Jesse sat down across from Richard, placing the old manilla envelope in her lap. "I know you went over this with Shane." She started. "But just putting her back isn't going to help any. Her life is already destroyed, you're in to deep to back out now." She looked at him on the couch across from her. "She might try to find out what really happened. She might succeed."

Richard look up, he had been hunched over, wringing his hands. That position that people seemed to always have in waiting rooms. Something deeply engrained. He looks up at Jesse, eyes reflecting every light in the room. Having been coated with a lite layer of tears, they gave mirrored hints to the metals embedded below. As the words sink in, fires seem to be lit behind the watery fronts.

Steeling himself, getting his mind ready, Jesse was a hard woman to disagree with. He had worked hard so that Samatha would have a normal life. A life without any of the necessary evils that had dominated his. This wasn't going to change because of a car accident. With a single deep breath; looks Jesse right in the eyes, "No."

"Why not? She's here. She's ready. Her life is already in shambles, at least let me put it back and give it purpose." She undid the string holding the envelope in her lap closed and pulled out a single sheet of paper. "Last week an Angel was killed. Cause of death was severe head trauma in the form of a fast moving large calibur round. His own great-granddaughter shot him." She put the paper down and looked Richard in the eye, "Do you know why? Because he wanted to give her a protected life free from all the evils we faced. Because his own prejudice wouldn't let her make her own choices." She put the sheet back and place the file next to her on the couch. "The GAA has taken the offensive again. the Angels took out seven cities in one night. It won't go without retaliation. What if the GAA get you? who's next in line?" She leaned forward, her eyes still locked to his, "What if Samatha has to find out on her own what happened and comes after you?"

He stairs back for a moment silently, hoping she will look away. Knowing she won't, and looks away. Looks anywhere but in Jesse's eyes. Grinding his teeth, muscles tensing, he's losing this argument already, and it hasn't even started.

He had noticed various traits in Samatha. Those particular traits that were shared by most who where Sentinels. Determination, confidence, loyalty to family, and others. She was right, Samatha would figure out what happened, if she searched. And he had fancied the idea of asking her about her future, but not for another decade, at least, maybe two. He wanted her to have her own family first, before knowing. And he wanted it to be an option, something she could think about. Not something that would have to be explained afterwards.

Calming himself, trying to hide his frustration with a situation he could not control, he blatantly changes the subject. "An Angel was killed?"

Jesse stands up, grabbing the file, "Let's finish this over some breakfast, I haven't eaten much today." She took a few steps, "On me." Not that it mattered who bought, it was the gesture. Richard was anything but relaxed, she needed him calm and open. They were silent as the walked to the car. Jesse simply tossed the file in the back seat of her old porche and drove off.

She knew Richard was fighting himself more than her. She could see it in his eyes, his movements. "He was in the Chinese War, turned into one of those awful war machines. Nothing but a mind engineered to destroy. Her boyfriend was Chinese." She was talking now, just to break the silence of Richard brooding in her passenger seat. "He killed the man dead in cold blood. Because he didn't approve of one of his, one of his favorite, being with them. With his enemy. They're not our lives to live, not our choices to make." She was almost glad the Angel was dead, almost. "So who was the bomb for, you, him or her? maybe all three? Who ordered it? Why do I have to be the one to put everything back together again and pretend I never saw it happen?" She wasn't sure who she was talking to anymore, Richard, herself, the steering wheel maybe.

"Me, I think", he answers while staring at the passing scenery, "Much more fire power used than needed for regular humans." While idlely playing with the seat beat, he adds, "I contacted Christof. Gave him a full dump from my tactical computer. He should have some leads soon." He leaves the last question hang. Jesse had put him and many other Sentinels back together many, many times. There was a fair amount of them that would have passed on long ago with out her. And he just wasn't sure how to answer it.

She pulled into the parking lot and got out, "You know I'm right. You know it's the best choice now."

Climbing out of the car, still avoiding directing looking at Jesse, he looks up at the Restaurant. A moment; inner machinery loads up a set of memories. Letting out a small sigh, he realizes how distracted his is. Of course Jesse would pick this place. Somewhere he'd been often enough that even without enhanced memory, he knew the entire menu. He had spent a lot of time here once. No one there would know him now, but that was irrelevant. This place held enough good memories, that even the shortest trip through memory lane would put him in a good mood. Another soft sigh, "I should venture the guess that they still use real eggs if you ask?"

"Of course." She walked inside, Richard close behind. She knew the effect the place would have on him, relax him a little.

They sat eating breakfast, silent as they ordered food and waited. Once the food arrived Jesse didn't say anything for a few minutes. Waiting for Richard to fully relax and get over just coming from a hospital. "We have a lot to do." she said between bites of real eggs, the yolks runny. "Somewhere out there are a lot of people who want to get rid of us. The GAA for one, another unnamed group that may be related that seem to be targeting the youth of today - our own. Ourselves now as well. Paul was killed on purpose by someone who has access to almost as much firepower as us. Some of the Angels want revenge. The Mists are probably off not paying attention - or not acting on anything yet. We need to solidify ourselves. the Foundation isn't cutting it anymore. We need something new." She stopped and looked across at him.

"I let Clarisse in on my little secret. She's twenty-five. The youngest of all my great-grandchildren, under ideal circumstance I would have waited another three decades. I don't believe we have the luxury of waiting that long. It will be to little to late if we did." She looked out the window, "If we don't do this now, when do we do it? After the GAA has come for us? After we schism as our ideals stay inert and time moves on?" Jesse let out a deep breath.

"When I was forty I was set in my ways. I'd spent to many years doing the same thing over and over. When I was seventy I didn't know how to change my pattern and was still stuck, wishing for those good old days. When I was one hundred I finally worked up the courage to change my routine and become someone other than who I was. I'd changed how I looked at the world, it all became a full of opportunities again. I started this when I was nineteen. Why do we all wait until our Chosen are in their fifties to ask them to change? We want them to live their lives out, what was so wrong about the life we lived that they can't have it?" She turned and locked eyes with Richard. "Stop avoiding the subject and tell me once and for all what it's going to be. Do we pretend nothing happened and carry on, or do we change the future and stop it from happening again?"

Richard looks away from Jesse, out the window. Sees people walking, driving, oblivious. A small stream of jealousy for the people living a life he wishes he had. Looking back to Jesse, "You're not going to let me choose this any other way." His face hardening with determination, "It has to be her decision. I have to ask her, give her the chance to say no. And her decision will be final." Richard doubted Samatha would deny this opportunity. But as her decision, his conscious would be clear.

"That's what I wanted to hear." Jesse smiled warmly, "I'll take you back to the hospital, she should be well enough to talk soon." She got up, paid the bill and they driving back to the hospital. She stopped in front of it, "If she says yes I'll do any augmentation sugery myself. There are some apartments in the sub-basement you can get some rest in, Shane will show you." She watched Richard get out, "I have some other business to try and take care of now." She watched him walk inside and drove off. She opened a line and dialed, "Susie, it's Jesse. I need someone found..."


A cooperative effort on the parts of Ghost and Tadpol. Copyright © 2001 held by both authors.