready to leave." He then walked steadily towards Lyta, with Ker close behind him. The telepaths inside nodded, and they three approached the door. They didn't even glance at Lyta, but Lennier made a surreptitious hand gesture to Jason, indicating he should wait outside. Jason tried to restrain Zack, but he shook him off, and followed them into the room.

"You said three. How many did you bring?"

"He is just a guard. I had thought to leave him outside the door to wait while we talked. I suppose he did not understand the instructions. Who are you?" She addressed a tall, thin human in grey slacks, a white shirt, and loose tan jacket.

"Call me Thomas. That's all you need to know. No scanning, Lyta. I know you'd like to know where the explosives are laid, but that information is privileged at this point."

He indicated they should stop in the center of the room, and three others, two men and a woman, came up behind him. The woman and one of the men were armed with hand-held PPGs. The other man shifted nervously from foot to foot, his arms crossed tightly across his chest.

"Thomas, you must have realized that this siege is only harming our cause. I want to help you, but you have to let the children go. Keep us, and we'll see what we can work out."

"Too late for that," the nervous man broke in, "They'll never let us go; there's blood between us. And even if you could swing exile for us with the Council, PsiCorps will hunt us down and kill us anyway."

Lyta turned to look at the man, "That may be true. What other choices have you left us?"

Thomas pointed at Lennier and Ker, "What are the aliens doing here?"

Lyta answered, "Ker is a fellow telepath, and led the rebellion on Centauri Prime. This movement is designed to offer safe haven to all telepaths, regardless of species. Did you not understand that?" She continued, "Lennier is a representative of the Insterstellar Alliance. They are working to arrange safe passage for human and other telepaths to the new homeworld. He is here to assure you of their support." She directed her plea to Thomas, who seemed to be the leader, "These children are some of who we are trying to save. Don't you see? By threatening them, you are fracturing the alliances I have been striving all this time to build!"

The woman had lowered her weapon momentarily, and Lennier tensed, wondering if he could disarm her. Instantly she raised it again, and pointed it directly at him. "Don't try it, Minbari."

Lyta interjected, "We are only here to talk, although it is a bit distracting having guns pointed at us while we do. Now, do you have any suggestions as to how we can resolve this mess?"

Thomas gave her a grim smile, "Not really. Perhaps we could start letting the younger children go. It would be easier to deal with only the older ones, and it would be a gesture of good faith. What we want is a guarantee, that human telepaths will be given a choice to leave, with free passage and no retribution from PsiCorps. The children are another matter. Maura here fled PsiCorp three years ago, leaving behind her six month old baby. She's been looking for him ever since, trying to get him free. What can you do for her? James is wanted on a murder charge; he killed a man in a bar fight. The man was armed, and intended to kill James, but no one believes he saw it in his victim's mind. Will felons or those wanted for crimes be allowed to go? You yourself have outstanding warrants on Earth, don't you? You should sympathize. Ned here was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic when he started hearing voices when he was ten. He's been in and out of mental institutions for years, and the drugs they've given him have fractured his mind. Is he welcome on Telepath World?" Thomas was still smiling, but it was not a pleasant sight.

Lyta swallowed hard. "These are all matters we're negotiating. Some we can work out; others may take a while. The choice, at least for adults, is non-negotiable, and I think they're on board. Safe passage we have, and I believe it can be cheap if not free. I've started a foundation with Edgars Industries that will help subsidize fares."

Maura broke in, "What about our children? Can we take them? Will PsiCorps give them up?"

Lyta shook her head, "I don't know. Parents will have more say in what happens to them. We haven't gotten that far yet. Some parents want them to go to PsiCorp; they give them up voluntarily…"

"Others don't! Or they wouldn't, if they knew what went on in the schools and academies. You know, don't you? You were raised there, by them, trained, indoctrinated, taught to love the Corps above all…" Maura's voice trailed off.

Lyta nodded, and said softly, "Yes, I was. I do understand, but I have to start somewhere! I had to get the safe haven established first. It's taken years to locate a suitable world, and get everything in place; the work building the colony, the money needed, the connections on all the world with telepaths. It will come, Maura. It's started, and it's going to happen, I can feel it. We're so close."

Thomas was nodding cautiously, and Maura had lowered her gun again. Lennier took a chance and looked over at Zack. He was watching James, and nodded slightly to Lennier.

Lyta stiffened and looked over at Zack, mouthing the word rather than saying it aloud, "No!"

Zack launched himself at James, taking him down in one swift motion, and holding onto his gun arm. He banged the telepath's arm against the concrete floor repeatedly until the gun skittered away, then put him in a chokehold while he struggled to get a tab on him.

Lennier shouted to Ker, "Get the other one!" while he attached Maura. She managed to get her gun raised, but it was swiftly knocked out of her hand, and she collapsed to the floor from a chop to her neck. Lennier knelt to check her pulse, then took a tab from Zack and applied it.

Lyta held Thomas at gunpoint. He waited with his hands raised, and Zack used the last of the tabs on him.

Zack stared at Lyta, "Where did that come from?" pointing at the gun in her hand.

"I brought it along. It seemed prudent," she answered.

"Why didn't they 'see' that you had it on you?" he asked, puzzled.

"No one looks into my mind when I don't wish it, Zack. It's a stronger version of what I did for you and the others." She handed him the gun, and said, "You take it. I don't think Thomas is going to fight us anymore. We need to disarm the explosives, and get those children out of here. I'll do my best to get you all leniency, as long as no one else is hurt."

Lennier looked up from where he was using power cords to tie up Maura and James. "Where is Ker?"

Thomas looked grim, "More to the point, where's Ned? He's our explosives man—he knows where they are, and how to set them off."

Just then a loud explosion rocked the building. "That came from the direction of the dorms, where the kids are being held!" Thomas shouted.

"Lead the way!" Lyta said to him, and they ran from the room, leaving only the two bound telepaths behind them.

As they pelted down the hallway, Zack asked Thomas, "Why in the world did you entrust the crazy guy with the explosives?"

"He's the one who knew how to set them up. I kept him close to me, under my control, until you people showed up, that is!"

When they reached the dorm area, they saw Maeve at the door, holding back a group of children.

"Where's Walker?" Lennier demanded.

"He's taking a group down to the tunnel exit. Lyta's people have been meeting them as we bring them down and taking them on, away from here. We're mixing them up, young and old. The older ones help with the babies. He should be back any minute," she answered. "We thought it would be better than letting them out to wander on their own."

Lennier nodded, "Good thinking. Could you tell where that explosion came from?"

"Not really," she answered, "but it was too damn close. What's going on?"

He responded, "We have them all accounted for but one. Unfortunately, he is quite unstable, and knows where the devices are hidden. Ker went after him, I believe. I lost track of him in the fight."

She stared at him and said, "I thought he was your responsibility."

Lyta broke in, "Can we speed this up? Thomas, are there devices at the main doors? Is it safe to take them out that way?"

"No, it's not safe. All the exits were wired, and who knows which one Ned headed towards? Can we get in touch with this Ker?" Thomas replied.

Lennier shook his head, "Our links don't work in here. PsiCorps must have some sort of damping technology. I don't suppose they need the com systems as we do."

Then the world exploded around them. A flash of light so bright it nearly blinded them was followed by a series of ear-splitting roars, and the ominous sound of flames crackling in the distance. A series of hollow booms and the crashing of shattered glass followed. They all paused for a moment, caught in the realization that they were likely to be cut off by the flames rushing towards them down the hallways to the intersection where they stood. Lyta and Thomas dove into the dorm room, while Maeve caught Lennier by the arm and drug him inside. Zack paused, his hand shading his eyes from the bright flames, "I think I see Ker!" he shouted, and dove down one hallway into smoke and fire.

"Zack!"

Lennier thought it was Lyta that screamed, but couldn't be sure. He strained his eyes, and finally saw two figures staggering towards the door, holding onto each other as if they were trying to do a strange dance. He lunged towards them, grabbed one outstretched hand, and pulled them inside. Maeve slammed the door shut behind them as the flames roared past outside.

"Ker, are you all right?" Lennier examined his charge carefully, but saw no more than surface burns. Ker was coughing too hard to answer at first, but managed to nod. Maeve was holding him up from the floor, allowing him to breath more easily. Lyta was checking out Zack, who seemed to have escaped with little more than a scorched uniform, and reddened skin on his hands and arms.

"What happened to Ned?" Thomas knelt by Ker and asked urgently. "Did he set off the explosives?"

Ker nodded again, and Thomas sunk his face in his hands. Then Ker said hoarsely, "Not the first one. He was as shocked by that as I was. Someone else must have triggered it. Then he just went crazy, and shouted that it was time. Time for what? I asked him. Time to die, he said. He pulled up his shirt, and there was tape holding some sort of comlink panel strapped to his chest. He told me to run, and pushed a series of buttons. Then everything went up at once; fires, explosions all around us. He was laughing, laughing…and then he pushed one more button, and he…he just disappeared."

Lennier asked gently, "How do you mean, he disappeared?"

Ker voice shook, "He flew into a million pieces, exploded in front of me. There was blood, other things, everywhere." He closed his eyes and leaned back against Maeve.

Lennier stood up slowly, mentally saying a prayer for the telepath who found his own way out of their dilemma. Looking around the room, he saw scores of frightened eyes, boys, girls, young men and women, clutching each other and looking at them with fear. He went to the door and touched it; it was red hot. Returning to Maeve he asked, "Is there another way out of here?"

"This is a central room of three connecting dormitories. One door out into the main hallway, doors on two walls to the bathrooms that lead into the next dorm. There's an emergency exit out the back, but it's jammed. We couldn't get it opened."

"What about windows?" Lennier scanned the room, but couldn't see any more outlets.

"None. There are vents in the ceiling, but I have no idea where they lead, or whether we could get the kids out that way. There are sprinklers, by the way, but they don't seem to be working. Perhaps one of the explosions disrupted the water supply."

"The cops will storm the place now, Lennier. They'll be on their way," Zack said as he approached Maeve and the Minbari.

"I don't know that we can wait," said Lennier grimly. "Look." He pointed to the wall next to the thick door to the hallway. Flames were licking up under the door, and starting to climb the walls. "Pull everything away from the wall!" he shouted. "Beds, clothes, anything flammable!"

Zack pulled out a tube and flicked it open to reveal a long sharp blade. He began hacking at the carpet, and pulling it away from the wall, revealing the concrete floor beneath.

"Where did that come from?" Lyta demanded.

"I brought it along," He smiled up at her. "It seemed prudent." She smiled back and began to tear at the carpet as he cut new strips.

Ker was moving the children to the back wall, which remained cool, if unbroachable. He began to work at the emergency exit, using any tool that came to hand to bang and dent it. He was joined in the effort by some of the older children.

"It's not working," Maeve said to Lennier. "Look!" She pointed to where the wall was beginning to smoke and blacken with the force of the flames behind it, struggling to break through. She coughed, and said, "I'll try the other rooms." She raced out, and they heard the sound of tinkling glass. She came back in, and said, "There's a small window in the bathroom; the smaller ones can fit through it. But the dorm room behind is on fire." Thomas had emulated her, and came in from the other bathroom, with smoking clothes. "No way out that way; the bathroom's full of smoke and flames are coming in under the door to the room beyond."

"Maeve," Lennier said, "Start taking the little ones out the bathroom window. Clear out as much glass as you can. Is it a long drop to the ground?"

"No, we're ground floor. If they fall right, they should be able to get up and run. I saw some people milling about at a distance. If they see a kid drop, they should come in closer, and help them get away."

"Go then, and Valen go with you."

Maeve bowed slightly, and went to the back, to choose who would go first.

*****************

The other adults gathered in a knot at the front of the room. There wasn't much choice, except to get out as many as they could through the small window in the bathroom, keep the flames out as best they could, and hope rescue arrived before it was too late. Ker and Lyta went to the back to comfort the children as best they could, sending wave after wave of confident thoughts to them. Lennier, Zack, and Thomas kept working at moving flammable material away from the wall, and stopping to smother any flames that broke through. They could still hear muted explosions from outside, and didn't know whether that was rescuers breaking through, more devices going off, or flammable materials catching fire. Zack was smacking flames by the door with a bedspread, when suddenly the door blew inwards. It caught him in the mid-section, as he turned sideways to raise the blanket for another smack at the flames, and blew him ten feet backwards. He landed against a bedframe with a sickening crunch, and flames shot into the room. Pieces of the door covered him, and the smoldering wood caught fire, and his clothes began to smoke. Lennier raced back and threw the chunks of wood off of him, and patted his clothes until they flames were gone. He could see bone splinters poking through his blood-soaked trousers; it looked as if his hip was crushed. A little further away, Lennier saw that Thomas was lying on the floor unconscious. He had apparently been hit by some of the flying debris as well. Looking back at the fire, Lennier suddenly had a desperate idea. Lyta was standing beside him, staring horrified at Zack, when he took her by the arm and shook her hard.

"Lyta!" He shook her again until she turned slowly and focused on him. "Lyta, Garibaldi told me you can project flames. Can you pull them to you?"

Abject terror filled her eyes, and he could see she wanted to say no. Looking down at Zack, unconscious and horribly wounded, then back at the screaming children, she finally nodded, saying slowly, "Maybe."

Maeve appeared at the doorway to the bathroom and gestured to Ker to send along another set of smaller children. Ker pointed at the doorway and three of them started towards Maeve, who was waving at them to hurry. An errant tongue of flame from the front of the room licked towards one small boy, and he started, then panicked and ran. The flame caught at his clothes, and as the adults watched helplessly he flared up like a torch. He careened into another child, and another. The little ones all caught fire and burned before their eyes. They could see the first boy's mouth open in a silent scream as his flesh melted.

Lennier looked at Lyta again, then turned his head away in shame; he knew what he was asking. Ker stared at them both, his eyes wet with tears. Lyta nodded once more, and walked to the front of the room, just in front of the flames, putting herself between the fire and the others.

Just like Byron, she thought. I will die as he did, in fire, in flame. She reached one hand towards the flames, and her eyes started to glow.

Zack moaned, and opened his eyes to see Lyta outlined in light, fire streaming towards her. "No!" he screamed. "Lyta, don't!"

Lyta turned and smiled at him, her hair afire, redder than it had ever been, turning to black at the tips. She started to waver, then spoke to Lennier and Ker, "I can't control it. I'm not strong enough; it's too big, too much for me to handle!"

Lennier stepped forward, and took her hand, twining his forearm around hers. "Take from me what strength you can."

Ker stepped up to the other side, and did the same, "I came to help you save our people. I offer this freely."

Lyta turned back around, gripping their hands tightly, and the fire started to stream into her again. Her body glowed with it, smoked and steamed and bubbled as she screamed over and over again. Flames rushed in from the hallway, from everywhere in the building, like the wind of a fierce storm, sounding like a train rushing through a tunnel. The noise and light hit them like a blow, but Lyta absorbed the force and heat, and the Minbari and the Centauri held on. Lyta was drawing on them, sucking their strength, but they found more from somewhere deep inside, and clasped her hands tighter than before. Finally the flames grew less, and smaller, and Lyta started to slump. Lennier caught her, but not before Ker screamed as one last flame rushed in, through Lyta, and into his body. He fell to the floor, as Lennier lowered Lyta down beside him.

Maeve had watched in shock as Lyta consumed the flame before it could consume them.

She stood unmoving, as Zack pulled himself painfully towards Lyta. He and Lennier leaned over Lyta's unmoving form, straining towards her motionless form as if trying to hear something. Finally, she heard noises from behind her. Someone was enlarging the window in the bath with axes and small detonation caps. The emergency exit door at the back of the room crumpled, and was yanked outward. The light of a new dawn streamed in, illuminating both the living and the dead.

**********************

Garibaldi heard the com chirrup, and hastened to answer it. He was expecting Lise back at any moment, and he sincerely hoped this was her. After the last few days, he discovered he wanted her back more than he had ever thought he could. When he accepted the call, he saw it was John Sheridan. Oh no, he thought, another explanation, just what I need. Still he owed them that much; at least it wasn't Susan this time. He hadn't been able to tell her much about Lennier's state when she'd called, quietly frantic after speaking to him. The Minbari hadn't spoken much to anyone since the fire, but his eyes were darkened and something moved behind them that Garibaldi didn't understand. At least he and the Rangers were on their way home; perhaps he could find some peace there.

"Hello, John," he said to the screen. "What can I do for you? You got the report I sent on, didn't you?"

"I did, Michael. I just wondered what you didn't put in the report."

"I'd ask what makes you think I left anything out, but considering our history, that would be a waste of time, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, it would. What happened out there? Does anyone have the full story?"

"I don't think we'll ever find out. It was too chaotic, and people were scattered all over the building. It was crazy in there."

"So, all the rogues were accounted for?"

"They all died, except for that one, Thomas, who was with our group. He'll be going on trial soon. I expect they'll wipe him. People want some kind of justice for the deaths."

"Yes, I suppose they will. What about what Lennier and Zack reported; that the first explosion wasn't due to the rogues?"

"Well, the teep that said it is dead, and he said it to Ker who is also dead. And it was a pretty self-serving statement. Still, I wouldn't drop down dead of surprise if it turned out PsiCorps or even the cops tried to bust in during the negotiations. It's not like they were sanctioned, anyway."

"What about the other rogues? Did they die in the fire, like the report says?"

Garibaldi laughed, "You still know how to pick out the weak points, don't you? According to my sources downtown, some of the bodies showed no sign of any burning. Some of them showed no obvious signs of death…like they were killed, oh, I don't know, psychically maybe? PsiCorps was on the spot, and were some of the first people in the building once the fire died down."

John shook his head. "Not the way they should have gone, but it's hard to blame the Corps this time. They certainly had provocation."

Garibaldi said grimly, "Some of the rogues were tied up and pacified with sleepers. I don't hold with that."

John stared, and replied, "I don't either, but I don't see what we can do about it now."

"Probably nothing."

"How's Zack doing?"

"He'll recover, physically at least. Mentally I don't know. He's pretty shook up by the whole thing. He'll get everything he needs, don't worry."

John smiled, "That was never a concern."

The screen flashed a signal, Call Waiting, and Garibaldi rejoiced inwardly. It was probably Lise. "Hey John, I gotta go. Lise is on the other line. Probably wants me to pick her up at the port. She's just back from Earth, missed the whole thing."

"Lucky her. Lucky you. You run along. We can talk later. Lennier will be back in a day or so, and I'll get some more information from him."

"Sure." Garibaldi hesitated, then went on, "Go easy on him, John. This did something to him. He looked…haunted, like I've never seen him before."

"I will. Now go pick up your wife! She'll wonder what's keeping you!"

"Later." He clicked off the connection and opened the waiting call. "Hey honey! How'd it go. Any luck finding her?" He listened for a moment, then said, "That's a shame. Sure, I'll be there at the gate to meet you. Mary missed you; she's been saving up to buy you something. I'm not sure what. Be surprised, okay?" He smiled at her reply, closed the connection, and went downstairs to arrange for a groundcar to the port.

**********************

The ship landed on the end of a long polycrete strip. It was a private landing place, used by the Alliance for Presidential arrivals and departures, and craft on other special diplomatic missions. The five of them stood back, wind whipping at their hair, awaiting the disembarkation of the crew and passengers. Anilia had asked for, and been granted, permission to attend, although they had already gotten the news that Ker was dead. Michael had offered to fly his body, or what was left of it, to either Minbar or Centauri Prime, but Anilia had asked that his body be transported to the telepath homeworld, to be interred along with Lyta's. Turlann accompanied the Centauri woman. They had become allies, if not friends, over the last few days, and he felt deeply sorry for her.

John Sheridan and Delenn were there, to welcome back Lennier and the other Rangers. Susan stood a little apart from them, waiting also. The door to the ship opened, the ramp extended slowly and quietly to the ground. The crew emerged first, standing to either side of the ramp, not disbursing, or leaving, just watching the opening. Maeve came out next, and reached back with an assisting hand to help Lennier out of the hatch. He walked slowly down the ramp, leaning only a little on the Ranger's arm. When he reached the tarmac, he gently shrugged her off, and started forward.

Delenn's eyes never left him, as if she was gauging his health from a distance, but John was watching Susan. She stood stiff, almost at attention, but like Delenn, her eyes were fixed on the approaching figures, or at least one of them. John reached over, and gave her a shove in the small of her back.

"Get down there. Go ahead, don't make him walk all that way alone."

She glanced back at her friend, nodded briefly, then started to walk briskly towards the ship. She reached him in only a few seconds, and the Rangers moved back, one of them catching Maeve's arm and pulling her away from the two, allowing them some privacy.

They caught at each other's hands, holding them enclosed between them, and touched foreheads in the Minbari greeting.

Susan said softly, "Welcome home."

Lennier held her hands tighter. "I am glad to be home." He shuddered, and said brokenly, "I wish I had never gone there. I have seen things I can never forget. They burned, Susan. The smallest ones flared up and guttered quickly, like the short, thin candles on David's birthday cake. I see them when I close my eyes. I hear their screams."

Ignoring the people watching, she put her arms around him and held him close for a moment. "I'm sorry you had to see that. You can tell me as much or as little as you need to about it. I'll be here."

He rested for a moment in her embrace, then said, "We'd better go."

"Yes," she replied. "Delenn is going to come down here if we don't. She's been impossible to deal with since we got the message you were on your way."

Lennier smiled, "I will be glad to see her also."

********************

They walked slowly, arms around each other's waists, more publicly together than they had ever allowed themselves to be. As they walked, the Rangers from the ship, and others who had appeared on the tarmac formed a line on either side of their path. Lennier jumped at the 'snik' of denn'boks extending. Looking down the path to where John and Delenn were standing, they saw that the Rangers had raised the fighting staffs and crossed them to form an arch under which they walked. As they passed, they heard the denn'boks retracting. The pikes closed behind them like a wave retreating from the shore.

"What are they doing?" asked John, puzzled. "It's almost like a naval wedding procession."

"It is the na'hel'cha, the ceremony of strength reborn. It is rarely performed, but it is a very old tradition among the Anla'Shok, dating back to the time of Valen," answered Delenn, a strong tone of mixed awe and interest in her voice.

John shook his head and smiled. "Jeff Sinclair didn't miss a trick, did he? I keep tripping over old Minbari traditions that have some basis in Earth customs. So what does it mean?"

"It is an affirmation of Susan's leadership, indicating that she is truly Chosen to lead the Anla'Shok. There are only a few recorded instances of it being performed in the last thousand years."

They watched in silence as the two approached. Maeve had taken up the position of honor guard behind them.

"So, is it because of Lennier, I mean, because they're together?" asked John.

"I think not. Though her actions in his regard were viewed positively by the majority of Rangers, they did not all approve. It is more her actions afterwards; her coming back, resuming her training, her assumption of responsibility for them and to them. They sense she is one of their own."

**********************

Susan wondered about the Ranger's actions, but decided she'd wait to ask someone. She looked Lennier over, and asked, "I see you gathered a few more scars. Didn't I tell you to stop that?"

"I sometimes have difficulty taking direction," he said solemnly. "Had you not noticed?"

"Oh I've noticed all right. Can I ask you something?"

"Of course." He bowed his head slightly in assent.

"Will that hole in your headbone heal? It's quite the fashion statement."

He looked at her in surprise. "It will take some time, but it should." Keeping up the rhythm of her teasing, he went on, "I may keep it open, however."

"Why would you do that?"

"I have often admired the decorations you wear in your ears. Minbari ears, alas, are not suitable for such adornment. It might be interesting to try something like it involving the headbone. You call them earrings, do you not? Perhaps a bone-ring?"

She punched his shoulder. "You are kidding me, right?"

"I am speaking in jest, but don't injure me over it. I thought you wanted me to stop accumulating injuries."

They were both laughing now, and the lines of Rangers couldn't retain their serious expressions, and began to smile. They remained in place, however, and the ceremony continued until they had reached John and Delenn, Turlann and Anilia, and passed the last Ranger in line.

Delenn took a moment to give exactly the right kind of ritual greeting required, before abruptly embracing Lennier. "It makes the day bright to see you again, my friend," she said, tears in her eyes.

Lennier, for his part, returned the embrace, rejoicing in the warm feelings unmarred by jealousy that flooded through him at her words. He returned John's handshake, and bowed his head in greeting to Turlann. He spoke to Anilia directly, "I am sorry about Ker. He died with honour, fulfilling his stated purpose, to help other telepaths.

Anilia looked straight into his eyes, looking up slightly to meet them, and said, "Ker may have died with honour, but you are without honour. I fulfilled my part of our bargain; you did not. And now you never can. " She turned on her heel, and walked away from the group.

Susan started after her, fists clenched, a storm building in her eyes, but was caught by Turlann, who commented in sadness, "Leave her. It is her grief speaking. It will pass."

Delenn was watching Lennier, whose face was clouded with sadness and guilt. She put one hand on his arm, and said urgently, "You did all you could, Lennier. There is no dishonour in failing to keep the Centauri alive in such a situation. Any of you, all of you, could have died. It was a noble thing you were attempting, to rescue those children."

He looked back at her, his eyes filled with shame and misery, "Ah, but as I told you once long ago, if one does something right for the wrong reason, the entire outcome is tainted. Anilia is correct. My promise was made solely in order to obtain her agreement to come here. I never wanted to fulfill her request; I didn't even see how I could, and yet I told her I would."

Susan returned to the group, just in time to hear his last words. "She is not right about this, she's crazy! Vir told me she was useless to the resistance after her capture anyway, and probably not safe on the planet. She extracted that promise from you under duress, and she has no right to criticize your attempts to keep it. You might have been killed as well! What did she expect you to do? Stick with Ker the rest of his life, be some sort of personal bodyguard for the blasted man, wherever he went?"

Lennier had to smile at her vehemence, but the emotion did not reach his eyes. He went on, "I have a message, for you two, I believe." He nodded first to Delenn, then to John.

"I was with Lyta when she died, and she asked me to pass these words along, to her brothers." The others looked confused, and he continued. "I asked her who she meant, and she said 'Kosh…Kosh connects us. Sheridan, Delenn, myself, even G'Kar…all connected. All brothers."

"What was the message?" John asked urgently. He'd already received one message from beyond from Kosh. That had made him uncomfortable enough. He noticed Delenn had taken his arm, and moved closer to him. He put one arm around her.

Lennier looked as if he were focusing inward, remembering. His face was haunted, his eyes reflecting images of death. "She said: 'The long night is coming.' " He paused, as if trying to get the words exactly right. "Then she said, 'Though lovers be lost, love shall not.' " He looked directly at Delenn as he finished, "And death shall have no dominion."

His heart was stung with pity, and he kept his gaze on Delenn, whose eyes never left John's face. He wondered if she took comfort in Lyta's words. Susan and John exchanged glances, but Lennier didn't notice them. He watched Delenn; and both of them were lost in memories of past and future pain.

Turlann was watching Maeve. The human had visibly stiffened at Lennier's words. She stood just behind Lennier and Susan; at attention, her hands clasped tightly in front of her. Turlann observed her jaw clench and her lips narrow into a thin, tight line. Her eyes, their expression unreadable, remained fixed on Susan, as they had been ever since she had emerged from the flyer. No good will come of this, Turlann thought to himself. No good at all.

Susan, who had been lost in thought for a moment, spoke distractedly, "It's a poem, an Earth poem." The others looked at her. "Those last lines, they're from a poem. Why would Kosh be using Earth poetry to communicate? Why not the usual Vorlon obscurities?"

"Perhaps because he wished to make sure his meaning was clear? Or because his connection to Lyta is weak, and was further weakened by her condition, and he used what words he could find in her mind?" suggested Delenn.

John said, "The message might have come from Lyta herself. She was badly injured, dying. She might have imagined the whole thing, and dredged up the poem from her subconscious."

Lennier held up one hand, and spoke. "I cannot say whether Kosh was speaking through her from beyond the Rim. Who knows what the First Ones remain capable of? All I can say is this, when Lyta died, her expression changed, like she was seeing something none of us could see. She reached out, and moved her hand as if she was stroking something." He hesitated, then finally added, "Zack was there with us at the end. He swore to me later that as she spoke, as she died; all he could hear, louder than the crackle of flames or muted explosions, louder than her voice or mine...was the sound of beating wings."

The End


Epilogue: Mars

Zack was lying on the hospital bed, staring up at the ceiling. His leg was elevated, and his hip was raised up on bolsters. It felt heavy with all regen-packs stuffed around the joint, which had been practically crushed by the falling beam at the school. The burns were mostly healed; they still itched, but he was used to the feeling now, and ignored it for the most part. The docs told him he'd be in the hospital another few weeks, and would probably always have trouble with the hip joint. The surgery had cleaned out the worst of the damage, and the packs were stimulating bone and muscle re-growth, but it had been bad, real bad; and it looked like he wouldn't be running any marathons when he finally got out. He heard the door open, and didn't even look over as he said, "Hey, Chief."

Garibaldi entered the room easily and took the chair between the bed and the window. It was a high class hospital, the best on Mars. Edgars Industries was covering all the costs, of course. Zack had been on the payroll, even though the rescue attempt at the school hadn't been sanctioned. Besides, it was Zack.

"So, how are we today?" asked Garibaldi lightly. He tried to come every day, but he'd missed a few this week. He'd been busy, cleaning up the mess left behind from the school hostage situation, and finishing up the negotiations with the two governments about the telepath emigrations. Once he'd agreed to provide transportation, and everyone had absorbed the pictures of the devastation and death at the school and beyond, the agreements had been quick and relatively painless. Everyone but the good folks at PsiCorp were pleased with the compromise. Adult telepaths were free to choose, and could revisit their choice once a year, on the anniversary of Lyta's death and the end of the siege. Underage telepaths would be educated by PsiCorp, with their parents' approval and oversight, and would have the choice to emigrate beginning at fourteen years of age. Parents who wished to relocate with their telepathic children to the new homeworld were welcome.

"We are nothing. I am the same as I was the last time you stopped by." Zack's tone was sour and uncompromising.

Garibaldi sighed, "It's just going to take a while, Zack. You know that…but you're going to be okay."

Zack turned his head to look directly at Garibaldi. "I need to know something, Chief."

"Anything."

"What did Lyta do for you…that day, after the attack at the studio? What was the deal you two had?"

Garibaldi rubbed the back of his neck, and said reluctantly, "I guess you deserve to know. When Bester set me up all those years ago, and programmed me to betray Sheridan, he left a little gift in my brain."

Zack turned towards his friend, then groaned as the weight hit his hip. "What kind of gift?"

"He put in a block that kept me from going after him, for making him pay for what he'd done. Lyta took it out. She promised to, back on the station, in return for my help setting up the bank accounts and investments that would fund the homeworld. It's taken a long while, but she kept her part of the bargain. I'm free, Zack. And that bastard is going to pay."

Zack looked grim, "You going after PsiCorp as well? Or just Bester?"

Garibaldi grinned, "Might take out as many as I can. It'll be fun."

"I want in."

"What?" Garibaldi said in astonishment. "Why?"

"They're responsible for what happened…if they hadn't put the hit on Lyta, the rogues wouldn't have taken that school. And you'll never convince me that the first explosion while we were inside negotiating wasn't the damn Corps butting in. They killed her, or as good as, and I want them taken down."

Garibaldi nodded slowly, "I guess I can see that. I'm still not sure how or when, Zack…"

"When can wait until I'm up and around. You figure out the how, just include me in on it." Looking back up at the ceiling, he went on, "Michael?"

Garibaldi answered, "What?"

"I want to be a full partner in this…no leaving me out, no secrets. I'm tired of secrets. That all right with you?" Zack spoke firmly, his tone brooking no dissent.

"Yeah…yeah, it's okay with me. Glad to have you." Garibaldi still looked disconcerted, "I've never worked with a partner before."

"First time for everything. Now get outta here. I'm tired, and wanna get some sleep."

**********************

Alfred Bester was picking his way through the burned and shattered debris that had once been the largest PsiCorp School on Mars. Fastidiously reaching down to pick up the occasional blackened object, he would shook off the fine grey ash to identify them. Occasionally an item would constrict his heart and bring a lump to his throat—a tiny shoe, or a child's toy. He wasn't really looking for anything in particular; rather he was looking for someone, someone he had been told might be there.

Finally he spotted her, in one of the less damaged rooms, through a door hanging loose on its hinges. It had been a sleeping room, the small beds in rows still discernable under the layer of soot. A teenage girl, looking to be about 14 or 15 years old, was rooting around under one of the beds, pulling out items and examining them before tossing them away.

"May I be of assistance?" he asked from the doorway. "What are you looking for ?"

The girl looked up from her task. "A teddy bear, actually…" She saw who it was, and sprang to her feet. "Mr. Bester! Sir! I was just…"

"Looking for a teddy bear. So you said. Aren't you a little old for bears?" He smiled gently at her.

"It's Emily Marshall's. She's only six, and she cries herself to sleep every night wanting it. I thought maybe I could find it."

"I see. Very resourceful of you to give your teachers the slip and get all the way over here by yourself."

She smiled, "Thank you, sir." She gestured around the room with blackened hands. "I don't think I'll ever find it. This was her bed, I think, but everything's ruined. What isn't burnt is covered with chemical foam. She'll have to do without it, I guess."

"Perhaps we can stop on our way back to your dormitory and pick her up a new one. Not the same, I know, but it might help."

The girl beamed, "I'm sure it would, sir. Thank you."

Bester came over to where she was standing. "Were you here when it happened?"
She looked down at the floor. "Yes. I'll never forget it. It was horrible." Her voice hardened. "I still can't believe it was our own people who did this. I'm glad they all died. Glad! And that evil woman, too!"

"Yes, Miss Alexander. I knew her, you know. A long time ago." Bester sighed. He'd tried to claim Lyta's body, but Edgars Industries had shipped it off to that homeworld of hers for burial before he'd even filed the forms. He reached over and tipped the girl's head up so she was looking into his eyes. "When did you come to this school?"

"I was about ten, I think. I spent the first years at a Corps school on Earth, after I tested positive for the gift. My parents took me in for testing when I was quite young. Later I was transferred here."

"Do you remember your parents at all?"

"Not really," she looked at him defiantly and said, "I don't need to. The Corps is Mother…"

He finished the aphorism. "The Corps is Father." Smiling, he touched the long dark waves of her hair. "I have plans to avenge this atrocity, you know."

"But Lyta Alexander and all the rogues died in the fire," she said, confused.

"There were others involved. Those who supported her cause, who helped her. They should pay for what happened to our brothers and sisters, to our children." His eyes flashed. Then he smiled again, still stroking her hair, "My daughter would have been about your age."

"What happened to her?"

"She was never born." His voice was soft, but clearly indicated no further explanation would be forthcoming. "Would you like to help me? Help me obtain justice?"

She stood up as straight as she could. She was a petite girl and only reached to Bester's shoulder. "I will do whatever I can, sir."

"Good," he said. "I imagine you will be of great assistance to me, Deborah. Now let's go; we still need to pick up a bear for young Emily."


And death shall have no dominion—Dylan Thomas

When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.