She was in a room of featureless metal walls, cold chilling her. Faint gray light gave the walls an eerie, gloomy color. She looked around the room. (Where?) The metal walls were gray, featureless, and cold. There was a strangling sensation around her throat, she felt like she couldn't breathe, but somehow she didn't choke. (How?) A voice droned on, male and cultured, but she couldn't make out what it was saying. She started walking, slowly, down the narrow hallway. (Why?)
A figure blocked her path. It was tall, taller than her, and cloaked. She stopped, suddenly afraid. The figure lunged towards her. Under the cowl, reflected in dim gray she saw dark skin, black hair, a friendly smile. Terrified, she turned and ran down the hallway.
Another figure. This one had an Asian face with black hair and a sneer on her face.. She knew she ought to lash out, smite it with her Power, but she knew she couldn't. Instead she stopped at the intersection, knowing, feeling the first cloaked figure closing in behind her. Always it was bone-chilling cold. And always that strangling sensation. When the one ahead swooped forward, she gasped and ran down the right-hand-passage, followed by the droning voice.
Two more intersections, a left turn, a right turn, past Duncan cleaning the spotless metal floor. (Who?) To her left, one of the figures came out of a side passage. She dashed down to her right, a passage so thin that she barely fit without touching the walls, though she did not so much as brush them. Ahead she saw another black-cloaked pursuer (Which?) and turned around. Close, so close that they were nose-to-nose, this one had a pale face, blue eyes, long platinum blonde hair. Smiling, blood-red lips. Something about this one froze her right in her tracks, even if she knew the hallway was becoming smaller, that doors were closing off, that the other two pursuers were closing in. Only when the first one gestured towards her neck could she duck and run down a side passage that was barely high enough for her to crouch in. Again she ran, and again her pursuers closed in. In dim grayish glow she saw Johnny's old Corvette and ran around it, stepping over the man's legs as he worked on the suspension, the mechanic oblivious to her passage. Oblivious, too, to the pursuer that swooped passed him. She ran down the narrow passage, only to find her way blocked again. She turned into a side passage, swallowing hard to try to get past the strangling, shivering in the cold. The droning urged her to stop but instead, she ran harder.
Out of an alcove the dark-skinned pursuer came out, right in front of her. Panicking, she turned around, only to come face-to-face with the Asian. She was trapped. She fell to her knees, unable to breathe, chilled to the bone, while the two cloaked figures loomed over her.
Screaming, she struck out at them with all her Power.
Raven's shrill scream broke the night's silence. Then a loud crash as she cracked the reinforced-concrete ceiling.
Aasha sprung upright and wide-eyed in her own bed. With a pop, a cable popped free of her chest and clatter to the floor. She had been dozing, feeling the strangely hypnotic throb of the recharger through the connection to her chest. She was so startled by the scream, she had completely forgotten about it.
Aasha went to her door and slapped a hand on the door access panel. It slid open and she went through at a run. She skidded to a halt at Raven's room.
Raven was curled in the middle of the bed, trembling and crying. The covers, blankets and pillows were swirling around the room, borne by an unnatural wind, as were Raven's discarded clothes from the day before, the alarm clock, and two solid stone raven sculptures that decorated the room. As they < BR>watched, the heavy wooden dresser tipped to the side and fell, pushed by Raven's uncontrolled power.
Aasha moved in without hesitation, whirling objects or not. She jumped and turned as she charged in, trying to dodge the flying debris. To a large extent, she was successful, but managed to catch a small flying statue of a raven in flight in the shoulder. It tore the loose-fitting nighty she was wearing and knocked her momentarily off balance.
The next moment she was at Raven's side. Taking her arm with surprising gentleness she shook Raven. "Raven, wake up! You need to wake up now," she said. Something impacted the back of her head suddenly, causing her to lurch into the side of the bed.
Raven looked up to gaze at Aasha, her teary eyes unfocused and full of fear. She let out a terrified little cry when she recognized Aasha. Immediately the Indian woman was roughly shoved away by a telekinetic push, prying her loose grip off the girl's arm and sending her hurtling back away from Raven. The force wasn't enough to harm the cyborg, though she did smack into the wall with a resounding clap. She stumbled forward as the force subsided.
A dresser, disturbed by the force, creaked and fell forward, toppling her and pinning her foot. Aasha yanked her foot from under the it and rose to er knees looking frightened and startled. She called out, "Raven, stop it! You're hurting me. You're going to hurt yourself!"
~Come on, Raven. Get it together! I don't want to hurt you,~ she thought desperately.
"Stop chasing me," Raven whimpered, hugging her legs and burying her face in her knees. Her shoulders shook with sobs; around her the maelstrom abated somewhat, the heavier objects drifting to the ground even though clothes and hair were still caught in the unnatural hurricane. "Why are you chasing me?" she added in a soft voice.
Aasha moved forward, still on her knees to present a somewhat sma ller target for flying objects to crash into. "Raven. You're in your bedroom." She made it to the side of Raven's bed with only a few more bumps and scrapes. "You're safe, and no one wants to hurt you." Aasha raised her hands and spread the fingers. "No one will touch you unless you want them to," she told Raven softly. Aasha leaned in slightly to catch Raven's half-awake eyes.
Raven blinked a few times in quick succession. "What... what happened?" she asked dazedly. "I was... I was getting chased... by you..." She looked around confusedly, as if she didn't recognize the place. Of course, the swirling clothes didn't help to clear out her confusion.
"It was just a dream," Aasha was quite disheveled, and her night gown was badly torn, but the cyborg unselfconsciously ignored it. She offered a hug, if the upset esper wanted one and looked at Raven carefully.
"A dream... oooh..." She seemed to notice then that the room was in disarray and closed her eyes, her hands on her temples, concentrating. At last the maelstrom slowly subsided completely. Raven opened her eyes and gratefully accepted Aasha's hug. "I'm sorry for the trouble... It was scary..."
"Raven? Would you feel better if one of us stayed with you the rest of the night? I can, or I'm sure Duncan would be happy to stay with you, too. This is a strange place."
"I... don't know," Raven said. "It might be a good idea... This place creeps me out. This whole thing does."
"It's so close and heavy in this underground place that I don't blame you for having a nightmare." Aasha tightened the hug, providing reassurance and comfort only the presence of another caring person can bring.
Raven hugged her back contentedly, her trembling subsiding until it was barely perceptible. She stayed in the hug quietly, saying nothing.
Aasha smoothed Raven's hair with one free hand, thinking of a time when she had done the same fo r someone else, now long gone. She let Raven go. "I'll stay here then, for the rest of the night," she said softly. "And don't feel bad about the nightmare, Raven. I get them, too. Overactive imagination. I can't watch a scary movie without ending up lying awake all night. Weird for a cyborg bodyguard, huh?" She gave a Raven a secret smile and continued in a soothing, quiet voice. "But don't worry. I'm only scared of imaginary stuff."
Raven chuckled at that, relieving some of the tension. "Well, I guess we're set unless we're attacked by ravening make-believe monsters," she said. She smiled in gratitude at the reassuring cyborg. Aasha was treating her much like a kid again—but Raven decided she needed some motherly comforting right now. "Betcha you don't make a mess like this when you get a nightmare, though."
Aasha grinned and nodded. "True. But we can fix this easily enough in the morning. Do you need anything before we get settled down again?"
Raven coughed. "I think I could use a glass of water," she said.
"I'll get you one. Be right back," she stood up and moved to the kitchen. In a moment she returned with the glass and knelt beside the bed. She also carried a cool, damp cloth and moved to touch it to Raven's brow. "Here you are," she said as she handed her the water.
Raven took the water with a grateful smile and took a long gulp, then set the water on the bedtable before settling back on te bed.
Aasha walked around to the other side of the bed. She looked uncharacteristically shy for a moment. "Um if it's okay, then I'll just lay right here where you can find me if you need me."
"Sure, if it's no trouble," Raven said with a thankful smile. "I don't want to embarrass you."
Aasha smiled and looked at Raven. For a moment, a flicker of warm familiarity whispered in the dark eyes of the cyborg.
She lay back on the bed. ~I haven't done this in years. Not since my little sister still lived with Dad and I and she was still having nightmares over what happened to Mom at the factory.~ Aasha stared at the ceiling, letting her mind drift through those old memories for a while. Eventually, she found herself looking at Raven and wishing things were different for the imprisoned esper. For what seemed like the tenth time since Aasha met Raven, she promised herself she would try to free her from this criminal bondage.
Raven lay quietly on her side watching Aasha, too riled up by her nightmare to go back to sleep quickly. ~It's nice of her to stay to comfort me~, she thought. ~She looks really embarrassed by it.~ She sighed. ~It must be part of the job. Still, it's nice to have her...~ The Indian cyborg seemed fitful as well; she turned to face Raven, watching her silently, her expression turning to deep sadness. "Is something wrong?" the telekinetic queried solicitously.
Aasha hadn't been sleeping. "No. All will be well." She slid a hand, hidden under the covers toward Raven, seeking hers.
Raven curiously looked at Aasha as the cyborg took her hand.
Hidden in the dark, beneath the covers, Aasha's fingers began tracing a pattern upon Raven's palm. Had Aasha not been watching Raven's eyes so intently she might have thought Aasha was attempting intimacy. Raven moved to say something. "Shh," whispered Aasha and then she repeated the pattern. It dawned upon Raven that Aasha was tracing letters. Closing her eyes and concentrating, Raven felt each letter, traced twice for accuracy spell the words.
Raven opened her eyes and stared at her, eyes widened in bewilderment. She nodded slightly to indicate she'd understood. Aasha watched Raven's reaction, and then spelled, 'I AM UNA.'
The esper frowned. ~The UNA managed to slip in a spy as my minder? Or is this some sort of test?~ She hesitated. ~ If it's a test, it's a really bizarre one—but why would the UNA want to get me out of here? And what am I supposed to do now?~ She looked at Aasha expectantly, awaiting an explanation, a request, *anything* to help her figure that out.
Aasha continued the silent message, spelling, "COMING ST TROUBLE. MAY HURT INNOCENT. I PROTECT UNA PEOPLE. PLEASE HELP ME. I WILL GET YOU OUT." It took nearly fifteen minutes to get it all spelled out and Aasha pretended to fall alseep for the cameras, even as she continued the message. When she finished she opened one eye just a slit to read Raven's reaction.
Raven looked at Aasha's face. *What do I do? I don't think this is a trap... And I don't want anyone hurt, but what does she want me to do for her?* She paused, reflecting. *Does it matter? I need to get out of here. She says she can help me. Even if it's not true I don't have anything to lose.* After another moment's hesitation she took Aasha's hand in her own and in the same manner that Aasha had she wrote "OK" on the spy's hand.
Aasha gave a slow wink and smiled just a little bit. She closed her eyes and appeared to fall asleep.
Raven settled back to stare at the ceiling and think. *So I've just agreed to help a UNA spy posing as a corporate cyborg minder. Now what? What's going to happen?* She closed her eyes. *Just what I needed. More questions and me stuck with waiting for other people to answer them. Just peachy...* Shifting so she lay on her side, she threw it all away with a mental shrug. *Not much I can do about it. Best to sit tight and see what happens next.*
Return to Kazei 5 PBEM Stories