k (channe) wrote in rangersredux,

ghosts of coriana | 10

Despite his commanding officer's assurances that all was well, Dulann occasionally caught a flicker of the old days in the depths of his eyes; at times, he noted that Martel's shoulders slumped forward slightly when he was meditating, or saw the lines appear on his face when the past was mentioned.

There had been lines on his face when Dulann first encountered the captain, of course -- deep furrows of regret, pain, and loss. And there had been more than emotion: there was dirt, quantium dust, and the blood of a woman who lay three days dead beside him, a piece of razor-sharp stone with the diameter of a denn'bok thrust through the soft area just underneath the sternum, pinning her squarely to the ground. 

This was years ago, on Nesma, during the beginning of the Shadow War, when he hadn't even been a Ranger, but, still, Dulann worried.

The Minbari memory was deep, and deeper still within Dulann, who recognized the turning point in his life as the day he discovered David Martel, half-starved, half-buried, and bleeding in a million places, desperately reprogramming his group's comm to send a SOS signal, his leg trapped next to the dead body with the unmentionable name.

He remembered.

Younger then - about to be invested as a full member of the Order - he and the others serving at the Minbari temple on Nesma recieved that faint signal among the chaos of the Shadow firefight above.

The elders said that the prudent thing to do would be to leave - to enter the shelters, wait until the Army of Light dispatched the Shadows above, to call on Valen and pray and save themselves.

But that wasn't the right thing to do.

And so Dulann found himself - alongside Sumenn, alongside Firell, who with Dulann and Martel shared this terrible secret - in the Nesma mines, choking on quantium dust, shouting vainly into the unreal darkness of a place without light. And then - the clearing, the fallen rocks, the miners - half of them, dead, half of them, crushed, their bodies unrecognizable as anything more than lumps of colorful red-and-peach, and the scent of death. All dead, except for Martel and a few of his haggard, haunted fellows, dust in their eyes, their true vision obscured by the effects of exposure.

It had taken Dulann and three other acolytes ten minutes to subdue Martel that first time, as he fought them, screaming unknown words Dulann had never heard. Finally, he had to broadside him on the side of the head with a rock, and loaded him on the mineshaft elevator with the other survivors.

And, as the Shadows swooped and dove in the darkness of the Nesma night, blocking out the moon, the only light the explosions of Army of Light fighter pilots and wayward, deathborne Whitestars, as he and Firell fought the infection, the festering, the sickness that had taken hold of their new human charge, Dulann knew that something had changed.

He joined the Rangers eight weeks later. Dropped his investiture, no longer able to see Valen - only the dead, only the mines. They had been angry, they had told him to stay - but in the end, he boarded the shuttle to Tuzanor not even knowing if he would even make it back, the state of the war being what it was.

And, that first day, noticing that across the room from him stood a man he had met in the death halls of the Nesman mines, staring intently at a shining, silver pin with a dark stone in the center.

They talked, standing beside the rail of the training center.

The memory was strong. And it was at times like this - when Dulann again stood beside his friend, his fellow Anla'shok, David Martel, that he smelled Nesma. And that he knew David was thinking of Nesma, too. And Sirkmorg. And dead, dead Maria Mozkowski, who would have become Maria Martel if they had just worked a little harder, if they had bought their way out of the mines a bit faster, if they hadn't been there when Nixiam panicked, sealed the mines with the miners inside, turned tail, and ran for Earth, Shadows screaming at their heels.

And that was just one of the reasons why he stood by David Martel - not that men like Grayson Maddox could, or would, understand Nesma. What Nesma had been. And what Nesma meant for both of them.
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