Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto
“All stop! Damage report!”
Kim lifted her eyes from her console in time to see the approaching wave of light, and sense the new crush of horror. There was no way to run, barely even a moment to …
“Hey, are you all right?”
Kim twitched as she felt hands on her bare arms, helping her up from the ground. Pain snapped in a dozen scrapes, and she felt as if she must have left a square foot of skin behind. Her head pulsed with the beginnings of a migraine. She looked back at the steps she was being helped up from, unaware of the kind, worried eyes watching her.
“You took a bad fall there. Are you all right?” the man asked, his girlfriend or wife at his side and both waiting to hear intelligible words from Kim.
“Wh … Where am I?”
“Marsdome, of course… Matt, I think she may have hit her head. Call the hospital, will you?” the woman said quietly and Kim automatically put a hand to her temples, then stared dumbfounded a moment later at that hand, thin and adolescent. They belonged to arms equally thin, and bare, sticking out of a sleeveless Mars University jersey that looked as if it had been picked up off the floor. Gone were the trappings of age and her place among the Rangers.
But one thing remained of the future, working past the ache in her temples.
The woman tried coaxing Kim toward one of the plastic benches out of the traffic, and Kim sensed her sincere concern with ease. “Come on now, and we’ll call the a doctor for you. And your family.”
Kim looked around wildly, memory snapping onto the detains with frightening clarity. She was in The Tube, the web of shuttle connections that linked the domes of Mars. Her eyes found and locked on the LED display. Under a plate that marked the place as University Station, and across the black display, red points marched in cheerful declaration that it was 20:45, Thursday …
Kim moaned aloud, standing sharply despite the hands that tried to hold her, and had almost gotten her down on the bench. It couldn’t be. It mustn’t …
But she ran anyway, back up the stairs she’d crashed down and out into the streets, leaving behind her startled, cast-off helpers. Long legs stretched as she broke into a sprint down the paths lined with garden boxes and signs pointing away into the sprawl of University buildings. Her way was clear, the buildings closed until the morning. Small patches of dimmed light simulating night marked the way like a landing strip.
Her mind pointed out other details as well, like how there was no one there to hear her scream … or Seth’s as he died alone in the video labs of an apparent robbery….
“No,” she gasped aloud. She’d be quick enough this time. She could save him.
She all but collided with the doors, and her hands scrabbled to open them. Locked. Cursing herself she fumbled in her pockets for the card that would let her in, and came up empty. It must have fallen out when she fell. Hands clenched as she took a deep breath and then put her illegal skills to the door lock.
After a 60 second eternity, it opened and Kim burst in. Her running shoes screeched on the floor tiles as she bolted down the corridor, beyond grasping the sense of stealth. A crash echoing down to her brought a renewed burst of speed. She hit the lab door hard enough it hit the inside wall and almost catch her as it bounced back.
The windows hung wide, curtains hanging askew and still swinging from what must have been a sudden exit. There was no breeze in the still, dome air. Carts of equipment and chairs lay on their sides, contents sprayed out even wider than the ….
Too much of it for hope. But it was just beginning to pool under Seth, and the spastic blink of his eyes unlocked Kim’s feet from her pose of horror. In an instant she was down beside him, looking for a way to stop death she knew was coming. Like it hadn’t before, visions crawled into her mind, of faceless men, and a knife… and the tray of data crystals. The only remaining evidence that was still in civilian hands, of the Shadow on Mars. Her only proof.
She was still too late.
“Hold on,” Kim gulped, vision blurring.
Pain burst behind Kim’s eyes, and when she opened them again, she was half-collapsed behind her Science terminal on the bridge of the Phoenix. All was as it should have been, and again fell short of what she had long wished. A moan whispered past her lips before she could lock it away.
Copyright (c) 1998 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.