Afterward, Ellen was sitting in the Zocolo, at the Cafe, trying to lose her own thoughts in the constant, background hum of thoughts and voices. Closing her eyes, she took a deep whiff of her hot chocolate... even if it wasn't really chocolate, it still had the same soothing aroma. She leaned back, her eyes closed, her mind open as always was. Sounds and thoughts swirled about her in a non-focused frenzy. She relaxed and enjoyed the movement of thoughts, their interrelation to what came to her ears ... it was like a ballet of colors in her mind, and observing the almost-pattern of it made her feel alive and in control once again.

Through the tumult, and from within her self-imposed darkness, she felt a thought focus on her -- he was near. She felt a smile on her face, strangely buoyed by the fact that he still worried over her.

Then another thought crossed into her awareness: she opened her eyes and looked up to see Zack Allen heading toward her. She grinned at how refreshingly open his mind was. She admired that in a man, just like the way she admired how his swift steps devoured the distance of the room. His progress brought him to the opposite end of her table.

"Hello, Ms. Hatch," he said.

"Please," she said, "Call me 'Ellen.' 'Ms.' always makes me feel old."

Zack bobbed his head up and down confidently. Ellen tried to repress a smirk; his mind was so open. "All right, Ellen. Call me Zack."

Ellen let her smile show through. "The name suits you," she said. "Simple, honest, direct."

Zackís eyes wondered about searching for the hidden truth behind her comments. He smiled, but couldnít hide his uneasiness from the telepath before him. "Just wondering if I could talk to you a bit?" he asked thoughtfully. After all, she could perceive in Zack's thoughts, a man in a uniform stopping to ask you a few questions might be intimidating.

"About this morning?" she asked, though she already knew the answer.

"Among other things," he replied. She suppressed the smile again; perceiving his thinly veiled attempt at a pick up line. "I donít think your security file was quiteÖ"

"Forthcoming?" she finished for him.

He paused. "Yeah," he said, then.

"Youíre right," she said. She flagged down the bartender. "One more here, please. For him." She turned to Zack again. "I do hope you like chocolate... well, it's not really chocolate, it's a narn fruit. It smells the same, but still it doesn't have quite the same...self-indulging feel as "real" chocolate does."

Zack smiled. "Self-indulgent?" he said. "You don't strike me as that type." He sat down opposite her.

"Thatís not something they put in a security file," she said wryly.

Zack looked speculative. "No, but I trust my instincts."

"And a man should always trust his instincts," she quoted, taking a sip.

He nodded, even as he ignored the instinct warning him this one would be real trouble for him. Trouble in a way he couldnít fix with a ppg or a security report. He caught himself staring at her when the waiter served him his hot chocolate. He reminded himself of why he had come to talk to her in the first place. "I need to know what happened in the meeting room this morning, for my security report."

"The Ambassadors had an argument," she replied. "I convinced them to end it."

"Thatís your story?" he asked dubiously.

"And Iím sticking to it," she said.

Zack's gaze shifted briefly to her arm. He leaned forward, looking concerned and reaching out with one hand. Ellen looked down and saw a small, ragged-looking scratch. She refocused on what Zack was saying to her: "Thatís a nasty scratch on your arm, did you get it convincing the Ambassadors to stop arguing?"

She looked again at her arm. Funny, she thought, I hadnít noticed the scratch at all. She smiled away her concern. "I guess I did."

"Better have the Doc take a look at that," he suggested.

"Oh, yes," she said distractedly. She looked up at him.

"I am more than a little certain I donít know half of what I need to know about you Ms. Hatch," he said trying to be serious. "As Security chief of this station," he added artfully covering his attraction to her with genuine concern for his job. "Itís a bad idea to challenge a security chief with a mystery."

"Einstien said the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious," she replied with a provocatively challenging look on her face.

He looked at her allowed himself a wry grin of surrender.

"You donít seem any more forthcoming than your file, but that wonít stop me from trying to get to know a little more about you."

She was still wondering about the scratch, and Zack had distracted her. She hid her annoyance with a playful tone. "That could be dangerous, Mr. Allen," letting a real warning accompany her bantering tone.

"Ms. Hatch," he said, pointedly but still smiling, "It's part of the job. I'll just have to take that chance."

"Famous last words," she said, smiling suggestively in return. Ellen noticed she was feeling a little out-of-breath and lightheaded. She put it down to having drunk her faux hot chocolate too quickly. She excused herself politely from Zack, who simply nodded and repeated his warning of an "impending investigation." He winked then, and she would have laughed. But her breath was curiously difficult to catch, so she left him with a smile she hoped didn't look too wan.

 

Ellen continued toward the transport tube; from the corner of her eye, she caught a brief sight of a black-clad figure. So, Michael was still watching her. Even when he tried to be surreptitious, she could feel his presence near-by: he always thought so loudly.

Someone else was also directing his thoughts toward her. But her head was distractingly light, and Ellen fought to direct her attention. Someone touched her shoulder.

Ellen spun about, to look in the eyes of a complete stranger.

"Excuse me," he said, "but you look so much like my sister, itís uncanny."

She was about to reply when she caught a flash from his mind. Images of a girl. Young and bright, she looked as Ellen looked in her youth. Then memories flooded her, the girl breaking her arm falling off a swing when she was twelve. The girlís first dance observed by her doting older brother. Cheering her first home run in Little League. Ellen grabbed the man and startled him.

"Thatís not me!" she said roughly, but even as she said it, her mind raced, all of those memories he shared with herÖ they were of events Ellen remembered exactly the same....

"I know," the man said looking confused at her reaction.

Ellen was short of breath and dizzy, she pushed away from the man and rushed toward the transport tube. She had to lean against the bulkhead until the doors opened. She threw herself in, bumping into someone, she hardly noticed who it was before her vision blurred beyond usefulness.

"I think Iím in trouble," she said, holding on to the figure, trying to pick out details of the face. Round no hair. "Michael. Michael.. IímÖ sorry. I didnít mean to hurt you." Then everything went black.

 

 

 

Michael had seen the encounter between Ellen and the unknown man. What had he said to upset her? The chief of covert operations followed the man to the bar. He waited until his target chose a seat. Then he went to sit next to him.

Looking at the man's surprised expression, Mr. Garibaldi began conversationally, "So, you know Ellen?"

"Ellen?" He asked curiously, without any apparent suspicion.

"The woman you were talking to over there."

"Oh," the man said. "No, I donít know her. It's just that she looks exactly like my sister. Even down to her eyes. Itís uncanny, truly."

"And you were surprised to see your sister on the station?"


"No," he said sadly. "That's not it, I'm afraid. My sister committed suicide when she was 16."

"Oh," Michael said, temporarily shocked. "Iím sorry."

The man seemed to come to a decision, and took a breath. "The Psi Corps came and tested her in a random test," he started to confide. "They said she was a p12, and that sheíd have to leave the family and join the Corps. Or take the sleepers. She didnít want to leave, but my father didnít want her on the sleepers, so he consented for the Corps to take her. She was only 16, and still under age. When they found her with a ppg shot to the head in the transport to the corps, my father blamed the CorpsÖand himself. He spent the rest of his life trying to get rid of them."

Michael kept a moment's respectful silence. What a waste. He didn't like telepaths, or trust them, but he liked the Corps even less, and felt a moment's sympathy for the trapped teenager. He had one more question, which felt vaguely deceitful to ask -- after all, he was prying into this man's history for his own purposes. He asked, using a sympathetic tone, "What was her name?"

"Elaine," the man replied. "Elaine Marie Hatcher."

Garibaldi felt a cool chill run through him. He kept a tight rein on his reaction, not revealing anything unusual to Mr. Hatcher. Considering, Michael sat up straight in his chair. There was more to these similarities than names.

Just then his link chimed in.

He punched the reply button, saying "Garibaldi. Go."

Zack's voice replied, with a slightly tinny distortion, "I just got a heads up from Dr. Franklin on an emergency patient. I thought you should know, itís Ellen."

Garibaldi felt his heart skip a beat. EllenÖ

***

Ellen had the attention of yet another observer, one that she did not sense: Byron. He perceived Mr. Garibaldi's apparent interest in her. He had witnessed the flash of memories and emotions that passed between her and the man. Byron considered: her name had escaped his search for unregistered blips. He noticed that she did not wear a corps pin. This was not your typical telepath, he intoned, and it merited a deep investigation he would take upon himself.