Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Margaret Morgan, Katia Santiago
The snow was finally beginning to abate when Margaret and her group of Minbari crept down the last street to the shuttle. The city was quiet around them, but it was no comfort. They had already paid a toll in blood for their passage through the streets and an ambush was entirely possible. Margaret had been around too long to indulge such dangerous optimism. Her fingers curled around a short, ridged tube in her pocket and wished vainly that a scanner could have been one of the battle spoils as well.
The shuttle stood open and quiet to their sight, a confusion of tracks dirtying the blanket of snow. Then Margaret saw a dark heap of fabric a few feet away and tensed. With all the lumpy snow, there was no telling if a body beneath it. With a sharp motion she directed the warriors to check in and around the shuttle and Margaret went herself to the fabric.
It was a Minbari cloak, and Margaret was only slightly relieved that there wasn’t a body attached. Where was the owner, and was it one of her fellow Rangers? She retreated to the shuttle and looked at the fabric more closely in the light. Scowling Margaret drew two long strands of hair from the cloak’s hood. Black and straight, there was no doubting whose they were.
“I don’t think you are going to make it.”
Really? Kim thought sarcastically, but the words never made it to her mouth. Instead she coughed, every shudder sending a ripple of agony to her brain. The coppery warmth of blood filled her mouth, but concern was quickly slipping away. She just wanted to stop and lie down…
“Why don’t we find someplace for you to hide out and I will go get Morgan to help get you back….” Katia gasped out. Almost a full foot shorter than the other Ranger, she was struggling to keep Kim on her feet. When Kim didn’t answer, Katia steered her toward one of the abandoned buildings. “Ok, Kim… let’s get you laid down…. Just a little further.”
Inside Katia squinted to find a good place, and finally let Kim down behind the concealment of a shattered table. Kim was almost unconscious before she hit the ground. She never felt the hands that gently eased her position on the ground, or wrap a cloak around her. She was gone when Katia slipped out of the building and started dashing for the shuttle.
Margaret’s head jerked at the sound of a warrior’s hissed warning and she looked down the street indicated. There was someone coming toward the ship, abandoning cover in haste. The person had no cloak, and more importantly, had hair.
Margaret straightened from her crouch in the snow, back sliding up the shuttle’s hull. She didn’t put her PPG away, and when she realized who it was, her grip tightened. The warriors shifted uneasily at her tension.
Katia pounded up to the shuttle and reeled back when Margaret stalked three steps to plant herself in Katia’s way. The tactical officer’s jaw was set, eyes glittering with a threat.
“Morgan. Kim is hurt. Need you to help get her back here,” Katia gasped out, wincing at the pain of breathing as the icy air entered her lungs.
Margaret stared at her a moment, then turned to the shuttle for a better first aid kit before speaking. “Show me.”
“She is this way….” she forced out and started to run again. Margaret kept up and from the numbers guarding the shuttle and it’s occupants, two Minbari detached to follow.
Between gasps as they ran, Katia tried to explain. “Four warriors. They attacked. Kim took care of three and the fourth was too much. He nailed her with his pike. Tried to hit her again, but I managed to –” Katia shuddered, remembering, “–stop him. Thought we could make it back. Was wrong.”
Margaret’s only acknowledgment was a short grunt. Katia led her into a building and then to the black wrapped huddle inside. Margaret crouched beside Kim and gently drew back the cloak from her friends face. “Cyfeilles? Kim?”
Kim was unresponsive, almost as pale as the snow, and there was a dark stain on her lips. She was still breathing, but raggedly, a wet sound to it.
“We need to get her back –” Katia said, shivering nearby.
“Ie,” Margaret said curtly and held up her hand for silence as she listened a moment. “Quickly. That’s a punctured lung.”
Margaret didn’t see Katia’s wide eyes. She was too busy looking for something to get Kim back to the shuttle. Her eyes settled on a leaning door — it was mostly intact — and got an idea. In broken Minbari she asked the warriors for their cloaks and their help.
Tying theirs with hers, she made a harness to wrap around the door. Seeing her intentions, Katia moved to help drag over the door. Margaret gave her a hard stare, but didn’t argue the help. There was no time. They quickly got the makeshift stretcher together and as gently as was possible, lifted Kim on to it. The wounded Ranger half woke at the movement, body clenching in pain. Margaret steadied her. “Going home, Cyfeilles, promise,” she said softly.
Kim coughed, eyes closing as she sagged still again.
Katia hovered as Margaret spoke with the Minbari, getting their cooperation in lifting Kim’s stretcher. Standing still, the night was getting bitterly cold to the Chief Engineer, but she didn’t speak. Margaret was in a dark mood and it was focused almost entirely on Katia. It took a moment for Katia to realize she’d let her barriers slip under the strain, for her to know that. It wasn’t the only thing she was sensing either. In an unconscious state, Kim was without barriers and her presence sharp to the other telepath. Without thinking, Katia wrapped shields around Kim’s mind and well as strengthening her own. It wouldn’t be until much later that she’d realized the enormity of what she’d done.
She kept pace with Margaret at the lead, the Minbari following with Kim. Uneven as the ground was, it wasn’t as quick going as they hoped. Katia caught a sideways glance from Margaret and heard the tactical officer mutter something unintelligible.
“Excuse me? What was that, Morgan?”
Margaret’s gaze flickered around for possible ambush, but Katia could feel the anger focus. “Nothing I can translate,” Margaret growled.
Katia’s eyebrows rose and she continued on in silence, troubled. Margaret had been cool before, but this simmering hostility was beyond understanding.
The snow had finally stopped, and with it’s leaving, the sounds of the city began to reach them. Distantly, sounds of activity pearced the night quiet, and then there was the quick sound of feet coming from the shuttle. Another pair of warriors had come to meet them, urging to hurry and adding extra hands to the carrying. Margaret fell back to rearguard, and after a quick glance Katia went ahead with the Minbari.
In a rush they got to the shuttle and Katia scrambled in after Kim was lifted through the hatch. She saw Kim set down, then went forward to check the shuttle’s readiness. As well as the others, she could hear the sounds of reinforcements coming and knew where she would be of better use. And it certainly wasn’t outside with her bad aim!
Margaret soon came in, still looking outside. She couldn’t see anything, but….
Katia looked at her with relief. “All right, are we ready. We need to get Kim back as soon as possible. I don’t know how much longer she can last –“
Closing the hatch, Margaret turned and snarled at Katia. “Don’t you think I know that?” Margaret moved to the pilot seat and sat down. She focused her attention back on the controls and never glanced at Katia… or Kim, silent in the back. The Science Chief looked worse in light. Behind them, the Minbari — especially the ones that knew English — politely pretended they weren’t seeing or hearing anything.
Katia couldn’t stand the accusing silence for long. “I tried to get her back to the shuttle, I didn’t think she was hurt that bad… she didn’t say…”
“Did you try?” Margaret snapped as she powered the shuttle all the way up. She rushed through preflight checks. The sensors were picking up movement on the ground.
“Of course I tried!” Katia protested. “You don’t honestly think that I wouldn’t do you?”
“What am I supposed to believe? Already tried to kill her once,” Margaret accused. With sharp stabs at the controls, she got the shuttle off the ground quickly.
Katia didn’t answer for a moment, absorbed as she was with hurrying into her flight harness. “I wouldn’t have killed her….” Katia mumbled. “I did everything I could!”
“How do I know that?”
“How do you know that? Do you think I would just let her get hurt like that?”
“Yes,” Margaret snapped. “Where were you? You haven’t been touched.”
“I was trying to find a way to get us out of the situation. I knew Kim couldn’t hold up against four Minbari warriors. If it hadn’t been for me, she wouldn’t be here at all right now,” Katia said, her voice rose in frustration as she tried to get through to Morgan. “Her head would have been bashed in with a pike!” She took a deep breath to steady herself and her voice returned to normal tone. “I know I came off the wrong way earlier, and so maybe you think I want her dead, but that isn’t the case!”
“‘Came off the wrong way’,” Margaret repeated with harsh mockery. “You could say that.”
Margaret called up the status on their escort, watching them form up raggedly. They’d already seen some fighting and by the look on the scanners they would be seeing more. Margaret swore low under her breath and put on more speed. This was going to be one of the crudest, fastest flights the graceful Minbari shuttle had ever been subjected to.
Katia couldn’t stand the silence. “I was wrong, I know that… but…” she began in frustration, but Margaret ignored her.
Then they hit zero g.
Kim convulsed with choking gasps, ripped back to semi consciousness. Katia threw off her harness and rushed back so hastily she knocked her head on the ceiling. A Minbari grabbed and steadied her, another already with Kim. Katia swore loudly at the sight.
“She is choking on her own blood. What do we do?”
“In zero g? I hurry.” Margaret’s hands flew over the controls. The Phoenix was in sight now, but Margaret’s escort was gone, fallen back to deal with new targets. Margaret slapped the comm open to the ship. “Silencer returning to dock. Requesting full medical team in the shuttle bay. I repeat, Silencer returning to dock. Requesting –“
“We read you, Silencer. Team standing by,” the Comm officer broke in, and before Margaret’s sight, the Phoenix’s bay doors opened for them.
“Come on, Kim… just a little further… you can make it!” Katia said and then called to Margaret, “How much longer?”
Margaret snarled and brought the shuttle around to the bay. Inside the Minbari held on for entry, and one grabbed a hold of Katia’s collar when the Ranger didn’t think to hold on.
Margaret felt the first pull of ship’s gravity begin. “Crogi,” she whispered and without an ounce of finesse, brought the Silencer in.
The shuttle jarred into the docking bay and Katia slammed up against the wall despite the restraining hand. She managed to scramble into movement just as Margaret threw off her restraints and rushed to open the shuttle doors. Minbari scrambled out of the way, and the medics came up to the open hatch with stretchers. Katia continued to help Kim block out the noise of others minds, trying to keep her calm. It was only by that contact Katia could really tell Kim was alive. The Science Chief had gone very still, barely breathing.
Margaret grabbed one end of the door and shouted for someone to help her. Katia moved in before the medics could. Margaret looked at her, but was beyond arguing at that moment. She started backing out with the door in hand.
Outside, medics moved in and quickly transferred Kim to one of the stretchers. Margaret let the door drop away when no longer needed and helped them. Standing back, Katia let her end drop with a clatter to the decking and watched their hurried work. A medic started shouting orders into her link as they pulled the stretcher into motion. They worked as they ran.
The bay seemed very quiet when they were gone, and Katia stood staring at the door they’d left by. Medics and the rescued Minbari flowed around her and Margaret, moving off at a more sedate pace for Medlab. Katia sighed and looked at Margaret, then followed after the stretcher. She needed to be there, wondering now if it was in some way her fault as Margaret had accused.
Margaret sagged against the shuttle a moment. “Damn,” she muttered, then dragged herself up to follow.