The Sixth Year: Chapter One

Gretchen is following Peter down a narrow hallway, in yet another abandoned building, in search of a man known as One-Eyed Jack. Having been tipped off by another evolve that this man might know something about Claire's whereabouts, they have been chasing him for weeks. But, Jack is a sly one, and doesn't want anything to do with this war anymore.

He used to be Peter's inside man, and was the telepath he had used to uncover the information regarding Claire's impending future. But, at about the same time Claire had been abducted in Havana, Jack had inexplicably cut off communication with Peter. Rumor amongst the other evolves said that Jack had been caught by Elle, revealed as a traitor to her, and tortured beyond belief before somehow escaping. Which would explain his reluctance to be found now.

Poor One-Eyed Jack was running from both sides now, not that Gretchen felt the least bit sorry for him. Lately, she hadn't been feeling sorry for anyone, save Claire.

She hasn't seen Claire in almost a year, and Peter has been doing nothing but searching for her, in any way he can. In fact, now that she thinks about it, she kind of feels sorry for him too. In his determination to keep Stephanie safe and out of the fray, he has barely seen her as well. She has flown with them occasionally, when the need has arisen, but ... other than that, Peter has been like a cowboy out on trail. He has even gone so far as to grow facial hair, in his distraction to locate his niece.

And Gretchen has changed a lot in a year herself. At least, she'd like to think so. She has been training intensively with Hiro, learning all she could about martial arts and self-defense, and has even learned how to wield a samurai sword pretty effectively. And, although he is a very strict and disciplined teacher, she knows that Hiro is proud of her, which is the greatest motivation of all. She feels much more confident than she did a year ago, and holds her head a little higher these days.

She even managed to stop crying herself to sleep every night ... about four months ago. The pain finally manifested itself into an intense and constant anger instead, and has been burning inside her ever since. Now, when she lays her head down at night, instead of seeing Claire trapped inside some lonely cage, she sees Elle's face melting like hot wax under her defiant glare. She knows what Elle looks like now. Peter's shown her more pictures of that bitch's face than she even cares to remember.

That bitch is going to burn, one way or another. Burn, bitch, burn!

Still, occasionally, the old Gretchen does pop up. There have been times during the past year when she has frozen in place out of fear, or cried uncontrollably at really inappropriate moments. But, for the most part, she has been too busy thinking about finding Claire to feel afraid ... or sad. On most days, she feels like nothing more than a heat-seeking missile: intent on one, singular target ... and completely emotionless.

This is not to say that Claire has not been the most ever-present thought on her mind. She undeniably has. But, with Hiro's help, Gretchen has learned to channel that into positive energy.

Although sometimes, like now for instance, when it is starting to feel like they are this close to finding her, Gretchen does tend to get a little more freaked out than usual. Peter has come up against Jack before, only to be mind-fucked by him each and every time. This time, Peter claims he's built up resistance, but ... Gretchen isn't so sure about that. And, because Peter will be so busy trying to hold back Jack's ability, it will be all up to her to do the interrogating ... if they ever even find Jack.

"Why do they always hide in these damn buildings?" she asks Peter, trying her best to keep up with him.

Peter glances back at her and smiles. "Wouldn't you, if you were trying to hide from me?"

"I'd go to Antarctica, if I were trying to hide from you," she replies.

Peter huffs a laugh and walks on, intent again on the mission ahead. As they turn a corner, they fall into silence again, both feeling that Jack could be nearer than they think.

And, sure enough, at the end of a long corridor, they spot something dart away from them to the left. Peter races towards it at lightening speed, leaving Gretchen in the dust.

"Great," she sighs to herself. "I hate it when he does that."

She picks up her own pace and follows their trail, finally finding them standing toe to toe in a standoff at the end of another long hallway. One-Eyed Jack, dressed in his typical bum costume, is struggling to take over Peter's mind as usual ... just long enough so that he can escape again. But, this time, Peter is not giving in so easily. Gretchen can see the look of sheer concentration on Peter's face, and knows she doesn't have much time.

"Why are you running from us, Jack?" Gretchen demands to know. "We can help you. We've helped others."

"You can't even help yourself," grumbles Jack in response, not taking his eye off Peter. Jack is a gruff looking man in his fifties, but the salvation army clothes he wears (and hardly ever washes) cause him to appear much older. He wears a patch over his missing eye, which was taken from him during a bar brawl when he was only 23 years old. But his appearance does not frighten Gretchen.

He has never once hurt Peter or herself, and doesn't seem to intend to. He only freezes Peter's abilities long enough to escape, and he has never even attempted to enter Gretchen's mind. Of course, with Peter being an empath, this trick was never going to work forever anyway.

Surely Jack must have known that.

"Jack, please," says Gretchen, stepping forward cautiously. "I know you don't want to hurt us, and we don't want to hurt you either. We just want to talk."

"There's nothing to talk about," he insists. "Why can't you just leave me alone? I just want to be left alone!"

"Fine," replies Gretchen. "Tell us where Claire is, and we won't bother you again. I promise."

"If I tell you, she'll know," Jack says. "She knows everything!"

"Who?" asks Gretchen. "Elle? Jack, you don't have to be afraid of her. Come with us, and we'll protect you."

"Like you've protected Claire?" he asks, laughing nervously. "No thanks!"

"We're trying to save Claire," Gretchen tells him through gritted teeth, trying to hold back her impatience. "That's why we've been chasing you. Just tell her us where we can find her, and we will protect you ... I swear."

"You'll never get her out of there," he laughs. "Even if you could get in. She's Elle's most prized possession right now. It would be like trying to sneak out all the gold at Fort Knox!"

"Is she pregnant?" Peter chimes in, still working his voodoo.

Jack gives Peter an unsettling smile. "Not yet, mate. But ... not from a lack of trying."

"What do you mean?" Peter asks, furrowing his brows.

"I mean to say that Elle has been trying to achieve just that," Jack tells him, suddenly letting go of Peter's mind. He exhales a deep breath, as if exhausted, and says, "and in the most horrific ways imaginable ... I wouldn't even want to describe ... what I saw through that girl's eyes."

Gretchen closes her own eyes for just a moment and counts to ten, holding her breath in the process.

Peter relaxes his body, also exhausted from fighting with Jack's mind, and steps forward with a cautious but curious expression. Gretchen doesn't want to know; doesn't need to know right now, but Peter obviously can't help himself.

"What did you see, Jack?" he asks carefully.

"Elle Bishop is one sick little pup," Jack tells him, an earnest look in his eye. "And she's got an unhealthy fascination with your niece. Which is why you should not attempt to rescue her. Elle will never let you get near her newest toy without a nasty fight."

"What do you mean ... toy?" Gretchen suddenly says, unable to stay mute another second.

"Oh, darlin'," replies Jack with a sigh. "I think you know what I mean. Do I really have to spell it out for ya'? I mean that Elle has been using the artificial insemination sessions as an excuse to further torment Claire. She knows that Claire can't feel physical pain, so she is using every other form of pain at her disposal."

"You mean ..." Peter begins, but Gretchen holds up a hand to stop him.

Her stomach is churning suddenly, as if she could heave at any second.

"Stop," she insists, clutching at her stomach. "Please. I ... get the picture, okay? Please, just tell us where we can find her, Jack. Please ... I'm begging you."

Jack looks at her with unmistakable sympathy in his eyes. "All right," he sighs after a brief pause. "But ... she will be ready for us. She has eyes and ears everywhere."

"With your help, we can be ready too," Peter tells him. "You're a powerful telepath, Jack. Come on ... don't you want to get back at Elle for the hell she's put you through? Help us, and I promise you'll get that chance."

Gretchen grits her teeth, her eyes burning with fury. "Not if I get to her first," she reminds them both.

*****************

Claire has been Elle Bishop's prisoner now for almost a year. Although, Claire cannot really be sure of what time has passed ... she can only guess. She still isn't even sure where she is, exactly. And, she hasn't seen a single sunrise or sunset since she arrived. There are no windows in her cell, and she has never been transfered.

Perhaps, if her hands had ever been freed, she would have started marking down days somehow, but ... Elle has had her in shackles since day one. In the beginning, Claire had made one escape attempt, breaking both of her own wrists and ankles in order to wiggle out of the shackles. But, only finding this attempt amusing, Elle had just put her back in the restraints again ... this time locking her neck against the metal sheet they called her bed with a heavy, steel collar.

And this was the state she still found herself in now ... laying on a cold metal slab, her wrists and ankles clasped against the sides, and her neck pinned down by the unyielding collar. A few times, when Elle's torture had become overwhelming to her, she had considered trying to break her own neck as well. She knew that this might mean the end for her, as resetting it would take time, and Elle didn't seem to like waiting for things. But ... she still considered it, once and awhile.

Upon her arrival a year ago, Elle had wasted no time in getting started with her plans. They had taken Claire to this room, which would have appeared somewhat hospital-like, if not for the metal table they had strapped her to, sitting ominously in the center of the room. Around this table sat a variety of hospital type equipment, and frightening looking surgical tools. As they had locked Claire onto her eternal bed that day, she had peered at these tools with growing apprehension.

But, that fear paled in comparison to what she was about to really face.

After Claire was securely locked into place, Elle had sent her minions away, giving Claire a devilish smile as they had shut the door behind them. Claire had spat at her in return, but Elle had only laughed and wiped it away with a cloth from her pocket.

"Reduced to that, are we?" Elle had asked her, coming to stand over her metal bed. "Tsk, tsk, Claire. I wouldn't be so daring if I were you ... you might upset me."

"Fuck you, you crazy bitch!"

Elle laughed and ran a finger down the front of Claire's blouse. "I wouldn't invite me to do that either," she warned, still smiling. "I mean, after all ... I was going to take it easy on you tonight, since it's your first time and all. I mean, I'm assuming this will take at least a few attempts, don't you? These things usually do."

"What are you talking about?"

Elle withdrew her finger and walked over to a cabinet, which omitted a thin wisp of frost when she opened it. She reached in and pulled out a vile, which she brought back to Claire, waving it in her face.

"Know what this is?" she asked Claire.

Claire was pretty sure, but wasn't about to play games. "Go to hell," she told Elle, her green eyes alight with anger.

Elle laughed again and withdrew the vile, turning to do something on a counter beside the frozen cabinet. Claire tried to see what she was up to, but her back was turned.

"This, my dear Claire," she said, still turned away, "is the magical sperm that's going to get that little bun growing in your oven. And, when I thought about having some doctor perform the insemination, I thought, well, damn ... that won't be any fun. I mean, how clinical and cold is that? Having a stranger stick you with sperm juice?"

Elle turned back around then, a large, plastic syringe in one hand. She grinned at Claire and said, coming closer, "I thought this might be a little more enjoyable for both of us if I performed it myself. And, while I was going to take this session easy on you tonight, since it is your first ... I'm afraid I can't promise I will always be so gentle. For one thing, I can get really heartless when I'm made to wait ... and, for another ... well ...

I just kind of get off on the thought of watching you squirm."

"Why?" asked Claire, a lump in her throat.

"Why?" laughed Elle. "Oh, come now, Claire. Doesn't everyone want to fuck you? The invincible girl? Little Miss Perfect ass? Little Miss can-do-no-wrong?"

"Elle ..." Claire had said softly, "You don't have to do this."

The look on Elle's face grew darker by the minute. "We're wasting time here, baby," she said. "Clock is ticking. Hear it? Tick, tock. Tick, tock."

"Please, Elle ..." Claire continued, beginning to tug at her wrists and ankles, instinctively trying to free herself.

"Oh no you don't," warned Elle, shaking her head.

Elle reached out her other hand and shot Claire with a jolt of electricity that seized her, making her immobile for the moment. Moving the hand slowly, Elle moved the electricity with it, shocking her legs and waist with increasing voltage. Claire was writhing uncontrollably on the table, but not out of pain. The electricity simply took over her body, shaking it like a rag doll. Soon, Claire's pants actually caught fire from the voltage, and Elle stood back with a hoot of pleasure.

Claire watched in horror as the material of her jeans burned right before her eyes, turning into nothing but ashes. When the fire was out, her burned legs slowly began to heal, revealing her healthy pink flesh, and Elle came closer once again, the syringe at the ready.

"Handy little power I have, isn't it?" she asked with delight. "And between my power and your power, why ... we've managed to take your pants off without even touching them. Brilliant, isn't it?"

"You are sick," Claire spat again.

"Possibly," Elle agreed, wiping it away again with her free hand. "But ... I'm so much fun, once you get to know me. You'll see, Claire. We're going to have so much fun together ... just you and I."

Elle placed the syringe between Claire's legs, which were already spread apart by the ankle cuffs, and ran it slowly along her naked thigh, leaning in so that her breath was tangible on her face. "The truth is ... I've wanted to fuck you all along, sweetheart," she told Claire. "But, it was only since the world turned against me that I've wanted to do this. Thank God this whole baby business came up, huh? I mean, what better excuse to really give it to you?"

With her last four words, Elle suddenly jammed the syringe into Claire without care, causing Claire to gasp in surprise and horror.

Elle cackled with gratification, and pulled the syringe out, only to jam it back in again.

"That feel good, baby?" she asked with a demented purr.

Unable to process the horror that was happening to her, Claire began to cry for the first time in years. Tears streamed down her cheeks and fell from her chin.

"Stop, Elle ... please," she begged. "I'll do anything you want. Just ... stop, please!"

"Anything I want?" asked Elle, jamming it in again, with as much force as possible. "Can you give me my Daddy back? My childhood? Can you give back all the time I lost while I was hiding from your father?"

"Please, Elle ... you don't have to do it this way. Please."

"Fuck you, you little brat," hissed Elle, continuing her tortuous task. "You know what I want? I want you, screaming your little perfect ass off ... begging me to stop. Looks like we're off to a good start, wouldn't you say?"

And, this inseminational rape had continued, day after miserable day, getting worse and worse every time, until, eventually ... Claire had become numb to it. Perhaps that was why Elle became more and more sadistic each time, torturing her with her words even more than with her hands. It was driving her mad ... the fact that Claire wasn't reacting anymore. She wanted to see more tears; wanted to hear more begging, but Claire would give her no more of it.

And now, still laying there a year later, strapped to the table that has become her own personal nightmare spot, she hears the door handle click, and opens her eyes wide.

Elle comes in alone, and opens the cabinet again, just as she always does, to pull out her precious vile of sperm.

"Last chance, baby," she tells her, turning with the vile in her hand. "If your body rejects this again, I'm going to have to turn to plan B. And ... you really aren't going to like plan B."

Claire hasn't spoken a word in three months, so unwilling to give any sign of weakness to Elle. But now, she can't help wondering what Elle is talking about.

"What's plan B?" she asks, against her better judgement.

Elle grins wickedly, pleased to hear Claire's voice again. "Later, pet. For now ... we're going to have to take that hospital gown off again. And, I would at least try to show some emotion this time, if I were you. After all, it may be our last time together like this, you know? And, well ... I could just take your eggs and let you die here of starvation, if I wanted to. Maybe if you give me what I want, I'll let you live to see your son born. What do you say, Claire?"

She sits the vile down and comes closer, waiting for a response.

Claire takes a deep breath and closes her eyes, praying for the first time in her life. She prays for God to strike Elle dead, and deliver her straight to hell.

"Please, Elle," she says softly, trying to sound as vulnerable as Elle wants her to be. "Don't hurt me."

Elle laughs and pulls at the strings of her gown, releasing the ties and allowing Elle's hands access inside. She runs a hand down her chest, along her stomach, and between her legs. "Louder, bitch!" she tells Claire, sticking two fingers inside of her.

Claire feels real tears come to her eyes, having never been violated before by anything other than the syringe. "Please, Elle!" she calls out, crying for real now. "Please, stop!"

Elle's breath is hot in her face as she continues to fuck Claire, her fingers pressing harder and harder into her flesh. "Yeah, baby ... that's it. Beg me to stop."

Claire squeezes her eyes tight against the sight of Elle's crazy grin and prays again. This time, for something a little more tangible.

Please, God, send Peter to save me. Please ... before I go as mad as her.

*to be continued ...*