Rating: NC-17 for language, homosexual content, violence, and other such things
Uber Setting: the year 2047; a healthy dose of X-Men and Voyager
Summary: A woman with extraordinary abilities realizes she knows very little about life, the universe, and everything when she is rescued by a group of metahumans led by a particularly captivating team captain.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns anything relating to Star Trek, and the writers and actors/actresses own a few of the words. I own the angst!
Feedback: Yes please! Katie_
The pain was hot, searing, it started in her chest, radiated quickly out and paralyzed her entire body with its intensity… there wasn't even time enough to scream before the darkness engulfed her.
"Hey, are, are you okay?" The voice was quiet, fragmented by uncertainty and worry. The hand on her shoulder was just as hesitant.
"God, what happened?" she groaned as she slowly and painfully lifted herself into a seated position on the hard, unforgiving floor. Her hands didn't know whether to go to her midsection or her head as the effects of her unwise movements were sharply felt. Mercifully the various points of pain began to dissipate to just dull aches.
She finally opened her eyes, the icy blue locked on to her loan companion. At her side sat a young man, perhaps in his twenties, with unruly brown hair and youthful, albeit apprehensive, dark eyes. Those eyes now flitted from her face to seek out the dark places in the room they were in.
She also took in their uninviting surroundings. The room was dank and tiny, so small that there was barely enough room for her long frame to lie down or to stretch her sore muscles. The floor was cold cement, dirty and hard on her aching body. There were no windows; nothing existed in the room aside from herself and her companion… her cell mate. The thought made her shiver. Her eyes quickly moved to the young man. The single light source from the ceiling cast an eerie green light on the entire room and made his face, which was covered in dirt and what was probably dried blood, appear gaunt and sickly.
"Where are we?" Her voice was hoarse; her question came out raspy. Her slim, pale hand went to her neck unconsciously, but it didn't touch flesh. Her palm touched metal. She felt around the metal band that encircled her neck before a hand abruptly ended her investigation.
"Don't!" It was urgent, a warning. "If you thought the other pain was bad, trying to take that thing off is worse… trust me."
And she found that she did. He let her wrist go quickly; it was then that she noticed he too wore a metal collar.
"Thanks." She figured he had just saved her from another pain induced blackout. "I'm Annika, Annika Hansen." She let that trail off. Introductions first, and then an escape plan to get them the hell out of wherever it was that they were.
"Billy." He smiled a bit, a humorless grin. "Now that the introductions are over… no, I have no idea where we are, or who captured us, but I have a fairly good idea if these things," he touched his own metal collar, "are any indication. 'The Friends of Humanity' or 'The Human Unity League' or some other anti-metahuman bunch of crazies."
"Shit." She had been so careful hadn't she? She hadn't even used her powers in the last year and a half, the last time was when she had been hit straight on by a drunk driver whose truck had completely crumpled her beloved VW bug. And that hadn't even been a conscious use of her powers, it had been automatic self-preservation.
As she sat on the cold floor with Billy, she tried to forcefully eject the metal that would protect her from whatever anti-metahuman group it was that had captured them. She cursed again when she found she couldn't, despite how much she tried. She realized suddenly and with a start that the matching metal collars were responsible. The cold trickle of fear ran down her spine and settled in a frozen lump in the pit of her stomach.
"You can say that again," Billy touched her shoulder in comfort. "I've been here for… for a while. I… I don't even know what day it is…"
"It's Thursday," she replied, though suddenly she wasn't so sure, she had no idea how long she had been unconscious.
"I could never get the hang of Thursdays," was his dry reply. "So… I've been here for about two days now."
"Have they," she hesitated, she wasn't sure if she wanted to know the answer but she had to ask. "Have they… hurt you?"
"They've…" He caught his breath and looked away to the dirty floor. To Annika, Billy seemed to reduce in age as she looked upon his innocent looking face. "Let's just say they didn't take me out for drinks and laughs." Brown blurred eyes met compassionate, icy blue ones.
"I-" Her voice caught as tears welled in her eyes and in her throat. "I'm so sorry, Billy."
It was her turn to put a warm, comforting hand on the young man's shoulder which quaked under her touch. Tears never fell from his eyes, but perhaps that was because he had already expelled all that he had when he was enduring this imprisonment alone.
"Two days huh", he cleared his throat, the heaviness gone from his tone. "I… I want you to know that… They'll come for me. For us. They will."
His voice didn't sound desperate or unsure; the certainty in his eyes and in his voice warmed the cold fear that had made its way across every inch of her body. Billy's tight lipped smile was brief but she could tell it had been meant to be reassuring.
Just as the warmth of his words filled her with hope the clanking of sliding metal filled her chest with a fear she had never felt before in her life. She could hear the clinking of metal and the heavy falls of booted footsteps before she saw them silhouetted in the doorway. Three men, carrying rifles, dressed in well worn fatigues and combat boots. They blocked out most of the light that came from the now visible hallway as they loomed in the doorway. She couldn't see their faces but knew hatred and other terrible things were etched on them. She felt Billy's abrupt movements behind her and then she was quickly behind him as his left arm pushed her body. He stood before the guards in a protective stance.
"Leave her alone." Billy's voice was low and dangerous, something Annika would never have expected from him. The three men laughed, awful laughs.
"What's wrong, freak?" One of the men moved closer to Billy. This man was dangerous and unafraid as he drew back his rifle and brought it down on Billy's head, hard.
"Billy!" Annika caught the falling man's body and brought it slowly to the floor. Her fingers held his bleeding head in her lap. The men's laughter burned hot within her with an anger that quickly engulfed her fear. "You bastard!"
She sprang on the man who had struck Billy so harshly, so cruelly. She had surprised them all, perhaps herself the most, as her lean but toned body brought the man down quickly and with force as her fist collided with his nose.
Before she could get another good solid hit to his now bloodied face, two pairs of hands roughly pulled her away from the swearing man on the floor. She felt herself fly through the air before she collided with one of the cement walls and the air left her lungs in rush. Then the fists came. Her head, her stomach; the blows came fast. She didn't even have time enough to cry out as the fists and boots connected with her slim body. The pale blue t-shirt and the dark jeans she wore were quickly covered with the redness of her blood as she felt her nose break and probably other parts of her body.
The words they yelled at her were almost worse than the blows, sick, terrible things, filled with hate and sadistic glee, there was no humanity in them as they continued with the brutal assault. As the rifle came up to connect with her head as it had Billy's a low rumble sounded and the air seemed to vibrate around her. Finally the blows ceased as the men ran from the room. Her dark red blood stained their clothing and fists. The ringing in her ears ceased as she took uneasy breaths, yes her ribs, they had broken her ribs. Propped against the wall she could see men running frantically past in the well lit hallway as alarm klaxons rang out.
The pain in her body was so intense she wondered why she didn't black out from it. Her reinforced skeletal structure came to mind despite the effects of the collar and she knew that was what had probably saved her life and her consciousness. Shouts, male ones of fear, mixed with the alarms. Annika couldn't move, didn't particularly want to move. Billy had told her someone would come for them. Hope began to fill her again but she was more cautious about it now than she had been before.
As it had been before her hope was swiftly extinguished when the man she had attacked stumbled into the cell. He looked much more agitated and less cocky than he had before she had broken his nose. Despite his frazzled appearance he was still dangerous. The rifle he had used to hit Billy was still in his hands, shaky as they were. He could still finish her and Billy and that was apparently what he had planned to do since his shaking arms lifted the rifle to point it directly at Annika. The screams of men and the blare of alarms left her ears swiftly as blood thumped loudly and sweat poured over her body. She was going to die, tonight, in this godforsaken place.
"Stop." The voice was even, male, and sure. The rifle fell as did the man who had been so close to ending Annika's life.
The owner of the voice came into view, he was dark skinned and tall, imposing but comforting. He had, after all, just saved her very existence with one word it would appear. His long fingers tapped a small star shaped piece of metal that was attached to his black outfit, the gold piece emitted a chirp when he touched it.
"I found our missing crewmen and an unknown. I request the doctor's presence. We have injured." His voice was calm, calm and strangely polite to Annika's ears.
It comforted her, and a doctor! She knew she desperately needed one after the beating she had taken. And Billy! Sweet young Billy who had wanted so much to protect her and she had failed him by provoking an attack. No! She hadn't provoked those bastards! She had done nothing!
"Who are you?" Annika's breathing came in gasps due to the pain in her midsection. Her reinforced body must have been weakened from the inhibitor collar, she thought absently.
"You may address me as Psi, less formal introductions will have to wait until we are in a secure location." Her savior crouched before her, his face impassive as he looked calmly at her strained features.
She broke contact first when a bright purple glow appeared in the middle of the room and then slowly grew until it became the size of a refrigerator. Annika gasped in astonishment as two men emerged from the swirling light before the purple glow abruptly disappeared as if it had never been there at all. One of the men was slim with sparse hair and wrinkled features that gave him a perpetually annoyed look, or perhaps, Annika considered, he was perpetually annoyed. The other man looked to be about Billy's age, with the same boyish innocence in his caramel colored features. The sparse man quickly went to Billy's prone figure. As he crouched down he rested his hands over Billy's wound and to Annika's amazement the large, hideous gash on the young man's forehead disappeared before her eyes and she watched with relief as Billy's eyes fluttered a bit and then finally opened completely. There was a moment of confusion, then it was suddenly replaced by recognition and relief.
"Doc!" Billy sat up quickly, he almost laughed with relief and delight. "Am I glad to see you!"
Annika watched as Billy's hands pressed against his chest and sides. Apparently other wounds had been repaired as well. Quickly the doctor removed himself from the floor and came to kneel before her.
"Miss?" The craggy features were compassionate if not a little bit annoyed at the term "Doc". "I'm going to heal your injuries, so I just need you to relax and try not to move. Will you do that for me?" Annika could only nod her head. "Good. You'll feel a slight elevation in your temperature. Nothing to worry about." The last bit was said in a light tone and was accompanied by a closed lipped, though meant to be reassuring, smile.
"Don't worry, Annika." Billy's smile was bright as he wiped the blood off of his face with the back of his shirt sleeve. "The Doc here will get you healed up in no time."
She didn't worry as her body began to hum and heat from an invisible force which seemed to emanate from the doctor's hands as he rested them above her bruised and battered midsection. The pain that had taken the breath from her body disappeared as if it had never existed and the only evidence of injury left behind was the blood on her clothing and skin. She took large, grateful gulps of air.
"Thank you." Annika allowed the doctor's hands, so warm, to help her from the ground. She turned to Billy who was being helped to his feet by the young man who she reasoned had created the purple glow.
"Told ya they'd come." Billy smiled grandly and she laughed softly, filled with delight that he'd be all right, that they both would.
"We must go." The dark, impassive man didn't raise his voice, but everyone knew the urgency of his even words. The police sirens that sounded at an approaching distance hastened their agreement.
"Okay, you might feel a little dizzy." The caramel colored man looked intently at Annika as he grasped her forearm. She didn't tend to appreciate strangers touching her but she assumed it was necessary.
"I don't want you to get lost." He smiled sheepishly at his explanation for his touch.
The purple glow was back, much larger now, almost encompassing the entire room. She started a bit but calmed when her other arm was grasped gently by Billy, the doctor and Psi completed the chain.
"All right, let's go." And with that the leader of the chain stepped in to the purple glow he had created and pulled gently, but unnecessarily as the rest followed quickly behind.
He was right, she did feel dizzy. One moment she was in the garishly green tinted cell and the next she was in a brightly lit room where the floor beneath her hummed against her tennis shoes. The men beside her quickly dispersed from the center of the room and sat in chairs with large computer consoles in front of them. It appeared to be a move all of them had done many times before, it looked to be second nature. Annika ended up just standing in shock as she took in her new surroundings. It looked like one of those spaceships on those old cheesy sci-fi shows her father had liked so much. Large display screens covered the walls and beneath the screens were large panels of flat multi-colored buttons and lights that blinked at seemingly random interval, all of which made it seem very important.
"Miss, please sit down over here." It was the doctor that broke her out of her musings of how much her father would have loved to be where she was right now. Annika let the doctor lead her to a low cushioned bench in the aft section. She sat a few feet away from Billy who smiled reassuringly.
"Hi!" A small strawberry blonde haired girl suddenly stood before Annika. The little girl quickly placed her right hand on Annika's shoulder and her other hand on Billy's. Annika felt an unbelievable lightness in her usually heavy, metal frame. "Okay, Slider!"
The caramel colored man… Slider apparently, took hold of the two metal collars fastened on Annika and Billy's neck and quickly pulled back. Annika gasped as the metal band passed through her neck as if her flesh wasn't even there. The metal collars quickly disappeared in a flash of purple.
"Good riddance." Slider let a look of pure disgust cross his features before he turned a smiling face to the young girl who had let her hands leave Billy and Annika to cross behind her small back.
"Great work, Naomi. The Captain will be proud of you and your completion of this very important mission." His tone was professional, almost too professional.
"Thank you, sir!" Naomi seemed to attempt to be composed and profession but she grinned, almost beamed up at Slider. Pure pride was clearly visible on her small face at such a compliment. Suddenly she turned to Annika. "I hope that wasn't scary. I know sometimes it can be."
"N-no, I…" Annika winced as she saw Naomi's smile fade, now a look that resembled shame crossed the small girl's face. Annika felt a twinge in her chest, she knew that feeling well. "Naomi, is it? I am very grateful to you. It was not scary, it was astounding."
Now Naomi did beam, brightly. She bounced onto the gray cushion as she took a seat at Annika's side. "I don't usually get to go on missions. But I'm glad I got to. Those metal necklaces aren't… good for us."
How Naomi knew this pained Annika, she rested a gentle hand on the young girl's upper back. "No, they aren't. Thank you again."
"Billy!" The sadness in Naomi's eyes was extinguished quicker than Annika could comprehend from a girl so young. "Celes wanted to come on the mission too but she was too far away! Ms. Torres and Mr. Chakotay were going to pick her up in the Delta Flyer."
"It's okay. I know she was out of the country visiting her family." Billy smiled brightly and it complimented the look of adoration in his eyes. Whoever this Celes person was, Annika thought, definitely had Billy's heart. Annika smiled at the warmth of his look.
"Annika, you're in safe hands with Ms. Wildman. I'm going to go get us something to drink. Water?"
Annika nodded and Billy removed himself from the bench with a grin that didn't quite reach his eyes. He exited though a sliding door that Annika hadn't even realized was there. Yup definitely sci-fi stuff here.
"What can you do?" Annika's gaze went back to Naomi who had just asked the question. The little girl's curious eyes rested expectantly on Annika's somewhat uncomfortable features.
"Well, I can…." Annika tried to formulate a way to say it so Naomi would understand, then shook her head. Naomi was apparently in the company of men who could create purple glows to transport people and objects, heal on contact, cause grown men to become unconscious with a word, and Naomi herself seemed to be able to make people intangible. Annika decided a demonstration would be much more efficient. "I'll show you, okay?"
Naomi was almost jumping up and down, but remained calm. She wanted to act like a grown up, but she still fidgeted with delight at the thought that she would soon have new knowledge about the tall blonde lady who sat next to her. Oh how Mezoti would be jealous, Naomi's eyes sparkled.
Billy returned and handed a bottle of water to Annika. She quickly removed the cap and took several large swallows before she smiled thanks to the brown haired man who sat across from her in a chair next to a small computer console. Annika returned her attention back to the fidgeting girl next to her.
"Naomi, please move to the other side of the bench."
Naomi did as directed and curled her legs beneath herself as she watched Annika avidly, unconsciously she held her breath.
Annika inhaled deeply and looked away from Naomi. She turned her icy blue gaze to her own outstretched arm. A loud tearing sound filled the quiet cabin and Annika knew she now had an audience. Metal spikes, three inches long ripped through the epidermis of her forearm without pain but still it didn't lend itself to a very pretty picture as the skin they erupted from tore apart, most of it fell lightly to the floor like falling leaves. The spikes broadened and then bent to fall against her arm and secured themselves with tiny metal fasteners. Openings on the flat pieces of metal revealed themselves when metal bands erupted and encircled her arm loosely at first and then tightened as they were secured and flattened so the metal that encased her was as slim as her fleshy forearm had been. She didn't allow her metallic exoskeleton to extend beyond her elbow or wrist, she didn't want to scare the young girl with her four inch metal claws that formed on the ends of her fingers.
"Wow!" Annika looked from her metal arm to Naomi's awed face. "That's so neat!"
Annika laughed, perhaps more than she should have, but that was the first time anyone had ever referred to her transformation as "neat".
"I suppose it is." Annika smiled brightly. As quickly as it appeared the metal around her arm retracted itself in a similar, albeit reversed, manner in which it came until skin appeared beneath the metal, the rosy tone bespoke its newness.
Annika looked at Psi who merely raised one of his dark angled eyebrows. Then to the doctor who quickly inputted data into his computer console with avid delight. And then to Slider whose eyes were huge, not with disgust, but with awe and wonder.
"Wait till the Captain sees this!" His excited voice seemed to unnecessarily extend the length of his words.
"Who's the Captain?" That was the second time this man had spoken about this individual and it piqued Annika's innate curiosity.
"Captain Janeway! She's the neatest lady ever!" It was Naomi who had answered with her usual enthusiasm. "You'll like her lots! She's super nice. And smart."
"Well if you like her, then she must be pretty neat." Annika smiled, though nothing Naomi said really satisfied her inquisitive mind.
"Hey, guys," an unseen man's voice sounded over a speaker system and filled the cabin. "We'll be home in ten minutes. Make sure your baggage is stored, your tray tables are up and please sit back and enjoy the rest of our flight." The voice cut off with a small chuckle.
It suddenly struck Annika that she had no idea where this "home" was, she was so caught up in all the action and excitement that she had just allowed herself to go along for the ride, something she rarely did.
"Um, where are we going? I kind of need to get home." She looked from one face to another. It was Psi who spoke, even as always.
"I regret to inform you that you cannot… go home at the moment, it is no longer safe. It's likely that 'The Friends of Humanity' now have your profile in their records and may attempt to harm you again. It is therefore logical to bring you to our secure base." Psi didn't have a whole lot of emotion in his tone, but he seemed to be trying to ease the idea of Annika going somewhere completely unfamiliar to her.
Her profile? It wasn't over? Annika was now very glad she lived alone.
"Okay, but just for tonight. I do have to get home soon."
"The Captain will want to speak with you." Psi's sure voice didn't seem to allow for any argument. Though someone did just that.
"I think that Miss…" The doctor turned to her with an expectant look.
"Hansen, Annika Hansen." Annika sat a bit straighter, her hands rested on top of her thighs.
"I think that Miss Hansen could do well with food and a good night's sleep, perhaps a bath." He looked at her bloodied shirt with a bit of irritation and sadness, a feat he pulled off admirably.
Yup, perpetually annoyed, Annika thought.
"The inquisition can happen tomorrow. I'm sure the Captain would agree that Miss Hansen has gone through quite a harrowing ordeal and needs her rest." There was a certain smugness to his tone that just about challenged someone to disagree.
"A logical conclusion, Doctor. I was not stating that the Captain would wish to speak with Ms. Hansen this evening. Though perhaps a talk with Kes would be beneficial." Psi hadn't seemed particularly put off by the doctor's words. His voice as impassive as his face.
"A bath sounds wonderful and I am sort of hungry. I—I don't even know how long I was down in that… place." Memories of the past few hours made her shudder with a chill that she alone felt. Sympathetic eyes rested upon her and she had to look away. She didn't need sympathy, she needed to feel safe and secreted away again.
"All right, gang," the disembodied voice sounded again. "We're here."
Annika was startled, something she was quite tired of being, when a loud hissing sound preceded the opening of a door and the lowering of a ramp at the opposite side of the ship from the bench she sat upon.
"We're home!" Naomi grasped Annika's forearm, the same one that had been encased in metal moments before, and led her down the ramp.
Two women were the first visions to greet Annika as she descended the ramp with Naomi, the others not far behind. Slider and the doctor nodded politely at Naomi and Annika and then at the two women who had greeted them before they exited through a large sliding metal door on the other side of the room. Psi remained unobtrusively by the aircraft.
Annika regarded the two women before her with curious blue eyes. One was a petite woman dressed in a dark purple and pink dress with short cropped blonde hair and elfin features that held a warm smile. The other was a tall willowy woman with long chestnut colored hair and wide brown eyes, her worried eyebrows crinkled the skin between them. She was slim built and just an inch or two shorter than Annika, her frame shook as she fidgeted.
Annika felt a displacement of air beside her and quickly realized it was Billy running down the ramp. The slim brunette was lifted off the ground when Billy hugged her. Ah, Celes, Annika grinned.
"Billy! I was so scared!" Celes had tears in her eyes but they were held tight.
"I know, I'm okay though." Billy didn't loosen his hold on Celes, but he did let her feet touch the ground. "Let's just go home, okay." Celes only smiled.
"Billy…" The elfin blonde seemed to hold back a bit.
"Sure," Billy only glanced quickly to the small blonde before he turned his attention back to Celes. "But later, okay?"
"Of course," The blonde didn't shrug but it was close to it. "Just call me… anytime."
"Okay, sure, thanks." And with that Billy and Celes, arm in arm, didn't exactly run out of the cavernous room.
The petite blonde sighed contently before she turned her violet eyes to Annika. "Hello, I wanted to welcome you to our home," her voice was as warm as her smile. She appeared so young to Annika but there was something about her voice and in her eyes that seemed to give the small woman an air of wisdom and agelessness.
"Thank you… Captain Janeway?" Annika stuck out her hand for a shake. A small hand accepted it readily. Amusement filled the almost violet eyes that regarded her. This woman really did look like an elf, Annika thought, the only thing missing were pointed ears.
"No, I'm not Captain Janeway. My name is Kes. I was hoping to speak with you for a bit, if you'd like? I'm the resident counselor."
So, this was the Kes that Psi had mentioned earlier. "Maybe," Annika couldn't believe her own words. In all her years she had never given much credence to therapy. The idea of telling a complete stranger her fears and desires and things that should be kept secret, especially her abilities, had always been unappealing to her. "But first, I think I'd like to clean up a bit."
"Of course. We've set up guest quarters for you to use."
Kes' voice was smooth, silky, deeper and more full bodied than her appearance would seem to indicate, thought Annika. It had a calming effect on her that she hadn't really realized until the tension from the last few hours dissipated.
"I'm sorry I didn't get your name."
"Annika, Hansen." They should all just wear name tags, it'd be more efficient.
"She can do the coolest thing, Kes!" Naomi piped up, she had endured as much of this interaction as she could.
"I'm sure she can, Naomi," Kes looked down upon the strawberry haired girl, though that was only a few inches. "But I'm sure Ms. Hansen is exhausted so how about we wait to see tomorrow, okay. And I believe you have a certain, rather anxious, roommate waiting up for you."
"Oh!" Naomi ran to where Billy and Celes had disappeared a few moments ago before she seemed to remember something. She turned back around quickly and waved. "Bye, Annika!" And then she was off.
"How about I show you to your room?" Kes waved her hand absently as if to stop someone from approaching. Annika hadn't noticed that Psi had stepped a little closer to the two of them or when he had stepped back per Kes' action. "Before Tom gets done with post-flight protocols and volunteers to be your tour guide."
Annika shrugged and followed Kes to the metal doors that stood a few hundred feet away from where she had disembarked. When they got to the doors, Annika looked back once to check out the aircraft she had just been in and almost tripped. It was amazing. Black and sleek, almost like a stealth bomber but much smaller. She was surprised when she saw a blonde man in a black outfit, exactly like the other men who had rescued her, as he jumped rather recklessly from the open hatch near the nose and landed soundly on the ground. Roguish… Annika didn't exactly roll her eyes as she followed Kes through the sliding doors.
Kes regarded the woman who walked next to her with level violet eyes. This Annika Hansen was slim, yet feminine, and tall, so tall that Kes felt a bit like an elf next to her. Annika's blonde hair, narrow features, and icy blue eyes gave the woman a cool yet very attractive look, despite the fact that there was some dried blood on the lower part of her face. The bloodstains on the woman's light blue t-shirt would probably never get clean, Kes thought sadly. She wasn't saddened at the thought that the shirt was destroyed, but the means by which it was so irreparably ruined.
"What is this place?" Annika's voice held awe, laced with a hint of trepidation.
"It's a school." Kes kept her voice light. She almost laughed at the wave of incredulity that hit her.
"A school?" Annika looked behind her once more with disbelief as she thought about what laid behind the large sliding metal doors they had just passed through. "What kind of school has… those?" A pale hand gestured in the general direction of the two shuttlecrafts.
"A special school." Kes felt the small wave of annoyance that radiated off the tall woman and decided she shouldn't push her luck. "The main purpose of this institute is to provide a safe place for metahumans to learn more about their abilities and how to control them. Aside from powers training, this is a fully functional, albeit small and secluded boarding school. You've already met some of the faculty."
Kes stopped in front of a control panel and punched in her access code. A pair of metal doors whooshed open, it almost sounded like a sigh, Kes stepped in followed by Annika.
They rode the lift silently. Kes allowed the silence knowing the turmoil of emotions that churned in the seemingly calm and cool woman next to her. Terrible fear, frustrated anger, relief, curiosity, fatigue…
"Here we are," Kes broke the silence as the doors opened swiftly and revealed a brightly lit hallway, inviting with its warm toned color palette.
Dark beige walls and rich burgundy carpeting was offset by small low mahogany tables set on either side of wide hall with comfortable dark chestnut colored leather chairs. The two identical looking tables each had small vases of white flowers, tulips, set upon them. The appearance was that of warmth and comfort along with expense and order, the large spaced out chandeliers provided the hall with bright light, but not overly so.
"These are the guest quarters." Kes gestured towards the six closed doors, three on each side.
The petite blonde haired woman moved to the first door on the right and entered a code in to the access panel next to the dark wooden door, it slid open just as readily as the metal ones did. Kes led Annika into the room that automatically brightened when the two entered.
The room had the same feel as the hallway, warm and rich, soothing but efficient. Covering the large, main room of the guest quarters were hard wood floors, dark beige walls with mahogany borders and large windows on one side overlooked the gardens. The living room was furnished with a plush burgundy leather couch and a matching recliner. On the glass coffee table in front of the couch sat a vase full of multicolored flowers. A large cabinet filled up the wall next to the door, while across from the couch and chair there was an entertainment system. Taking up a portion of the room were a small kitchen and a dark wooden table with four chairs that sat beneath a small chandelier. There was a partition that blocked the view from the door to the bedroom and bathroom.
"I'll let you wash up. There's clothing in the bedroom closet and everything you need is in the bathroom." Kes made her way back to the door as she left Annika to take in her new surroundings that were much different than the sterile backdrop of the shuttle bay. "The fridge is well stocked, but if you want something else just call the kitchen. The number is indicated on the phone."
"Thank you." Annika's reply was soft and distant to Kes' ears.
"Annika, I'll be back in an hour." Kes smiled one last time at Annika's now relaxed back and left.
"Oh, gross." Annika took in the blood that had crusted around her mouth and on her chin with disgust. "Why didn't anyone tell me I looked like the other guy?"
Annika tore her gaze away from the mirror above the small sink and started the removal of her stained clothing. She tossed her ruined blue shirt into the garbage, angry that those bastards had ruined her favorite comfy shirt. The jeans dropped as did her dark blue panties and bra, the bloodied bra also went the way of the t-shirt. She regarded her trim waist in the mirror and turned so that she could see different sides of it. No bruising or marks at all, just the memory of the attack. She pulled herself away from the memories and sighed before she turned the shower on as hot as it would go and stepped in. She enjoyed the slight sting and the reddening of her skin as the hot water flowed over her hair, face, and body. She lowered the temperature to a more comfortable degree before she squirted purple colored shampoo into the palm of her hand and started the process of becoming herself again.
A thick lavender scent filled the steamed up bathroom and lingered on Annika's body as she wrapped a fluffy blue towel around herself. She stuffed one end of the material between her breasts to keep it secured as she padded out of the bathroom into the shocking cool air of the bedroom. She opened the small closet that stood unobtrusively in one corner of the room, most of it had been taken up by a large four poster bed. Whoever designed this room was decadent, Annika smiled in appreciation. She pulled out a large terry cloth robe, the same blue as the towel she had just dropped to the floor. After she had the robe secured she scooped up the discarded towel, along with the rest of her clothes and dumped the lot into a hamper next to the closet. Annika didn't feel like getting into clothing just yet so instead she made her way through the hall to the kitchen.
Kes had been right, the fridge was packed. Annika pulled a few items out and set them on the gray marble counter next to the refrigerator. She looked at the orange and fat free soy yogurt, thought better of it and placed them back in the fridge. She opened the freezer and pulled out a gallon of soy vanilla ice cream and placed the unopened container next to the plastic box full of lush strawberries. Now I just need a spoon, she thought happily.
Warm and clean, Annika sat at the table with her ice cream, strawberries, and pomegranate sparkling juice and started in. So avidly did she enjoy the sweetness of it all that she didn't hear the chime until the third ring. Kes probably, Annika looked up at the clock that read ten minutes until eight, right on the dot.
"Just a second." Annika looked guilty at the half eaten container of ice cream before she reluctantly replaced the lid, put the carton back in the freezer and the plastic dish now devoid of strawberries in the recycling unit. The spoon was licked clean before it was placed in the sink. Annika approached the door but stopped when she realized there was no door handle or locking mechanism on the door. The only noticeable marking was a small lit square to the side that had a small star symbol and a keypad. She took a guess and pressed the lit star. The door slid back with a sigh.
"Hi. Come on in." Kes followed Annika to the couch and sank comfortably on the opposite end from the tall blonde.
"So…" Annika wrapped her arms around her legs and turned more fully towards the small blonde woman who seemed to radiate comfort and wisdom just from her steady violet gaze. "What do you want to talk about?"
"Let's start with what you want to talk about and go from there." Kes regarded her with patient eyes until the realization that Annika had no idea where to begin dawned on her. "How are you feeling?"
"Right now?" Annika pulled her legs closer. "Angry, confused, pissed off that I'm so scared. I've never felt so… unprotected before."
"Because of your powers?" Kes was curious as to what abilities this woman possessed, her natural inclination would have been to ask Annika to demonstrate, but she stamped down the urge effectively.
"Yes." Annika looked down at her pale hands that were crossed a top the dark blue of the robe on her knees. "And because… I don't really ever use my… powers. The last time was about a year and a half ago. To save my life. And before that, I don't know, five years maybe? I don't really find a need to become a big metal box in my day to day life, you know. I guess I felt safe. That no one knew my secret. That I could lead a normal life." She looked at Kes with troubled eyes. "How did they know?"
The warmth in Kes' features faded for the first time since Annika first met her in the shuttle bay. The certainty was gone and was replaced with confusion touched with fear.
"We don't know for certain. Their computer banks were completely destroyed, self-destruct, and the men who held you captive were mercenaries for hire by the Friends of Humanity group. They didn't apprehend you, they were merely hired to hold you. Why, we don't know." She shook her blonde head, the fringed bangs shifted a bit on her forehead. "But we will find out how they located you and for what purpose," the resolve and assuredness was back. "And you are well protected here."
"I do feel… safe." Annika looked around the comforting room a bit before she looked back at Kes. "I'm very grateful to you, to Billy, to everyone, I probably would have died in that cell."
"I am truly sorry that happened to you, Annika." Kes let the sympathetic words wash over the tall blonde.
Annika straightened, the tears started to form but she held them back. "I am too. But it did, and now I'm okay, and Billy's okay. But some other people out there won't be so lucky… will they?"
"No, they won't be." Kes decided not to tell Annika about the two deaths that had already been claimed by the Friends of Humanity, a terribly inappropriate name for such a vicious group. "But we're going to try to prevent anyone else from going through what you just did."
Annika merely nodded her head in response. "Kes, I think I'd like to go to bed now."
"Of course." Kes rose quickly but gracefully to her feet. "Annika, if you need anything, just call." She indicated the phone with a wave of her hand. "Anytime."
"All right." Annika had stood too and she followed Kes to the door and pressed the star. The door slid open with another sigh. "Good night, Kes, and thank you."
"Good night." Kes offered one last smile before she turned and the door slid shut.
Annika looked at the pad and pressed the "Lock" button. She turned the lights off that had illuminated the kitchen/dining room and living room and used the moonlight that pooled in from the large bay windows to direct her way to the bedroom. She allowed the robe to drop to the floor in a heap before she moved to the small closet and pulled out an oversized navy blue t-shirt with a large "V" imprinted on the left breast. She pulled back the bedding and climbed in. As she lied there her gaze rested on the moonlit view from the large window in the bedroom. She had just resigned herself to the fact that sleep would not come when the darkness swept her away.
She woke with a start. Sweat beaded on her brow and ran down her neck. She looked around the room quickly, where was she, she didn't know at first and then she remembered. She had gotten coffee after lunch and then there had been the burning pain. She had awakened in a green lit cell with Billy, a collar around her throat that had prevented her from using her abilities, and then Billy and she had been beaten by the guards, anti-metahuman bastards.
"Well hell," breathed Annika.
She whipped the blankets from her overheated body, the remaining evidence of her nightmare. She swung her long slim legs around and settled her feet in the softness of the rug. Water, she needed water, she padded to the kitchen and downed a glass, and then another, with visible movements of her throat. She glanced at the clock and her eyebrows furrowed at the time. 3:37.
Annika placed the empty glass in the sink with an audible thunk. She debated whether or not to just begin her day, but there wasn't anything she could really do here, it wasn't her apartment after all. She decided to make some nice warm tea to help soothe her back to sleep, at least she hoped it would.
As she set the large metal teapot on the stove to heat, she contemplated her rather odd situation. She had taken a two week sabbatical after her work had been completed. She had intended on catching up on some reading or perhaps she would just sit in front of the television with plenty of Vid Chips on hand. But it hadn't quite worked out that way, so now, after having been kidnapped and beaten, she was here at a school, for people like her. She had never given great consideration to idea of anyone being like her. She had never had metahuman friends, or none that she had known about at least. It was strange to consider being some place where all the people were metahumans. Imagine… not having to hide…
She pulled the string of the tea bag as she poured the boiling water in the large white ceramic mug. Satisfied by the aroma, she made her way to the large bay windows that took up most of the outer wall of the living room. The moonlight bathed the expansive garden that she gazed down upon in an ethereal light and she decided this place was quite beautiful and well taken care of. More like a home than a school, or at least any school she had gone to. She had never attended those stuffy boarding schools the children of the people her father worked with had attended, and she was always glad for that. She thought of the garish red and blue plaid skirts and sweater vests and almost shuddered. She had preferred her torn jeans and band t-shirts, thank you very much, not to mention her dyed hot pink and purple hair when she had been a teen. She smiled at the memory until something suddenly caught her eye.
Annika's eyebrows created a crease between them as she squinted in a rather futile attempt to extend the range of her eyesight. Something had been falling from the sky. No, not falling, floating, and it was coming closer. Quickly, Annika flung herself against the wall so as not to be seen by whatever it was that had been drifting closer to her. Was it a person? Annika's curiosity won out over her self-control and common sense and she took a peek out the window. It was a person. A woman more accurately. Annika hid her body as she craned her neck to look out the window at the woman who dropped slowly and gracefully to the ground from quite an impressive height. Annika couldn't see the woman's face very clearly as it was now turned away from her, however she couldn't help but notice how the silky pink robe accentuated a slim petite frame rather attractively. Annika watched in appreciation as long slightly curled hair drifted in the wind, as if the woman were still in the sky. The woman appeared to contemplate the gardens before she turned her gaze to the bubbling fountain. Hands went to the silky waist of her robe before the woman dropped them to her side and pushed gently off the ground. She quickly floated out of Annika's sight, high above the second story window.
Annika had to take several deep even breaths before she was composed enough to emerge from her hiding spot behind the large curtains, she turned fully in front of the window again. Her neck craned up to try to catch a glimpse of the woman who had just stopped her heart. She sighed in disappointment that she could see nothing but the stars in the sky. She left the window and moved towards the couch. She set the half empty mug on the coffee table in front of her before she relaxed her tall frame against the soft, cool cushion of leather. Her mind still reeled from the sight of the woman who had descended on the garden like an angel, bathed in moonlight. When she had turned towards the fountain Annika had gotten her first clear view of the woman's face. It was a beautiful face with high clearly defined cheekbones, a strong chin, an elegant nose, and above all the most startling eyes that seemed to glow with energy. The pursed lips and furrowed brow gave the woman a sad expression that Annika wondered about. Before she had gotten her fill, the woman had gently left the ground just as gracefully as she had descended upon it and was gone.
Annika pulled the afghan that was laid across the top of the couch onto her as she settled into the couch cushions that were warmed by her body heat. Her thoughts remained on the woman in the garden before the warmth of the cushions and the blanket caused her quick unconsciousness.
Annika jumped, startled, and fell in an ungraceful heap on the floor between the coffee table and the couch she had just been so nicely and happily sleeping on.
"What the hell!"
Annika whipped the now irritating and twisted up afghan off of her body as she tried to get untangled and stand up at the same time. She finally managed to get the blanket off and stomped towards the large windows that now streamed in bright sunlight. Her hands were braced on the window sill as she took in the scene in front of her.
The rather roguish blonde haired man, Tom, Annika remembered, from the shuttle bay flew past her window in a rather haphazard way. Each time he veered quickly, it was always quickly, a loud BOOM sounded, and it was starting to royally piss off Annika who still had the residual feelings of her dream, a rather sensual one if the condition of her body was any indication. Annika creased her brow with frustration and opened the window with force.
"What the hell are you doing?" she shouted. Not the most brilliant question, but damn it Annika was pissed off and the afterglow of her dream was now becoming uncomfortable and annoying.
"Huh?" Tom skidded to a stop, visible fiery orange and yellow energy crackled and laced around him which gave the dark black and red suit he wore, similar to the one he had sported the night before, an appearance of being on fire. He smiled slowly as he bobbed in front of the open window. "Oh. Why, hello."
The tone of voice just annoyed Annika further.
"You know some people are trying to sleep around here and don't appreciate you…" She cast her hands about in the air. "Booming around."
"Sleeping? It's 11:30!" Tom smirked, seemingly not put off at all by Annika's brusque behavior.
"I didn't realize it was so late." Annika almost blushed. She realized that she had been atrociously rude, but this smirking man had interrupted a rather pleasant dream.
"No problem." Tom grinned brightly, he looked to be around Annika's age but he had a boyish look to him that seemed to make him look more innocent than Annika figured he was. "It's almost lunchtime, if you're hungry. I would be honored to escort you. You can even meet some of the others."
Annika's thoughts went back to the woman in the garden. "Sure, just let… I'm gonna go get changed."
"I'm sure no one would mind if you just wore that." And with that he boomed off leaving a rather seething Annika.
Annika hadn't particularly appreciated the once over she had just received. Who was this guy, he was like one big hormone flitting noisily around. Not at all as graceful as… Annika sighed at the thought of the star of her dream. She shook it off as she made her way to the bathroom to brush her teeth and find something a little less comfortable to wear.
She had just pulled on a blue fleece sweatshirt when her chime rang. She slipped into black flip flops and smoothed the bottom of the pullover against the dark blue yoga pants she wore. They didn't quite fit and ended at her calf, but they'd do. She made her way to the door as she tied her shoulder length blonde hair back in a ponytail. She pressed the star and stepped back as the door slid open to reveal Tom.
"Hi," his voice was bright and friendly and not just a little bit cocky. "I'm Tom Paris, your escort to our illustrious mess hall."
Annika had the urge to pop him one but reined it in, instead she looked him up and down and smirked at the agitation it caused in the cocky blonde man. "I was warned about you, Paris."
"Little ole' me?" Tom's face was a fake look of innocence and insult. He stepped back into the hallway to allow Annika to exit the flat. He walked next to her silently as he contemplated how to handle this woman. "So…"
"I'm a lesbian." Annika grinned as she continued to stroll down the hallway and left a gawking Tom in her wake.
"Oh," Tom quickly overcame the initial shock and caught up with the tall blonde.
"That's not a problem is it?" Annika continued to smirk.
"What?" Tom's cockiness actually subsided as he attempted to ascertain if this woman was needling him. "Course not. Homophobia was so 2008." He shrugged. "Sides, when you see a guy rip off his own arm and grow another in a matter of seconds, things like lesbians aren't such a big deal, ya know?" He pressed the star to open the elevator they now stood in front of.
They rode the elevator silently, though not uncomfortably. Annika allowed Tom to lead the way as they exited the lift after a few moments. It hadn't felt like they were going down so much as they had gone down quickly and then had gone sideways for a while until they had stopped.
Annika took in her new surroundings as she followed Tom down the wide hallway. On the right side she could see a large library though the windows that ran along the wall. On the other side she could see a gym. All standard looking stuff for a school that housed metahumans, Annika thought.
Tom and Annika activated the automatic doors and stepped through. The chattering of voices greeted them as Tom led her to a table that held several people she had already met and a few others she hadn't yet, but none of them were the woman she saw in the garden. Had she dreamt the whole thing?
Annika eased into an empty chair that was between Psi and the doctor. Tom Paris plopped down in a chair next to a rather surly looking woman with dark hair and eyes and smooth dark skin. On the other side of Paris sat Kes. Annika again had the urge to roll her eyes.
Tom helped himself to the large bowl of rice and steaming bowl of green curry tofu before he indicated for Annika to also help herself. She happily complied as the gurgling in her stomach became more pronounced, perhaps she should have had something a bit more substantial than ice cream and strawberries the night before.
"Ms. Hansen," Annika turned to the monotone voice of the large man that sat next to Kes. "I'm Chakotay." He waved an annoyed hand at Tom. "You've obviously already had the pleasure of meeting Paris. And Kes. Tuvok." Chakotay indicated Psi, the dark skinned man merely nodded in greeting, "and Dr. Lewis Zimmerman." The sparse haired man with the healing touch didn't smile but he did give her an even look before he turned back to his palm sized computer. "And this is B'Elanna Torres." The dark featured woman didn't smile either, but gave her an appraising look before she turned back to her own palm sized computer.
"Please, just call me Annika, I-" her voice was cut off as a bustle of noise erupted in the room from the now open doors as a flustered looking Slider and a half a dozen children followed loudly behind. Annika immediately recognized Naomi and smiled in recognition.
"See, there she is!" Naomi didn't point exactly, but she might as well have.
Annika stood up and smoothed her pullover down before she walked over to the group of children. Three teens followed Naomi. One of them was a rail thin brown haired boy who appeared to be a bit broader in the back than she would have figured he would be with his lanky frame. The other two looked similar enough that Annika figured that they were probably sister and brother. Beside Naomi was a small girl with long curly cinnamon colored hair and a skeptical, rather unimpressed look on her young face. The last of the group were a pair of twins who had the same exact expression of complete indifference on their features.
"Hello, I'm Annika." Introductions were made quickly. The teens were Icheb, Beatrice and Henry Burleigh, the skeptical looking girl was Mezoti and the twins were Rebi and Azan.
"And I'm Harry, Harry Kim." Annika drew her attention away from the kids who were now in the process of clamoring to their table to rest on Slider. His look wasn't as cocky as Tom's but no less appreciative.
Honestly, thought Annika, these men are so hormonal. At least Tom and Harry were. She gained absolutely no attention from the doctor and Psi… Lewis and Tuvok. And this Chakotay guy seemed to be as unemotional as a block of wood.
"Nice to see you again, Harry." He beamed and led her back to the table, his hand didn't touch the small of her back but she knew it was pretty close. She sat back down and devoured her meal with relish, it was really very good. She said so and Kes smiled back at her warmly.
"Neelix will appreciate that." Annika watched as Kes looked around the mess hall before her gaze settled on the man that approached their table from the other side of the room. Where the kitchen was, Annika supposed.
A stout balding man dressed in almost obnoxiously bright colors of orange and blues sat in an empty seat and helped himself to the meal he had just prepared. Before he took his first bite his eyes locked onto Annika. Annika figured he had probably just noticed her presence.
"Who do we have here?" Neelix extended his freckled, chubby hand over his full plate to Annika. "I'm Neelix. The resident chef here." His voice was high and pinched, but warm and friendly as well.
"Annika." She shook the offered hand before he let go and began to eat. "Your food is quite good."
With his mouth full, Neelix merely beamed happily, a blush faintly colored his rather bulbous nose and cheeks. And with that, Annika finished the large potion that had only resided momentarily on her plate.
A chirp interrupted the satisfied food haze Annika had been in as she had silently taken in the idle chatter of her eating companions.
"Chakotay, here." The burly man had touched the same type of metal star she had seen the night before, but now it blended in better with regular clothing than the black suits her rescuers wore. She suddenly wondered where Billy was. Probably with Celes still. Annika smiled.
"Chakotay, is Ms. Hansen there?" A warm husky voice filled Annika's ears as heat trickled down her throat to rest in the pit of her stomach like whiskey. Had her last name ever sounded so sexy?
"Yes, she's actually sitting right here." Chakotay's dark eyes rested on Annika. The intricate tattoo above his black left eyebrow crinkled as he regarded the blonde.
"Ms. Hansen," the voice hit Annika with another wave of heat. She was certain her name had never ever sounded as sexy.
"Y-yes?" Annika shifted uncomfortably in her seat as all conversation seemed to cease around her.
"This is Kathryn Janeway, would you please come to my office? I would like to speak with you for a bit, if I could." The voice was friendly, but held a hint of command, as if the request wasn't particularly optional.
"Sure, yes, of course." Annika had already stood up.
"Thank you. Janeway out."
Annika stopped, she suddenly felt a bit light headed. She was going to meet the enigmatic Captain Janeway.
"Just take the elevator or the stairs one floor down. Her office is at the end of the hall, well actually right below us really." Tom smiled at the look of consternation that graced Annika's narrow features. "I know. It feels like you're being called to the principal's office huh? Don't worry; she's a big ole softie." The last part was said in a secretive whisper and ended with a wink.
"Uh huh." Annika moved quickly, albeit unsteadily to the door. She turned quickly around and waved nervously. "It was nice to meet you all." The doors to the Mess Hall slid closed as she departed.
"Wow." Harry's eyes had followed the retreating form with ill concealed appreciation.
Tom laughed. "Oh, Harry, Harry, Harry." The man was going to be crushed again, Tom thought sympathetically. He had been a bit disappointed that he and the tall blonde would never be anything more than perhaps friends. Tom also wondered at the look of panic that had graced the tall blonde's face. He shrugged and went back to his tofu filled plate, what he wouldn't give for a damned pepperoni pizza.
Tom had been right, Annika did have the distinct feeling that she had just been called to the principal's office. She descended the stairs swiftly and pushed open the door at the bottom of the stairwell. The hallway that greeted her was similar to the one she had just been in with Tom. Though on the side that had housed the library the space was taken up by a rather formal looking ballroom and on the opposite side was a room that appeared to be conference room.
She proceeded forward before she stepped in front of a desk there sat a rather bored looking young man with a receding hairline and a slouched posture. He barely acknowledged her presence before he tapped a button on the side of his desk.
"She's here." He slouched back in his seat, even more so now. He lifted a small computer closer to his face as he tapped a few buttons on it and appeared to be done with Annika altogether.
"Thank you, Mr. Harren." The husky voice that emanated from a small speaker on the desk seemed to hold a tone of patient irritation.
Annika quirked an eyebrow at the man's rather rude behavior but decided it wasn't really her problem. She was nervous, nervous to meet the woman who embodied that sensual husky voice that Annika had already begun to appreciate. As Annika moved in front of the large doors a beep sounded before they slid open to reveal a large office with two comfortable looking brown leather couches on one side, a closed door on the opposite side, and an ancient looking cabinet next to the huge bay windows that overlooked a large patio.
Annika stopped cold when her gaze rested on the large rich colored wooden desk that had several small items set upon it as well as a large computer console and a metal mug that had steam wafting out of it. Or more accurately she froze as the air rushed out of her when she took in the petite woman who sat behind the desk and who had yet to look up. The woman's eyes were focused on a thin metal display that had information scrolled across the flat surface. Rich, auburn hair was swept up in a French twist and revealed the elegant face Annika had caught a glimpse of early that morning. The look of sadness it had held was now replaced with concentration. The rectangular red rimmed glasses set on the end of the small slightly upturned nose and her pursed lips gave the woman a rather studious air. Annika felt the air leave her once again when the woman looked up. Blue-gray eyes, the most intense eyes Annika had ever seen, regarded her with keen intelligence. The woman set her glasses on the surface in front of her before she stood up and pushed away from her desk to come around and stand in front of Annika.
"Ms. Hansen," Kathryn Janeway held her hand out to Annika. "As I said before, my name is Kathryn Janeway, but most people around here call me 'Captain'. Please have a seat."
"I prefer to stand." Whoa, where did that come from? Annika wondered.
Oh no, she had it bad if she was already becoming contrary. Her natural defense mechanism when she was faced with a beautiful woman was to become impassive and defiant, not exactly endearing but it helped Annika feel protected. That elegant, fine boned hand that seemed to hold some sort of unseen power felt too good in her hand, brief as the shake was and her palm still tingled from the contact.
"All right," The husky voice of Kathryn Janeway held a bit of a question and Annika had caught the quick look of annoyance before it was replaced with an impeccable appearance of authority and professionalism.
Annika didn't feel too protected by her preference to stand as Janeway leaned against the front of her desk. Her arms crossed over a modest chest that was covered in a soft burgundy mock turtleneck, the long black skirt stopped at the woman's ankles which were crossed over one another, Annika wondered how far up those high healed leather boots went before she brushed the thought aside feeling slight heat in her cheeks.
"I'm not sure how much you know about what this place is but I thought I could answer some of your questions, if you'd like." Annika regarded the open features before her as she attempted to keep an impassive expression on her own.
"Kes told me this place was a school, for metahumans." Annika looked away from the rather intimidating and intense gaze the other woman had fixed on her and instead took in the rest of the office.
"Yes, that's right." Janeway's eyes never wavered even as she retrieved the mug of coffee, if the aroma was any indication, from her desk and took a long drink from it. "At the present there are four primary students and three secondary. We have a diverse curriculum here including art, mathematics, biology, music, literature and anthropology. You've already met most of the staff, the faculty at any rate, and of course… Mr. Telfer, Celes, and our Mr. Harren."
"How is Billy?"
Annika thought she saw something dark pass over Janeway's eyes before they became impassive again.
"Mr. Telfer is recuperating from his ordeal." This time Janeway's eyes did flicker away from Annika as she set the now empty mug back on the desk. "How are you feeling, Ms. Hansen?"
"How do you think I'm feeling?" Annika couldn't stop herself as much as she hadn't meant to lash out or raise her voice at the petite auburn haired woman who she noticed hadn't even flinched at the tone. "One minute I'm enjoying my holiday with a cup of coffee and the next minute I'm a prisoner being beaten to near death for no reason whatsoever other than being… different."
"I know it must have been very… difficult."
Annika's grunt was ignored as Janeway went on. "But I want you to know that we are doing everything in our power to find out who or what they used to find you and Mr. Telfer and put an end to it."
"I'd like to just go home. Return to my normal life." Annika made a move to the door as her emotions were beginning to bubble within her. She was about to cry in front of this complete stranger and there weren't many things that made Annika feel more foolish than to cry in front of someone, or really just cry in general.
"I'm sorry but that's just not an option right now." Janeway had removed herself from the desk and now stood in front of Annika. Despite the height difference, Annika felt that the other woman had all the power and that also made her blood boil with anger.
"Now I'm a prisoner here too?" Annika knew it didn't really make much sense to lash out at this woman but she was convenient and it kept her from thinking of Janeway in the manner she had that morning.
"No, not a prisoner, but we do want to make sure you're safe, Annika." The husky voice rose at the end. Annika figured Janeway was as surprised as she was that her first name fell from the other woman's lips.
"I'd feel safer if you found out how those bastards found me in the first place." Annika's voice was dangerously low, but quivered a bit as she reigned in her emotions as well as she could.
"I assure you, we will."
If Annika had thought her voice was dangerous it was nothing compared to how the husky usually warm tones dropped a few octaves and became cold hard ice, the blue-gray eyes shifted to a stormy gray before they lightened again to a slate gray.
"Would you be willing to stay until we do?" Again, there was enough of a hint of command that Annika felt she really had very little choice in the matter.
Annika looked into blue-gray eyes filled with hope and made her decision. "I'll need to retrieve some things from my apartment, the office won't be expecting me for another week or so…"
Annika's anger and frustration began to ebb a bit. This woman, these people, had saved her life, and seemed to genuinely just want to keep her safe. She almost apologized, but her stubborn pride prevented the words from forming.
"I suppose a short excursion could be in order. I'll send Ms. Torres and Kes with you, if you approve."
Annika nodded in agreement.
Janeway smiled, grateful that she had the tall blonde's cooperation. The gray now had more pronounced traces of blue. Annika wondered if this woman knew how easily her shifts in moods could be read from her eyes rather than the actual expression on her face that always seemed a bit cool and impassive.
"I'm about to lead a class if you'd like to have a look at the less conventional courses we provide here?"
Intrigued, Annika merely nodded her head. She followed the petite woman from the large office and past an oblivious Mr. Harren. Annika wondered how such a direct, authoritative woman could stand to have such an obtuse secretary. She couldn't help but pull a face as he continued to study and press buttons on the small computer console that rested on his outstretched legs.
Once they got to the elevator and well out of earshot of Harren, Janeway broke the silence as she pressed the star to hail the lift.
"Don't mind Mr. Harren." The auburn haired woman quirked one side of her mouth up into a wry grin and Annika felt heat rush through her body. "He might look a tad… unperceptive and lazy, but he really is handling a dozen or so things for me at this very moment."
Annika was surprised. She hadn't even meant to make a face at Harren, who in fact she did think was dense as a stump and lazy as well. Not a good combination in her keen mind. Annika took note that not much probably got past those blue-gray eyes of her lift companion. Despite this note, she took the opportunity to unobtrusively observe 'Captain' Janeway.
Kathryn Janeway, who stood silently next to Annika in the lift, radiated a commanding presence and a barely contained energy that almost sparked off of her and surprised Annika that she didn't catch on fire from standing so close. She could smell a subtle perfume, or perhaps it was just soap. It was rich, spicy and tickled Annika's senses. She unconsciously took a deep breath. The ding of the elevator broke the silence.
Annika followed Janeway closely as she took in the hallway that looked very similar to the metallic walled hallway she had been in with Kes after they had left the shuttle bay. The huge doors that matched those doors of the bay opened, but instead of seeing the small sleek black ships it was a cavernous room devoid of anything except for yellow grids that ran across the steel gray walls, ceiling, and floor.
"What sort of class is this?" Annika looked around the impressively large and dull looking room with skepticism.
"It's a training session. Many of us on staff instruct students in the use of their abilities according to our own capabilities. For instance, my course focuses on energy conversion and distribution." Janeway moved away from Annika to a panel on the wall and the tall blonde watched as the other woman pressed a series of codes. The gray lined metal walls, ceiling, and floor began to shimmer and she was suddenly in the middle of a sandy beach, she could almost smell the salt from the sea.
Annika had heard of holographic simulations used by the military for training purposes but she had never seen one herself and was surprised and impressed that this school had one… Who financed this operation, Annika wondered in awe. She turned as the metal doors suddenly reappeared and opened to admit three children before the doors disappeared once again.
"Professor Janeway, I'm sorry we're late." Annika recognized Mezoti. The small girl was dressed in a thick looking black suit that covered her from her lower neck down to her booted feet and gloved hands. Mezoti looked annoyed as she took in her two companions, the twins, who for the most part looked sheepish. They too wore black suits.
"Let's begin our lesson then." Kathryn Janeway's voice was warm to the children but still held a tone that deterred any deviation from her command. "Rebi, I'd like you to begin. Protect us and contain the threat."
Annika only had a moment to be confused about Janeway's words before a group of twenty soldiers materialized on the beach all bearing menacing looking rifles. Rebi stepped up so that he had a protective stance in front of Janeway, Annika, Azan, and Mezoti. Annika gasped as the small boy calmly burst into flames, his outline still clearly visible but where there had been black fabric and skin tone there was nothing but white hot color. The heat that radiated off of him caused sweat to break out over Annika's body.
Annika watched as the flaming youth took a few steps closer to the soldiers who began firing their weapons at the five metahumans. Annika gasped in amazement as a wall of fire formed quickly between Rebi and the firing squad. The bullets sizzled before they melted away completely. The fiery wall pushed forward and caused the now frightened soldiers to back away quickly and into the ocean. The flames twisted and curved around the retreating men and caused them to huddle together so as not to be touched by the flames that held them captive.
"Computer." It was Janeway, her voice clear over the roaring fire. "Freeze program." And it did the soldiers froze in whatever position they had just been in, mostly ones of fear. "Rebi, that was very well done."
As the boy powered down the wall of fire and the flames that had encompassed his own body, he merely nodded in acknowledgement though his usually indifferent expression had a ghost of a smile on it.
Janeway's clear voice sounded again. "Computer, program F42Alpha3." A bleep of acknowledgement sounded before the ocean scene and soldiers disappeared. The towering inferno of an apartment complex, took their place. "Azan!"
Azan stepped forward, like his brother his transformation was quickly accomplished, though instead of fire he turned to ice. He held out one small hand and a large layer of ice formed beneath him. As he moved his hand up the ice continued its ascent. He settled his feet onto the forming ice sheet and rode it until he was above the fiery building. The icy discharges that formed the slide turned to blasts of snow and water as he began to extinguish the fire. He skated quickly on the ice he now created with his feet and went from window to window to douse the flames.
There was a crunching of metal before Annika saw a section of the building come away, it was falling quickly towards the ground where a group of people now were, they all screamed in fear. Azan seemed to suddenly realize the fire would have to wait and sped towards the debris that was only a few stories away from crushing the twenty or so people on the ground. His small hands shot up as his slide lifted his body towards the falling brick and metal debris. The ice blast and the leverage from the ice slide angled the huge piece of wreckage so that it fell against the building and shattered into a few billion pieces of harmless ice.
"Computer, end program."
The empty yellow lined gray room formed around them again.
Azan had iced down the entire area and wasn't even damp as he returned to a more normal appearance. He turned his even dark eyes to Janeway. He seemed to wonder with an upturned eyebrow why she had ended the program.
"Azan, did you check to make sure there weren't any people in the building?" Apparently he hadn't because his face fell. "Assess all aspects of the situation before you act."
"They're just humans," Mezoti's voice was soft but unmistakable in the quiet room.
"Mezoti, all life is precious. It doesn't matter if it's a human life or a metahuman life." Janeway's tone was compassionate but hard. "You shouldn't judge a group of people by the actions of a few. That's prejudice and we don't appreciate when people make assumptions about us, do we?"
"No, Professor." Mezoti's voice was humbled but unrepentant as she uncrossed her arms and moved closer to the auburn haired woman. "I'm ready to begin."
"All right." Janeway presented Mezoti with her outstretched arm. Mezoti took the older woman's hand in hers and looked up at the smiling face rather anxiously. "You'll do just fine, Mezoti."
Annika watched as Mezoti began to flicker in and out of view. She appeared to turn invisible at will and Janeway's hand where it held onto Mezoti's also began to flicker.
"Concentrate, Mezoti. I'm right here." Janeway's voice was soothing and encouraging which helped the little girl to cease flickering before she regarded her feet. Gradually she and Janeway began to rise from the floor from an unseen force. "That's very good. I can feel the field under my feet. Now, do you want to see if you can move it sideways?"
Mezoti nodded her head and sweat began to bead on her small face as her brows knitted with the force of her concentration. It was unsteady but she accomplished her task. Just as Mezoti began to grin at her accomplishment she felt dizzy and promptly fainted, which sent herself and Janeway into a free fall.
Annika had been watching Janeway and the little girl in amazement as they moved close to the high ceiling of the room. Janeway's mouth kept moving which seemed to ease the jerkiness of their movement with each passing word until they both suddenly dropped towards the hard ground. Annika instinctively took a step forward to catch them, despite the fact that her frame would probably have broken their bones on impact. Just as suddenly, the two women's dangerous descent stopped and Janeway held the unconscious form of Mezoti in her arms as she drifted gently down to rest next to an anxious Annika and the twins who didn't appear to have noticed anything amiss. The moonlight wasn't on Janeway this time, but Annika still thought she looked majestic and ethereal, an angel.
"She's okay, just a bit of a strain." Janeway had seen the anxious expression on Annika's face and had wanted to reassure the young woman. She turned her slate gray eyes to the little girl in her arms. "Mezoti?"
Mezoti's eyes flitted a bit before they opened fully. Janeway gently placed the girl's feet on the ground before she straightened as she stood.
"I failed." Mezoti's voice was soft and disappointment laced the two words.
"It'll take some time, but you've made excellent progress today, Mezoti. We have only just begun to use your invisibility fields to enable you to levitate." Janeway put a reassuring hand on the small shoulder of the sullen girl. "You know, it took me quite a bit of time to get the hang of flying myself. We'll try again next week, okay?"
"Okay." Mezoti's voice was still soft, but held hope.
The smile on Janeway's face formed gradually and seemed to brighten exponentially as it completely transformed her face. Annika didn't know if Mezoti would be the only who would faint this day. She felt altogether too warm and was partially glad that the smile hadn't been directed towards her or she would have very well ended up on the floor from the sheer brightness of it. Though a part of her felt silly for feeling envious of the twelve year old Mezoti.
"Perhaps we should try a slide approach like Azan's for next time, instead of a small disc." Janeway pulled back her hand and rested it on her chin. "Yes, I think that would be more stable. But remember, do not attempt to levitate without supervision, Mezoti."
"Yes, Professor." Mezoti sounded resigned and she nodded her head in agreement.
"Well, I think that's enough for today." Janeway followed the students out of the room with Annika close behind. "Ms. Ballard is most likely waiting for you at the lake."
The trio waved before they walked to the lift that would take them to their rooms. They needed to change before they set off toward the lake and the park that stood before it.
"They are… impressive." Annika broke Janeway's steady look that had followed the children. Bright blue-gray eyes regarded her with a mix of pride and regret, an odd combination, Annika thought.
"Yes, they are." Janeway's voice had gotten huskier and was a mere whisper before she breathed deeply and smiled. "I was wondering, Ms. Hansen, if you'd be willing to show me what your abilities are?"
It was a shy question and Annika felt warmth fill her chest as she looked at the inquisitive blue eyes that gazed hopefully up at her. "Um, sure, but how bout we go back in there… I need some space."
"Oh, of course." Janeway turned happily away and strolled briskly to the large metal door. Near tangible excitement sparked off of her. She was a scientist after all.
As the doors slid behind them, Annika felt apprehension grip her as she considered how much to show the other woman. Janeway generated a lot of emotions and reactions in Annika and one of the strongest was the feeling that she could trust the other woman. She took a breath before she turned back to the petite woman who stood against the wall, her level blue-gray gaze never left Annika.
With a sigh, Annika turned away and walked about twenty feet before she stopped and removed the pullover and tank top from her body in one swift motion. The rubber band from her hair was tossed on top of the clothes. Now naked from the waist up Annika began to concentrate and felt the shifting of her bones, a sensation she hadn't felt in nearly two years.
The tearing sound set her teeth on edge and the gasp she heard from the other woman in the room made her feel more ill at ease but she pressed on. The only sound now was ripping of flesh and the grinding of steel. Suddenly, five spikes measuring at around eight inches tore from her metallic spinal column. The gasp now could hardly be heard as the shifted metal began to turn and flatten against her back as did the metal spikes that had erupted from her shoulders, arms, and upper chest. The spikes all turned and flattened to Annika's body as bands of metal erupted from the sides of each. The bands of hard metal encircled her arms, her torso and her back, she allowed the metal to reach her fingertips and it ended in thick dangerous looking points. She debated whether to cover her face and thought she might as well, so her hair fell in clumps as her skull and face were being covered in metal. The final transformation was that of her eyes, which were now solid sheets of icy blue metal. She took a deep breath before she turned to meet Janeway' gaze.
Janeway's eyes were large and her right hand covered her open mouth as she regarded the half metal woman who stood before her. The metal that encased the blonde woman created thick armor like panels across her torso and shoulders, the muscles of her lean arms were striated from the metal bands that had sprouted from the spikes. But she didn't appear bulky, the exoskeleton seemed more like a metallic solidifying of her already lean tall frame. It was also the most painful looking transformation Janeway had ever witnessed, not even Chakotay's seemed as painful as Annika's had looked.
"Annika, that was…" Janeway, perhaps for the first time in her life was rendered speechless.
"Disgusting, horrible… neat?" Annika folded her metallic arms across her ample metal chest as she regarded the flustered woman before her.
"Remarkable. Extraordinary." Janeway's speech returned in a hoarse whisper. "It didn't, it doesn't hurt you?"
"No, I know it sounds horrible but actually it feels a bit like stretching, relief that I can finally be in the form that is usually hidden beneath my skin." Annika had felt a flash of warmth in her still flesh covered lower section at the whispers that had left Janeway's mouth.
"So, your entire skeletal structure is like this?" Janeway's intelligent gaze took in every centimeter of the metal body that stood in front of her. "This is merely an exoskeleton, an extension… fascinating."
"It's all right, I guess. It's not like I can fly or anything." Annika smiled, her metal lips just as full as her human ones. She took in the amazed blue gaze that still rested on her.
"Would you like to?" The question came out faster than Janeway had time to consider it.
"I think I'm a little heavy for you." Annika knew Janeway couldn't see how her gaze took in every inch of the petite compact figure before her with naked appreciation. The light blue metal optical plates hid the gaze well.
"I'm stronger than I look." Janeway quirked one side of her mouth and Annika melted a bit more as she tried not to fidget.
"Well, perhaps I'll take you up on that offer… someday." Were they flirting? Annika panicked. She was, after all, half naked here. "Um, I think I'm going to power down now…"
Janeway looked a bit confused until she realized suddenly that Annika didn't exactly want an audience. "Oh! Of course."
She turned quickly around and marched towards the door to wait for the tearing to begin anew. Janeway didn't turn around despite the deep curious-laden desire to do so. She started when a warm hand touched her shoulder. A rosy skinned Annika, her golden hair framing her flushed face, smiled at her.
"Amazing." Janeway shook her head as she smiled in return. Then she led a blushing Annika down the hall to the lift.