Jack gave her a lopsided grin and drawled, "Stick with me, little lady. You don't have a thing to worry about as long as I'm around."

 

An involuntary smile tugged at her lips. Jack loved archaic Terran movies. The older, the better. "My knight in tin armor. John Wayne is not your spirit animal, Jack."

 

He clutched his chest in mock agony. "I'm wounded, I tell you. Mortally."

 

"Yeah, yeah. Keep it up, Peterson, and I'll have to arrest myself for assault."

 

He chuckled. "I'd never let that happen. After all, what are partners for, if not to get you out of trouble?"

 

She swung around to face him, again suppressing the shiver of heat ricocheting through her body. She couldn't want Jack, damn it. They were partners, and friends. She wasn't about to mess that up. "You? Getting me into trouble."

 

"Aw, Rin, now that was truly a low blow," he protested, stepping to one side as she rose. He let out a low whistle then, and Kathrin's heart stuttered as a wash of overpowering attraction flowed over her. She quickly suppressed her body's response. She was reading him wrong. After all, this was Jack. He never meant anything by his flirting. "Not exactly legally dressed, are we?"

 

"Huh?"

 

Dizzying heat poured through her as Jack's gaze slid over her, and she swore she saw that heat reflected in his eyes. Suddenly, she felt naked and vulnerable in a much different way than she had while looking at Travinski's picture. She sensed Jack inching toward her, and heard the soft growl in his voice. "Hot pants, halter top, ankle boots with spiked heels. Looks more like Pink Alley than the Section squad room."

 

She shrugged and turned away. She wasn't going to have this conversation with Jack. She could feel the edge of worry and anger beneath the heat in his eyes, and she already knew what he thought about her workaholic tendencies. He'd been on her case for the past year to be more careful, not get so attached to her work. He just didn't understand.

 

"Aren't we up for next shift, Jack?"

 

"Not dressed like that, you're not." He took a forced step back.

 

She heard the grim note in his voice and rolled her eyes. "You have got to be the strangest cop I've ever known."

 

"Ah-ah." Jack waggled a finger at her, and the heat disappeared from his eyes as suddenly as it appeared. "I've warned you about that, Rin. We are not cops. We're Psi Agents. Do I look like MCAR?"

 

No, he didn't. Nor did he need her to tell him why not. After all, they were Psi. On Mars, having Psi wasn't a death sentence, but nor did it get you to the top of anyone's party guest list, either.

 

Mars had a long, difficult history with its Psi population. Most Psis were average, law-abiding citizens, which didn't mean the so-called "normal" populace didn't feel threatened by them. Earth Sector didn't even allow Psi into their zone of Lamaris Canyon, to say nothing of visiting Terra itself. Drop one hint you might be Psi, and planetary travel visas evaporated faster than water in a vacuum. She'd never been to Earth, in her entire life.

 

For Jack, who was "normal" up until his crash in the Vastitas Borealis Dead Zone eight years ago, the slight of his sudden relegation to a virtually second-class status stung more keenly than she would ever experience. She knew. Her Empathy was finely tuned, and doubly so when it came to her partner. She sensed his anger, bitterness and withdrawal every time someone pegged him as Psi.

 

It was no surprise to her Jack constantly pointed out why Section Psi wasn't really the Martian Colonial Armed Response. He missed his former job as an MCAR homicide detective almost as much as he missed being "normal." She didn't need her telepathic Psi to know that, even if she would have to use her Psi to figure out why. She wouldn't, of course. One of the rules of being a telempath was that she didn't actively read people without either their consent, or probable cause. Besides, Jack's caustic question was typical Jack. She could easily ignore it, but glanced at him, and had to smile. He was dressed in synthfiber jeans and a tee shirt reading Aliens and Angels are both UFOs.

 

"Definitely not."

 

"Nor do you, in that get-up." He waggled his eyebrows at her.

 

"Quit leering, Peterson." She tossed an evidence case at him, trying to keep the mood light, as heat crept between them, again. He caught the case deftly, proving how agile his reflexes were. No surprise, for a man who could walk through walls -- even if he claimed it was painful. Kathrin cleared her throat and tried not to stare at his hands as she said, "While my heroic partner was snug in bed, I was busting up the Easter Ring, so don't give me any crap about my clothes."

 

He blinked at her, before a scowl settled over his face and the lash of his disappointment caught her. "You mean you've been working all night? Alone? Rin, I've warned you about the vigilante stuff, before. It's bad enough when you're just another agent on the streets, but if that fruitcake," he gestured to where Travinski's face was displayed, "is on the streets again, you're a walking statistic."

 

"Spare me the sermons, okay, Jack?" She pulled a duffle bag from under her desk. Damn it, she was sick of lectures about how much danger she put herself in. No one understood. She had to do it. Pink Alley was a project of hers, and she couldn't tell anyone why. Not even Jack.

Contact Esther Mitchell at:

esthermitchell@esthermitchell.com

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