DISCLAIMER: I don't own Babylon 5 or any of the characters represented in the show. They're owned by JMS and other people who aren't me. I'm doing this for fun - I'm not making a profit, monetary or otherwise off of this. No copyright infringement is implied/meant/deliberate in any way, shape or form. If I've forgotten something, insert the usual disclaimer stuff here.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Fire and Ice
By Del Robertson


Part 3

Security Chief Michael Garibaldi. Commander Susan Ivanova.


Both dead.

The words of the contract Talia Winters was reading blurred yet again as she blinked back threatening tears. Gloved fingertips rubbed in a circular motion at her temple in an effort to relieve some of the pressure settling there. Crossing her legs, shifting her position yet again in her chair, she tried to get comfortable. In less than five seconds, she was uncrossing them again. Taking a sip of water, she discretely glanced around the cafe. If any of the other patrons noticed her uncharacteristic bout of restlessness, they gave no indication.

With a heavy sigh, she tried once more to concentrate on the lucrative contract. It was a business proposal between PrimeQuartz Mining Company and Lyons Trading, a brokerage house, specializing in very high-end pieces of jewelry. PrimeQuartz had just claimed the rights to a newly discovered, untapped mining colony in the Epsilon Sector. And, Lyons Trading was very interested in coming into the business on the ground floor, with exclusive rights to every piece processed. It would be a very good deal for both companies. And, as the commercial telepath responsible for negotiating a contract between the two clients, it would be very profitable for her, as well.

If she could just focus long enough to read all the way through it at least once.

The lights suddenly flickered, then went out completely, eliciting moans of disapproval throughout the Zocalo. Tracks of emergency lighting hummed to life, casting a pale blue glow on the surrounding walls.

Immediately, her mind drifted once again to the bodies she'd seen in Medlab Three.

Stop it! Just stop it! Talia mentally berated herself, shaking her head from side to side as if that would dispel the rogue images.

Things are getting out of hand.

John Sheridan stood on the raised platform that normally served as Commander Ivanova's station. His hands were clasped behind his back, his posture straight, his chin held high as he defiantly stared out at the billions of stars littering the sky. No matter what, he wouldn't let his command staff see his frustration, his weariness, his helplessness.

Not that there was anyone to hide it from. With the exception of Corwin, C & C was deserted. There was just no reason to fully staff the observation dome if more than half the systems were non-operational.

The sporadic power failures that had been plaguing the station had been steadily increasing, effectively crippling Babylon 5.

The core shuttle was useless. As were the transport tubes.

A day and a half ago, the risk of being trapped inside one was merely one of inconvenience for a few minutes until the systems flickered back online. Sheridan had discovered that very morning on his way to C & C that those sporadic periods could now last in excess of three hours. Three hours trapped in a tube with G'Kar and Londo Mollari. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

As soon as they'd been rescued, he'd immediately issued the order that stairwells were the new standard method of travel. For everyone. Period.

Oh, there'd been protests. Too numerous to count. Merchants in the Zocalo. Ambassadors who were suddenly without some of the finer amenities they'd come to appreciate while assigned to Babylon 5. Travelers who found themselves unexpectedly stranded days ago when he'd been forced to lock the station down.

He'd personally made the announcement, using the translators to convey the message to every living being on the station, human or alien, resident or visitor. The announcement was scheduled to repeat every four hours until the situation was resolved. Likewise, a similar message had been sent over subspace channels throughout the entire sector.

Babylon 5 was closed for business.

Dr. Franklin cursed.

He'd been in the middle of an operation when the last power outage had occurred. A patient on the table, life hanging by a thread . . . and the power had just gone off. He'd waited, scalpel in hand, feeling the sweat slowly trickling down his brow and into his eyes, causing them to sting. He heard the beating of his own heart in his chest, heard his nurse uneasily shuffling from foot to foot, the unmistakable drip-drip-drip of blood as it steadily pooled from the incision he'd made and worked its way from the patient's torso onto the metal table.

Hands poised, he waited. He'd made two incisions and found the growth pressing against the heart. The growth that he'd told his patient it was absolutely necessary to remove as soon as possible and then reassured his anxiety-ridden spouse that it was a simple, routine procedure that he could perform with his eyes closed.

He waited.

As his nurse was saying, "Doctor?" . . . as his mouth became too dry and his hand began to shake . . . as his patient's breathing altered from slow, shallow breaths to ragged gasps . . . and then stopped completely . . .

Dr. Stephen Franklin waited . . . but the emergency lighting didn't come on.

Not until a full fifteen minutes after his patient had expired under his care.

Alone in his office, his face contorted in pain, Dr. Franklin repeatedly beat his closed fist against his desktop. Taking his surgeon's mask off, he hurled it against the nearest wall in a fit of frustration. Looking up, he could see through the clear plexishield window to the operating table beyond and the sheet covering the still body.

Averting his eyes, biting his bottom lip, he slid open the top left desk drawer. An unsteady hand reached in, trembling fingers finding and closing about the stims.

Talia Winters was a commercial telepath.

She knew how to control thoughts; had been trained from as early as she could remember to keep unwanted images out of her mind.

Why, then, could she not control those thoughts that kept bouncing around in her head, repeating to her over and over again that the one person she cared the most about on this station was . . . Why couldn't she stop the images?

Because she'd seen it. More than that; she'd felt it.

When she'd been locked in that meeting with Captain Sheridan and the Narn and Centauri ambassadors. She'd had an unsettling, eerie feeling ever since that derelict ship had been hauled onboard. She'd tried to tell them then. But, in true fashion, the Commander had ridiculed her, putting down both her and her talents.

Ever since Ivanova's harsh words, she'd been determined to just put that ship and its secrets out of her mind. If they didn't want to listen to her, let Earthforce and its officers handle the derelict on their own. She'd spent a restless night, trying to force herself to do just that and ignore what her instincts were telling her. By morning, she was exhausted and fatigued. But successful. Until -

Something happened. In the middle of the discussions with the Narn and the Centauri, something had penetrated her shields. Perhaps it was because she was just so tired from the night before . . . Talia shook her head, dismissing that train of thought. No matter how tired she was, she shouldn't have been able to hear the commander.

She was a close-proximity telepath. And, by Psi Corps' ratings, only a P5. She wasn't strong enough to read someone unless they were just that; in close proximity to her. How, then, was she able to psychically hear Ivanova half a station away?

And, not just hear her, but feel her.

Talia had experienced Susan's rising anxiety levels. The adrenaline rush that her endorphins produced. She'd sensed a malevolent presence on the ship; felt it stalking the Earthforce officer, backing its prey into a corner.

More than that, she'd felt Susan's . . . fear . . .

Even now, the remembered sensation was like a punch to Talia's gut. And, she found the more her thoughts focused on the beautiful commander, the stronger the pain became.

Talia had long ago realized her attraction for the reticent Russian. Had realized and accepted that the commander's presence continuously haunted some part of her psyche. Even when she wasn't conscience of it, thoughts, memories, dreams of Susan Ivanova hovered around her peripheral vision.

Just as she'd also acknowledged and adjusted to living with the bittersweet ache that accompanied those memories. She was realistic in her obsession; she knew the gorgeous woman would never allow herself to return a telepath's feelings. She'd even grown used to the ache and was somewhat comforted by its constant presence.

This was more than the usual pangs of longing she suffered, though. These feelings were far more intense than mere angst. Purposely, she thought of long, chestnut hair falling about broad shoulders and the distinctive tilt of a strong, proud chin. Immediately, she felt the pain hit her full-force. Staggering to her feet, she clutched at the edge of the table for support. Forearm pressed tightly about her midsection, Talia struggled for breath, felt the beads of perspiration break out on her forehead.

Full power hadn't yet returned to Red Sector. The only lighting still illuminating the Zocalo was that from the blue emergency tracking. Talia couldn't wait, though. Hurriedly, she shoved the contract into the satchel bag she carried for business meetings. Taking one last swallow of water, she slammed the tumbler down on the cafe table. High heels clicking a staccato rhythm on the decking, she ran towards the nearest stairwell, one thought carrying her forward.

What in the universe could terrify Commander Susan Ivanova?

Dr. Whitaker forced down a shiver, shrugged off the feeling that she was being watched. The room was climate controlled; there was no chill in the air. As for being watched, she was alone.

Well, as alone as one could be in a room full of zombies.

Stop that, Jamie, you're being ridiculous, Dr. Whitaker berated herself. She was no youngster that still wet her bed in the middle of the night. She was a middle-aged woman with three children of her own, she knew better.

Moving between the beds, she stopped at each, checking the readings on the medbracelets. With each patient, the readings were the same. With the exception of Ms. Winter's miraculous return from the land of the dead, they were all the same.

Exactly the same. So much so that it gave Jamie Whitaker the heebie-jeebies.

Each body lay flat on their back on the beds, feet together, arms down by their sides. Identical white medlab regulation blankets were draped across each, coming to mid-chest level. Discolored lips were pressed firmly together and their eyes were closed. Suppressing another threatening shudder, Dr. Whitaker's gaze darted from bed to bed.

All twenty beds were full now. She'd been there as each one was brought in and assigned to a bed. Chief Garibaldi and his security team first, along with Commander Ivanova. Four more beds were occupied by crewmembers that had come off that derelict ship that was being stored in the cargo bay.

Dr. Whitaker frowned. That in itself was enough to give anyone pause. How could four bodies survive on a ship floating aimlessly in space? And despite their manner of dress; which looked like it dated back decades, none of them appeared to be a day over forty.

After performing every conceivable scan imaginable, Stephen had come to the conclusion that they weren't dead, not in the literal sense. He'd described their condition as terminally catatonic, hovering on the brink of cellular degradation. Biological readings were almost nonexistent, their cerebral energies nearly extinct, as well. The best term Dr. Franklin could assign to their collective condition was a type of cellular suspension closely resembling cryogenic freezing.

Dr. Whitaker stopped at the bed containing the doctor that had been found in the ship's medlab along with Garibaldi, Ivanova and Hutton. He was young, younger than Dr. Franklin. His features were fine, with none of the customary wrinkles that came with the stress of a doctor's profession. And, his face was soft, his rounded cheeks still possessing the soft peach fuzz of youth.

Whitaker didn't know all there was to know about the ship he'd come in on, only that it was a derelict and there were patients coming off it. The rest was on a need-to-know basis. And, apparently, she didn't need to know anything more than that as no one had deemed to tell her, not even Dr. Franklin.

Although, she could speculate. Judging from the doctor's age, she'd guessed that this might be his first space-assignment. Surely he couldn't have been that long out of med school. She could easily imagine that he was assigned to the vessel to get some real, practical experience on what was probably nothing more than a routine mission for the ship's regular crew.

A shiver raced down Jamie's spine. Clutching her scanner just a little tighter, she slowly turned around. She gave a convulsive swallow as she saw no one was there. Taking a deep breath, she turned back around, continuing with her readings of the ship's doctor.

The entire thing was creepy enough when it was just the people that had been onboard the ship. Jamie Whitaker had almost been able to rationalize their condition away. Perhaps there was a contaminant on the vessel, maybe rotten food in the ship's store that was ingested. Perhaps an airborne virus that wasn't caught in time. Perhaps the young doctor's inexperience led to him misdiagnosing a highly contagious infection. Maybe he'd even accidentally manufactured the mysterious disease; some experimentation gone horribly wrong by a seemingly insignificant miscalculation on his part.

Any of those possibilities would explain why the detail that investigated the ship was also infected. First responders were always at highest risk. That, she could almost rationalize away. Almost.

But, then the bodies from around the station had started to come in. And, not individuals who might have had contact with the first responders, either. No one else who had entered the ship or escorted the bodies to Medlab 3 showed any signs of illness. Not even Dr. Franklin or herself. And, they'd had more contact, more exposure than anyone else on the station.

Moving past the bed of the ship's doctor, Dr. Whitaker approached the newer arrivals. Many of them were from down below, the station's dregs that wouldn't likely be missed. By anyone. Even those cases could be contributed to lifestyle standards. Lack of hygiene made them more susceptible to disease.

That didn't explain the shop owner that was brought in from the Zocalo yesterday. And, it certainly couldn't account for Ms. Talia Winters. She'd heard the captain's voice come in over the link; she'd been in a closed door session with the Narn and the Centauri when she'd fallen ill. And, that had been before a medical team had been dispatched to the cargo bay.

As Dr. Whitaker's thoughts turned to the station's resident commercial telepath, the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. She'd not just felt a presence this time, she'd heard it. Keeping her back perfectly straight, her form perfectly still, she intently listened. Her breath caught as she heard it again. The soft sound of rustling cloth.

Blood rushing in her ears, heart threatening to beat itself right out of her chest, she slowly turned around.

"I'm telling you, Vir, I do not like it. I do not like it one bit."

"But, Londo, it's not like you were planning on leaving the station, anyway."

"That is not the point." Mollari downed the dubious looking red and yellow swirled drink in one swallow. and signaled the bartender for another. "The point is that I'm a representative of the Centauri government and the Earthers have no right to tell an Ambassador when he may or may not leave the station."

"I'm sure Captain Sheridan is only doing his job."

"His job? His job? His JOB is to provide a safe, stable environment for the station's residents. I must tell you, Vir," Londo leaned an elbow on the bar's counter, signaling for his aide to come closer, "I feel neither safe, nor stable."

Vir nervously glanced around the Zocalo. The normally thriving marketplace was practically deserted, with only a few vendors and patrons about. The sporadic power outages had driven most to take refuge in their quarters. Vir hurriedly looked away as he made eye contact with a very large, very scruffy looking man that was lurking in a darkened corner of the bar. It seemed as if the only ones reckless enough to still be wandering about were the security guards, the unsavory characters like the one he'd just seen - and his employer.

"Maybe if we returned to quarters as the announcements suggested?" asked Vir, both eyebrows raised in suggestion.

"Bah! Sheridan's curfew? For what reason? That tired tactic may work with Delenn and the Minbari, but it won't work with the Centauri. As of yet, Sheridan has not been entirely forthcoming in his reasons for Babylon 5's lockdown."

"I thought it had something to do with that ship that came in."

"Precisely." Londo accepted his new drink from the bartender, downed nearly a third of it in one swallow. As he lowered the goblet to the counter, he smiled. Something sparked in his eyes as a thought crossed his mind. "The ship. There's something on that ship that Sheridan doesn't want us to know about. Something profitable, perhaps?"

"I don't think it's about money, Londo." Vir shook his head. "Something else is going on. I've heard things."

"What sort of things?" Londo leaned in closer, suddenly very interested.

"Well, that people are . . . missing." Seeing Londo wasn't understanding, Vir quickly glanced about. Licking his lips, he dropped his voice, "Chief Garibaldi and Commander Ivanova . . . no one's seen them."

"Ah." Londo thoughtfully tapped his chin. "Perhaps Sheridan has them doing something with the ship, something he can only trust his top staff with, something he doesn't want anyone else to know about. Contraband, perhaps?"

Both Vir and Londo looked up as a woman in a gold and black dress hurried by. They watched her for several long moments, neither one of them saying anything. Then, cocking his head to the side, a slight smile formed on Londo's lips, "I'll tell you one thing, Vir; whatever's going on, if it concerns the commander, the telepath will know."

The Centauri Ambassador slid off his barstool, tugging at the hem of his vest as he did so. He made his way from the bar, following the path Talia Winters had taken.

Vir started after Londo, then paused. Looking about, he picked the goblet up off the bar and tentatively sipped at the yellow and red liquid. He frowned at the taste. Then, licking his lips, he gave a little shrug, then tossed back the rest of the drink. Stumbling from the bar, Vir Cotto staggered after Ms. Winters and Ambassador Mollari at a decidedly unsteady pace.

Jamie Whitaker walked with determined steps back the way she'd come. She'd traveled the length of the room, her examination of the patients carrying her to the wall farthest from the entrance. Heart in her throat, fingers desperately clutching at the scanner she held in both hands, Dr. Whitaker traversed the path made by the rows of beds.

She hadn't heard the noise again. But, fact was, she had heard it. That, she had no doubt about. Alone, in a room full of clinically dead bodies, she'd heard something. Eyes darting left and right, she constantly scanned for something, anything out of the ordinary.

As she approached the last set of beds closest to her workstation, Dr. Whitaker allowed herself to breathe a sigh of relief. Just a few more steps beyond that and she'd access the palm-reader at the door and step out into the corridor. From there, she would find a communications station and open a channel to Dr. Franklin.

Eyes strayed to the left - and locked. As did Dr. Whitaker's legs, refusing to carry the woman forward. With trembling hands, she held out her scanner, checking for elevated readings.

None. The young woman's scans were identical to those she'd taken no more than half an hour ago. There was no discernible change in her condition. Except -

The regulation blanket that had been pulled up to mid-chest level was now drawn back, riding low on stomach and hips.

"Dr. Franklin?"

Stephen Franklin blinked his eyes open, blurry vision focusing on the interior of his office. A glance out the plexishield window confirmed that someone had come in and removed his last patient from the operating table and cleaned up the mess he'd made.

"Dr. Franklin?"

"Hmm?" He asked distractedly, his drug-induced mind still not processing the urgency in the voice he was hearing.

"Dr. Franklin, it's Dr. Whitaker."

That got his attention. "Yes, what is it?" He asked, immediately sitting upright in his chair. Not receiving an immediate response, he asked more urgently, "Is there a problem, doctor?"

"I - I think you should come right away, Dr. Franklin." There was dead air over the channel until she added, "It's Commander Ivanova."

In the Ambassadorial suites, Delenn and Lennier sat cross-legged on the floor. A multitude of decorative containers were strategically placed throughout the quarters. Smoke wafted from each container, the slow-burning incense casting a heavy scent into the air.

Religious robes engulfing their bodies, hanging off their shoulders, their hands were barely discernible as they rested palms up in their laps, fingertips pressed together. A low-key humming rose up from their throats in perfect harmony.

Delenn's eyes cracked open as she sensed a disturbance in the air. She saw Lennier's eyes darting about the interior of the room.

"Lennier," she cautioned, "focus," before closing her eyes and resuming her low humming.

The ambassador's aide followed suit, struggling to match Delenn's rhythm in the Chant of Serenity, even as he felt the presence of a sinister shadow skittering across the room once again.

"What do we do, Dr. Franklin?" Jamie Whitaker asked again, more than a hint of trepidation in her voice. "Do you want the restraints and sedatives?"

"I - I - "

Stephen Franklin stared down at Susan Ivanova. She was, according to the readings, for all intents and purposes, still in a catatonic state. But, someone had obviously forgotten to tell her body that.

When he'd first arrived in Medlab Three, he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. He had no explanation as to what had set Dr. Whitaker on edge. Then, he'd noticed the twitching cheek muscle and rapid eye movement beneath her lids.

Shortly after that, the spasms had started. Her back began arching up off the bed. Then, she'd started mumbling incoherently and her head had turned from side to side as if she were experiencing a nightmare she couldn't awaken from.

He'd initially prescribed a stimulant, thinking to fully wake Ivanova from her semi-catatonic state. The convulsions only increased.

"Dr. Franklin!" Whitaker was beside the bed, both hands braced on the commander's shoulders in an effort to keep her from throwing herself right out of bed. "What do you want to do?"

"I - " Sedative? Restraints? More stimulants? The order felt thick on his tongue, the words wouldn't come. Not enough time had gone by - he'd just lost a patient - he couldn't make a decision.

The doors to Medlab Three whooshed open, causing both doctors to look up in stunned surprise.

Londo Mollari frowned. He stalked the length of the corridor, looking both ways at the cross-section. Perturbed, he paced back the other direction. He looked up at the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps.

Vir slid to a halt at the end of the corridor, palms braced against the walls for support, chest heaving as the pudgy aide struggled to catch his breathe.

"Which way?"

"It's no use," Londo sighed, looking up and down the deserted corridors, "She's eluded us."

"What are you doing?" Jamie Whitaker was the first to recover. Her legs instantly carried her towards the intruder, her hand outstretched to stop her from coming any nearer. "How did you get in here?"

If Talia Winters heard, she gave no indication. Eyes unblinking, she continued forward, her slow, measured steps carrying her further and further into the room. Dr. Whitaker moved to intercept her, ready to block the intruder with her body if necessary.

Dr. Franklin reached out, catching her by the crook of her arm. "Let her," he advised, dragging his colleague out of Talia Winter's path.

As if in a trance, Talia moved to the commander's bedside. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, she slowly removed her gloves and placed them in her lap. Fingertips reached out, caressing, then cupping the unconscious woman's cheek.

Despite his early statement to Dr. Whitaker, Stephen started to intervene. He knew the commander's feelings on telepaths. Hell, more than half the station knew of the Russian's stance on Psi Corps. He couldn't in good conscience allow one of them to touch her.

He started towards the bed.

Then paused when Ivanova stopped. Everything. The convulsions. The mumbled gibberish. Tossing her head from side to side. Everything.

And, then, it looked like Susan Ivanova actually leaned into Talia Winter's touch.

Talia was somewhere beyond the physical realm. Although fully conscious of every move she made, she was unable to control her actions.

It had started in the Zocalo. She'd been thinking of the commander. And, of course, with the thoughts came the longing, the aching, the need. And, she'd found herself on her feet, rushing as quickly as she could through the corridors of Babylon 5. Even as she didn't consciously register where she was going. It was as if she were . . . drawn to where Susan was.

Then, she was in the medlab. Perched on the bed beside the lovely commander. And, she was removing her gloves. And touching the face of the woman she'd been longing for.

"I've been waiting."

Talia heard the voice echoing . . . was she in her mind? Susan's? She couldn't be sure. Only that it was dark. And, the voice -- the voice was Susan's, only not. Smooth and silky, caressing over her, bathing her in sensation.

"I've been waiting for you to come to me. Why have you resisted me?"

"I - " Talia's words caught in her throat. "I came. I'm here now."

Talia felt fingertips on her flesh, moving over her cheeks, her lips, her throat. Then, sliding along the front of her dress, Susan's palm pressing against her chest, sliding down between her breasts.

"Dr. Franklin? What's happening?"

Stephen Franklin and Jamie Whitaker stood nearby, unsure of what they should do. As soon as Talia had touched her, Susan's body had noticeably reacted. The commander, who had been in an obvious state of agitation mere moments before, was now laying perfectly sedate on the bed.

Both women were now motionless, frozen in some sort of odd tableau, Talia's bare hand touching Susan's cheek, the fingers of Susan's other hand interlocked with Talia's.

A check of the scanners revealed Talia's pulse and heart rate were slowing.

"I don't know, but her body temperature is dropping."

Talia couldn't breathe. She was being pressed back against a wall. Held in place, she couldn't move.

Then, she discovered she didn't want to move.

A mouth was on hers, sharp teeth nibbling at her bottom lip. Hands were everywhere, leaving a fiery trail wherever they went. Her breasts ached, demanding contact, her hips arched, pleading to be touched. Palms were at her waist, moving down, sliding beneath her skirt, then climbing higher, pulling her hem up.

Heavy lids fluttered open, looking down into deep blue eyes. On her knees, looking up at Talia, the words escaped Ivanova's mouth, "I hunger for you."

Talia's eyes flew open. Her heart was beating erratically, threatening to pound its way out of her chest. Perspiration coated her brow and upper lip and she was visibly shaking.

"Ms. Winters?"

Talia blinked, her gaze focusing on Dr. Franklin hovering over her, a needle in his hand. Seeing her watching him, he discretely passed it to the other doctor. Talia warily watched as the woman placed the needle in a container and dropped it in a receptacle beside the desk.

"Easy, there." Dr. Franklin placed a reassuring hand on Talia's shoulder. "It was just a stimulant. It'll give you a minor caffeine-buzz, nothing more."

Despite his reassurances, Stephen had been worried. Talia's heartbeat and pulse had decreased so rapidly and her cerebral energies were nearly undetectable. He was afraid the woman was slipping back into the same state of cellular degradation as the other victims.

And, he didn't know what to do to stop it.

Then, he almost heard it whispered in his ear. He didn't know where the idea came from, but it suddenly seemed like the right thing to do; giving her a stimulant in hopes of counteracting whatever was going on with her.

To his relief, it seemed to have worked.

Talia's mind was sluggish, she was having difficulties processing what Dr. Franklin was trying to explain to her.

Even though her mind was incapacitated, she could still feel. As if to compensate for the temporary loss of her mental capabilities, it seemed as if she was overly sensitive to feelings. Both hers and those around her. And, even though she wasn't quite sure what Dr. Franklin was telling her, she could feel the relief pouring off him in waves.

Feelings . . . she was feeling bare flesh beneath her fingertips. Not just bare flesh; Susan's bare flesh. Staring down in shock, her mind struggled to comprehend what had happened.

She'd been in Susan's mind . . . or had Susan been in hers?

They were touching. Susan was on her knees, her mouth pressed to - a heated blush suffused Talia's cheeks at the realization. Seeing her bare fingertips pressed to the commander's flesh, she abruptly jerked her hand away. Disentangling her fingers from those of the commander's, she hurriedly tugged her gloves back on.

She wasn't reacting to me and my fantasies. She was pulling me into hers.

Commander Susan Ivanova abruptly sat bolt upright in bed, drawing in large lungfuls of air. Eyes wide, she inexplicably found herself nose to nose with Talia Winters.

Part 4

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