"Delenn!" the voice was more urgent.

There seemed to be muttering just beyond her hearing's range like a whisper across an empty room. She could feel herself breathing. She felt something touch her forehead and slowly she opened her eyes.

"Saran?" her voice was strange to herself.

"Yes, Delenn. I'm here."

The first thing that really woke her up was the smell. She found herself lying on a rocky surface, in a dark and stagnant cave. She coughed for a few seconds and then slowly sat up. Beside her were four people, two Minbari and two human. They all wore ranger uniforms in various stages of decay. Saran was one of them.

"We were worried." He said, offering his hand to help her up.

She let herself be pulled up and looked around the little group. Apart from Saran she didn't recognise any of the others, all medium build, average height. They'd probably been selected so they could hide in the background and not get noticed. She took a deep breath and thanked the universe for keeping her alive.

"This is Tahok, Jason and Muttley" Saran introduced the others.

"Muttley?" Delenn's eyebrows rose at such an unusual name.

"My parents were cruel to me." Said the human rangers.

Delenn thought that he probably had seen and heard that reaction so many times it reasoned that he was why he looked that uncomfortable.

"What is the situation?" she asked, immediately taking charge.

"Well, there is almost five hundred of us here." Tahok, the other Minbari, said, "but there is very little food. The first of us were captured and put here a month ago."

"We were lucky in some respect, " continued Jason, "There was someone already here who happens to be hydroponics engineer. He's managed to purify the local water, enough for almost a thousand people, but all we could find to eat were these strange roots."

"Unique in my experience, it actually tastes disgusting to both Minbari and Human," commented Muttley, "but it keeps you living."

Delenn walked out of the cave and looked over a barren surface of the planet. It was if the landscape could not make its mind up between rock and sand with a few scrubs. It was the sky that caught her attention, there were no stars on one side of the sky. And on the other side, was a very dim star, which almost outshone the others. It was if someone had taken a cleaver to the sky.

"What's it like during the day?" Delenn whispered with wonderment.

"Ermm." Tahok cleared his throat, "This is the day. The stars come out more brightly on that side."

"Are we right at the edge of the Galaxy?" Asked Delenn. thinking that this could be the only reason for the sky.

"No." replied Jason, "This is technically a binary system. Although no-one has worked out where we are yet?"

"Binary?" Delenn still sounded confused, "Where's the other star?"

"The other star, " finished Muttley, "is a black hole. You'll be able to see it once the star sets."

Delenn was dumb-founded. She'd never heard of a system like it. It would make an almost perfect prison system. Only ships with enormous thrust to mass ratios could approach the planet, no radio signals could be sent out and the Black Hole would hide the entire system from the star maps.

All Black holes are catalogued and warnings posted around them, so no one would even go looking for them here. Delenn realised they'd been captured for a reason. Whoever their advisory was wanted them alive. It would have been easier to kill the prisoners rather than put them on this planet.

She looked back at the cave where she woke. It was set in a huge cliff face, which towered above her and there were plenty of other caves dotted along the floor of the cliff, as well as higher up. They looked artificial. There were people milling about and she could see that they were either rangers or white star crewmembers.

"Were these caves here as well?" She asked.

"No." said Saran, "One man's been responsible for this. He'll be coming over to join us soon."

"One man?" She asked for confirmation.

"I guess that would be me then." Said a light voice behind her.

She turned round to see the man. He was not tall for a human, about five foot tall. He looked about fifty to Delenn but it was difficult to tell age when humans had beards. He was bald, stocky and wore some round glasses, which covered blue eyes. He didn't wear a ranger's uniform. More like mechanics overalls, with dirt and stains all over.

"Professor Reynolds." introduced Saran.

"Please to meet you Delenn." He said, rubbing his hand on his trousers, "You'll forgive me for not shaking hands but I've been up to my elbows in…"

He looked down at the dirt covered hands and looked back up Delenn, shrugging.

"…Stuff. " he finished with a grin.

"How long have you been here?" she asked.

"Well I got here in 2057 and I think that's almost ten years now. It's so nice to have people to talk to and pretty women to look at." He grinned.

Delenn smiled, taking that to be a complement.

"Explanatory Expeditions sent us into the nebus system. We got attacked and the ship crashed here. " He continued. His eyes seemed to focus away from Delenn as if he was reliving the experience.

"Eight of us got out in an escape pod, the other pod was launched but they got shot down, we got hit and I lost half of the occupants. The crash took care of the other three, leaving me." He sighed, "I suppose I was lucky really. I wouldn't have been able to make it through the first season."

"You managed to do all this?" she asked, gesturing to the caves.

"Hell No. But I've got all the tools from the survival pod." He pointed at the rangers, "Your people have been using them a lot. The only worry I've got is food."

"I'm sure that we can work together to find something." said Delenn.

"No doubt." replied Reynolds, "I only know this valley. Your people have taken to exploring. They might find something."

"I take it that we have no communications." She asked, and saw the others shake their heads.

"I have a communicator but there isn't the power here to boost it past the black hole's influence." Said Reynolds.

"Is there anything we've got to boost it? " Delenn asked Saran.

"I don't know yet." He said, "You'll have to look at it. If Professor Reynolds doesn't mind?"

"Not at all. This way." He gestured.

Saran followed the professor down the hill towards the base of the desolate valley. Delenn looked at the other three rangers. She could tell that each of them was looking to her for ideas. She reasoned that they'd been trying to get a message out or a way off this planet by themselves for weeks but nothing could have been done.

"Saran's good at this kind of thing, " she tried to reassure them, "He was one of the best problem solver and engineer the working caste had to offer before he joined the rangers."

She saw Muttley grimace.

"We haven't all survived, " He said keeping his voice low, "It seems that anybody with a slight idea to get off this rock has died. It's as if the planet chooses who to kill."

"This planet kills?" Delenn tried to keep the astonishment that a ranger would succumb to that kind of thinking, out of her voice.

"Either that or we've had the worst luck in the Galaxy." He said, "Nine of our people have died in Land slides and small earth quakes. Each of them was working on something to send a signal out or get us off the planet."

"The worst was Ranger Terrain." Continued Tahok, "He'd been working on a way to get more power to Reynolds Transmitter. A few nights ago, He woke up left his bed and told me he needed to try something else out and then we found him a few hours later buried under the rock over there."

He pointed to a large rock formation by one of the caves. Delenn looked it over and thought things through. She didn't have John Sheridan's ability to out think opponents and she didn't have Michael Garabldi's detective skills, but she did know that there was a pattern. Garabaldi once said his gut was never wrong and right at this moment, her 'gut' feeling was that these killings might hold an important clue to getting off this planet. Well she didn't have anything else to do for the moment.

You have no rights to post comments