Groggily, Amaya began to come to, looking around and finding herself to be alone this time, in a unadorned cell, laying on her side in a simple bed. Still slightly dizzy from the effects of the sedative she had been given, she moved to rub her forehead with her hands, only to receive a sharp shock reminding her that her hands were restrained by a set of stun-cuffs.
"Ow…" she mumbled, shifting and flexing her arms to try and work out the numbness that the shock had given. As she did that, she took a moment to look around the room; it was nothing special, just a simple four-walled metal room with a bed in one corner, a toilet in another. On the far side from the bed was the door, solid and heavy. As her eyes scanned the room, they paused on one spot of the wall that looked slightly different from the rest of it, judging it to be a panel of transparisteel just large enough to house a camera, she moved on.
Nothing else in the room caught her eye so she leaned back over her shoulder to look at the stun-cuffs on her slender wrists. Giving them an irritated look, she flexed her body around, smoothly crawling through her own arms, ending with her arms resting in front of her.
Now that she was a bit more comfortable, and had a better view of the restraints, she began to curiously inspect them, rolling her wrists around letting her see every angle of them.
"Well, we can add 'very flexible' to the girl's file." The comment came from a lab-coated man who stood watching a monitor showing Amaya sitting in her cell, examining the cuffs on her arms.
The room was dimly lit, the available light primarily coming from various monitors and computers gathered around the room. Seated at one of these computers, and reviewing footage of the previous interrogation was the middle-aged lady scientist Dr. Chase Zavodney, who currently had a look of disbelief spreading across her face.
"Aaron, that's hardly interesting enough to add to her file…but this certainly is," she said, gesturing at the monitor.
The taller man walked over and leaned over her shoulder, looking at the monitor, "What am I looking for?"
"Look at her eyes."
"Yeah, the pupil is really dilated, we've been over this."
"No, its not, look at this zoomed in." The camera zoomed in rapidly on her eyes, closing to the point of only showing the apparent hyper-dilated pupil and the almost non-existent iris around it. "Right here," the scientist said, pointing at what appeared to be a thin line in the midst of the pupil.
"Is that…a division?"
"Watch when it expands and you tell me." She pressed a button and the image rewound to show her eye back to normal, then slow motion clicked forward as her pupil appeared to dilate, only the pupil itself never changed as a thin rim of iris around it remained as the rest of the black expanded around it.
Her male counterpart was speechless.
Dr. Zavodney summed it up from him, "Her pupils don't dilate, a second pupil opens around the first one."
"So…what does this mean?"
Sitting back in her chair, the head-scientist looked at the screen, "From all the data we have, I have to conclude that…I have no idea. She has a second pupil that opens whenever her neural patterns spike; and these spikes are far higher than anything we've ever documented. That's all we know so far."
The two sat in silence for a moment, until the door to the room rushed open and a young man, apparently a lab assistant run in, panting and holding a few disks in his hands. "Ma'am, the results came back from headquarters."
A smile broke on the doctor's face as she stepped up and took the disks from the assistant, "Thank you David." The young man nodded and stepped back out the door, closing it behind him.
Aaron looked curiously over at the middle-aged lady, "Results?"
Slipping the disk into the computer, she replied, "Yes, headquarters has more advanced equipment than we do in mapping neural patterns, so I passed along the data we collected to see if…" Her speech failed as the data came up on the screen, and she simply looked at it in slight shock.
"What is it?" he looked at the screen, "Th-that's not possible, these levels are higher than even a telepath's brain could sustain, it'd burn out the nerves, they'd run out of nutrients and shut down."
"I suppose that would explain what we found in the CAT-scan, as well as her blood samples."
"An abnormal amount of blood vessels in her skull cavity, and a far higher than normal hemoglobin count in her blood. It seems that her power centers around her brain somehow, her entire body is constructed to support it, and allow her mind to operate at such a level. Is she just super-humanly intelligent?"
"No, we've encountered them before, and they still don't operate on a level like this, this all seems to be triggered by something, but I can't figure out what."
Dr. Zavodney stood up from her seat and walked over to the monitor, looking at the girl as she stood up from her bed, turned around to face in, then knelt down near a corner of it. "What secret is she hiding from…"
The woman jumped abruptly as Amaya struck the edge of the bed with a single point near the center of the cuffs. With a light pop-hiss, the restraints unlocked all on their own, and dropped towards the ground, only to be caught and placed on the side of the bed by the young meta-human.
Aaron jumped from his seat, "I'll call the guards."
Catching the younger man by the wrist, the doctor shook her head, "No, just watch her, she isn't trying to escape."
In her cell, Amaya gently sat back down on the bed near the deactivated stun-cuffs, then pulling her legs up onto the bed as well, she turned around so her back was to the camera, and pulled her knees to her chest, hugging her legs. Burying her face against her knees, her mind ran back through all the events of the past little while, the attack on the farm, Jayce protecting her, being captured, and interrogated while being wired up like a lab rat.
Her small frame shuddered as she thought of all the destruction, pain, and death she had witnessed in the past few days, and all the memories it brought back. She hugged herself tighter as a few stray tears began to trace lines down her cheeks. Finally choking back a sob, the girl dropped sideways on the bed, still curled up, crying freely, alone, and afraid.
It had been almost three weeks since he had first been rescued, and he had learned his way around the good ship Slipstream quite deftly by this time. Some of it had been just by his wandering, other times he had been escorted. This time, though, Jayce was alone. He had made a quick stop by the hangar bay, and after palming a few objects, was walking his way down a hallway that had quickly become familiar to him.
"Good afternoon," he greeted a single guard. The guard smiled knowingly, and turned, quickly entering a code into the pad next to the door. The door popped open, and Jayce sauntered in, greeting a smiling girl sitting quietly on her bed. The door hissed closed behind him, leaving the two secluded alone.
"Check it out," he smiled, producing various odds and ends of parts he had managed to obtain from throughout the ship. She smiled excitedly, and proceeded to hide the items throughout the room, so that they wouldn't be seen when he left, and she could still have them to work on later.
Jayce sat down, his face growing serious. "Amaya, how are you doing, seriously." He still remembered the first time that he had been to this cell; she had been curled up in the corner of the bed, and had spent the majority of the time crying. Over time, she seemed to be getting better, but he just had to make sure.
The blonde sat back, thinking it through for a few minutes before answering. "At first, I was mad that they kept me here, but I think I understand why. They still haven't figured out that I really don't have a power, but they have started to lighten up on me a lot."
Jayce smiled, and sat down on the bunk next to her. "I'm trying to convince them to release you out of here and to me, but they won't have it. At least not yet. I'm not gonna stop on them, though."
Amaya smiled, but sighed. "I kind of expected this though. After all, I am what they would consider to be their enemy, and you're just a passenger."
"Ah, but that's just what you think," Jayce smirked back. "The Devil Dog Squadron has been letting me help them with the maintenance on their Venoms! I even got a chance to run a few simulation missions with them!"
Amaya pouted playfully. "I can't believe they let you work on one of those human fighters. I've been dying to get my hands on one."
The Slipstream shuddered slightly as it dropped through a gravity well, and into a different system. Amaya's eyes lit up. "I think we just went through a worm hole!" she whispered excitedly. "So that's how they move around so fast!"
On the bridge, scanners started blinking annoyingly, and alarms started going off. The officer in charge at the time's jaw dropped, and he grabbed a nearby comms unit, keying up to the captain.
"Captain," he said, his voice near panicked. "We have a problem."
Admiral "Raz" Gilliam was an upstanding officer in the Meta-Human Imperial Navy, but never, in all his years, had he been surprised as he just had. A human carrier had literally 'popped' into the system his fleet was patrolling. There had been no warnings, no signals, it was as if ten seconds ago, the ship had literally not even existed, and now, here it was, just three hundred thousand meters off his bow. Luckily, he prided his ship on being the fastest response team in the entire fleet, and now it was time to show it.
"Battle stations!" He shouted across the bridge. Immediately, the bridge darkened to a red glow, alarms went off, and weapons armed themselves. Fighters and bombers poured from the landing bays along the bottom of the heavy cruiser.
Captain Aponarte stood on the bridge, a thick sheen of sweat on his forehead. A swarm of fighters from the Meta-Human command ship was already inbound on them, and his own pilots were barely able to get theirs started at this point.
A single, long range blast lanced out from the attacking craft, and tore through a section of their hull.
"Damage report!" he shouted.
"Sir, we've lost our integrity on decks fourteen and fifteen, between frames one-eight-four to two-zero-four. It's losing atmosphere fast, but we've sealed it off. All souls inside presumed dead."
The Captain dropped his head. Those were pilots' quarters that had been destroyed.
"Are the shields up yet?"
"Sixty seconds, sir."
"Get the remaining pilots into their fighters, we have to hold them off until the Grav-Drive is ready for another jump."
Jayce stood overtop of Amaya, protecting her with his own back from the ceiling that had caved in. He grimaced, and slowly turned to face the door. A door which was no longer there. The wall had buckled, and the door had sheered off. A bloody slick was oozing out from under where the door had fallen…the only sign left of the friendly guard who had been minding the post. Without a second thought, Jayce grabbed Amaya by the wrist, and drug her out of the room.
Jayce and Amaya raced into the hangar bay, and slid to a grinding halt. Although most of the Shivs had already exited the ship, to their assigned defensive points around the hull of the Slipstream, a lot of the fighters still hung in their cradles, ready to launch, but missing pilots. Jayce grabbed a random tech as he walked by.
"What's going on?" He demanded.
The tech looked back at him, his face blank. "It's the Meta-Humans. We dropped into a system, and literally right on top of them. We took a bad hit in one of the pilot wings, and lost a lot of our fighter pilots."
A single name fell from his lips. "Kela…"
"She's fine." The tech assured him. "For now. I saw her go, along with the other Shiv pilots are out along the hull in their defensive positions."
Jayce nodded, and the tech hurried away to his duties. The gleam in his eye never left, though.
"Amaya, I need to get one of those fighters started."
The blonde at his shoulder glanced at him nervously.
"C'mon!" he shouted. "I'm not just going to sit here. If I'm going to die, it's not going to be without a fight."
Amaya nodded, understandingly. Jayce had always been like this. He had to get involved in everything. She followed him over to one of the sleek, smooth fighters that rested gently in its launch sling. The engines were already warmed up, and the weapons systems hot, but it needed a pilot's code to open the canopy…a pilot that would never return to it.
Amaya glanced once at the unfamiliar fighter, and something clicked. She pulled out her most beloved possession, a small multi-tool that could manipulate itself into a variety of hand tools. It snapped open in her hand, responding to the gentle flicks of her wrist, and she quickly pulled a single panel off the side of the fighter. Her hands flew in a blur as she literally rewired the entire console behind the panel, and slapped the sheet of metal back into place. The canopy slid back, and Jayce dropped into the Venom's cockpit, and with a jab of a button, slid the transparisteel top back over his head. Amaya's troubled face looked through the clear metal at him. She breathed a hot breath against the canopy, fogging it up.
'Come back alive' her finger wrote into the fog.
Jayce nodded, his face serious as he ran over the slightly foreign equipment in front of him. It was true that he had run a few simulations with the squadron, but even then he was walked through the whole thing, especially the takeoff and landing. His mind raced as he recalled the different procedures to getting the fighter out into space, and he carefully flipped one switch after another.
The fighter's engine roared to a crescendo, and he could see Amaya covering her ears from the tremendous noise. A long, heart-stopping moment passed as Jayce eyed one last button. After a deep breath, his finger finally mashed down on top of it, and he was promptly thrown back into his seat from the acceleration. The sling shot forward on its electric rails, until it slammed to a stop at the end of the catapult-like launch. The fighter disengaged the moment before the sling stopped, and was rocketed out through a shimmering force field, and into hard vacuum.
"Sir, we have one unauthorized launch from bay twelve!"
The Captain looked over to his flight control team, eyeballing the Flight Boss.
"Devil Dog four has launched." One of the flight controllers called out.
"Devil Dog four was confirmed dead in the initial attack," Captain Aponarte mumbled. "Get the pilot onscreen."
A small screen appeared in Jayce's view, Captain Aponarte's face could be made out through the static.
"Pilot, identify yourself."
Jayce decided that he wasn't going to give the old man the pleasure of viewing his face back, and responded voice only. "It's Jayce, Sir."
He could hear the bridge in a full buzz from beyond the picture he could see, but he chose to ignore it. Before another word could even be spoken, Jayce answered their questions for them, albeit not how they might have wanted them to be.
"I'm not turning this bird around. I'm not going to sit helpless on the floor while we get shot at. I'll leave you now, I need to get on the tactical frequency so I can fight with the others."
With a hiss of static, Jayce flipped channels over to where he could hear the different Venom pilots chattering away. They were less than sixty seconds away from contact with the Meta-Human fighters, and he was another ninety seconds behind them. His hands flew over the controls, arming everything he could find. He knew the squad waited until they were ready to fire to arm up their weapons, but there was no way he was going into this fight like a cold turkey. For a brief moment, his radar image literally obscured everything on the screen as the missiles in the belly of his craft hummed to life, and kicked on their own scanners.
Everyone knew there was a new pilot out and about.
Jayce was oblivious to his own mistake, though, and pressed the engines as hard as he could, actually gaining on the other fighters. The dogfight started mere seconds before he got there, and before he even knew what had happened, he was in one side, and out the other. A gasp escaped his mouth as he let out his held breath. A long moment passed as he gathered his thoughts, and turned the fighter about, drifting backwards for a brief moment before he fired off his thrusters, and launched himself back into the fight. This time, he was prepared for the ordeal, and locked onto the nearest Meta-Human fighter. Lances of light spat from the gun mounts of his fighter, and tore into the unsuspecting craft. It disintegrated into a cloud of shrapnel, and he turned his attention to another. It was just like the simulations.
Line up the shot, squeeze the trigger.
Line up the shot, squeeze the trigger.
Kela's Shiv crouched, silent in the hard vacuum. The Bull's-Eye style mech pulled it's namesake rifle tight to its shoulder, and she waited for her shot to come. As much of a fight as the Venoms were putting up in the dog fight, the overwhelming amount of Meta-Human fighters was driving the swarm closer and closer to the Slipstream, and sooner than she would have liked, she found herself pulling the trigger on her rifle. One expertly placed round after another lanced into the side of the Meta-Human fighters, and they exploded in a fiery blossom for a brief instant before the fire consumed the contained oxygen, and smothered itself.
Jayce smiled as he saw his friend's Shiv downing one enemy after another. A shriek of an alarm warned him of a missile lock, and yanked hard at the control yoke, slamming himself back into his seat, and turning the Venom at an impossible angle.
"Devil Dog Four," a voice crackled over Jayce's radio, "Turn to point oh five, I'll cover you."
Jayce didn't hesitate. His fighter turned almost vertical, and he burnt his thrusters for everything they were worth at the same instant as another Venom ran headfirst into the path he had just vacated. Missiles poured from the fighter's bays, and tore Jayce's pursuer to pieces.
"Thanks." Jayce breathed into the radio.
"Keep your head in the game kid," the voice crackled back. "We all know you ain't Four, but you've proved you can shoot. Prove to us you can survive as well."
Jayce scowled, and kept leaning back on the control yoke, bringing himself into a full two hundred and seventy degree flip, so he was coming straight down at the point he had just vacated. Fire erupted from his twin cannons, tearing apart three separate targets as he feathered the rudder controls.
Kela sat stunned for a moment. Was that Jayce's voice she had just heard?
"J-Jayce?" she let venture over the radio waves.
"Hey Kela, you ok?" his response came through easy and strong.
The Shiv pilot turned, emptying the magazine of her rifle into another fighter. She ejected the magazine, and reached into the sling on her mech's back for another.
A single Meta-Human fighter took advantage of the Shiv's momentary lack of defense, and broke from the dogfight. A literal hail of missiles fired from the bays of the fighter, and burned in crimson streaks towards her.
"No..." she whispered, not noticing her moment of regret had escaped into the open airwaves.
The Shiv Pilot's head jerked at the voice, and an electric blue flash burned across her vision as a single Venom Fighter blasted between her and the missiles, thrusters burning full on, and obscuring the missile's lock on her Shiv for the bigger target.
The realization came a moment late for the Shiv Pilot, as she realized that Jayce had just purposely picked up the ungodly amount of missiles on his own fighter. She watched in horror as the blindingly fast rockets streaked after the retreating craft.
Jayce grit his teeth, fingers flying over the controls of the fighter, familiar by necessity with the machine.
Kela's jaw dropped as she watched the thrusters cut out from Jayce's Venom. The maneuverable little fighter spun on its axis, until it was sitting broadside to the missiles.
Jayce cranked back on the yoke of his fighter, putting it into a wild head over heels flip. Centripetal force slammed him back in his seat, threatening to black him out. His arm shook as he reached for the control yoke, and thumbed a trigger. Defensive chaff spat from the chutes on the tail end of his craft, and created a cloud of overheated metal. The missiles took the bait, aiming once more for the giant target, and not the silently tumbling Venom in the middle of it all. Crimson streaks blurred past his cockpit, as he fought to bring the fighter back under control. His head swam from the gravitational forces that tore at his body, begging for him to fall under its sway, but he fought on. The tumble eventually slowed, with the encouragement of his maneuvering jets, until the fighter was once again under Jayce's control. He turned the nimble craft back towards the fight, and drifted close enough that he could see Kela inside her cockpit.
"You ok?" He asked, concerned.
Kela was staring back at him, and a key on his monitor noted that she had just set up a secure circuit for the two of them to talk privately on.
"Why did you do that?"
A glazed look came over Jayce's face, and it was visible even from where Kela sat in her Shiv. "You're my friend Kela. You shouldn't have to ask."
Kela stared back at him for a long moment before snapping her rifle back up to her Shiv's shoulder. "Time to get back to work." She said, terminating the call between the two of them.
Jayce smiled across the hard vacuum at her, and fired the thrusters of his fighters, launching himself back towards the fight, as Kela's fire from behind him streaked past, protecting his escape vector until he was once again back up to a decent velocity.
Captain Aponarte paced back and forth across the bridge of the Slipstream.
"Sir! The Grav-Drive is back up, and is ready for another jump!"
"Recall all the fighters, get them inside the jump radius, and bounce us out of here!"
The call came across the general broadcast for the human fighters, and they turned tail leaving massive amounts of firepower in their wake, hoping to stave off the attackers. Defensive fire from the Shivs and the mounted weapons emplacements intensified as they created a wall of lead. Venoms pulled close to their home ship, Jayce amongst them. His Venom floated backwards along with the rest, an unholy amount of missiles and firepower erupting at the flick of his finger. Although the slowly moving wall of fighters took casualties, the Meta-Human fighters were quickly turning into a cloud of molten metal and titanium dust.
As the squadrons of fighters drew steadily closer to the sides of the human warship, Admiral Gilliam watched from the bridge of his cruiser, his eyes narrowed, "Fire main cannon."
"Firing main cannon, aye."
With a powerful roar, a massive blast of energy erupted from the bow of the Meta-human cruiser, streaking with lethal accuracy for the human craft.
With the beam a mere few hundred meters from the craft, something happened. The space around the craft rippled and distorted, then as abruptly as it started, it ceased, and nothing but empty space remained where the enemy ship had been mere moments ago. The energy beam continued on its way, tearing through the empty space and streaming off until it would eventually dissolve into the vacuum.
One single object slowly tumbled, left behind. With merely a thought, the captain enlarged the view of the object, and his eyes went wide. It was a typical human calling card.
"Everyone back out now! Get all the fighters on an outbound trajectory immediately! All engines back flank speed, put some distance between us and…"
A flash of light interrupted him as the nuclear warhead went off. Even without the risk of fire and fallout in space, it was still a deadly weapon. The shockwave raced across the vacuum, and turned the outbound fighters into metal scrap in a heartbeat. The shield at the front of the Heavy Cruiser buckled, sparked, flashed, and finally gave in to the relentless power. Two hundred feet of metal crumpled up like tinfoil before the blast washed over them, leaving the bridge of the craft unharmed, but just barely.
After a moment of the entire crew of the Meta-human ship standing in abject terror of the blast, and shock at the sudden disappearance of an entire battle cruiser, the admiral looked around at his crew, "I want all data on this encounter analyzed immediately."
"Yes sir!" came the reply.