Breaking Ice

Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Margaret Morgan, Katia Santiago

The tunnels got colder as went, old and new signs of breaks in the walls. In some places, snow swirled, squeaking dryly under foot. Kim pulled her robe more tightly around herself, but Katia plodded on uncaring behind her, not bothering to wrap up.

“Close now,” Nadienn murmured, drawing up her hood to hide her face. “Watch your heads. The ceiling is quite low here.”

The ceiling did dip lower, but the greatest problem was the rubble piled on the floor and up the staircase that appeared around a sudden curve. They scrambled up one by one, and Nadienn pushed open doors that reminded Kim slightly of the cellar entrance on old Earth homes. The metal groaned and squealed opening, and by appearances it was even heavy for the stronger Minbari. Kim dropped her barriers and sent her senses out to be certain no one was around to hear them.

Nothing. Nadienn crept out, the Rangers following. Soon the two humans and seven Minbari were out in the shell of what looked like an old temple. A couple of the Minbari made hasty reverence to something at one shadowed end. Nadienn paused a moment, then lead them out into the streets.

It took a few minutes, twisting through the streets before Kim or Katia began to recognize anything. They were quite close to where they left the shuttle. Kim kept pace beside Nadienn now, the group loping down the street. They soon saw the Silencer’s bulk on the edge of the old shuttlepad, amidst broken, old buildings and even older, bent trees.

The Silencer was a huge ghostly white shape in its veil of snow. Kim went to the hatch, quickly brushing away the snow that had accumulated. Then she found the ice. She pounded the around the edge of the seal, cracking the thin sheath of ice that had formed when snow hit the warm hull.

Seeing Kim’s work, Katia went immediately to check the landing feet. Burdened as they would be, breaking out of ice weights was an extra stress the ship didn’t need. Soon she was slamming the heel of her boot around, cracking the landing feet free.

Kim finally cracked open the hatch and led the Minbari in. They didn’t waste any time with discussion. The supplies were quickly packed into the netting that had held it down, and slung over the shoulders of the Minbari. It seemed even too much for a Minbari to carry all that way, but Kim reasoned then did only have to get as far as one of the tunnel entrances. Safe, they could take the supplies back with more leisure.

Kim followed them outside and bid them a quiet farewell. The seven slipped off down a different street with their burdens. Kim and Katia watched from the side of the Silencer. And then to their horror, they saw four figures slip out into the street behind the Minbari. A patrol!

Kim cursed sharply in a half dozen languages, and then stopped the waste of breath. “Keep the shuttle going! Have to stop them,” she ordered.

Katia looked at Kim like she were nuts. “I am not leaving you! There are four of them –“

But then Kim was dashing away, not listening. She let the encumbering robe fall off in a wild flutter of black cloth. Regardless of orders and knowing she was no match for a warrior, Katia rushed to follow.

The warriors hadn’t noticed or left the two humans as irrelevant in their pursuit. Kim made them realize differently. As she said herself, she was no great aim, but she had a good chance of hitting something. Her allies were at least out of the line of fire now, around the corner. Leaning around the corner of a burnt out building, Kim drew her PPG and started firing.

PPG blasts hissed, burst stone and shattered windows near the warriors. In a stroke of luck, Kim hit one square on. He’d turned right into the shot, and fell with a hoarse scream of amazement and pain.

Kim had their undivided attention now. She fired her PPG cap empty, and then ducked inside the building. She nearly collided with Katia. Kim opened her mouth in astonishment, and then closed it hard with rage. But then the warriors were coming and there was no time for words.

The first came in the entrance Kim had. She was ready for him. She caught him in a savage kick to the midsection and then brought her clasped fists down between his shoulder blades as he doubled over. He collapsed with a wheeze into unconsciousness.

Katia watched on, holding her PPG but knowing she couldn’t hit anything even if she wanted too. Her luck today, she’d probably hit Kim in trying.

Giving the two Rangers no more than a few seconds to adjust, the remaining two entered from the rear. Kim and Katia could have run, but it would have brought the warriors back to the shuttle. They couldn’t allow that.

Kim straightened to face them, and then her eyes widened seeing one of them draw not a pike, but a PPG. Stupid, stupid, stupid, Kim silently cursed herself. When they hadn’t fire back in the street, she’d assumed they hadn’t any….

Katia gasped and her eyes snapped around for some way to combat this sudden development. Kim gave up the idea of scrambling for her weapon and the spare cap and used the only other long range weapon she had. She reached out fiercely with her mind.

Forcing the warrior into unconsciousness took a greater effort than she’d imagined. She couldn’t spare anything of her attention to deal with the second of the Minbari. Her one thought before seeing him rush in was thanking that he didn’t have a PPG weapon as well.

Looking around and finding nothing, Katia suddenly looked up. A brief smile flashed. The fire than had taken the building had been very recent and besides gutting the place, baring the wiring and conduits, the power wasn’t cut yet. The building’s power lines sagged above in their deteriorating brackets, hissing occasionally as snow struck and melted on them. Quickly Katia clambered up on to the debris beneath, bringing herself close to the wiring.

Kim ruthlessly crushed down on the mind of the warrior with the PPG. The female collapsed with a cry into limp silence. Then Kim sank into a fighting crouch to meet the last Minbari’s attack. With a grim smile and an extended pike, he rushed into the attack confidently.

He had reason for confidence. Kim was flagging after the mental fight and she had no weapon left but her body. She didn’t even have time to snatch the pike from the Minbari she brought down in the doorway.

Kim avoided the first few strikes, worse each time. Katia looked down from her new perch and cursed. The Minbari was not in the right place!

Kim’s eyes flickered up at Katia, and almost fatal distraction. She rolled out of the way just missing a strike aimed for her head. That was as far as her luck would stretch. She climbed to her feet just in time to take a strike to her midsection. Kim felt the bones in her forearm snap and at least three ribs go from the blow, and then she was on the ground. She couldn’t get her eyes to focus, dark spots dancing in her vision.

Katia gasped, watching the fall, and the next strike that would come if she didn’t act. Gripping her PPG in both hands, she shot one of the powerlines point blank. At the same moment that the Minbari lifted his pike to deliver a crushing blow to Kim, the severed powerline fell in an arc and struck him in the side.

Kim’s eyes widened as she heard the howl, and she saw the Minbari convulse a couple feet away. Power arced through his snow wet and metal studded uniform, and then through his body. The pike clattered from his hands inches from Kim’s supine body. The Minbari followed a moment later.

Katia stared in horror at the results, not believing she’d just killed. She was rooted in place for a second, watching the power line swing lazily in the sudden silence. Then she heard Kim’s ragged gasps and she scrambled down to check on the Science Chief.

Kim tried to sit up, but suddenly Katia was beside her, holding her shoulders down. “Don’t get up just yet –“

“You just have to get your way, don’t you?” Kim complained, voice coming out in a wheeze that was far from authoritative.

“In this instance, yes! It was sheer stupidity to think you could go up against them alone,” Katia said sharply, just as angry. She grabbed the small medkit hanging from her belt and snapped it open to take care of Kim. “Besides… how would I explain that one to Morgan?” Katia said with a joking tone, but not without seriousness.

Kim scowled and then suddenly the corners of her mouth twitched, almost unwillingly. “Point.” She sighed and leaned back, not fighting Katia’s prodding for a moment. “Damn, this has not been my day,” she commented wryly.

Katia raised an eyebrow and matched Kim’s tone perfectly. “I would say not.”

Kim was quiet a moment, then she pushed Katia’s hands away, making an attempt to sit up. “Stop. Nothing in there that can do much about broken bones. Put it away and help me up. We have to move.”

Katia sighed, knowing Kim was right. She pulled Kim’s good arm over her shoulders and helped the archeologist up.

Kim wobbled on her feet a moment, teeth clenched and fighting unconsciousness. With every breath something seemed to grind in her ribcage and she was quite certain the roaring in her ears couldn’t be entirely blamed on the storm. When she found enough sense to look about, she found Katia staring at the Minbari she had brought down. The Chief Engineer was looking a little sick.

“He’s not dead, you know,” Kim said, almost gently.

Katia looked at Kim in shock. “Huh?”

“He’s not dead,” Kim repeated, then shrugged, instantly regretting the movement.

Katia winced herself as she sees Kim’s physical pain. She adjusted her grip on her fellow Ranger, doing her best to support her. “Are you sure?” Katia whispered.

Kim’s voice was tight, but not with anger. Just pain. “Sure. Can sense it.”

Kim’s tone said Katia could too, if she used her gift. Katia looked at her and shook her head. Some things she would not do. “Yeah, I guess you would….” she said. Keeping a firm grip she helped Kim move toward the exit.

Kim’s eyes flickered to Katia for a moment, fitting the pieces together. The woman’s hatred of PsiCorps, her hesitation to attack or scan Kim in the docking bay of the Phoenix, the tightly locked shields…. Kim simply nodded and didn’t bring the subject up again. Instead she focused on the street they just stepped out into.

“Good for them, but bad for us, help will arrive before long,” Kim commented.

Katia nodded. “I know. I don’t know how we will get you out of here.”

“I walk. Fast.” Teeth clenched, Kim proceeded to do just that. “I sure hope Meg isn’t taking in the sights.”

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