see Days of Open Hand parts 1 & 2 for info
see Days of Open Hand parts 1 & 2 for info
Annika fell on the bedroom floor in a heap with lavender colored sheets and a violet comforter twisted around her lanky from. With a few choice words and grunts she pulled the sheets and blanket from her body before she stormed to the window.
The sudden brilliant flash of lightning startled her once again and she jumped away from the window. She had initially thought it was Tom who had woken her from dreams filled with green vats and Queen Arachnia. Annika had been more than prepared to give Tom a piece of her mind, but it was apparent it wasn't him who had awakened her. Instead it was a tremendous and violent thunderstorm the sound of which rumbled deep in the pit of her stomach.
Annika could have sworn the weather report had said clear skies for the next few days, but that had obviously been presumptuous of them because heavy drops of rain pelted the windows and caused puddles to form on the campus lawn.
A sharp rapping on her door pulled Annika from the rain-splattered window. She pulled on a baby blue terrycloth robe as she made her way to the front door. The door opened with a whoosh to reveal Tom Paris more gleeful than she had ever seen the man.
"Nechayev's coming!" Tom smiled broadly as he adjusted the front of his black, red streaked, streamlined combat suit. "Go get dressed. I'll wait for you here."
Annika narrowed her eyes at the too perky man at such an ungodly hour, but with a grunt of compliance she moved away from the open door to go to her bedroom to don one of the suits Janeway had brought her. She could hear Tom rummaging in her kitchen and smiled pleasantly when the smell of brewing coffee invaded her senses.
Tom turned with a mug of coffee when Annika returned from the bedroom. He resisted the urge to let out a whistle as he quickly took in the form fitting blue outfit with silver colored sleeves. Annika ignored his appreciative eyes and took the coffee from his outstretched hand.
"What's with the weather, huh?" Annika sipped her coffee and showed her appreciation of the hot bitter liquid with a lift of her full lips. She looked over the rim of her mug to see that Tom possessed a rather irritatingly knowing smile.
Tom shrugged as he watched Annika continue to drink the offensive brew. "She likes to make an entrance."
Annika's brow creased as she took in the nonchalant response. "Don't tell me... she can control the weather."
"Well, yeah." Tom ignored the sarcasm in Annika's voice as he tried to control his impatience because he wanted to be there with the headmistress when the Russian director greeted her.
"I should have known." Annika rolled her eyes before she finished her coffee.
"Come on we have to hurry or they'll be holed up in meetings and conference calls all day." Tom all but took the mug from Annika's hands as he moved towards the front door. "And then we'll be stuck with Vulky."
"You'll see." Tom led the way from the apartment as he moved down the hallway backwards so he could face Annika. "So did you end up talking with, uh, you-know-who last night like we suggested."
"Yes." She hissed word out under her breath. Annika took a few larger strides so she could be closer to Tom in the hopes that he would keep his voice down.
"And?" Tom was now walking forward though his gaze was on the pleasant, faint blush that colored Annika's cheeks.
Annika shrugged to hide her agitation. "I don't know. I just said I was sorry about the ruling... she kept saying the school was no longer safe and- I don't know, Tom, she just seemed upset but was trying to hide it from me. I think-I think she's scared."
Tom looked skeptical at this but he didn't know all that Annika knew. She hadn't told him for the sake of Janeway's privacy that Hayes knew the headmistress was a metahuman and that the Voyager Institute was probably not just a very exclusive private school for the intelligently gifted.
"Janeway's not afraid of anything. Believe me." Tom's good mood was suddenly dampened by a worry that perhaps Annika was right. And if the captain was scared then perhaps he should be too. "Did you suggest the operation we were talking about last night?"
"No. It was late. I didn't want to bother her. Anymore than I already had." Annika recalled how vulnerable, but undeniably strong Janeway had appeared last night with her pink silk robe and determined features. "Maybe after Nechayev leaves we could bring it up then."
"Sure. Sounds great." With the mention of the Russian director Tom's mood visibly brightened once again as a silly little grin was plastered on his lips.
The whipping winds hurled waves of rainwater upon Annika and Tom as they entered the gray dreariness of the day intermittently broken up by white flashes of lightning. Annika now understood why Tom had told her to suit up. The cobalt blue and silver sleeved outfit protected her from the onslaught of the thunderous storm. The same couldn't be said for her hair and exposed face and hands. She pushed drenched strands of blonde hair from her face as she followed Tom further into the storm.
"I don't know why the hell she has to be so goddamned dramatic every time she comes here!" B'Elanna's voice was a shout to overcome the thunder, heavy rain, and cracks of lightning as she greeted them.
Annika stopped in the center of campus with Tom and B'Elanna on either side of her. More newly awakened students and staff of the Voyager Institute emerged from the confines of the red brick buildings despite the downpour of precipitation.
The sudden reprieve from the cold rainwater made the drenched people within the slightly yellow glowing protective bubble turn their gaze skyward. Annika felt warmth fill her chest that helped to ward off the cold from the storm as Janeway hovered above them. She was the obvious source of their respite from the rain. Unlike Annika and the Voyager staff, Janeway looked impeccable and most noticeably dry garbed in a dark gray pantsuit and black button down silk blouse that hugged her petite form smartly.
Janeway descended, as she always did, gracefully to the water soaked ground in front of the huddled group of students and staff. Her protective bubble was well formed so her attention was on the small dark red shuttle that was in the process of landing a few feet in front of her.
When the side door of the small vessel opened no one could have guessed that a grand thunderstorm had just passed over the Voyager Institute. The sky was now cloudless and clear blue, the air dry and sun-kissed. The energy barrier Janeway had erected dissolved into nothingness as the headmistress stepped forward to greet the Russian director and her staff.
Annika craned her neck as her icy blue gaze took in the woman who had exited the shuttle after a rather serious looking dark haired man and a brunette woman whose hair seemed to be in an underwater state as it flowed behind her. The petite blonde woman with piercing light brown eyes and narrow but attractive features, who Annika knew without being told was Nechayev, smirked rather haughtily as her gaze took in the shivering huddled mass before her attention settled on Janeway.
"Katya, it is lovely to see you." Nechayev pulled Janeway to her with hands upon the auburn haired woman's shoulders before she deposited kisses on both of the headmistress' cheeks. "I hope you are not offended by my attempts to wet your grounds. Though I see you managed to stay dry. As usual. Despite my great efforts for the contrary."
Annika was sure she looked akin to a fish with her wide eyes and mouth agape, but she didn't care. She was far too distracted by Janeway's deep blush and carefully managed smile that seemed gracious but strained. Of course Nechayev wasn't saying anything too overtly scandalous, but perhaps that was only due to the children's' presence. Annika assumed Nechayev wouldn't be so subtle if that weren't the case, though she still had a rather salacious look to her narrow features as she maintained her close contact with Janeway.
Alynna Nechayev was definitely on the top of Annika's list. At least Chakotay wasn't so appallingly obvious in his interest. Annika felt heat rise to her own cheeks from a mixture of jealousy and loathing for the Russian woman. Before Annika could contort her features into indifference Nechayev's laser like gaze fell on her.
"What have we here? You've recruited someone new, yes?" Nechayev stepped away from the headmistress to approach Annika, who felt somewhat like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. "Pretty. Powerful perhaps?"
"Annika Hansen allow me to introduce-"
Janeway's introduction was interrupted by the light laughter that emanated from the Russian director.
"So formal, Katya." Nechayev had a self-aggrandizing air about her as she addressed Annika. "I am Alynna Nechayev. Perhaps you've heard of me. I'm the Director of the Institute of Elements. Do you have elemental powers maybe?"
"I-no." Annika's voice was lost in her throat as Nechayev's pointed gaze froze her to the spot as did the knowing smirk the Russian was giving her. Somehow Annika knew Nechayev was undoubtedly aware of her feelings for Janeway. She tried not to shift uncomfortably under the gaze from the director until finally those brown eyes left her face to take in the rest of the gathering.
"Look who has decided to be last to greet me." Nechayev's unforgiving voice brought attention to the rather broody looking man who had finally joined the throng of people gathered on the campus lawn.
"Director." Chakotay's dark eyes were narrowed though his expression was as impassive as he could make it as he greeted the insufferable woman before him as amicably as he could.
"Well," Janeway's voice cut through the silence the icy meetings had caused as she smiled diplomatically. "Now that the pleasantries are over perhaps we should begin, Alynna."
"Yes, of course. I have much news to tell you, Katya, much to share." Nechayev let one hand fall gently, but firmly atop of Janeway's forearm. "I hope you will be equally as forthcoming as I intend to be."
"You know I'll be as accommodating as I can." Janeway began to lead Nechayev through the open space her staff and students' had provided them.
Nechayev's voice flitted to the crowd before the doors closed behind the two headmistresses. "So you always promise."
Annika's attention was drawn away from the closed doors to the dark haired man who had accompanied Nechayev. His angled features seemed to be rather impassive though the look he was giving B'Elanna made Annika think perhaps there was a history there. If there was, Annika decided quickly, it was one B'Elanna seemed thoroughly against revisiting.
"Vorik." B'Elanna didn't grimace nor did she smile cordially. She kept her annoyance for the man reigned in as best she could. She still thought he was making one night of relaxed inhibitions at a UFM ball into a much bigger deal than she thought it ought to be. If she had known he'd look at her like a puppy dog every time they were together she would have picked someone else to relieve her frustrations with.
Annika nearly laughed. It was obvious what that history was and she almost felt sorry for the now downtrodden man who instead turned his attention to the Azan and Rebi. She ignored the recruitment spiel being rattled off by Vorik to the twins in favor of the dark haired woman who had the appearance of being perpetually underwater.
"What are your abilities, if I may ask?"
Wide, dark brown eyes and the warm sensual voice made Annika feel as if she were beneath a warm bath though the water that had soaked her hair and face seemed to disappear the closer the dark haired woman approached.
"I'm Veronica Stadi." Stadi offered her hand as she leached more moisture from Annika. "I possess hydrokinesis."
"I turn into metal." Annika shook Stadi's hand and felt the last of the rain's water leave her.
"Interesting. But you are right; you are not an elemental. Though I would be interested in seeing you demonstrate your abilities." Stadi smiled as she dropped Annika's hand after she was given a nod of agreement. Stadi soon left Annika in order to greet other members of the Voyager Institute though she seemed to be studiously avoiding contact with Tom.
Annika nearly rolled her eyes. It was like a small community where everyone knew everyone and drama abounded. She watched Tom attempt to not be too obvious in his watching of Stadi as B'Elanna tried to avoid being too close to Vorik. Now Annika nearly laughed at the conscious maneuvering of the ex-lovers.
"What's so funny?" Kes' low, velvety soft voice was also filled with amusement from either the obvious dance between B'Elanna, Vorik, Tom and Stadi or from her own mirth being filtered to the elfish woman Annika wasn't sure.
"It's like a society within a society isn't it? The metahumans have their own government, own prison, own schools... set apart but still entrenched within human culture." Annika smiled broadly as she observed the Wysanti twins each demonstrating their transformations to the impressed nods of Vorik and Stadi. "It would almost be better if we were completely separated from humans."
"Perhaps." Kes' noncommittal answer was unacknowledged by Annika who was too distracted by both Vorik and Stadi's own transformations.
Vorik had erupted into a white-hot blazing form lined with red flowing lava with black acrid smoking wafting off of him. Stadi's form was as shimmering as Vorik's except instead of red and orange she was blue and white as water drifted from her liquid form and quickly turned into steam next to the living volcano. The Wysanti twins demonstrated their honed skills to the best of their abilities. Rebi formed an ice-made copy of himself that even moved as he did. Azan's flames created a large dangerous looking dragon whose claws curled protectively around him.
The scene that played out before her suddenly struck Annika as funny. It was like a game of show me yours I'll show you mine. Others joined in as they demonstrated their varied abilities freely and sometimes boastfully.
Beatrice Burleigh's spectral self glowed white and floated swiftly to the rooftop of the main building. Her solid form transported to where the astral projection was positioned and then she quickly teleported back to the ground in the same manner. The blonde haired teen smiled happily at the impressed words thrown her way.
The clear blue sky was filled with a sonically propelled Henry Burleigh and a zero density Billy Telfer. Three different though equally acerbic Mortimer Harrens kept mostly to themselves though every once and a while Annika caught them shifting their attention away from their personal computers to a person who was presently showing their newest found ability.
Annika knew she was probably grinning like a fool as she watched Mezoti use an invisible field to levitate Naomi a few feet into the air. She would have and had been a bit worried about the safety of such an activity but whenever Naomi fell to the ground she would phase into the earth up to her stomach and then pop back up completely unharmed. It became a game for the two girls.
"Why do they hate us?" Annika hadn't meant to say it, but she couldn't help but feel tightness in her chest as she watched the play that was taking place that would terrify most people, humans at any rate.
"They're afraid." Kes smiled a sad small smile as she watched a sheepish looking Icheb no longer under the guise of normalcy created by a portable holographic emitter. She knew only within the metahuman community would Icheb's appearance be accepted. And even then, some metahumans preferred to pass and distance themselves from being "different". Kes thought of herself and the fear she had seen in people's eyes when she had been unable to control her darker side. She wondered if there were those in the metahuman community who still thought she was far too dangerous to be allowed her freedom. Kes really couldn't blame them. She had been far too dangerous. "And sometimes they have reason to be."
"The 'Obsidian Order'?"
"Yes." Kes nodded her head even as she smiled at how Icheb was presently providing flight rides for the younger children. Naomi squealed with delight even as her small arms encircled Icheb's neck rather tightly. Kes turned her attention back to Annika. "The Obsidian Order was the greatest metahuman threat against humanity to ever exist. If they had had their way humans would have been their slaves. So would have some metahumans."
Annika followed Kes to a nearby bench that was positioned in front of the garden's large fountain. They were still able to watch the action but the cacophony of several super powered people would no longer intrude on their conversation.
"So what happened to them?"
A dark haunted look that passed over Kes' elfish features startled Annika until one word escaped softly between Kes' lips. "Reykjavik."
Annika watched the laughing children as opposed to Kes for the moment so her curiosity wouldn't seem so insensitive since it was obvious to her that the Icelandic city held a host of bad memories. She watched with amusement as Neelix corralled everyone inside with promises of a delicious breakfast all the while appearing as a small, but cajoling meerkat.
"Kes." Annika's soft entreating voice did as much to stop Kes' departure from the bench just as the hand on her delicate wrist. "I-I'd like to know what happened... in Reykjavik."
Kes didn't seem all that surprised by Annika's request nor did she seem opposed to the idea. She nodded knowingly before she smiled gently though it didn't reach her violet eyes. "I suppose you would. I have class at eleven and then lunch. We could meet afterwards in my office."
Annika wasn't sure how she felt about going to the counselor's office, but she knew Doctor Zimmerman had probably already informed Kes of the repressed memories that had apparently been uncovered. She nodded her head because she knew finally she would be able to know what had happened in a place that sparked such a disturbance whenever it was mentioned.
"Sure. After lunch then." Annika walked in step with Kes towards the main building. She knew the mention of Reykjavik had soured Kes' mood so Annika decided it would due to lighten it a bit. "Do you think I could take Nechayev in a fight?"
Kes let out a surprised laugh that was low and melodious. Her violet eyes sparkled with mirth as she patted Annika good-naturedly on the arm. "It would depend... can you take a few lightning strikes?"
"Huh. I don't know." Annika's joking was left aside as she really contemplated if she could take a lightning hit as well as she had Janeway's energy blasts. She supposed she could start a fight with Nechayev and find out, but then again she would be entirely comprised in metal so perhaps it wouldn't be the best of ideas.
"It might be something to know if you're going to attempt to fight someone who can throw lightning bolts at you." Kes' teasing tone turned to a more serious whisper. "The director isn't really as... scandalous as Tom and B'Elanna like to make her out to be. And it's unwise to believe anything you hear through the UFM rumor mill."
"Oh, yeah, I won't." It wasn't as though she wasn't appreciative of how Kes was attempting to lend her support, but Annika felt childish having to be reassured in such an obvious way. "It's actually nice to have visitors here. Everyone needed some excitement-some cheering up after what happened last night."
Kes decided not to add that she knew it on pretty good authority that Janeway was in the process of relocating the students. Azan and Rebi would most likely be leaving for Russia within the week. Kes' chest constricted painfully at such a sudden loss to the Institute and to the headmistress. She knew Janeway only blamed herself since she was the one so solely targeted by Senator Hayes. Not for the first time Kes wished the stubborn woman would talk to her and if not her than someone else. Hopefully, someone who could manage to convince Janeway that not all the wrongs in the world were because of her. Kes didn't need to me empathic to see the dark guilt that surrounded Janeway like a veil. Sometimes it wasn't as noticeable, but lately it seemed even more evident than usual.
The deafening sound of lightning hitting a large oak tree outside the main building nearly made Annika drop her plate of waffles and tofu links.
"Oh, for heaven's sake!"
Like most of the inhabitants of the dining hall, Annika watched Celes rush from the room after her outburst with the epitome of righteous indignation on her features.
"Still want to see if you can take her in a fight." Kes' smile was shakier than usual as she resumed her movement to the large circular table where B'Elanna and Tom were pretending that Vorik and Stadi weren't in existence.
"What the hell was that about?" Annika deposited her plate atop of the table as she settled her lanky form next to B'Elanna.
"Oh, who the hell knows?" B'Elanna grumbled as she stabbed her fork into syrup drench waffles. "I told you she's so goddamned dramatic all the time."
"She about gave Celes a heart attack." Tom resumed munching on the food entrapped in his mouth as he pointed the bottom of his fork towards the window over his shoulder.
Annika watched with a mixture of amusement and sympathy as Celes frantically attempted with all her might to save the oak tree that had been charred and split down the middle. Lengthy vines erupted from the earth and moved like snakes across the massive trunk. Billy was floating above the smoking tree seemingly giving Celes information about damage she couldn't see from the ground.
"Yeah, you'd think they were people or something." B'Elanna shrugged. Her foul mood creased her forehead.
"She has a kinship with them, B'Elanna. Similar to Neelix's affection for the animals he emulates." Kes' voice was soft, but obviously chastising. She could feel Celes' grief.
The only response B'Elanna provided was a snort and another hard poke to her waffles. Annika would have laughed, but she knew that would just incense the already annoyed woman who avoided Vorik's gaze so studiously.
"No, no, Billy, every time she comes here she has to set one of the trees on fire and I'm not going to just sit back and take it anymore, she's-"
The rest of Celes' rant was cut off by their exit into the hallway that led to Janeway's office.
"I have to go get ready for class." Tom stood from the table with his empty plate in his hands and had a strangely serious expression on his boyish features. "Don't forget. Full moon tonight."
"Great." B'Elanna rolled her eyes as she grunted unhappily. "Just what we need when Nechayev's here."
"So, what happens when there's a full moon?" Annika looked from B'Elanna who had her slim, but strong arms across her chest as she slouched unhappily in her chair to Kes. The counselor was always the most helpful, but it was B'Elanna who answered Annika's query first.
"Chakotay's not a real werewolf of course, but he's affected by the moon. I can't explain it, so don't even ask." B'Elanna's ire rose to an even greater degree when she noticed the unfortunate fact that Vorik was approaching her table. "Just steer clear of him. Trust me. Gotta go."
With equal parts amusement and incredulity Kes and Annika watched the seemingly tougher than nails woman nearly running from a man who seemed quite at a loss as to how he found himself at a table sans B'Elanna Torres. Annika had to feel bad for the poor guy. Unrequited love, she could understand that in a big way. She also wondered how much teasing she could get away with before B'Elanna physically assaulted her. Annika decided "not much" as Kes tried to make not so truthful excuses for B'Elanna's hasty departure. Kes had sincerity and an innocence about her that made even the lamest of excuses seem reasonably believable, so with a disappointed but resigned expression Vorik departed from them.
Annika shook her head in sympathy but didn't go as far as to pity the man. He didn't seem too upset merely let down and perhaps even a bit perplexed. Vorik's constantly raised angled eyebrows gave him a perpetually puzzled look, which in turn allowed Annika the delusion that perhaps the man didn't know B'Elanna was so studiously avoiding him.
Any thoughts Annika still had lingering on Vorik vanished when she heard a quickly cut-off gasp from Kes. Before she could wonder what had caused such an utterance Annika was witness to an obviously distraught Celes being led through the campus by a comforting, but equally distressed Billy Telfer. Before she could stop herself Annika was at the dining room window so she could peer out at the two passersby more closely.
Annika couldn't help but feel like a voyeur, an intruder upon a personal moment between the two but she couldn't help how her icy blue gaze locked on to the couple. Celes had been overcome by her emotions and had stopped at the tree that she had so recently saved from the devastating strike of a lightning bolt. The large branches of the tree seemed to pulsate in time with Celes' heaving sobs as the wood grew and shrunk until Billy gently grasped Celes' shoulders to lead her to the large three story brick building that housed their living quarters.
Only when she could no longer see Celes or Billy did Annika acknowledge Kes' presence next to her. Annika's anger and worry showed in her low voice. "What did Nechayev say to her?"
"I'm not certain it was the director." Kes led Annika back to their table as the others seemed unaware that anything amiss had transpired. Kes regretted that her outburst had alerted Annika of Celes' distress at all. "I felt more of a sense of... terrible loss than anger."
"Did-do you think someone died?" Annika pushed her plate from her. The agitation she felt fluttered in her stomach and she had no desire to finish her breakfast.
"I certainly hope not, but it is possible." Kes' brow scrunched in contemplation. She considered the emotions she had sensed as Celes passed closely by and had an instinct as to what news the woman might have been given that would have left her in such a state. "Though I believe it is something else. Perhaps Celes has been informed of the impending closing of the Voyager Institute."
Annika raised a single eyebrow as looked at Kes skeptically. "She'd be that upset over the school closing?"
"It's not just a school to her. It's been her home for the last twelve years." Kes' voice wasn't unkind, but she was quite determined that Annika understand her point. "And it was the first place where Celes, well where many here felt safe... accepted. It's going to be a major blow for a lot of people."
"I-I understand that." Annika could feel embarrassed heat flush her cheeks at her inadvertent insensitivity. She felt the same ways as Celes, only she had only been at the Voyager Institute for a week, she couldn't imagine if she'd been there for over a decade. What that loss of security and acceptance would feel like. "But aren't there other places she can go? Other schools like this one?"
"Yes. There are many." Kes had to concede to the point that Celes' emotional upheaval was perhaps out of proportion to the pragmatic need to shut down the school. She knew there had to be something else. Something that would make Celes breakdown in such a way. Kes' violet eyes opened wide as sudden insight came to her. "She's leaving. Kathryn. She's not coming with us."
"I merely enjoy keeping your Voyagers on their toes, Katya. It amuses me." Nechayev smirked as she took an offered Bularian canapé from the platter Janeway had placed between them on the mahogany desk in the headmistress' office. "Spasibo."
"Them on their toes?" Janeway poured Earl Grey tea into the small, white ceramic cup for the director as she smiled despite the skepticism in her voice. Satisfied that her friend was taken care of Janeway rested her petite frame as she took sips from her mug filled with the black bitter beverage she preferred. "You just like to see me squirm you mean. Admit it."
There was not a hint of remorse that could be pulled from Nechayev. The director merely shrugged her slender shoulders, indifferent to Janeway's unease. "Well, we must give them all something to discuss at length when meetings and socializing is dreadfully boring, do we not?"
"Well, no, I've never thought so." Janeway didn't want to contemplate how many sordid stories various people within her own school, and without regarding Nechayev and her, had made up. She shuddered to think of what some of the more ribald tales entailed. Unlike the woman seated in front of her decadently enjoying the sweet treat Janeway did not find being at the center of gossip amusing in the least. "Let them go talk about someone else. I'm sure there's enough real drama within the UFM to keep them occupied sufficiently."
"Ah, yes, but confirmed love affairs are not so interesting as those kept under secret." Nechayev took in the woman she had known for nearly two decades.
The sunlight cast in by the three large windows behind Janeway caused red and gold to streak through auburn hair that framed a face that was both strongly chiseled and delicately elegant. The blue-gray eyes were alight with the contentment that came from the familiar feel produced by the company of an old friend. Janeway had divested herself of the dark gray blazer shortly after they had entered her office. The short-sleeve, black silk blouse hugged Janeway's feminine curves and slim form attractively, which Nechayev silently appreciated. Sometimes Nechayev wished the rumors about them were true. But alas, her and Janeway had never been lovers and most likely never would be. Especially, Nechayev smiled internally, if that new recruit of Janeway's had anything to say about it. She wondered if Janeway was aware of the latest victim that had fallen under her charms.
"Tell me about this new woman, this Annika." Nechayev watched the headmistress very carefully, but she was disappointed to see nothing indicative of Janeway sharing Annika's obvious feelings. "She is powerful?"
"She's certainly that." Janeway kept her tone carefully controlled, even, so she would not allow any of her tumultuous feelings for Annika to be revealed to Nechayev. "Perhaps she will demonstrate them for you later. She's quite impressive."
"And very attractive. Have you not noticed?" Nechayev couldn't imagine anyone being completely unaffected to Annika's beauty. Still she couldn't see anything in Janeway's expression that would lead her to believe the headmistress wasn't immune.
"I'm running a school, Alynna, not a modeling agency." Janeway rolled her eyes for she knew what her friend wanted to hear.
Nechayev was constantly badgering her to get a private life or at least pick up a few lovers. Janeway supposed she could tell Nechayev the truth. That she had quite unexpectedly fallen for the courageous bold woman who had entered her Institute a mere six days ago. Janeway knew what stopped her. She was quite aware that Nechayev would never let her rest unless she made her interest known to Annika. She couldn't, not now that she knew anyone associated with her would be in danger. Janeway wouldn't permit that. So, she kept silent.
"You have no pleasure in your life, Katya. I have been saying it for years." Nechayev's tone held only a small amount of admonishment mostly her low voice was sympathetic.
Despite her prods the Russian director was well aware of the reasons Janeway was reticent regarding personal entanglements. After all, Nechayev had been part of the hazard team that had recovered Justin Tighe's lifeless body from the underground prison in Antarctica. She pushed away the memory of the anguish and fury that had erupted from Janeway that day in favor of moving on to more benign topics of conversation.
"I am more than willing to take all of your students to my school." Nechayev delighted in the look of relief and gratitude that shone on Janeway's features. "But I will only take certain members of your staff."
Janeway finished off her bark of a laugh with an amused grin. "I understand. Thank you."
"Think nothing of it. I see great potential in the twin elementals." Nechayev knew such control in ones so young bespoke highly of their instructors. The other students didn't necessarily fall under her purview, but that was a matter to contemplate at a later date. Their security was first and foremost. There was no place safer in her mind than her school since the New Republic of Russia had a much less fearful view regarding metahumans. "The other children have great power as well?"
"Yes. They do." Pride and regret fought for dominance in Janeway's husky voice. She pushed away the feelings of loss already forming painfully in her chest. She would miss her students and her staff terribly, but it was what had to be done. She wouldn't let her own feelings deter her from her mission. "Take care of them, Alynna. Keep them safe."
"You need not even ask that of me, Katya. You already know that I will." Nechayev watched as Janeway nodded her head a bit distractedly. "What is it that is truly bothering you? Why have you called upon me?"
Janeway looked at Nechayev sharply as if surprised that one of her oldest friends could read her so well. Finally the headmistress relented and forced the uncertainty and remorse she felt from between her lips. "I fear I haven't adequately prepared them for all the dangers that are out there."
"You give them too little credit. And yourself." Nechayev leaned forward to place a gentle hand atop of Janeway's. "I know my Institute could not withstand the domination of both of us, but you will find a new post and carry on your instruction. All is not lost."
Janeway nodded noncommittally before she stood from her desk, which broke the physical contact between her and Nechayev. She went to the middle window behind her desk chair to peer out into the sunlight-enriched campus. She wondered if she ever truly appreciated the beauty of the landscape before.
"What is it that you are not telling me?" Nechayev faced Janeway in front of the tall window with her arms crossed and a suspicious expression on her narrow features.
"I'm not going with you to Russia. At least not yet." Janeway touched her hand to the windowpane so that the warmth of the sun could be felt through her palm and fingertips. Her voice was a low whisper though in the silence of the office Nechayev who stood next to her with a wary look heard it clearly. "I've been exposed, Alynna. Hayes knows what I am. I've seen what's in his mind. I know he won't stop pursuing me. I can't allow anyone else to be harmed in that pursuit. He's fronting the Friends of Humanity. He has a lot of power at his disposal. More than I ever considered. No matter what the outcome of his bill he's going to strike. With everything he's got."
"We will handle Hayes together then."
"I can't ask any of you to join me, Alynna." Janeway's hand left the warm glass so she could face Nechayev directly with her stance rigid and sure. The headmistress' slate gray eyes were steely and unwavering. "I know where their bases are."
"That is tremendous. We will-"
Nechayev's words were cut off by the sharp words that spilled forth passionately from Janeway. "No. It has to be me. Only me. I'm going to destroy those bases. Every last one of them. I have to do it quickly and completely. And then you, Alynna, will be given the task of bringing me down. The UFM won't be able to do anything less. And I won't stop you. Just give me two days to complete my crimes against humanity. I will begin my work on Sunday."
"How dare you!" Nechayev's face was flushed with righteous indignation as her voice boomed within Janeway's office. "This is why you have called me here? So that I might be part of your suicidal scheme? Your quest for martyrdom? I should kill you right now!"
Janeway should have known it was coming, but she was still startled by the earsplitting sound of lightning striking the large oak tree only a few yards away from her window. When she looked at Nechayev she knew the director wasn't opposed to idea of smiting her with a bolt of lightning as well. Perhaps the only reason why Nechayev didn't was because she knew Janeway would only absorb the energy.
"Alynna, I'm sor-"
Janeway wasn't expecting the hard slap that snapped her head sideways and caused her left cheek to burn. When she turned her head to look evenly at Nechayev she saw small currents of electricity sparking in her eyes that crackled when the hot tears mingled with the tiny bolts of energy.
"Do not speak lies to me." Nechayev's petite frame shook with fury and the lightning that had started so small within her eyes now surrounded her in crackling currents as her fists balled in an attempt not to slap the other woman again. "I never dreamt I would say this to you of all individuals. You are a coward. And a hypocrite. You press the high moral ideals of the UFM onto others but arrogantly you think you are exempt from them. Explain to me why I should not take you into custody right now for conspiracy."
"Because you know you would have to kill me to stop me. And because you know I have to do this." Janeway tried her chances and grasped Nechayev's slim shoulders as she looked earnestly into narrowed brown eyes. "Alone."
"And you leave me to lead the hazard team to kill you then." Nechayev brushed away Janeway's hands as she sat down heavily in one of the maroon upholstered chairs in front of the large mahogany desk. The crackles of lightning had all but vanished from her form. "Is this what our friendship means to you that you would leave me such an unsightly task?"
"Well, I would hope it wouldn't necessarily come to that. As I said, I won't resist." Janeway knew the other woman needed space so she went to peer out the window again. She smiled sadly at the sight of the burnt oak tree entwined in newly grown vines of support. "I just need two days to complete my mission. I have never murdered before and I don't intend to now. But those bases must be destroyed. Some of them are above ground. Inside skyscrapers and industrial complexes. Millions of dollars worth of damage. It can't go unpunished. It's a massive preemptive strike with information gained illegally. The UFM would never let it pass with impunity."
Thoroughly confused Nechayev could only watch as Janeway turned slowly towards her. The near desperate expression on the headmistress' face startled her into silence.
"I'm tired of hiding, Alynna. And yet I can't risk exposure. And that might be cowardly of me, but it's the truth." Janeway's bleak voice seemed oddly loud in the silent office. She came around her desk to sit in the matching chair across from Nechayev. "Hayes won't rest until he has me. And he'll kill anyone who gets in his way. I have no doubt of that."
"Then we'll dispose of Hayes." Nechayev stood abruptly. She felt renewed by a sense of purpose. "I'll take care of him personally."
"No. I can't allow you to-we can't touch him. If he were to turn up dead there would be no doubt in anyone's mind who was behind it. And that will make him a martyr and certainly further his cause." Janeway's tone was firm and unrelenting. She wouldn't allow anyone to impede her mission. Not even Alynna. "What I am planning will take away his firepower. If I am successful it will take him a long time to rebuild his little army and it'll be up to you to defend against him and his supporters."
Any more assaults both physically and verbally were stayed by the sheer fact that perhaps for the first time in their long association with one another Nechayev saw what a traumatized soul Kathryn Janeway truly was. This woman who loved so much, who felt so deeply hadn't been designed to withstand the horrors and the abuse she had been made to witness, to experience.
Nechayev submitted against her better judgment as she nodded her head somberly in acquiescence. "What do you will of me?"
Janeway and Nechayev slowly turned their grave faces to the open doorway that contained a furious Celes and a Billy looking rather sheepish, but supportive.
"Ms. Tal?" Janeway gradually stood from her chair to fully face the irate woman who had just barged into her office. "What seems to be the problem?"
"I-" Celes' voice faltered. Whether it was due from the patient though mildly irritated tone Janeway voiced her question with or by the derisive look on Nechayev's features Billy didn't know.
"My apologizes for the tree." Nechayev shifted her expression to one a bit more apologetic as she also stood.
Both Celes and Billy were shocked into silence and gave one another a quick, confused look.
"Nevertheless I suggest you both leave this office. Now." Nechayev didn't actually move towards them, but the threat in her voice caused the pair to take a step back.
"Captain?" Billy looked from Nechayev to the eerily silent headmistress with uncertainly on his boyish features.
Billy and Celes were rooted to their spots as they watched Janeway approach them with a serious and determined expression. They both wondered if they've ever her seen her look so solemn.
"I have a job for both of you. Due to circumstances I'm not at liberty to discuss at this time the Voyager Institute is shutting down." Janeway ignored how their confused expressions, almost as if she had just hurtfully betrayed them both, pained her as she continued without interruption. "The staff and the students will be relocating to the Institute of Elements with Nechayev on Friday. I need you both to secure Majel and the rest of the technologies so they are also ready for transport. I'll have Lyndsay join you shortly. Dismissed."
"Mr. Telfer, the director and I have much to discuss before you depart with her so if you-"
"Aren't you coming with us, Headmistress?" Celes' wide brown eyes flitted from Janeway to Nechayev's pinched expression and her answer seemed evident. "But you must!"
"What I must do is secure the safety of those I'm responsible for. Now, Ms. Tal, Mr. Telfer, I'd like you to carry out my instructions." Janeway's steely gaze was as unrelenting as her hard voice. "We don't have a great deal of time."
"Of course, Captain." Billy nodded as obediently as his shock would allow him to as he took Celes gently, but firmly by the arm before he led her into the hallway. Celes burst into tears as soon as she was taken into the outer chamber.
"I told you not to go in there." Harren didn't look up from his PADD even as he continued to mock the simpering couple that had just intruded upon his theorizing. "But no you wouldn't listen. Think you're her favorite or something."
Celes was too busy with her hot tears and sobs to take much notice of Harren. Billy narrowed his eyes as they passed by Harren, but he thought himself above cursing or making snide comments.
"What the hell!" Harren's PADD dropped from his hands like an anvil onto his leg and unlike Billy he was not above releasing a hearty curse.
Annika contemplated the dark depths of the steaming coffee held in white porcelain. She considered her options. An act she had been performing alone in her guest quarters for the last two and half hours.
She's leaving. The captain. She's not coming with us. Kes' words kept coming back to her. Repeating like a broken record inside her head. After Kes had uttered those words she had left Annika alone to provide comfort to Celes who had been obviously distraught.
Fear and uncertainty filled Annika as she wondered, worried about what she could possibly say to Janeway to make her stay. Why the headmistress was not coming with them in the first place concerned Annika as well. Perhaps, she thought with some consciously conjured hope Kes was wrong. Maybe something else had upset Celes and Billy other than Janeway leaving them. Annika knew that probably wasn't true otherwise Kes would most likely have come to say that she had been mistaken. In two hours Kes hadn't come to do any of that.
Annika looked at the clock displayed in red digital numbers on the microwave. 11:21 AM. Kes was still in class, so Annika would have to wait until lunch to speak with her. She hoped Kes was wrong, presumptuous, but it struck Annika as some kind of fact that Kes was rarely mistaken.
She thought about going to see Janeway herself, but fear had stopped her. Fear of hearing that the headmistress was leaving. And also fear of what she would do in a panic if faced with that terrible reality. Annika figured she would make a fool out of herself and admit to her infatuation. That wouldn't be so bad as if Janeway, upon hearing that Annika was besotted with her, was disgusted. She knew the headmistress was far too kind to be so unpleasant, but that didn't alleviate Annika's terror.
The knock on her door startled her out of her reverie and she cursed softly as hot coffee sloshed from the cup onto her hand. Annika's heart hammered in her chest in the hope and fear that it was Janeway on the other side of the wooden door. She forced a welcoming smile to her lips as she pressed the entry button. Annika's smile faltered completely when the sliding door revealed Alynna Nechayev.
"Um-" Apparently it was not only Annika's smile that faltered within the presence of the Russian director. She couldn't even protest when she was rather rudely pushed aside so that Nechayev could enter the apartment and the door could slide close behind her.
"Are you not aware of what is transpiring at this very moment?" Nechayev's contemptuous tone caught Annika off-guard as well as loosened her tongue.
"What do you mean?" Annika's voice was just scornful and she was surprised yet again when Nechayev released a short laugh. She thought she detected some relief in that sound.
"You already do not like me. I see it quite clearly." Nechayev smiled with approval as she nodded her head in understanding. "I would dislike me as well if I craved the affection of Kathryn Janeway."
"I-" Annika couldn't deny it, so she decided to forgo speaking about it at all. Her light blue eyes narrowed as she watched Nechayev move about the apartment as if in search of something. Annika's voice was impatient when she finally addressed the director. "What do you want?"
"I want many things." Nechayev stopped her roaming of the apartment to look squarely at Annika. Her brown eyes seemed to see right through the other woman and it took Annika some effort on her part not to flinch. "I am wondering if you know what is to come and why it is you are doing nothing to prevent it."
"It's not really my place to tell-"
"You are too afraid, as are many, to stand up to her even when you know it is the right thing to do. I do understand, but you must. She cannot be allowed to carry out her plan."
"Why don't you stop her?" It was a cowardly tactic, but Annika was embarrassed by the truth Nechayev had just stated.
"I have tried. She will not listen to me. It must be you."
"Why? What will I be able to do that you couldn't?"
"You can offer her something which I was always reticent about offering." Nechayev took a step closer. Her brown eyes shimmered with tears of regret. "She lives only for others. Perhaps you will give her a reason to live for herself."
"She's-I-I understand." And somehow Annika did.
All those stories she had heard regarding Kathryn Janeway seemed to fit together completely to form a picture of a woman who never considered herself, who never fought for her own well-being but that of everyone else around her. Perhaps Janeway thought she was vastly alone because of this. Because no one considered forcing her to join them. Or told her how much they loved her. How much she meant to them. Because they were all scared. Annika wondered if Janeway could be so mistaken to think that the others would manage without her. Would survive. They would live on of course, but she was without a doubt the matriarch to their family and it would crumble with her absence.
"I do love her." Annika's gaze never wavered from Nechayev's brown eyes and narrow features. Her voice was sure and strong as if she had never said a more truthful statement in her life.
"I know. Now go. Tell her. Make her fight for herself for once in her life." Nechayev smiled sadly upon the threshold of the now open doorway as she turned away from Annika lest her tears be shown. Her voice was hushed and reverent. "Allow her be selfish."
The wooden door slid shut behind the director and Annika had to reconsider her list-of-people-she-didn't-like for Alynna Nechayev surely could no longer be on it. Annika stood very still as she fought against her fear, her anxiety until she ran from the apartment.
If Annika received any looks or comments as she ran across the sunny campus she ignored them as she moved swiftly towards the main building. She only vaguely heard Harren's somewhat feeble attempts to tell her that she couldn't just barge in to the headmistress' office unannounced. Annika was breathless, but determined to get her words out even when Janeway's surprised blue-gray eyes met her own.
"I don't know exactly what you're planning, but you can't go through with it." Annika pushed the door closed behind her as she allowed the adrenaline to leave her body while she took deep breaths.
"I beg your pardon?" Janeway wasn't sure what was more shocking, Annika's words or her harried look. The headmistress stood slowly as she carefully removed her glasses and set them upon her desk. Patiently she waited for Annika to regain her breath so she could answer her.
"You're leaving aren't you? You're not coming with us." Annika pushed off the door with her hands before she approached the headmistress' desk as unthreatening as she could. Her voice was matter-of-fact, but clearly upset. "Why?"
"With all due respect, Ms. Hansen, I don't need to explain myself to you." Janeway's voice remained even though there was a flash of irritation within her tone that made it low and gravely.
"No. Of course you don't. So maybe I should explain myself to you instead." Annika stood stiffly in front of the headmistress with the desk acting as a physical barrier between the two. Annika forced her voice to become calm, earnest and unwavering. "I told you last night I want to fight. That I would fight with you. I meant it. But I-I didn't tell you everything."
Janeway's blue-gray eyes were even larger than before when Annika had so unexpectedly burst into her office. Annika's heartfelt tone, icy blue eyes that warmed the headmistress' chest with the naked affection she saw in them and the way Annika's full lips were quirked only slightly into a small smile.
"What haven't you told me?" Janeway was surprised how composed her voice was in opposition to the rapid beating of her heart and the heavy thrumming of blood that sounded in her ears.
"I haven't told you all the things you do... that make me fall a little more in love with you the longer I know you." There she had done it. Admitted to what she had known the night she had seen Kathryn Janeway descend like a tragic looking angel upon the campus garden. Annika prided herself for her daring despite how she feared she would either faint or vomit from being so truthful.
Janeway opened her mouth as if to say something, but whatever it was left her, so her lips pressed together into a serious line instead.
"How you blush whenever you're given a compliment, even if it's the simple truth that you are beautiful." Annika couldn't help it. The flush that was now present on Janeway's cheeks caused her lips to form a grand smile despite the way her stomach churned uncomfortably. Regardless of her unease Annika continued. "How you smile and rave about Neelix's soy omelets even though I know you can only get them down by drinking coffee right after. How you fly with Icheb in the dead of the night. How you-"
"Stop. Please stop." Tears had sprung to Janeway's eyes so she turned her face away from Annika. She pressed the pads of her fingers to her lips while one arm crossed over her chest. Her voice was soft, but beseeching. "It's too much."
"Why? Why is it too much?" Annika didn't dare draw closer and she quieted her voice to match Janeway's. "I realize we've only know each other-it doesn't matter. I know what I feel for you is real. I felt it the first night I was here. When I saw you in the garden. You were-you looked so terribly sad, tragic, but at the same time you had this amazing strength that-I'm sorry. My intention isn't to upset you."
The headmistress had turned towards Annika once again. Tears were attempting to escape, but with all the strength she could muster Janeway kept them at bay. "I'm sorry, Annika. I can't."
"Nechayev's right. You live only for others. I said I was in love with you, but I didn't say you were perfect." Annika tempered her voiced so that Janeway knew this wasn't a hostile attack. "They love you, you know. They all love you. But you keep them all at arm's length. They ask you to join them and you refuse even though it pains you to do so. Most of them don't even use your first name. And that hurts you as well. This mission of yours, you don't have to do it alone. You might not be aware of this but for only being here a week, less than really, I already know every last one of them would die before they let any harm-"
"I know. That's why I can't ask them to risk-I'm responsible for their safety." Janeway felt exposed and it didn't sit well with her. Her irritation at being so easily read was clear in her sharp tone. "I won't ask them to give up their freedom, their lives, when I am fully capable of carrying out my plan alone."
"Irrelevant." Annika's impatience with the stubborn woman before her edged into her voice. What Janeway wasn't aware of was how truly immovable Annika was when she set her mind on something. "They aren't children. Why don't you let them make the decision for themselves?"
"You don't understand." The headmistress turned away from Annika to look out the large window located behind her desk.
Janeway pressed her hand against the glass of the windowpane as if she could touch the lunch goers who moved across the campus. She only admitted to herself that sometimes their companionship with each other did pain her. But even though Annika didn't know why she distanced herself from almost every she knew she had good reason to. She wouldn't allow anyone else to be hurt because of her.
"No. I suppose I don't." Annika could almost see Janeway retreat into herself as the headmistress hugged her slim frame and peer seemingly distractedly out of the large bay window. Annika's voice grew stronger, braver, for she knew it was now that she had to rest her case. "But that doesn't mean I'm not right. I'm my own person, Kathryn. I want to fight with you. And you'd have to imprison me to stop me."
Annika watched as Janeway slowly turned from the window with an indefinable expression that worried her. Her heart thumped quickly in her chest as she remained frozen to the spot as Janeway came around the desk to stand only a few feet away. The tears that had been forced to remain entrapped caused Janeway's dark blue eyes to shine and there seemed to be a faint golden glow surrounding her.
"You're serious aren't you? About everything?" Janeway's smile was tremulous upon seeing Annika's nod. "You're in love with me?"
"Hopelessly. Even if you are the most stubborn woman I've ever met." Annika also smiled until she realized with a start she had no idea what Janeway felt for her.
"Oh, to hell with it."
Annika would have gasped in either shock or pleasure or a mixture of both if her breath hadn't been stolen by the woman who was presently kissing the living daylights out of her. Annika was winded and not a little disappointed when Janeway's soft, moist lips left her own.
"I-I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that." Janeway backed quickly away from Annika horrified by her own impulsiveness.
The headmistress' backpedaling was stopped short by her desk, which made her stumble until she was righted by Annika's sure, but gentle grasp. The naked desire and adoration she saw in Annika's light blue eyes and soft smile made her breath catch in her throat. And then Annika's full lips were upon hers again. The moan of pleasure that rumbled from her indicated the fading of the last of Janeway's resistance as she relaxed in Annika's strong arms. Arms that now encircled her tenderly even as the kisses grew more aggressive as Annika's tongue dueled with her own.
Annika's hands shook as they began to move along Janeway's back. The silk shirt was made warm by the body it covered and Annika wondered if the pale smooth skin beneath was just as soft. She thought it would be. Annika groaned as her eagerness to find out warred with the awareness of the impracticality of their location. As if she sensed Annika's turmoil Janeway ended the heated kiss, but didn't remove herself from Annika's arms.
The rosy flush upon Janeway's face and neck, the breaths that caused her chest to rise and fall heavily and the sight of her tongue darting out to moisten her lips all caused Annika to wish they were somewhere else. Especially when the headmistress' door was flung open.
Chakotay didn't wait to hear a denial or anything worse than that. He could already feel the wolf begin to elongate his teeth as he broke into a run. He growled at Harren who always looked so insufferably smug. His sprint was unhampered by the bones that were contorting beneath the shifting flesh and growing muscle as he rushed to the forest on the edge of campus. The moment the sun was at its highest a great howl was released into the midday sky.
(to be continued)