Sarah inwardly flinched as Nico encouraged her to learn how to fight. It was a weakness easily rectified with a few lessons from her peers and a bit of hard work, but Sarah had other barriers that hindered her ability to fight. The mental blocks were far harder to bypass than the physical ones.
[#ff00ff “I know I really should, it’s just… I’m more of a pacifist than my brothers and sister. I hate violence. I’ve lived through enough of it, you know?”] Sarah admitted, looking rather ashamed of her own hesitation. It wasn’t that she was afraid of getting hurt, more that she was afraid of the hurt she could cause if she did learn to fight.
Dylan had told both Janessa and Nico about his rough childhood and his abusive parents. But his experience as the youngest, with three older siblings to defend him, was vastly different than Sarah’s. As the oldest, the only victim for the first years of her life, then the one who volunteered to take the punishments of her younger siblings, Sarah had suffered enough in her younger years to develop quite a distaste for violence of any kind. That aversion only deepened after Bennett forced her to watch her little brother beaten and stabbed, while her other friends and family fought each other in the other room. She hated even witnessing such pain, never mind being the one to deal it out. Still, the only thing that outweighed her fear of violence was her need to protect those she cared about. If she had to learn to fight for their sake, she’d do it.
[#ff00ff “You’re right, I’m useless to you guys if I can’t fight. I would like you to teach me; maybe we could trade? I’ll teach you to cook if you teach me to fight? But not right now… I’m not ready for that yet. Besides, I think you should spend some time with Janessa.”]
Leaving Keelyn and Jackson in Sarah’s capable hands, Janessa was eager to leave the depressing sight. She gladly took Nico’s hand and let him guide her through the darkness, trusting him to lead her safely through the nightmarish realm that once robbed her of her abilities. Once they arrived and Janessa readjusted to her surroundings, her attention was drawn to the Technopath and Speedster both gathered around Dylan’s computer screen. She left Nico to his talk to Cody as she joined the others.
[#336699 “You certainly don’t pull your punches Nico. That was… well, it was a rough time for both of us. I did a lot of things I’m not proud of… a lot of things I’m sure you’ll hate me for.”] Cody said vaguely before stepping into the other room with Nico so Dylan, Emma, and most importantly, Janessa, wouldn’t overhear.
[#336699 “We thought you and Keelyn were dead. When you didn’t come to find us in the Shadow Realm, we were sure you didn’t make it out. Janessa was furious. She said if we had stayed to fight…”] Cody let the sentence fade, knowing Nico would understand. Even now, there was guilt behind Cody’s eyes and that wonder if they could have prevented Katherine’s death had they only stayed to fight.
[#336699 “We fought a lot. Janessa started getting really reckless – almost like she had nothing left to lose. I’m sure you’ve noticed that too, she’s not as careful as she used to be. It took her months to get her bearings without her senses, so any time we ran into trouble it was pretty much up to me to get us out. I know I should have stayed with her, but one night we had a particularly nasty fight about abandoning you guys at the Organization. I told her, you all would have still been alive if she hadn’t run off after your birthday party. She told me, I was just as quick to abandon you as I was to abandon my little brother when we were kids. I was so angry… when Janessa told me to get lost, I left without a second glance. She was defenseless when Bennet found her and locked her up for project Legacy.”] Cody explained, but Nico had heard most of this before. It didn’t make it any easier for the Density Shifter to admit.
[#336699 “It was months before I found her and got her out of there. She never forgave me, but I wasn’t stupid enough to leave her on her own again. She still wanted to look for you, no willing to believe you were dead… guess she was right about that. I was more concerned about finding her a healer – partially so she wouldn’t be so vulnerable and partially so I have to stay with her. We looked everywhere, calling ever contact we knew, even meeting with a few of my old buddies from the Sanctuary. Met lots of healers, but each one said healing her senses wasn’t possible. That’s why I was so shocked at dinner tonight. We searched for two years for a healer and failed, yet Janessa disappears for a couple hours and suddenly she’s good as new!”] Cody admitted. He shook his head in disbelief. He would have pressured Janessa further at dinner, but he didn’t want to cause a fight. They hadn’t been on good terms for years and these past few weeks of being civil were too nice to give up.
[b “A lot happened Nico. Janessa… she broke after leaving you that day. She lost you, her sister, her friends, her parents were dead, her senses were gone, she was hunted by the Organization, Michael, Boyd, not to mention ever cop and criminal in the city with a grudge against the White Tigress. Then there was the aftermath of what happened at Project Legacy… she never spoke about that. She was apathetic, reckless… she scared me. But all of that changed once she learned you were alive. You came back, brought back her sister and Dylan. You gave her purpose again and a reason to fight. I’m glad you’re giving her a second chance Nico. I don’t ever want to see Janessa slip back into the state she was in before.”]
Bennett’s clicking of heels announced her arrival long before the woman stepped through the Medical Ward’s door. She looked as prim and proper as always, with that typical poisonous glare and stern expression. If she was nervous about meeting with Pascal, she hid it well. Still, Tara knew this would be far from a pleasant encounter.
[#ff66ff “Mr. Pascal, it’s good to see you’re doing better, Sir. I see the healer that I acquired for you proved his worth.”] Bennett announced as she walked into the room, being sure to take ever opportunity to remind the man of how she had helped him. Her cold, callous eyes glanced briefly at the terrified healer before sending a sharp glare towards one of her assistants.
[#ff66ff “Bring the Healer to his cell and make sure he has no contact with the other Supers. Use whatever force necessary to ensure that he nor the others cause any trouble.”] Bennett ordered, relishing in the last of her power since she knew Pascal’s awakening would strip her of the authority she had enjoyed as of late. Still, she didn’t seem as disappointed as one might think. She was under far too much scrutiny with the Director. Bennett needed to lay low for a while, and what better way than to shift the attention back to Pascal and fade into the background for a while?
[#ff66ff “You asked to see me Sir?”]
[b "I can promise she'll be safe here. No one except the people that I have taken here personally knows that this place exists, let alone where it is. Like I said last time, this was where I was going to live with Kate. We wanted out of this life, away from the Organisation, away from Michael and the Sanctuary, away from danger. This place is the perfect hiding spot."] Nico had no doubt in his mind that Keelyn would be safe here, he wouldn't suggest leaving the younger Pierce sister here if that was not the case. He owed Keelyn and he would never hurt Janessa, and leaving her little sister in an unsafe place would definitely hurt her. Sarah was right she was no use in a fight and Nico could be here in an instant but that didn't mean that when Sarah needed him to come he would necessarily be able to. Nico now had people that trusted him, that depended on him, he really wasn't used to that feeling.
[b "If you're no good in a fight maybe you should learn. You don't need abilities to fight. I could teach you, or Janessa or Emma or Cody. There are so many people who would be willing to teach you. If you don't want to feel helpless then do something about it. That's the best advice that I can give."] Nico hoped that Jackson really would heal Keelyn, it would make life so much easier but in his experience good things like that rarely happened. The group had gone through so much already and maybe they were due a bit of good fortune. Janessa's acceptance of his offer at dinner brought a smile to his lips, as did her comment about the two of them rarely doing anything normal. It was true and he was looking forward to spending an evening with Janessa Pierce as opposed to White Tigress for once.
[b "Of course I can."] Nico's fingers intertwined with Janessa's and he mouthed a thanks to Sarah for staying here with Keelyn and Jackson when she didn't have to. The all encompassing, cold darkness surrounded the two figures and Nico guided them carefully back to the safe house where Dylan Emma and Cody would be waiting for them to get back. Soon enough the abyss gave way to the familiar abode that the group was calling home for now. Nico knew that Janessa didn't like the shadow world that he travelled through but she seemed to tolerate it for him, which he was grateful for.
[b "Keelyn and Jackson will be fine with Sarah, she'll take good care of them."] Nico guessed that no matter how much reassurance he gave to Janessa she would still worry about her little sister. He gave her hand a squeeze before going off to find Cody, if he was going to have a relationship with Janessa he wanted to be open and honest, he wanted to understand her and there was still a part of her life that he didn't quite understand. He wanted to understand her.
[b "Hey Cody, I know this might be a bit of a weird question but I just wanted to know, what did the two of you go through in the two years I wasn't with you. I just want to know what she went through. I know it's probably a tough question and you don't have to answer if you don't want to but I would appreciate it if you did."] Nico had some questions for Dylan as well but those could wait, this was more pressing for now.
Pascal's condition had improved dramatically with the healing that was performed on him, they had pushed Simon to his limits as a healer and the young man was exhausted but the end result was that Pascal was awake, lucid and was seemingly in good condition considering how long he had been unconscious. The man was sitting up in bed, a pen in his hand as he looked over some papers and reports. he wasn't naive enough to believe that he would be able to return to his previous job straight away and Bennett certainly seemed to have her claws in his old jaws firmly. If he knew the woman she would not give up power lightly. He was reading reports over the events that had unfolded since his...incident with Shadow and what he could conclude was that she didn't know where her limits lay. She overreached and was punished for it, first with the incident that had lost them Dylan and Sarah Tanner and now he was hearing rumours of her Project Lineage. Lineage was all here say of course but every rumour had a basis in fact. What troubled him most was the reports regarding Hyperion, he had held his leash and while there had been a few incidents here and there for the vast majority of the time he had been in control, Tara Bennett was not in control and that was dangerous. He was going to have to rectify the situation.
[+blue "You, go and get me Bennett, now."] He spoke to a random assistant, maybe making an example of Bennett would show others not to be as reckless as she had been. Pascal knew that Bennett wouldn't like being brought down a peg or two and he might have to step lightly, but he knew the Director well, the two had worked together for a long time and if the recent rumours were true Bennett would have to step lightly unless she wanted the wrath of the Director. It was a calculated gamble.
[#ff00ff “I would have liked to meet her too.”] Sarah smiled as Nico spoke about his lost love. She had heard enough from her brothers to know Katherine was a devastating loss for the team but especially for Nico. Sarah was both relieved and impressed that Nico was able to carry on through his grief and allow himself to be happy again. It took real strength to push past a blow like that and still be willing to make those close connections with people. Although Nico’s previous words were a concern. The reminder that Keelyn was actively being hunted by both the Organization and the Sanctuary after she betrayed them both was enough to crease the young woman’s brow.
[#ff00ff “Do you think she’ll be safe here? No one knows about this place outside of our group, right? I know with your abilities, you could be here in seconds if we called you, but Keelyn seems so defenseless like this, and I’m no use in a fight.”] Sarah mentioned, praying on whatever luck she had left that Keelyn could be left to recover in piece. For one as young as Keelyn, she certainly had made a lot of enemies, all of which Sarah was certain would love to find her in such a vulnerable state.
With these fears at the forefront of Sarah’s mind, the urgent cry from Keelyn’s room brought her running. Shew as relieved to find a hopeful smile on Janessa’s features, but even that held some reason for concern. She didn’t want the Feral to get her hopes up.
[b “I have to have hope Nico. I have to believe she’ll get better or else I couldn’t bear to see her like this… you must know what that’s like. I’ve let Keelyn down far too many times in her life, I can’t give up on her now. Even if it’s a sliver of a chance, I have to see it through. I owe her that.”] Janessa explained, feeling yet another weight dragging her down at Nico’s warning. She knew he was right, she shouldn’t be too quick to get her hopes up, but she just couldn’t stand to see her little sister lying so deathly still without some small prayer that she would wake someday soon. At least Nico was willing to support her in her desperation. At the suggestion to leave Sarah and Jackson here and give the young boy every opportunity to heal his mother, Janessa gave Nico a sad but grateful smile.
[b “As long as you’re sure she’ll be safe here. I guess only time will tell if Jackson can heal her.”] The feral was a little taken back by Nico’s proposition for dinner. An evening together, sharing a nice meal and enjoying each other’s company shouldn’t seem like such an anomaly, but in the past few years since Janessa and Nico met, there were very few moments when such a thing was even possible. She had to admit, escaping the chaos to have a pleasant first date seemed like a marvellous way to start their new relationship and it would provide the perfect means to get Janessa’s mind away from the grief of her sister for a while.
[b “Dinner sounds wonderful, though I can hardly believe the two of us are capable of anything [i normal].”] Janessa replied, referring to all the trouble they typically found themselves in.
[b “I’d love to Nico.”] Janessa stepped towards the Elemental and took his hand, entwining her fingers with his.
[b “You were right, it’s harder than I thought to see her like this. Can you take me home?”] She asked, despite her fear of the Shadow Realm, Janessa would far rather face that darkness with Nico at her side than to prolong the agony of seeing her sister in such a helpless state. She trusted Sarah to look after Keelyn as well as Jackson, knowing of everyone in the group, Sarah seemed to be the most maternal. Sarah’s abilities would help her keep track of Michael, Boyd, and Bennett’s movements and give her lots of warning if they were closing in on the safe haven Nico had chosen for them. As long as Keelyn and the boy were safe, Janessa felt confident leaving them in Sarah’s care.
Nico held Janessa steady as they came out of the dark abyss that only he seemed to take comfort in. He forgot how much worse it would be for her now that her feral senses had fully returned as opposed to the numerous trips that she had taken with him after Kate's death when her senses had been impaired. As the child was passed over to Sarah Nico stayed by Janessa's side as a supportive presence, God knows she would need one. Seeing family in a state like Keelyn was right now was no easy thing. It was emotional and painful, which Nico knew all too well from first hand experience.
[b "No, it's not fair but this was her choice. She did this for Dylan.She made the choice to help him when she didn't have to. I'll always respect her, and thank her, for that. I know she is. I was as well for the longest time.'] Talking about how scared Keelyn must be took Nico back to when he had first met the Transference healer. The two had had a rocky start but for a moment there was an underlying trust and understanding. Of course that was broken by Michael and more often than not the two were at each other's throats for one reason or another. The dark elemental firmly believed the reason for so much friction between himself and Keelyn was that the two were just too similar.
[b "Yeah, Kate was like this for years. It wasn't easy for me but at least she wasn't actively being hunted like Keelyn. She could stay in a hospital. I would have liked for you to meet her."] The similarities had been pointed out before but Kate and Sarah were very similar. They were both, fair, kind intelligent women who cared deeply for their family, and adoptive family in Kate's case. She had taken Dylan under her wing and protected the kid as much as she could. At the call of his Nico's head snapped up and he was on guard ready for anything but having absolutely no idea what to expect. Fortunately this was a good shout of alarm from Janessa, rather than a "the Organisation is breaking down the door to kill us all shout of alarm" and Nico was infinitely grateful for that.
[b "Janessa, I don't know what that means. It might be nothing. I'm not saying this to be cruel, I just don't want you to get your hopes up for nothing. If it really is something though..."] Nico didn't really understand other abilities. He knew for the most part how Elementals worked, being one himself, and spending enough time with Janessa and Kate give him a rudimentary knowledge of ferals and illusionists but anything else was beyond him. A Psychological healer was something completely different, he didn't know where to begin with something like that. He didn't want Janessa to be hurt by getting her hopes up when the reality of the situation was different.
[b "Here's what we'll do. If Sarah is willing to stay with Jackson and Keelyn we can see if it makes a difference. They'll be safe here. We can check in anytime we want and Keelyn won't be alone while she's here. Janessa this is a lot to take in, we should just step back and take a breath for a moment."] All the dark elemental wanted to happen was for Janessa to think, she was far too close to the situation right now to think clearly. She needed her mind taken off Keelyn and Jackson for a while.
[b "Janessa, do you want to have dinner with me tomorrow night? No breaking into government buildings, no running from crazed charmers. Just an everyday, normal first date?"]
[#cc8000 "I'm sure this Michael will get what he deserves eventually."] Bennett would be oblivious to the double meaning behind the words coming from her research assistant. Michael would eventually get what he deserved which was Bennett begging for mercy while the rest of the Supers took their rightful place above the humans. Michael couldn't believe Bennett was so arrogant, and quite frankly stupid enough, to insult the leader of the Sanctuary straight to his face. He wondered how she would react if she knew who he really was.
[#cc8000 "You can count on me Ms Bennett, i'll deal with these supers personally. You have nothing to worry about. The Director will have no cause for concern, in fact when I'm done he should be singing your praises."] Michael's first priority was finding out which supers had already been captured, he needed to know what he had to work with and more importantly who was likely to keep his cover intact and who would spill his secret. Simon's retort made him feel slightly better in the fact that he still had the loyalty of his followers. In the confusion of bringing so many other supers in Michael might even get another chance to see Lucas and try and gain some kind of foresight into how all of this would pan out. Any advantage would be invaluable.
As Simon worked on Pascal healing what he could, eventually his work came to fruition. The Organisation Agent's facial injuries were too severe to heal completely, he would have some nasty facial scarring but at least he would live now. Pascal's eyes fluttered open weakly and while his voice was too hoarse to speak right now he remembered exactly what had happened to him. If Nico Atwood thought that he was a target before he hadn't seen anything yet.
With the young boy in her arms, Janessa gladly took Nico’s hand and waited to be pulled through that familiar dark abyss. As always, the journey through the Shadow Realm was disorienting and frightful, but Janessa had forgotten how intense the void was for a Feral with their full senses. The utter lack of light, the absence of sound, the stillness of the air, and the almost smothering darkness made her feel almost as though she had lost her senses yet again! Subconsciously, her hand tightened around Nico’s seeking that safety and reassurance that only he could offer her now. Having him there to guide her made all the difference and Janessa was able to push past her fears simply by having Nico close at her side.
When they emerged, Sarah was a little quicker to shake off the effects of the Shadow Travel, despite being far less familiar with the journey as Janessa was, so she offered to take Jackson while Janessa recovered. The Feral took a few seconds to reorient herself but her eyes finally fell on the unnaturally still form of her little sister and she couldn’t hold back her gasp. Nico was right, she wasn’t fully prepared for the sight of her loved one in such a state. She felt a physical tightening of her chest as she stepped closer to her little sister, once again feeling an overwhelming sense that she had let Keelyn down in some way.
[b “It’s not fair… Keelyn’s been a prisoner of the Organization for years and now she’s a prisoner in her own mind. She’d never admit it, but she’s terrified of being alone. This must be unbearable for her.”] Janessa whispered as she stood at Keelyn’s bedside and gently brushed the dark blonde hair from her closed eyes.
Taking the hint from Nico, Sarah passed Jackson back to his aunt and left the Pierce family alone.
[#1122aa “Cody told me you went through something similar with your girlfriend? I’m sorry, Nico, I don’t mean to intrude. It was impossibly hard to watch my little brother in this state for the past few months, I can’t imagine what you went through. Janessa’s lucky to have you at her side through all of this.”] Sarah told him reassuringly.
Janessa took her time with her sister, sitting at her bedside with a surprisingly quiet toddler in her arms. Jackson seemed to sense the solemn scene and did his best not to interrupt. It was a while before Janessa finally felt she couldn’t bear to sit there any longer, but as she stood, Jackson whined and reached out his arms to his comatose mother. Wavering over whether or not letting the boy so close was a good idea or not, Janessa finally caved and placed the young one on his mother’s bed where he touched his tiny hand to her cheek.
[b “Nico!”] Janessa called urgently, her Feral senses recognizing the change instantly.
[b “He did something… Jackson did something to her! Her heart rate increased, her breathing hitched, her eyes shifted beneath the lids… it all happened all at once, the moment he touched her!”] Janessa explained. Though Keelyn was far from waking up, these physical stirs were a positive sign, something not seen for the entire few months Dylan was out, nor the years Katherine was unconscious.
[#1122aa “When Emma ran into that lab where they were keeping Jackson, she said there were all kinds of papers and notes around the room. Jackson was referred to as a Psychological Healer. I thought that was limited to emotions, but maybe…”]
[b “Maybe he can wake her up? I’m sure it would take time…”]
[#1122aa “I could stay with them? Keelyn sacrificed herself to wake my little brother if it can help her, I’d be more than willing to keep Jackson here so he can heal her. Of course, we can’t know for sure…”] Sarah offered, but was a little more hesitant than Janessa was. She wanted to believe Keelyn could be cured as well, but she wanted to be realistic. Sarah cast a worried glance at Nico, afraid that Janessa was getting her hopes up too soon. After all, a hitched breath and a racing pulse were a long way from being cured.
Bennett had every intention of knocking down Oliver’s excuses and giving him a stern lecture on the importance of their research and the grievance of wasting her time, but as usual with Oliver, his soothing tone and alluring manner made it nearly impossible to stay angry with him. Instead, she nodded along to his excuses and softened her bitter tone when answering his questions.
[#ff00ff “According to my associate, the Sanctuary’s leader, Michael, did attempt to stop the raid but was overwhelmed. The coward fled the scene and abandoned the rest of his followers to be detained. So far, there’s no word on where this [i Michael] has disappeared to, but I doubt he’ll be a problem. If he cares about his followers, we’ll simply use threats against their lives to keep him at bay, and if he doesn’t care then it won’t be worth his effort to try to take back the Sanctuary.”] Bennett stated, a little too confidently. Her words did, however, provoke a flickering gaze from the Healer as his eyes briefly darted to Oliver to see his reaction. Did he care about his people? He certainly cared enough about Starform to get her out of there, but the rest of them were facing torture, death, and life-long imprisonment if he didn’t help them escape.
[#ff00ff “I knew I could trust this in your hands Oliver. The first batch of Supers has already been divided up. There are a few in cells downstairs that you can assess when you are ready. I have a couple already in my lab that I will certainly put to good use, but our priority is to find particularly unique Supers that would impress the Director. In times such as these, it doesn’t hurt to have friends in high places.”] Bennett stated vaguely, but the pointed raise of her brow indicated a deeper meaning to Oliver. She was under suspicion for her recent antics, including Project Lineage. She needed to get on the Director’s good side and she figured the best way to do so would be bribing him with powerful Supers for his disposal.
[#ff00ff “Well, I will leave you to it Oliver. I trust you’ll deal with these disgusting creatures according.”] Bennett addressed before sending the Healer a stern glare as she exited the room, likely returning to her office to see to her new lab rats.
The Healer, Simon, kept his eyes down for the most part. He stayed focused on his task as per Michael’s instructions and did his best to avoid any further punishment from Bennett while she was in the room. Even as the researcher left, Simon was careful to avoid any suspicious behaviour in case they were still being watched.
[#777776 “Of course Sir. I’ll do whatever you say.”] The young man stated, casting an assured glance at his leader as he spoke. The hidden meaning behind the seemingly obedient statement, was that he were still loyal to their leader, regardless of what the Organization had in store for them.
[#06b9ea "I'll keep that in mind Janessa."] Jason took the watch from Dylan and glanced it over briefly before strapping it to his wrist. Jason had to admit that having the watch would be useful, being the alpha of the pack wasn't always a good thing, anytime Janessa tried to sneak into the Organisation he got nervous for her. He needed her safe, he had to protect his pack and this would help to do that. Hyperion didn't particularly care that much for the Technopath, personally he thought the kid was a bit of a brat but the others seemed to like him for some reason which meant that Jason had to tolerate the kid.
[b "Jason I know we've had our differences in the past to put it mildly but I think things are starting to turn around. I just want to reiterate what Janessa said. If you need us, for anything we'll be there."] Nico still felt a little uneasy around Jason sometimes after everything he had done but he knew that Janessa and Jason now had some sort of feral pack relationship that he didn't fully understand. Jason was important to her for whatever reason and if Jason was important to her then he was important to Nico as well, he would simply have to put his own issues aside for the moment.
[#06b9ea "Don't mess up too much while I'm gone, and work on your game some more. Next time I want a challenge."] That was as much of a goodbye as anyone was likely to get from the large empath as he readied himself to leave the group that he had somehow found himself a part of against all the odds. Jason needed to return to the Director but now he would need to be extra vigilant in order to maybe find out what he had planned for Janessa. He was bound to the Director but he was also bound to the feral. The empath didn't stay any longer than he had to and soon disappeared into the night to return to the Organisation.
[b "Of course I'll take you and Jackson. Sarah said that she also wanted to go back to Keelyn. Just...prepare yourself, it isn't easy to see someone you care so much about lying in a bed while the world goes by."] Nico was of course talking about personal experience and all the times he had visited Kate while she was in her coma. Once they were ready Nico took Janessa's hand in his own and gave it a reassuring squeeze before also taking Sarah's hand and travelling them throughout he dark abyss before exiting to where Keelyn rested unmoving on the bed of the simple room.
Nico felt a pang of guilt brining Janessa here. This was where he had intended to settle down and live out the rest of his life with Kate and bringing Janessa here, felt slightly uneasy. He wasn't replacing Kate, he could never do that but in the back of his mind it felt a little like that to the dark elemental. His eyes were drawn to the dust covered guitar sitting int he corner of the room. That was the last gift that Kate had ever given to him and in a way it had been what set off the entire chain of events that led to where they are now. Without the guitar Janessa might not have run off on her own and been captured resulting in all the subsequent events leading to Katherine's death. Nico wanted to give Janessa, Jackson and Keelyn some privacy so he hung back and let them have their moment.
[#cc8000 "Fine take me to her then."] Michael was growing weary of Bennett, she was cruel and vindictive and Michael wanted nothing more than to just be done with her but he still had work to do yet. It didn't take long for the terrified assistant to bring Michael to the Medical Ward where he needed to work hard to remain composed and not reveal that he recognised the healer currently hunched over Pascal.
[#cc8000 "Apologies Miss, Bennett. I was following reports of a very interesting super that we could study, unfortunately nothing panned out. The Sanctuary has been breached? Is there any word of their leader? This is a great opportunity for us."] Michael wanted to scream at the woman and command her to cut her own throat, here she was flaunting that his people were being captured, imprisoned and most likely tortured and experimented on as well. When it was time for him to take his revenge against Boyd he vowed that Tara Bennett would be paying the same price.
[#cc8000 "I will of course do as you ask Miss Bennett. leave it all to me."] Hopefully his good looks and melodic voice would be enough to hide the hard edge that he was unable to keep out of his words. He was furious. The healer currently at work was someone that Michael had seen in passing but not had any real need to interact with. As long as the man kept his wits and used a modicum of common sense then Michael would be fine...if not a word in his ear would suffice.
[#cc8000 "Continue to work on this man, do your best work otherwise there will be consequences. As long as you do as I say and are useful to me nothing will happen to you."] Michael hoped the healer, Simon he thought his name was, understood the message that he was giving. If Michael's cover remained intact then he could help the captured supers but once the Organisation knew who he was there was very little he could do. The healing that the healer was doing was obviously having some impact however as Pascal was very slowly starting to stir. The man would be awake soon.
Watching the chess game, Janessa was amused at how much the two men’s gameplay matched their personalities. Jason – always making the first move, always playing offensively and Nico – defensive, calculating, and pensive, learning from his errors in the first game to apply a winning strategy on the second. The third game, however, was more telling than the others. Jason played a significant risk, betting his victory on his knowledge of his opponent. It was an arrogant move, playing himself into the exact same position hat lost him the previous game, and had Nico not second guessed himself, the Empath would have fallen to his adversary with that one move. Nico, however, allowed his suspicion to sway him away from the obvious victory, unable to believe such a thing could be handed to him without some sort of trick. It was his untrusting nature and suspicion that cost him his win. And thus, the two men defined themselves in their play: Jason’s greatest strength being his confidence and power, his weakness was his impulsiveness and underestimating his opponent. Nico’s strength was pensive calculation, learning and applying what he could, his weakness was his suspicion and hesitation. They were opposites, so like those black and white pieces that stood on opposing sides of the chess board. Sadly, the very thing that kept them apart was the same thing that made them such an infallible team when they worked together.
Janessa’s eyes snapped to Jason before the others had noticed his behaviour. Her Feral senses detecting what the others could not – the subtle increase of his heart rate and the shift in his breathing that showed he was tense. She wasn’t surprised when he announced that he had been summoned.
[b “Be safe Jason. Don’t hesitate to call if you need us.”] Janessa offered, still troubled by Jason’s earlier accusation that they never did anything for him in return. She wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
[b [#ff6622 “Hyperion, before you go…”]] Dylan stepped over, accepting the watch his brother handed him and fitting some miniscule device to the back of the watch face. The chip was small enough not to draw attention and the watch was nothing abnormal, nothing that would provoke any questions.
[b [#ff6622 “I did some programing while you were rescuing Jackson. Putting pressure on the watch face will activate it, blocking all external signals from communication devices in close proximity to you, and opening a highly secure communication link with me and the rest of the team. It’s a lot safer than sending Janessa into the Organization every time we need to talk to you, and this way you can call for backup any time you need.”]] Tech explained, handing the modified watch to the Empath as a peace offering.
Dylan had his own issues with trusting Hyperion, ever since the Empath had refused his help in saving Katherine, the young Technopath couldn’t help but wonder if she could have been saved had the two actually partnered to help her. But regardless of his grudges and uncertainties, Hyperion was a member of their team now. Whatever happened while he was in his coma had initiated Jason into their family and he deserved the same secure lifelines as Tech provided the rest of the team.
Knowing by Jason’s warning glare that her time with the others could be cut short any second by a summons from the director, Janessa was anxious to check on the last of her family. She stepped up beside Nico as Jason took his leave and she took the Elemental’s hand, interlocking her fingers in his.
[b “I want to check on my sister. Even if she’s unresponsive, on some level maybe knowing her son is safe will help her. Can you take me there? Jackson deserves to see his mother.”]
[hr ] [i “Mr. Taylor! Sir, Ms. Bennet has been asking for you. She isn’t pleased, Sir, she needs to speak with you immediately.”] As soon as Michael arrived at the Organization he was spotted by one of Bennett’s other assistants. By the rattled state of the poor soul, it was obvious he didn’t want to be at the center of Bennett’s impatience any longer than he needed to.
[i “She’s in the Medical Ward Sir, I’ll take you to her.”]
Just as the man said, Bennett was in the Medical Ward, overseeing the work of her new captive. The healer, a young, timid looking man, hardly pat his adolescence, was one of Michael’s healers in the Sanctuary that suffered the misfortune of being detained by Boyd’s men in the raid. The young man looked terrified of Bennett and if the split, swollen lip and bruising were any indication, he had already learned not to disobey his captors. He was seated next to Pascal, just beginning the healing process with Tara Bennett snapping at him constantly in attempt to make him work faster than he was currently capable of.
As Michael – or Oliver Taylor – walked in with Bennett’s other assistant, the Healer’s eyes widened with recognition. He looked confused and afraid, though all of that was overshadowed by the desperation in his eyes as a silent plea for his leader to get him out of here! Wise enough not to blow his leader’s cover, even if he didn’t fully understand why Michael was here, the Healer quickly turned his eyes and attention back to his patient, leaving Michael to be addressed by Bennett.
[b [#ff00ff “Oliver! There you are! You picked a hell of a time for a day-off Mr. Oliver.”]] Bennett stated with her eyes narrowed into a bitter glare. She had clearly worn through whatever patience she had long before he arrived.
[b [#ff00ff “My associate contacted me with urgent news. The Sanctuary – that sickening safe haven for these disgusting Supers – has been found and infiltrated. Teams of agents raided the Sanctuary this morning and began rounding up the Supers who were hiding there. My associate, of course, is keeping a few of the more cooperative Supers for himself, but he has offered the Organization claim on the rest.”]] Bennett announced, clearly referring to Vincent Boyd’s attack on the Sanctuary.
[b [#ff00ff “The Supers will be sorted by value: those whose abilities would benefit the Organization will be offered to the Director for further evaluation, those who would help further my research will be sent to my lab for experimentation, and the rest – those who are either useless or too dangerous to keep, will be disposed of. As you can imagine this process will take some time and I need all of my assistants working in this.”]] Bennett explained, once again reiterating how she saw the Supers as nothing but disposable tools, merely meant to be imprisoned and experimented upon.
[b [#ff00ff “You seem to have a way with these creatures, and since you are one of my more competent assistants, you will be responsible for testing the value of our new assets. You can start with this one; if he can’t work any faster, we have no use for him.”]] The threat made the young Healer shutter as he did what he could to bring Pascal back.
[b I'll always have your back. That is one thing you can always trust."] Now that the dark elemental had Janessa he wasn't going to let her go and he certainly wasn't going to let anything bad happen to her if he could help it. Nico looked at the kid that Janessa was holding and although he might be calming for the feral to Nico he was a reminder that Keelyn wasn't here, and to his shame that Kate was dead. As much as he tried Nico would always feel a little bit bitter towards the child. Nico and Janessa, carrying Jackson, returned to the others and there sat Jason on one side of a table, a fully set chess board at the ready.
[#06b9ea "Best two out of three as always. Black or white?"] Jason knew what Nico was going to choose before the dark elemental said a word. It was a little private joke between them.
[b "Black"] There was a hint of a smile on his lips as he spoke. Despite the advantage that going first would give Jason Nico always preferred to go black. He liked to be able to react to an opening rather than go on the offensive from the start. The dark elemental sat down opposite the empath and took a deep breath as Jason made his first move. It didn't take long for Jason to take the lead in the match and in about nine or ten moves he had Nico in checkmate. Every one of Jason's moves served a purpose, and despite Nico being a good player he could do nothing to stop the inevitable.
[#06b9ea "I thought you said that you had been practicing. You haven't played a game this badly since we first started, you might actually have been getting worse."] The smug arrogance oozed out of Jason's voice took Jason back to when the Empath was first teaching him the game and the strategies. While Jason had showed Nico how to play he had never gone easy on the dark elemental, he claimed that if he wasn't trying then the victory didn't mean as much. Nico was determined not to let Jason win the next game.
[b "I'm not done yet. This next one is mine."] As the board was reset and the two supers switched colours the second game in their match began. This one was a much closer challenge. Nico deliberated over his moves, forcing Jason to do the same and after about ten or fifteen minute the game reached a crucial point. Nico managed to open Jason's defences with his knight, first taking his bishop, then rook and finally queen. The game was effectively over and Jason knew it as well. The empath didn't waste anymore time and conceded the game, which meant that there was one more game to decide the winner. As the board was reset the final game started. This game was different from the other two games, there was a tension to it that Nico loved, matching wits with his friend and almost going on top for Jason to spot what he had planned and change tactics. Sometimes there were several moves in quick succession and others there were several minutes where no moves were made as the two supers deliberated what to do. Eventually Nico spotted a gap in Jason's defence but something was wrong...it was the exact same gap as he had left the game before. Jason learned from his mistakes, and learned quickly, this must be a trap. Nico glanced up from the board to look at Jason, that self satisfied smirk was on his face. Nico replied with a smirk of his own before moving his knight into a different gap, away from the obvious trap. That was when things went wrong for the dark elemental. Jason made his move and Nico realised that he had been played. The gap that Jason had left was just a diversion and he had rally wanted Nico do do exactly what he had done. Jason had played him. Once Nico had fallen into Jason's strategy he was quickly undone, piece after piece falling to the empath's onslaught.
[#06b9ea "Checkmate."] Nico looked down at the board and realised that the empath was right, there was no way for him to win. With a resigned look he held out his hand and offered Jason a handshake which was quickly accepted.
[b "I really thought I had you there, I guess I've still got some work to do."] Jason barked a laugh and he seemed to be enjoying the moment when a dark look crossed his face and he seemed to look away from the others in the room.
[#06b9ea "I have to go, I'm being summoned. The director needs me."] As he stood he cast a meaningful, knowing look at Janessa knowing that at anytime the same thing could happen to her and she would have to obey. The empath ahd spent too much time here anyway.
Michael paced around the hospital room, waiting for the doctor to finish treating Laura. He had insisted that she recieve the best care,, and that no one should know they were here. He couldn't riskBoyd or the Organisation finding them. Starform was injured and had required a sedative to calm her after the prolonged influence of Nightmare. What was worse was that he had recieved messages form Bennet ordering him to return to the Organisation. His position as her research assistant was useful but incredibly annoying, having to answer to her beck and call. He was better than she could ever be. What was worse was that right now he needed allies and to free those from the Sanctuary who were captured by Boyd. Their wellbeing was top priority. Michael might have his own agendas but he did genuinely care for the fate of his people. His intentions were noble if the way he went about achieving his goals were a little misguided.
[#cc8000 "Doctor I have to go to work now but I will be back soon. This woman is now your most important patient, she is your top priority. Keep her safe, keep her well and make sure she is still here when I get back. If she is not you will have a lot to answer for."] Hopefully whatever Bennett wanted wouldn't take long and he could return to Starform soon enough.
Hearing what Nico truly thought of her brought a warmth to the Feral’s cheeks. Days ago, his words had made her feel unwanted, unworthy, and useless, and it amazed Janessa to think just how strongly her sense of confidence was affected by how Nico saw her. To hear that he was starting to trust because of her and that he saw her as remarkable even at her weakest, meant more to Janessa than the Elemental would ever know. Especially as he agreed to her request, despite how difficult it would be for the both of them.
[b “I’m sorry Nico, I know you didn’t want to hear it… but you have no idea what a relief it is for me. I can’t thank you enough for this. Of course, this is all just the worst-case scenario. I have no intentions of ever putting you in that position Nico. It’s just a relief to know you’ll have my back if it ever does happen.”] Janessa admitted, not wanting to dwell on the negatives. With the family almost all together , Jackson returned safe and sound, Jason final allowing himself to be part of their circle, and Janessa’s senses back at full strength, there were far more reasons to celebrate than to dwell on dread.
[b “Yeah, you’ve got a chess game to win. Good luck.”] Wished him with a genuine smile, the likes of which hadn’t graced her face in months. She picked up her nephew and brought the child out with them to spend some time around the others. They could all afford a night off to enjoy each other’s company before they were forced to return to reality. Janessa would take Jackson to visit his comatose mother in the morning, and no doubt Jason would have to return to his post at the Organization, but for the remainder of the night it was a nice contrast to see the group relaxing and having a bit of fun for once.
[b [#336699 “Are we sure letting Nico and Jason compete is a good idea? From what I’ve heard, the last time those two went head-to-head, Nico ended up with a broken neck.”]] Cody muttered, earning a small chuckle from Emma until she realized her brother wasn’t kidding.
[b [#1122aa “It’s just a board game. How competitive can those two really get?”]] Emma asked, noting the shared looks between Cody and Dylan before the latter started to laugh.
[b [#ff6622 “Maybe we should get the first aid kit on stand-by, just in case!”]] Dylan teased as he watched the two set the board.
[#ff00ff “Oliver? Hey, you! Have you seen my assistant? I’ve been searching all over the building!”] Tara Bennett, as tamely dressed as usual with a stern expression and deep furrow across her brow to evidence her frustration.
[i “Not for a few hours, Ms. Bennett! He left quite suddenly, a little while ago. I assumed it was something urgent.”] The timid staff member stuttered in response, rather anxious to except the fury behind the researcher’s gaze.
[#ff00ff “What could possibly be so urgent that he had to leave without notifying me? These assistants are a constant disappointment. Fine. As soon as Oliver Taylor returns, send him to me. And remind him that his job here at the Organization depends on his punctuality!”] Bennett hissed before turning her back to the man and storming down the hall with her heels clicking ominously with every step. She headed directly for the medical ward with a renewed sense of purpose after her most recent discussion with her partner, Mr. Boyd.
[#ff00ff “Mr. Pascal? Can you hear me?”] She asked as she stepped over to her boss as he lie severely injured in the medical ward. As she waited for a response her eyes tuned towards the medical staff currently treating the man, expecting an answer from them if he was unable to give one.
[#ff00ff “I just heard from an associate of mine who has just arrested another Super: a healer that might be able to better Pascal’s condition. I’ll have it sent over immediately. Anything to help a friend and colleague, isn’t that right Sir?”] Bennett announced with a clear look of fake sympathy. As it stands, it may be a good thing for Bennett that she wasn’t able to find Oliver, since the healer in question was one captured and detained during the raid on the Sanctuary. It seems Boyd had made it his mission to take as many Supers from Michael as he took from Boyd.
[b "Janessa believe me when I say that this is all me. Jason may have pushed me to see a few things that I couldn't see for myself but these feelings are real."] Nico was a man of few words most of the time but what he said was important, this more so than most anything else. He wanted for Janessa to see that he was being honest and sincere. Jason might have helped him realise that his course of action was a mistake but these feelings that Nico had were real.
[b "I'm not very good at trusting people. i trusted Jason and he tried to kill Kate. That hurt me more than I thought it would. Since I first met you I think I've been getting better. I've let more people into my life. You, Dylan, Cody, Emma, Sarah and even Keelyn. I'm getting better at trusting people and it's because of you. Janessa, I've never once thought you were useless, with or without your abilities you are remarkable."] It was a good feeling knowing that Janessa accepted that him despite all the risks he took, he often valued his own life as minimal but if Janessa accepted the risks he took and if she wanted to be with him as well then maybe he should start thinking of himself as worth more. As her hand brushed the side of his face a smile crept over the dark elemental's face for the briefest moment before Janessa kissed him. Nico returned the gesture simply enjoying the moment and being truly happy for the first time since Kate had died.
[b "You really know how to ruin a moment. Janessa I will do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't come to that. I'll do whatever it takes...but if there is no other way, absolutely no other way. I'll do as you ask. I will hate every second of it, but i'll do it. Yes, we're in this together."] Nico couldn't believe what she was asking of him, she knew how hard it was to trap Jason in the shadows and here she was asking him to imprison someone else that he cared about in that darkness. Nico would do everything he could to avoid that eventuality, if there was even a one percent chance of avoiding that fate for Janessa he would take it. Unless he had no other option and the others were in mortal danger he would not take that course of action. Nico gave Janessa a quick peck on the cheek and held her hand in his.
[b "Come on let's go back to the others."]
Michael and Starform emerged in a dark alleyway, on the far side of the city, miles away from where the Sanctuary was located. Michael couldn't believe what had happened, how could Boyd have successfully attacked the Sanctuary. The place was near a fortress. The man would pay for his insolence, that would come in time but right now they had bigger issues. Michael couldn't turn to the Organisation for help that would only make things worse but he needed to regain control of the sanctuary and as much as it galled him there were only a few people he could turn to.
[#cc8000 "Are you alright Laura?"] Michael had a few superficial cuts and other injuries but Starform was in rough shape. She was clearly panicked and was carrying substantial injuries. She looked to have some bad frostbite on her arm, how the hell did she manage that. First they needed medical attention then they could decide how to proceed. Michael flagged down a passing car and commanded them to take them to the nearest hospital. Thankfully his abilities would make getting treated easier and could avoid questions.
[#cc8000 "It'll all be ok Laura. Let's get you seen to then we can take back our home."]
Janessa was still nervous about her talk with Nico as he led her away from the others. She was glad to have the baby as a distraction; something to draw her focus away from the building dread inside her mind and what better than an infant who can influence people’s emotions? As soon as Janessa touched her nephew’s hand she felt instantly more relieved and prepared to face the Elemental regardless of the consequences.
To hear that Nico was retracting what he said before and was willing to become more than just teammates, caught the Feral off guard. Here she was, preparing to be cut down for her actions and instead he was telling her exactly what she wanted to hear. That self-depreciating doubt that was born from their last private talk was diminishing with every word and Janessa was desperate to believe every word… although, she had to be sure.
[b “This is Jason’s doing, isn’t it? He spoke to you? Nico, please be honest with me… is this actually how you feel, or are you just feeling pressure from Jason? I don’t want anything that’s not real.”] Janessa admitted, needing to be certain that all of this was coming from Nico and not simply what he thought she wanted to hear.
[b “As for pushing me away… My actions have risks too Nico. I think the difference is that I trust you to take care of yourself if anything comes back to threaten you. The main drive I had for healing my senses was so that I wouldn’t be helpless anymore; so that you wouldn’t feel like you had to protect me. You’re right, we are in this together. I want to keep it that way.”] Janessa told him, wanting Nico to know she fully accepted each and every risk associated with being with him. The danger made no difference to her – it was nothing she and Nico couldn’t fight through together.
Perhaps it was the flood of positive emotions she got from her young nephew, or the relief of Nico’s confession, or maybe just added confidence she now felt having her senses back – whatever it was it gave Janessa the courage to accept Nico’s offer with actions instead of just words. She stepped close to the Elemental, rested her hand on his cheek and kissed him, showing she did indeed feel the same way. But her smile faltered slightly as she thought of everything she was hiding from him, and the added weight she was about to place back on his shoulders. Part of Janessa wanted to leave it for now and wait for a better time, but the more sensible part of her knew that the Director could call at any moment and she needed to make sure Nico and the others were safe, even from her.
[b “I need to ask something of you Nico, and I know you’re not going to like it. But there’s no one I trust more than you.”] She started, backing up a step and letting her hands slide down to his.
[b “If it ever looks like I’m losing myself… if it ever looks like I’m a danger to you or to the others, I need you to take me into the Shadows, like you did with Jason. You know how scared I am of that place and you know I wouldn’t ask this lightly. But I need to know, whatever happens, you won’t let me hurt the people I care about. Especially you.”] Janessa requested, hating to ruin the moment with something so serious, but now more than ever she needed to know she could trust him to keep her under control.
[b “We’re in this together… right?”]
The Eletrokinetic’s eyes widened fearfully as Michael gave his order. He had heard al about Michael’s powers and now that he’d experienced the man’s influence himself, he knew it was no empty threat!
[b [#D7DF01 “So you’re going to leave me here to die?! As soon as the fight ends your people will kill me if I’m left standing here! Cruel bastard! At least the Boss gives us a choice!”]] The Elemental cursed, so afraid of his coming fate and his own powerlessness that his anxiety caused the sparks to dance across his skin and jump between his fingertips. Of course he’d been threatened by Boyd before as well, but there was always an option to leave with your life so long as you did as you were told. With Michael he couldn’t physically disobey even if he wanted to, despite both options seeming like a death sentence.
[b [#D7DF01 “You think you stand up for our people? You only keep us alive so you can keep us as slaves! At least the boss pays us well for it!”]] Sparks called out, leaving Michael with a blunt view of how others outside the Sanctuary viewed him. For now, the Elemental was stuck in place awaiting an uncertain fate while his colleagues forced their way into a now-empty office.
As the door burst off its hinges to reveal a vacant room, Boyd’s Telekinetic stood at the door with gritted teeth.
[b [#df01f1 “She’s gone. Send the order to retreat. Cause as much damage as you can on the way out.”]]
[b [#336699 “What’re you working on, Kid?”]] Cody asked as he wandered over to his little brother madly typing on his computer. Dylan’s attention never left the screen as the data reflected in his focused eyes, but he did shift enough to show his brother what was happening on his computer.
Several windows of coding were opened as well as a few minimized screens of video showing different views of the Sanctuary. Nico had asked the kid to keep an eye on what was going on and Dylan was not one to disappoint.
[b [#ff6622 “Boyd’s men are finally retreating, but not without tearing down half of the Sanctuary on their way out. Michael showed up a few minutes ago and evacuated with Starform. He called her ‘Laura’. I’m running a search right now to see if I can find any Lauras connected with the Sanctuary. Maybe we can finally find out who this Light Elemental is!”]]
[b "I'd like that, it would be nice to know how to cook for myself, you know, instead of having to steal it."] Sarah seemed like a nice person, a truly nice person, in a way she reminded Nico of Kate, he thought that the two would have gotten on well. They were both protective of who they cared about and wanted to help where they could. While he was gladdened by Sarah's offer Janessa's words came as a bit of a blow. he had desperately hoped that whoever the healer that Janessa had found would be able to help heal Keelyn and bring her out of her coma. While Nico had not forced the Transference healer into waking Dylan up he didn't exactly try to talk her out of it either. He felt responsible for the younger Pierce's condition and if possible he wanted to help find a way to bring her back as well.
[b "If you need help figuring something out about Keelyn then let me know, I want to help if I can. Jason can you go set up the board. I won't be long."] This was his chance to just tell Janessa how he felt and either way the two of them would know where they stood. For better or worse there would be no more ambiguity after today. Nico led Janessa away from the others so they could have a bit of privacy and took a deep breath.
[b "I don't really know how best to go about this so i'm just going to come straight out and say it. It's been pointed out to me that I've been acting like a bit of an idiot and it's not fair. It's not fair on you and it's not fair on me. Listen I don't want to just be teammates. I like you, I really like you. You're strong and smart and sweet and incredibly tough. The reason I was pushing you away was I didn't want the risks I take to come back at you but...well we're so far into this that it doesn't matter now. We're in this together. The kiss wasn't a mistake, my reaction to it was and i'm sorry. If you don't feel the same way that's fine but if you want me i'm yours. Now you know."] It felt like a great weight had been lifted from the elemental's shoulders as the words came pouring out his mouth, Nico was usually a reserved character but his words were nothing but sincere and honest. Now all that remained to be seen was how Janessa would react.
[#cc8000 "Well Owen Sparks. Don't move from that spot again until I tell you otherwise your heart will explode. Don't test my patience on this. Boyd is an idiot, why the hell would he want Starform? I swear i'm going to gut him for this."] Michael muttered the last half of his comment more to himself than the subdued elementall but that provided it's own set of issues. Michaelw as powerful and his charms could influence a huge amount of people but he couldn't control everyone attacking the Sanctuary. He could already feel himself beginning to tire quickly and it would only get worse. As much as it would pain him Michael needed to abandon the Sanctuary. He needed Starform and he needed to get out.
[#cc8000 "It's not my mind tricks that are going to get you killed. it's the people who you fight for that you need to worry about. What do you think that they're going to do to you once you've served your purpose? Once they don't need you to take out those of us who stand up for our people you'll be joining us in the graveyard. I pity you that you can't see that."] Michael couldn't stand those who sold their allegiance and betrayed their own kind to work for those that were lesser than themselves. Supers were superior, that was just a fact.
The one advantage that Michael had over Boyd's men was that he knew every inch of the Sanctuary while they didn't, that meant that he should be able to find a back entrance into his office where form the sounds of things was where Starform was. The Charmer only met the occasional soldier on his way to try and reach the Light Elemental before Boyd did. Luckily they didn't present too much of an issue, the chiseled and pronounced muscles that Michael had were not just another aesthetic feature to help him charm people, they were just as good to knock out some soldiers as well. It didn't take long before before the Charmer reached a back entrance to hiss office and once he had opened the passageway he slipped in behind a bookcase and into the space. He had to quickly duck in order to a void a flash of light that a clearly panicked Starform threw his way. She looked terrified.
[#cc8000 "For God's sake control yourself Laura! We need to get out now, they're going to break down that door any minute."] Michael was beginning to feel Nightmare's presence as fear and trepidation started washing over him, clearly she was getting nearer and they couldn't spend much more time here. Michael couldn't remember the last time he had been scared and he hated the feeling.
[#cc8000 "I know you're scared, I am too but we can't lose our heads. Just relax, focus and get us out of here. You can do it Laura, I believe in you."] Michael's words were as sweet as honey with charm and reassurance, as much for himself as for Starform. Michael could do a lot of things but she was the one with the power to get them out of here.
[#cc8000 "Laura Please, I don't care where you take us, just get us out now. We can't stay here. Laura You can do this, I trust you. Just take us..."] Just as the door to his office was broken down and men flooded the office the two supers disappeared in a flash of brilliant white light into safety. Michael vowed he would pay Boyd back for this but revenge would have to wait for now. Survival took president.
The Tanner sisters smiled at each other with a look of pride at Nico’s compliment. With so much chaos lately, a nice family dinner with good food and civil conversation would be a nice change of pace.
[b [#ff00ff “I did most of the cooking at home as soon as I was old enough to reach the stove. It was a good distraction from… well, everything else.”]] Sarah replied, catching the shared glances from each of her siblings as she remembered their unpleasant home life.
[b [#ff00ff “After I ran away, I got a job in a restaurant and learned everything I could from my mentors. I’d be happy to teach you a few things if you’re interested?”]] Sarah offered, wanting to keep the conversation light.
Everything was great until Nico asked about the healer. Unaware of who Janessa was talking about, the Tanners looked up at the Feral curiously, wondering if her new contact could help heal the remaining member of their team. Janessa, however, shot an uneasy look towards Jason before fitting together her lies.
[b “Unfortunately, no. The healer made it quite clear, this was a one-time deal. Besides, I’m sure it’s much harder to wake someone from a coma than it is to heal someone’s senses. I’ll have to figure something else out for Keelyn.”] Janessa excused. She hoped Nico would drop his line of questioning after that. She hated lying to him, but she couldn’t allow him to find out the truth about the Director. She was immensely relieved as the topic turns to games of chess and friendly competitions, though even that seemed short lived.
With Nico’s request to speak with Janessa, the Feral’s smile faltered and her brow creased with concern. Her conversations with Nico hadn’t been entirely pleasant these past few days and she could hardly imagine what he needed to discus with her now. Would he question her more about the healer? Would he tell her off for her behaviour before his mission? Was he mad at her for going off on her own? Was he upset that she kissed him before he left? Sadly, with the Feral’s present mindset, she couldn’t fathom any positive reason why Nico would want to speak with her alone!
Janessa finished the rest of her dinner in relative silence. She thanked the Tanner sisters for their delicious meal and excused herself from the table.
[b “I should check on Jackson. It’s about time I met my nephew. Nico, I’ll be in the other room if you wanted to talk.”] Janessa told him, still looking a little nervous at the invitation before she cleaned her plate and slipped into the back room to spend some time with Keelyn’s son.
Nightmare’s fear washed over the Sanctuary, infecting everyone in the vicinity with paranoia and anxiety. With her abilities she had to abide by her own limitations. She could either focus her powers on one person, enough to scare them to death, or she could affect a large group with a less potent dose of fear, enough to put them on edge and lose their concentration in a fight. For now, she chose the latter. Boyd’s offer was enough to persuade the Super to turn against her own kind and work for him, but she wasn’t foolish enough to dare return to her new boss as a failure.
Everything was going smoothly so far. Nightmare’s abilities kept many of the Sanctuary’s lesser Supers at bay while affecting the focus of its hard-hitters enough for the others to take their advantage. Boyd’s men were well trained and merciless, shooting to kill any who got in their way. The Supers whose loyalties had been bought, like Nightmare’s, were beginning to break through the crowd and force their way into Michael’s office to find their target. As the doors began to crack and tear away from their hinges, Nightmare let a fresh wave of fear flood the office, wanting Starform on edge to make her an easier target.
The Electrokinetic was doing his part to keep the Supers of the Sanctuary away from Michael’s office so his comrades could break in and find Starfire. He was strong for an Elemental, sending bolts of electricity shooting out from his fingertip with enough of a kick to knock most of his adversaries off their feet. He even seemed to enjoy his work judging by the amused smirk on his face that faded only as Michael’s compelling voice called out to him. The Electrokinetic instantly ceased his attacks and turned to the leader of the Sanctuary with a troubled gleam to his eyes. His lip curled in protest, but nothing he did could stop the words from pouring out in answer to Michael’s questions.
[b [#D7DF01 “Owen Spraks. They call me Sparks. I’m here on a mission from the boss: break in, grab the Light Elemental, and bring her back to the boss as leverage against you. Orders from… damnit! Orders from Vincent Boyd!”]] The Elemental answered with extreme reluctance. Betraying a man like Vincent Boyd was a good way to get yourself killed!
[b [#d7df01 "This is why we don't work for you, you bastard! You're damn mind trick are gonna get us all killed!"]]
Nico was looking forward to dinner as the excursion to rescue Jackson had left him hungry, given his injured leg he hobbled over to the dinner table with the rest of the group, stopping occasionally in order to grab hold of something to stop him falling over. Jason helped the dark elemental when he saw that Nico was struggling and helped him into a seat before seating himself next to Janessa. Nico wished Kate wee here to see the picture before him, family and friends acting as though everything were ok, the group could have passed for a normal family and no one would have suspected that they were supers who were constantly on the run or fighting.
[b "Everything looks great. Thanks for doing this for us Sarah, you too Emma. Where did you learn to cook?"] Nico had never really learned to cook, he had lived on the street when he was younger and if he ever really needed food he stole it or used the money that he earned as a thief to buy dinner. It was a skill that he would like to learn one day. His leg was paining him but just then the food and the atmosphere at the table was enough to make him forget.
[b I'm glad that you found a healer. I really am. Do you think this healer could heal Keelyn?"] Nico was curious about this mysterious healer that Janessa had managed to find, he knew from personal experience how difficult finding a healer could be after he searched for so long to find one capable of healing Kate. Janessa obviously didn't want to talk about where she had found this healer and Nico wasn't going to push her on the issue he wanted to get back into her good graces so he would leave his questions for now. Jason gave Janessa a glance when Cody asked when Janessa had found a healer but other than that made no noticeable comment. He seemed bored if anything.
The meal was delicious and Nico enjoyed the company of the group of misfits, he occasionally glanced over at Janessa reaffirming his decision to take a risk with her based on Jason and Emma's advice.
[b "Jason i've got a chess board in the other room, why don't we have a game. Maybe you're not as good as you used to be."] Back when it was just Nico, Jason and Kate the Empath had taught Nico how to play chess, it was one of the few hobbies that Jason actually had. He had always been better than the dark elemental but Nico had practised occasionally and Jason probably didn't have much free time. This might actually be his chance to win.
[#06b9ea "Are you sure Starform didn't hit you on the head as well as your leg? You were always just an average player but if you really want to be embarrassed in front of everyone here...I suppose I could spare a few moments out my day to kick your ass."] Jason grinned, it was amazing to see the two bantering again as if they were still best friends and nothing had happened.
[b "Bring it on then. I've gotten better since the last time we played. Before we have our game there is just something that I need to speak to Janessa about first. It can wait until after dinner though."]
Michael was busy staring at a computer screen in the lab going over some results, the Organisation had some interesting test subjects that he was monitoring. That was when everything went wrong. The distress beacon from the Sanctuary on his watch was activated. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. That beacon was only for the most serious of emergencies. He needed to get there immediately. Without informing Bennett Michael left the Organisation and got a cab close to the Sanctuary, using his ability where necessary. It didn't take long for him to find what was wrong, they were under attack by a considerable force, it can't be the Organisation. Surely Bennett would have mentioned that to him, no, it must be someone else. Whoever it was, Michael was going to bring them hell.
Any time that Michael saw a soldier attacking a resident of the sanctuary he shouted at them to kill themselves and if he saw a super attacking those under his protection he used every ounce of his power available to get them to stop their attack and follow him instead. He didn't want to waste potential future soldiers. He would get to the bottom of this.
[cc8000 "Who are you? What are you doing here? Who is giving the orders?"] Michael grabbed an elctrokinetic super terrorising the Sanctuary and shouted the questions at them. he was in no mood to be messed about and if he didn't start getting answers soon then there were going to be a lot of dead bodies by the time he was finished.
Janessa listened closely as Jason explained what he could about his deals. She had made the mistaken assumption that Jason had only made one bargain with the director. Having multiple deals made this much more complex. It also revealed the manipulative nature of the Director: Nico had also made a deal to wake Katherine, trading his service to the Organization for a chance to heal her. It seems the Director was playing both sides behind the Supers’ backs. The thought caused Janessa to grit her teeth in anger. How dare that man con the two men she cared for.
As Jason pointed out the flaws in her reasoning, Janessa’s eyes narrowed defensively. She knew he was just trying to prepare her for what lie ahead, but he was making it sound like she had walked into this deal blindly! Of course she knew the risks, but she wasn’t so naïve as to make this deal without a safety net to fell back on.
[b “Then it’s a good thing I trust my friends to take care of each other. I didn’t rush into this Jason, I’ve been planning to meet the Director for months. I made a deal with my sister weeks ago: if it ever looks like I’m about to hurt one of our friends, she would do whatever it took to take me down first. Now that she’s in a coma, I’ll make the same deal with Nico. Then everyone is protected.”] She knew Nico would do it, even if it was reluctantly. He made the same decision years ago when he imprisoned Jason in order to protect Katherine. If the Elemental was willing to make that hard call with his brother, he should be able to do the same with Janessa. As long as her friends were safe, Janessa could deal with whatever hand fate dealt her.
[b “It was something I felt I had to do. I’m sorry Jason. I won’t meet with the Director again without talking to you first.”] The Feral promised, knowing it was a shallow consolation for going against his wishes, but it was the best she could offer at this point.
With a nod, Janessa agreed to drop the conversation in favour of some lighter entertainment: Dinner with the entire dysfunctional gang of misfits. With all four estranged Tanners, the broken but bandaged brotherhood between Nico and Jason, and the Feral who had been in recent arguments with nearly half the group, it was nothing short of a miracle that they were all civil enough to sit at the same table!
[b [#aa1122 Jackson’s sound asleep in the other room. The poor kid is exhausted. He should be fine to sleep through dinner. Everyone help yourselves, there’s lots of food.”]] Sarah announced as Emma set the table in seconds flat. Janessa nearly lot herself in the rich scents and spices that she had missed out on for the past two years, and, not for the first time, she wondered if this was the kind of overwhelming delight Jason experienced every time he regained his Feral abilities. Her bright eyes and sharp reactions to the scents and sounds of the room didn’t escape the attention of her friends, especially not the one who had spent the past two years with her blind, deaf, and unable to smell.
[b [#336699 “Janessa, you’re eyes… Can you see?”]] Cody asked suddenly, noticing the absence of that cloudy film that had dulled her eyes since their escape from the shadow realm.
[b [#336699 “You found a healer? How? When?!”]]
[b “While you, Jason, and Nico were gone on your mission.”]
[b [#336699 “You didn’t tell us! How did you…?”]]
[b “Cody, it’s not really a big deal. Just drop it, ok?”] Janessa cut in, silencing the Density Shifter before he could ask too many questions. She didn’t want to anger Jason any further and she really didn’t want to provoke an interrogation from Nico. As long as Jason held his tongue, no one needed to know who healed her. It would be safer for them if they didn’t.
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