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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

One Step Forward...
By ralst


Talia screwed up her eyes and attempted to block out the growing thrum of innocuously humdrum thoughts. The total banality of the Corani's thought processes had somehow managed to burrow beneath her normal shields and were bombarding her sanity with their very boredom.

"Excuse me," Talia interrupted the Corani Ambassador's dissertation on Babylon 5's cuisine, garnering the attention of every half-asleep dignitary in the room, and prompting many a prayer that their visit to the boredom level of hell had ended. "I need to…" She waved vaguely towards the exit and hoped she wouldn't be interrogated further.

"To?" enquired the Ambassador.

It was against all her training but Talia was extremely tempted to delve into his mind in search of the perfect excuse to allow her an escape. Fortunately her moral dilemma was cut short by a second interruption.

"Ms Winters and I need to attend to a security matter."

All eyes turned to Susan Ivanova, who did an admirable job of ignoring them all, before working her way between the chairs and motioning for Talia to proceed her to the exit.

Talia smiled demurely to the assembled group before hastily walking towards the exit. "Thank you," she said, "I thought I was going mad having to listen to all those thoughts."

Susan stiffened. "You were scanning them?"

"No." Talia sighed, thinking 'one step forward twenty steps back'. "But I couldn't block them out."

There was a moment of tense silence before a smile broke out on Susan's face. "It must have been akin to Chinese water torture."

"Far worse." Susan chuckled, a sound totally alien to Talia's life experience but something she thought she'd like to become accustomed to. "I don't suppose there is a security matter we need to discuss?"

"Not that I'm aware of." Susan checked her link, a slight frown marring her features. "I should…"

Talia recognised the vague gesture and promptly interrupted, "Have lunch with me."

"Excuse me?"

"You seemed unable to finish your sentence, so I finished it for you." Talia tried not to smile too smugly at the look of irritation on Susan's face, but she wasn't totally successful. "We were both meant to be in that meeting for at least another two hours, which means that neither of us has anything planned for the rest of the afternoon."

Talia knew Susan would refuse.

Susan knew Talia knew she would refuse.

So they were both somewhat surprised when Susan opened her mouth and the words, "All right." came out.

One step forward and maybe only half a step back after all.

The End

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