Susan wasn't quite sure what it was that caught her attention, but suddenly she knew she was not alone. It was a rare day planetside while her ship was docked on Earth orbit for annual routine maitenance, and she had commandeered a small unoccupied office at EathDome to catch up with paperwork. Lieutenant-Commander Lewis, who had been keeping her company, had gone out to lunch already, and for a second she wondered if he had forgotten something. There was a edge of danger to what she was sensing, however, and so she didn't look up from the stack of flimsies on her desk, only risking a glance of the room at the pretense of reaching for her coffee.
There was no-one to be seen, and no sound from the corridor beyond the room, but she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. She was already surreptitiously reaching for her PPG when she felt it: a strange presence at the edge of her mind, like someone whispering her name just beyond the range of hearing. She put down the document she had been reading and sat back.
There was no reply, and Susan was already beginning to doubt herself when as if summoned the telepath appeared in the doorway.
She was much changed from the woman that Susan remembered, fashionable suits replaced by dark military fatigues and her red hair cropped short. No gloves, Susan noted, a statement more obvious than any form of fashion could ever have been.
"Aren't you going to ask me how I got in?" There was a hard edge to Lyta's voice that hadn't been there back on B5, a tone used to command rather than obey.
"I'm guessing the same way you got into that PSI Corps training center last week."
Lyta tilted her head, giving her an appreciating look. "You have been keeping an eye on me. I'm touched."
Susan glanced at the flimsies on her desk, among them a report on the recent terrorist attacks on PSI Corps facilities. She wondered if Lyta knew that, if that was the reason why she had come. "Touched in the head, maybe. Why did you do it?"
The question seemed to catch Lyta off-guard, and for a moment Susan could almost recognise the woman she had once known.
"It was... necessary."
"There were twenty-six people killed! Twenty-six!"
"I never would have guessed you to have such sympathy for the Corps, Captain."
Now it was Susan's turn to hesitate, and again she broke eye-contact, unable to deny the slight sense of satisfaction, or perhaps relief, she had felt when she had heard the news, or the acute sense of disappointment when the reports had confirmed that Bester had not been among the casualties. Suddenly she felt something brush her mind, something cold and amused, and she looked up to find Lyta watching her with a slight smile, her expression reminding Susan of a snake watching some small rodent.
Her immediate reaction was to push back and strengthen her mental blocks but she resisted the urge, knowing that it would be useless. Lyta had been in her mind once before, but this was something completely different - darker, stronger, alien - and she was certain the only reason she had even felt it was because Lyta had wanted her to.
"Who are you?" She asked, though part of her dreaded what Lyta might answer. "You're not the Lyta that I knew."
Lyta blinked, and for the briefest moment it seemed as if she was illuminated from the inside, light leaking from her empty eye-sockets like the glow of a fusion reactor about to blow. "No, I'm not."
"It doesn't have to be like this," Susan tried, feeling the dark coils of Lyta's mind probing her thoughts again. "What do you want from me, Lyta?"
"What do I want?" Lyta laughed. "Isn't that the question!"
She closed the distance between them, sitting down on the edge of Susan's desk. Close up, Susan could now see how gaunt her face was, the dark rings under her eyes and the hollow shadows of her cheekbones.
"I want you as my friend, Susan. You have contacts, access. Together we could end this, once and for all."
There was a part of Susan that wanted to say yes, but she knew the price, had seen it illustrated in the photographs appended to the reports on her desk. She shook her head.
"This isn't the right way. It's not-"
"How it's done?" Lyta interrupted her. "Do you really think they are on your side? That they would have given you the ship if they knew? If you hadn't spent your whole life hiding who you really are? Does it get lonely, being among them, Susan?" She smiled again, but this time her smile was almost gentle. "It doesn't have to be like this."
When Susan said nothing, Lyta leaned closer, her voice whispering in Susan's mind even before she spoke.
"Do you ever wonder what happened to her? What they did to her?"
There were images in Susan's mind, tender and warm like the touch of a lover. She closed her eyes, feeling the caress of Lyta's breath on her cheek as the telepath continued. "I know her, I've been in her mind. My people could find her, and I could see if she is still there, somewhere." Susan shuddered as Lyta's lips brushed her skin. "And even if she could never come back... I could love you as well as she did."
Susan could taste bile in her mouth as she recoiled from Lyta's touch, pushing her away.
"Get out," she spat. "Get the hell away from me."
Lyta stood up, rounding the table to face Susan again. "My people died in Sheridan's war, and now you're telling us we can't fight to have the same freedom for ourselves? Is that justice, Susan? Is that fair?" She reached towards her again, bone-thin fingers brushing her face. "Just give me Bester, and I will give you anything you want. Anything."
Then before Susan could reply, Lyta suddenly pulled away again. "I won't force you ," she said, and smiled sadly. "A friend once told me that there is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot stand. Maybe I will never see it, but one day, we will be free. And so will you."
"Goodbye Susan," she said, and left, leaving whispers in her wake.