see Days of Open Hand parts 1 & 2 for info
see Days of Open Hand parts 1 & 2 for info
Blood splattered on the cement floor even as B'Elanna Torres' collapsed lung began repairing itself. She wiped the dark red from her lips onto her leather pant leg in lieu of her hand. Her wrists were shackled as were her ankles. Her bound limbs were linked by a thin but powerful titanium rod which stretched from the disempowering collar to a bolt in the cement floor.
The heavy metal door of the cell had clanked shut minutes ago but she could still hear the three men who had just beaten her as they released laughter and gloats into the hallway. B'Elanna wasn't exactly sure how long she had been held captive. How long the flash bomb had rendered her unconscious. But she did know one thing. When she got out of this cell she was going to kill Chakotay.
"Infiltrate Empok Nor. Your targets are their experimental technology and any information regarding metahuman personnel." That's what Chakotay, her squad leader, had instructed her to do. She had snorted derision at such a cushy assignment.
B'Elanna hadn't been prepared for the level of security and technology the Friends of Humanity had at their disposal. They weren't a bunch of minute-men running around with sawed-off shotguns. They had an infrared sensor web surrounding their compound, government issued flash bombs and armaments, and inhibitor collars that had been thought merely experimental.
B'Elanna knew differently now for her superhuman strength was no longer available to her. To be sure she wrenched her arms away from her legs, but all she succeeded in doing was to dislocate her right shoulder. She relaxed against the dingy floor as her shoulder realigned itself. She would have been grateful that her healing abilities remained intact if she weren't so furious at the fear that ran ice-cold through her body.
She cursed herself for flinching when the heavy door of the cell was jerked open. A slim man with thinning brown hair dressed in navy blue scrubs and a white lab coat entered the cell flanked by four masked men in fatigues carrying rifles. B'Elanna didn't like the way the large men with the guns deferred to man in the lab coat.
"I'm Doctor Sulan. I'll be taking care of you for the duration of your stay with us." Sulan crouched next to the prostrate and bloodied form of B'Elanna Torres with a smirk on his thin lips. "I apologize for the restraints, but your presence here is very important to us. Perhaps we could even help each other."
"You can't possibly believe I'm going to cooperate with you." B'Elanna ignored the raised guns as she lifted herself from the floor to lean heavily against the cell wall.
"My dear, you don't have a choice." Sulan stood tall above B'Elanna as he motioned for the guards to assist him in making B'Elanna more accommodating.
Sulan's hand reached out to almost touch the rapidly healing gash that had expelled a copious amount of blood on the already reddened floor. "Beautiful."
Doctor Sulan barely had the sense to let out an agonizing scream when his nose was split in two by the sharp teeth of one pissed off B'Elanna Torres.
"Put her in the booth!" Sulan's shriek was followed unquestioningly by the four men in black.
One of the men caused blood to explode across B'Elanna's face when he brought the butt of his rifle down hard against her head. The mending of her shattered skull and demolished eye accompanied the transportation of B'Elanna from the cell by a man on each side. Her feet were dragged along the hallway as she struggled fiercely, but uselessly against the metal restraints and the vice grip the men held her in.
After being dragged through several cell-lined corridors, B'Elanna resisted her entrance into the vast laboratory all the more when she saw what it held. It was nicknamed "the agony booth" and B'Elanna had heard the reports the same as the rest of the Maquis of what this particular piece of technology could do. With enough pain to overwhelm the nervous system one could cease to feel anything at all. However, the agony booth left its victims with no such reprieve. The sensors would merely recalibrate and shift to another nerve cluster to ensure the person within the tube-like structure was in a constant state of agony. It wasn't so much for her benefit that she was resistant and on the verge of losing her stomach contents when she was forced closer to the contraption. No, her disgust was entirely due to what the tube already contained.
"Bendera." B'Elanna tried to force herself to look away from the charred remains of her comrade. Despite the wish to not see her friend's remains she felt she deserved no relief from the consequences of her botched operation.
"Some of your colleagues proved to be less... durable than you. I wonder how much your body can take. Let's see shall we?" Sulan had put a plaster cast over his damaged nose which caused his voice to come out as a nasally wheeze.
His voice still sent shivers down B'Elanna's back given that she had not seen her other operatives since they had been captured. She feared they had shared a similar fate as Bendera.
B'Elanna would have vehemently protested the handling of Kurt Bendera's body out of the transparent booth if she wasn't certain it would only make it worse. If she attempted to stop their removal they probably would have desecrated what used to be her sparring partner and drinking buddy all the more.
I'll get'em, Bendera. I promise. Despite her predicament B'Elanna had no doubt she would make good on her word. Or die trying.
"Let's soften you up a bit, hmm?" Sulan grinned wickedly as he watched the metahuman bitch that had torn apart his nose being forced into the tube-like booth. He felt anticipation course through him hotly at the thought of what her screams would sound like. "I have big plans for you, my dear. Now, we usually don't start with this high a setting, but for you I'll make an exception. Just this once."
B'Elanna's breathing was erratic as she struggled against the metal restraints that kept her rooted to the floor and away from the transparent aluminum of the booth. She snarled and spit but it elicited nothing but a snort of laughter from Sulan. Before the hum of the electromagnetic pulse could drown her out she made one last vow. "You're going to die tonight, you bastard."
The searing heat that coursed through B'Elanna's body was indescribable in the pain that it delivered to every inch of her. With her powers of healing being somewhat diminished by the inhibitor collar she had no choice but to feel her flesh burn before it slowly regenerated itself.
Time seemed to speed up and then slow down before speeding up again. B'Elanna thought she might have been in the booth for only a second and then the next moment a week. She was to the point where she really didn't know or particularly care. All she knew was that she would not escape the relentless pain that was being inflicted upon her as Kurt had. For a moment she was truly jealous of her dead friend.
When pain is suffered so continuously it is easy to forget what the absence of it feels like. That was why it took B'Elanna a few seconds to realize that the burning sensation had abated. And in those moments her flesh formed anew. With her recently restored eyes she could see her captors scramble about while they spoke into their two-way radios. B'Elanna's ability to hear was re-established shortly after and what was being said made her heart heavy with disappointment and regret.
They had caught another one. Another "mutie freak".
B'Elanna figured it was one of her own. A fellow Maquis sent to rescue her and her small cadre. But like her, whoever had been sent had no way of knowing that the Friends of Humanity had such sophisticated weaponry at their disposal.
B'Elanna was wrong. The unconscious woman whose arms and legs were shackled together by metal encasements connected by a network of crisscrossed web of titanium down across her torso was not a Maquis. She was something else entirely. A woman B'Elanna had never met but whose reputation preceded her. And she was surely the last person B'Elanna had expected to see in this place. B'Elanna knew not to vocalize the identity of the woman, but she couldn't help to utter the name disbelievingly to herself.
"Get your hands off her! You bastard!" B'Elanna snarled as she wrenched both of her shoulders out of their sockets in a valiant attempt to escape. The metal restraints that encased her lower arms and ankles kept her immobilized to a surgical bed as she watched helplessly as two men put a still unconscious Janeway into the booth.
"No, I don't think I will." Sulan programmed the energy setting much lower than he had used initially for B'Elanna. But he certainly planned to increase the output as the softening process advanced on. He hoped this one would scream more readily than B'Elanna had.
B'Elanna continued her loud protests even when she tried to look away from the tube and the inevitable. She held a semblance of hope that what she had heard about Janeway wasn't true and that the woman's death would be swift. If it were true then Janeway would share B'Elanna's fate. The reports on the experimentation on metahumans by scientists employed by groups like the Friends of Humanity had spurred on groups like the Maquis. She struggled violently against her restraints even more fiercely when one of the men used a hard slap to awaken the previously unconscious woman.
B'Elanna watched with pain in her chest when Janeway's eyes opened. The newly conscious woman's expression filled with alarm and horror as she fought against the manacles that restrained her movement. B'Elanna had to turn away when Janeway's protest were interrupted by a vicious back-hand that caused blood to erupt from her split bottom lip and her head to rear back. The men laughed to one another as they exited the tube.
The hum of the electromagnetic pulse spooling up forced B'Elanna's attention back to the booth and the inescapable horror that was about to transpire. B'Elanna willed herself to be fully prepared for the screams of torture and the smell of scalding flesh. So it was with some surprise when she only heard an ambiguous groan emit from the other woman.
B'Elanna watched Sulan stagger back from the booth with outrage when the woman within wouldn't utter anything more than a few heavy breaths. Sulan yelled for the power output to be raised and the humming sound increased greatly. He continued to demand more when the screams he so desired never came.
What did come was a surprise not only for Sulan but B'Elanna as well. Janeway had a strange lift to her lips that seemed obscene in such a situation. Her voice was rough and low but no less audible to those within the lab. Janeway, whose limbs were bound and whose body was being tortured, demanded only one thing from her captors. It wasn't what they wanted to hear or would have expected to hear. It was one word: "more".
"Maximum power!" Sulan was hysterical in his ire now. His voice was shrill and failed to cover his fear and uncertainty.
The glass of the booth began to bubble from the onslaught of energy raging within. Sulan's men pleaded for him to cut the power in fear that the pulse would be released upon them as well. When their deferred leader did finally relent, their request was made impossible when the control console erupted from overloaded circuitry.
B'Elanna watched Janeway with hope restored when thin threads of blue electricity crackled around the power-negating collar and the restraints before the entire metal contraption fell to the floor of the booth. It was the first time she had seen the illustrious Kathryn Janeway in action and B'Elanna had to admit she was impressed. She also had to confess that she was just a little intimidated as well. Unhindered by the collar, Janeway's awesome power was given free reign. The booth that had probably tortured hundreds of metahumans failed to withhold structural integrity as white-hot energy burst forth from Janeway's palms.
Energy encased Janeway in blue and white brilliance as she removed herself from the demolished booth. Bullets whizzed towards her, but none penetrated the energy barrier she had erected between her and the gunmen. Blasts that were incredibly destructive ripped from Janeway's palms, though none of the fiery beams were aimed at the men. Computer consoles and surgical equipment, were all destroyed until the main power console of the compound was destroyed. The lights of the lab bathed them in almost complete darkness, save the light that emanated from Janeway. A moment later red tingled emergency lights cast scarlet across the battlefield of the lab as the men began firing once more.
B'Elanna pulled fiercely at her restraints, desperately wanting to enter the fray. Not so much to assist Janeway, since the powerful woman was doing a capable job of dispatching the armed men, but to feel bones and flesh under her fists. B'Elanna hoped she could have Sulan for herself. She imagined with some delicious glee how his bones would sound when they shattered.
One of the armed men nearly struck B'Elanna's bed after he was flung into the air by an arched blast of energy. He was very much alive but quite unconscious. B'Elanna didn't exactly understand why people like Janeway and even the "outlaw" Chakotay restrained themselves in such a way. Since joining up with Chakotay she hadn't been allowed to kill anyone unless it was absolutely necessary. Though accidents did understandably occur. Perhaps a few would happen this day.
If I could just get out of this damned bed! B'Elanna growled deep in her throat and made another valiant attempt to free herself. The bed groaned beneath her when almost unexpectedly the metal restraints busted apart. The collar that had diminished her strength was quickly removed when it became obvious that it had been made useless due to the fiery destruction of many of the consoles in the lab.
B'Elanna yelled triumphantly when she used the heel of her hand to render a man efficiently unconscious as well as crushing the bones in his jaw. He had barely crashed to the floor before she propelled herself forward to the next militant. It usually only required one hit to knock-out a human being, but at times B'Elanna was generous enough to provide a few more. The man she threw across the room into a bank of computers now had a broken femur and bruised ribs.
A blazing stream of energy passed quite close to B'Elanna and the incredible heat of it caused sweat to immediately appear as a sheen across her bronze colored skin. The crackling electric blue fire had blasted apart a network of computers and flames erupted from the destroyed technology. B'Elanna watched as the awe-inspiring flaming specter that was Kathryn Janeway hovered close to the ceiling with a bubble of visible blue energy surrounding her. B'Elanna was distracted to such an extent that she almost didn't notice when more than a dozen armed fatigue garbed men stormed the lab with their guns firing.
B'Elanna's speed was far superior than any human being could hope to possess and perhaps most metahumans as well. Her reflexes and senses were also quite impressive so it was with only a small bit of effort on her part that she managed to dodge nearly every bullet that came her way. The ones she wasn't able to avoid stuck in her flesh for mere seconds before her healing factor expelled the foreign object from her body. Her dulled pain receptors registered each bullet that entered her as a mere irritation. Soon B'Elanna did not concern herself with avoiding the bullets for the sake of reaching the firing squad sooner.
B'Elanna caught a bullet in her palm that was aimed for her right eye as she looked up when she heard the commanding voice clearly over the cacophony. She supposed she could have been surprised that Janeway knew her Maquis codename but knew she would dwell on it later.
"Get out of the way!" Janeway's loud authoritative tones caused the usually obstinate B'Elanna to comply almost unconsciously.
With a display of superhuman strength, B'Elanna propelled herself across the room to the ladder that lined one of the walls that went to an observation deck. She had barely managed to climb the first rung when the vision of twenty men being flung heavily against the steel lined walls by the arched electric blue force field made her grin broadly in respect for the efficient manner in which the men had been dispatched.
Blue flames still crackled around Janeway as she made her descent to the floor. B'Elanna hopped from the ladder and then did a graceful flip to help diminish the speed of her fall before she landed heavily on her thickly soled boots. B'Elanna wiped away the blood from her face with her gloved hands as she steadily approached Janeway. The woman was crouched next to the group of fallen men.
As B'Elanna came closer she could see that a hard black blast mask had fallen away when the man had fallen so his face was revealed to her and Janeway. She could see what Janeway saw now. That this particular villain with a gun could not have been more than sixteen. B'Elanna didn't particularly care about the age of the person who was shooting at her. She'd take him down if he were six. But she could tell by the darkness that fell over Janeway's features and the minuet shake of her auburn hair that this woman did care. She cared a great deal. B'Elanna didn't understand. She wondered if she ever would.
B'Elanna watched with some bemusement as Janeway stood suddenly and the blue energy vanished. Slate gray eyes found hers and B'Elanna felt a little like a school child facing her principal.
"We need to get the prisoners out. Can you take me to where you were being held?" Janeway's tone wasn't exactly permissive so B'Elanna merely nodded in the affirmative. "Good. Let's go."
On the way out, B'Elanna was self-indulgent enough to land a swift kick to the ribs of the unconscious Sulan. She wished she had been the one to have broken his nose and hoped they'd have enough time to come back so she could make good on her vow. The look in Janeway's eyes told B'Elanna that perhaps she had crossed the line of decency, but the auburn haired woman said nothing as she allowed B'Elanna to lead the way from the demolished laboratory.
The sixth cell they came across caused B'Elanna to wince at the smell that emanated from it. She had been around her fair share of death and knew unquestionably that was the scent that permeated this small, dingy cement cell. The flickering of red emergency lights from the hallway cast a sickly pallor across the filthy room and the two bodies that were contained within.
B'Elanna didn't need to approach the larger form to know he was dead; and the source of the stink of decay. It was also obvious to her that he had been dead for several days. The other, smaller form lying on its side in the fetal position wasn't fairing that much better but at least it had a heartbeat and was breathing.
"Greskrendtregk." Janeway's voice was a reverent whisper that seemed obscenely loud in the tiny death filled room. Reluctantly but steadily she made her way into the cell.
B'Elanna didn't know if that was a name, but figured it had to be by the tone Janeway had used and the way the other woman's hands hovered uncertainly above the still body. With a steady hand Janeway pressed a small triangular piece of metal onto the orange scaly arm. The texture of the dead man's skin reminded B'Elanna of a seahorse though the three foot-long spikes that extended from the middle of his forehead bespoke perhaps a man less docile.
As the eight dead bodies and the four badly injured metahumans had in the nine cells B'Elanna and Janeway had already inspected, Greskrendtregk's body shimmered in blue light before it vanished. "Transport, Chief," had been the only explanation Janeway had given.
The huddled form began to shake and B'Elanna could almost smell the fear as if adrenaline itself was a perfume. She watched Janeway walk very slowly to the other side of the room where the uneven light flickered off silver chains of bondage.
"Naomi?" Janeway kept her voice soft, gentle, and coaxing. She went to her knees next to the huddled mass of the nine year old girl who was filthy from being in the cell for so long. Too long. "It's Kathryn. We're going to get you out of here. Far away from this place, sweetie."
B'Elanna felt anger swell within her chest when the bloodied hands were revealed beneath the dim lighting. The tiny hands had made bloody prints all across the dark gray wall and B'Elanna wondered idly why the little girl had been pressing repeatedly against the wall in such a way.
"Can you break these shackles?" Janeway held the small girl in her arms. She smoothed strawberry blonde hair with soft slow movements of her hand. The little girl was still shaking like a leaf in her embrace.
B'Elanna didn't hesitate as she took the arm braces in her hands and quickly broke them apart as gently as she could for fear of doing more harm to the child. Hot blood coursed through B'Elanna's veins as purple bruises on the little girl's forearms were revealed.
Naomi jerked violently in Janeway's arms when B'Elanna's fingers went to the inhibitor collar so she stilled her hands. B'Elanna knew full well how it felt to try to take the collar off when it was powered up.
"It's all right. It can't hurt you anymore. Your abilities are your own again." Janeway watched closely to see if Naomi would believe her or be too overcome by the fear of the pain the collar could dispense.
Naomi's small fingers grasped the collar before she rendered her neck intangible. The metal fell to the cement with a clatter. Janeway caught Naomi in her arms when she went unconscious from the strain.
"Is she all right?" B'Elanna knew that was a stupid question. But she felt there was nothing else to voice at the moment.
"She will be." Janeway carefully laid the unconscious girl across her lap before she tagged her with a locator chip and Naomi shimmered away. "We need to get moving. Reinforcements will no doubt be coming soon."
As they moved to the next cell B'Elanna re-evaluated all she knew about Janeway, which admittedly wasn't much. Chakotay knew much more about the woman since he had actually been a part of the United Federation of Metahumans of which B'Elanna was aware Janeway was some high standing member. Not one to gossip about anyone or anything Chakotay had merely told B'Elanna to steer clear of "that woman". So what B'Elanna did know was purely objective: Janeway was powerful, a level 9 Omega whose abilities included but perhaps were not limited to absorbing energy (sometimes vast amounts), energy projection, flight, and force fields.
B'Elanna had shrugged indifferently when Chakotay had given her Janeway's brief dossier. She had never been impressed by the more flashy powers. She had gone as far as to say she could probably take the woman in a fight. Chakotay had smirked but instilled within her the sense that Janeway was not a woman one should provoke. There had also been something in the man's dark eyes that had made B'Elanna wonder exactly how Chakotay thought of Janeway.
B'Elanna watched from the hallway as Janeway spoke softly to a frightened young man whose dark eyes flickered nervously back and forth from B'Elanna to Janeway. The rocking motion that he had possessed upon their entrance had slowed progressively as Janeway continued her gentle murmuring. They didn't have much time, but nothing in Janeway's calm tones would indicate as such.
B'Elanna couldn't help but be a keen observer of the woman she had just witnessed dispatch more than twenty armed men with fiery strength and had mourned covertly for the metahumans both dead and not they had released from these tiny, filthy cells. The man had stopped the flickering of his gaze and now looked squarely at Janeway as she slowly, but deliberately removed the collar around his neck. Since it was useless now that the remote power source had been destroyed along with most of the lab it was more of symbolic gesture than anything else. It seemed to instantly empower the once shackled man.
"Mister...?" Janeway held a small transport transceiver towards the man.
"Mister Ashmore, this device is a tracker which enables one of my crew to transport you to our hovercraft. Is that all right?" Janeway lightly attached the chip to his arm after he nodded his assent. "Chief, transport."
Like the others before him, B'Elanna watched as Ashmore vanished in a swirling blue shimmering of light. B'Elanna followed Janeway into the hallway, glad to be rid of the room that had also held the corpse of a woman around B'Elanna's age who had been viciously beaten to death several hours perhaps even a day before she and Janeway came to this compound. She was becoming increasingly agitated seeing all this brutality and wished they would just be done with this already.
Janeway's horror filled tones quickened B'Elanna's pace to the cell at the end of the long hallway. B'Elanna looked through the small grate after Janeway turned away in revulsion, her hand to her mouth. If B'Elanna believed in a supernatural deity of some sort she supposed she would be praying to it right about now; or cursing it. It was obvious from the immense pile of ashes that the crematoria beyond the door had disposed of many bodies. A scattering of bones that had survived the all-consuming and destructive fires made B'Elanna also turn away. A tiny skeleton had been left intact on the ash-covered ground. B'Elanna knew its survival had been due to the fact that it had at one time been encased inside its mother.
The hand on her shaking shoulder ignited B'Elanna's anger all the more. Before she could consciously realize her actions, she held Janeway against the wall several feet off the ground with one powerful hand around the woman's throat.
"Level this place. I know you can. So do it." Tears burned hot at the corners of her eyes though B'Elanna valiantly kept them at bay. She registered Janeway's hands around her wrist and forearm but the other woman's grip did nothing to lessen her own.
"I can, but I won't." Janeway's measured gray eyes pinned B'Elanna in place, but the hand around her throat didn't soften. "We don't have time for this, B'Elanna. We have a job to do. So let's do that."
If B'Elanna would be completely honest she wanted to throw Janeway across the hallway, but knowing that would do nothing useful she finally loosened her hold. B'Elanna could see a ruddy hand mark on Janeway's pale throat but the other woman paid no attention to it.
"Cavit, report?" Janeway spoke into her left palm, which glowed faintly as the transmission in the sub-dermal communications implant carried her message to the ship and her pilot.
A low, male voice sounded from Janeway's palm. "All clear, Captain. Beta team beamed aboard ten minutes ago."
"Good. Close channel." Janeway narrowed her eyes curiously as she watched B'Elanna sniff at the air as her dark eyes shifted about the vast hallway. "What is it?"
The lights of the hallway suddenly flooded the expanse with pale yellow illumination accompanied by a resounding alarm. It was obvious to B'Elanna that the reinforcements from neighboring compounds had finally arrived and they had reinitiated main power to the underground facility.
Janeway gripped B'Elanna around her waist and the woman was startled when her feet lifted off the ground. "I think we've overstayed our welcome."
B'Elanna would have had to agree since in the next moment the cinder walled hallway was flooded with eighty-eight heavily armed militants who immediately began firing. The hands she lifted to shield her face was unnecessary since Janeway erected a force field around them. B'Elanna also noted that another force field protected the men from the ricochet of hundreds of bullets. She nearly groaned and did roll her eyes at the care Janeway showed these monstrous humans.
"Chief, transport!" Janeway's voice turned deep and husky to an extent that B'Elanna hadn't heard before. B'Elanna knew what that meant. Janeway was scared. B'Elanna didn't figure it was fear of the humans for Janeway could capably handle all eighty-eight gunmen. No, it was due to what Janeway might have to do to the men to get the two of them out of the compound unscathed.
An Irish brogue sounded from the communiqué imbedded in Janeway's palm. The tone was clearly aggravated and disturbed. "There's a dampening field surrounding the compound, Captain. I can't get a pattern lock on you through the electromagnetic interference."
"Damn." Janeway adjusted her hold on B'Elanna so the other woman wouldn't obstruct the fiery blast that blew a hole in the ceiling.
The falling debris scattered the armed men on the ground though it was unnecessary since Janeway's protection of them was still maintained. The force field turned fiery and disintegrated the cinder chunks into a relatively harmless showering of sand. As Janeway moved herself and B'Elanna through the opening she had just created the field vanished as well.
What was less protected was B'Elanna's hair that continued to get singed and then re-grown repeatedly. The licks of flames that drifted her way were nothing compared to the white hot blast of flame being projected from Janeway's freehand that created a clear tunnel through the thick soil riddled with bugs, invertebrates, and root systems.
Earth erupted around them as Janeway and B'Elanna burst forth into the evening air. Janeway groaned as she made an ungraceful landing on the grass still holding onto B'Elanna. B'Elanna was released before Janeway wiped mud and sweat from her brow. A few well-aimed bursts of energy from Janeway hands sealed their escape and the exits from the underground base, for the time being at any rate. Surely long enough for her people to make a pickup.
"Can you get a fix on us now, Chief?" Janeway looked to the night sky willing the dampening field not to extend this far above the subterranean compound.
"Negative, Captain. We're on route to your position."
"Feel like flying again?" The tone was teasing but there was also a weariness there that bespoke the exhaustion Janeway was feeling acutely. She just needed to get them back to the Alpha Flyer and then a nice hot bath was the first thing on her schedule when she got back to the Institute.
There was a metallic odor in the air that bit at B'Elanna's tongue and made her nose crinkle, but she was hesitant in her suspicion since Janeway's ship was on its way. She realized a moment too late her error.
Two sleek black hover-copters, definitely government issued, descended from the starlit sky like silent birds of prey. The plasma discharges that were fired repeatedly from each copter shattered the once quiet air of the evening. The ground around Janeway and B'Elanna exploded which caused them to lose their footing.
B'Elanna hauled Janeway to her feet. Janeway yelled into her palm for her vessel to hold position while B'Elanna roughly maneuvered her to avoid the eruptions around them. The blasts were becoming increasingly hard to continue evading. B'Elanna's shoulder had already taken a hit. She had cursed at the sting that ripped her shoulder apart, but she knew she could manage the projectile bursts much better than Janeway.
The blasts of heat that Janeway shot back at the two copters weren't nearly as powerful as the ones she and B'Elanna were dodging. The fiery discharges did manage to slowdown the two aircrafts. If it had been daylight Janeway's power would have been augmented by the sun's rays, but in the dead of night she was quickly losing her energy reserves. And she was well aware of that fact.
Bark crunched beneath B'Elanna's hands as she swiftly scaled a tall oak. With a loud growl of exertion she leapt from the tree onto the curved black titanium back of the closest hover-copter. She crushed the metal beneath her left hand to avoid being tossed off the black behemoth. It took two heavy punches to disconnect the tail from the rest of the craft.
As the copter descended uncontrollably in a spin to the ground B'Elanna smashed her way into the cockpit to retrieve the two flight-controllers. She had taken the precaution of knocking them both unconscious with a few blows to their helmeted heads. If she took some pleasure in blooding the two men up it was merely a happy upshot.
B'Elanna hit the ground running, roughly dropping her two pieces of human cargo before she hefted the broken tail into the air like a missile to collide with the other hover-copter. Janeway had been attempting to hold her own against the onslaught of plasma bursts, but B'Elanna suspected the other woman wasn't going to be able to maintain her defenses for much longer. The inky black of the night sky was interrupted as an orange and white explosion ripped through it when the piece of tail B'Elanna had thrown inadvertently hit the fuel line.
The windshield erupted forth from the small blast Janeway delivered to the front of the craft. With great effort she pulled the two men from the cockpit while the fiery copter proceeded to nosedive to the ground. The vessel crashed to the earth in flames a few yards away from the other fallen craft as Janeway strained to hang on to the agitated men in her grasp. At least as long as it took her to get them safely to the ground.
Slate-gray eyes opened wide in surprise from the pain that exploded in her left side. Her hold on the men failed and they dropped heavily, but relatively unharmed onto the grass-covered ground. That was until B'Elanna knocked them out with a few swift kicks that cracked their helmets and perhaps their skulls as well.
B'Elanna willed Janeway to go limp as she leapt into the air to catch the falling woman. Thankfully, the impact of the gunshot wound had nearly resulted in Janeway blacking out which softened the contact against B'Elanna's hard body. The dark red blood deposited thickly onto B'Elanna's leather outfit as she clasped the small body protectively against her as gently as she could.
Janeway's palm was held close to B'Elanna's mouth after the mute light that shone through flesh indicated that the communiqué was active. "I don't know where you are but you need to get here now."
"Who is this?"
"Torres." The incredulous male voice had irritated B'Elanna which made her voice clipped and impatient. "Janeway's bleeding out. So get your asses over here!"
A nearly silent whistling sound in the far distance alerted B'Elanna to the fact that the shuttlecraft was descending from orbit. It was a much smaller ship than she had expected it to be. It was barely larger than a hover-copter, silver sleek, with two blue nacelles extended from the thin aft section. She would have been impressed by the design and the silence of its engine if she weren't getting so annoyed by how slowly it was lowering to the ground.
B'Elanna didn't wait for the aft door to open all the way before she carried herself and Janeway into the back of the craft. The sparsely haired man that greeted her didn't look particularly concerned despite the vast amounts of blood Janeway was losing. He pressed a button on a panel near the door which closed the hatch and sealed it. The floor hummed beneath B'Elanna's feet indicating the ship's ascent as she moved towards a small gray bed that the man pulled out of a large computer console.
"Set her on her right side here. Carefully." The doctor utilized a tricorder and the accompanying small cylindrical probe.
"The bastard shot her." B'Elanna's powerful arms crossed over her chest and her narrowed dark eyes were enough to transmit her aggravation.
If the doctor was affected by it or not wasn't clear as he concentrated on the readings. He set the tricorder on the bedside table before he used a hypospray to inject a full spectrum antibiotic and sedative into Janeway's throat. Janeway groaned quietly when the sedative took effect and she fell into unconsciousness.
"Hand me the laser scalpel." The doctor looked to the blood soaked woman and tried not to be irritated by her brusqueness or the sight of blood splattered copiously across her leather outfit. "The curved device with the blue handle."
The doctor finished putting on thick medical gloves while B'Elanna complied with his order. She didn't balk at being his assistant since she really had nothing better to do. She also had a desire to make sure Janeway would be all right. The woman had saved her life after all.
B'Elanna watched as the doctor carefully created a long incision into the thickly padded black combat suit Janeway wore. He split the material at the shoulders as well so he could peel away the entire back of the outfit. A long expanse of fair skin lightly dusted with freckles and splattered with blood was soon revealed. As was the large exit wound the bullet had created in her left side.
The doctor placed his pale blue-gloved hands gently over the bullet wound. Healing warmth spread from his hands to the damaged flesh beneath. He removed the gloves as the injury in the left side of the woman on the bed vanished due to his administrations.
"Wash her up while I retrieve a tunic." The doctor's pleased smiled lined his weathered face deeply. His tone was much lighter than it had been only moments ago.
A rather self-satisfied aura surrounded the doctor as he hummed an aria to himself while he studiously ignored his impromptu assistant's dark narrowed eyes and the snort of derision. He hummed louder as he noted her proceeding to carry out the task assigned to her while he went to the other side of the aft section to retrieve a pullover from a storage closet.
B'Elanna pulled the light purple absorption towel across Janeway's lower back and side. The material did its job and the smattering of blood lessened on pale flesh. The area between her eyebrows creased as her gaze followed the slow, deliberate movement of her hand as it toweled the rest of the red fluid from pale skin. What were paler yet on Janeway's back caused B'Elanna's actions to falter and her stare to become intractable.
The tracery of scars, each one the length of B'Elanna's hand, that marred Janeway's naked back bespoke a dark time in the woman's life. One that B'Elanna certainly hadn't suspected. Leather had lacerated this flesh at least seven times and the wounds delivered had to have been deep to leave such thick layers of scar tissue. B'Elanna couldn't help but wonder with no little fear of what other horrors this woman had experienced. Then she quickly decided she didn't really want to know. And again she questioned why people like Janeway wouldn't allow people like B'Elanna to exact justice against those who would do such vicious things to metahumans.
The doctor's hand on her shoulder brought B'Elanna's gaze to features that held a knowing expression so fleeting she wasn't sure if she had actually seen it. She pulled herself away from the bed to make room for the doctor before she moved to the other side of the room. The absorption towel was tossed into a disposal unit after she settled herself onto one of the gray benches that lined the wall. She was grateful to be away from the woman who disturbed her emotions.
The sound of the hiss from the hypo carried easily through the quietness of the aft section. A soft groan followed indicating Janeway's awakening. The doctor had already turned her onto her naked back before he injected the stimulant so it was easy enough for her to sit upright on the gray bed, her left hand pressed against her throbbing head. Blue-gray eyes opened and found the doctor to the right of her with a close-lipped smile.
"Doctor Zimmerman?" Janeway pressed one hand to where the bullet had entered her. The blood that was deposited on to her fingers was the only visible indication that she had been injured at all. "Report."
"The incoming heavy cruiser made Cavit decide retreat was the better part of valor. We're on our way back to the Institute. The metahumans you and Beta team recovered have already been transported to UFM Medical." He handed the dark blue pullover to her so the nakedness of her back could be covered as well as the lines of scars that were hardly ever seen by anyone but him. And not so frequently then since the woman was notorious in finding any excuse to ignore her health and avoid annual checkups.
"Good." Janeway pulled the sweatshirt over her head feeling a bit self-conscious from the scrutiny B'Elanna was attempting to not pay her, but she ignored the serendipitous looks and directed her attention solely to the doctor. "How many were recovered?"
"Twenty-eight altogether. Eighteen dead. Ten with various injuries." The doctor handed a slim PADD with the known names of the recovered metahumans listed within to Janeway. He sighed sadly at the dead and injured who had suffered so much at the underground compound. "I've healed the injured. With a nice meal and years with a physiatrist I'm sure they'll make a full recovery."
Janeway didn't appreciate the acerbic tone, but she knew the man was only employing it due to his own anger and frustration. She felt that too, but she couldn't indulge in such emotions when she was responsible for ten metahumans not to mention the Maquis situation.
"Very good, Doctor." Janeway ignored his annoyed mumblings as he walked into the ensuite. The small door slid shut behind him.
Janeway sighed quietly, but did have a lift to her lips. Despite the doctor's sometimes caustic demeanor he had endeared himself to her greatly in the two years that she had known him. After an amused shake of her head she turned her attention to the rather silent passenger. Janeway rested her hand on hers stomach as she walked to where B'Elanna was seated across the room. Carefully she sat next to the dark haired woman. "I'm... sorry about your friend."
"Yeah, so am I." B'Elanna crossed her arms in lieu of fidgeting from anger and frustration. "It wasn't supposed to go down like that."
The mission hadn't gone right from the beginning. The Maquis had underestimated the Friends of Humanity thinking them like the various other anti-metahuman groups they had successfully busted up. That oversight cost B'Elanna a lot more than just her friend. It struck uncertainty within her that perhaps the Maquis had become overconfident and careless. If it hadn't been for Janeway, B'Elanna and the rest of the ten survivors would still have been prisoners.
"I imagine it didn't. The... Friends of Humanity certainly have very rich donors. As well as strong ties to the military, it would seem." Janeway jaw twitched. She knew the current administration was anything but tolerant of metahumans. But to fund a whole anti-metahuman operation was disgusting even for them. Not to mention highly illegal.
"The Maquis never figured they'd have inhibitor collars." A thought struck B'Elanna and her brow furrowed in concentration. "Except... you didn't seem hindered by the one that had been around your neck."
"They still need to work out some of the kinks. We were able to retrieve one and discovered that my absorption abilities could render the collar inoperative." Janeway's hand unconsciously went to her throat. After a few quick brushes from the pads of fingers she brought her hand back to rest on the edge of the bench.
"That's why you were assigned to come get me... us?" Grateful for Janeway's abilities and her own rescue, B'Elanna was still skeptical as to why such a supposedly high ranking member of the UFM would be assigned such a hazardous mission.
"No. I elected to." Janeway pushed the sleeves of her sweatshirt up to her elbows. She pulled the black gloves from her fingers happy to be rid of the material that had touched so much death recently. "My... assignment wasn't to retrieve you actually. Mark one up for happenstance, I suppose."
"Yeah, well, don't think I'm not appreciative." B'Elanna leaned her sturdy form against the bulkhead as she tried to relax her stance even though she still felt adrenaline coursing hotly through her body. "What exactly was your mission then?"
Janeway didn't appear to want to answer at first. Her blue-gray eyes were trained on the PADD in her hand for a moment before she brought her gaze up to look upon B'Elanna. "It began as a reconnaissance mission. But when we detected metahuman life signs it became a rescue operation. It was a bit impromptu I'm afraid. We had no idea the extent of the facility. We thought it was a training ground."
"The Maquis thought something similar, but we knew they were testing technology there. We just didn't know they had already implemented it into their security." B'Elanna's fist clenched at the idea of how many other "mostly harmless" anti-human facilities out there were actually just covers for underground prisons. "We had no idea they were holding metahumans."
"Captain, we've got an incoming hovercopter."
The Irish brogue that sounded over the speakers brought the doctor from the ensuite and Janeway to the front compartment. B'Elanna followed closely behind the doctor onto the flight deck. The pilot's seat was occupied by a gray haired man in a dark red and black thickly padded suit similar to the one Janeway wore. The man who occupied the co-pilot seat had curly red hair bespoke his Irish ethnicity as did his voice.
"They're firing." Miles O'Brien had already raised the shield before he summoned Janeway but their vessel still rocked from the impact.
"Can you transport to the Institute from this distance, Chief?" Janeway had kept her footing after the hit from the other ship. Their vessel's shields were impressive, but even they had their limits. Despite their armaments being equally impressive, Janeway avoided an armed conflict as much as she could.
"Negative, Captain. Besides, I wouldn't leave ya out here alone with the ship." O'Brien knew what the woman had in her mind and he was having none of it. If Janeway wanted to play the big hero she could do so after he retired. So, he wouldn't have to feel guilty about any of it.
"Mr. Cavit, you ready to play catch?" Janeway's hand rested for a brief moment on the pilot's shoulder.
"Aye, Captain." Cavit switched flight control over to O'Brien before he removed himself from the pilot's seat.
Janeway pulled her pullover off the doctor had given her as she moved towards the hatch with Cavit in tow. "Let's do it."
"Captain!" The doctor's shrill, outraged voice and sudden hand on her arm prevented Janeway's departure from the craft. Even in the face of her narrowed gaze and impatient expression the doctor's restraining hand maintained. "I healed your wound but your reserves are still greatly depleted. Going up against a heavily armed ship is exactly what you should not be doing."
"Your concern is noted, Doctor."
"I don't know why I even bother." The doctor let his hand drop to his side as he sighed heavily in irritation at the woman's stubbornness. He was further annoyed when he saw a smirk playing on B'Elanna's lips.
The doctor took his seat near the back of the flight deck while B'Elanna filled the vacant seat left by Cavit. Janeway unsealed the hatch before powering whatever energy reserves she had left. A pale white glow surrounded her as she flew from the ship with Cavit trailing right behind her.
Flames erupted all around Janeway as she propelled herself faster towards the sleek black hovercopter. The energy that radiated from her bare shoulder blades looked not unlike flaming wings as she stood fast against the plasma bursts fired from the copter.
As Janeway drew their fire Cavit's energy constructed hover-car, which glowed red, flew closer to the safety of the underbelly of the ship. With an odd sense of humor he created a massive old-fashioned nutcracker to go around the triangular vessel which ceased its movement. Accompanied by the shrieking noise of wrenching metal the ship broke in two. Cavit caught the front part of the broken ship in a red psionically manipulated energy field designed to look like a massive safety net.
The remaining portion was Janeway's to deal with. Which she did efficiently and with a great deal effort. As she steadied her flight she blasted the aft section of the ship with all the energy at her disposal. The metal of the ship dispersed in the night sky in a mist under the onslaught of her fiery discharges.
In an intricate display of spiraling chutes, the two previous inhabitants of the heavy vessel were carried swiftly though safely to the grassy ground several meters from where Cavit constructed their transport. After he had deposited the two men on the ground Cavit used his solid light construct manipulation to create a giant hand to crush the rest of the ship into a metal ball before he too deposited the disfigured forward hull on to the grass next to the disoriented men.
"Time to go home, Captain?" Cavit sidled up next to the flying woman on his manifested Pegasus. She looked exhausted though as beautiful as ever. He knew he'd be missing out on more than just missions and classroom activities when he retired. Maybe at his retirement party he'd actually have the gall to approach her not as merely a subordinate. Maybe.
"You've read my mind, Spectrum." Though he had an odd sense of humor, she was going to miss him at the Institute when he left. He had been an invaluable help to her during her first year as Headmistress. They weren't the best of friends, but she knew she'd have a hard time replacing him.
Janeway entered the cabin first with Cavit right behind her. She studiously avoided the annoyed look the doctor graced her with before she settled in one of the benches that lined the wall opposite of the hatch. She sighed, relaxed her tired body against the wall and dreamt of the hot bath that she so desperately wanted. The proximity alert abruptly put an end to her comfort. She wondered what else would get in between her and her tub. Apparently a heavily armed raider.
"It's Maquis." O'Brien's tone wasn't overly concerned which did nothing for B'Elanna's confidence in the Maquis' ability to intimidate.
"Hail them, Chief." Janeway pressed the pads of her thumb and forefinger to the bridge of her nose as she felt a headache coming on. She removed herself from the comfort of the bench to go to the cockpit section of the flight deck. She could see a small ship approaching rapidly.
"They're firing." Cavit voice bespoke his skepticism at such a reckless action since the Maquis vessel was no match for the Alpha Flyer. The energy bolt skimmed the shield on the port side but did no damage to the actual ship.
"What the hell are they doing?" Janeway's eyes were on the view screen but it seemed to B'Elanna that she was speaking directly to her. "Take out their phaser canon."
"Aye, Captain." O'Brien was all but happy to oblige. The Maquis were no better than a bunch of thugs in his opinion. Renegades that made his job all the harder to get done since the Maquis were always the face of Metahumans in the news; them and the Obsidian Order.
"We're receiving a hail." Cavit watched with some satisfaction as a plume of smoke emitted from the decimated canon on the port side of the Maquis ship. He wasn't so much opposed to the renegade group just some of their methods. As the ultimate rule, members of the UFM did not kill humans. The Maquis didn't seem to adhere to that principle and that just made meta-human/human relations all the more strained.
"I'll just bet we are." Janeway's hands went to her slim waist as a sardonic grin curled the left side of her mouth. "Let's hear it."
"This is the Maquis. You're holding one of our own. Release her and you will not be harmed."
"Hogan." B'Elanna's voice took on the tone of a teacher who was reprimanding an unruly child. "Get off the line. Where the hell is Chakotay?"
That name answered the question of who fired for B'Elanna. She could just imagine the lover's spat Chakotay and Seska were presently engaged in. And then she'd have to hear about the gruesome details about their making up. Seska could be quite descriptive, especially with a few drinks in her.
"We are not holding B'Elanna against her will." Janeway motioned for B'Elanna to stand next to her.
Chakotay's voice held a rather odd mixture of reverence and uncertainty that few but his closest friends could even detect it. B'Elanna didn't know quite what to make of it. She again wondered about the history between Chakotay and Janeway. Perhaps she could wheedle it out of the big guy over some blood wine.
"I've a few issues I'd like to speak to you about if I could." Janeway's voice was entreating though there was no mistaking the commanding tone laced within. "I could transport to your ship and-"
"No. No, I'll transport to yours. I assume the Chief is with you."
"Yes, he is." If Janeway was surprised or worried about the information Chakotay was already aware of she didn't show it. She nodded her ascent to O'Brien and it was only a matter of a few moments until Chakotay's imposing figured shimmered into existence on the flight deck of the Alpha Flyer.
"Mr. Chakotay." Janeway held her stance stiffly though she did smile diplomatically and held her right hand out in friendly greeting.
After a moment of hesitation he took the small hand in his, held it delicately and then released his hold. Chakotay turned his attention away from Janeway to B'Elanna who looked a little worse for wear. He wondered how much of the blood on her outfit was her own.
"What?" Never very demonstrative in his emotions, Chakotay's stricken voice was the only indication that he just lost a friend and a comrade. "What happened?"
"We weren't adequately prepared for their advanced weaponry." B'Elanna shook off the disgust and sadness at the thought of what her friend had been forced to endure. She had lost a lot of good people in her life through their own doing or someone else's. She chalked Bendera up as just another one. It was easier to keep her emotions less muddled if she did that.
Chakotay was well aware of this ploy of B'Elanna's. To shut off her emotions, disregard them as a distraction. Or perhaps she was waiting until she was with her own to grieve. Chakotay knew he was. Especially since he had to deal with Janeway.
"B'Elanna, transport back to the Val Jean." She was stopped short by a large hand on her shoulder and a serious look in Chakotay's dark eyes. "Tell Seska to cool it with her trigger finger."
Chakotay watched O'Brien use his mechanized transportation ability to transfer B'Elanna off the Alpha Flyer in a sparkle of blue energy. Satisfied that she made it back with a hail from the Val Jean, he followed Janeway into the aft section. Neither took seats as they squared off with one another, their stances rigid and commanding.
"The situation has changed." Janeway rested her hands on her hips as she her slate gray eyes locked onto Chakotay. She knew he wouldn't appreciate what she was about to say. He didn't have to. He just needed to do it. "The Maquis does not have enough personnel to complete a mission of this magnitude any longer and you know it. Not to mention that your renegade behavior is making the public and government think all metahumans are a bunch of outlaws; you can't continue like this, Chakotay, I won't allow it."
"Will all due respect... Captain, you have no control over me or the Maquis." Chakotay's stance was just as rigid as Janeway's. "But you're right the situation has changed. And to survive we're going to have to start changing too."
"What do you mean?" Janeway's voice was low and suspicious.
"More aggressive attacks." Chakotay knew quite well that even the proposal of killing humans would get the entire UFM against the Marquis, but he was beginning to not care. "Locate more of these... compounds and destroy them."
"You can't be suggesting that you'll give up your principles and kill the humans." Despite her anathema to the idea she knew that was exactly what he was suggesting. "Chakotay-"
"No. You take care of your people, Janeway, I'll take care of mine." Chakotay made a move to leave the aft compartment but was summarily blocked by Janeway who stepped well within his personal space. He minimized the space between them and if she was intimidated she certainly didn't show it. Blazing gray eyes glared up at him and he couldn't help but take a step back.
"You know I can't allow you to do this." Janeway couldn't really do anything officially until the Maquis acted upon this new course, but she wasn't going to just stand by and watch this man and his cadre kill people despite what they've done.
"What would you have us do?" The adrenaline that coursed through his body called for him to transform, to rend this aggressive force before him limb from limb. His nostrils flared but he kept the wolf at bay. He kept his tone flat and his emotions in check. It was safer for all of them if he did.
"Work with us. You were a part of the UFM before, Chakotay." Still violating his personal space, Janeway softened her tone. "The Maquis don't stand a chance against these anti-mutant groups especially if they're being funded and supplied by the government."
"The UFM doesn't work. They never want to do what needs to be done for all of our survival." Chakotay pressed his large palms against Janeway's shoulders. "Now I suggest you get out of my way."
"How does this new... strategy make you any better than the Obsidian Order?" Janeway moved from his grip, which would allow his exit.
Chakotay stopped within the door sensor to look back at Janeway with a hardened gaze. "Who said it does?"
"A year later the Reykjavik Incident happened. A lot of good people died. Not enough bad." Brought back to the present, B'Elanna imbibed the rest of the contents of the dark brown bottle in her hand. "The Maquis were decimated. So we split off. Some of us joined up with the UFM, others sort of just faded into obscurity. Chakotay convinced me to come here. With both him and Janeway breathing down my neck it was hard to say no. Anyways, I didn't have any place to go after the Maquis disbanded so I accepted."
"What happened at Reykjavik?" Annika tried to come to grips with all B'Elanna revealed. Her story hadn't exactly told Annika any details about how the other woman came to be at the Institute but it did give her a lot of information regarding how B'Elanna met Janeway.
"Similar to what had been happening at Empok Nor, just with metahumans playing Nazi scientists instead of humans. And on a much larger scale." B'Elanna shuddered at the memory of the stench of the underground facility, the vision of bodies stacked upon one another and the bloodied experimentation room. Crell Moset had a remarkable death count. "I used to see things strictly as black and white. Humans bad, metahumans good. But what I saw there... no one should be subjected to that."
"Are there still places like... Empok Nor out there?" Annika shifted uneasily at the frightful thought. She wondered if she would be able to come out of situation like that with her sanity intact as little Naomi Wildman apparently had. Annika now understood how someone so young could know about something as repulsive as an inhibitor collar.
"Probably. You might have even been in one with Billy." Seeing that her words were not comforting in the least B'Elanna lightened her tone. "With this new... more progressive Bacco administration groups like the Friends of Humanity have been forced to go even deeper underground. But I doubt that has deterred them too much."
"Do you know... what happened to-" Annika stopped as hot emotions tightened her throat. When B'Elanna had told her about the scars on Janeway's back, the manner in which they had been made, she had felt nauseous. She still felt sick and enraged at the thought of any harm coming to Janeway.
"No one knows. It happened long before she came back to the Institute." B'Elanna hadn't been sure if she should have even told Annika that bit, but the novice needed to understand the severity of the situation. That they were all survivors in one way or another. And that their survival rested on the indomitable Captain.
Uncharacteristic of the aloof woman, B'Elanna rested a comforting hand on top of Annika's. Tears had formed in the icy blue eyes and eventually one tracked down the length of her cheek before Annika brushed it away with her free hand.
Annika tried to reassure herself that Janeway was fine despite all that the woman had experienced. That Naomi was a seemingly happy kid who had friends and a safe place to grow up. But Annika had to wonder at the hidden scars within everyone at this Institute and the metahumans beyond. She realized she had been one of the lucky ones. Her captivity only lasted moments compared to others and her injuries, as vicious as they were, hadn't left permanent reminders on her body. And none of the other physical threats had been carried out. Annika's nausea came back full force as she tried to brush away the unwanted thoughts from her mind.
"I don't think I could go back to the way things were even if I wanted to." Annika let her icy gaze display her certainty. "How can I when horrible things are happening all the time? I can't. I won't. It's as simple as that."
"Then what're you gonna do, Blondie?" B'Elanna liked the fire she saw in icy blue eyes and was excited to see what Annika would do with all this passion.
Annika smiled as a sense of purpose filled her with excitement and determination. "I'm going to become a superhero."