OUT OF THE DARKNESS (IV)
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The ambulance had come and taken Susan and Kathryn to the hospital. Susan had a concussion and required 20 stitches in her head from the blow she had taken and was being kept overnight for observation. John's mother was much worse, for she had borne the brunt of the battle for not telling them where Shana was. John watched her from outside ICU, his head leaning against the window, unable to hold it up himself. Michael had gone forward with the investigation trying to find David.
Delenn was in the examination room with the doctor and Shana. They wanted to check her just in case... 'just in case... ' the thought of the end of that sentence more than terrified Delenn. 'They wouldn't have gone so far as to...' She knew her fear was irrational, knew that Shana had been in the closet. But what had happened before Kathryn had gotten her hidden? She couldn't even bring herself to think about it even in her own mind. She squeezed her daughter's hand, hoping to give her courage, but she had none herself.
John saw them come from the exam room, Delenn was carrying Shana and he took her as soon as she was close enough. He also took Delenn into his embrace as he looked over her shoulder toward the doctor.
"Your daughter seems to be no worse for wear. A little traumatized but I gave her something that should let her sleep. I will admit, however, to not knowing as much as I should about Minbari physiology. She is a beautiful girl though," he said as he ran his hand over the back of her head just below her tiny bonecrest. "As for your mother, only time will tell. I understand that your son and your father are missing as well. We'll give you a comm unit the doctors use so if we need to get in touch with you in a hurry we can, that way you can continue your search. Other than that I think you should go home and try to get some rest. If you need something as well, I could... "
"No, no thank you. You've been wonderful, doctor." John sighed. He was bone tired. He looked over at Delenn, she too looked as though she would never recover from this.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Marcus standing in the doorway to Susan's room. He also had the look of despair hanging over him. He and Susan had just gotten engaged after such a long time of arguing, bantering, badgering. It had been fun for everyone else to watch the dance they did, but now...
Marcus felt as he did before he became a Ranger. It had been after the death of everyone he had loved and though no one he knew had died yet, he prayed to God, prayed to Valen, and prayed to the universe to please let everyone be okay. Especially David. He and David were best friends, pals. He was like a little brother or sometimes like a son to Marcus. When he let himself dream of a life with Susan he had hoped for a son like David. Being close to David gave Marcus a chance to try out his parenting technique. He was even teaching him how to use the fighting pike and other forms of martial arts the Rangers used. David was a quick study. Marcus could only hope that wherever David was he was using some of what he had learned.
Marcus turned when he felt the warm hand of Delenn touch his shoulder. "We're going home. There's nothing more we can do here except get in the way. Please come with us."
Marcus only hung his head and followed.
John had driven home, though where he had found the strength he didn't know. As he pulled up the driveway to the farm, angst and anger overtook him again. Earlier he had called back to the house to see how Michael was progressing. He learned that several of the Rangers who had been protecting his family at the house had been killed in the initial assault. And they still hadn't found John's father. John prayed he was with David, keeping him safe. The good news was Michael felt he had a good lead on where to begin to look and had sent several rangers after the trail before it got cold. Hopefully they'd know more in the morning. John knew that until he found his son he couldn't rest. As the rover came to a stop he looked back over the seat at Delenn and Shana. They had fallen asleep in each others arms. Carefully he woke Delenn and gathered his daughter into his arms and carried her upstairs to bed. John and Delenn agreed to take turns being with her while she slept, each afraid to leave her alone.
Morning came and Michael had news from the rangers. They had found the shuttle used in the attack. The rangers had gone over it with a fine tooth comb and found DNA from both David and John's father. There was also some other information they were looking into. They didn't want to get anyone's hopes up and would get back to Michael later when something more concrete was available.
John and Delenn were encouraged by the news.
By noon Marcus and John had left for the hospital. Susan had already called twice. Of course so had the hospital. Susan was dressed and standing by her door when Marcus got there. He knew by the look on her face that cooing wasn't the thing she was looking for.
John walked down the hall to ICU and checked on his mother. The doctor was just finishing an exam when John approached.
"How is she doctor?"
"She seems to be doing better. She was conscious for a while early this morning. She knew where she was but was distressed about her grandchildren. We gave her something to calm her down."
"Can I go in and see her, just for a few minutes?"
The doctor contemplated the idea for a moment. "Sure but just for a moment, and try not to tell her anything that will upset her. She needs to remain calm."
John opened the door to his mothers' room and came along side the bed, taking her hand in his. He caressed it softly. "I'm sorry, Mom. Please Mom, come back to me," he whispered. He put his head into her palm and felt her loving touch.
Kathryn had opened her eyes, but tears only came from them. "John," she cried. "The children! Where are the children?"
"Shana hid in the closet, where you said she was. We found her. She's ok, scared but ok."
"David. Wha . . . David?"
"We're still looking for him. We think Dad's with him. He'll be all right. I just know it." John sobbed into his mother's hand.
"Find him . . . tell him . . . I . . . I love him," she murmured as she fell back to sleep.
"I will Mom, I promise." John vowed whether or not his mother could hear him.
By the time John had gotten back to the farm Michael had news; some of it good, some of it bad.
"The good news is that David and your father seem to still be alive. The bad news is we're still on the trail. The captors seemed to be going in a straight line. There have been times they have broken off and gone in other directions and we've split our teams only for them to find themselves back together on the same trail. They seem to be heading for Eastern Europe, but where we can't tell. As long as they are on the move, everyone seems to be okay. We'll just need to be ready when they stop."
"I just want to kick the crap out of whoever left that size ten along side my head," Susan remarked putting her hand to her head.
John looked over at Susan then nodded in confirmation to Michael's report. "Thanks Michael. By the way what's the news on the President. In all this we just left him there."
"The rangers who were with us got him back to Geneva. He did call to offer his help in searching for David, but I told him we already had all the help we needed. If too many people got involved, it could get ... well... " Michael replied looking out the kitchen window.
He too had felt close to David. He loved being 'Uncle Mike'. It made him feel responsible for a young life, to be able to teach someone the things he'd probably never get to pass down. He'd been a loner most his life, a soldier, a cop, but having David around... Michael laughed a little, 'I wonder how he feels about having so many fathers and mothers.'
Shana was coming into the kitchen. She said she needed something to eat and wanted to get out of the room. So Delenn had carried her downstairs, but as soon as she got into the kitchen her father pulled her into his arms. She sat on his lap and placed her head on his shoulder and promptly fell asleep. He wanted to hold her as much as she wanted to be held. She got this straight from her mother, maybe even a little from him. More than any other job he had, he loved being a dad. It proved to be the most challenging but also the most rewarding. But then both of his children were good-natured, even tempered, fun and funny. He didn't know what he'd do if anything happened to them. That thought brought tears to his eyes again.
By nightfall fifty more rangers were in and around the house. Some of them waiting to go with John when the call came, others to protect the surrounding area as well as the house.
It was three in the morning when Michael came and awakened John. "John. John we gotta go. We know where they are!"
"Where are they? Where's Delenn?" he asked as the fog cleared his brain.
"David and your father are in the Crimea. Delenn's downstairs waiting for you," Michael answered.
John pulled on his pants and shirt as he left the room and headed down the stairs. "How long before we get there?"
"Two maybe three hours. The problem is there isn't much around where they have them. We can't go in there like gangbusters. It's just getting dark there, so at least we'll be able to come in under the cover of night."
Coming into the living room, Michael briefed John on the rest of the news. "Lennier called to say he'd detected a signal being sent into hyperspace. It seemed to originate roughly from where they have David and is heading toward where shadow minions are known to operate from."
"Ok - get on the comm with the President, tell him we're bringing in some of our fleet. They are to be given full access to the planet, including landing permission if necessary. Then call Lennier, I want half our ships surrounding the planet, the other half are to remain in hyperspace just in case we need back up. I don't want to show my hand before it's necessary."
Susan and Delenn waited at the door for them. John was surprised to see Susan was going and Marcus was staying. Marcus explained that he felt his place was here to protect Entil'Zha and Ra'zen'Zha. There was no argument from John. He was glad to have the best man here watching out for his family. It made him feel better about having to leave them.
David and his grandfather were thrust into the room, but before the door shut David was able to take in his surroundings. There was a bed, if you could call it that, in the corner but no other furniture. A small candle sat in the middle of the room but there were no matches to light it. After the door closed, David led his grandfather to the bed and helped him to lay down. David Sr. had taken a near brutal beating when their captors had come.
They both had been in the barn when they heard the shuttle engine noises. One of the horses had been ready to foal and David left the barn hoping his parents were back in time to see this miracle. But instead of seeing the loving faces of his parents he saw men he didn't recognize. Rangers came running from the four corners of the farm. David Sr. had come from the barn at the sound of PPG fire. David saw some of the Rangers fall in the initial assault. Fear coursed through him.
He turned to look at the window of his room and saw Shana staring down at the sight. He yelled at her in Adronado hoping these men wouldn't understand. /Shana hide. Hide in our secret place. Don't make a sound. Please Shana, go now!/
He saw her leave the window, fear plastered on her face. He was supposed to help her, protect her. She had called him her private ranger, but as he saw the men approach he feared for himself as well as for her. His only hope was that they would take him and not his sister too. He could accept this if it were his destiny, if something were to happen to him but not to her - never to her.
He felt his grandfather's arms come around him tightly, binding them together. "They're not taking you - not without one hell of a struggle from me," his grandfather insisted.
"What about Grandma and Shana - you have to help them." David pleaded, trying not to cry.
"No David. I heard what you said to Shana. They won't find her. Grandma can take care of herself. You're the one who's important."
Both of them turned as they heard footsteps near.
"Let the boy go and we won't hurt you old man!"
"Frag off! You're getting no one, not without a fight from me," challenged the older Sheridan.
David felt the blow his grandfather took reverberate through his own body, but they both stayed standing. David Sr.'s arms only bound his grandson harder as the beating became worse.
David prayed his grandfather would just let go. He wasn't sure how much more either of them could take.
Over his grandfather's shoulder, David saw men exiting the house, but no Shana. He silently thanked Valen that they hadn't found her. The leader motioned that they should just take the two they had, they couldn't wait anymore. Still clutching each other, they were dragged into the shuttle.
They'd been on the road for almost two days now. David had no idea as to where he was. He tried to ask his grandfather but that only resulted in a blow to the older man.
David Sr. had an idea as to where they were, knew by the road signs, knew by the layout of the land. He could only hope that John would find them in time, and that time needed to be soon for he didn't know how much longer he could protect his grandson.
Finally, they stopped and were "escorted" into one of the buildings. Both Davids surveyed the area before being plunged into the darkness.
David took his cloak off and laid it over his grandfather. "Do you know where we are?" he whispered.
"Yes, we're in the Russian Consortium, I think we're in the Ukraine, but where exactly I'm not sure. We stopped getting road signs about three hours ago."
"I'm sure Dad's on the case," David said as reassuringly as possible. "If we are in the Consortium, Susan will be able to help... " his voice fading off, "...if she's okay."
"David, I don't know how much longer I can protect you. I'll try to stay as long as I can. Don't be afraid. Your father will be here... soon I hope."
"Granddad, you just rest. I'll be okay."
David Sr looked at his grandson, David had a strange far away look. 'His features may look like his mother but God he was John reborn: sure and unafraid.' He was yanked back into reality by the turning of a key before the door came open.
A man came in carrying two plates, utensils and a bowl. He spooned the "food" onto the plates and lit the candle before leaving, locking the door behind him.
David helped his grandfather up so he could eat. He needed to regain his strength. David only took what was necessary from his plate and gave the rest to his grandfather. Being part Minbari, he could fast for several days without feeling the effects. He had been on several excursions with his classmates; while exploring nature, they fasted, in an attempt to strengthen their bond with the universe. He had to work twice as hard as the other students to prove his worth, but now he felt as if his perseverance would truly pay off.
Ten minutes later the man returned and took the plates and forks, then blew out the candle.
As his eyes adjusted to the dark, David Sr. watched as his grandson knelt down over the unlit votive and brought his hands together in front of him. He saw the tear escape from David's eye and run the length of his small cheek. He saw his grandson tremble before he took a deep breath, heard him speak softly in Minbari as he rocked back and forth over the candle. David Sr. could follow some of the words but not all of them. He and Kathryn had studied the language after John's marriage to Delenn, but with no one to converse with, he had become rusty. Yet as the words were repeated again and again, David Sr. realized what was being said.
David was praying to Valen, praying to God, praying that his sister and grandmother were all right. Praying that those, who'd been in the fight were okay. He asked the universe to send his father. Asked for the strength to face this challenge. That if he is to die here that he does it with honor. That if this is to be his time let him at least be able to show those watching that fear is truly the great enemy. Fear and ignorance and he would not be afraid.
The words tore at his grandfathers heart. These words shouldn't have to be spoken by anyone much less a nine-year-old. But as David Sr. reflected on those prayers, he heard the intonation in David's voice change. Though David was still speaking Minbari, it was somehow different, the words now being spoken were strange to him, and David Sr. no longer understood what was being said. He stared at his grandson. The supplication became more potent, faster, deeper; the urgency in David's voice grew stronger. Then something incredible happened there in the dark - a soft warm glow encircled David for just a moment before he suddenly stopped speaking.
Rising to finally face his grandfather, the older man knew something had changed inside his grandson. It was as if David knew what was coming, knew what needed to be done and walled himself up for the challenge.
They headed over Alaska, along the Siberian coast. Michael was on the comm with some of the Rangers and underground units that were in the area. Susan had gotten permission from the Consortium to cross their airspace as soon as they had left the farm. Now all they had before them was a large land mass and very little time.
John could feel the time running out. Each beat of his heart was another moment between tick and tock. He himself had chosen tock, but then Lorien had been there to catch him, his son had no one who could breathe on his embers if he needed it. He just wanted to get there before tock happened.
Coming to sit behind John, Michael informed him that everyone was in place. "We'll be coming in from the south about forty miles outside of town. We can't risk getting any closer. They'll have a rover waiting for us. We'll have to go the last three miles on foot. Some of our people saw David and your father being taking into one of the buildings. So at least we know which one they're in. They're trying to get the plans for the warehouse. Tom Connely is there on the ground. He says the place is locked down tighter than Fort Knox. He says this is what he had expected when we went after the President. He also told me reinforcements should be landing within ten minutes and will be in place when we get there."
"Thanks Michael, I don't think I could have done this without you . . . either of you!" he added as he looked over at Susan as she continued to fly the shuttle.
David had started to nod off again when he heard the door rattle, then heard a laugh coming from the other side. They had been playing with him, playing with his mind, but he had prepared his mind for this . . . or a least he'd hoped he had.
He heard his grandfather softly snoring beside him, grateful that he was at least resting. His mind drifted back to his sister. He wished he knew what had happened, if she was okay, if Mom and Dad had found her. He shook his head, he couldn't let negative thoughts hinder him. He had to believe she was okay. He had to believe he was going to be okay. Had to believe his dad would show up in time.
The door rattled again, but this time it opened. David got up and stood before his grandfather as David Sr. awoke. His captor only laughed as he pulled on David's shoulder, "Come on freak! We're going to have a little chat. You do speak English don't you?" he said as he closed the door finally separating the two Sheridans.
David had trouble keeping up but only because of the grasp this person had on him. As he was led down the hall, he mapped the place out in his head. He was glad that Marcus had drilled him on memorizing his surroundings. He had thought the drill was silly at the time but now he was glad Marcus had been relentless. This had been the only point of contention between them, the only blemish on their friendship. Now he thought that if he lived through this he'd give Marcus a big bear hug. Finally they stopped in a room with only a light and a chair. David was instructed to sit in the chair but he chose to remain standing. That only angered the voice from the darkness.
"Take the chair, if he wants to stand through this let him. Do you speak English?"
David said nothing.
/Perhaps Adronado, like that freak mother of yours!/
Again David said nothing. He heard the snap of fingers, then felt something take his legs out from underneath him.
"You will speak when spoken to, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" the voice yelled back at him.
David stood. He knew he was tempting fate, but not the universe. He had his mother's faith in the universe. He knew it would let him down, all he had to do was remain strong. He concentrated on the meditation techniques he had learned for eliminating the pain. So he said nothing and waited for... what he didn't know.
"So we must have a mute," came the voice again but this time it was moving in the dark. "We know you can speak, you called after your sister, shame we didn't find her too. That's okay, we'll get her soon enough. As soon as we get rid of your parents."
There were several voices in the dark that laughed.
All of a sudden David felt very alone in the light.
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