Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto

Tea jar under one arm, and a rare, comfortable smile on her face, Kim trailed down the quiet halls to her quarters. A couple more hours sleep and then she’d get up to face the mission, but until then, the madness of it was forgotten. For a short while she could pretend they weren’t about to plunge into yet another crazy mission.

A tapped code at the door panel and she was in her quarters. Predictably, the comm was blinking with waiting messages. She almost told the computer to shush, but duty won out.

There was only one message waiting. Origination: Babylon 5, Billy Nichols.

A startled smile rose when Kim saw the name. The message had gotten in just a minute after she’d left for Yoshino’s room.

Setting the tea jar into its protected place, Kim called for the message to be played. She was surprised a moment later when the darkened room like up with an actual video recording. At first she thought he’d overcome the shyness she’d heard in his last message, but then looking up at him she knew instantly that he would be just as surprised to find he was being recorded. His attitude wasn’t right; gaze cast down to his hands, his military-short hair still managing to look perpetually ragged, and after a long day’s work, his uniform matched the appearance. Kim’s smile grew sad, reminded that it wasn’t much easier outside of the Rangers.

“Kim. Good to hear from you. Glad to see a friendly face after today.” A pause as he considered his words, and gave into some sort of need. “I know what a good leave can do, even a short one.”

He sagged a little in his chair, his gaze traveling up his sleeve, contemplating what Kim realized to be blood. Frowning, she sat at her desk, the lines of worry returning to her face as much for seeing his face as hearing about the girl. “…She asked me for her parents. Dear God, what do I say to that?” Billy asked the empty air, but Kim found herself shaking her head helplessly in answer.

Then he shook himself. “Sorry. You’ve got enough on your mind right now. Good luck on your new mission, and be careful. Maybe, um…. Maybe we can have dinner when you come back through. Take care.”

The message closed, the image replaced briefly by the B5 logo, then black. Kim stared at stared at the screen without really seeing for a few minutes, then turned it off. She could not find words to help and even if she had, her messages wouldn’t be transmitted until they were clear of the mission, however long that would take. She refused to contemplate the “if” of getting out.

Tomorrow. Maybe then I’ll think of something. Quietly she padded to her bathroom, striping wearily and washing up for sleep. A short while later she crawled under the covers, but even though the futon was comfortable and her body needed the sleep, her mind wouldn’t quit.

Finally, “Computer, record audio response to last message.”

Kim stared up into the dark for a long minute, considering her words.

“Billy, I hope you’re all right. By the time this will be allowed to transmit, we’ll have been through and back again from this mission. I hope it gets to you.

“I’d give you video, but–” Kim laughed faintly, “I’m not dressed for it. I was intending to try and come up with something inspired in the morning, but, it just isn’t working, so all you’ve got is me.”

A silence stretched. “You know, we go on all these insane missions, sometimes never knowing if we’ll live to see the end of it, but I think it takes more courage and endurance to help pick up the pieces after the battles are fought. I learned that on Minbari, getting the refugees out of the civil war.

“We’re going now into one of those big missions. I guess I can tell you, since this won’t get out until after. We’re heading into Vorlon Space after… well, we really don’t know yet. One of our ships is missing, the other is hobbling back to B5. It’s just the Phoenix and this mercenary ship, the Hellfire.

“It scares me of course, but I worry more about what might happen if we don’t do something. I just wish there was something more that I can give to prepare. I’m supposed to be the scientist, but I can’t give them much of anything to work with. The Vorlon legacy, hm? I sure hope they cleaned up after themselves.

“I’ll probably end up on the bridge in an hour or so to start scanning. My telepathy hasn’t stopped being in demand since it started up.” Kim’s voice grew a little bitter, and she was too tired to notice. “If it weren’t so badly needed…. Well, that’s the way it is.”

Kim sighed, closing her eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t seem to be doing any better at this. I’ll close this soon.

“Take care, ok? Eat something and get some sleep once in a while. You look like you needed it. I know I feel better for it when I manage to behave. And about dinner…. I’d love to. I hope to be talking to you soon.

“Computer, end message and send when the channels are open again.”

Kim turned, burrowing deeper under the covers, hoping to find oblivion for a little while. It came sooner than she would have ever credited.

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