OUT OF THE DARKNESS (III)
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As they approached the rendezvous point, John was silently thankful as he and Delenn viewed the number of White Stars in attendance. There weren't as many as when she had first showed him what was at his disposal, but this was as many as he had he seen in one place for a long time. But would he need so many? 'Maybe they are just showing their solidarity, God I hope so.' He looked down at the head of the Rangers and knew she was thinking the same thing.
By the time they had met up with Susan and Michael, they had more information concerning the abduction. They knew approximately where Clark's men had taken him. Several rangers located on the planet had been dispatched to verify the information. The rangers were further instructed to report on the comings and goings of the men assigned to guard the president. Once everyone had gotten their final orders it was time to depart for Earth.
Lennier felt a little let down that he was to stay on board, that he was not going with them. He wanted to help protect them in the face of danger.
"Lennier," Delenn counseled him, "We need you here, not just to coordinate our efforts, but in case things don't work out as we planned. But the most important thing . . . " she changed to Adronado to emphasize her point, /If we are to make a place for Minbar after this, we are going to need you, need your strength, your wisdom. If you should get hurt, who will help us? I used to think that only Valen, John and I were The One's spoken about in the prophecy, but I can see that we all have a part to play in that role. Yours is to be the one who keeps Minbar together. The one who will lead our people out of the darkness and back into the light so we can take our place in the universe again./
He acknowledged the validity of her point but he still felt as he always did - his place was at her side. He resigned himself to his destiny. He knew she was right. She was usually right, even though he had learned from all his friends that sometimes obedience was not to be followed so blindly. He let her go, let the children go, let his friends go, but still he couldn't help but worry for them.
He knew that his role in the Grey Council prevented him from having a relationship, that all Minbari were his family. But when he looked at what John and Delenn had, he couldn't help but feel a pang of regret. Still he was glad he was able to form a close bond with David and Shana. He was grateful that John and Delenn were willing to share them.
As he watched their shuttle depart out the back of the White Star, he made a silent prayer to Valen to watch over them all. He needed all the close friends he could get and they didn't get any better than those in the shuttle.
Kathryn and David had just settled down for dinner when they heard the rumble of a vehicle coming up the drive. David went to investigate. As he opened the door, he was greeted by his son who was coming up the walk.
"My God! What . . . what are you doing here?"
"Can't we come for a visit?" John said moving to embrace his father, "I thought this was my home!"
"Of course! Absolutely!" David smiled, "Just how 'bout giving your old man some warning. I might drop dead the next time you surprise me like this! Kathryn we have company, come here and see who it is!"
They both shared a laugh as John's mother came around the corner and just stood there momentarily before her son took her into his arms.
"Hi, Mom," he whispered in her ear.
"Don't you 'Hi Mom' me, John Sheridan! You never call, never write, then just show up without warning . . . God I must look a fright . . . "
"You look great Mom. Sorry about not letting you know but it wasn't planned."
David and Kathryn greeted everyone, especially their grandchildren. Though Kathryn didn't know where she'd fit everyone, she was glad they'd come. Dinner was another matter. John had brought food with him and knew that amongst them all they could whip something up. While the bustle went on in the kitchen, David took his son into the library to talk to him alone.
"So John, what brings you here, now?" his father asked.
"I don't know how much you've heard Dad, but . . . two days ago the president of the Earth Alliance was taken hostage."
"Yes, there was some rumor running around about that, but then his office said he was just on vacation."
"Well, at least we know how Clark's men . . . "
"Clark's men! What the hell are they still doing running loose?" David shouted at his son.
"Jesus, Dad we can't get them all, especially when others hide them. Anyway President Chang had called asking for. I don't know what, but then the signal went dead. Here we are!"
"Are you sure it's wise that you came here?"
"No, but as I've just been recently told, this is my world I fight for, isn't it?" John responded with anger still evident in his voice. He took a deep breath before starting again, "Dad, we're going to have to leave the kids here for a few days while we go and secure the release of the president. We'll leave a few rangers behind, for added protection."
"Son, you know we'd love to have them anytime. We don't get to see enough of them and I know your mother is going to love having them all to herself. As for the Rangers I don't think it's necessary but I'll take 'em anyway."
Shana knocked on the door and stuck her head around to spy her dad and granddad, "Mommy says dinner's ready and if you want to eat you'd better come now!"
"Hey little girl, come here and give your granddad a hug!" With that Shana jumped into her grandfather's arms nearly knocking him backwards as she planted a kiss on his cheek.
"I love you Granddad."
"I love you too honey, and I've missed you something fierce." David answered as he squeezed her into a bear hug. "Come on let's go before there's nothing left."
Coming into the kitchen, it looked more like Thanksgiving than just a regular dinner. Food was spread out over every possible free space of counter top.
John sat in the corner eating his dinner and watching his family interact. Delenn and David, sat close together as they always did. Shana was between Susan and his mother. Michael, Marcus and his father were engaged in some heated discussion. He loved to watch the bantering back and forth. Loved to watch his family and friends, especially since his friends were more like family anyway. The rangers with them rotated through the kitchen getting something to eat before returning to their duties. They were a great bunch and he was happy to have them here. However, something nagged at the back of his sub- conscience. He couldn't quite put a word to it, but it was there nonetheless. At first he thought it might have been Delenn, he had looked up from his plate to notice her watching him. She smiled a knowing smile and returned to the conversation, but that would have been a pleasant distraction and what he was feeling, though he wasn't quite sure what it was, he knew it wasn't pleasant.
Kathryn and Delenn had gone up after supper to tuck the children into bed. Kathryn had settled them into John's old room. She loved this part of being a grandmother, she could spoil them with love and not have to worry about disciplining them. After they had gotten into their pajamas, she read them a story; "...one of John's favorites from when he was a little boy" she told them and they listened intently. David was particularly enthralled with how Tom and Huck and Becky had gotten away from 'Injun Joe', but Shana had just held tight to her brother. After the story was over, Kathryn leaned over and kissed her grandchildren, telling them how much she loved them and how glad she was they were there to stay for a while. She told them of all the fun activities she planned for their time together.
Delenn had overheard the story and Kathryn's details as to what she and the children were going to do over the next couple of days. A feeling of sadness came over her. Could she have had this kind of life had her own mother stayed? Though her mother had met the children, her devotion to the Sisters of Valeria took precedence and that was where her heart lay. She envied John, envied her children; to grow up in a home so full of love and care and warmth. It was no wonder John turned out as wonderfully as he did, all Delenn had to do was look at Kathryn and David. They loved each other as much as she and John. Truly they were each others soulmate. Delenn snapped out of her thoughts to come over and kiss her children goodnight. Just as she finished telling them she loved them, Susan and Marcus popped their heads in.
"Hey, don't think you're getting away from us that easily!" Marcus laughed as he came over to tousle David's hair. He and Susan gave each child a kiss, then told them goodnight, saying they'd see them in the morning.
No more had they exited before Michael stuck his head in. "Hey, I heard there are two children in here in need of tickling. My detective senses tell me you are those two children!" As he approached the bed David and Shana both squealed and stuck their heads under the covers.
John came behind Michael, giving him a thump to the back of the head, "Hey that's my job!" he said laughing. "Unless you want Delenn mad at you for winding them up this late at night."
"What's an uncle for if he can't spoil them and get them wound up? It's my job and I take it seriously." Michael retorted with conviction as he leaned over to tell 'those two munchkins' goodnight.
John shooed everyone out of the room before he came to finish tucking in his kids.
"Hey Dad," David inquired, "was Tom Sawyer really one of your favorites?"
"Absolutely, Peter Andersen and I used to traipse around his farm and here pretending we were Tom and Huck. Gosh we had some great times. We also got into a lot of trouble just like Tom and Huck. I remember one time -your great-grandmother yelled at me for a week. We'd been down at the creek swimming and I had come running into the house to get something from my room and I walked mud onto the living room carpet. I'd never seen her so mad. Then there was the time I broke my arm trying to sneak out the window so I wouldn't have to go to church. We never made it to church but after three hours at the hospital waiting to get my arm set, then six weeks in a cast, I'd wished I'd just spent the 45 minutes in church." he finished laughing at the memory.
"Well, I thought it was scary. Being in that cave with all those bad men around," Shana gasped, still a little fearful.
John leaned over to hold her, to reassure her, "Well none of that's gonna happen to you sweetheart. Not with me around, okay kiddo!"
"Ok, Daddy! I love you," she answered as she pulled him tighter into her hug, kissing him on the cheek.
John returned her kisses, then kissed David before telling them both goodnight and tucking them in further.
Morning came to find Kathryn and her two grandchildren cooking sausage, bacon, and pancakes. Everyone was instructed to take a seat. David put the pancakes on the plates and Shana served them. Kathryn explained that the children were getting their first lesson 'cooking with flair', not that they'd get that from John. Each of the adults were surprised to see a different animal pancake on their plate. The kids had pointed out which animal they wanted to have Grandma make for which adult. While John's was a bear, 'cause that's how he woke up in the morning, Delenn's was a rabbit because she was soft and warm. Marcus' was a bull because he was so tough and Susan's was a lion because everyone on the station feared her. Grandad's was a pig because Grandma said he was pigheaded. But it was Michael's pancake that gave everyone a laugh, for his looked oddly enough like a donkey. The rest of the pancakes were just round, it was too much trouble to keep making them unique. It was a warm, wonderful moment in the Sheridan house as laughter permeated throughout.
By noon though they had to go. Word had come about where exactly the president was. The rangers in the area had informed Marcus that they felt they had to move within the next six hours if they were to be successful. They had secured the forward area and had the warehouse under surveillance.
John had tried to convince Delenn that she didn't have to go. But this argument ended as all the others had, "They were in this together.". He wished he had some retort for that comment but he knew she was right. Only because he knew they would remain in the background while the Ranger did all the work, did he relent and nod okay. But he still had preferred that she stay here with the children.
Taking their children aside, John and Delenn told them how much they loved them and how they'd see them soon, and for them not to worry.
"It's okay," David reassured them, "We'll be all right. I'll take care of Shana, just like I said I would."
Michael and John had left first. The Rangers had leased an office across from the warehouse for their surveillance. Delenn and Marcus were arriving later with another detachment of Rangers. They were infiltrating the city a little at a time, not wanting to tip their hand.
"What's the situation?" John asked coming through the door.
Diego Chavez, the Ranger who was in charge, walked over toward the window requesting John and Michael to follow him, "So far they haven't changed their routine. Every eight minutes a guard passes from the main building into the guard house then along the wall stopping halfway, then he comes back. There aren't any windows on top of the warehouse and we've seen no one on the roofs, so they can't be watching from above. We have a layout of the surrounding area and the building inside the compound we got from the records office."
"Let me see," John said following the ranger.
Both he and Michael examined the documents. Each asking questions about whether or not routes in and out of certain paths had been secured. Diego had nodded agreement.
"So," John said flipping to the layout of the warehouse building, "where do you think he's being held?"
"Our best information suggests, here," remarked a ranger named Tom Connely. "We came up through the sewer system here, just behind the warehouse and slipped in. There didn't seem to be a large number of people inside. For a man of his importance . . . I don't know . . . something doesn't add up!"
"What do you mean?" Michael asked.
"Well it just seems to me, that getting in and out was too easy. There seems to be the same six guys on duty. There is no visible sign of something going on in there. I don't know . . . it's like there's no security."
"Maybe their just playing this close to their chest, not trying to tip anyone off." John suggested.
"No, Tom's right. If we had the head of the Grey Council, knowing something was coming, we'd be armed to the teeth. We're going after one guy and look how many people we have with us. And look at these guys . . . it's no wonder they lost the war."
"We'll have to move as soon as Delenn comes. We can't wait anymore. Tell the other rangers to get into place and be ready!"
As soon as Delenn had arrived and the Rangers with her had been briefed, Diego set the plan into motion. From their vantage point they could see the guards at the main gate quickly taken out, they could see some of the other rangers securing the area inside the compound.
When the gates opened up John, Delenn, Michael and Diego moved across the street and into the warehouse. Tom met them at the door.
"We're secure in here. We're still looking for the president, but it's like I said, no one's really here. We more or less just walked in, with little or no resistance. I can't say I like it! Something about this stinks."
"Well let's just be grateful none of our people were hurt." Delenn answered.
It took them some time but they found the president. He had been locked in a closet in the back of the warehouse behind several crates. He had been bound and gagged, but was shaking his head furiously. It only made getting the gag off harder, but once he was freed, his voice cried out in anguish. And in that moment, fear was struck into the hearts of everyone in the room.
"No, no, it's a trap" he cried out, "They're only using me! They're after someone named David!"
"Jesus! David!" John spun around to look squarely at Delenn. He saw his own horror reflected in her eyes. If this were true, he had brought his own son into this trap. John ran from the warehouse; Delenn, Marcus and Michael were not far behind him. "Jesus! Not David!" It just kept playing over and over in his head. He got to the rover and onto the comm system.
"Sheridan to Ivanova! Susan! Jesus Susan answer me! For God's sakes please answer me!" But static was the only sound coming from the unit. Fear gripped his heart so badly he thought he might expire.
Marcus got behind the wheel and as soon as everyone was in they took off for the shuttle port. It felt like forever before they got there. Michael took the flight controls and readied the craft for departure. Marcus made sure John and Delenn were strapped in, but before he could get seated Michael took off.
Delenn was shaking. She knew the terror, knew the hate these men were capable of. She had seen it first hand when they had abducted her, threatening to kill her. Now they had her son. What of Shana! That scared her even more. She was so tiny, David at least could understand what was happening. John's hand reached out for hers, he needed to touch her, for his own sake as well as hers.
It seemed an eternity before they got to the farm. They could see the remains of the melee as they flew over the site. Once on the ground John beat everyone out the back of the shuttle but just barely. Getting into the house proved to be an effort; a table had been shoved in front of the door in order to keep the intruders out. On the kitchen floor lay Susan. She was alive but unconscious, blood pooled around her. John and Michael headed up the stairs slowly waiting for something to come out after them. As they reached the hallway they went from room to room. There in John's old room lay his mother, in a heap; beaten and bloody. John carefully came over to her, afraid she might be dead. He was angry with himself that he'd put them in this situation, but he heard her moan softly as he put his hands to her throat to check her pulse.
"Mom, God Mom, hold on, please stay with me." Tears were running down his face, tears he couldn't stop. Delenn was at his side, looking at the broken remains of his mother.
"John," his mother whispered.
"I'm here Mom. Don't try and talk, we have help on the way!" He begged her.
"Sha . . . Shana," she cried out and Delenn gasped.
"We don't know where they are. We're trying to find them. Oh God Mom, I'm sorry!"
"Closet" was all she got out before she passed out again from the pain.
It took John a few minutes to realize what she had said, what she had meant, but John had remembered as a child he used to hide in the closet in his grandparents room. In it was a dumb waiter. Did his mother put Shana in there? He could only hope that she was there, that Clark's men hadn't found her there. He left his mother's side and went to the room that had belonged to his grandparents and threw open the closet. As he hoisted the dumb waiter, he knew something was in there, he only hoped it was her and she was alive. Cowering in the seat of the waiter was his daughter. She was sobbing and convulsing. He reached for her and she came to him, grasping at him as if her life depended on it. He held her hard against him, stroking her hair, trying to tell her everything would be all right, though he didn't believe it in his heart. Delenn had watched from the door fearing the worst, unable to come any closer if things were as she felt they must be. But when John had pulled Shana from the closet, Delenn felt on the momentary wash of relief flow over her. She knew however that David was still in danger. They hadn't found him or John's father.
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