Seven of Spades
Author's Note: I own nothing. Actually, that's wrong. I own Daria Noclaf and the Tau'ka. Sadly, I do not own the League concept, its members, the Goa'uld, or Vader. I can claim this particular incarnation of Force Adept Vader Skywalker as mine, I think. But I digress.
This is the final installment of the 'New Hand for a New Century' Trilogy, which began in October 2006. But just because it is the last part of the trilogy doesn't necessarily mean that this the last of the Daria stories. I have plans for a one-shot fluff, two stories set in the 21st century, and a story about how Daria and Vader met, at the very least. You can't get rid of me (or Daria!) that easily!
And now, Seven of Spades. Cookies for whoever can figure out what the title of this and 'Queen of Spades' are referring to!
Chapter One: Lost Chance and New Headquarters
Silvery moonlight cast shadows along the rooftops of the city below. Despite the late hour, London still bustled. Horse-drawn hansoms and cabs moved swiftly through its cobbled streets, occasionally drawing the protests of passers-by as one splashed through a puddle. However, the activity was limited to the streets and buildings. Little stirred elsewhere.
The moonlight illuminated a solitary figure that walked through the park with a quick, nervous step. The figure, a thin, skittish-looking man with dark red hair, seemed to be brooding over something. His footsteps were quiet, except for when he stepped into a pile of dry, fallen leaves. The chill October air turned his breath into little puffs of white vapor.
Stop moping already, Henry!
The gruff voice in his mind made the man stop in his tracks. "I am not moping," he said aloud.
Yes, you are. You've been moping for the last three months.
Doctor Henry Jekyll shook his head in denial.
Trust me on this. I live in your head. You are moping. Get over it.
"I am not moping," Jekyll repeated. Edward Hyde was not convinced.
You've been moping since Daria left. Don't you think she would have contacted you if the wench was planning on coming back? Three months is plenty of time for her to have sent a message. Move on already.
Jekyll shook his head, trying to ignore the nagging voice of his alter ego. "I'm sure she's busy." A shadow passed briefly over the light from the nearly-full moon, casting his surroundings into darkness for a moment before it passed. He glanced up, remembering another time, when another shadow had crossed in front of the moon. If only he'd known then what that winged shadow would bring into his life.
She's forgotten you.
"No." the doctor said firmly. He did not want to believe that. He refused to believe that.
She was an undercover spy working for an alien race. She IS an alien, in case you've forgotten. What's there to say that she wasn't just playing with you? Using you to deepen her cover?
"She wouldn't do that."
Really? Are you so sure, Henry? For all you know, you could just be the latest in a string of men left behind.
"Daria isn't like that!" Jekyll snapped.
"Of course I'm not."
Jekyll nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of the voice from behind him. He whirled to face the speaker.
Standing there was an athletic-looking woman with auburn hair and a sheepish-looking smile. She ducked her head slightly, almost shyly.
"Hello, Henry," she said quietly, looking up at him.
"Daria," Jekyll replied. He stood there, looking stunned. "W-when did you get back?" That was not the question he had really intended to ask, but at that moment he didn't know what that question was.
"I've been following you for a few minutes, but I got back to Earth about two hours ago."
She heard us talking, didn't she? Hyde muttered irritably.
"You weren't exactly going to any lengths to keep quiet," she pointed out. "It made you easier to track down though. You're one of the few people around here who talks to himself and actually gets an answer."
The conversation trailed off, both of them feeling distinctly uncomfortable. How did one greet a beloved that one hadn't seen in months, hadn't had a chance to say a proper goodbye to? It was the Tau'ka who broke the uneasy silence.
"I missed you, Henry," she said quietly.
Jekyll stepped forward, gently taking her hand in one of his own. "I missed you too. Why didn't you send a message?"
Daria made a face. "Security reasons. I'd been out of touch with my superiors for over a month before Commander Halcon showed up. Security protocols called for me being completely incommunicado with anyone except for Intelligence when I got back."
Jekyll shook his head, feeling very much out of his depth when it came to discussing Tau'ka protocol and society. Everything he'd been taught screamed at him that no woman should be involved with the twisted workings of an intelligence agency- shouldn't be involved with politics or management or anything like that at all. That once again drove home the realization that Daria was not human and was from a society extremely different from his own. He settled for brushing a stray bit of auburn hair from her face.
"Why did you come back?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Couple of reasons, most of which involve the full League. And as I recall, I did promise to return. Besides," she added, a little shyly. "I wanted to see you."
Jekyll smiled and kissed her gently. For all that she may be strange and alien to him, he still loved her.
And I you, her voice said in his mind.
Stop reading people's minds, Daria! Hyde grumbled.
I didn't, the Tau'ka pointed out silently. Henry is remarkably transparent when it comes to emotions. It was written all over his face.
Jekyll sighed. He though he would never get used to Hyde's comments in the back of his head. Now he had Daria, who could hear and speak with his alter ego as if he were an entirely separate entity as well as talk to anyone she wished in their minds.
As if Edward and I didn't already argue like an old married couple, he thought. Aloud he said, "We should be getting back. We have a headquarters now."
"I heard," Daria said as she fell into step beside him. "Granted by the Queen herself, Sawyer said. He also mentioned that she made good on some of the promises M had made."
Jekyll nodded. "I got that pardon," he said. Then he frowned. "You've been there already?"
"I went to the Nautilus to look for you. First Mate Patel gave me directions and Sawyer said you'd be coming back from the charity cases you've taken up at the hospital. He told me that you usually come this way."
"Congratulations on the pardon, by the way." Daria made a face. "Much better than a two-month debriefing by the Tau'ka High Council's finest interrogators."
"Why all the fuss, anyway?"
"Like I said, I hadn't made contact with either my superiors or one of the deep-cover agents here on Earth in over a month. Basically, from the time I got recruited to the time Commander Halcon dragged me off-planet, I hadn't spoken to a single Tau'ka apart from my… the Black Hawks." Her jaw clenched as she said 'Black Hawks', but she shook off her anger. "That usually means the agent is compromised. It's a testament to my standing with the Council that the High Commander himself came to pull me out, but he and Felis- our head of Intelligence- didn't want to take any risks. I suggest you pray to your God that you never have to go through that kind of debriefing." She glanced at him sidelong. "Temporary visitors don't get such thorough exams when they visit the base," she added conversationally.
"Anyway," Daria continued, "What's been going on here?"
The two of them walked through London's darkened streets as Jekyll gave her an update on what the League had been doing in the three months since she'd seen them last. The conversation took them all the way to a slightly older, four-story building not a great distance away from the docks.
Daria recognized the building- it was Dorian Gray's old mansion, although the exterior had been neatened up considerably so that it no longer appeared quite so run down. Jekyll lead her to the door, produced a key, and opened it for her. She smiled and entered the building.
The door opened onto an entryway of sorts, with a library off to her right and a small parlor room on the left. Voices came from the library.
Daria paused, hidden just out of sight behind the doorframe. She recognized a deep, rumbling voice that was telling a story of some kind, one that involved a fight with a giant squid. A second voice broke in, marked by a Cockney accent.
"Then I 'spose you an' your crew were eating calamari for weeks afterward," it said.
Daria poked her head around the doorframe, grinning. "I like seafood," she said brightly. "Don't care much for water, but seafood's pretty good."
The four occupants of the library looked up and stared at her in surprise. Then the man with the Cockney accent exclaimed, "Cor! Daria!" and promptly greeted her with a very enthusiastic hug.
Laughing, Daria wriggled free and planted her hands on her hips. "Rodney Skinner," she said. "Still invisible, still getting into trouble. Nice to know I was missed."
Skinner grinned, his transparent features visible only by virtue of the white greasepaint that covered them. Then he frowned and whirled on the young man behind him. "You knew she was coming!" he accused. "She was the one who were 'ere earlier, wasn't she?"
The young man laughed, blue eyes bright with mischief. "She might have stopped by," he said in a lazy American drawl. "Hey there, Daria."
"Hey yourself, Sawyer,"
Daria grinned at the other two people, a pale-skinned, red-haired woman and a dark-bearded Indian man wearing a blue turban and uniform. "Hello, Mina, Captain Nemo," she said. "You two been keeping these miscreants out of trouble?"
"It isn't too difficult," Mina said, taking Tom Sawyer by the arm. The American agent grinned.
"I thought you would like to surprise them," he said. "So I 'forgot' to mention that you were back."
"I see," Daria said as Jekyll came up behind her. "So, these are the new headquarters?"
Nemo nodded. "These will serve," he said. "My Nautilus still remains the base of our international operations, but considering the make-up of our League, it was thought that it would be best to have a facility here in London."
"There's also a bit more room 'ere than there is on that boat," Skinner put in. "I rather like it."
"We all have rooms here," Mina said as Nemo threw Skinner a disparaging look. "Why don't we get you settled?"
Jekyll took Daria's hand and began to gently pull her to a spiral staircase in the corner of the library. "We picked out a room for you," he said. "This way."
The League had been granted the run of the mansion, which contained- among other things- rooms for up to ten people, the two-story library that had once housed a running gunfight, a conservatory, and a number of rooms that could be converted into workrooms or laboratories for members who were inclined to work that would require such facilities. There was a kitchen, dining room, and the upper level of the library would serve admirably as a meeting room. Her teammates led her to the top floor, half of which was attic, and half was converted into living space.
"Here we are," Jekyll said, opening the door in front of them. The room it opened onto was clearly the one in the turret. Someone- with a sense of humor, she thought- had decorated the round chamber in an Egyptian theme, with plenty of beige and tan broken up with vivid, jewel-toned splashes of color. However, there were touches of Indian influence, making her think that Nemo had had a hand in the decorating.
"Whaddya think?" Sawyer prompted.
She turned to look at her friends, touched by their thoughtfulness. "You people," she said, her face completely devoid of emotion, "are completely nuts." Then she grinned broadly. "It's great."
"The roof outside is pretty flat," Sawyer said brightly. "And you can reach it from the window, so you can just fly in if you want."
"And there is a workroom on this floor set aside for you," Mina added.
Daria looked around at the members of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, feeling a little overwhelmed by the enthusiastic welcome. She never got a greeting like this at the Tau'ka's hidden base on Verris. Tau'ka rarely had large families, and with her parents dead, her traitorous brothers in hiding, and only one or two close relatives, she had never been a part of a family like this eclectic bunch. In fact, she could claim a bare handful of friends back at the base- her cousin, the Healer Nibor Noclaf; Vader Skywalker; and a couple of others. There, she was well-known, but was a bit more notorious as a fighter and undercover agent than she was popular. It was a very different experience, being with people who wanted her among them, who had missed her, and were so certain that she would return that they had gone through the trouble of setting up a room for her among them.
"Daria, what's wrong?" Jekyll asked in alarm. He gently touched the wet trails on her face.
"Nothing," she said, wiping her face dry. "It's just… you guys are the best."
"Well, we knew that," Skinner said cheerfully.
The thief's causal answer prompted a laugh out of her. "No, seriously, you're the greatest. Home's nothing like this."
"Well, then maybe this should be your home, seeing as you like it here," Sawyer said.
Daria paused, then shrugged. "I may be able to work that. I do need to talk to all of you, however. It's pretty important."
Nemo nodded and herded them down the stairs to the meeting room.