see Days of Open Hand part 1 & 2 for info
see Days of Open Hand part 1 & 2 for info
Kathryn Janeway's attention drifted from the year-end review to her early morning encounter with Annika as she shifted in her chair. Janeway uncrossed and then re-crossed her legs while she felt desire warm her body in a pleasant but distracting way. Janeway attempted to appear attentive and interested in Harry Kim's report, but her thoughts remained solely on how Annika's full lips felt upon her own, the slender but shapely body pressed against her and the moans of pleasure Annika had emitted.
It took Janeway a moment to realize Harry had finished and was now looking at her with a boyishly expectant expression. "Thank you, Mr. Kim. I'll take your suggestions under advisement."
Fortunately Mortimer Harren kept excellent minutes, so she would have ample time to review the morning briefing when she wasn't distracted by such heady thoughts of Annika. Janeway thought she could still taste the other woman and detect her unique and intoxicating fragrance. Janeway was aware she had to close the meeting so she adjusted her features to show her respect and appreciation for her staff and her words of thanks were filled with deep and genuine affection.
"There's one more issue I'd like to speak with you all about." Janeway's elegant features were serious, but composed as she placed her folded hands on top of the briefing room table. All eyes were upon her and as she spoke she took time to meet each gaze squarely. "I wasn't sure I was going to address this with you, but I think you're entitled to know the events that are about to unfold. Despite my wish not to involve you in them, I've come to realize that it's not my place to keep you uninformed. Or to make your decisions for you."
Janeway smiled softly as she realized why she had been against telling the staff of her plans. She had been afraid they would put themselves in harm's way because of her or because of some misplaced sense of duty to her. She had wanted to spare them that, but in doing so she left them with no choice to make. As she looked upon their expectant faces and determined expressions, she knew if they did decide to join her they wouldn't be doing it because she asked them to but because it was something they believed in. They would be doing what they thought was right.
The headmistress laid her plans out succinctly and with a distinct lack of fervor. Her words were even and her expression inscrutable. She presented the plans she had already spoken with Nechayev and President Bacco regarding the planned attack on the bases of anti-metahuman groups. She laid out her ideal conclusion that her arrest by a UFM/U.S. military cooperative would force the issue of metahuman/human relations onto the global stage. She no longer wanted to keep it the highly secret alliance between the UFM and the various nations it had been confined to for so many years.
"Captain, are you saying that you were going to destroy these bases by yourself?" Neelix's nasally voice was even more pinched due to the worry and confusion he felt. "How many bases are there?"
"And the plan was that you would do this all in one night?" Lyndsay's voice wasn't confused or worried, it was scandalized.
"No offense, but that's crazy." B'Elanna had stood, as had many of the others, to face the insufferably composed headmistress head-on. "You were planning on taking out these bases without any backup?"
"I think I speak for all of us when I say," Tom's smirk wasn't filled with humor so much as it was smug and sardonic. "There's no way in hell we're going to let you go through with this."
Harry chaffed at Tom's words though he did agree with them. "Captain, we want to help."
"We're going to help." Celes' brown eyes were wide, but she wasn't going to let her trepidation of defying Janeway override her sense of duty. "We won't let you do this by yourself."
"If we strike each base simultaneously they won't know what hit them." Billy's voice was entreating and unwavering even as Janeway's steely blue-gray gaze focused on him. "They'd have no chance to regroup."
"We'd have a much better chance at success." Kes smiled gently as she felt the waves of affection and determination from the group wash over her. "Don't you agree, Tuvok?"
"Indeed." Tuvok's expression was immune to the dissatisfaction he felt from not being told of this impending, not to mention illogical, mission.
"See." Tom smiled broadly now. "A resounding vote of confidence."
Chakotay, who had remained silent throughout the tête-à-tête of the last few minutes, looked pointedly at the headmistress before he forced her to make a decision. "We're all in. Well, Captain?"
Kathryn Janeway was very still, quiet, and possessed a contemplative look as she took a moment to make a decision that perhaps even she didn't realize was so important. She could either accept their help, which had always been anathema to her or she could do what she had always done and carried out her plan very much alone.
Without a word satellite photos and files containing information on the bases were laid upon the briefing room table. Janeway smiled only slightly before she made her choice with the utterance of three simple words. "Let's do it."
Janeway's staff hid their relief and anticipation beneath masks of professionalism and duty. They're work was unexpectedly interrupted when a duplicate of Mortimer Harren burst into the room.
"The President's holding a press conference." Harren met the surprised responses with a roll of his eyes as he moved to the display monitor attached to the wall. The screen came to life and revealed President Bacco behind the pressroom podium. The multiple flashes of light from numerous cameras lit Bacco's weathered features and silver, shoulder length hair as she stood with dignity and resolve.
Janeway's heart thumped painfully in her chest because she had a pretty good idea what Bacco was about to say though her heart swelled with pride and gratitude as well.
"Good morning. My fellow Americans, two days ago Congress passed the Metahuman Registration Act also known as the Hayes Bill. This proposed piece of legislation would require all metahumans living within the United States of America to proactively register their names and their particular capabilities to a government syndicate under the purview of the National Security Agency or face felony charges and imprisonment." Bacco paused, her steely eyes looking directly into the camera and thus the viewer. "There is no precedent for such a federally mandated demand that would strip American citizens of their right to privacy. A law that would steal their right to live without prejudice. Take away their inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I'm not about to set that precedent today. I am vetoing this Bill. I will take your questions now."
With a small motion of her hand Janeway instructed Harren to turn the display off. The screen went black as Janeway turned to address her eager staff. "Hazard Team One, take the Delta Flyer. Secure the White House. After the Voyager Institute is locked down I'll rendezvous with you in Washington where we'll coordinate our preemptive strike against Hayes and his militia. "
"Do you think Hayes would actually coordinate an attack on the White House?" Chakotay's tones seemed even though Janeway could detect a hint of suspicion threading through it. "Won't Congress just override the President's veto?"
"Hayes just lost the ability to go after metahumans with impunity. And to publically expose me." Janeway's hands were on her slim waist as she spoke her ruminations aloud. "What President Bacco just did was expedite the timetable in which we must conduct our preemptive strike. Hayes won't risk losing his cover by a major display of the force he controls, but I have no doubt that an assassination plan per his order is already being devised. Knowing him there are a dozen already conceived. Chakotay, take the team. The President just became the key to our future."
Chakotay nodded, his voice was earnest. "We'll keep her safe."
"Dismissed." Janeway watched her staff file out of the Briefing room with a heavy heart at the thought that she might not see some of them again. She slowly lowered herself to the plush chair at the head of the table as she contemplated how her plans had just been turned upside down. "Oh, Nani."
Janeway expelled a long sigh before she regained her indomitable composure. She contacted Harren to have Nechayev come to her office as she left the Briefing room. Once inside her sunlit office the headmistress settled her slim frame into her chair and considered all the things that she needed to do before she could be in D.C., which was where she really wanted to be at the moment. As she waited for Nechayev's arrival she contacted Lyndsay and Kes to instruct them to ready the children to leave the Institute. The Jupiter Station that orbited the Earth was contacted next. After some apologies on Janeway's part the station manager, Holly, agreed to the premature and extensive transportation of the vast amount of sophisticated technology contained within the Voyager Institute's campus.
Janeway ended the transmission with a heartfelt thank you before she leaned heavily against the back of her chair, pressed her right hand to her forehead, closed her eyes, and let out a soft sigh of resignation. She was well aware that if her plan had gone off without a hitch she still would have lost her school but the reality of it happening now, so soon, caused a painful sense of loss to permeate her chest with heartache. Guilt also pressed upon her since she knew it was Hayes' obsession with her in particular that had put her school at risk in the first place. Her reverie was broken by a notification from Harren that Nechayev was on her way.
Janeway stood and let one hand rest light on the back of her chair as she rearranged her features into impassivity before her office door slid open to emit Alynna Nechayev. Janeway smiled ruefully since it was clear the Russian woman was still annoyed with her.
"Plans have changed, Alynna." Janeway moved around her desk to stand closer to Nechayev. Her tones were soft, requesting rather than demanding. "I need you to take the children to Russia, now."
"Of course. We will leave immediately." Nechayev's irritation at her old friend was overridden by the worry she felt. Janeway's plans were not often changed. She was also fully aware that the unemotional mask the headmistress was presently wearing was hiding a broken heart. Nechayev knew how much Janeway loved her school and the people within it.
"Thank you." Janeway pulled her friend into her arms to embrace her tightly, lovingly, and gratefully. "For everything."
Nechayev kept her tears from escaping as she was released from Janeway's hold. With a hand on the other woman's arm Nechayev maintained their physical closeness. "Katya, I hope that she makes you happy, that you let her, that you allow yourself to be."
Janeway's shimmering dark blue eyes were wide with surprise. "How did you know?"
"It was rather obvious." An enigmatic smile pulled Nechayev's lips upward. "I am not a universally loved person, but nor am I despised quickly. Your Annika had much detestation for me so I assumed your staff had regaled her with stories of my pursuit of you."
"You never pursued me." Janeway rolled her eyes as she grinned in return. "You're just an obnoxious flirt who likes to see me blush and fidget in front of others."
"Yes, well, it is quite a delightful sight." Nechayev shrugged nonchalantly though she knew she was not being completely honest. There had been a time when her flirtations weren't fictitious; they had merely gone unnoticed. "Nonetheless, I can clearly see this Annika has great love for you. And you for her. But you are scared."
Janeway didn't answer straightaway. Her eyes were cast to the carpet and her voice was filled with years of guilt spoken within three soft words. "I lost Justin."
"No, that is not true, Katya. Evil men took Justin from you. It was not your doing." Nechayev gently tilted Janeway's chin up so that stormy blue-gray eyes met her resolute gaze. "These things that happen in lives like ours are not entirely of our doing. One individual should not try to carry the burdens of the world. No matter how powerful that individual is believed to be. Do you love her?"
Janeway nodded. Her voice was caught her throat by the sorrow the thought of Justin caused within her, but also by the intense emotions she felt for Annika. Emotions she had not felt so strongly for anyone since her fiancée.
"Then that is enough." Nechayev brushed a stray tear from Janeway's flushed cheek before she let her hand fall to her side and took a few steps away. Her voice hardened and grew louder. "I have spoken with the rest of the UFM board. They will not arrest you for your plans. They wish to know what they can do to assist in them. They are exhausted by the United States of America's continual power growth of the intolerant and dangerous. A preemptive strike has been approved by all members of the UFM."
Flabbergasted, Janeway's response was released in a gasp. "All of them?"
"You of all people can attest to how persuasive I can be, Katya."
"That's certainly true." An impressed expression graced Janeway's elegant features as she nodded. "I-I'm speechless."
"I shall have to record this moment then." Nechayev smiled good-naturedly. She decided not to add that it had taken all of her skills of persuasion to convince some of the older and more conservative members of the UFM board to sign off on Janeway's plan. "I know it will not last long."
Janeway gave Nechayev a sour look before her attention was diverted to her door chime. "Come in."
"Oh." Annika's pale complexion did nothing to hide the hot flush that infused her cheeks. Seeing Nechayev and Janeway in such close proximity to one another caused jealously to build rapidly within her lanky frame.
"You now see what it is I mean." Nechayev let her hand linger on Janeway's shoulder even as she moved away from the woman. "I will gather the children and ready my shuttle for departure. Then I will return to assist you in this misbegotten quest of yours."
"Thank you, Alynna. I'll be there to send you off in a moment."
Nechayev's only acknowledgement of a silently fuming Annika was to give the other woman a wide breadth as she left Janeway's office.
"Alynna likes to get a rise out of people." Janeway closed the distance between herself and Annika quickly before she placed a reassuring kiss upon the other woman's full lips. "You have nothing to be jealous about. I assure you I'm quite taken with you."
Annika was still recovering from the kiss and so it was through an aroused haze that she heard Kathryn's words to her. She smiled softly as she wrapped her arms around Kathryn's slim form. "You are?"
"Oh, yes, quite." Kathryn couldn't help but grin broadly.
For the first time in her life Janeway felt a lightening of the burden she carried upon her shoulders. Perhaps it was due to the United States moving in the right direction when it came to civil rights for metahumans that so many enjoyed in other countries. Or maybe it was the fact that Nechayev had gone behind her back and had convinced the UFM board to provide assistance. Or it could be because she finally allowed herself to ask her staff for help. She knew it had the most to do with the woman in her arms who held her so tightly, yet tenderly as well. She wanted nothing more than to lose herself in Annika for a few precious moments. Kathryn closed her eyes as she pressed her lips against Annika's once again.
Annika's eyes closed and she moaned deep in her throat as Kathryn's tongue forced its way into the moist heat of her mouth. Her hands on Kathryn became more fervent as their tongues dueled. Annika right hand brushed across the curve of Kathryn's hips as her other hand pressed the petite woman even closer to her. She groaned with frustration when Kathryn removed herself from her hold.
"I, oh, I wish we had more time. So much more." Kathryn's fingers brushed across Annika's moist, reddened lips before her hand was captured in a vice-like grip.
"If we have to stop then I can't have you touching me like that or I won't be responsible for my actions." Annika's expression was a mixture of frustration and warning. Her chest heaved in response to the deep breaths she was taking. She wanted nothing more than to strip the headmistress of her sensible business suit and make love to her in the well-lit office, which was why she moved away from the intoxicating not to mention frustrating woman that held her heart.
Kathryn hadn't meant to escalate the kiss to such an extent, but she couldn't say she regretted it. But responsibility overrode her own desire so she moved even farther away from Annika in order to regain her calm. Her voice was husky and showed that her body was still recovering. "I told them of my plan."
"You did?" Annika's right eyebrow rose in surprise.
Janeway nodded and smiled softly. "Yes. I did. You were right. They-I wasn't being fair to them. They deserved to know what I had planned."
Annika didn't know how to respond she was so filled with gratitude and awe, so she merely stayed silent and pulled Kathryn to her once again. The embrace was more supportive than arousing and Annika smiled when she heard Kathryn release a contented sigh.
"What you 'had' planned?" Annika's hands held Kathryn's biceps gently as she looked into the other woman's blue-gray eyes.
"You don't know? President Bacco vetoed the bill."
"Well, that's great!" Annika's broad grin lost its structural integrity when Kathryn didn't return it. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"The President wasn't supposed to make her decision so quickly." Kathryn pulled herself away from Annika's embrace before she started to pace in front of her desk. "She could lose her life because of that decision. I've already sent Chakotay and most of the Voyager team to D.C. The children are leaving with Nechayev within the next few minutes. The school is lost. I just-I wanted more time. I always want more time."
Annika returned Kathryn's soft almost sad smile with a tentative one of her own. The affecting look Kathryn had seemed to indicate a multitude of things other than the recent veto. Suddenly the look was brushed away and Kathryn's smile looked more genuine. Annika didn't know how sincere it was though and it disconcerted her that Kathryn's mood could shift so abruptly. There always seemed to be something else hidden right below the surface. Annika's concern over what was concealed beneath Kathryn's smiling veneer was replaced by the warmth that spread through her lanky frame when Kathryn's lips were pressed again her own once again.
"I need to go." Kathryn continued to smile up at Annika as she absently smoothed the material of the other woman's plum colored long-sleeved t-shirt. "The students will be leaving soon."
"I can go with you." Annika stilled Kathryn's hands when she held them to her upper chest. "If you want."
"No. No, that's all right. Go get ready." Kathryn gently removed herself from Annika's grasp before she took two steps back. "We need to leave soon in order to rendezvous with Chakotay's team in D.C."
Annika nodded despite her urge to say something, anything to lend some comfort, but instead she departed with a smile and a few soft parting words.
Kathryn's answering smile vanished the moment her office door closed behind Annika. She let out a soft sigh before she opened her skylight and rose gracefully from her office. Her eyes closed as the warmth and light of the sun washed over her and made her aglow with the power it endowed her with. Once she was high above the campus she opened her eyes and took in her school with a moment of pained regret before she decided it was much too self-indulgent for her to waste time with.
The golden glow that surrounded Janeway shimmered away as the energy was absorbed within her body as she descended next to Nechayev's shuttle. A moment after her feet touched the ground Janeway was nearly toppled over when Naomi Wildman launched herself into the open arms of the headmistress.
Janeway's chest constricted, but her voice was clear and even as she removed the strawberry blonde girl from their embrace in order to tilt Naomi's chin up so their eyes could meet. "Ms. Wildman, I have a special assignment for you. You'll be the Voyager Institute's ambassador. You've shown great leadership skills and I have full confidence that you will excel just as well at the Institute for Elementals as you have here."
A tear shown in Naomi's eyes, but her stance was straight and as sure as her voice. "I won't let you down."
"I don't believe that it would ever be possible for you to let me down, Naomi." Janeway smiled reassuringly as she brushed a gentle hand across Naomi's braided hair. "After our mission is complete we'll see other again."
Naomi returned Janeway's smile with a tremulous one of her own though her voice held the confidence she felt that the headmistress would keep her word. "I know we will."
Janeway knew Azan and Rebi wanted neither a hug nor words of comfort from her so instead she merely told them the mission would be completed and the school reformed. The twins were silent but nodded their understanding in unison. The Burleighs were still disgruntled that she had denied their requests to join the mission, but they paid their respects to Janeway and reassured her that they would look after the younger students.
"Alynna, thank you." Janeway smiled broadly with gratitude as held her right hand on top of Nechayev's slim shoulder. "For everything."
"I do enjoy you owing me favors. I will not deny it." Nechayev smiled teasingly before she pulled Janeway into a brief hug. "Dasvidania, Katya."
"Dasvidania." Janeway smiled softly as Nechayev boarded the powered up shuttle. She watched the door close before the vessel lifted quietly from the ground high into the sunlit sky before the cloaking system was initiated and the shuttle turned invisible.
The sound of someone approaching brought Janeway's attention away from the clear blue sky. Janeway straightened her stance and adjusted her features to impassivity as Harren drew closer. "Is the transport complete?"
Harren's uncharacteristic closeness and enigmatic smile caused Janeway to take a step backward. Her confusion was clearly displayed on her elegant features and her voice. "Harren, what are you-"
"There's something I wanted you to know." Harren placed his hand atop Janeway's slim shoulder as he invaded more of her personal space.
Janeway cried out in pain and surprise when Harren pressed a small octagonal green-lit device to her upper chest. The visible golden glow that had surrounded her vanished instantly along with her internal power reserves. Sweat drenched her pale skin as she fell to her knees and clutched her chest. The device sparked when she touched it, which drew another cry from the headmistress.
With a great deal of effort, Janeway lifted her eyes to look angrily at the man standing with a cocky smirk above her. Her voice was filled with fury, but wavered due to pain and fatigue. "Who... are you?"
Harren's sandy-haired boyish façade shimmered away to reveal a dark haired man with an air of smugness and arrogance personified. "Hello, Kathryn."
Kashyk crouched next to the pained woman with a look of sheer pleasure on his rugged features. "Hurts, doesn't it? Good. What I wanted you to know, I've wanted to do this for a long, long time."
The fist to her face came fast and hard. Janeway didn't even have time to let out groan of pain before she fell unconscious to the ground.
"Phase two is complete." Kashyk brushed his hand across Janeway's still features as he spoke into his wrist communicator. "Time's up."
Nechayev's shuttle turned visible, frozen in time, high above the campus grounds until it exploded in a burst of fire and blue light.
Annika pressed her left hand to her silver clothed, ridged midsection as she looked at her reflection in the full-length mirror that was attached to one of the walls of her stripped down bedroom. The nervousness she felt about her first real combat situation unsettled her stomach, but with a deep breath she resolved herself to the decision she had made to be brought into Janeway's mission. To fight alongside the woman she loved.
Annika's butterflies now were caused by anticipation for where her relationship with Kathryn was heading. She didn't want to be overly naïve, but she thought that despite the dangers facing them Voyager's team would be successful. Annika had already seen what a capable and powerful leader Janeway. Perhaps they would even be able to keep their seven o'clock date.
The windows of Annika's bedrooms shattered the moment before she let out a scream of surprise. She fell to the ground as the building shook around her. Annika slowly rose from the carpeted floor and uncovered her ears after the thunderous sound had passed.
"Kathryn!" Annika's metal exoskeleton slipped-over her slim form as she sprinted from the debris filled bedroom. She stopped only when she saw the first piece of wreckage that was obviously from Nechayev's very distinct shuttlecraft. "Oh my God."
Annika felt numb as she moved in a daze through the flaming rubble. She could barely let out a gasp of surprise when a small hand grabbed her ankle and she was pulled beneath the ground. She couldn't breathe as she moved quickly through the earth. Annika tried to grasp at the soil and root systems, but her metallic hands passed through everything she attempted to touch. She began to relax when she realized who had hold of her.
The gray-carpeted floor of the shuttle seemed to drift gently up to meet her as Naomi continued to use her phasing ability. Annika took a deep breath when she felt solid ground once again beneath her feet.
"Naomi! I thought you were dead." Annika knelt in front of the small strawberry blonde who looked determined not to cry. She hugged Naomi as tightly as she dared while in her metal form. "What happened?"
"Relativity." Nechayev limped forward, blood dripped from a cut above her left eyebrow. "He created a temporal bomb so we couldn't depart until it had detonated."
Annika felt relief wash over her when the aft section doors opened to reveal the rest of the Voyager student body. She could also see that Nechayev's two adjuncts, Stadi and Vorik, were working at the helm. There was one person missing that immediately overpowered her relief with terror. "Where's Kathryn?"
"We don't know." Vorik's voice was even but filled Annika with ice-cold fear.
"Well we have to go back up to the surface!" Annika looked frantically at the others. Her awareness that she probably shouldn't be so crazed in front of the children eluded her. "We have to find her!"
Nechayev grabbed hold of Annika and moved her away from the others in order to chastise her lack of composure. "Calm yourself. We have to discover what has occurred first."
"We have access to the grid." Stadi's calm, alto tones broke through Annika's sharp fear and shifted her attention away from Nechayev's stern glare.
"Have you found the captain?" Henry moved next to his sister, Beatrice, behind the two cockpit seats in order to see for himself what the sensor readings were. His expression was stony as he saw the answer to his own question.
"There's no sign of her." Beatrice's self-possessed façade cracked a bit as her worried eyes turned to Nechayev.
"Contact Tasha Yar from the Saskatchewan School of Psionics, she will with no doubt be able to find Katya faster than the satellites in orbit." Nechayev absently brushed drying blood from her forehead before a wave of her hand drew Annika's attention to her.
"You must stay calm." Nechayev's voice was low enough not to be overheard by the others, but strong enough that Annika felt the whip of command within it. "The children will not benefit from your lack of composure. We will find Katya. They will not have killed her yet."
"Oh, yes, thank you! How could I not stay calm now?" The worry Annika felt clutching her chest in a vice grip made her tone derisive and sharp though she did keep her voice low. "We need to go look for her."
"And we will once we have her location, but for now we must not lose our heads."
"What's that sound?" Mezoti looked confused as a rumbling noise drew her attention away from Stadi's communiqué with Tasha Yar.
Henry moved away from the others to use his enhanced hearing to discern if there was indeed a noise or if it was merely Mezoti's imagination. The sound so similar to a drill told him it was the former.
"Switch to the underground perimeter net." Icheb tore off his portable holographic emitter as he readied himself for a fight. A plume of smoke emitted from between his sharpened teeth as adrenaline coursed hotly through him.
"Janeway's in D.C." Stadi initiated launch procedures after she disconnected her call to Yar. "She's alive."
Annika wasn't entirely composed despite the fact that she now knew Janeway was alive. It was who abducted her and for what purpose that caused her unsettled stomach and constricted chest. Her anxiety made her transformation more sluggish than usual, but she managed to absorb the metal exoskeleton after taking a few deep, calming breaths. Despite her worry for Janeway she knew she had to remain cool, calm and collected for the children's sake and her own.
"Are you all alright?" Annika carefully modulated her voice to keep the anger and fear she felt from being obvious as she looked the children over for any sign of injury. She was relieved to see none.
"Obviously." Mezoti shrugged as she leaned against the curved gray bulkhead and crossed her arms over her chest. Annika could see that the stalwart little girl had been crying by her red-rimmed eyes and the high color in her cheeks.
Azan and Rebi remained silent though their hands were turning to ice and fire, respectively. Annika wondered if they were practicing or if it was merely a nervous reaction on their parts. She almost hoped it was the latter since she knew a battle was imminent and the children would most likely want to be a part of it. Annika wondered if it was hypocritical or presumptuous to want to prevent them from demanding their place in the fight.
Icheb was seated at one of the powered down stations with his portable emitter masking his true appearance. Annika thought he looked even more solemn than usual and knew why as his eyes drifted to Beatrice.
The Burleighs were whispering to one another, but Annika heard snippets of their conversation. Her assumption had been correct. They did want to be included. Annika also noticed how Beatrice's attention would drift away from her brother to Icheb, but only when he wasn't looking. Annika almost laughed aloud at the teenage drama that was taking place, but then she remembered her own behavior towards Kathryn and remained quiet.
"Will you tell me what happened?" Annika turned to Naomi who sat silently and very still next to her. She laid a gentle hand on Naomi's shoulder and smiled sympathetically when the little girl wrapped her small arms around her. Annika hugged her back and relaxed against the bulkhead as she smoothed down Naomi's hair with a gentle hand.
"We were on the shuttle. It was like we were asleep and when we woke up there was a blue ball of light in the middle of the shuttle. I didn't know what it was, but some of the others did. Director Nechayev told Mezoti and me to concentrate on the shuttle and everyone in it."
"You and Mezoti saved everyone. That was a very brave thing to do."
"But we don't know what happened to Captain Janeway." Naomi looked up at Annika with carefully held tears in her eyes. "Do you think she's okay?"
A low snort preceded Mezoti's harsh words. "Of course she's not okay. Don't be stupid."
"Mezoti." Annika's tone would have been more chastising if she hadn't just heard the little girl's voice waver and seen the tears in her light brown eyes. "Please, come here."
Mezoti looked skeptical before she hesitantly seated herself next to Annika. Mezoti's posture was stiff and unyielding when Annika embraced her until the first tear escaped. Annika tightened her hold on both Naomi and Mezoti in an attempt to silently reassure them and herself.
"Hey, Captain Janeway's one of the most powerful people on the planet." Icheb kneeled in front of Annika, Mezoti, and Naomi. His reassuring tone was reinforced by his resolute expression. "Don't worry. We'll find her."
Annika smiled gently at the young man's genuine care and compassion. Her smile also conveyed her gratitude for the comfort she received from his words as well. She hugged Mezoti and Naomi closer to her to stave off the ice-cold worry that threatened to overwhelm her. She hoped with all her heart that Icheb's words were true.
The hour and forty-seven minutes it took to cover the wide distance between San Francisco and Washington D.C. passed mostly in silence within the solemn shuttle. Nechayev's communiqués continuous attempts to contact Chakotay's team and the hum of the ship were the only sounds emitted.
Annika's fear for what had happened to the Voyager team made her alert and tense. She hoped it was a technological malfunction rather than a sign that they were in trouble or worse. Despite this hope, Annika knew that it probably wasn't a malfunction. The metal shifted beneath her pale flesh as they neared D.C.
"We will be arriving in fifteen minutes." Nechayev's voice pulled the students from their reveries as she moved from the cockpit to the passenger section. "Stadi and Vorik will take you to Russia. Annika, you are with me. "
Annika gently released her hold on Mezoti and Naomi before she stood with what she hoped was a resolute expression. This, she supposed, had been what she wanted. Except Kathryn wasn't by her side. Annika's fury ignited anew at the thought of members of the Friends for Humanity harming Kathryn in any way. The metal plating across her forearms sprouted four metal spikes from her elbow to her wrist. Annika looked at them with some surprise and then with quick acceptance. Weird seemed to be part of the job.
"I want to stay and fight." Mezoti's voice broke Annika out of her momentary reverie.
Naomi looked cautiously defiant and not near as quarrelsome as Mezoti, but her voice was just as sure. "We can help."
It was difficult to tell what the characteristically impassive twin boys thought. That was until they stood in unison and powered up.
"I'm eighteen." Beatrice stood with what was a close approximation of a Janeway stance: chin defiantly up, eyes ablaze, and hands on her waist. "You can't tell me what to do."
Nechayev seemed taken aback by the criticism and the sardonic tone, but then she smirked and nodded her head. "I am impressed by your passion. Do not allow yourself to be killed because of it."
"We're not just kids." Henry was filled with equal determination as his sister as he stood next to her to face off Nechayev. "We've been trained well."
"Yes, I can see that." Nechayev took in the group of students with pride. They were not her own, but they had the fire her students in Russia sometimes lacked. Her students weren't living in a country so filled with hatred for metahumans and sometimes Nechayev worried that it made them soft. She could easily see the students who stood defiantly against her were anything but soft. "But this will not be your holodeck with the safeties turned on. Some of you might not survive."
"There are worse things than death." Icheb removed his portable emitter and tossed it away indifferently. The lights of the shuttle reflected off the dark green scales of his skin and he shone like marble. The fire within his body made his eyes glow white-hot and plumes of smoke emitted from his mouth.
"So there is." Nechayev grinned and nodded her head in approval.
Annika quickly followed after Nechayev as the Russian director re-entered the cockpit. "Do you think that's a good idea? They're just kids."
"I do not mean to insult you, but these 'kids' have extensive field experience compared to what it is you possess." Nechayev's warm breath brushed across Annika's ear as she drew closer and her voice lowered to a whisper. "Whoever has Katya has a considerable amount of power and knowledge. They infiltrated the Voyager Institute and seized perhaps the most powerful metahuman on the planet. We are all in danger. These children are fully aware that despite their young age they are not immune to what is occurring. What you must now concentrate on is being useful and not getting in their way."
Annika nodded silently. Her voice caught in her throat and her jaw tensed as she hoped to stave off the feeling of inadequacy Nechayev's words filled her with.
"Incoming weapons fire." Vorik's calm, even tones seemed misplaced Annika thought before her head buzzed with worry. "Contact in two minutes."
It wasn't until Nechayev's low, frantic voice sounded that she understood what was occurring. "Open the hatch!"
"Hey, wait!" Annika's outburst was ignored as Nechayev made her way to the passenger section.
"Strap in. It is about to get very windy." Nechayev took a deep breath before she leapt from the shuttle.
"Where're you going?" Annika's voice whipped around her much like her blonde tresses as she yelled after Nechayev from the open doorway. "Where the hell do you two think you're going?"
Icheb and Henry ignored Annika's outraged inquiry as they moved towards the doorway instead of strapping in like the rest of the children. Annika could only gawk in shock as the two young men jumped from the shuttle.
"Oh, damn it!" Annika felt helpless and inept as looked after Icheb and Henry as they defended the ship.
"You shouldn't swear."
Annika slowly turned towards Mezoti who had such a look of haughtiness that it took her some effort not to go straight over to the little girl and shake the look away.
"They'll be okay, Annika. Don't worry." Naomi smiled reassuringly. Annika frankly didn't know what to be more bothered by Mezoti's smug look or Naomi's confident grin.
"Are those-are those missiles!" Annika quickly backed away from the open hatch that was closed again with a forceful palm to the hatch control. She fell on her back atop the gray-carpeted floor as the shuttle rocked around her. "Oh my God!"
Annika ran to the cockpit so she could see the mayhem that was occurring outside. She let the deep breath she had been holding out when she saw that Nechayev, Henry, and Icheb appeared to be unharmed. Henry's sonic scream was at a decibel that was unheard but destructive nonetheless. The small assault missiles shattered beneath the force of his voice. Nechayev used bolts of lightning to destroy any missiles fired, which caused flashes of light to flood the cockpit. Annika shook her head in an attempt to remove the stars from her eyes. She was successful in time to see Icheb catch one of the foot-long missiles fired at him before he hurled it back from whence it came. It was at that very moment that Annika realized just how immensely out of her league she was.
Stadi's anxious voice brought Annika out of her reverie. "We're sitting ducks up here!"
Vorik's flat voice was beginning to seriously annoy Annika. She would have perhaps expressed this irritation if she weren't so busy trying to stay on her feet as the shuttle quickly descended. The ship continued to shunt under the force of obliterated missiles even as the small vessel finally landed.
Annika moved closer to the cockpit window as the scope of the battle occurring in front of the White House was seen for the first time. She could just make out B'Elanna covered in blood in the throng of a street brawl with twenty or so black-garbed militants. The grounds were filled with the Voyager team fighting against hundreds of heavily armed members of the Friends of Humanity. The fighting spilled out into the streets where members of the US military were trying to corral protesters, pro-metahuman and anti-metahuman alike, to a safer distance from the fray. Marines were fighting against a group of metahumans Annika didn't recognize. What she could discern even from the shuttle's distance was that they were probably not members of the UFM. These metahumans didn't pull their punches. Fallen soldiers mingled with civilians upon the blacktop of Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue.
"My God." Annika's words were almost forced out of her on a low burst of breath. The world around her seemed to turn black. She could hear the blood thrumming caused by her heart's rapid beating.
"Annika." Stadi placed a gentle hand upon the shell-shocked woman's shoulder to gain her attention. "We've got to go. Now."
Annika nodded absently, still shaken by what they were about to enter into, before she followed Vorik and Stadi into the aft section to collect the children. She stood silently to the side as Stadi and Vorik tried to insist that the younger children wait in the relative safety of the shuttle until transport by Harry Kim could be obtained, somehow through the chaos and the lack of communications capability.
Nechayev stamped down the children's resistance and indignation quickly after she re-entered the shuttle. Annika knew the Russian director had lost all of her bluster, her conceit and her patience. The sharp voice convinced the children that now was not the time to resist. Annika understood that with this particular woman it was probably always futile to attempt to do so.
"Vorik. Stadi. Find Kim." Nechayev's eyes were fully white as threads of blue energy crackled along her body, which made her two aides comply immediately. Annika had to admit it made for an intimidating sight. She was very glad Nechayev and she were on the same side. Annika was startled when the Russian director pulled her aside. "Perhaps it would be a good idea if you joined the children away from this fight."
"What do you mean?" Annika felt her concern for Janeway overcome her shock and fear so her voice came out indignant at the suggestion that she would in essence abandon ship when it got tough. "I'm staying."
"You do not fully understand the situation. It is more dangerous than anyone could possibly have imagined." Nechayev's voice held disbelief before she forced confidence in her usually commanding tones. "The Obsidian Order is collaborating with the Friends of Humanity."
"I thought the Obsidian Order hated humans. And as a rule the Friends of Humanity aren't too fond of metahumans either." Annika's brow furrowed as she tried to imagine the two most extreme groups somehow coming together. Much less to overthrow the United States government. "I don't understand."
"Nor do I."
Nechayev's words did nothing to ease the growing concern Annika felt as a cold weight on her chest. She was thankful to have her attention diverted to the glowing purple vortex that opened in the middle of the shuttle.
Harry Kim followed Vorik and Stadi out of the swirling portal looking a bit worse for wear. He had a large cut above his right eye and painful red burns on the left side of his boyish face. Harry's features shifted from a stiff stoicism to a reassuring soft look as he approached the group of children.
Annika's attention was split between the forced cheerfulness Harry was projecting for the sake of the students and Vorik's report to Nechayev. When she heard "the Captain" being referred to all of her attention was on Vorik.
"Slider and the others thought the captain was with us. They do not know where she is." Vorik's impassive voice quieted as to not be overheard by the students purposefully herded by Harry to the far end of the shuttle. "They are very concerned."
Annika shook her head. She was beginning to feel sick and light headed. Where could Kathryn be? And perhaps more importantly who had her? What were they doing to her? Annika was definitely sick when grotesque images invaded her mind. She's was beginning to perspire and her face had a deathly pallor. She barely registered the touch of a small hand on her forearm.
"I wish we could stay and help. When you do find Captain Janeway will you tell her that we wanted to, but we were overruled?" Naomi looked up at her with a small smile and with such a look of astuteness that Annika could do nothing less than feel fortified by her words of subtle encouragement and comfort.
In a flash of purple light Harry Kim and the children were gone. In the time it took Harry to return to the shuttle, Annika's metal exoskeleton was in place.
"Both the Obsidian Order and Senator Hayes have reason to seek revenge against her." Harry added his input as to who was holding the captain.
"Just because his Bill was rejected?" Stadi wore a bemused expression as she wondered what a US Senator would have to hold again Janeway.
"Shortly after the President's speech evidence was released indicting Senator Hayes and other Senators of a multitude of federal crimes including illegal arms dealing." Harry almost smiled. He knew Janeway's handiwork when he saw it. He only wished she was right there next to him and feeling us vindicated against the toxic Senator.
"I will hand it straight to Katya, she is very thorough." Nechayev smiled only briefly. "I do not believe it is Hayes pulling these particular strings. No no. He is not capable even with his many heavily armed men to overcome the Voyager Institute's defenses nor the ability to capture someone so powerful as Janeway."
Annika let out a relieved breath. It didn't last long though after Nechayev answered her query. "Then who is it? Who has her?"
"Someone worse and far, far more dangerous."
(to be continued)