Rating, Spoilers, Disclaimer, etc in chapter 1.
Picking up where we left off…
Die Another Day – chapter 3
Almost immediately after closing his conversation with Power, Hawk opened a comm. channel to contact Scout.
"Scout, where are you?" Hawk nearly barked into his comm. link.
Scout pressed the button to open the comm. link on his wrist and replied, "In the power core. I'm just finishing the conduit for Blastarr."
"Well finish up quick… we've got a change in plans and I need you in the command center… now," he said, emphasizing the last word to make sure the covert ops and technical wizard recognized that it was urgent.
Scout quickly finished the last connection before flipping a switch and creating a sort of looping circuit through Blastarr's body, the bluish-white energy crackling through the machine and effectively keeping it short circuited. Scout holstered his spanner and turned to Tank and patted the designated guard for their bio-dread prisoner, noting that he was now on watch.
"Keep an eye on him… I'll go see what Hawk wants."
Tank nodded and Scout hurried out of the energy core area and double timed it through the base, finally making his way down the charred metal staircase into the command center. He hustled to the center of the room, studiously ignoring the charred and melted mass of wires and metal that had been a Christmas tree, to join Hawk where he sat at the burned out console that was main hub for the base and the center point of the room where Mentor's image would normally be… if the place wasn't a mess.
"What now?" asked Scout as he met Hawk at the console, "there's a whole lot of work to be done to get this place up and running…"
"Well I might have something that will make it a bit easier. Captain says Pilot followed evac procedures," Hawk replied, making Scout raise his eyebrows in surprise. "Can we check for a skybike or something with a homing signal?"
"Give me a sec," he said, turning on his heel to move to a section of the room where there was minimal damage where he started a series of calculations into the computer that resided there. A few moments later he got a beeping signal on the monitor along with a string of coordinates. "Ah ha, got it! It's maybe half a mile from here. I'll feed the coordinates to your suit's nav system."
"Great, I'll go get it. How about since you're already here you start working on the main console and be ready to upload Mentor's systems when I get back. And don't forget we need to get the gates closed and clear Blastarr out of here soon and maybe getting Mentor on line will speed that up."
"I've already shut the gates down… I did it almost the moment the Captain went through and when the Captain's ready to come back I'll reprogram them with the new codes. Dredd will never get back through like he did before – I'll be installing a safety protocol that will require the signature of one of our suits along with the code to open the gate. That should solve our unwanted house guest problem permanently."
Hawk patted Scout's shoulder with a grin. He knew that he'd come up with a solution to their technical problems. Now it was up to him to go and get the evacuated back ups that Jennifer had saved to help jump start the rebuilding of their base.
"All right, I'll leave you to it. Back soon."
With that Hawk turned and headed back up the stairs that Scout had just come down, moving to the landing bay and out of the base to bring back Pilot's package.
Throughout the Passages, just like he was throughout the resistance, Captain Power was known as a great soldier and leader, often fearless in battle, a brilliant strategist and a preserver of all life. Yet to the people who had seen him in the last twenty four hours, he was far from that.
Rumors were already swirling about his arrival; he'd landed needing medical attention for a member of his team who was gravely wounded. People said that he had stayed, rooted in the chair outside the surgical pavilion waiting for news on his pilot's condition and had only allowed himself to be moved to wait for her in the private space in the hospital wing where she was being brought following surgery.
And in that all that talk, people who had seen him were saying that he was a man holding on by the thinnest of threads… ones that seem tied to the survival of his pilot.
Of course none of those people gossiping about Captain Power and Corporal Chase had a clue how correct they were.
After being relocated to Jennifer's room, Power had heard the whispers of gossip on the other side of the curtains cutting the space off from the rest of the hospital. It seemed people tended to forget that the presence of the curtains didn't mean he couldn't hear them…
He shrugged after listening to the latest whispers about his relationship with his pilot and went back to his inward thoughts, Jennifer's power suit still on his lap, his fingers idly tracing the rip in the fabric and the wiring within. Power had been sitting in the room Dr. Frost had sent him to, expecting Jennifer to be brought in at any time for what he now realized had been nearly two hours.
The wait was starting to drive him insane. Only the fact that Dr. Frost had given him an encouraging prognosis for Jennifer earlier had kept him from pacing the small room. That and the fact that if he had gotten up to pace that he would have covered the space of the small area in four steps… making the idea of wearing a hole into the concrete floor beneath him a less than desirable solution to his frustration.
And of course Dr. Frost and any of the medical staff would know for certain that Jennifer's well being truly was what people were gossiping about – critical for his own survival.
The curtains parted suddenly and Jon bolted upright from his seat on the bed before fixing his eyes on the pale form on the stretcher two men were bringing in, followed by Dr. Frost. Quickly he pulled the covers from the bed and with Dr. Frost's help, moved the bruised and bandaged Jennifer, dressed in a simple medical gown with her left arm in a cast to her new resting place. The two assistants headed out quickly as Dr. Frost watched Power pull the covers over Jennifer and tuck them securely under each arm and across her chest.
"How is she?" Power asked, his eyes reluctantly tearing away from the form of the woman he loved to the doctor who had done all she could to save her.
"Good… I'm sometimes astounded at what your team can survive out there, but I expect that she'll be awake in the next few hours, and if everything goes as planned ready to head back with you in a week or so," Dr Frost said with a slight smile. "Now since she's settled in and you know she'll be awake fairly soon, are you going to wait on her or did you want to take a bit of a break to get something to eat?"
Jon looked down at the woman sleeping on the bed and felt that dam around his emotions starting to erode. She was going to live, and that meant that he had the chance to tell her how he felt. He looked back up at Dr. Frost and gave her a half smile as he backed up slightly to settle into the chair that he'd memorized the location of in the last two hours of his waiting for Jennifer's arrival.
"I thought as much," Dr. Frost said with a small grin. "I'll leave you now and have Jeremy bring you something."
"I appreciate it… I… we appreciate everything you've done for her, for the team."
"Don't mention it Captain," she replied, shaking her head as he thanked her once again for saving his pilot when she knew that the young woman in the bed had probably saved hundreds of people by her actions as a member of Power's team.
Saving Corporal Chase was simply helping balance the scales.
Within the base, Scout triple checked his connections and circuits as he worked on verifying they could get their systems up and running. With the backup for Mentor Hawk had retrieved along with the back up power suits, he'd been able to skip trying to see if any of Mentor's systems had survived. Instead he'd just load up Mentor's backup and go from there.
He'd been able to get most of the computer systems in the command center up and running after rerouting a lot of wiring and stripping that which had melted or been otherwise damaged by Blastarr's blasts or the fire. Once that was done he'd found a port in the main console that he could upload Mentor into the undamaged computer systems.
Without the audio system on the main console working, which he still had to get back up and running, he manually entered his override into the computer and plugged in Mentor's hard drive into the port. After another few moments, he saw the screen fill with a rapid cascade of code, indicating the download process for Mentor's systems was underway. With no way of knowing how long the download would take, he turned his attention to some of the other pressing issues. He wasn't sure if reprogramming Blastarr to think the base was destroyed was the top priority or getting the base back up and running needed to come first.
He sighed as he sat at one of the shattered screens on the main console, pulling wires and components for use elsewhere. If he had weeks to figure out either problem it would have been pushing it, especially without any backup, like he would get from Pilot being there. But instead he needed to work miracles in days for both issues.
"Any progress?" asked Tank, coming into the room to check on his friend.
"Some… not as much as I need. Hawk spot you a break?"
"Yeah. He figured as long as he has a bazooka and a working comm channel he can keep watch over the metal monster," he replied, eliciting a smile from his colleague.
"I'm just glad Pilot didn't listen to the Captain for once. With all the damage done to the command center… we would have lost Mentor without his backup," Scout remarked, indicating the hard drive backup that was even now restoring Mentor to the base's computer systems.
"It's not the first time she's disobeyed him," Michael said, his voice changing, becoming slightly softer as he referred to their injured team mate.
"And god willing, not the last," Robert replied, looking at his friend and team mate meaningfully.
Michael nodded and gave Robert a rueful grin. With Mentor still uploading and Michael there to lend a hand, Robert moved to the recharging stations for the power suits, hoping the damage wasn't as bad as it looked, indicating his intent with a slight movement of his head to get Michael to follow him.
Robert unscrewed the cover plating to the power suit recharging station with a spanner. Michael realized what his friend was doing; recognizing that his arrival would allow him to do the 'heavy lifting' that would aid Robert in getting the charging station back up and running. He reached down to pry the metal casing loose from its mountings which would allow Robert access to the wiring and circuits inside.
"The Captain told Hawk she was hanging on," Tank remarked as he hefted the piece of scorched metal from the outside of the charging station, exposing the wiring and circuitry.
"Still, I'd feel a lot happier if we knew she was out of the woods and on the mend."
"I think we all would like that."
Scout probed deeper into the guts of the machinery that would make or break their ability to use the base again. He ripped out a burned out circuit board that looked like it had been fried from an electrical over load and tossed it aside. Digging through the salvaged ones, he started connecting wires to a new circuit, hoping that it could handle the load.
"The Captain will like that more than the rest of us," Robert remarked with a sly grin as he thought of their leader finally having to stop dancing around his feelings for their pilot.
"I don't doubt it," Michael replied, his own grin lightening his face. "Of course that will mean more work for the rest of us."
A final connection made, the lights on the charging station came on suddenly, the sound of the machine filling the room. Robert looked up in success at Michael, and then turned his head, puzzled.
"Why more work?"
"Because, I fully expect the three of us will be offering to cover for the two of them when they might be too… busy with… other activities."
Robert's eyes widened and mouth dropped open at Michael's salacious suggestion, and then shrugged his shoulders. He could see Hawk offering to take one of the Captain or Pilot's shifts on monitor duty so the two of them could be undisturbed, and if Michael was expecting to do the same…
"Well, then," he said with a wicked grin to his friend, "we better get to hear some locker room descriptions, 'cause the rest of us have been monks for months!"
Michael gave a small laugh before moving the charred cover back into place so Robert could close the gap up, knowing that there were dozens more tasks to attend to if they had any chance of fixing the base before the Captain and Pilot returned.
After having eaten the pretty decent meal Jeremy had brought him, Jonathan Power had set the tray, glass and Jennifer's power suit aside so he could sit next to her, holding her right hand tenderly. The fact that her skin was warm once again had given him hope like nothing else had since the moment he'd listened to her declaration when she thought she was going to die.
Of course he still didn't know what he was going to say to her when she woke, even though he'd had nearly 24 hours to think about it. In all his life, he'd never been in such a position… romantically. He knew how he felt and he knew how Jennifer felt. It was just up to him to let her know what was in his heart and see if she really wanted… something with him. It was one thing to say you loved someone when you were thinking you were going to die… it was a wholly different thing when you knew you were going to live.
However he was fairly sure that she had wanted to tell him about her feelings before that near death confession. Memories filled his mind of standing in her room, his hand touching the Dread Youth hat that she'd worn so… reluctantly. She'd looked at him as if she had the most important thing to say…
And he knew that if she'd said it then he'd have reciprocated, there wasn't any doubt… but now, having nearly lost her, it made his decision to tell her how much he loved her so much more imperative. He never wanted her to think he didn't care about her… love her with everything he had ever again.
With a sudden moan, Jon pushed his thoughts aside violently and focused intently on Jennifer's face as her eyes fluttered and then opened slowly, her vision hazily focusing on the familiar shape leaning beside her. As he saw the recognition of who he was flicker in her eyes he couldn't help the smile that bloomed on his own face.
"Hey, welcome back."
"Jon?" she replied in a rough voice.
She swallowed with difficulty and he reluctantly released her hand so he could reach down and fetch the water that had been with his meal. Carefully he held the cup to her lips and helped her sip some. He drew the cup away before she had too much and set it aside, returning to hold her hand with one hand, the other moving to brush away some of her hair that had become unruly at her movement to drink.
"How are you feeling?" he said softly, his fingers tightening around her hand once again.
"Like… like I should have been dead. Where are we?"
"We're in the Passages… the doctors here fixed you up. We rescued you after you tried to blow up the base. Do you remember?"
Jennifer nodded before taking in a deep breath that made her chest, left arm and stomach ache from the remnants of the surgical intervention to save her life. Memories of the fight, of Blastarr and her desperate call to Jon and the team filled her mind. Then additional images came at her: the sound of the jumpship's engines, Jon's voice calling out her name, looking up to see Jon and Matt checking her and then… nothing. She must have passed out she realized dimly.
Looking at Jon as he sat there, letting her take her time in processing everything she remembered the feeling of relief, of hope when she'd heard the ship's arrival at the base as she faced her death at Blastarr's hands; knew Jon and the others were coming to her aid. But she still didn't understand why they'd kept coming towards the base, knowing she was going to destroy it. If she'd succeeded, they all would have died. She blinked slowly before she pinned her Captain and the man she loved with her blue gaze.
"Why didn't you stay back?" she asked, confusion and disbelief in her voice as well as visible in her eyes.
At her statement silence filed the space as he fought down the pain those words brought him. Jon looked at her, his face filled with hurt and love, truly and fully unmasked for the first time since he had heard her final words to him over the jumpship's comm. The fact that she didn't understand why needed to end now…
"You thought we could… that I could have left you there… that I wouldn't have done everything in my power to get to you in time…" he stated simply, his voice halting at times as he forced out the words that only superficially sounded like a question.
"I…" she started, and at the look in his eyes she stopped, her voice seemingly disappearing at the smoldering, heartrending look she found within them.
"After I… when I heard you say… you loved me… there was no way in hell I was leaving you there… not if I could save you. I love you too much to lose you," he said adamantly, making Jennifer's eyes widen and then tear up. "I would have done anything in that moment to change things… I don't know why I didn't answer you… told you I loved you when you said it to me. Maybe I was too shell-shocked at you saying it; maybe it was because I was scared out of my mind for you. But I never want you to ever doubt how I feel… I told you once you were never alone. I meant it… I love you Jennifer. I'll always be here for you…"
"I love you too Jon… so much," she answered softly, her words almost an unconscious reiteration of her desperate admission a day before.
Leaning over, he lightly kissed her lips; a chaste expression of the more passionate feelings he held for her. Pulling back, he watched the wondering and perplexed look on her face at his actions.
"When you're feeling better I'll truly show you how I feel about you," he said with a smile that elicited a similar one from her. "But for now… we focus on getting you better, and I'll tell you what you missed."
"I like that plan… I like it a lot."
-End Ch 3-
Wow, super emotional ending here. I'm not sure when (or if) I'll continue… I know there's lots more to cover (the return to the base, Blastarr getting 'released' and the like), but I'm not sure if I have those ideas in my head quite yet. So if there's more, I'll post them. But otherwise, thanks for reading (and your patience) – Ms. J.