The Closed Circle

Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Margaret Morgan

Kim feels something — or someone — invade her mind. Without thinking, she pushes back, shouting Get out of my head!!

The presence removes itself with a howl of pain. Before she has time to think about the oddity of what she has just done, people all around the docking bay start collapsing — some moaning in pain, others unconscious. Including the bluejobs that had just come out of 171. For a long moment she sways and staggers with them, the silence of her mind shattered open to the voiceless howling. With the same desperate instinct she’d struck out with, Kim pushes back the noise, reaching again for the silence. It comes, but the wall feels thin, like ice, vibrating with the almost-heard presence of others.

“Don’t think, just move,” she croaks aloud and pushes herself upright from the shuttle she’d collapsed against.

The Corps! No one else could force themselves into one’s mind without asking. Old damaged parts of her mind began seizing up. Morgan pulls herself up as tightly as she can, not noticing the quickpatch coming off. Not again, not again, not…

“Margaret?” Kim sags to a crouch in front of her, grey-faced and shaking. “Come on. We’ve got our chance now. Let’s get you to a shuttle.” Kim groans as she puts her unsteady strength to pulling Morgan up.

Morgan struggles weakly, but fails to pull away. She tries to protest, but she can’t think coherently. “Can’t. Have to wait. Captain.”

“Coming.” Kim laughs, the sound strange and without humor. “Just saw a shuttle come down. I… I’ll know who. How many like them can there be on Mars anyway?” For a moment she stares off at nothing and then shudders and drops her gaze from the Martian horizon burning red beyond the viewports. “God, I’ve had enough of this place to last a lifetime. Let’s go.”

“Bay 152. An EarthForce shuttle. This is far enough.” Kim mutters, as much to reassure Morgan as to hear something other than Morgan’s labored progress.

Morgan is more coherent now, using anger as a crutch. “Co-pilot’s seat,” she snaps in a weak voice. “I’ll start the warm-up.”

Kim eases her in and then down into the Co-pilot’s seat. Morgan’s quickpatch is off and the wound bleeding again, worse than before. She looks like she could lose it again any minute: anger isn’t a very good crutch. Kim opens her mouth to say something about it, but then closes it as quickly. What was the point? Stubborn.

Kim briefly rubs her temples, hoping somehow to soothe away the raw presence of Morgan’s anger. Why now? she moans silently.

Finally, as if Morgan had choked it out of her, Kim asks about what happened with the Corps. But she can almost see the answer…

“You want to know why I hate the Corps? Fine.” Morgan doesn’t look up, instead concentrating on the console. “After my court martial, the ‘Watch decided they had ‘reasonable cause’ to investigate for ‘un-Earth activities’.” Her rage is adding strength to her voice. “Their interrogations are handled by the ‘Corps. Three P-12s took my mind apart while I was still conscious. They weren’t too concerned with how it went back together, either. They dumped me on Europa when they were done. It took me months to put all the pieces back in order. I’ll die before I let them do that again.”

“I — I’ll go find the Captain and Validenn,” Kim gasps and all but leaps out of the shuttle. The raw rage and remembered terror radiating from Morgan is more than her fragile barriers can keep out. At the mouth of the shuttle bay Kim stops and leans for a moment on the blessedly cold metal wall. “You’re a Ranger. Remember your training,” she hisses at her dull reflection. After three long breaths she manages to pull herself straight, smoothing her expression — and what she could of her mind — into calm. Like a ghost she creeps out into the main corridor and past the unconscious forms heaped still as they had fallen.


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