Book 4: Rapids.
Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.
Rating: PG13. Little bit of potential violence, and the smut is building.
Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions.
Pairings: Still nothing!
Personal disclaimer: Silverback and Tiny are mine.
Disclaimer: "ER", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "The Division", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "The X-Files", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "Xena Warrior Princess", see Chapter 4.
Disclaimer: "China Beach", Produced by Sacret Inc. and Warner Bros. Television. Created by William Broyles Jr. and John Sacret Young.
*: Anyone recognize it? There'll be a prize...
Spoilers: No. Unless you didn't know that Monica Reyes was in New Orleans... and had visions. Oops, gave it away! Remember, The X-Files as we know it, does not exist in this alternate universe. Mulder, Scully and Reyes are in their original FBI jobs as profiler, forensics and field agent.
Summary: Dace reintegrates herself with the House of Clubs, and breaks in a couple of sexy FBI agents to the cause.
++ Jesse 'Silverback' Flagg, the King of Clubs ++
There was no conceivable way that I could concentrate today, far too lost in memories to be any good to anyone. It had started back in the Vietnam War. As a frightened young man, drafted into the service of my country, I had seen and done horrific things. On the brink of insanity or suicide, I had found her.
KC Koloski, my whore with the heart of gold. Oh, everyone knew why she was there, or so they thought. Certainly the sexual favors we boys paid for were a stress release of sorts, but what I found far more valuable in KC, was a friend. She was a gem to be treasured by a guy like me. First and foremost, KC gave me a safe ear to talk too, a shoulder to cry on. She helped me realize my attraction to men, and helped me accept that about myself. With time and experimentation back home, I learned to relish it. We remained close after the war, as the sexual revolution boiled over into 'polite' society. Together, we attended rallies, marched in protest and ruffled feathers in general. Together we discovered our rougher needs and others that shared them.
The growing leather Scene was our haven, and there was no better place to be in all the world than the Big Apple. We met Anastasia in those days and she became a soulmate of sorts to me, no matter that she was a woman! The thought made me smile. In college, we'd been drawn together, the towering jock and the waifish aristocrat from Virginia. We were quite the team both then and... well, we had been until these last few lonely years. Sylvia had drifted into our lives strictly through the Scene. She was fascinating in her icy calm as well as her vicious discipline techniques. I had always merely roughed my boys up when they displeased me, made them beg and cry for forgiveness. But what Sylvia could dredge up from a slave was poetry. We original three were good at what we did, and clever business folk to boot, but what Sylvia did was magic. As the seventies grew ripe and the eighties loomed on the horizons, we four truly began to gel.
The memory of those regular poker games in KC's sprawling Village loft still made me smile. There was often a favored slave or four in attendance for our needs, and it was those interactions that taught us a valuable lesson. Each of us had strengths and weaknesses. I was a gruff father figure, but had no concept of the women's finesse. KC had a rough, mean streak that scared seasoned Marines and street cops alike. Anastasia was a lady in every sense of the word and slaves learned manners and composure at her firm hand. Sylvia could teach the most extreme of behaviors with an iron fist wrapped in velvet. Her best made even old-school professional bodyguards admire their discretion and poise.
So we began trading favorites on a regular basis. I had fond memories of Dace and Tessa and Bane, of the handful of beautiful men that KC and I had lost to the AIDS crisis, of watching my beloved Tiny gleam like an obsidian diamond once the others had finished honing him. Nearly two decades later, he was still envied in his flawlessness by Top and Sub alike.
We four friends became the four Suits of cards in those days, making it official in '84. I remembered the party well. Young Dace had been our self-imposed 'final project' to prove that we could do what we were setting out to do. The rebellious fifteen-year-old was a diamond in the rough, and was murderously hard to train without being able to dangle sexual fulfillment out as reward. Thankfully, she was as stubborn as her Mistress and the rest of us worked off of that. After perfecting Dace, we all went to our separate cities and began building the empires that were still expanding today.
For fifteen years, we were in a golden age. Our various businesses flourished in the daylight world, and our leather empires in darkness grew more elaborate and refined. The players whispered of us in reverent tones and I was warm and satisfied by the power I held.
And then. Sylvia began to change.
That was the beginning of the end. As she drew away, the rest of us drifted apart. The last three years had been the longest of my life. Certainly, my flock in Chicago was a wonderful family... but they weren't my big sisters. None of them were quite my equals, none of them had started from the basement of the Scene when it was just a few kinky buddies. Most of the old guard had died or moved on, and I was desperately lonely.
Then came Sylvia's call.
I was so stunned that I could barely speak. Sylvia did not apologize. Ever. It was a strength and a flaw both. When the reality sank in that she had indeed apologized, I readily agreed to accept a diplomatic visit from the one woman who could be her equal.
On cue, there was a soft knock at my door and I straightened up from my thoughtful slouch. Tiny knew I was not to be disturbed except by one person. "Enter!" I barked and the door swung wide. As the tall blonde woman stepped in, I realized something about this favored golden child.
She could easily become any one of our superiors.
++ Dace ++
I was delighted to see the big bear of a man I considered a father figure. But, in deference to our roles, I stepped up smartly to the desk, eyes on the wall behind his head and held the military-perfect posture I was taught long before I was legal to vote. "Silverback, sir," I intoned crisply. "I bring word from the Red Queen."
"I'm listening, pet," he rumbled coolly and I was suddenly at a loss of what to say. Honestly, I hadn't thought this far ahead. Some of the conflict must have shown on my face, because Silverback's dark eyes gentled and he stood. Out of habit and many years of body memory, I flinched away slightly as he stepped in close. Gramps always did like a Sub to show a reaction to his power, and I remembered that clearly. "Might you have a hug for an old man?"
That was all the invitation I needed, and turned to throw my arms around his burly frame. "Oh Gramps," I sniffled into his beard, overcome with emotions. "I've missed you." The crush of his bear hug was a memory that brought fresh tears to my eyes.
"Mutual, pet," he rumbled comfortingly. "Mutual. How shocked and how grateful I was to hear from Sylvia. And to find out that she was sending you of all people! Warms an old man's heart. What have you been doing with yourself? Tell me everything!"
We flopped down onto the overstuffed leather couch and I took a deep breath. "Still an inspector in San Francisco. That's what set all these events in motion. I volunteered to help the FBI find the killer that attacked those women."
When Gramps looked almost sad at my explanation, I grabbed his arm and poured my heart out. "Please take Sylvia's apology for what it is. Sincere. This case was merely the catalyst. And I would have come to see you, no matter what she had done."
"Sweet child," he sighed and smiled warmly at me, again gathering up my smaller body for a proper hug. "You truly are a gem. Tell me what's going on. All of it."
It never even occurred to me to leave anything out. I talked about Sandy and Magda, and the two FBI agents and seeing Sylvia again. I ranted about how familiar and how awkward I felt in my Leonacouer persona and how freaked I was about the cat and this mysterious killer. When Tiny showed up with lunch, a begging glance had Gramps waving me off with a chuckle. In an instant, I threw myself at the enormous black man, warmed by his crushing embrace and his bone-shaking deep laughter. These men had been instrumental in the person I had become. Leading with kindness, discipline and example, they had been inspirations to me.
I was truly beginning to understand just what an idiot I had been these past few years. I'd married a man I never really loved, but used as a final, desperate shot for 'normalcy'. What a sick joke. It had given me an excuse to walk away from my life that the Four Suits had been a part of. Well, no more. Paul was out of my life for good and I was ready to again become my own person.
++ Steph ++
I was so damn worn out. Running Silverback's minions was a busy life, but the rewards were well worth it. The backbone of the man's empire were the Amazons. Taking on the name and code of those ancient warrior women suited us well. The fact that our king was really a queen, in the modern sense of the word, was acceptable. Sure as hell better than the life on the streets, or worse, that most of us had been destined for.
"C'mon, Cheetah," Jane chortled as she sauntered past and I wearily rose to follow. Damn the woman for her boundless energy. I loved her to death, but there were times that she just made me feel old and tired. So I raked both hands through my curls and tried to act as though I was paying attention to my familiar surroundings. The Amazons were a mixed bag of women, all of us from less than ideal backgrounds, given purpose by Gramp's organization. Bless the man.
And damn him for the surprise waiting in his office.
Had there ever been a time that I hadn't had a hopeless crush on Leonacouer? Seeing her in the airport was bad enough, but in these familiar surroundings it was overwhelming. Her smug, knowing grin burned me from across the room.
"Here you are," Gramps said with pleasure as Tiny closed the door behind us. "The Lioness Hearted bears good news, my favored prot?g?s."
Dace stood to give a respectful half-bow to Jane and nodded at me. Honestly, I couldn't look her in the eye. Once we were all seated, the big blonde woman began speaking. "The Red Queen sent me to knit our empires back together. Tarzan, you'll still inherit Chicago, unless things have changed since I've been incognito?"
"Nope. That's why I'm here," Jane replied easily.
"Good. Can I assume that Fenris is still inheriting from the Queen of Swords?"
"Yes. Are you re-entering service with the Red Queen?"
Thank all the ancient gods Jane had asked, because I was dying of curiosity. Hell, I even dared peek up to see Dace's conflicted expression. "No," the tall woman answered the question reluctantly. "I volunteered to come for the sake of the Suits, not for personal reasons. What further role I will play is still unknown."
It was always so weird when Dace got all formal like this. Now that business was out of the way, Jane sprawled back in her chair to regard her lazily.
"Fair 'nuff. Damn good to see you again, though. Maybe we'll have to give you a few reasons to stick around for awhile."
A hot glance from crystal blue eyes made me flush and drop my gaze.
"Oh, I can think of a few."
++ Dace ++
Oh, I'd always enjoyed Steph a ton, and sure as hell wouldn't mind some 'recreation' with her. There were a few things I needed to cover first. "So you two are still second and third in line, and I'm guessing that Brann is still Fenris' shadow?"
"Exactly. Not that I've seen them in nearly as long as you, stranger," Jane prodded and I sighed.
"I made some judgment calls that perhaps were not the wisest moves I could have made at the time. But there's no turning back the clock now. Has Lady Heartsblood chosen a successor?"
"No. She's still holding out for Bane."
"Yeah, I gathered that from talking with her on the phone." Thinking on the woman I called sister, the new wife popped into my head. Even having never met Darya face-to-face, there was something intriguing about her. The cat grumbled in fascination and pissy frustration over the enigma, and I was forced to smile. However, the daughter made her purr happily, and I filed the strange feeling away for later pondering. Shaking off the mental cobwebs, I refocused on the task at hand. "So, I suppose I can contact Tessa then." Jane and Gramps chuckled at my faint distaste. I liked Tessa just fine, but it went against my training to contact a Sub for these kinds of needs. Ah well, Tessa was special. "A meeting should be arranged."
"I agree," Silverback said softly. "It will be good to have a reunion. Very good. Perhaps Chicago and the House of Clubs can pull out the stops for a party the likes the shadows have never seen! You leave Anastasia and Tessa to me, pet."
It seemed only appropriate, as far back as they went. Since Fenris was a contemporary, despite her increased power, Jane would contact her. A few ideas for a party were bantered about, but we girls clammed up before we could reveal too much to Gramps.
A warm, if not slightly uncomfortable, quiet fell over the five of us. King, queen and jack, the most powerful cards in the deck. I was still technically an ace, having never accepted the responsibility that Sylvia had wanted so desperately for me to take. Jane was Silverback's chosen successor, the Queen of Clubs. Steph was the next in line, leader of the Amazons, who acted as staff and enforcers to Silverback's empire. She was the Jack of Clubs and the only one to have ever borne that title. The rank system based on the card deck was the signature of the Suits. The four leaders each had a favored Sub or two that bore the mark of the ace. I was the first with a single diamond, Tiny with a single club, Bane with a single heart, and Fenris with a single spade. Three of us had become Tops, but still bore our ace mark with pride. There were Subs since that bore the mark, like Racheal and Tessa.
"All this reminiscing is making me antsy," I announced into a lull in our scattered conversation. And was gratified that Steph immediately flushed rosy. So I grinned flirtatiously and she smiled coy and shy.
Let the games begin.
++ Snake-Eyes ++
It was the smell of the leather that drew me to them.
They were favored prey.
Oh, there were two-legs that wore the skins, but not they way this prey did. The very... animal-ness these two-legs exhibited in their armor of death was a siren song to my need. They were mine to dominate, they were mine to chose from.
Most of the time I was content to watch them at their games, steal from them, frighten them for both of our pleasures. And frighten them I did. Most were so terrified that the memory of me was a fleeting thing. They were prey to me and scattered before my superiority.
The men were weakest as the weather began turning to autumn, the primitive parts of them responding to the traditional rut. The distastefully human part of me hated these men that sought the company of their own. That they dressed in the trophies of creatures they hadn't slain and paraded about as though they thought they were my equal made them even easier to kill.
The women were weakest in the cold grip of winter, before the warmth of spring took hold. It would be the time that their primitive ancestors would suffer from the cold, the pregnant females drained from carrying their young all winter. Killing a pregnant one was distasteful to me, but fortunately there were plenty more to chose from in the seething mass of two-legs. The females were a particularly thrilling challenge. There were fewer of them than the males, and they were smarter, warier. It would take me months to pick a pair of them from the larger herd, and the hunt was even more exciting if I could sense that they were truly dangerous.
Slowly, I would circle in, skulking through the camouflage of crowded clubs and thundering music. It might take days or months to be in the perfect position to strike.
A failure could set me back for what felt like an eternity as I regained my bearings and began the hunt anew. Another human might disrupt my concentration, the off-putting smell of rubber masking the scent of my chosen prey, a chance that they might see me before the attack was sprung.
The sharp smell of their blood would drive me wild, the crushing of their bodies, the feel of their stark terror.
But something had changed in this swampy, icy city. My prey had been denied me by another worthless human and I was enraged. I should find the pale-haired prey and the dark one that pulled her out of my grasp. Only then would I regain complete control.
But there was a scent on the air, someone musky and sweet and distracting.
Someone that might be just like me.
++ Monica Reyes ++
Color me surprised when I received a phone call requesting my expertise in Chicago. By the Bureau's maverick and brilliant top profiler nonetheless. Ah well, at least it got me out of New Orleans for awhile. Too much strange energy there, it made me feel prickly inside. Mulder had spent the day briefing me on what was known about this 'Snake-Eyes' and I was content now to let the information sink in. Both of us were eccentrics in the stuffy ranks of the FBI. Mulder because he was unorthodox and myself because of what I could sense. That and the master's degree in ritualistic crime helped keep me on the weird end of the spectrum.
Smirking humorlessly to myself over the irony of what I'd been drafted into, I scooped up the files and my tea before settling into the couch. Agent Scully had dragged herself in hours ago and off to bed with barely a 'nice to meet you'. Since she'd been at the hospital the better part of twelve hours, I could hardly blame her. So all I was missing was the mysterious inspector from San Francisco.
Something tickled across my perceptions and I froze.
Like a window left open the night air, or a kitty brushing against my leg in the dark, it was a faint but distinct sensation. What the hell was that?
Several things happened simultaneously. The door from the hall outside opened and I had a glimpse of black leather, blonde hair and flashing blue eyes. Mulder stepped from his room to say something I didn't catch.
And there was a gigantic tawny cat, teeth pulled back in a snarl, glowering at me from the main doorway.
Shouting in terror, I dropped everything and scrambled away, over the couch and went crashing heavily onto the floor. Okay, the fall had now rattled some sense into me. What the hell was that? Mulder was kneeling beside me, speaking. Those blue eyes were beside him, concern and wariness blazing there. Again, the snarl of that great cat and a flash of yellow-gold in the fields of blue. Frozen in animal terror, I could only whimper.
"Monica!" Mulder's shout finally broke through what I was experiencing and I was left staring at the good-looking blonde woman crouched next to me with the tall agent. "Are you okay?" Was I okay? What kind of stupid question was that? Then I realized that I could never adequately explain what I had just seen. I never could. The Visions were always a curse and only sometimes a blessing. For a spilt second an enormous cougar had stood right where this strange woman had framed herself in the doorway. Even now she unnerved me. I could see the calm human exterior, but the cat paced just beneath. Staring at her, I could almost see it, morphing over her features like a computer simulation. Shuddering, I flinched away, leaning into Mulder's comforting touch.
"Just... just thought I saw something," I bull-shitted and tried to pull that icy FBI calm around me. While Mulder continued to calm me, I forced myself to take a good look at what could only be Inspector DeLorenzo. She was a physically striking woman, particularly by her dress, but it was the eyes that were irresistible.
++ Dace ++
I just knew that she had seen the cat. This complete stranger knew something about me that I barely understood myself. Who could blame me for retreating like a scared animal? In the dimness of my hotel room, I stared out over the landscape of Chicago and watched the sky grow darker and darker. Damn, but it dark early here in January. It reminded me of trips I'd taken to Seattle years ago before shutting Sylvia out of my life.
The cat growled. She made a variety of noises, from bird-like chirrups, various stages of the bone-rattling purr, to a harsh, yowling snarl of pure menace. There was one more distinct song, one I'd heard in my dreams all of my life and done my damnest to ignore. A low threat that came up to that higher-pitched shrieking yowl that belonged to cougars and cougars alone. The shattering, falsetto scream that most people associated with the gold cats was a war cry between my ears when I was turned on, intrigued and perhaps a bit threatened.
Thankfully, she was only growling now. Sort of half-threatened, and half aroused into interest by this dark stranger who had broken her secrecy. The red-gold hide of my strange alter-ego paced in circles in my mind.
What was happening to me? All these strange impressions of cougars and green tinged landscapes of dim light and strong sensations.
They had only been mine until now.
Right on cue, there was a faint knock on my door. "Come in," I called out, never moving from my position. I knew who it was. A shaft of light from the central room cut across me.
"I suppose we should... talk," said the dark woman whose name I had completely missed, if it had even been offered. After a moment, the bed sagged beside me. "Volunteering to help us was an admirable thing to do."
"I had to. Something drew me here."
"Drew you here?"
"Call it fate, karma, magic," I grumbled tiredly.
*"Magic?" My unknown companion questioned in a lilting, teasing tone. "Not that I don't believe in it. I was something of a black sheep in the field office in New Orleans... because of my beliefs."
Curious, I met dark eyes, depthless and mysterious in the dimness. "Beliefs? And what are those?"
"I just have certain spiritual notions. I believe there are energies in the universe. It might sound kind of cosmic, but I think I'm sensitive to them. I mean, I get these feelings. Sometimes, even... Visions, I guess you'd call them."
"You saw the cat," I stated flatly and that power must have flashed in my eyes, because she shuddered in animal fear and turned away. "Do you have any feelings about that?"
"I don't know you. And I don't have any feelings about what lurks inside you. But I am feeling your fear and confusion. And fear's not going to help you find this killer or anyone else. Maybe you can try and stay open, too."*
All I could do was nod slowly, feeling very much afraid of where this power inside of me was headed.
And what kind of monster she might be leading me to.
++ Dana ++
I wasn't happy to be rousted out of bed, but Agent Reyes was adamant. And thankfully, gentle as well. "C'mon, DeLorenzo needs to speak to all of us. Mulder's already up."
A perverse corner of my brain wanted to pull rank on this woman and roll over and go back to sleep. Duty won out, as usual. Grumbling, I followed the taller woman out of the bedroom, cinching my robe tight, and squinted at the bright lights in the main room. Dace was pacing agitatedly while Mulder watched in fascination. Not that I could blame him, she moved like a hundred some-odd pounds of prowling big cat. "Thanks for getting up," she gruffed at me, her tone both unfriendly and reassuring at the same time. "I need to clear up some things with the three of you. While I realize that this is an FBI investigation, it'll need to be played off differently than just by the book. There's something different about this perp, something almost... otherworldly."
I refrained from rolling my eyes at her phrasing, but barely. "So Mulder's been trying to convince me," I added dryly. That made Dace focus her attention on me, stalking in to hover just at the edge of my personal space. It was distinctly nerve-wracking.
"There is something strange going on, and I'm a part of it. No clue exactly what that means yet, but I'll figure it out. You guys are going to need to give me a lot of space and discretion to flush Snake-Eyes out."
"I knew that," Mulder suddenly interjected calmly. "You were meant to be here. The reason I was put on this case, was because this guy breaks the rules. So we have to break the rules to find him. This is my case and we do it my way, the Bureau knows this. So, I'm all ears."
That seemed to relax Dace, even as it stressed me out. Fox 'Spooky' Mulder was an enigma in the Bureau, and a serious wildcard. Luckily for him, he was also brilliant and very well-connected. Nothing was by the book with him. Hell, it was amazing that he would even wear a tie. And Reyes was another strange piece to the puzzle. There was something... well, otherworldly about her, to use Dace's word. The blonde cop flopped down onto the couch and peered closely at each of us.
"I can't take any of you under with me."
There was a long pause while we digested that. "Why not?" Mulder questioned calmly, but I could sense the tension in him. "I brought you two pretty female agents."
The comment earned a faint grin from Dace, and a chuckle from Reyes while I merely rolled my eyes. "Because I freak you out," Dace explained, waving vaguely in Reyes' direction before staring at me again. "And two of the local power hitters have already seen you, Scully. If you show up in my shadow, they'll want more than to simply have you follow me around."
Perversely, I had to pursue this line of conversation. "Meaning?"
"Meaning, that you'd have to play along with the Scene, and most likely in a public way. Frankly, you can't pull it off, not in this environment." It annoyed me that I was insulted, and not a little titillated by what she meant. Rooms full of people who needed their sex kinky and wild, no matter the audience or strangeness of desire. Dace saw my reluctant understanding and nodded decisively. "So, we may be required to pull in a handful of other people into this case."
"Wait," my lizard brain suddenly piped up even as my upper brain stammered in horror. "I can do this. Quit assuming things about us, inspector."
That made Dace pause and stare at me intently. Despite the fierce coolness of her gaze, I stared back. This was a psychological battle, one I suddenly couldn't bear to lose.
Her pale gaze jumped away first, flickering to Reyes, who sat silently nearby. I'd barely met the woman, only decades of training had allowed me to memorize her face and name when I'd come in half-dead from exhaustion earlier. This crime was taking a lot out of me. Poor, poor Silver, beaten so horribly by that monster. How she was still alive was a miracle to me. And finding that she had a young daughter... and no extended family... it broke my heart. It didn't matter that I wasn't supposed to get emotionally involved. I'd spent too many years looking at the last step of crime, the cold bodies and putrefied remains. Touching Silver's still-warm and living skin, knowing that her life was probably over, despite her physical body's fierce need to be alive. That had changed me.
DeLorenzo saw that in my eyes... and she suddenly saw me differently. No one should have that expressive of a gaze. The woman was Shakespeare in silence.
"Alright, Dana, what do you and Monica propose."
So we were Dana and Monica now. Interesting. "Dace?"
"Do we keep calling you that?"
The white smile was magnetic, a charming display of personality and power. "If you're seriously going to walk the dark side with me, pretty girls, call me Leonacouer."
"Leonacouer it is," I agreed, silently stunned by her wicked smile.
"You two will have to pose as students, for lack of a better description. The people that know me in this city, and there are lots of them, will accept you in that role." Dace mused to herself, all business again.
++ Monica ++
The subject matter was fascinating, and Mulder was avoiding my gaze, knowing that I was glaring at him. What the hell had I gotten myself into? As humiliating as all this might prove to be, the scientist in me was thrilled at the idea of immersing myself in such a intricate subculture firsthand. I was so lost in thought that Dace stepping up to me made me recoil. With me sitting, and her towering well inside my personal space, she seemed a giantess. "Can you handle being the submissive?" A long moment passed while images of women in bondage paraded across my mind's eye. Dace chuckled, a low, throaty, almost purring sound. "Nothing that serious, we can hope." How had she known what I was thinking? "You're very expressive, Monica, and that's an asset. What you would need to do is remain quiet, obedient and reactive to only the stimuli that you receive from Dana or I."
"Yes," I agreed. "I can do that."
"Good," the tall woman smiled beatifically and I felt warm all over. "We'll go over some details once Agent Mulder is through with us. Agent Mulder?"
Damn the carnal glaze in his eyes. Creepy, but harmless. Shaking it off, Mulder was back to business. "Who knows about what's going on here so far?"
"My captain and one fellow inspector, Magda Ramirez, and the man that pretty much runs the local Scene in Chicago, his name is Silverback. Well, that's his Scene name. Come to think of it, I have no idea what his legal name is. His two seconds know as well, but they're completely trustworthy. I also gave the basics to my former Mistress in San Francisco. There are other major players from other cities that may become involved, but they may also have information that we don't."
Nodding gravely, Mulder eyed our police ally gravely. "We've never had a witness before. We have to be extremely careful not to send Snake-Eyes underground. Far too many people have died already."
And by her quiet tone, she really did.