Characters: Margaret Morgan, Dr. Kim Matsumoto
Margaret stepped out of her quarters, finally dry. Her dark uniform no longer felt like lead weights dragging at her shoulders, and slapping wetly with every movement. The smell of crushed plants and mud was left behind for the cleaners to deal with. Free to pursue another concern, she turned not for the bridge, but deeper down the halls on deck three.
The door chime came to Kim’s ears muffled through the folds of the towel, but even if she would have missed it, her senses warned more surely of the person outside her door. A smile began as she turned toward the door.
The door slid aside and Margaret peeked in. “Just wanted to check on you, Cyfeilles.”
“You can come in you know. There’s no vat of burning oil over the door,” Kim teased.
“Ie, but water I wouldn’t put past you.”
But Margaret entered anyway. Kim laughed as she took her towel back to the drying bars. Like Margaret, she was in a fresh uniform, and hair washed clean of the jungle’s clinging life. “I think it’d be redundant at this point, don’t you?”
“If I’d been meant to tolerate rain, I’d have been born on a planet. Without a dome.”
“By that theory, they you should turn to ash in sunlight… since you didn’t get that either.”
“Ah, but who says I don’t?”
“Dr. Trassano could make a fortune off the sunblock she’s prescribing then,” Kim said with a grin for the banter. Throwing her finished braid over her shoulder she stepped back into the space that made up her living room. “So, what’s this I’ve been hearing about you?”
“What’s what you’ve been hearing about me?”
“Replacing the commander. At least it’s my guess from what I’ve been seeing,” Kim said. It hadn’t all been from words.
Margaret shrugged. “I don’t know. Hale thinks I can do it.” As she spoke she looked down, staring at the floor.
Kim sensed more of Margaret’s uncertainty than she’d ever put to voice. “I don’t see why not. Unlike too many of us, you’ve got that kind of training,” she said, her words carefully casual as she dropped into a chair. She waved Margaret to the couch.
“Ie, but training isn’t everything,” Margaret said, sinking down to the cushions. “Experience counts, and a knack for it. You know me – not very good with people.”
“Well….” Kim shrugged. “You seem to have done all right, by what I see. And this is the Rangers, not a public relations job.”
Margaret snorted, “Lucky you.” But the set of her shoulders relaxed a little.
“Well, we need someone around here, and you’ve been here longer than anyone else at this point. Counts for something.”
“Ie, maybe so.” She was resigned to it, but it would take longer to be convinced.
“We don’t have to be on duty for a bit, barring emergency. Want something to drink? I’ve tea, maybe even coffee, or something like it, anyway.”
“Ah, water, please,” Margaret replied, earning a curious glance from Kim. Between making tea Kim brought a glass. “Diolch,” Margaret thanked, and then grimaced as she sipped. Kim didn’t comment until she was back to the counter pouring boiling water over the tea leaves.
“Not like you to turn down coffee.”
“Not by choice, I’ll tell you.” Margaret sighed, considering. This was her friend, and nearly alone in that honor. “How much astrophysiology do you know?”
“Some. You pile up the ratings in my field.”
“Do you know what happens to bones in a zero-g environment?”
Kim paused, swirling the tea and watching the leaves settle again on the bottom. “Some,” she repeated, more quietly.
Margaret’s voice was dispassionate. “Calcium leaches out, without the drugs to combat it.”
“And you’re getting them, right?” Kim stepped back slowly, and sank into her chair, expression openly concerned.
Now I am.”
Kim sighed inwardly. “Good. Dr Trassano — Mira… she’s good at what she does.”
“Ie. But she can’t fix what’s already done,” Margaret said quietly.
“Caffeine does the same, if slower. No sense making things worse than they are.” Margaret took a pointed sip of her water, and Kim nodded. “But it’s only a matter of time…. I won’t be able to resist forever.”
It wasn’t the original ending to the comment. Kim kept her silence, and Margaret knew it. Kim forced a smile. If Meg wanted it that way, Kim would pretend she didn’t hear what she did behind the words.
Margaret forcibly dragged the conversation back into the light. “Next time we’re on B5, you’ll have to keep an eye on me.” She dragged up a wry grin.
“No thanks. Darquin’s the security around here. Let him do the policing and I’ll keep my limbs.”
Margaret sniffed and leaned back into the cushions. Privately, she was little relieved someone knew, however futile it appeared to be. “Ie, well…. Are you doing all right, Cyfeilles? Down on the planet….” She didn’t finish.
Kim glanced up and shrugged. “Sure, I’m fine. Just… overwhelmed for a bit.”
“Overwhelmed?” Margaret repeated in her “don’t lie to me” tone.
Kim downed half of her tea before answering. “How else can I describe it? I just couldn’t keep it out, so I had to go with it or shut down.” She was surprisingly matter-of-fact.
Margaret shook her head. “I don’t envy you that, Cyfeilles. It was definitely odd.”
“Mm, I imagine it was,” Kim said dryly as she stood. She couldn’t seem to sit still, wandering over to the counter again, to rinse out her cup. “Can’t say I get any thrill out of being ridden. Sometimes I feel as if I were just some kind of tool, like a comlink, or a scanner… and someone’s stolen the controls.”
“I apologize, for my part. I’m sure I broadcast like a relay station.”
“It’s all right. Not like it’s your fault… evolution’s quirks.”
“Ie, but….” Margaret shrugged. “I try to think quietly, when I remember.”
“I don’t really know there’s such a thing as quiet around anyone.” Kim turned, leaning against the counter with a smile for her old friend. “But thanks.”
Copyright (c) 1998 Leslie McBride and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.