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at this, there was always that first disconcerting instant, stepping onto the bridge of a ship where Minbari were running the show. Ivanova's brother had been killed by Minbari in the War. She bore no grudge, harbored no hostility. Nonetheless, it always made her pause, ever so slightly. Perhaps, she reasoned, it was a way of always respecting the sacrifice her brother had made and of keeping him close to her heart.

Then she pushed it all aside, just as she always did. "Is everyone ready?" It was more of a rhetorical question than anything. A White Star didn't come hurtling through a jump point, prepared for battle, only to have its bridge crew inform the commander that they needed another ten minutes to get their act together. Nonetheless the Ranger, whose name was Devlin, nodded once.

Ivanova took her place in the command chair and toggled the comlink that had been preset to connect her with Delenn on the lead Minbari cruiser. "Delenn, you set?" she asked without preamble.

Delenn's voice came back. "Ready when you are, Commander." She sounded almost jaunty, as if she were looking forward to the battle. There was so much elegance and courtliness about Delenn, but that female had a streak of the battle wolf in her, Ivanova thought. Maybe that was why Ivanova liked her.

Nodding in approval, Ivanova continued, "All right... we'll wait for the captain's signal, then ..."

"You may not have that much time, Commander," Delenn advised her.

Ivanova looked out through the observation port at the artifact ... and her jaw dropped. Emerging from the artifact were hundreds of smaller alien craft, shooting out of the device and moving with little effort through the defensive web which had been constructed around the gigantic object. Clearly, although the field was capable
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