It was a couple hours before Janessa was able to shake off the lingering effects of the anesthetic and force her eyes open. Ehen she did, she found herself in a recovery room with thick, white bandages wrapped around her torso. Her hand immediately flew to her side, prodding the bandages and feeling the slight ridge of a line of stitches beneath the fabric. The fact that her wounds had been treated proved she wasn’t waking to completely hostile terms, but the unfamiliar setting of the recovery room did set the Feral on edge. She had become far too accustomed to waking up on the medical cot at the safe house with Nico and Keelyn hovering over her.
The thought of her loved ones stirred desperation in the Feral and despite the painful ache in her side, she tried to push herself into a sitting position so she could look about the room. Catching sight of Jason brought a flood of mixed feelings - on the one hand, she was pleasantly surprised and rather relieved to have her Alpha here to watch over her. The calming effect of having her Pack in close proximity helped to ease her mind, but it also brought an uncomfortable realization. If Jason was here and not Nico, then that meant she was never returned to the safe house. Jason must have brought her to the Organization!
A panicked movement, too quick, too soon, left Janessa with a surge or pain in her healing side, and Janessa felt slightly breathless as she called for her Alpha.
[b “J-Jason!”] The Feral sifted through the flashes of memory from the past several hours, trying to deduce what had happened. She remembered the press conference, the cameras, the reporters; she remembered saying goodbye to Jason and heading for home; she remembered the strange man stopping her at the exit, but the rest… the rest was too foggy to make out.
[b “No deals… tell me you d-didn’t make a deal!”] She stuttered, trying to fight the nausea that washed over her at the thought of Jason bargaining with the Director to save her life. She had worked so hard, sacrificed so much to get in a position where she could demand Jason’s freedom. But if he struck another deal to heal her, all of this would be for nothing!
[b “I don’t… what happened?”]
The pain that flared in Dylan’s arm was almost as disturbing as Nico’s look of indifference as he watched the young Technopath get ripped apart at the hands of the Feral. Dylan knew that the bonds of trust between himself and the Elemental were under far more strain than usual, but for Nico to stand there in silence, passively condoning Raven’s violent attack made Dylan question whether there was anything left to repair. Dylan’s expression shifted from one of fear and pain to one of disgust and betrayal as Nico chose to interrogate him instead of letting him free.
[#ff6622 “Proof? I heard the call! When the Catalyst triggered my powers, I had access to every device… No, forget it! You actually think that I would throw around accusations like that? That I would go so far as to stab somebody without proof? That I would try to kill Janessa, who had practically been raising me like a little brother for the past few years?! Is that who you think I am?”] Dylan shouted in anger. His arms were trembling, but Dylan couldn’t distinguish if it was from the pain of his torn flesh or from the rage that welled up inside of him. Dylan was young and impulsive, he was the first to admit that, but to be capable of the things Nico was accusing him of, he’d have to be as soulless as Bennett! How could Nico believe Dylan was that much of a monster?
[#ff6622 “You just let your Feral tear into my arm, so you must be pretty damn sure that I’m guilty. You obviously don’t trust me, Nico, so why waste my breath explaining something that you’ll never believe!”] Dylan challenged. The anger, pain, and betrayal building in Dylan’s mind was starting to overpower the fear. Nico was terrifyingly intimidating, but Dylan just didn’t care anymore.
Dylan hadn’t been the same since Bennett captured him. Whether it was the isolation, the torture, the Catalyst, the fear… something had shattered in the boy’s mind, twisting him into someone else – someone darker and far less predictable than the young teen Nico and Janessa had known all these years. Dylan’s eyes narrowed into a dark, unforgiving glare that he fixed solely on Nico. He was trapped – his ankle still in the vice of shadows, with Raven prowling nearby to stop him the instant he tried to escape. By now, the blood had thoroughly stained Dylan’s sleeve and was freely dripping around his clasped hand, but despite how much a wound like that must have hurt, any wince or cringe was steeled behind a mask of cynicism and defiance.
[#ff6622 “What are you going to do Shadow?”] Dylan spoke in an eerily calm, dark tone, purposely trading Nico’s name for the impersonal alter ego he had chosen for himself; all traces of comradery gone from his tone.
[#ff6622 “Sick your Feral on me? Lock me away in the Shadow Realm? Leave me trapped here for the Organization to find? Or maybe you’ll just kill me? If you think I’m capable of shooting Janessa, then why shouldn’t I believe you’d do the same to me?”]
Jason couldn't tear his eyes away from his injured pack mate as she ay there bleeding and unconscious. At the suggestion that he wait outside, the Empath only returned a murderous glance, there was absolutely no chance in hell that he was going to leave Janessa right now when she needed him to be there. Jason wasn't naive enough to believe that his involvement was enough to undo all of the bad will that Janessa and her friends had racked up in the past. Janessa was responsible for savaging Tara Bennett who was in another bed in this very infirmary and for causing the Organisation any number of problems. As vigilant as he was, his feral senses were clouded by his worry for his pack mate, and in reality the only person in the world that trusted him implicitly so he missed the medic slipping the tracker by Janessa's ribs. His worry was not the only thing that was distracting Janessa as the infirmiry doors opened to admit an unexpected figure; The Director.
[#ce0d27 "Mr Jackson, I assumed that you would be here, I watched the press conference. It was an admirable display, she did well. I couldn't have hoped for better."] It was clear by his tone of voice that the Director also included Janessa's shooting to be part of the success, as far as he was concerned it was a PR miracle. The heiress of a powerful family who were murdered is attacked and the person who she has just endorsed for political office heroically offers his resources to help her recover from the shooting. The papers would love it, and if anyone doubted the moral character of The Director he could now be firmly seen as someone who would help those in need. A true ally of the Pierce family and that would still carry some weight around the city.
[#1473b7 "How can you be so calm, she could die! I know you only think of her as a tool to be used but even that must mean something to you."] Jason had never been good at hiding his emotions, he wore his heart on his sleeve and likely always would. Jason was intelligent but he was never calculating, that was the real difference between the Director and Hyperion and it was a crucial one.
[#ce0d27 "We both know there is no real danger here, even if the injury was too bad for conventional medicine, which it wasn't, we have any number of healers that could have been deployed. You know that I would never let her die, she's too useful too me."] Jason had to admit if The Director was anything he was pragmatic and White Tigress was too good of an assett to simply throw away. The medics had done their job for now and it looked like Janessa would pull through this, all she would need for now would be rest and Jason would watch over her until she regained consciousness and got her strength back.
As Raven and Dylan scrapped, a drone coming out of nowhere and attacking the feral before her heightened reactions allowed her to dispatch the distraction. What happened next would normally have caused Nico to intervened but the lingering question over whether Dylan had played any part in Janessa's attack caused the Dark Elemental to remain silent and unmoved when Raven ripped open Dylan's skin arm and took out the microchip. It was a smart move by Dylan, Nico had to give him credit for the idea but even if Raven had not found the piece of Technology, Nico had another way to deal with the kid. Nico still had the EMP that Tech himself had given Nico and using it would rend the kind useless, and Nico had been prepared to use it. [i "I didn’t hurt Janessa. I swear Nico…"] Unfortunately for Dylan the kid's word wasn't worth a lot right now.
[b "Do you have any proof that Delta sold you out? It doesn't look good for you Dylan. You claim that Delta sold you out but he then comes and helps rescue you? It doesn't exactly make sense. You claim that you would never hurt Janessa but a warning comes up on a screen from you moments before she is shot, it doesn't add up Dylan. You better explain what the hell is going on right now or i'm going to stop being so polite..."] The truth was that while he wanted to believe that he knew Dylan, right now the Dark Elemental didn't have the first idea what a scared young man like Dylan was capable of. Normally he would be right and he would never hurt Janessa, these were not normal times. People were capable of far worse things than those closest to them could ever expect and Nico would not be caught off guard. Not when Janessa's life might hang in the balance.
The pain had spread. Once a precise tearing directly where the bullet had struck was now a radiating heat that spread across her ribs and eventually her entire torso. Every bump and jostle she felt in Hyperion’s arms sent another sharp stab through the Feral’s body, but she dedicated herself to keeping that pain from showing too strongly on her face. Jason was going through enough without having to worry any more about her. Janessa could sense his feat, which was about the only thing she could sense in the all-consuming darkness of the Shadow Realm. Janessa didn’t even realize that the darkness creeping into her vision was only partially due to the Empathy’s abilities. It wasn’t until she heard the voices of the Organization’s medical staff that she realized she was now free of the shadows and blinded by her own ebbing consciousness.
Janessa was vaguely aware of the sturdy service below her as she was rested on a stretcher. The buzz of voices and machines soon faded as the Feral found herself unable to fight the pain any longer. She silently slipped out of consciousness, leaving herself entirely vulnerable were it not for the protective supervision of her Alpha.
[i “We’ll need to keep her sedated until we can remove the bullet and repair the damage. Mr. Jackson, perhaps you should wait outside?”] One of the medic’s suggested nervously. He certainly didn’t want to cross this intimidating Empath, but he wasn’t sure Hyperion was prepared to watch as they cut into his Pack mate in order to remove the bullet.
A heavy anesthetic was administered, more for the protection of the medical staff than the consideration of the Feral. None of the medics were keen on falling victim to an angry, frightened, suffering Super if she happened to regain consciousness. Were it not for Hyperion’s commands, they wouldn’t be wasting their time with the Feral. She was, after all, the one responsible for putting their other patient, Tara Bennett, into her current fragile state.
Janessa’s procedure was going smoothly, so much so that one particular medic saw no reason why he couldn’t twist this situation to the Organization’s advantage. He ensured that Hyperion couldn’t see his hands – not wanting to face the wrath of the overprotective Alpha – as he took a small, sterile tracer and implanted the device in the tissue surrounding Janessa’s lower ribs. It was close enough to the impact of the bullet that any pain or discomfort would be blamed on her recent injury and so it would be some time before the device was detected. But this would be a chance for the Organization to keep tabs on the Feral and her team of fugitives. Whether White Tigress was an asset or a threat, they would know where she was at all times.
Dylan quickened his pace in hopes of fleeing the scene before his former team undoubtable showed up to rescue their injured Feral. Jason would take care of Janessa for now – Although Dylan didn’t trust the Empath, he at least knew that Jason wouldn’t let Janessa die on his watch. That didn’t mean the rest of the team wouldn’t be racing to find her. With his cell phone clutched tightly in his hand, Tech could see through the eyes of every camera in the area, watching as unnatural shadows gathered within their frames. Nico was here and Dylan didn’t want to be found.
As he took another hurried step, the boy’s foot sank deeper than expected, throwing him off balance and causing the Technopath to stumble to the ground. The sudden fall knocked his phone from his hand, and before he could grab it, he watched the device shatter beneath the foot of a familiar Feral. Dylan cast a frantic look behind him, seeing Nico closing in and he knew there would be no more running. Dylan had rarely seen this degree of fury from the elemental and never directed at him! He tried to hide his nerves behind an unconvincing expression of boldness, and forced as much strength into his voice as he could muster.
[#ff6622 “I didn’t hurt Janessa. I swear Nico…”]
[#005500 “Just like you didn’t hurt Delta? Don’t lie to us, Runt!”] Raven growled, grabbing a fist full of Dylan’s shirt and hoisting him back to his feet. With one ankle still submerged in shadows, Dylan couldn’t run, but that didn’t stop the white knuckled grip the Feral had on his shirt. Raven was just curing her other hand into a fist when she noticed the Technopath’s eyes suddenly shift to something behind her. It was only thanks to her quick Feral reflexes that Raven was able to dodge the new drone that soared towards her head. She was forced to drop the boy to the ground and swing her fists at the drone, swiping it out of the air and leaving nothing left but a heap of scrap.
[#005500 “What do you have?”] Raven demanded, knowing the boy couldn’t use his powers without a physical connection to something technical. She thought by crushing his phone she was leaving him defenseless, but obviously this Technopath still had a few tricks up his sleeve – literally. Raven caught the subtle, but telling shift in the boy’s posture. As soon as she questioned him, he brought his left arm behind him, as if hiding it from her keen, hawk-like eyes. Raven’s hand snapped out and captured his wrist, roughly dragging his arm out in front and tearing his sleeve, revealing a crocked line of messy, unpracticed stitched spanning 2-3 inches of his forearm.
Tech saw the understanding dawn in Raven’s eyes and the minisule curl of her lip that sent him into a panic.
[#ff6622 “No! No, don’t! NO!”] He shouted as the Feral used her claw-like nails to tear through the stitches and into the recently mended flesh. Dylan screamed, unable to contain his pain as Raven pulled away, revealing a tiny, dime-sized microchip in her bloody fingers. It was clever: hide the device under his own skin so Dylan never lost contact with his abilities. Unfortunately, now that it was removed, he was powerless, in pain, and afraid of what his former allies would do. Once released, Dylan stumbled to the floor yet again, clutching his bloody, shredded arm close to his chest. Painful tears welled in his eyes, but the young teen didn’t dare let them fall. Knowing anything he tried to say at this point would sound incriminating, Dylan simply waited for the others to speak.
[#005500 “First Delta, now Janessa. You messed with the wrong Pack, kid.”] Raven threatened, not even realizing she had started referring to Janessa as her Pack once again. It seemed the past few weeks working side by side had healed some of the wounds the Ferals had been harbouring for years.
Knowing he wouldn’t get any sympathy, nor mercy from Raven, Dylan fixed his eyes on the Elemental. He had Nico had been through so much together and yet, by the cold look in the man’s eyes, Dylan wasn’t sure any of that history mattered when Janessa’s life was in question.
[#ff6622 “I did hurt Delta, I’ll admit that. I hurt him because he hurt me and Andrew first! Delta’s the one who sold us out to Michael! He left us for dead, so I did the same to him. It was the only way to ensure none of you tried to follow me. But Nico, I swear, I did not hurt Janessa! You know she’s like a sister to me! I wouldn’t hurt her like that! You know I wouldn’t!”]
The cold, never ending darkness threatened to paralyse Jason as it dulled all of his senses, and since he was with Janessa his heightened feral senses being taken away felt particularly disorientating. It was like he was blind. If he was on his own then the Empath would have floundered, overcome by panic and fear but that wasn't an option. He needed to be strong so that Janessa could live. Somehow he stumbled through the dark abyss, obviously lacking the refined nature of Nico's own practiced Shadow Travel, and found the exit he was looking for. He tried to leave the Shadows but he felt weak and insubstantial, as if he was leaving most of himself in the shadows...he knew that he would die if he tried to leave like this and then Janessa would be lost. He thought back to Nico and all the time that he had spent talking about when he had first mastered Shadow Travel all those years ago, what had he always said was the most important part of Shadow Travel? Belief. If you believed with an iron clad certainty that it will work then it would. His fear of the Shadows and losing Janessa was casting doubt into his mind and in turn his doubt was making it impossible to leave.
[#1473b7 "Pull yourself together Jackson. You can do this."] He was Jason Jackson, he was Hyperion, he was a God. Mere mortals might be afraid of the dark but he wasn't, he was better than them. He tried to exit again, focusing on his mind, forcing himself and Janessa to leave the abyss and as he did the darkness and bitter cold was replaced by fluorescent light that seemed as blinding as the sun. Jason sprinted through the halls that he knew so well and in no time at all he was at the medical wing.
[#1473b7 "Stop what you are doing now. This is your top priority and if she dies I will personally make sure that you share her fate."] Jason was reasonably sure that his threat was not necessary, his position within the Organisation was enough, people knew that he was close to the Director but a little extra motivation never hurt anyone. [i “Jason… No deals… Promise me!... No more deals!” ] Jason heard her pleas but as much as he wanted to he simply could not make her that promise. She was his pack and there was nothing that he would not do to keep her safe. Nothing.
With Sarah's exclamation that she had found Janesaa at the Organisation and that Dylan was also nearby presented him with a choice. As much as he wanted to go straight to Janessa, to be by her side he knew that wasn't an option. There was no chance in hell that Nico could just walk into the Organisation and come back out unscathed. The truth of the matter was that right now Janessa had someone looking out for her and while Jason wasn't always the most stable of people Nico knew that he had Janessa's best interests at heart and would fight for her.
[b "We go after Tech. We need to know if he had any part of this."] Nico gave Raven a location for them to meet at and he went after Dylan, Sarah constantly in his ear telling him where to go. It wasn't long before he caught a glimpse of the kid himself moving away from the scene of the shooting. Raven had arrived by his side by the time that the dark elemental had caught up with the technopath. His worry over Janessa and the possibility that Dylan was somehow involved in the shooting was clouding Nico's mind. Without making a sign, Nico flicked his wrist and a tiny opening into the Shadows appeared just in front of Tech so that when he took his next step his left foot sunk two or three inches into the ground and rooted him in place.
[b "What did you do? Answer me Dylan. What did you do to Janessa?"] Nico spoke the words almost in a whisper as he approached the technopath, cold fury emanating from the Elemental. Nico was at his most dangerous when he was like this, emotionless and quiet. He was the centre of the storm, he was darkness itself. While he was at the safe house he had every intention of hearing Dylan out, he had wanted Dylan to be innocent of stabbing Delta, part of him even believed it but all of that was in the past. All of that was changed when Janessa was put in danger. If Dylan had anything to do with hurting her then Nico would take action and in his current state there was nothing that he would not do, even if that meant ending the young boy's life. He would keep Janessa safe whatever the cost...
This wasn’t the first time Janessa had taken a bullet - getting shot was somewhat of an occupational hazard for vigilantes - but this was the first time that bullet had struck skin without the impact being lessened by the protective padding she wore under her Tigress suit. While she knew the shot wasn’t fatal, the pain that resonated through her ribs as worse than she anticipated. Janessa clutched the wound as tightly as she could bear, taking sharp gasps as the pain made it difficult to breathe. She didn’t remember falling, but the cold, hard ground beneath her was evidence that she had. Her vision blurred tempting her into unconsciousness, but Janessa fought the urge. The gunman stood above her now, aiming his weapon for a far more lethal shot to the head. Janessa’s Feral reflexes were normally quick enough to dodge a bullet, but the pain in her ribs would slow her down. A gripping fear flooded Janessa’s mind as she realized that even blowing her cover might not be enough to save her life! Fortunately, her Alpha was there when she needed him.
The sickening crunch was all Janessa needed to hear to know that the man who shot her would do no further harm. Jason eliminated the threat before arriving at her side to assess the damage. Janessa could sense his concern and urgency through the Pack bond just as clearly as he had sensed her own fear and pain when she was shot. Not wanting to worry her Alpha any more than strictly necessary, Janessa forced herself to concentrate on Jason, keeping herself awake and as alert as possible. With one hand still clasped over her injured ribs, the other tightly gripped Jason’s arm, proving she still had strength in her to fight and determination enough to survive.
As the Shadows collected around her, Janessa tightened her grip on her Alpha’s arm, now more out of fear than reassurance. The Shadow Realm was still the setting for Janessa’s nightmares after she had been trapped within for weeks, losing her Feral senses in the process. She had faced that terror before, but only with Nico at her side – someone she knew could navigate the darkness with ease and would not, under any circumstances, allow his element to hurt her. Facing that abyss without Nico at her side was terrifying for Janessa and she knew, if she felt this way after a mere few weeks in the darkness, then Jason’s fear would be so much worse having spent years imprisoned within.
As always, time was distorted in the Shadow Realm, causing those few mere minutes within the confines of the portal to stretch into an eternity. Janessa concentrated on her breathing, trying to control the sharp gasps and groans at every minor movement. She had lost a lot of blood, making the young woman feel increasingly lightheaded, dizzy, sluggish, and cold. Her hands were shaking, making it more and more difficult to apply pressure to the wound. Still, Janessa’s thoughts were on her Alpha. He had brought her back to the Organization with obvious hopes that their healers and medics could help, but all Janessa saw was a potential for even greater risk!
[b “Jason… No deals… Promise me!... No more deals!”] The Feral’s words broke around her gasps, but her eyes were steady and sure. Everything she had risked so far would be worth it so long as her plans to free Jason worked out. If those plans were compromised because Jason tried to save her with a deal, then all of this would be for nothing!
[i “…appears that a Super arrived on scene in time to stop the shooter. After leaving the armed man dead on scene, the Super then vanished in a swirl of black smoke, taking Miss Pierce with him. Still no word on whether this Super was intending to rescue Miss Pierce or kidnap her, but local police are scouring the area for the wounded heiress and asking anyone with information about Miss Pierce’s whereabouts to contact the tip line. This has been Lisa Borton, ABC News...”] Raven turned off the broadcast, letting the reporter’s voice fall to the tense silence of the safe house. Keelyn was pacing the room, far too exhausted and sore from treating Delta to be able to heal Janessa even if the Feral did make it home. Cody was trying and failing to get his little brother on the phone, while Sarah tried to pinpoint the wounded Feral’s location. Raven couldn’t help jumping to the conclusion that Tech was involved in the shooting, after seeing that incriminating broadcast. The kid had stabbed her Packmate and left him to die, it certainly wouldn’t be above his nature to hire a shooter to take out the Director’s greatest supporter! She was also a little upset that Nico had left them all behind. He disappeared into his shadows, no doubt rushing to Janessa’s aid, leaving the rest of them to pace impatiently around the living room in desperate need for news.
It was several tense minutes before Sarah interrupted the tense silence with some promising news.
[#ff00ff “I found them!”] Sarah took the communicator offered by her brother and quickly made a call to Nico, hardly waiting for him to answer before she jumped right in.
[#ff00ff “Shadow, I found Tigress. It looks like Hyperion took her back to the Organization. I also managed to get a lock on Tech! He’s just leaving the scene of the press conference, heading north! The shooting much have made him drop his guard enough for me to find him.”] Sarah reported, soon to have the communicator ripped from her hands by an impatient Feral.
[#005500 “Whether you hunt the Runt or track the Feral, you’re going to need back up. Tell me where to meet you.”] Raven insisted. Even she wasn’t aware of whether her motives to help were driven by concern for her former Pack or her thirst for vengeance against Tech, but either way it didn’t sound like Raven would take no for an answer.
[#1473b7 "Even though you gave them the answer if anything happened to you in my experience the one thing that you can always rely on is the unending stupidity of humans. The Director is smart, now that you've played your hand and have essentially forced him to keep you in the public eye he'll start working on contingencies to cover himself so your accusations don't stick. I hate to say it but you might just have forced his hand into renegotiating your deal and you know how I feel about that."] Jason simply could not understand why Janessa would continually keep putting herself in the crosshairs for him. Yes he was her alpha but there had to be more to it than that. If she traded places with Jason and became the Director's willing pawn then she would likely have to face off against her pack and the rest of her friends anyway, Hyperion did not know the ins and outs of what being in a pack meant but even he was sure that fighting your pack was a nonstarter.
[#1473b7 "Yeah I'm sure go back to where you are needed, If he's mad about anything it won't be that you didn't come back to say goodbye. I'm sure the others need you more than he does right now. You too Pierce."] As Janessa told her alpha to stay safe, Jason returned the sentiment and hugged the feral in a surprisingly tender moment. It appeared that despite Jason's wishes and against his better judgement he could not fight the strength of the pack bond and he cared for Janessa far more than what was safe. He didn't want to see her hurt and if she kept on going down the path that she was like she was planning she would end up dead or worse.
What happened next was difficult to describe, Jason had said his farewell and Janessa had left but he could still feel that she was close thanks to their pack bond and thanks to that he knew that it was wrong. He sensed the danger a fraction of a second before the first of the three gunshots sounded, Jason sprinted in the direction that he knew Janessa to be but not before a bullet hit her in the ribs and Jason felt the pain and fear from his injured pack member wash over him for an instant before it was replaced with blinding rage. Jason barrelled ahead towards the gunman, his feral abilities enhanced by the adrenaline coursing through his system as his packmate lay injured he lashed out with a super strong fist and struck the assailant in the chest, caving it in instantly and killing the man. Jason cradled the bleeding Janessa in his arms, mind racing for a way to make sure that she survived this. He had no way to get the bullet out and without that all was lost. Jason had no way of knowing if help was coming or even if it was if it would get there in time to stop her bleeding out. None of Jason's abilities would help in this situation, His options were narrowing with every drop of crimson blood that fell from the Feral and as much as Jason feared the idea that come into his head the alternative of losing a member of his pack was infinitely worse.
[#1473b7 "Hold on Pierce, I'll get you help."] Jason didn't care about whether Janessa's cover was blown or not, or whether she would have difficult questions to answer about the manner of her escape from the assailant...all that mattered was keeping her alive. Jason steeled himself and brought forth the shadows into an unsteady gateway in an attempt to Shadow Travel to the Organisation and to get the medical help necessary. It was a weak imitation of Nico's mastery of that ability. Jason still had not gotten over his deep fear of being trapped in that darkness for so long and even considering this course of action was a testament to how worried he was about Janessa.
[#1473b7 "Here goes nothing..."] Hyperion stepped through into the dark portal and sped towards the Organisation, hoping that he would make it out of the agonising, endless abyss and that he could save his pack.
[i If she’s endorsing the Director, she must have a reason.”] Nico knew exactly what that reason was, this must be what the Director wanted from her but he couldn't say anything as the others did not know about that particular arrangement.
[b "Raven shut up! We'll find Dylan and believe me he will answer for what he did to Delta but for now there is no point in backhanded comments like that. I understand you're angry, believe me I do but set it to one side for now."] Nico actually sympathised far more with Raven than Cody right now, he understood her anger, when Kate had died he had slide into an angry stupor, Cody might be right about her having her reasons but voicing that opinion might not have been the smartest of ideas. Their little argument was silenced in an instant with the arrival of a sinister message on the screen and the far more concerning sight of a man raising a gun at Janessa.
[b "Sarah Find her now!"] As Nico didn't know exactly where Janessa was he couldn't just travel to her location and while it wouldn't take long for the Tanner sister to tell him where he needed to go it appeared that even that short time frame was enough for the unthinkable to happen. A bullet hit janessa's body and she crumpled to the floor, Nico's heart sank and fear flooded his body, he needed to be with her, to reassure her that everything was going to be ok, to help her, to save her. Keelyn was still worn out from her working on Delta so he wasn't actually sure that she would be able to help her older sister even if she wanted to but all that mattered to Nico was being by Janessa's side to help her through this injury. What he saw on the screen next, momentarily snapped him out of his panicked frenzy as Jason smashed the attacker and he flew back several feet from the force of Hyperion's blow. Jason crouched down by the bleeding body of the woman he loved and as soon as Sarah shouted a location he was already darting into the shadows and towards Janessa. As Nico emerged from the portal he was assaulted by camera flashes and television cameras as reporters tried to get pictures and video of what just happened, he could vaguely hear police sirens in the background as they sped towards the location but disturbingly what he could not see was either Jason nor Janessa. All Nico could think about was Janessa and hoping that she would be alright, if Dylan really had had anything to do with this attack then he had just made a very dangerous enemy. It was one thing to set yourself up against Nico, it was an altogether worse thing for Nico to set himself against you.
As soon as she stepped behind stage, Janessa could breathe a little easier. She hated appearing in public, even when she was a little girl at her parents’ side, and to have to face those cameras to endorse the man she despised most was sickening. It was a comfort to have Jason there with her. The security that came with close proximity to her Pack was a comfort she had been deprived of thanks to Jason’s deal with the Director. Whatever time they had shared together in the past, it was always pre-empting a battle, or sneaking behind enemy lines. This was a pleasant change.
[b “I played it off as well as I could given the ambush of questions, but I’m well aware the director won’t be happy. They’ll expect to see me appear in public more often now and if I disappear again, they’ll start to wonder if what I said really was a joke.”] Janessa cautioned. The Director only had one favour left, and it wouldn’t be enough to keep her in the public’s eye for long. Janessa had set the need for another bargain to be made, she just had to wait now until the Director to realize her value and call her in to negotiate. That meant her time was running out to put the rest of her plan into action and the first step: a very difficult conversation with Nico.
[b “Are you sure it’s alright that I leave? The Director won’t be mad about you sending me home? I guess I’ll have to explain myself; the others will have seen me on the news. Tech’s going to be furious.”] Janessa said, shaking her head at the unpleasantness that awaited her back at the safe house. She didn’t like the idea of Jason heading straight back to the Director, especially when she wasn’t sure how the man would react to her press conference. If he was angry enough to punish her, she would rather take the consequences herself that subject Jason to that. But she doubted her Alpha would give her the option. He didn’t seem to like putting her in danger any more than she did putting him at risk.
[b “Stay safe Jason. I’m sure I’ll see you soon.”] She told him in farewell before taking her leave. Unfortunately, seeing Janessa Pierce enter the area and White Tigress leave it, didn’t bode well for her secret identity, so Janessa was forced to keep her heiress persona until she was back in safer territory. She had just stepped outside, still aware of the reporters and cameras lingering in scene, when a familiar man stepped out to block her way.
[+green “The boss has an arrangement with Bennett. He wasn’t too pleased to see the Director getting an endorsement from the bitch who took Bennett off the board. You know Mr. Boyd, he takes things like this personally. But he never imagined you’d be stupid enough to make a public appearance!”] The man chuckled, pulling out a gun and firing two shots into the sky. The sound drew the attention of every news camera and reporter on the scene, splashing the image of Janessa held at gunpoint for the whole city to see! It was a brilliant yet frustrating strategy. With the world watching, Janessa couldn’t risk revealing herself as the White Tigress, so despite her sharp reflexes and inhuman agility, she didn’t dare move a muscle when the gun was aimed at her! Janessa Pierce wouldn’t know how to dodge a bullet, so Tigress couldn’t risk more than a slight movement to lessen the impact. As the trigger was pulled, she twisted to the side, feeling the piercing pain in her lower ribs, instead of her chest.
The pain was overwhelming, but the wound wasn’t fatal. Revealing herself as Tigress would have had far more deadly consequences, so her act was still worth it, despite the bullet in her side. Playing the helpless victim, however, was likely to get her killed! Janessa clutched her wound, feeling the warm blood beneath her fingers and allowing the pain to read across her face instead of burying it like she normally did. She knew Jason would have felt that bullet through their Pack bond, and there was a chance that Maybe Nico or Starform had seen her on the news and could travel here in time, but that time was running short. The man raised his gun once again and Janessa knew that if her friends didn’t step in soon, she’d have to save herself and sacrifice the only protection she had in her secret identity!
Hearing Nico’s call, the Feral and the Tanners raced into the living room. Keelyn was still working on Delta in the other room, and eventually had to force Raven away from her Pack member’s side so she wouldn’t be in the way. Although she didn’t want to leave Delta, the urgency in Nico’s voice made the Feral follow the Tanners to see what else could possible go wrong!
[#005500 “Janessa’s family wasn’t just rich, they were powerful. They did a lot of good for this city and because of that, the people trusted them. They listened to them. If a man like the Director is good enough that a Pierce is willing to vouch for him, half the city will vote for him on Janessa’s word alone. What the hell is she doing?”] Raven explained, the stress of the recent situation taking all the typical bitterness from her voice. Still, she couldn’t help but glare as she listened to her former pack mate boasting about the man who had ordered the torture, capture, and death and death of countless Supers.
[#223399 “Take it easy guys, this is Janessa we’re talking about. If she’s endorsing the Director, she must have a reason.”] Cody interjected, watching the hurt and confusion dance across the faces of those watching the newscast. But his words only seemed to incite another flicker or fury in Raven.
[#005500 “Like your murderous little brother [i must have had a reason] for trying to kill Delta?! All this time you guys have been throwing accusations and mistrust at me, Delta, and Laura, bust so far it’s your own people that are stabbing you in the back!”] Raven hissed. Before Phaze could defend himself or his friends, the tv started rapidly switching channels on its own, finally settling on a different newscast of the same event, this one with a reporter just outside the venue talking about the immense support gained by Janessa's speech. The reporter stated that with an endorsement from Janessa Pierce, this election was a sure win for the Director.
The reporter's optimistic review was in stark comparison tot he words that suddenly flashed across the tv screen - a clear message from their wayward Technopath:
[i "Stop her or I will!"]
Whether the intent behind Tech's words was meant to be threatening or simply a call to action, it certainly didn't seem like a coincidence with what happened next!
As the reporter continued to speak and Tech's words faded from the screen, Janessa was seen in the background, leaving the conference when a man stepped out in front of her. Two loud shots were heard before the camera turned to focus on the stunned looking heiress and the smug gunman. A third shot was heard and Janessa stumbled back, her hands clutching at the growing red stain that spread across the fabric of her dress. Whether Tech had meant this to or not, it certainly looked like someone had arranged to "stop her", moments after his threat! And mere hours after he had inexplicable stabbed one of their team and disappeared, there was certainly reason to doubt the boy's innocence!
[#ce0d27 "Very well you can have Jason with you if it will make you more comfortable, I'm sure he will be more than capable. I will be watching with great interest, I'm sure that you'll do me proud."] The Director couldn't care less if Janessa wanted Hyperion with her while she did this press conference, the Director could easily see through her excuse of needing protection. She wanter her alpha close and he was more than happy to provide that after all Jason's oaths of allegiance bound him to the Director regardless of his pack bond with the feral. He was more interested to see how she reacted to the script that he had written her, she was a headstrong woman and he expected her to try and change as much as she could while still remaining inside of his instructions. That was part of the game, let's see how she reacted. Meanwhile Jason and Janessa were discussing the director's favour in his chambers.
[#1473b7 "I know what he could do but not what he will do and that makes all the difference in the world. I could guess but unfortunately the Director is smart enough that even I, who spends more time with him than most, can only really hazard a vague notion of what he's planning. It's infuriating."] Jason was glad that Janessa wasn't going to take any unnecessary risks, God knows that the feral was far less concerned with her own safety than she had any right to be...Jason blamed Nico for that, it was a bad habit that the Dark elemental shared.
[#1473b7 "Good, if you're afraid then you might actually be learning something. I still can't believe that you actually went to him in the first place. If I break my ties to Director, as unlikely as that is, I had intended to get as far away from this place as possible, flee the city, the country if I could and I suggest that you do the same. I suppose I could always try and convince him to join me if anything happened to you. You should get ready, we don't have much time left."] The pair made their way to the press conference, Janessa in her elegant formalwear and Jason in a simple black suit, the kind any personal security guard would wear, the pair would not raise any suspicion. Jason glared at the reporter angrily who asked about her two year absence from public life, her answer was good, as good as could be expected in the circumstances but her followup answer cut a little close to the bone and he both admired and cursed her spirit by flirting so closely with the line that the Director had imposed on her. It was admirable, foolish but admirable. As she finished speaking and announced that she would be making no further statement and the two retreated backstage.
[#1473b7 "That was clever, play it off as a joke when in fact the truth will be staring them in the face. You've held up your end of the bargain, I see no reason for you to have to return to the Director. You've done as asked so I won't keep you any longer. Go back to Nico, to your friends and be careful. For better or worse your plan is working, the Director is growing attached to you, your skills and what you could do for him. He only has one more favour to ask of you and he doesn't want to give it up easily. Watch your back and be careful, especially around him."]
The Dark Elemental was still in shock at the events that appeared to have transpired, he simply could not believe that Dylan could be capable of such violence. He knew the boy hadn't liked Raven or Delta and didn't trust the Organisation but to stab Delta and leave him for dead seemed so out of character for the technopath. Keelyn was working on the feral's wound while Raven paced furiously, doing anything to occupy herself, to stop from going wild with panic at her packmate's dire condition. Nico had asked Sarah to find out exactly where her little brother was but to his dismay Sarah couldn't find Dylan reliably, he was obviously using his abilities to mask his presence. That didn't bode well, in Nico's mind that made the kid look guilty even though he wanted to believe the kid was innocent. Nico was itching to be out in the city, to find Dylan, to make sure that whatever Janessa was doing for the Director. He was nervous and that was a feeling he hated above almost all others. If only Sarah could find where Dylan was then Nico could be there in an instant and find out exactly what had happened, although that might be even more worrying...what if Dylan really had stabbed Delta. Nico was almost as tense as Raven and in an effort to take his mind off things he went to another room and switched on the tv, hoping for something, anything to distract him.
[b "Oh my God, Raven, Sarah, Cody get down here!"] Nico had been idly flicking through the channels, there was a football game on one, a talk show on another, some sort of crime drama on a third but it was what was on the next that he couldn't quite believe. She was dressed much differently than she was when she had left hours ago and she seemed like a totally different person but the eyes were a giveaway. Nico could never mistake those eyes...and Jason standing in the background was all the signs that anyone needed that the glamorous figure was in fact Janessa Pierce. She seemed to be giving some sort of speech, a political endorsement, it was certainly odd. Was this what the Director wanted, some sort of PR stunt, it seemed odd that all he wanted was a press conference. Nico was sure there was more to it than it seemed but without all the relevant information he could not guess as to what that was. Nico was, however, relieved that this task the Director had given was bloodless at least she was safe. Nico idly rubbed the Shadow-stone ring on his finger, the one that Janessa had given him on their date, it was the only other time that he had seen Janessa dressed up as she was at the press conference now.
[b "What's his plan? Why make her do this?"] Nico muttered under his breath, he wanted to ask the others their thoughts but Janessa hadn't told them about her deal with the Director and he certainly wasn't going to bring that to light, it wasn't his secret to tell. He wondered what the others thought of the sight on the television screen in front of them, the presence of Jason would be an obvious indicator that the Organisation was involved in some way. While Dylan was still in the wind this was what was occupying his thoughts.
[b "What is going on here?"]
Janessa did nothing to hide that cold glare of contempt towards the man that was giving her orders. His arrogance alone put her on edge and were there not so much at risk she could have dived across that table and silenced him for good! Unfortunately, any violence against the Director would be stopped by Hyperion and Janessa didn’t want to out Jason in the position of harming his own pack. The Director’s demands were nearly as dangerous as the last favour she did for him, yet in Janessa’s mind they were far more concerning. A request like this made Janessa regret that she didn’t make the distinction when she made the deal: that White Tigress was in his debt, not Janessa Pierce. It was too late to fix that little oversight now and Janessa really didn’t have a choice by to obey his orders.
Janessa took the sheet that was offered to her and skimmed through the words on the page. He was wanting her endorsement for Mayor? A man like the Director wouldn’t put so much effort into a goal so small. No doubt he had far more to strive for once he entered the political field. It was sickening to think that her words and the reputation of her murdered parents would be the tool used to put this manipulative man into power, but as much as she wanted to spit in his face and tear the page to shreds, Janessa’s binding contract forced her to accept. The only small defiance she could possible get away with was asking for a condition to be met.
[b “I’m the heir to one of the richest families in this city, there’s a reason I’ve been underground for two years and not just living the double life I used to live. I will be a very persuasive influence for a lot of powerful people, but I’ll be an incredibly tempting target for others. Seeing as how I can’t out myself as White Tigress across the local media, I’m going to need some security. You want a press conference? Not a problem, but I want Jason as my bodyguard, close to my side until this favour is over.”] Janessa had her reasons for wanting Jason close. First, with her recent misadventure at the Organization and her toxic run-in with the Catalyst, Janessa was still feeling a little insecure about controlling her Feral side and it would help to know her Alpha was close by, keeping her in check. Secondly, she wanted to show the Director she had no interest in blindly following his orders. She’d still exercise her own judgement and push back if necessary to keep herself and her friends safe. Finally – and perhaps most importantly – Janessa wanted to keep Jason close for his own safety. The Director was very firm on the matter of her keeping to the script and warned her there may be consequences. The Feral would hate to think one of those consequences might be Jason getting hurt on her behalf. If she could keep an eye on him, maybe there’s be some way to keep him out of harm?
The main downside of the deal Jason made with the Director, was that he was forced to act on anything he saw or heard from Janessa that could be a potential threat to the Director. She had to be incredibly careful about what she shared with her Alpha. Because of this, Janessa fell unnaturally quiet as Jason escorted her to his quarters. She arrived to find that a small selection from her wardrobe back home had been stolen and delivered to the Organization, no doubt all in preparation for this task. Janessa selected one of her dresses and heels – something that would emphasis her family’s wealth and high esteem, while still making her look professional and trustworthy. She had learned over the years, politics was all just a game of manipulation. As long as you knew how to play, the public would latch on to every word.
Shedding her White Tigress garb for something so formal seemed strange after so many years, but Janessa felt herself slip back into that role quite easily. Once she was dressed, her make-up applied, and her hair pinned elegantly, it was obvious why no one had ever made the connection between White Tigress and Janessa Pierce before. She looked like an entirely different person from an entirely different world. The only thing that remained the same between the two personas was the troubled crease of her brow and the downturn of her lips.
[b “This favour isn’t as harmless as you think Jason. Kidnapping, extortion, that’s one thing, but this? He wants my recommendation to put him in office! Do you have any idea what he could do in a position like that?”] Janessa replied, turning her eyes to Jason before a look of resignation fell upon her features.
[b “Of course you do… The Director probably told you all of his plans. You don’t have to worry Jason, I’m not going to sabotage him. I know what’s at stake here and I won’t risk your safety or others’ over a little speech. At least now I know what he’s planning.”] Janessa admitted, wishing she could talk this through with Jason openly. She couldn’t tell him anything without jeopardizing her plans or his safety, just like she couldn’t tell Nico the whole truth without him wanting to stop her for her own protection. She so desperately wanted to agree to Nico joining her in this so she wouldn’t have to face this burden alone, but she couldn’t risk what the Director would have done to him if Shadow appeared in his office. So for now, Janessa was on her own.
[b “Jason, the deeper I get into this, the more I’m afraid of what he Director is capable of. Can you do me a favour? To put my mind at ease? I know it’s unlikely, but if it ever does happen – if you ever do break your ties to the Director, please go back to Nico and the others. You and Nico were like brothers once… I know a lot has happened between you, but I need to believe the people I care about will be there to protect each other, whether I’m with you or not.”] Janessa asked him. Janessa knew the bond between Nico and Jason was severely damaged and that the only reason the two had cooperated much recently was because they were both loyal to her. If she was going to see this through to the end, she needed to know that Nico and Jason would be able to fight together if she wasn’t there to bind them.
By the time Janessa was dressed and ready, having read through the script the Director provided, the hours before the Press Conference melted away. Before she knew it, she was standing in front of a podium, addressing dozens of reporters and camera men with a smile on her face and a practiced composure that made her seem all too comfortable in the spotlight. She did was she was told, she stayed on script, but her appearance after two years and the murder of her parents sparked far too many questions. Janessa knew that giving no comment to where she’d been these past few years would arise suspicion and the Director would be equally as displeased with that. So she dared to go off script for a few short answers, hoping the Director would be appeased.
[i “Miss Pierce! Miss Pierce, it’s been two years since you’ve made a public appearance. Where have you been all this time?”]
[b “My parents were killed and I feared for my own life. No one can blame me for wanting to disappear for a while. But that alone should tell you how strongly I feel about this election. I want to see my city safe again. I want to see a Mayor that will protect our city, so no one else has to go through the tragedy that I went through. And I believe this man can make that happen.”] Janessa answered, deviating from the script but doing as she was told: build the Director up in the public’s eyes and make him seem like the right man for the job. She just wished there was a way to turn some of this public attention to her advantage – and her golden opportunity came with the next question asked.
[i “Forgive me Miss Pierce, I understand it’s been a difficult few years. But you disappeared the same night your parents were murdered. You haven’t been seen in two years and now you’re suddenly holding a Press Conference in support of a man who, previously, you nor your family have had anything to do with. There may be some conspiracy theorists out there that may think this is all just too coincidental? That maybe someone put you up to this?”]
Janessa needed to be careful. She knew this would be risky and the Director would no doubt find a way to punish her for it, but this one question could give her an edge. All this time, Janessa had been looking for a way to make herself valuable, indispensable, worth trading Hyperion for, and this was her chance to make that happen. It was worth the risk.
[b “What would they think? That this man has been keeping me hostage for the past two years? Or that he’s threatening me in some way? The people love their drama! Well, I guess if I suddenly disappear off the map, you’ll all know what happened!”] Janessa laughed, playing off the comment as if it was some absurd theory or a twisted joke. She could tell by the laughter or the reporters that they all took it that way. To most, the comment would simply debunk any conspiracies out there and add validity to Janessa’s endorsement, but there was one very important consequence: that nagging little plotline was now buried in the public’s minds. If anything were to happen to Janessa – if she disappeared or turned up dead – the people would remember her words and not help but to think they might be true! If Janessa disappeared from the public’s eye, the accusations would fly towards the Director and he’d never be elected. Which meant if he wanted his seat at the Mayor’s desk, he needed to keep Janessa in the public eye and in full support of his campaign. The Feral has just made herself much more valuable.
Nico wanted to trust Laura, he really did but she was so tied down to Michael that there would always be a question over her loyalties. Cody trusted her implicitly and while that was good enough for Nico to give her the benefit of the doubt the dark elemental was not so sure that Laura was truly on their side. he would watch her closely but for Cody's sake he wanted her to be trustworthy, what made it all the more complicated was that Nico actually liked Laura. She was smart, determined, loyal and powerful it was an intimidating combination but she was so nice it was infuriating. Nico wanted to dislike her but she made it so difficult...if she really did betray them it would be all the more painful for everyone, especially Cody.
[b "You've got to be kidding. It's all a bit convenient isn't it? We break into the Organisation rescue Dylan and Andrew and now is when he chooses to call in another one one of your debts...It just doesn't sound right. I know you have to go but it doesn't mean that I have to like it...can't I come with you just this once?"] Nico knew that Janessa would never allow him to be so reckless, to put himself in the same danger that she was. He both loved and hated that about her, she was wonderful and infuriating all at the same time. He relished in the kiss, in the embrace of Janessa as she told him to be safe and he echoed the sentiment back to her. Nico watched as she left hoping that she returned in a far better state than the last time that she went off on a task for the director. Nico would have to preoccupy himself with anything else to keep him from worrying about the Feral.
[#ce0d27 "Oh Ms Pierce you wound me with your words. Yes I do, I have the nerve to do what I wish when I wish and there is a reason for that...although technically I tortured no one, that would be Ms Bennett. Semantics aside I have a very simple task for you and completely risk free. You see I'm going to need Janessa Pierce for this and not White Tigress. You're going to call a press conference and say exactly what I've written down on this sheet of paper for you. Do not go off script, that would be very poor for you. The press conference is in 2 hours, I suggest you find clothes more appropriate to the situation."] This was next step in the Director's plan, Janessa had given him the Mayor's wife and with that all the ammunition he needed to remove the politician and eventually replace him. The Director had control of the Organisation but if he could add political office to his resume he could go for what he really wanted, the highest office in the country. Being Mayor would just be a stepping stone but if he could get into real political office with his ability to grant bargains there was no telling what he could achieve. If he could meet with foreign officials and diplomats the Director's influence would not be so limited to this city or even this country. He wanted more.
[#ce0d27 "The Pierce name still holds weight among some societies in this city that respect that and the first public appearance of Janessa Pierce since her parents death over two years ago is bound to drum up even more interest. As long as you make me look and sound like the perfect man for political office this should be a harmless task for you. Well worth one of my precious favours, wouldn't you say. Hyperion, why don't you help prepare Ms Pierce here."] Jason gave a nod and escorted Janessa along a few corridors to his own personal quarters, the room was near empty apart from a bed, a chair, and a reasonable sized desk. On it were a few books and a chessboard that looked like it was in the middle of a game, who Jason could possibly be playing was a mystery, it didn't look like Hyperion exactly had many friends in the Organisation.
[#1473b7 "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy to see you but I wish it was under different circumstances. Although I think we can all be thankful that this time your little deal doesn't involve kidnapping a woman or escaping from an exploding bomb. Just say a few nice things about he's the best man for the job, how he's trustworthy and whatnot. You don't have to actually mean it and no one gets hurt. This is an easy win for you. Just don't sabotage him, or embarrass him, that will end badly for you, me and everyone else. I know you hate him but don't be stupid and risk everything for a petty chance to score some points. Do this and you're almost out of his grasp."]
[i “I smell blood… Delta!”] Nico couldn't believe Raven's outburst and rushed to follow the feral as she sprinted out of the safehouse and towards the body lying on the ground, blood seeping from the body. Delta was in a bad way, Cody and Nico leaped to obey Keelyn and help move Delta back inside, Nico would ideally have shadow travelled the injured Feral but it didn't look like the feral was strong enough to survive the short journey. Everyone worked quickly on the jobs that Keelyn had assigned them, doing all they could to help the injured Delta but it was his words that stopped Nico in his tracks.
[b "Dylan? It can't have been..."] Dylan might be angry but he wasn't violent, he was a good kid. Delta must be delirious with pain and blood loss. Dylan can't have had anything to do with this, Nico wouldn't believe it maybe one of the Organisation's illusionists...he was grasping at straws for something, anything that meant that Dylan hadn't just left someone for dead, especially someone who had helped them. Nico spoke, barely a whisper under his breath.
[b "What the hell is going on?"]
Janessa put a reassuring hand on Nico’s shoulder. She knew he’d be worried about the kid, but with tensions so high, she wasn’t sure what any of them could say to comfort Dylan at this point. He was hurt and scared – no surprise after what he had been through – and until he realized he was safe with the group, there wouldn’t be anything that could ease this tension between the group.
[b “Fortunately, we have a little time to think things through. Even with the best healers in the Organization, it’ll take time for Bennett to recover from what I did to her. If what Laura says is true, we won’t have to worry about Michael hunting us down, so Dylan should be safe until Bennett’s back on her feet.”] Janessa agreed.
As the group dispersed, leaving Nico and Janessa in the hallway, the Feral felt a familiar, yet unnerving tug at the back of her mind. It started as a nagging thought, but grew the more she tried to ignore it. Soon it because consuming, driving her to leave the safehouse and obey some unvoiced order. She had only experienced this once before, but she knew if she tried to resist, this urgency would only build. She wouldn’t be able to disobey.
[b “Nico, the director is calling… I think he wants to cash in another favour. I’m sorry, but I have to go. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright. And Jason will likely be there to back me up. With any luck, I might be able to catch a glimpse of what the Director is planning. Can you keep an eye on things here? Keep everybody safe?”] Janessa asked, with the regret of leaving in such an unsettled time clearly visible in her eyes. As had become somewhat of a tradition between the two when one of them had to leave, Janessa rested her hand on Nico’s cheek and kissed him, whispering [b “Be safe.”] before she was forced to break the contact. The pull in her mind was stronger now, almost impossible to ignore, and Tigress found herself being pulled away from Nico and out the door to the safehouse.
With her speed and natural agility, it didn’t take her long to reach the Organization and infiltrate the building on her way to the Director’s office. When she arrived, she wore a cold expression, not pleased about being summoned like a dog, especially with everything that was going on back at the safe house. Janessa stepped into the office and gave a nod to her Alpha before returning her eyes to the Director.
[b “Jason, it’s good to see you. Director… I can’t really say the same about you. You really have the nerve to call in a favour after your Organization captured and tortured two of my friends?”] Janessa hissed, lacking any of the respectful tone Jason typically used when speaking with the Director. Janessa wasn’t bound as tightly as her Alpha, and the thought of showing respect to the man who was keeping Jason on a leash was revolting.
Dylan stormed out with Nico’s words of trust still lingering on his mind. He wanted to believe the Elemental’s claim, but what evidence has he seen to support that? Nico didn’t listen to his warning about Janessa and Hyperion. He admitted that Emma’s death, Keelyn’s coma, and so many of their fights with the Organization were Dylan’s fault. He wouldn’t even believe Dylan about the danger the Organization now presented or the threat of having Sanctuary members in their group!
Dylan was acutely aware of the footprints behind him. He knew the Feral didn’t mean him any harm, but Delta hadn’t exactly earned Dylan’s trust lately. Sticking up for him back at the safehouse was hardly enough to make up for his allegiance to Michael.
[#880088 “Don’t stray too far Kid. I know you think leaving is safer for your friends, and I admire you for that. But they’re worried about you Tech. At least stay for a few days, help put their minds at ease.”] Delta spoke evenly, watching the boy for any hint as to what was going through his young mind. Dylan stopped rather abruptly and slid his hands into the pocket of his jacket. He turned on his heels and took several determined steps to close the distance between him and the Feral.
[#ff6622 “Why are you so concerned all of a sudden, Delta? You certainly didn’t care this much when you called Michael and told him how to ambushed Andrew and I.”] Dustin spat bitterly, his words so sharp they struck the Feral as if he’d been slapped! Delta was too shocked to defend his actions, all he could think so say was, [#880088 “How did you…?”]
[#ff6622 “Simultaneous access to every device in this city while under the Catalyst’s influence. The very first thing I did was track cell records to see how Michael could have possibly found us. I know it was you. I know you betrayed us and I know you’d do it again just as soon as Michael gives the order!”] Dylan spat. Delta was too stunned by the accusation to notice the subtle shift in the boy’s posture. He didn’t see the Technopath’s hand emerge from his jacket or the glint of metal in his grasp. He did, however, feel the sharp, piercing pain in his stomach and the warmth of blood seeping around the blade now imbedded in his flesh.
[#ff6622 “Let’s see how you like it… being left for dead.”] Dylan hissed, leaving the blade deep in Delta’s stomach as he turned and bolted from the scene. He gripped his cell phone in his hand, allowing his mind to wander through the device and into the safety of cyberspace. Dylan knew now that Sarah couldn’t track him easily if he was using his powers to jump around the city. He knew Nico wouldn’t be able to drag him home if he couldn’t be found. And he knew that Raven wouldn’t leave the side of her dying Pack mate, so she wouldn’t be able to track him down. Dustin left the blade in purposely, having aimed for a non-lethal target. Delta would survive so long as he got immediate care, and a lot of attention. As long as the group was busy trying to save the Feral, they wouldn’t be looking for Tech. So the young teen did what he had planned to do from the beginning, he ran.
[#005500 “I smell blood… Delta!”] Raven reacted the instant the distant scent of Feral blood wafted towards the safehouse. Delta was her only surviving Packmate, aside from the traitor Janessa, and Raven was desperate not to lose another. Her panic drew the attention of Cody, Sarah, and Keelyn who followed her outside and into the streets.
Raven’s sharp eyes narrowed on the bleeding figure lying on the ground. Tech was gone, but Delta remained with a knife in his stomach and blood slowly pooling around the wound. He was in tremendous pain, hardly able to speak by the time Raven slid to her knees beside him.
[#005500 “Delta! Take it easy, you’ll be ok! Who did this? Who attacked you? Where’s the kid?”] Raven demanded, placing her hands around the wound to still the bleeding until they were able to take the blade out.
[#880088 “It was… the kid…”] Delta hissed through the pain.
[#aa0000 “Nico! Cody! Help me lift him inside, and try not to move the blade or it might do more damage. We need to get him someplace safe before we can take it out. Sarah, get Jackson upstairs! I don’t want him anywhere near this! Raven, Laura clear me some space to work!”] Keelyn shouted out. She was still not at full strength from having to heal everyone after their rescue attempt, so taking on the full damage of a stab like this would be dangerous. But if she didn’t save Delta, they’d lose an ally and their youngest member would become a murderer!
[b "Watch your tone Dylan."] Nico's voice was as cold as ice as he stared down the young technopath and they both knew that if he wanted to Nico could keep Dylan here as long as he wanted to and there would be nothing that Dylan could do it. The dark elemental had any number of ways that he could keep Dylan Tanner in the safehouse although he might forever burn his bridges with the young boy if he resorted to that. Thankfully Cody, who had always been the more reasonable of the brothers tried to calm the boy down with limited success. Dylan's mind was still all over the place thanks to what Bennett had subjected them to while he was a prisoner of the Organisation, he was still adamant that everyone was safer away from him and in some ways he might be right but Nico was never going to admit that to the boy. [i “Michael’s ‘for the greater good’ attitude is going to get one of you killed."]
[b "Rather me that you kid, at least I'd deserve it. Listen, I'll always trust you Dylan and that's not going to change. I can count the number of people I trust on one hand and I trust you, I will never trust Michael and I don't trust Michael either."] Unfortunately it didn't look like Nico's words had any effect as the boy stormed out the door and Nico was ready to storm after him when Delta gave him a look and slipped out after the boy. It was probably a good thing as well, Nico would probably only make matters worse if he went after the technopath at this point. Nico was sure that Sarah Tanner would be monitoring her brother and if it looked like he was in any kind of trouble at all then everyone would be ready to act if necessary.
[b "You're right, that will be the most problematic part of the plan. I might have a few ideas but nothing concrete and nothing that can't wait. That's something that we're just going to need to figure out."]
The Organisation was in chaos, researchers were running around, guards were on high alert and the infirmary staff were working overtime trying to save Bennett's life, everyone was tense and it seemed like the whole world was collapsing in on itself. The place was a maelstrom of action and worry...except in one room. The Director's office. In that particular room two men were sitting calmly having mild conversation, as if nothing were amiss and everything was going according to plan which in a way it was. Hyperion had told the Director that there would be an attempt to free Lucas Lee and as far as the Director knew that was the case. Obviously everyone knew that Shadow and Tigress would come after Dylan and Andrew so that wasn't a huge shock and Lucas was in such a state that any attempt to move or rescue him would have killed him so as far as the Director was concerned Jason's information was spot on. The Director knew that Lucas was going to die and that realistically the Dylan and Andrew would escape, it wasn't a huge problem, they had squeezed the Seer for all the prophecy that the body and mind could take, Lucas Lee was little more than a useless husk now.
[#1473b7 "What are you going to do about Bennett? She's going to be out of action for a while, how will that impact your other plan?"] Jason chose his words carefully, he needed to be respectful if not deferential. Jason knew part of the Director's plan and he knew it had something to do with Janessa, that was what he needed her allegiance for, well that was what he needed her favours for, the Director would never have her allegiance, that belonged to Jason.
[#ce0d27 "I'l let Michael keep his position as Bennett's temporary replacement. He is doing an adequate job of leading the Catalyst project, plus it's amusing me to see him still think that his cover is intact."] Jason had to fight to keep a straight face, the Empath did not know that the Director knew that the researcher Oliver Taylor was really the leader of the Sanctuary and hell bent on bringing the Director down. The man knew that one of the most dangerous supers in the world was closing in on him and he didn't seem to care in the slightest, the Director must have ice in his veins.
[#ce0d27 "As for my other plan, you are well aware that Bennett has no bearing on that. You want to know what I have in place for Ms Pierce. You will find out soon enough Mr Jackson. In fact just to satiate your curiosity I think it's time that I call in my second favour from Ms Pierce. Then you can find out first hand."]
[#ff6622 “Nothing to worry about? If you were talking about a rational, sane-minded person, I might have believed you, but this is Tara Bennett! She’s a psychopath! Driven by vengeance and hate! And she will slaughter all of you and drag me back there whether it’s logical or not! I don’t understand you Nico… you told me that all the bad that happened to this family was my fault and you wanted me to get out of your sight. Now, I try to leave to protect this family and you won’t let me! So screw you, Nico, you can’t keep me here.”] Dylan growled. The situation wasn’t diffusing any; in fact the tensions were rising. As Laura tried to defend her leader, pulling from Andrew and Nico to reinforce her argument, Dylan just seemed to grow even more agitated – something the three ferals in the room picked up on instantly. It was instinct and their former pack mentality that lead the three ferals to act on silent orders, shifting with subtle, cautious steps until they were each blocking one of the exits – Janessa by the stairs, Raven near the living room, and Delta covering the door, herding the boy in case he tried to bolt. Dylan was oblivious to their movements, too overwhelmed by his own hurt, betrayal, and desperation to notice.
[#112200 “Come on Kid, you heard Andrew and Nico. I was skeptical about Michael at first too, but Laura knows what she’s talking about. Michael only did what he did because he had to. You’re safe now, we got you out and we’re not going to let Bennett or Pascal, or anyone else take you back there. You’re safe with us, little brother.”] Cody stated in an attempt to calm his youngest sibling. Cody hadn’t seen Dylan acting like this since he was back with their parents – the feelings of pain, fear, betrayal, and abandonment clouded his judgement and let the boy in an inconsolable state. But instead of fearing the fists of a mean drunk or the barren bedrooms of another runaway sibling, this time Dylan was faced with real torture and the dark foreboding of his loved ones being killed.
[#ff6622 “So Hyperion, Starform, Michael… you’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but you won’t trust me? I’ve been here since the very beginning! I’ve fought at your side for years! Why won’t you believe me for once?!”] Dylan shook his head, baking up a few steps and dropping his furious gaze to the floor. His brother chose the Sanctuary over his own family, Janessa was back with her old pack, Nico wouldn’t take him seriously, and Dylan was still suffering from those cruel whispers and doubts Bennett planted in his vulnerable mind. In a sense, Bennett has done exactly what she had set out to do. A combination of the physical, mental, and psychological torture had left the Technopath broken. She had convinced the boy that he was nothing more than a danger to the team, a liability, a burden… that staying with them only put them in danger. Tech wasn’t a fighter and his abilities – albeit powerful – were limited to gathering information and resources… a skill that could only be put to use if his team trusted him. Unfortunately, recent conflicts had only served to convince Dylan that wasn’t the case.
[#ff6622 “Michael’s ‘for the greater good’ attitude is going to get one of you killed. He will sacrifice any one of us in a heartbeat if he think’s it’ll get him closer to his goal. And Hyperion’s deal with the Director is stronger than any bond he has with us. He’ll even kill Tigress if the Director orders him too. These are the people you’re putting your faith in? You’re taking their word over mine? I thought Bennett was lying to me this whole time, but she was right!”] Dylan cursed, retreating towards the door where Delta stood guard. The boy harshly shoved past the Feral and stormed outside. Delta, who purposely let the boy passed , knowing how much Tech needed the fresh air and a chance to calm down, followed the boy outside. Delta gave the other a subtle nod to show he’d keep an eye on the boy as he followed the angry teen out into the open air.
As Dylan left the Tanner’s felt ashamed. It didn’t sit well with Cody that his brother thought he was choosing Laura over his own family, but the Density Shifter wanted desperately to believe that the Light Elemental was on their side. Sarah swallowed whatever troubled emotions she was feeling and retreated back to her room, never one for a public display. Janessa forced herself to put Dylan to the back of her mind. As long as the boy was safe and close by, they could sort out the harsh feelings later. She’d rather Dylan be angry with her than off on his own, in danger from the Organization. So for the time being, she’d simply focus on the current threat: the Catalyst.
[b “Finding a human that’s willing to risk their life for a group of Supers won’t be easy. And we certainly can’t send them in alone to face the Catalyst – not with those Super-charged Supers in there. If Michael has to keep up appearances, he’ll have no choice but to order his followers to defend the Catalyst. I guess our first step is to find a volunteer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any human friends left that would be willing to help. Nico? Laura? Do you know anybody?”]
[b "Exactly, it left you catatonic, don't you see a problem with that? it's true, you might be useful to her if you could gain control of every electronic device in the city but not if you can't move or think. If you ask me it seems pretty stupid having all that power and not being able to use it. They don't have a telepath, so they can't afford to leave you overwhelmed like you were last time and as long as that is still the case then you have nothing to worry about."] Maybe nothing to worry about was a bit of a stretch but the situation really wasn't as dire as it was made out to be, the Organisation didn't have the telepath that they needed in order to keep Dylan under the influence of the Catalyst full time. What the Organisation did to Lucas was a special case, Dylan might be extraordinary and having control of every electronic device in the city would be disastrous for the Organisation's enemies was that really as useful as knowing the future itself? if an EMP knocked out the phones, cameras and computers Dylan would be useless but Lucas' abilities would always have a purpose, knowing what was going to happen before it did was a game changer and Nico tried not to think about what the Organisation might already know. What they could do with that kind of power was sobering.
[#19701e "Oh come off it Dylan of course they were following orders and it's a bloody good job they were. Yes they made you see a horrible thing but do you think being taken in by one of Bennett's strike teams would have been any more pleasant, if anything you'd have been in far worse shape. Michael did absolutely everything he could to get you out of there alive!"] Tech's blind hatred of Michael was blinding him to all that the leader of the Organisation had done to save Andrew, so maybe Laura should enlighten the boy.
[#19701e "When you were captured did Michael ever hurt you, or mistreat you in any way?'] Andrew thought for a moment before answering.
[#17686e "No, he didn't he was civil if not kind but reassuring."] Laura nodded before continuing.
[#19701e "Did Michael relish being your captor as Bennett did to Dylan, did he intend to keep you as the Organisation's prisoner for long?"] Again Andrew thought about his answer, determined to be as accurate as possible.
[#17686e "No, he said that he would do his best for others not to hurt me and that he would actually help me escape but I'm not actually sure what he did."]
Starform looked pleased at Andrew's answer despite the telepath's admittance that Michael hadn't actually done anything to help them escape. There was a few moments of quiet before Starform looked over at Nico to provide Andrew with the answer that he required.
[b "He gave us exactly what we needed to rescue the two of you and we absolutely would not have been able to do it without him. He gave us Laura, Raven and Delta and the three of them were invaluable in getting you out of there. He did everything we needed of him."] Laura was practically beaming at the dark elemental as he gave his answer because Nico had just confirmed that Michael had kept his word even if it seemed that he did nothing. That meant that even if the Charmer might appear to be working against the group he might not be, he could be doing one thing while appearing to do something completely different.
[#19701e "Thank you Nico and that's not all he's done. When we ended up fighting Bennett Michael brought in the enhanced supers that the Organisation was working on and what did they do? Absolutely nothing! We know that the Catalyst can do extraordinary things, he had an enhanced Feral and a density shifter who could have done an extraordinary amount of damage but we all escaped with barely a scratch from them. Seems a bit convenient doesn't it?"] Laura wasn't stupid she knew that she was probably fighting a losing battle trying to convince the others of what she knew to be true; Michael really wasn't as bad as they thought. Laura could see the divisions in the group as plain as day, it didn't take a genius to work out that left to their own devices sooner or later they would fall apart, and while for the moment they might be able to paper over the cracks Laura knew that it simply couldn't stay that way.
[b "Janessa is right, the Catalyst is an unprecedented threat, one we are completely unprepared for but as far as I can tell the `catalyst has one pretty glaring weakness that is probably the key to getting around the issue of our own abilities being used against us. We send in someone without any abilities. If the person isn't a super then the Catalyst can't amplify their abilities and incapacitate them. That's how we stop him."]
Dylan wasn’t sure what to believe at this point. The trauma that he went through, the lies that Bennett fed him, the fight he and Nico had before he was captured, all of it was muddled in Dylan’s overburdened mind. Still buzzing with the incomprehensible surge of information from the Catalyst, the young Technopath was having trouble thinking clearly through anything at this point. He put his hand to his temple, trying desperately to ease the pounding headache and keep his focus on what the group was telling him.
[#ff6622 “She knew I was strong before, but now? She saw what I could do with the Catalyst! I was only exposed for a few minutes and I had enough power to hack every device in the city! The whole city Nico! Every computer, phone, tablet, tv, camera, atm, even the damn stoplights! I could see everything all at once, so much information surging through my mind that it left me practically catatonic!”] Dylan explained frantically, his eyes darting back and forth as if the endless data was still swimming behind his gaze.
[#ff6622 “I couldn’t process it, but a Telepath could… they could reach into my thoughts and pull out whatever information the Organization needed. That’s why I told you to save Andrew! If Bennett knew she had a way to access all that information… I’d be strapped to the same table as Lucas.”] Dylan’s voice faded under the weight of his own words. Only Nico and the Ferals would understand, being the only ones who saw the agony of their precognitive friend. Bennett was merciless and power hungry. There was no doubt that she would follow Pascal’s lead and put her own prisoners through the same torture that Pascal had forced upon the Seer.
[#112200 “Bennett’s not coming after you any time soon Dylan. Janessa made sure of that. From what we saw back at the Lab, Michael was posing as Bennett’s right hand; he’ll be in charge of the high-powered Supers until Bennett’s recovered. Maybe Michael will keep them off our backs. Laura says we can trust him.”] Cody offered, casting a trusting glance towards Starform. Although he still didn’t believe Michael was fully on their side, he knew better than to doubt the Elemental. Laura had come through for them when they needed her most and she deserved some trust in return. Sadly, that trust wasn’t shared among all the Tanner siblings.
[#ff6622 “Michael was the one that sent those Supers after Andrew and I in the first place! And they weren’t just following orders, they were cruel! That Illusionist made us see Janessa dead on the ground! Her visions were so real I could feel the blood on my hands! I don’t care how much blind faith you have in Michael. We may have the sae enemies, but we are NOT on the same side!”] Dylan hissed, his anger fed by the pain and misery he suffered thanks to Michael and his followers.
The question of trust among this group of misfits was not a new concept. There were so many different allegiances among them that it was a surprise this group could even function alongside each other. There was the three Sanctuary Supers, all loyal to Michael, yet willing to fight alongside people from their pasts. While they had every intention of helping the crew, it was hard to tell which side they were truly on. If it came to a choice between Michael and their friends, who would Delta, Raven, and Laura choose?
Next there was the Tanners, bonded to each other by blood and a family history of abandonment. Every one of them had run away at one point or another – sometimes to protect those they left behind and sometimes just to protect themselves. It was a constant question about how long Cody, Sarah, and Dylan would choose to stick around.
The Pierce sisters had their own loyalty issues. Keelyn had yet to prove herself to the group, as she had worked for almost every one of their enemies at some point in the past, whether by force or by choice. And Janessa was constantly torn between her friends and her pack, with the obvious concern of her Alpha taking orders from the Director himself! Andrew was new, with no direct ties to the others, and Nico had always been independent. The bonds that this eclectic group shared were fragile at best and with the dangers set out before them, it was hard to know who would be still standing together at the end of this.
[b “The Catalyst is too dangerous to leave in the hands of the Organization. Not only is he strengthening their forces, but he can use our own powers against us. Not to mention, how damaging it would be if he started affecting Michael’s abilities, or Jason’s, or even the Director himself! We all need time to rest and regroup, but o think we should also starting thinking about out next move. How are we going to protect ourselves from our own abilities?”]
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