Book 4: Rapids.
Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.
Rating: PG-13, again, violence themes.
Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions.
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", see Chapter 5.
Disclaimer: "Facts of Life", see Chapter 6.
Disclaimer: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit", see Chapter 7.
Disclaimer: "CSI", see Chapter 11.
Disclaimer: "JAG", see Chapter 23.
Summary: The beginning of the end...
++ Meg ++
It was happening too fast! For crying out loud, I hadn't even checked in with Great Lakes so that they could send over a couple of Shore Patrol to actually take Garcia down. Now, I was racing to a nearby leather club, still in uniform, with a barrowed weapon and my stomach churning with nerves. I knew that I was going about this all wrong, but there had been something in Mulder's eye...
Something that made the urgency churn my guts into a pool of acid, the danger like blood on my tongue.
It never occurred to me how weird it was that the leather and feather clad guardswomen at the door of 'The Staff and Scroll' merely leered knowingly at my uniform before waving me through like they knew who I was.
I burned with the knowledge of the gun in my coat pocket. It was the only thing that stood between me and the sweet man who had become a monster.
Some providence, some guardian angel or karma watched over me, as I danced through the crowd, led strictly by instinct. The higher I climbed in the huge building, the rougher the crowd grew. Some corner of my brain remembered propriety, reaching up to jerk off my brass name plate and the colorful ribbon bars that signified my service to my country.
Someone intercepted me, a pretty woman with curly, dark-blonde hair, speaking at me like she knew who I was. My blank, urgent look silenced her with confusion. All I could hear was my heartbeat, like a metronome keeping time of the irretrievable moments as they slipped by.
Some cosmic force hit the slow button on the remote, and I saw him.
Moving with a silent, inhuman grace, Dwayne slipped from the shadows, hefting a thick chunk of carved wood.
His name echoed in a scream from my throat, the gun was heavy in my hand. The crowd evaporated, leaving me a clear shot to him.
Moving like liquid shadow, he hesitated at the name he clearly barely remembered, violently bashing aside a figure that lunged at him from behind and I saw the wild cat he had become coil and leap.
Clean on top of a ten-foot wall.
++ Dana ++
Crowds gain their own personality when stressed. This is a basic fact of human behavior, and any half-witted observer knew it.
This crowd was suddenly afraid.
Instantaneously abandoning my quest to find a wireless signal in this damn building so that I could check in with Mulder, I fell back to years of FBI training. Even as I fished out my gun from the small of my back, Monica was my taller shadow, doing exactly as I had done.
"There!" She shouted over the fearful crowd and I saw it.
Two figures, one a shadowy man with intent, the other... was that Dace? In a Navy uniform of all things? No... the hair was long and coiled in a failing bun at the back of her head. She screamed out a name. "Garcia!"
The shadowy man faltered, regained his single-minded track and I was in motion. The Dace-doppelganger had a gun and that was causing the crowd fear. The man viciously clubbed aside a figure that melted out of nowhere and was leaping over the wall into one of the playrooms. I couldn't comprehend how he had made the jump. The woman was charging the door, her body desperate.
I heard the sickening crack of breaking bones from across the noisy room and a blood-curdling chorus of screams, at least one of them barely human.
Monica bellowed for the crowd to move, we were running for the point where we would intersect the blonde doppelganger...
She shouldered the flimsy door, which splintered under her slender weight.
A single shot...
++ Michael ++
All I'd wanted was a goddamned snack for fuck sake! Like a slow-motion sequence, the climax began to play out around me. Scrambling to catch up, I caught sight of a woman in a Navy uniform, of all the incongruous things, and years of discipline and training welled up from my brain.
Protect the others in your department. Without thinking, I dropped my plate and lunged at the man who was obviously her target.
The man from the sketch that had brought Catherine and Sara here.
The man that had killed my old friend.
Hatred splintered up my spine for what he had done to Cheyenne, and it made me stupid and hot-headed.
Nearby, my pack was frozen in time.
Except for Olivia, who I saw slowly come into motion, dropping into a defensive crouch so like the dark dogs that Dace had nicknamed her after.
This bastard was here to kill Dace!
Over my dead body!
As he pivoted inhumanly fast, eyes widening at how close I was, I feared that my dead body is exactly what my impulse might ask of me.
His arm blurred and all I knew was a flash-fire of agony splitting my skull.
Oh Jo... Gabe... pups... I'm so sorry...
Then empty darkness.
++ Jo ++
Something changed in Michael between one heartbeat and the next.
Like a racing greyhound, she coiled and lunged, her face twisted with determination and hate. Her target flinched aside, knowing that she had him.
Except that he flowed like smoke, like thought, like rushing water, and side-stepped her grasp. I cried out in denial, my mouth still in a horrified 'o' as the club flashed in the shadows.
Like a bird shot in flight, Michael's lithe body was crushed from the fluid leap it had stretched into. Even as my brain froze in horror and even as I knew I was screaming, I was in motion. The attacker flowed up the ten foot wall like it was a street curb, a flash of yellow and khaki hot on his heels.
I was still screaming in tandem to the chorus of pain and fear behind that door!
Michael's red blood on the floor.
A single shot that over-rode all other sensations, making us all shy away.
In an instant, Olivia spoke our hearts in a glance, and she lunged for the splintered door as I dropped to Michael's side.
The blonde and khaki woman smashed back against the wall by the shadow man, his blood still in a red cloud behind him.
Thunder roaring like all the beasts of hell.
An entire clip being emptied.
++ Catherine ++
It happened so fast.
Sara was writhing in ecstasy as Dace rode her hard and gentle, the dildo strapped around her hips the focus of their combined pleasure. Sara's wrists tight in my fists where I held her down, coaxing her ever higher with mindless sex-talk.
Heard a name screamed, felt the rush of terror, drawing my eyes up
Deadly and sinuous, he perched there atop the wall separating us from the club for only the briefest of moments. In that meeting of my gaze to his mad, wild, yellowed eyes, I knew my enemy.
Dace felt it now, pulling away from her possessive crouch over Sara's prone body, that strong right arm coming up in automatic defense. Even as he came down, smashing his club over Dace's arm and head, the dispassionate scientist part of me noted that she had taken the hit away from where he had been aiming; the base of the neck, where the blow would have shredded her spine.
Everything was happening too fast! Sara was screaming, the door splintered as Dace crumbled in a spray of blood. Snake-Eyes raised the club again, his wild eyes intent on me...
The door splintered, a gunshot as he whirled, red blood misting as the bullet whizzed past my ear.
There was a brief image of a woman in the doorway, a mirror of my Cougar, sprawled atop the still-screaming Sara. Then Snake-Eyes blurred again, driving her smaller body into the doorframe with a sickening crunch of breaking bones.
A sparkle of metal in florescent lights... the gun spiraling away from her hand.
I had never wanted this life, this deadly edge of danger that the blue line walked. But, I had done it before and could do it again. I would be damned to the deepest, blackest bowels of every hell humankind had ever created for ourselves before I just stood here and let this maniac finish us all off.
My body was moving, the Coyote howling in joy as I gave in completely to her, lunging and twisting, the gun fitting perfectly into my hand, the yellowed eyes coming closer...
The clip was empty before I hit the ground.
++ Olivia ++
At the first shot, I was down, rolling in a near-somersault, reaching for the non-existent sidearm at my hip. Roaring shots deafened me at this proximity, I could hear the sickening wet crunch of the projectiles shredding their target, the wet rending of someone's flesh being chewed to hamburger.
That was my signal to get up, to stop this at any cost, including my own life. That's what cops did, after all.
The image was burned into my brain for all time.
Outlined in the bright lights above, his arms thrown up and out as though begging heaven for mercy, his misted blood a halo around him.
With a sickening crash, the serial killer coined Snake-Eyes collapsed only inches from my knees. One glance at the ruin of his broad chest was enough for me, and I scanned the room in desperation.
There was blood everywhere, like a horror movie set.
Sara was still crying out, Dace sprawled atop her, bloodied and still as death. Catherine was flat on the floor, her eyes as round as saucers, still clutching the smoking gun.
I was jostled suddenly and the slow-mo seemed to abruptly snap back to real time. "Holy shit!" Monica yelped at my ear and the noise of the terrified crowd swept over me. "Get an ambulance! Hurry! Oh God! Dace!"
It became a blur of chaos after that. I checked on Catherine, who was obviously deep in shock, Monica tried to calm Sara, while Dana poured over Dace's too-still body.
After all this, did we lose her to him?
++ Darya ++
I hadn't been sleeping well with Karen gone, and had been spending more time at Janet's place than away. "You'll have to start charging me rent," I joked weakly as Janet plopped down onto the couch beside me and handed over one of the mugs of tea in her hands.
"S'ok," she waved me off. "You know as well as I do that Emily sleeps better with Fawn close by."
It was true. Especially since that peculiar conversation with Dace on the phone five days ago. Something was bothering my baby, but she couldn't seem to articulate what it was. She was agitated and quiet, like she was waiting for something awful to happen.
Needless to say, I had been on pins and needles.
Then it happened.
Like the flash of headlights bearing down in the dark, the flash of deadly claws in a killing stroke, it hit.
A terrifying vortex of fear that spiraled up my spine and made my brain cringe.
But all of that was forgotten as I heard Emily start screaming upstairs. I never felt the hot tea spill across my lap, I never felt the ground or the stairs under my feet as I flew to her, gathered her shaking body and Fawn's to me, holding them suffocating close.
"Oh mommy," my baby sobbed. "Something awful's happened."
It was all I could get out of her. It was tears and the shakes and, "something awful's happened." Fawn remained close, her little face uncharacteristically serious and focused. Somehow, I felt that the girl was doing more good than I was, and was shaken and nonplussed when the girls fell asleep in a pile.
"What was that?" Janet asked quietly from where she had been holding a confused and frightened Cubby nearby.
"I wish I knew."
++ Mel ++
How could I have missed all of this? Happening right under my nose? Fighting against the crowds pouring down the stairs to get away from the chaos of the top club, I gasped for breath on the forth floor.
And nearly jumped out of my skin when Pony grabbed my arm. "C'mon," the head of security ordered me grimly and bodily shoved her way to the fifth floor and Jesse's favorite place in the whole damn empire. This part of the club had been lovingly crafted by his vision, a place where kink and taboo had safe shadows to romp in.
And someone had violated that.
Then I heard a voice I knew calling out in the now nearly-empty playroom area. "Holy shit! Get an ambulance! Hurry! Oh God! Dace!"
Oh goddess... Snake-Eyes had finally struck.
It looked as though the FBI doctor had the playroom under control, so I fought the urge to get involved and went to where Jo was hovering helplessly over what, I realized with a jolt, was Fenris. "Jeezus, Fen," I grumbled and took her skull gently in my hands. "Haven't you learned to duck? Help me roll her to her side." Shaking, Jo did as I ordered, while I very carefully kept her neck from moving. "Open her mouth so that she doesn't choke or cough on all this blood." And it was a hell of a lot of blood, pouring from her nose. The right side of Fen's face was a purpled mess, blood coagulated in a blunt-trauma wound that was probably going to need stitches.
When Michael stirred lightly, I fired Jo a warning glance to remain calm. "Hey klutz," I teased lightly. "Still trying to stop things with your head?" The right hand slowly curled up, leaving the middle finger up and I chuckled. "You're such a Marine sometimes. Good girl. Your neck's probably fine, but me and the Junkyard Dog are going to stay right here until the ambulance comes."
None of us could keep our eyes on the nearby bloody playroom for long.
++ Kerry ++
It was an extremely unpleasant shock when I burst into trauma two, to see the staff methodically cutting away a leather jacket from an arm that was not supposed to be at several sickening angles. This was excessively bloody and I could hear John calling for blood units even as I stepped closer. None of that shocked me, as I'd seen far worse, but the familiar face under all the blood froze me in horror.
"You know her?" Chuny asked me and I could only nod. What the hell had happened? "Maybe you could work on one then. Look just alike, it's kinda freaky. Or there's a busted nose in three, same altercation."
Still a bit in shock, I pushed through the doors to find more of my staff in controlled chaos around a second blonde. Even with her face pinched into the full backboard, I could see that Chuny was right, she did look nearly identical to Dace.
Susan was carefully cutting away the khaki uniform while Malik and Mel held the woman's body immobile on her side. "Severe trauma back here. Call surgery, I'm betting we have a broken spine. What the hell did this to her?"
The familiarity of my job took on a surreal quality as I helped Susan with the blonde woman and Mel, who I swear had the night off, moved back into the room containing Dace. Abby fished out a wallet, confirming that the uniform was authentic. Soon, Navy officer Meg Austin was handed off to surgery, stripped and cleaned up as best we could while pussy-footing around her damaged back. The back of her skull wasn't much better, the flesh pulpy and splintered feeling. The woman would be lucky to survive her injuries.
I checked in on trauma three, watching Luka gently check over the dark-haired woman's purpled face. Since she was awake, though pretty much useless with pain and drugs, I left him to it.
I watched as Dace was wheeled off by a worried Elizabeth, the shattered arm propped up carefully. My new pal was in the best of hands now.
A chorus of worried and traumatized faces swiveled to me as I stepped into chairs. Some of them I recognized from the poker game, and could make several educated guesses about the others. Sara was covered in blood, hopefully not her own, and I went to her first.
++ Sara ++
My ears were still ringing with my own screams and the roar of deafening gunfire. Nothing seemed to penetrated the numbness as I clung to Catherine's hand and trembled.
The shadow of him falling from the sky, silhouetted against the bright lights, weapon raised. The crunch that echoed down Dace's body into my own. Excruciating pleasure gone in an instant as terror washed over me.
How I despised hospitals...
"Dace?" I whispered around the endless ringing, watching Kerry's eyes focusing compassionately on mine.
"She's with Elizabeth and the surgery team now," she explained calmly, kindly, taking and stroking the hand I had helplessly raised to her. "All we can do is wait now and see what kind of damage was done to her skull and arm."
Unbidden, the image of Dace's warm grin flashed behind my eyes, superimposed by the shock and pain as that maniac smashed down into her forearm and head.
Not releasing my hand, Kerry bent and looked into Catherine's dilated pupils. "Honey, I think you're in shock. Let's get you cleaned up and warmed up, hmm? Both of you."
I remembered Abby, when she came in to help get us cleaned up and check on Catherine. All I was wearing was a bloody sheet that Dana had pulled off the padded table where Dace had been so pleasantly screwing me before all hell had broken loose. My clothes were still in the crime scene at the club, I was sure. Woodenly scrubbing Dace's and Snake-Eyes' blood that seemed to be splattered over nearly every square inch of my skin, I accepted the towel and clothes that Abby held out for me.
Somehow, the green scrubs cracked a smile that made my face hurt. How odd that I would be in the hospital gear twice in less than twenty-four hours. The smile split something loose deep inside, and I saw my agony reflected on Catherine's face.
Clinging together, we wept.
++ Karen ++
What the hell had gone wrong? As much as I desperately wanted to go to the hospital with Dace and Fenris, I remained behind, ever the dutiful soldier. At this moment I was Agent Mulder's backup as he implacably prevented the local police from approaching the scene. They were not happy about it.
Shaken, but professional, Dana and Monica were across the room, doing whatever forensics people did at murder scenes.
Shying away from the thought of murder, I listened to the buzz of the women's voices and tried not to obsess over my pals in the emergency rooms.
Mulder finally chose one cop who hardly looked old enough to carry a gun, much less vote, and told the others to get lost. "If you want to be useful, secure the perimeter," Mulder growled irritably and walked away. Grumbling like a pack of mean dogs, Chicago's finest slunk away and I let loose a long breath before gesturing the green cop to proceed me to the scene.
Officer Mitchell looked positively ill at the carnage, but gamely kept his dinner down. Good man. The damage done to Sergeant Garcia, AKA Shake-Eyes, was horrific. Twenty rounds to the upper chest, the shots fairly close together had turned his flesh to pulp and bone splinters. He lay on the unforgiving concrete, eyes staring up sightlessly, his expression oddly peaceful.
It was more than a little creepy.
Shaking off my lingering shivers, I recognized Monica's stress and grabbed her arm in a vice grip.
"Wha..." Dilated brown eyes stared blankly at me and I scrounged up my most compassionate side, the one I used when Emily was hurt or scared.
"Hey, you okay?"
For a long moment, she looked torn, and Dana's eyes came to rest on us. Her stress was as sharp, but she controlled it better. Tears washed the earthy color like rain and I sighed, pulling Monica into a big bear hug. It made me feel better to hold someone, my own pain and stress over Dace and Michael and the blonde stranger in the Navy khakis lessened by the sharing.
After a moment, Dana came over and leaned against Monica's back, to add her strength and misery to our little huddle.
++ Olivia ++
My eyes were burning with fatigue and felt like someone had poured coarse salt in them. Sunlight was growing in the glass door that led to the ambulance bay. Daylight in winter in the northern half of the U.S. meant that it was around 8 am.
It was after 10 pm when the hell had swamped over us like a ship going under.
Dace had been in surgery for around ten hours.
My left shoulder was numb where Sara was sound asleep against me, and Catherine was propped against her. The nasty coffee in my right hand had long gone icy and undrinkable. I hardly cared. Zo had come to the hospital at about two in the morning when the Amazons had told her what was going on. Her presence was oddly reassuring. Jo was sprawled next to Zo, dozing fitfully, only because the nurses had chased her out of Michael's room. Her stress was palatable, even in sleep.
All of us were feeling the anxiety. We had all gotten attached to Dace, there was no denying it. In short, intense days, she had charmed us with her feral charisma and odd humor. And that bastard may have snuffed that out.
I was startled as Karen suddenly stumbled into the nearly-empty waiting room. She looked as bad as I felt, and Monica on her heels was just as wasted. My small movement woke Sara abruptly, and her eyes snapped open, wide and fearful. Catherine reacted just the same and Karen rushed over to help reassure them.
After petting and calming Catherine, Karen looked soberly into the bloodshot blue eyes. "Agent Mulder got a phone call from your supervisor about an hour ago. He got a call from my family as well. Seems that our daughters woke up, screaming, out of a dead sleep and are home, inconsolable without us." The words sank in.
"Yes. She needs you." The words hurt Karen to say, after all, that was her soul sister upstairs in surgery. "The Lady is prepared to get us home this afternoon, but we have to go now. There's a nasty storm rolling in from the north." A soundless shake of Catherine's head was all she could managed and my heart ached at the compassion, pain and understanding in Karen's green eyes. "We have to. Dace will understand. Monica will keep us posted on her condition." The dark-haired agent nodded emphatically in agreement.
"I'll stay," I heard myself volunteer and was warmed by Karen's grateful look.
"Me too," Zo added in sleepily, rubbing her eyes like a child. "She won't be alone."
"Thanks guys. Sara, you have to decide to stay or go."
++ Zo ++
All of my energy was bent to willing Sara to go home. Sure, she wanted to stay, but her trauma over being trapped in a hospital was as obvious as the swollen veins in her eyes. There was a deep, old hurt burning behind her wide gaze.
A long beat passed, and Sara's wide stare was only broken when Karen gently touched her knee. A stilted nod made me sag with relief. My sensitivities were buzzing with her stress. Being around it long term would give me migraines at best, and probably an ulcer at worst.
It took some more coaxing from the rest of us to get the Las Vegas women moving. Hugging them both tightly, I reluctantly pressed them into a cab beside Karen. Olivia and Monica stood sentinel beside me in the frigid cold as we watched the tail lights vanish around the corner.
The spell was broken when Elizabeth's voice called out my name. "Zo? I have an update." The woman looked like hell, and I scared up a cup of coffee and a bagel before I let her talk. We found a quiet corner in chairs and she eyed the three of us with mixed emotions. "Well," she began falteringly, her British accent thick with fatigue. "We seem to have successfully rebuilt the arm, even if it looks like something out of a horror movie right now." I knew from experience that she was being uncharacteristically blunt, since we were friends and not just random people. "She's still unconscious, and her brain activity is erratic."
"Meaning?" Monica asked hesitantly and Elizabeth sighed heavily.
"She's in a coma. How long it will last is anyone's guess."
Monica swallowed hard, like she was trying to keep from being sick. "I... we have to contact the San Francisco PD and let them know what happened. Is there anything else we should know?"
Elizabeth shook her head wearily. "No. She's in ICU alongside Commander Austin. We're still trying to get a hold of Great Lakes Navy base."
"She's not from around here," Monica added, still sounding very far away. "She flew in from New York."
++ Captain Alison Krennick ++
Some unnamed worry had rousted me out of bed earlier than I was required to be at the twenty-seventh precinct. There was no message from Meg and I was feeling a nagging concern. Since we had both been transferred out of Admiral Chegwidden's office at JAG headquarters all those years ago, Meg and I had been working side by side. She felt like an extension of my own body and career.
Honestly, I felt naked and vaguely incompetent without her assisting me.
The anxiousness didn't fade as the morning grew brighter in the few windows in the bullpen and the local staff filed in, grumbling about Monday mornings. A sharp rap on my door frame actually made me jump, and I looked up sharply to see Lennie Briscoe lounging there. It said something for my mood that the familiar Monday morning offering of Seattle's Best Coffee in his hands failed to even make me smile.
"Good mornin'," he said cheerfully and then sobered at my demeanor. "What's wrong?"
How did I explain that I was worried? Austin was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. I'd learned that much in six years. Still...
Before I realized I was even doing it, I blurted out the entire story from the wee hours of Sunday morning. Not even thirty-six hours had passed. "Am I panicking?"
Lennie wasn't entirely sure how to answer my somewhat desperate question. "She's not answering her phone?"
"No. I've tried several times. It goes straight to voicemail."
My phone trilled and I jumped in surprise. It said something for my state of mind that I didn't want to answer it.
"Captain? This is Agent Monica Reyes, FBI. There's... there's been an accident involving Lieutenant Commander Austin."
Grasping Lennie's offered hand, I swallowed hard and wished again that I hadn't picked the damn thing up...