As soon as Tara received her work schedule she went over it, seeing what sort of people she would be meeting and working out a strategy for dealing with them. Not being a very strong telepath meant that Tara had to rely on her other senses more than others in order to do her work. Fortunately she was much better at reading physical signs than other telepaths, particularly when dealing with aliens, which would be useful with this job. Tara soon realised that she would be busy. She had never realised just how many races there were connected with the Alliance, all of whom would have to be met and negotiated with. After going over the list a couple of times Tara decided that she wanted to get out to relax a while. She liked to spend time away from other people where she could be alone with her own thoughts. Tara had heard rumours that the station's first commanding officer had had a zen garden built. Deciding to find out if this was true Tara went to a terminal and accessed the information services.
A short time later Tara was sitting in the zen garden, her eyes closed, listening to the water running. After she had been sitting there a few minutes she sensed someone approaching. Opening her eyes she saw that her was a Minbari. Bowing he said, "I apologise for disturbing you, I did not think anyone would be here."
Sitting near her the Mimbari said, "You know it was Commander Sinclair who had this garden built."
"He said it was for Zen skinny dipping, that you could think about doing it, but not actually do it. I never quite understood that,"
"Did you know the commander?"
"We've crossed swords in the past. I thought he was just another human, it was only too late that I realised that maybe that wasn't such a bad thing." He started to rise but stopped saying, "I didn't catch your name."
The Minbari bowed again saying, "Neroon."
After spending the afternoon There Tara decided it was time to get back to her own quarters.
When she got back she was surprised to see someone leaning against the wall next to her door. As the figure moved away from the wall she realised that it was Willow. "Are you still following me?" Tara asked.
Willow looked surprised at this, "What? No, I just happened to be in the area."
Tara folded her arms across her chest, not saying anything.
Willow smiled weakly, "Of course I was only in the area after hacking the station computers to find where your quarters were and then catching the shuttle here."
"Don't you think that's a bit creepy and stalkerish?"
"Um, maybe, a little. You see I'm not very good at this whole meeting people thing and when I saw you I knew I had to get to know you better."
Tara could relate to this, she had the same problem. She wondered if she would have the courage to do what Willow was. That still left one problem, "But why me? There's nothing special about me."
Willow laughed at this, "You mean aside from the hotness that is you?"
Tara looked uncertain at this, "The hotness that is me?" Tara knew that this had to be a joke of some sort, but she couldn't sense any dishonesty from the other woman. Finally she decided to take a chance that this was for real, "I believe that you said something about a date?"
"Oh yeah, how about tomorrow night? I promise if it doesn't work out then I'll stop following you."
Tara nodded and said, "It's a date."
Willow nodded and walked away. Tara was just going into her room when she heard Willow shouting, "Woohoo!"
Tara's first day was a lot less interesting than she had expected. As Tessa had predicted these meetings were mainly a formality, and they all seemed to go the same way. First the ambassador made lot's of demands, designed to make themselves feel important. Tessa would then negotiate with them on the demands until they came up with a compromise which seemed to be giving the ambassador everything they wanted, but in fact didn't give them anything. In all these meetings Tara didn't sense any particular dishonesty from them, nothing more than was normal for a diplomatic meeting.
This all changed with the last ambassador. From the beginning the meeting was different. Rather than making demands he seemed anxious to give Tessa everything she wanted. Tara got the feeling he was hiding something, that he wanted the meeting to be over as soon as possible in order to avoid them finding something out. Being careful to not scan more than just his surface thoughts she saw his thoughts were constantly on a sector of space, Alpheratz. Tessa was finishing up so Tara said, "I've got one question, tell me about Alpheratz?" That brought everything to the surface. Tessa was giving her a questioning look so she explained, "Something happened there and he's worried that if the Alliance finds out then his people will get into trouble."
"They'll get into more trouble if we have to find out by ourselves, and we will find out."
The ambassador looked nervous for a moment before saying, "We found an asteroid there. Scans showed that there was technology, very advanced, very old technology just below the surface, but we didn't have the resources to get at it. Then a business man from earth approached us, offering to buy the asteroid. We couldn't do anything with it so we agreed. His people put some engines on it and took it through a jump point."
"What was the company?"
Willow sat at her table fiddling with the napkin and trying to stop herself from looking at the time. She was sitting in one of the best restaurants in the station but she had barely noticed this. When she had first arrived she had been too excited about the prospective date and then, as time had gone on she had grown more and more certain that she had been stood up. To take her mind off of it Willow turned to the television above the bar. A reporter was saying, "There have been numerous reports of sightings of a ship which appears to be a Shadow vessel. At the moment the Alliance are saying it is too early to draw any conclusions."
Willow turned away from the screen and let herself check the time. She was just starting to think she should go when she spotted Tara standing at the entrance looking round. Willow stood up and waved to her. Smiling Tara walked over to her table.
As Tara sat down she said, "Sorry I was late. I got stuck at work."
Willow smiled, all her agitation forgotten, "It's fine. So what do you do?"
"Oh I'm a commercial telepath. At the moment I'm working for the Alliance."
"Cool," Willow said, sounding impressed.
"What about you? What do you do career wise?"
"I'm kind of between jobs. Which isn't entirely true since that implies that I had a job at some point, which I haven't. Anyway I spent the last few years traveling round the rim. I came back to catch up with my friends. Well friend. His name's Xander Harris, we've known each other since we were kids."
Tara nodded, "So is he on the station?"
"What? Oh, no. He's on Earth."
Tara reached out and took Willow's hand, "I'm sorry."
Willow nodded, "Thanks."
"My father and brother are both on Earth."
Willow squeezed Tara's hand, "Now it's my turn to say, I'm sorry."
"We were never close, I mean they were both always afraid of mom and me because of the," Tara pointed at her head, "telepath thing, but you know, they're still family."
Willow nodded and said, "How about we talk about something happier?"
"That sounds like a good idea, though what?" Tara thought about it then said, "I know why don't you tell me about your adventures on the rim, I bet you saw lots of cool stuff."
Willow hesitated a moment. She didn't like telling people about her abilities as a techno mage, as she felt as though she was bragging. However she realised that she wanted to tell Tara the truth. "Well I was exploring one of the planets when one of the navigational systems failed, sending me into a decaying orbit with no way to control the ship."
"What happened?" Tara asked, feeling worried, even though she knew that Willow would escape.
"I was just about to give up hope when another ship arrived and towed me away, they took me to their home world."
"They were aliens."
"Actually they were techno mages."
"You've met some techno mages? That is so cool."
"Well technically I am one."
Tara had been about to take a drink and almost dropped her glass at this, "You?"
"There's no need to sound quite so surprised."
"It's just, well you're not what I expected. I always thought that they were, well, pompous and cryptic."
"Well a lot are, though they like to think of themselves as being deep and meaningful. Well I guess I am..." Willow stopped at the sound of a PPG charging.