see Days of Open Hand parts 1 & 2 for info
see Days of Open Hand parts 1 & 2 for info
"The terms of the Metahuman Registration Act that I have proposed are simple and as inoffensive as possible. The provisions simply state that all metahumans with so called 'extraordinary' abilities must register their identities and their 'powers' to the United States government to ensure that national security is maintained. If these people wish to be perceived as 'harmless' then they shouldn't object to such a benign registration."
"What about choice, Senator?" Kathryn Janeway modulated her voice as she spoke into the microphone set before her. Her steely gray eyes took in the suited windbag known as Senator Jeremiah Hayes with carefully concealed contempt. Her face wasn't even flushed despite the anger that rose hot within her petite form. "What if metahumans, fearing exposure that could possibly lead to violence against them, choose not to register?"
"Then they would be criminals, Doctor Janeway. Under the bill that I am proposing today all metahumans must register or be subject to criminal charges and possible incarceration." Hayes' condescending glare was focused only on Janeway now as his voice rose with all the muster of a preacher at the pulpit. "The main purpose of my bill is to guarantee the safety of all U.S. citizens. I believe the American people have a right to know who they're living next door to and who is teaching their children. The fact is that metahumans are inherently dangerous to humans. Just last week an apartment complex in San Francisco was destroyed by a group of metahumans. And let us never forget the death and destruction one metahuman known as 'Demolition Boy' accomplished in only two days. How many people were killed when he went on his murderous rampage, Doctor?"
Janeway raised her strong chin as she refused to answer the question. "If you force metahumans to expose themselves to the public you will be putting hundreds of American citizens at risk. Metahumans have just as much right to freedom as anyone else."
"Forty-seven! Killed!" Hayes' voice rose to a fever pitch with an odd mixture of flamboyance and disgust. "And that was just one of them. Metahumans are the biggest threat to national security we have ever seen. We must know who they are, where they are and most importantly what their abilities are if we want to secure America's future."
The screen shifted from the floor of Congress to a petite red-haired woman garbed in a dark gray business suit who stood ramrod straight in front of the government building. She held a microphone tightly in her hands while her light green held steady on the viewer. "That was just a snippet of the heated Congressional hearing taking place on Capitol Hill today. As you can tell both sides are very passionate regarding this hot-button issue."
"Gannet, there's been speculation that President Bacco might veto the bill if it were to go through." Jake Sisko in the CNN studio took up the left side of the split screen while Washington correspondent Gannet Brooks was in the right hand panel. "Is there any word from the White House regarding this issue?"
"None yet, Jake. But if the President does decide to veto this bill she could be committing political suicide. Recent polls have shown that a staggering eight-five percent of Americans believe metahumans are extremely dangerous and should not be allowed contact with humans. It is doubtful she will veto such a widely popular bill this close to an election year."
"Thanks, Gannet." Jake's expression was kept carefully controlled, as was his voice. "We'll be bringing you updates from Capitol Hill in the following hour, but first Ander-"
Pale gray lips curled up into what could only loosely be considered a smile since the bearer of it seemed anything but human despite her feminized form. The holographic screen before her shifted to display the image of a single woman who stood toe-to-toe with not only Senator Hayes but his many supporters as well. The soft voice was a mere whisper as it sounded in the green-lit metal walled chamber, and a name fell from gray-tinted lips. "Janeway."
The expression the seemingly inhuman woman possessed could be identified as having at least one emotional characteristic: longing.
"Ah, I see you're awake."
Annika propped herself up with one hand as the other brushed sleep from her eyes. "What time is it?"
"Nearly four in the afternoon." Doctor Zimmerman passed Annika a glass filled with water before he took a seat in the chair next to the biobed. "How are you feeling?"
"All right, I guess." Annika shrugged. The most prominent feeling she had was regret that she hadn't woken to find Kathryn Janeway next to her bed instead of the doctor.
"Well the good news is that all your biometric readings are normal." Doctor Zimmerman's closed lip smile was as friendly as he could make it.
"But..." The doctor nodded as his expression turned more serious. "I'm still not entirely sure what trigged this engram surge, so I can't say it won't happen again. That is why I want you to wear this cortical monitor and... to stay out of the holodeck."
Annika hesitantly allowed the doctor to place the circular metallic device onto her neck. It weighed next to nothing and her blonde hair covered it completely, but she still felt conspicuous with it on. She rolled her shoulders uncomfortably, while her bare feet touched the gray-carpeted floor of the recovery room. She was surprised to feel the doctor's warm hand on her left arm.
"I'm not a psychologist, but perhaps... perhaps you should talk to Kes... or Mr. Tuvok." Doctor Zimmerman smiled sympathetically. "It's likely that since these repressed memories have surfaced once they will again."
Annika wasn't entirely convinced that what she had experienced on the holodeck had been memories reemerging. It had felt more like she had been dreaming. She wished she had been. The doctor's findings would seem to assert otherwise and Annika wondered if she would have been better off not knowing.
The doctor smiled encouragingly and dropped his hand to his side before he left Annika to her privacy. Annika removed the tissue-paper thin light blue gown before she stepped into the bathroom. She groaned contentedly as warm, cleansing water washed down her naked back. As she rubbed floral scented soap over her body Annika attempted to recall the flashes of visions she had seen when she had been strapped to what Janeway had identified as 'the Cradle of Persuasion'. How the headmistress had known what the contraption was suddenly caught Annika's attention. Was it possible, she wondered, that Janeway had played the Captain Proton simulation? Momentarily envisioning Kathryn Janeway as Arachnia curled her lips up before she remembered that she had apparently unearthed a traumatic memory.
Annika attempted to call up the visions again, but try as she might she couldn't remember any of it. She scrunched her brow as she realized how alarmingly odd that was. Why couldn't she remember? She recalled the words she had told Janeway and the doctor but as if it had been a dream. The actual memory of the visions had vanished.
Annika dressed quickly in a pair of dark green cargo capri pants, a plum colored v-neck t-shirt that clung to her curves, and a pair of slip-on black sneakers before she hastily left the recovery room to search out Kes. It didn't take long. Annika had moved to the main floor through the turbolift and found Kes in the commons room with most of the Institute's student body and staff. Annika was silent as she approached the huddled mass. The sounds of the television grew louder as she moved closer to where B'Elanna and Tom were ensconced on one of the large maroon sofas. Mesmerized by what was being covered presently on CNN, Annika absently took a seat next to an uncharacteristically grim and silent Tom.
"What's happening?" Annika looked from the tight-lipped Tom Paris to B'Elanna whose color was high on her cheeks and eyes were narrowed as if there was an unseen enemy she was ready to attack.
"They passed it."
That was apparently all Annika was going to get from B'Elanna so instead she shifted her attention to the news program where a somewhat stern looking older man was speaking quite passionately to a petite, red headed reporter.
"This is an outrage! Home of the free? Hah! Congress has just voted into law a piece of legislation that by its very nature sets one citizen apart from another only due to simple genetics. It's discrimination and bigotry of the highest order! All I can say is that if it does end up passing through the White House I might just move to Canada!"
"Thank you, Mr. Cogley. Now back to you, Jake."
"Is this ruling going to make America safer? The new CNN poll is now open to votes and-"
Henry Burleigh's sonic scream of outrage cut off the rest of what Jake Sisko was about to say as the television exploded in a shower of glass and plastic. He ignored the looks of annoyance and even more so the ones of worry as he quickly left the now usilent commons room with two words said under his breath in a tone thick with disgust. "Bloody humans."
After Henry's destruction of the television, the commons room cleared out with a din of worried murmurings drifting on top of one another. Annika was glad that Icheb and Beatrice were encouraging the younger children not to worry. She agreed whole heartedly with the two teenagers when they told the quartet of children the headmistress certainly wouldn't allow any harm to come to them.
Annika was stunned into silence as she tried to digest what the passing of the Metahuman Registration Act could actually mean. All her worries about unearthed memories went by the wayside to make room for this contemplation. She knew the Act in short would mean that any anonymity she might want to retain would soon be against the law. The subsequent repercussions were unknown, but most likely grim. She sat more erectly on the sofa as she looked determinedly at those who had remained with her. "What can we do?"
"If the President doesn't veto the bill then we'll be forced to either leave the country or go into hiding even more than we already are." Kes seemed to be the only one patient enough to actually answer Annika's query. The velvet tones were characteristically soft and steady, but Annika could detect a hint of worry underlying Kes' words.
"Maybe the Obsidian Order's right." All faces turned to Tom, though some were much more scandalized than others.
Kes' was the most concerned and it showed in her reproachful voice. "Tom."
"I mean it, Kes." Tom's face was flushed and his words came out more frustrated than enraged. "Why the hell do we bust our asses to protect people who don't give a damn about us? Huh?"
"He's right." B'Elanna's blood boiled and she felt the need to break something or better yet hit someone start to rise within her. "The government should be giving us goddamned medals not identification numbers tattooed to our arms! And I know Janeway and the UFM won't let us do a damned thing to stop it without going through the 'proper channels'. Well, I'm not gonna wait around to get branded. They can lock me up in New Zealand if they want to, but I'm not going to allow this piece of shit bill to pass if I can help it."
"What would you do, B'Elanna?" Kes' voice was kept neutral, but her elfin like visage showed her distress and also her infinite patience. "Force the President to veto it? That's exactly what people like Hayes wants to happen so he can get even more power from Congress to attack us. If you try to fight this issue by brute force it will only lead to more people believing that all metahumans are dangerous. And frankly, you would be proving that belief."
"So we do nothing?" B'Elanna wanted Kes to be more like her filled with rage and resentment. She almost wished Kes had felt the brutality that humans could cause first hand, but what little B'Elanna knew about Kes before she came to the Institute was that she had been one of Picard's prodigies in England and probably hadn't felt a negative blow from the human population ever. Kes just couldn't understand what cruelty humans were really capable of.
"There's one thing we can do." Annika's expression became even more resolute as she thought about the people who would suffer if her employers finished their military contract to coincide with this Congressional hearing. "The Finder Project. We can't let Global Tech give the government those tracers."
"Do you think the captain would go for that?" B'Elanna's expression was skeptical, but carefully hopeful as she looked from Annika to Kes. She was surprised to see a small knowing smile on Kes' lips.
"I think she might." Kes' smile turned less enigmatic as she explained to a hopeful B'Elanna. "A year or so before you came on we stopped an overseas company from completing a project quite similar to Global Tech's."
"Chronowerx Industries!" Annika's light blue eyes grew quite large as Kes nodded her head. She was too flabbergasted to form her words without stuttering over them. "Y-you were responsible... for the earthquake that leveled their German headquarters?"
"Well, I wasn't personally responsible, no. I just made sure no one was injured." Kes' expression was improperly innocent as she continued to smile. She felt no remorse that she had a hand in the destruction of the expansive headquarters that had left the CEO of Chronowerx Industries bankrupt. Henry Starling had been an odious and greedy little man who would have sold his own mother to enable his stocks to soar. "I believe the individual responsible for that... 'natural disaster' will be accompanying Alynna Nechayev when she arrives tomorrow night."
"Nechayev!" Tom's smile was so large it looked as if it could be painful. Gone was the broody, frustrated man from mere moments ago. Tom felt giddy and he nearly squirmed on the couch from the sensation. "She's coming here? Tomorrow!"
Annika had a clearly bemused expression to her features at Tom's odd emotional response to that particular bit of news. He seemed to have all but forgotten the foul mood he had just been in for his boyish face was alight with mirth. Annika turned to her other two companions and was surprised that similar expressions of excitement and humor were on Kes and B'Elanna's faces as well.
"What's so great about Nechayev?" Annika tried to recall all she had been told by Lyndsay about the woman who had co-founded the Metahuman Protection Agency with Janeway. She couldn't recall anything being worth this much glee from the three people surrounding her with delighted grins.
"Well she's-she sort of has this... way about her." Tom stumbled over his words. Perhaps if he weren't grinning quite so broadly he would have been more articulate. "She's hilarious!"
"Hilarious?" B'Elanna scrunched her nose at the word before she rolled her eyes. "She's not. She's an ice bitch, if you ask me. But, well... it is a lot of fun when she's around."
"Apparently." Annika turned to Kes who was usually more informative than either B'Elanna or Tom. "But why?"
"She tends to make Professor Janeway nervous." Kes' tone was kept carefully controlled to conceal the great amount of amusement she received whenever the Russian director was at the Voyager Institute.
"That's weird. I thought they were friends." Annika's brow creased and she had to admit she was getting a little annoyed at the cryptic answers she was receiving. And for some reason she felt that she already didn't like this Nechayev woman. Though she didn't know why.
"Oh, yeah, they are." Tom's excited voice filled the commons room. He quieted himself after he received an annoyed look from B'Elanna, whose hearing was quite acute. "Um, well Nechayev sort of..."
"Oh for the love of-she wants the captain. Is that so goddamned hard to spit out, Paris?" B'Elanna's frustrated anger turned quickly to remorse as she took in the wounded look on Tom's face. "Sorry. But really, it's not like it's a secret or anything. The whole UFM knows they were... er..."
"They were WHAT?" Annika's color was high as she took in B'Elanna's sheepish expression.
"Well... you know." B'Elanna didn't think Annika needed or wanted it spelled out for her, but the incensed look she received made her elaborate quickly. "Lovers."
"That's just a rumor." Tom rolled his eyes, his good humor restored. "No one actually believes that. It's just gossip that's touted out when everyone's bored at UFM dinners or that stupid ball of theirs."
Annika felt sick with a mixture of hot jealousy and a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy. How was she to compete with a worldly headmistress that was much more Kathryn Janeway's equal than she could possibly hope to be? She now knew why she loathed Alynna Nechayev. She just went to top of Annika's list, which knocked Chakotay to the number two spot.
"That's not what I've heard. I heard that when they went to Spain for the UFM summit they shared-"
As Tom and B'Elanna bickered over the validity of whether Kathryn Janeway and Alynna Nechayev had ever been lovers, Kes' soft, but strong voice caught Annika's full attention.
"I don't think it's true, Annika." Kes leaned in closer and ignored Tom's exclamation of "handcuffs". "If it were, the captain wouldn't be so flustered when she is... propositioned."
"She propositions her!" It was clear in her voice that Kes' supposedly comforting words did not have the desired effect on Annika.
"Don't worry, Annika, she's harmless." Tom was ignoring B'Elanna's incredulous expression as he smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. "We just all get a kick out of seeing the headmistress squirm that's all. It really is a sight to see."
Annika raised one eyebrow at the way Tom's expression made it apparent he was now somewhere quite enjoyable in his mind at the moment before she turned back to the more reputable source. "So you're telling me this... woman just swoops in, makes numerous passes, then leaves again and everyone just thinks it's a riot?"
"Well, yes, I suppose that is what I'm saying." Kes shrugged her delicate shoulders. She was used to Nechayev's behavior, but perhaps it would be different if she were in love with Kathryn Janeway as she suspected Annika was. "I have to say I'm glad that she's coming tomorrow. It'll lift some spirits at least while we wait and see what the President will do within the next ten days."
"Just wait until you see how red the captain's face can get!"
Annika tried to find the humor in Tom's statement, but she could feel nothing but anxiety at the prospect of seeing someone so openly pursuing the woman who she-what was Janeway to her? A crush? That seemed so childish and trivial. What she felt for Kathryn Janeway seemed so significant and weighty. She knew she had never felt this way about someone, especially not someone she had only just recently met. And she couldn't deny how affected she was just by someone mentioning Janeway in her presence. She just wished the object of her affection felt the same for her. Why would she if she could have this Nechayev woman who probably didn't blush or get flustered whenever Janeway spoke to her.
"You gonna be sick or something?"
B'Elanna's rough voice brought Annika out of her reverie and she was startled to find Tom, Kes, and B'Elanna all looking at her as if she had some growth sticking out of the side of her head.
"What?" Annika's hand went up to her face as if she could brush away whatever it was that was making her the center of attention. "Stop looking at me like that."
"Oh, she's got it bad." Tom's voice held much humor and a touch of knowing sympathy as well.
Annika cursed her fair skin as heat suffused her cheeks despite the fact that she knew all three of the people smirking annoyingly before her knew full well that she was smitten with their so called captain. "Shut up, Tom."
Tom ignored Annika's look of warning. "Do I lie?"
Annika had a decision to make. She could either deny her true feelings or she could overcome years of being extremely secretive and trust these people in front of her. She shook her head ruefully. It seemed to her that the decision had already been decided for her since any denial she could make wouldn't be believed. "No. You don't."
"Wow. Someone actually admitting to it." B'Elanna's voice had taken on a mocking tone and all three blondes who were seated around her knew whom she was speaking of. "Where is Chakotay anyway? He should have been in here wallowing with the rest of us."
"Prowling the grounds probably." A dark, brooding look fell over Tom's boyish face as a tingle of dread skittered down his back. It just wasn't right, he thought, for Chakotay to be so, well, creepy. Skulking around at night in wolf form was certainly not decent behavior in Tom's book. "He's probably pouting over the fact that Nechayev will be eating up all the captain's time soon."
Glad that attention was no longer solely placed on her Annika smiled as she joined in the Chakotay-bashing. "What's his problem with her? Can't stand the competition?"
Kes had a characteristically patient expression as she addressed Annika's questions with all the care and softness she could muster. "Well, some people tend to be uneasy when the person they are besotted with is pursued by someone else. Especially so openly. His aversion for Alynna Nechayev isn't that surprising then. Is it?"
Annika kept her lips tightly shut while her cheeks burned from embarrassment after being sufficiently chastised for her insensitivity towards Chakotay not to mention the fact that she also had an aversion to Nechayev,
"He's the big jealous type." Tom either didn't notice how Kes' words had affected Annika or ignored it as some of his own pent up hostilities towards Chakotay made his voice hard and unforgiving. "So you might not wanna go around making your interest in the headmistress known to him or you'll be on his shit list too."
"You're not on his shit list-"
Tom gave B'Elanna a look of complete incredulity. "Then why am I always stuck piloting you guys around? I never get any ground time."
"Perhaps it's because you're an exceptional pilot." Kes' words were said as sweetly as her smile, but Tom scoffed at the compliment and completely ignored B'Elanna's suggestion that perhaps Chakotay just thought Tom was a complete fuck-up.
"Yeah right. Face it, the big guy hates me cause he can't stand the captain paying attention to anyone but him." Tom resisted the urge to look around him before he lowered his voice to a hushed but earnest whisper. "Don't ya think it's, oh I don't know... creepy that he goes around in his wolf form almost every Friday night? Are you honestly telling me that's a coincidence?"
Annika remembered what Neelix had said at breakfast a few mornings ago regarding Friday nights and she resisted, but only barely, the urge to join in with Tom's snorts of indignation at how B'Elanna was brushing Chakotay's actions off as no big deal.
"He's harmless." B'Elanna thought of the three hundred pound wolf Chakotay was capable of transforming into. "Well, mostly harmless."
"Yeah right. It's weird, that's all I'm saying." Tom crossed his arms across his broad chest as he leaned further back into the sofa cushions with a satisfied smirk to his lips as if he had just won the argument outright.
Annika allowed the rest of the conversation around her to fade away to be replaced by an all-consuming thumping of her blood in her ears as a tingling sensation moved across her skin. What was Tom hinting at exactly? That Chakotay could be dangerous to Janeway?
"Jesus!" Annika jumped in surprise as a loud, menacing howl broke the contemplative silence she had been entrapped within. The metal beneath Annika's skin began to shift as if it were something alive. And it wanted to be released.
"See what I mean?" Tom shook his head before he looked to Annika for support since it was obvious he would get none from Kes or B'Elanna. "Creeepy."
Annika nodded in full agreement. She recalled how Kes had informed her nonchalantly that the impressively powerful B'Elanna was capable of taking down Chakotay in his full-on wolf form. The metal beneath Annika's pale flesh seemed to beckon her to see if she had that capability as well. As another howl startled her, Annika nearly hoped that she would have an opportunity to find out.
Little did she know the massive wolf that stalked through the evening darkness shared similar thoughts though his were fueled even more passionately by the impending full moon.
Kathryn Janeway turned away from the open door of her car to look pointedly at the silver haired man who stood with what she thought was an insufferably smug look on his craggy features. "It's not over yet, Senator."
Senator Hayes' features twisted into a grin that showed only coldness and condescension as he looked at the petite doctor with a glare that was meant to intimidate and demoralize. He was disappointed when she didn't look away from his pointed look. "You don't honestly believe the President with shoot this down do you? She's not that stupid."
"Metahumans pay their taxes. They're citizens just like you, Senator, and surely the President realizes despite their differing genetic structures the metahuman community are voters as well." Janeway's slim hands went to her waist as she maintained sharp eye contact with the odious man before her. "I have confidence despite the opposition that the President will make the right decision."
"Perhaps we could discuss this more... over dinner?" Hayes' eyes never lost their demeaning glare even as his gaze raked over Janeway's small feminine form appreciatively.
"I thank you, Senator, but no." Janeway didn't move an inch nor did her steely gray eyes leave the Senator's face, but her whole body became tense from the unclean feeling his eyes left on her skin. "I need to get back to my Institute."
"Ah, yes, your school. A marvelous place I hear... perhaps I should pay it a visit when I'm on the west coast next." Hayes' voice held a subtle threat within the otherwise amicable tones. He moved in what he probably thought a gentlemanly fashion so that he could close the car door after Janeway gracefully entered the small, black hovercar.
"Perhaps." Janeway, of course, had no intention of allowing Hayes within a hundred feet of any of her students but her smile was genial. She swallowed past her disgust and maintained a pleasant demeanor despite how her skin crawled when Hayes moved his weathered features closer to her forced expression of impassivity.
"I know what you are, Janeway." Hayes' breath was hot against the skin of her neck as he whispered words said pleasantly despite the threat they conveyed. "And after my bill passes I think I'll enjoy seeing you in chains, my dear."
Janeway clenched her jaw, her hands were balled into fists, but through all of her internal turmoil she maintained eye contact despite the revulsion that nearly caused her to shudder due to the lascivious look he was paying her.
"Excuse me." Janeway pulled the car door from the Senator's grip and forced down the great well of anger, disgust and power that rose up within her upon hearing the Senator's threat.
Hayes caught the door for just a moment. It was enough time for him to grin at the flush that colored her cheeks in a manner he thought was attractive. "I'll be seeing you soon, Doctor."
The car door finally closed and with it Janeway nearly screamed her rage into the back compartment of the hovercar. She sat very still despite the great amount of power that seemed to be begging her for release. She didn't even look at the sliding panel that revealed Tuvok's calm features. "Not a word."
Tuvok merely raised one angled eyebrow before he activated the sensor the captain had placed on Hayes while he had been adequately distracted.
Janeway took the proffered portable computer from Tuvok as the hum of the hovercraft began to calm her nerves. "Let's see where the Senator goes after he leaves Capitol Hill, hmm."
Five hours later, within the safety and invisibility of their cloaked shuttle Janeway and Tuvok learned that Senator Hayes went to many places after a Congressional hearing, though none of them were helpful in their pursuit of finding a connection with outlawed anti-metahuman militias and Senator Hayes.
Tuvok was one of her oldest and most trusted friends so Janeway had allowed her disgust free reign when they had discovered that the senator's first stop was to a very pricey, very exclusive escort service. It hadn't been the procurement of a prostitute that had caused her to shudder with revulsion and to turn the sensors off until the senator left the... private establishment. No, it had been the appearance of the woman who seemed to be the regular escort for the senator. There was no mistaking the physical similarities between Hayes' call girl and herself. If the situation hadn't been so grotesque Janeway might have laughed at how Tuvok's left eyebrow had nearly risen into his hairline.
Hayes was now home, with his loving wife and two children probably sleeping quite peacefully. Janeway would have possibly felt bad for his wife if she hadn't heard Mrs. Hayes extolling her husband's crusade against the unholy "mutants" that were apparently the root of all evil and the spawn of Satan himself.
"Send the tracer feed to the DC branch and let's go home." Janeway's neck cracked as she stood from the computer terminal before she moved to the cockpit with Tuvok. "I don't know about you but I need to spend a few hours washing away the scum that man has left."
"Indeed." Tuvok did what he was instructed even as he decided to venture into a conversation he knew the tired woman before him had warned him not to. "The senator seems obsessed with you."
"So it would seem." Janeway's tone was sharp, she did not want to contemplate Senator Hayes any longer this evening even though she knew she would have to think about the fact that he knew what she was and probably what her Institute was. How he knew was also a worry.
Tuvok sensed that any further discussion would not be welcomed so the flight to the other side of the country went by quietly though swiftly. He didn't speak another word regarding Senator Hayes until after Janeway had long since departed from his presence and he went to see Chakotay.
The black-haired wolf growled deeply in its throat as Tuvok calmly made his steady approach. Tuvok's voice was even despite how the wolf was now bearing its massive and quite impressively sharp teeth. "I must speak with you... regarding Kathryn Janeway."
The wolf's threatening stance quickly turned more subdued. The transformation from the immense wolf into man was a process that wrenched both bone and muscle, which filled the night sky noisily. When it was done Chakotay stood from the grassy ground to face Tuvok's dispassionate countenance.
Tuvok's features remained composed even as he related what Senator Hayes had said to Janeway; the knowledge and the threats. Chakotay remained calm in appearance alone. He felt the wolf call to him from deep within. It told him to allow it free reign so that it could protect the woman that they loved. She wasn't the only he had to consider though. "The children will be done with classes in less than a week... we could just increase security around the campus until then. We can decide how to move forward after the term."
"Agreed." Tuvok nodded his head as he followed alongside Chakotay towards the staff quarters. "It is unlikely he would strike before the bill is passed."
"That gives us about ten days." Chakotay covertly inhaled the aroma of lavender that wafted from the open widow of the topmost apartment. He allowed the familiar and intoxicating scent to calm him despite his next words. "And then we might be at war if the Obsidian Order is really back. You know they won't let this fly."
"Indeed." Again Tuvok nodded his head in agreement though his thoughts were more with what Senator Hayes and others like him would do once they were given legal backing to start arresting metahumans for no other reason than that they weren't licensed with the government. "If in fact the bill passes I have little doubt the Voyager Institute will be the first place the government will seize. Kathryn Janeway the first person to be put under arrest for being a threat to national security. I doubt the trial will be fair and just."
"That's not going to happen. We'll fight. I don't care if the UFM backs me or not. I'm not going to let Hayes get his hands on her." Chakotay had almost unleashed the wolf within when Tuvok had related to him how Hayes had made not so thinly veiled threats of sexual violence against Janeway.
Chakotay swore that he'd see the senator's heart ripped out before he'd allow any harm to come to Kathryn. Chakotay looked to Tuvok as if he hoped to see a nod of agreement once again. It surprised him that through the mask of calm and control Tuvok's eyes blazed with a dangerous fire. Chakotay's usual antipathy towards the man diminished considerably for he knew at that moment that Tuvok would die before he allowed Kathryn Janeway to come to any harm. Chakotay understood that sort of loyalty completely.
"Nor will I." Tuvok allowed Chakotay to enter the key code, but stopped the man before the doors could emit them into the brick building. "We are in agreement?"
Chakotay looked from the hand on his shoulder to Tuvok's dark gaze. A flash of thoughts were transmitted in that touch. It was an unspoken contract. A bond between the two of them. They would not be exposed nor would they allow their captain's exposure for she would surely be considered a grave threat to national security. Tuvok, unable perhaps to voice his loyalty and love for the woman, made it clear in his stance and the position he had taken regarding Janeway's protection. Despite the rules set up by the United Federation of Metahumans, death would befall any human, any person, who dared threaten the Institute and its headmistress. Tuvok would see to that and he wanted Chakotay to stand with him. For a moment Chakotay could only nod his acquiescence though he wouldn't have tried to resist anyways. The hand dropped and the connection was terminated.
The whites of Chakotay's eyes could no longer be seen as the dark irises expanded to fill the entirety of his eyes. He smiled and sharp teeth showed between his lips. His voice was an inhuman rumbling. "The humans haven't seen anything yet."
A ghost of a smile flitted across Tuvok's lips. "Indeed."
Janeway groaned in irritation as a knock, soft but seemingly unrelenting brought her out of her soothing bath. She pulled the silk blush colored robe around her flushed and slightly damp body as she tried not to stomp to the front door. A glance at her antique grandfather clock verified to her that it was much too late in the night for anyone to be calling on her despite the fact that most people knew she was an insomniac.
"Yes?" Any admonishments died within her as a rather sheepish looking Annika Hansen met her.
"I-" Annika cursed how her words stuck in her throat, but really could she be blamed.
There before her Kathryn Janeway stood clad in a pink silk robe that complimented the flush that was clearly visible on her cheeks and upper chest. Her long wavy hair was pinned into a haphazard updo and tendrils of chestnut colored strands grazed her neck. The expression that had greeted Annika hadn't been entirely warm, but now Janeway appeared more taken aback than anything else. Annika tried to ignore the headmistress' moist inviting lips and the enticing scent of lavender that emanated from her warm body. She nearly shook herself physically from her daze in order to not look like a complete idiot.
"I'm sorry." Annika almost rolled her eyes at her pathetic attempt to engage this woman. But already having raised the courage to come to see this woman she persevered. "I just-I wanted to see how you were. I'm sorry if I've interrupted..."
Annika waved vaguely with her hands as she wondered why it had been impossible for her to utter the words 'your bath' while the evidence was so clearly, not to mention attractively, evident.
"That's all right. Please, come in." Janeway moved away from the open doorway and motioned cordially for Annika to enter. She attempted to ignore how a tingle ran down her back as Annika accidentally brushed against her as she passed.
Annika, for her part, tried not to hyperventilate as she moved to the couch positioned underneath three large windows. She sat down heavily as she willed herself to keep her hormones in check. She was here to be supportive not to ogle the woman. Despite her self-recriminations she still watched as Janeway prepared a cup of coffee.
"Would you like something to drink?" Janeway pretended to be intent on watching her coffee brew as well as ignoring that she was quite naked beneath the thin, silky fabric.
"No. Thank you." Annika jolted a bit when Janeway turned around. She was sure the other woman would know just how intently she was watching her so Annika turned her icy blue gaze to the uninhabited corners of the room instead. The vast apartment was rich in color and seemed to embody the woman who lived within it. The living room that led into the kitchen and dining room showed a design that was strong but beautiful, welcoming though a bit too modern to be entirely homey. Annika studiously ignored the hallway that most likely led to the bedroom. She started again when Janeway seated herself next to her on the couch.
Janeway sipped her coffee and wondered at the nervousness Annika was displaying. "Is there something wrong, Ms. Hansen?"
Annika smirked as she shook her head ruefully and looked at Janeway with humor and a modicum of exasperation. "How many times have I asked you... please, call me Annika."
"Of course." Janeway hid her blush behind her coffee mug and hoped it had dissipated before she brought the mug away from her lips. "I'm sorry. Annika. What did you want to see me about?"
"I-we saw on the news that the Registration act passed. I wanted to see if you were all right." Annika's brow creased as she realized perhaps her reasoning wasn't so sound. She had seen the headmistress' lights on as she left the main building with B'Elanna, Tom, and Kes and all three had urged her, forced her perhaps, to go see Janeway. So, here she was, making a fool of herself.
"I-thank you." Janeway's lips curled up into a surprised smile. "Oh, I'm fine. And it's not through yet. The President could still veto it."
"Do you think she will? Veto it?" Annika didn't want to voice her skepticism of that act despite what that she knew the current President was relatively liberal and had in the past spoken out for metahuman rights. Well, Annika considered, that was before she was President and it was an election year.
"I have a meeting with her on Sunday. Hopefully I'll be able to convince her that it would be the right-the compassionate thing to do." Janeway took another sip of her coffee as she considered the woman next to her as secretively as she could. Her fingers began to tingle and so she pulled her blue-gray eyes away from Annika to look into the dark murkiness of her coffee.
"Couldn't... someone convince her?"
"You mean manipulate her?" Janeway's tones were kept fairly even, but a trace of disapproval was evident in her husky voice. "That's not exactly the best way to convince her that we're not dangerous. Or anyone else for that matter."
"What happens if she doesn't veto it?" Annika tried not to sound desperately concerned, but she knew she had probably fallen short of that task. "What will you do?"
"I would either have to come out... or hide just like all other metahumans living here in the US." Janeway knew for a fact that Hayes would stop at nothing to get her once he had some semblance of authority to do so. And the passing of his bill would do just that. "They know what I am. Hayes and probably others."
"How?" Annika's eyes were wide with concern, which was the polar opposite of Janeway's expression, which seemed almost resigned. "What does that mean? For you?"
"I'm not certain. I've been hiding for so long. It's tiring." Janeway wondered if it was the late hour or possibly the true concern and care she saw in Annika's eyes that made her more open and honest than she usually tended to be. "Maybe it's time for me to stop hiding. It's just-if I'm exposed so would everyone in my life both metahuman and human. And I hardly think the government will consider my powers harmless to humans."
"If you can't expose yourself and you are through hiding then what's the alternative?" Annika's voice was gentle, coaxing and she couldn't help but be strongly affected by the vulnerability the other woman was displaying.
"I'm not certain. I suppose I will have to fight if I want to maintain my secrecy, my freedom." Janeway deposited her mug on the coffee table before she stood from the couch intent on pacing the room. "A battle is being waged, Annika. Humans fear us because they don't understand what we are; why we are... we're so much more than they can ever hope of being. We have abilities both terrifying and spectacular and that frightens many humans to their very core. Because... perhaps we are the next stage of evolution and that would mean humans are outmoded. Imagine thinking your future existence hinges on the idea that you are the extent of evolution. Humans have believed that for some time now, but when that first metahuman boy was revealed at large that belief was put into doubt. They didn't like that. They were frightened and a great many still are. People like Hayes prey on that fear. Rally it behind them to gain power. I have no doubt in my mind that if that godforsaken bill is passed it won't take long before extreme force is used to expose metahumans. Many people will probably be injured. Others will be killed. And I assure you it won't be the United States government, the military that will be blamed. They will have just been doing their duty to maintain national security. We, on the other hand, will be branded as outlaws, terrorists..."
"I want to help." Annika stood from the couch with a determined though sympathetic expression. She was proud of herself that she didn't break eye contact when Janeway's dark blue-gray eyes found hers. "Please. I need to do something. I know that I've only been here for a few days but... I-the people here are the most incredible people I've ever met. And I've come to care a great deal-I want to help. I just need to know how I can."
"You should leave."
It wasn't said unkindly, in fact it seemed there was a great deal of regret in Janeway's tones but the words still hurt Annika. "What? What do you mean?"
"This school is no longer safe. I told you, Hayes knows about me. I'm sure he's figured out what this place actually is by now." Janeway began pacing once again her voice took on the same quality it had before as if Annika wasn't even in the room. The headmistress seemed to be speaking almost solely to herself. "The Wysanti twins can go to the Russian Institute. Perhaps the Burleighs could go to the French academy..."
Annika wasn't sure where her bravery came from, but she couldn't handle the pacing any longer. So with gentle but firm hands she grasped Janeway's arms and ended it. "Are you all right?"
"Yes. I told you I'm fine." Despite the guilt that she had led Hayes right to her beloved Institute and the people therein Janeway almost lost herself in the compassionate expression and sky blue eyes of the woman who was now looking upon her with the gentlest of expressions. The soft smile on Annika's lips was quite alluring, but Janeway brushed away the distracting thoughts and added another reason to feel guilty to her ever-expanding list.
They stood there for what seemed like several lifetimes as each contemplated the other. They both feared what the other one thought of their extended close embrace and both hoped that it could last forever. Annika wasn't sure of exactly how but she was no longer touching soft silk and arms. Janeway didn't resume her pacing, instead she settled heavily onto the couch as if the weight of the world had been set upon her slim but perhaps able shoulders.
"We have ten days in which the President must act. In that time classes will be through and the children will be relocated." Janeway's eyes had turned a stormy gray and as she looked up with an expression that was filled with loss, but steely determination as well. Annika knew how the closing of the Institute would hurt the strong woman before her immensely. But she felt helpless to alleviate that pain. "And we'll no longer be able to remain here either."
Annika could only concede Janeway's point and nod her head. She had wanted to tell Janeway of her idea to destroy the Finder Project at Global Tech, but the way the headmistress held herself, bowed but unbroken, told Annika it could wait for at least the dawn of a new day.
"I don't want to hide. I'll fight with you. Count on it." Annika tried with all her might to convey the trust she had, the confidence, in the other woman with her earnest expression. When a ghost of a smile appeared on Janeway's lips Annika thought perhaps she had succeeded. "Well, I'll let you- I've disturbed you long enough. Good night."
"Yes, good night, Annika." Janeway watched as the door slid closed behind the departing figure before she sighed audibly.
The exhausting day had finally caught up to her and she felt completely drained. Perhaps that was why she had let some of her defenses down. She knew she should have just sent Annika away with a thank you and a good night, but she hadn't. She had actually opened up, albeit only marginally, about her fear and her guilt that she had been found out and thus the school was exposed as well. Janeway couldn't understand why but having Annika, a near stranger, being concerned with her well-being had warmed something within the headmistress in a favorable though disturbing manner. She had been alone for so long that the thought of relying even a little bit on another person caused discomfort. Janeway knew she couldn't afford letting her defenses down with Annika Hansen. She couldn't let what had befallen Justin and Regina to happen to someone as innocent and sweetly naïve as Annika. She wouldn't.
Janeway moved away from the comfort of the couch to her workstation where she activated the monitor that held Hayes' tracer information within it. The small yellow blip indicated that the senator was still at home.
"Probably dreaming of ways to torture me." Janeway's murmuring was said in a much less serious manner than it probably should have been. She had a sickening feeling her sardonic comment probably wasn't that off the mark.
Janeway set the tracer to alert her if he left the vicinity of his home before she set the computer to a sleep cycle. After she entered her moonlit bedroom she dropped the silk robe on a nearby lounger and proceeded to ignore the large comfortable looking bed.
"Computer, release regeneration alcove. Authorization code: Janeway Pi One One Zero." Janeway pulled on the form fitting black, wire laced outfit as she watched the alcove emerge from the innocuous cream-colored wall.
"Warning regeneration cycle incomplete."
Kathryn Janeway ignored the computer's voice as she pushed herself away from the large metal construct that had for the last two hours forced rejuvenating energy into her body. Her steely gray eyes moved to the flat screen monitor that showed Senator Hayes several hundred feet above his home.
Janeway flew high into the night sky even as she pulled on a reinforced combat uniform over her regeneration suit. With a speed that few knew she possessed she propelled herself like a supersonic rocket towards the east coast. She knew she had the two hours in the alcove to thank for her ability to maintain such a speed, but it seemed unimportant since she had a suspicion as to who had the senator.
Before she descended gently on to the roof of the Hayes' mansion, Janeway pulled the hood of her outfit over her auburn hair and ears. Her features were hidden beneath a black mask and her dark gray eyes were concealed beneath thin red tinted goggles.
The sensors ingrained in the lenses of her eyewear made the outline of the Delta Flyer evident to her. She wanted to go to the shuttle, but the low ominous growling that emanated from the large, dark haired wolf that prowled the backyard drew her immediate attention.
The massive claws of the wolf would have undoubtedly torn her to shreds if she hadn't raised a protective bubble around her before she descended onto the grassy lawn. Janeway pushed off from the ground so that she floated outside the distance of the wolf that was now snarling and lunging at her. She positioned herself near the tree line that kept the Hayes property concealed and isolated from its neighbors. The wolf continued to swipe at her with low growls and threatening snarls that caused copious amounts of viscous drool to run from his teeth lined mouth.
The light from the waxing moon glinted off teeth and the wolf's yellow eyes and it struck Janeway as a beautifully majestic sight even if the enraged creature seemed intent on ripping her from the sky. With a controlled breath and an apology on her lips she held her right palm towards the wolf. He let out a pained and angered yelp as a small stream of hot energy stuck him on his left shoulder. The wolf made no sound when the second bolt struck.
Carefully, despite the fact that she knew the wolf had been rendered unconscious Janeway's feet touched the dewy grass. She placed a small circular device on the wolf's neck that erupted with reinforced titanium straps before she flew high into the air with a golden glow surrounding her. She entered the side door of the Delta Flyer with a softly spoken voice command.
"What are you doing, Tuvok?"
His curved fingers never left Senator Hayes' pained face even as Tuvok turned to address the woman who had spoken so gently, though a clear note of disapproval was held in her low, husky voice.
Janeway knew not to physically come into contact with Tuvok when he was in a mind meld with another, but she did slowly approach him. She pulled off her eyewear, mask, and hood as she neared the unconscious senator and the shaking, sweaty Tuvok.
Tuvok's angled eyebrows were creased in discomfort and his dark eyes narrowed as they shifted from Janeway to the unconscious but groaning senator.
"You don't want to be linked with Hayes." Janeway's drew ever nearer with her hands in a manner as non-threatening as she could. Her voice was soft and coaxing, hopefully persuasive. "You don't want his thoughts in your head. Break the link."
"He... must be... stopped."
"And he will. But not like this. Not with force. It's against everything we believe in. What you believe in." Janeway's hands hovered steadily above Tuvok's tense shoulders. She knew she could break the link with a well-timed blast, but she wanted her words to end this instead to prevent damage to befall either Tuvok or the senator. "We'll find another way to beat him. Don't do this to yourself, old friend. He's not worth it."
"He's... resisting my... attempts... to penetrate his mind..."
"Let him go, Tuvok." Janeway's voice became hard and she wasn't going to allow her feelings for the man to prevent her from stopping him.
Janeway wasn't comfortable at how sweat drenched Tuvok's pained visage or how his dark irises filled the whites of his eyes. Tuvok's nostrils flared, his jaw was tightly clenched and the skin around his eyes was creased with fatigue. She didn't know how someone like Senator Hayes could resist such a direct mental link, but it was clear to her that Tuvok only had a few more minutes until Hayes would be privy to the other man's thoughts as well. The dark green blood that dripped onto Tuvok's upper lip forced her hand.
Visions pushed their way into her mind the moment she placed her hands upon Tuvok's with their fingers entwined. Janeway felt more at ease now that Tuvok was a mere conduit and his memories and thoughts were blocked from Hayes. Her own mind was psionically impenetrable and so she had no risk of exposing her thoughts and memories to Tuvok and more importantly to Hayes. Janeway nearly screamed at the bombardment of violent and sickening memories and thoughts being transmitted from Hayes mind that she hadn't wanted Tuvok to be forced to witness.
Janeway squeezed her eyes shut and gritted her teeth in her attempt to force down the bile that pushed its way into her throat at the imaginings Hayes had regarding her, more specifically his ideas of what to do with her if she were incarcerated by him. Despite the hot disgust that filled her she persevered through the demented imaginings into the senator's memories. She nearly smiled at what she found there.
"What have you done?" Tuvok's voice was steady, but there was an underlying discomfort that many wouldn't be able to detect. Kathryn Janeway wasn't merely one of many though.
Janeway lifted herself to her feet from the metal grated floor of the shuttlecraft that she had so recently been deposited onto after the mind meld had been severed. She looked from Tuvok to Hayes. The senator was slumped in the leather bound chair with his gray head lolled so that his chin nearly touched his pajama clad chest. The light snoring that emanated from the man was steady and so consistent that her worry was only for Tuvok.
"What were you thinking?" The pads of Janeway's fingers attempted to rub the headache from her temples as she looked pointedly at the now composed man who stood ramrod straight before her. She shook her head in frustration when Tuvok remained stoically silent with measured dark eyes upon her.
Janeway ignored her silent companion as she lowered the cloaked shuttle onto the grassy lawn of the Hayes' backyard. She gave one last pointed look to Tuvok before she disengaged the aft door.
"Return Hayes." Janeway's order wasn't voiced as a suggestion. "I'm going to go get Chakotay and then you both can explain to me exactly what the hell you two thought you were doing coming here."
The headmistress ignored the snaps the wolf directed at her as she lowered herself to her knees next to the dark haired wolf that strained against the metal bindings that held him captive. The rising sun cast a fiery glow across the shimmering form. She watched the large wolf as it transformed into the burly form of Chakotay garbed in a black combat uniform similar to her own. Janeway ignored the sheepish expression the man had on his features as she disengaged the bands that had imprisoned him.
"Come on. Sun's almost up."
Janeway didn't wait to see if Chakotay would follow her. She merely assumed that he was for his sake more than hers. The heavy footfalls behind her indicated that he was keeping a distance away from her but followed her all the same.
"Engage autopilot to the Institute, maximum speed."
Tuvok was fully restored to his composed self, though his tension showed in the small muscle that jumped in his jaw as he complied with the captain's orders. Hayes' presence still seemed to infiltrate her vessel and it fueled the anger she felt rise hotly within her at the two men that refused to meet her pointed glare.
"Unless you're going to tell me why the hell you've broken about a dozen UFM protocols I don't want to hear it until we get back to the Institute." Janeway didn't add that she was intent on getting a full pot of extra-caffeinated coffee before she really laid in to the two men she thought she could confide in the most, could trust.
Chakotay began to speak again, thought better of it, and instead settled his large form into the chair in front of the tactical station. His dark, worried eyes flitted back and forth from the tactical monitor to Janeway's irritated features.
"Senator Hayes poses a great threat to all metahumans, Captain." Tuvok, whose constitution when it came to Janeway was greater than Chakotay's, now stood stiffly in front of the overwrought woman. "Particularly to you. I was the one who suggested this action to Chakotay. I take full responsibility."
"That's generous of you, but I think there's probably enough blame to go around. You could probably name more of the UFM laws you two broke than I." Janeway derisive tone caused both men to become even more rigid and tense. One finger pointed at Chakotay as her blue-gray eyes flashed with her anger. "And you. I don't care what time of the month it is... Don't you understand what you've almost done? The damage you two could have caused? I can't even imagine what you two thought you were doing tonight."
Chakotay's own dark eyes flashed with aggravation. "We were trying to protect you, Kathryn."
"That's not your job, Chakotay." Irritation colored Janeway's strained tones. She stood from her seat and placed her hands on her hips in a sure sign of her displeasure. "I'm not even going to speak about how presumptuous it is for you to think that you have to protect me. I'm more concerned about two apparent renegades I have at my school. You've committed assault on a United States senator. If you two had been exposed that godforsaken bill of his would be on the books within the day. What you've done has made me question my trust in both of you. And I'm wondering why I'm not taking you to New Zealand right now..."
"You have discovered something when you intervened in the mind meld." Tuvok's tone indicated it was more of a statement of knowledge than a question.
Tuvok had tried to penetrate the senator's memories, but he had been bombarded by Hayes' imaginings instead and hadn't been able to push through the disturbing images, most of which positioned Kathryn Janeway in the throes of terror and agony.
"When I 'inter-for the love of-Tuvok, I need you to listen to me right now." Janeway's hands emphasized her point as her tone changed from frustrated to earnest. "The only reason I'm not handing you over to UFM authorities is because you weren't able to complete the mind meld. I need you to understand me here. What you two tried to pull tonight not only undermined your commitment to the UFM but also the trust I have placed in both of you. I realize that perhaps you had some... misconception that I needed protection, but that doesn't mean what you did is justifiable. If either of you try to pull something like this again I will personally see you both sent to New Zealand. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Captain." Tuvok wouldn't allow uncertainty to edge into his voice. He knew Janeway's soft, low tones had denoted how angry she was, how disappointed.
"I won't apologize for wanting to keep you safe." Chakotay nearly took a step back at the scathing look that statement of truth had earned him. "What that bastard Hayes said-"
"I don't want to hear it." Janeway held one hand up to forestall any more insubordination. "I suggest you say 'yes, Captain' and leave it at that."
"Yes, Captain." The characteristic calm of Chakotay began to crumble under the weight of his frustration towards the woman before him and his disgust towards Hayes that caused a hot flush to color his features.
Janeway had no delusion that she'd be able to escape Chakotay's recrimination that was sure to be imminent. But for the time being she allowed the silence to fill the interior of the shuttlecraft for the duration of their two-hour supersonic flight back to the Voyager Institute.
Janeway left the two men to complete post-flight procedures once the Delta Flyer was docked in the subterranean hanger. She proceeded to her quarters as the sun started to slowly emerge over the horizon. The skylight of Janeway's apartment opened at her command. She slowly descended into her quarters with a tight tension in her shoulders and down her neck. She pulled the red and black uniform from her body and let the thick fabric fall to the carpeted floor.
The image reflected in the mirror above the bathroom sink caused Janeway to pause on her way to her sizeable bathtub. Her pale slim body was angled so she could take in the long angry scars that marred her naked back. She pushed away her own memories of how those scars had been made and also the thoughts she had been forced to attain from Hayes. Janeway turned the taps off before she lowered herself slowly into the bubbly fragrant hot water. She breathed in the soothing lavender aroma and attempted to loosen the knots that had formed in the muscles of her upper shoulders.
Soapy bathwater splashed in waves onto her tile floor when Janeway started severely and let out a rather high-pitched squeak of surprise when a crack of lightning intruded quite audibly in the recent silence of the morning dawn. When her heartbeat was once again steady and calm Janeway let out an exasperated sigh before one word that seemed to hold a wealth of information was softly pushed through her lips.