Characters: Katia Santiago, Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Margaret Morgan
The bar was not one of the desirable places that could be found on Mars. In fact, it was probably one of the seediest there was. That was primarily the reason Katia had chosen it for a rendezvous point. Many people knew her face, especially here on Mars, and she had no desire to be noticed. The music was loud, combating constantly with the patron’s voices, caught up in making deals-both legal and illegal, and fighting.
In the darkness of the bar, Margaret Morgan sat, slouched sullenly over the drink sitting in front of her on the table. She looked far from the Ranger that she was, with scruffy, dirty looking clothes. She thought she remembered how to blend in well here, and she did look as if she belonged. Anytime anyone approached her, she would glance over at them with a look that brooked no disturbance, and they would turn the other way quickly. She knew this was the place Katia and Kim would meet, and intended to intercept before they got any further with this mission. Kim would either change her mind — which she knew wouldn’t happen– or she would be going with them. No arguments. But, the real test would be what happened when they got there.
Katia walked through the streets in an area that not many of the nicer people go. It was definitely not the sort of territory she was used to, or comfortable in. She began to question the wisdom of choosing such a place to meet, but she tried to ignore the thought with all the other concerns.
She glanced around furtively in an effort to watch for trouble. So far, no one had recognized her, or so she hoped. She had tried to change her appearance in several ways, some more dramatic than others. To start she had cut her hair by about 12 inches, falling loose to frame her face. Along with dark civilian clothing, and a little makeup, she looked nothing like the severely professional woman of PsiCorps she had been.
The changes, however, didn’t include shutting down the one thing that had tangled her with PsiCorps in the first place. Her gift was a tool she couldn’t overlook the use of, and she opened her mind slightly to those around her so she could get a “feel” for the mood of the crowd. She also wanted to know if anyone was trying to follow her or maybe had noticed her and was going to find the authorities. So far, no one distinguished her from anyone else in the crowd.
Eyeing the street up and down, she spotted the bar she was searching for. The engineer strode over to the door and entered quietly before perusing the crowd to check for danger. At first glance, nothing to threaten, but neither was there anything of help. Kim wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Stepping further in, she took a longer, more covert look at the various patrons. Her eyes slid over Morgan without recognition at first, then she blinked from shock and almost expected herself to faint. This was not the person she had been expecting when she arrived. Meg stared back at her, blinking her only acknowledgment of Katia.
Katia Santiago found herself off balance for the first time since departing for this personal responsibility. She clamped down on her uncertainty quickly as she walked over to the table Morgan had claimed, raising her eyebrow in silent question.
Meg inclined her head to the seat opposite her own. The Engineer sat but her attention was on the room as much as Meg. She continued to do a surface scan of those around her so she could intercept any problems before they arose, and so far, all was quiet. She almost regretted it now.
“Where’s Kim?” Katia asked with a shout, trying to be heard over the blaring music in her ear.
The other woman’s mouth thinned a bit as she replied, “I expected her with you.”
“I was supposed to meet her here! You didn’t come with her?” Katia replied in surprise, a bit taken aback at Morgan’s response.
“Not since she had already left when I found out,” Morgan said bluntly, not feeling even slightly generous in this situation.
Three days previous, Kim makes a too cheerful disappearance that may have convinced her family, but did nothing for Meg. A call to Billy Nichols, the supposed reason for Kim’s early departure, proved her suspicions all to well. Kim was not in fact, spending her last week of shore leave on Babylon 5.
Very familiar with the ways a person might get offworld in a hurry, and quietly, it hadn’t taken too much for her to find out where Kim had gone. Her friend had not only left in secret, but gone off on a fool’s mission to Mars, and not even given her the common courtesy of letting her know. Meg was not very happy with the situation.
Katia glanced at her incredulously, “You mean, she didn’t talk to you about this?” She had half-expected Kim to let Meg know what was going on obviously she was wrong.
“No. I’m only here to keep her from getting herself killed,” the tactical officer said pointedly.
Katia nodded at that. The point was made very clear to her: she herself was not included in that protection. She was the reason it was even necessary. “With any luck, no one will get hurt,” Katia said, trying to put the other woman at ease.
Morgan snorted, saying nothing.
The streets bustled with activity, as people furtively and overtly performed legal and not so legal activities. Kim strolled along, a mask of unconcern all she showed to them. Dressed in simple and unimpressive civvies, her straight, black hair tucked back behind her ears, she faded blandly into the surroundings.
Her appraisal of the region was far from casual, however. In this quarter, the changes after the war didn’t seem to have touched things much yet. Then again, the darkness and deceit of this area lent itself to stay just the way it was, no matter what changes occurred in the outside world. The destitute and homeless, as well as those preying on the less fortunate lay around everywhere, and Kim doubted that would change much at all. It had, after all, been a fixture of every civilization of man through history.
Kim finally spotted the bar, slowing her pace casually as she glanced around before approaching the door. She stood there, and let a couple patrons pass, then caught the door and stepped in silently. Expecting Katia to be waiting for her, she allowed her eyes to sweep the room. She resisted opening her mind just yet, not wanting the contact with anyone else right now. It was not impossible there were other teeps about, rogue or otherwise. Finally, her glance stopped on the table where Katia was sitting. She cursed silently upon seeing Meg sitting there as well. Apparently her escape from Earth hadn’t gone as smoothly as she hoped.
“Well, I couldn’t just sit back and wait, doing nothing while they have my daughters!” Katia replied a bit caustically to Morgan’s noncommittal snort. She finally sensed Kim behind her and was frankly glad for the distraction. She knew Morgan never truly cared for her, not after the incident in the Docking Bay when she attacked Kim. But, at least with Kim there, she felt a bit more secure in the situation and not so out of her element. She waited for Kim to walk over to the table.
“I did not say you could sit by,” the woman said grudgingly. Meg could see Kim as she braced herself for the impending confrontation.
“Then what did you expect me to do? I couldn’t do it alone, and you know it,” Katia replied, wishing Morgan could understand.
Meg shook her head. She knew neither was in the mood to truly listen to one another. She glanced up as Kim approached the table. Katia looked up as well, and smiled ever so slightly in greeting. It was apparent she was on edge.
Meg’s eyes narrowed a little at her friend as Kim nodded in greeting. Kim pulled back the last of the chairs around the table and sat, wary of them both, but for two separate reasons. Katia looked between the two women sitting in front of her and queried Kim to end the awkward moment, “You made it all right?”
“Fine,” Kim answered before she glanced over at Meg and accused, “You hacked the message logs, didn’t you?”
It was then Katia realized it was best to stay out of the dynamics running between these two on this particular issue. She leaned back and glanced around, wondering if they had been noticed yet.
“What else was I to do?” Meg asked quietly.
“Keep out of it, perhaps?” Kim answered a bit sharply. “It isn’t safe.”
“Ie? So I let you get killed?” Morgan returned, her eyes flashing the anger she held inside, being fueled by all the strain and worry the last couple days had brought to her.
“So I’m incapable of taking care of myself.” Kim’s voice had taken on a dangerous tone.
Katia listened, unable not to as she sat so close to them. She began getting worried they were drawing attention to themselves and glanced around, as she hoped they weren’t being noticed.
“And you wouldn’t do the same? I thought that was part of it.”
Kim countered, “In my position, what would you have done?”
Meg looked at her, glare for glare, not letting go of her friend’s eyes. “The same,” she admitted before stating with a low growl, “But allow me this, with less argument.”
“As if I had a choice in the matter.” The worry for her friend caused Kim to persist in her argument, “Meg, we’re going up against teeps. You’re a walking target. If they get hold of you for even a minute — ”
“And I’m a an early warning system,” she answered after glancing over at Katia, gauging whether or not to trust the Engineer.
Katia blinked, being brought back to the conversation. She questioned, “What do you mean?”
Kim sighed, unheard in the noise of the bar. Meg’s lips thinned. She hated to have to explain to Katia what they were speaking of, but knew if they were going to go on with this venture, Katia had a right to know. “My mind has no natural shields. I concentrate, and I can feel one of y–a teep, active.” Meg admitted.
Having never heard of anything like that before, Katia was a bit taken aback with surprise. She asked, “But, wouldn’t that mean they can enter your mind and you can’t fight it?”
“Exactly,” Kim responded flatly.
Meg nodded, confirming Katia’s fear before arguing, “But I survived an invasion once… ”
Shaking her head in argument, Katia responded, “You have no idea how strong those we may come up against can be. I don’t know if I would be able to protect you if it came down to it or not, Morgan.” Then she paused and glanced over at Kim before continuing, “And, I know Kim doesn’t have the level of training to do it. The strength, maybe. The training, no.”
Kim pushed her hand back through her hair, uncomfortable with the confessions. She had been worried about this very thing all along. With Meg there, it just complicated things even further.
“Survived it alone!” Meg’s responded sharply, not liking to be reminded of the incident. “And PsiCops at that.”
Kim knew the story, and knew that brute force was only going to be worth so much in this situation. She broke in, trying to divert and argument between the two, “There’s no point arguing it now. It looks like we’re stuck with each other, so lets get it done, shall we?”
Santiago sighed herself this time, knowing the tactical officer would not back down. She shook her head before answering, “I don’t like it. But, yeah, let’s get to it. We are running out of time. Nathan is going to be back before too long.”
Kim grimaced as she pulled out a paper, “I’ve got the address.”
Meg turned her head to look at it – not unfamiliar with Mars herself, as Katia voiced, “I wasn’t sure you would be able to get that or not.” Then she leaned over a bit to look at the address herself. For the first time, she knew the exact location of her daughters. It left her with a nauseous feeling in her stomach, half of it excitement at the prospect of soon having them with her.
Dunstan, I am going to get to see them. Truly be with them. And, then I will return and you will get to meet them, and maybe then we can decide where we are going together, she thought to herself.
“They’re not in the Psi Corps installation at least, but… it’s a wealthy dome. The security’s going to be thick,” Kim stated to the others.
Katia nodded, knowing the area. “It is at that. One of the most well secured domes on all Mars… if you don’t count Syria Planum,” she added, referring to the home of the Psi Corps.
“I may have a friend or so left there,” Meg volunteered quietly.
Kim looked at Meg and then said, “All right, let’s hear it.”
(C) 1999 Alida Saxon, Tamara Freise and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.