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Aberrant: 2011 - The Video: The Aftermath

Austin Lange

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Austin went over all the data coming in along with eight of his fellows at the Agency. He correlated the data of her last known location according to the FBI. She'd checked into a hotel in Pittsburg but never checked out. Immediately he had them work with the FBI and go through the surrounding hospitals' records looking for patients with the list of injuries that Caramel had suffered. They had found none and thus widened their search to Hospitals within three hundred miles. More personnel arrived and still they found nothing. they Widened their search again during the second hour to six hundred miles.

He was about to pester his Contact in the FBI again for more access and people, but then one of his subordinates rushed up to his desk. "Sir I've got something. It seems there was a woman with Injuries matching what you described In a hospital bed in Boston Memorial. They don't know who she is, and currently have her listed as a Jane Doe. Her injuries are extensive."

Austin looked to the young intern and smiled. "Good work son. In a few days come by my office We'll have a little talk."

He turned to the rest of them. "Good work all of you. You're all free to go back to your homes and families. Tomorrow is a freebie for all of you. Enjoy it. Goodnight and thank you all."

He quickly called and commandered one of the NAMA planes on standby and rerouted it to Boston. The flight was mecifully short and he was met at the terminal by the local department head for the FBI. "Mr. Lange I heard you caused quite a stir this evening, all for some little hussie nova."

Austin stopped, a furious gleam coming to his eyes. "Director Bernard, she's still a human being and after watching the video I challenge you not to do all you can to help this poor woman."

"I have seen the video,hence my presence to personally escort you. I agree it's terrible, but it isn't exactly something one wouldd expect someone of your status to be so upset over."

"I am a man, Director, there are simply some things I cannot, will not abide by when I can do anything to stop them."

The Director nodded and together they took a short car ride tot he hospital. They made their way through, drawing several looks until they came to the room in the ICU where Kara was being kept. The Doctor emerged from the room and looked at each of them. "Can I help you gentlemen?"

Director Bernard spoke up first. "Yes, Doctor Wallace, I spoke with you earlier."

"Ah yes now I remember. You said you had information regarding a Jane Doe here. That you could make an ID." Austin reached out, trying to feel another node in the Ward. The room behind the Doctor radiated very faint quantum energy.

He nodded. "It's Her Director. She's in there." He turned to the Doctor. "Forgive me, I am Austin Lange, head of NAMA. The woman in that room is Kara B'Nath; or as the rest of the country knows her, Caramel Bath. She was brutally mutilated and the video is now making its rounds on the Opnet. Please Doctor, tell me she is going to be alright?"

Doctor Wallace looks to Austin and frowns. "I don't know. She has so many injuries her onw healing abilities are stressed far beyond their limits. If she were not a nova she'd be already dead. In adittion to the loss of her fingers, eyes, ear lobes, and tongue, and all the other lacerations and stab wounds, she has four broken ribs, her left arm is broken, and roughly seventy five percent of her body is covered in bruises."

Austin stood there dumbstruck. he'd never heard of someone surviving that kind of trauma. It was on the verge of making him physically ill, but he steeled himself. "Doctor please I know she needs her rest, but can I please say a few words to her?"

The Doctor looked about to say no, but considered the company this man was keeping. "Go on in, but only a moment. She won't be able to respond to you, but say your piece."

Austin went inside and stood over the mutilated body of one of the Nicer people he'd met on N!prime. "I know you can't respond Kara, but you aren't alone. We're going to find the girl who did this, and she will pay. We'll find out why this happened, I'll see justice done."

He managed a weak smile. "I'll have Caduceus here as soon as I can. He'll help you heal. In the meantime you rest, get better and heal. There's still a baseball game next month, and I believe you said you were going to cheer us all on." There was a knock at the door and he wrapped up. "I'll get to the bottom of this. I'll be back to check on you later You just rest now and leave things to me." He tenderly gave her right shoulder a reassuring squeeze and left the room.

"Doctor give her whatever care she requires. I'll be sending a nova healer here soon to help keep her healing. Please cooperate with him and allow him to do what he's come to do." The Doctor nodded and Austin and the Director left. "You've seen the video?"

"Yes, and we're already looking for the girl in it, the one who tortured her." "I'd be much obliged if you kept me informed sir. And thak you for your discretion on this. Keep the Media away as long as you can. I owe you one for all this."

"Yeah, you do, but that's how The Game is played isn't it?"

"Yes, it is." With that Austin went off to the NAMA office in Boston and began letting the others know what was going on and just how they could help. He started with Caduceus, remembering his offer to help and praying he was a a decent nova healer as his name implied.


I've found Kara. You mentioned you had access to a Teleporter. If you would, please come to the Boston office of NAMA. From there we'll go to where Kara is. I'm hoping you're a nova healer like you nick implies. Please respond as soon as you can.

Austin "Deepwater" Lange

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Evan figgitted on his keyboard, waiting to hear back from Bellator. He was praying the teleporter would contact him before the Air France flight left for Boston. Over and over again, he saw the horrific wounds being inflicted upon Kara's body. Evan kept his sanity by surgically analyzing each stroke, cataloging clinically the damage done ... and moving on. It almost worked. Though he had only watched the video once, it would not be something he would ever forget. It would not be something he could totally divorce his emotions from, either.

This was someone he knew, had touched, danced with and laughed with. She had a name, a life, a history, no matter how minute, with him.

What do you think butchery looks like, he asked himself. Sure, this Cyn is a psychopath, but aren't all people who practice war somewhat? If I can't stomach this ... for her ... because I know her ... I like her ... I knew her before this ... she's more than some random casualty ... and I should always remember that, about all of them.

It was early morning in Paris. The sun would be up soon. Springtime in Paris - come see the sights, and all he wanted to do was get out of here as soon as possible. To get to her.

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Bellator checked his computer, spotting the flashing envelope of an incoming message.

Hmmm. Paris, never been there. Good thing he's still on.

He writes back, waiting impatiently for Evan's response.

Okay, he's setting up a link to the infirmary so I can see where I'll be going.

Bell leaves a final message with Evan. He stands up and concentrates, focusing on his mind on the image on the computer screen. Bell fades out.

In the infirmary of Terminal Seven of DeGualle International, Bell fades in in the area that had been cleared for his arrival.

"Whew. I made it." He looks around and finally spots Evan. "Nice to see you. Wish it was under better circumstances. Where we going?"

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Evan hugs the man as soon as he arrives.

"Boston's Logan International. We are to go to the helipad. A Coast Guard helo will take us to the proper hospital."

Now that Bellator is here, Caduceus calms down a bit and seems less grim.

"Boston? Good, I've been there," Bellator responds, keeping his wits about him. With a tingling of quantum infusion, the two novas blink across the Atlantic in a single thought.

Being past midnight, the terminal they land in is not crowded. Evan scans around until he sees an airport security guard. He starts running toward the guard, but Bellator holds him back with a slight jerk.

"Calm down, Doc. I know were to go."

Motioning toward one end of the terminal and a door marked 'Helipad', "Let's go."

Caduceus turns and follows the other nova's directions, while the other nova effortlessly keeps up.

"I didn't 'port us outside because I wasn't sure were the helicopter was. It wouldn't do to land too close to one, understood?"

The image of what might have gone wrong if Bellator hadn't been cautious crosses Evan's mind and he pales slightly. The two still burst through the door and start running to the open door of the waiting Coast Guard Sea Stallion.

"Mr.'s Bellator and Caduceus?" the Guard warrant officer asks.

Both men nod and the officer helps them into the copter. Already, the engine is revving up as the officer straps the two passengers on before taking his duty station. The helicopter rises and takes off over the city.

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Austin acknowledged the confirmation that the other two novas were on the way. He made his way to back to the Hospital and waited for them to arrive at the Helipad. He went over a quick rundown of the pertinent details while he waited, hoping that these two friends of hers would be able to provide her some solace.

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The Sea Stallion swept over Boston Memorial hospital, zeroing in on the helipad. They could see two men, one in a suit, and the other in hospital garb, on the stairs leading to the helipad. As the helicopter roared down, Caduceus leaned across and yelled to Bellator,

"That must be Austin Lange. He's the guy who brought us here. He found out which hospital Kara had been taken too. He is with the Federal Government."

Bellator nodded, not neededing to yell anything over the howl of the engines. The very moment they touched down, the warrant officer lept up from his station and freed his two passangers. All he gave them was a thumbs up as the two novas departed.

Bellator and Caduceus crouched as they ran to meet Austin and the attending physician who had accompanied him. Once the helicopter had receeded to a dull roar the men began talking.

"I'm Austin Lange with the NAMA. This is Doctor Randal Wallace. He'll be updating you on Ms. B'nath's condition," Austin began.

Caduceus nodded saying, "Dr. Evan Sigmar - Project Utopia; S&T. Doctor, Mr. Lange, lets get going."

Bellator nodded his greetings, waiting to speak only after the group had started moving into the hospital.

"Bellator," he said with grim seriousness. "I'm here to get Kara whatever she needs and to get whomever is responsible."

Even as they moved, the group split in two. Evan and the doctor began going over Kara's grim condition, what test results they had, and what they were still waiting on. Austin and Bellator began approaching the situation from a criminalist's viewpoint - were Kara was found, were she was last seen, and what had been gleamed from the Opnet post. Both groups had long nights ahead of them.

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"Yes, I like to think I know her well. I've seen the video and it disgusted me, but I forced myself to watch it. If I get my hands on or near that bitch..." He shakes his head and looks right at Austin. "What information can you give me about who did this and what are you doing to protect her in the hospital from a repeat performance? I don't feel ready to go in there just yet. Let me center myself first. I've seen some casualties in war that come close, but the fact that it's a good friend means it is really intense." His expression hardens, and his brow furrows. "Okay. I'm ready to see her, if the docs will let me in. Just do me a favor... don't watch me, okay?"

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"I have notified the local police, and they have several deputies on station here in the hospital. So far nobody knows her identity but us, and I plan to keep it that way. The last thing we need is a mob of paparrazzi out here. I'm affraid my access to the means to take down the criminal who did this are limited, but the FBI is aware and is trying to track her down as we speak. They haven't called me back yet, with an id but once we get one we'll have a better grasp of things."

He looks down. "As for seeing her, I too have seen alot over the years, but this level of barbarism exceeds anything I thought Mankind capable of. I want to see justice done for her, not just as a friend, but as human being. People simply shouldn't do this to other people."

"Don't worry I know how hard it can be, I'll wait outside, you come out when your ready. Just be gentle with her, and bear in mind she can't respond at all."

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Whatever Dr. Wallace is telling Caduceus, it can't be good. Evan's face gets grimmer and grimmer until they reach the Critical Care Ward.

"Guys," Evan turns and says as a nurse comes up and starts putting a green smock on him, "let me see her in person and see what I can do before you come in. It will probably be a few hours. I'm sorry."

Austin goes, "Understood", while Bellator just nods darkly.

Once the nurse is done, she motions the two novas to a waiting room were they can figure out what comes next for Kara's attacker.

Evan walks into the room and views the abused body of Kara for the first time. The worse part is the smell. Hidden within the medical smells Evan expects, there is the smell of blood, urine, and dead flesh. It is the smell that no video could prepare him for. Evan steps up to Kara and begins carefully scanning each injury.

"Were to start," Evan mutters through his mask.

"We were hoping you could tell us," another masked figure responds. For the first time, Evan recognizes the other green-clad figures as attending doctors and nurses.

'What can I do?' Caduceus thinks. 'I need someone who ... wait, dummy, I'm in Boston.'

Evan back away from Kara and leaves the room. As he leaves, he tells the others,

"Let me make a call."

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It took Caduceus ten minutes and a threatened lawsuit, but he finally got the call through. “Doctor Adler, I know this is an unusual request, but I have a difficult case here.”

The distinct sound of a lighter was audible over the phone, which was about the only sign anyone had heard a word he said for at least a minute. The voice that answered him, when it finally got around to it, was rough with the tang of cigarette smoke and more than a little derision. "Well, you bulled your way through the front office, so you may as well spit it out already."

"I have a patient with multiple amputations, nerve tissue damage, internal injuries and peripheral scarring all over her body. She is a female nova in her mid-twenties. I can heal some of the damage, but it takes time and comes with gaps between healings. I don't know where to begin."

"Multiple amputations and nerve tissue damage? What was it, thresher night down on the farm?" Adler took a noisy drag from his cigarette, blew it out slowly. "What kind of nerve damage? Any injuries to the primary organs? And how much healing can your local Jesus manage at a time?"

"The patient is the victim of torture, Doctor. Depending on the consistency and size of the tissue, up to 12% of the tissue. Damage to all major organs and bones, most likely from high-speed impact trauma ... arms, legs, spine and skull. Liver and spleen are showing the worst of it. She is missing each finger at the second knuckle. All of them. Both her eyes have been removed by some rough-edged sharp object." Evan's anger leaked into his voice in spite of his best efforts to sound professional.

"Well, that's certainly not boring. Tell your healer to start with the brain and neck; she'll be needing those nerve linkages if she ever wants to be off life support again, and we don't know how far her quantum abilities will be able to go toward fixing that damage on their own. If he's still got any juice left after that, liver if it hasn't shut down and spleen if it shows signs of leakage. Get her on an IV of whole blood, keep her heart and lungs on life support so they don't fail under the strain, and if he's back up to speed in less than a couple of hours then start on the nerves in her spine. She might want use of her lower body later." He could hear rustling in the background, papers being brushed aside and something heavy being dragged from under the desk. "And whatever you do, don't let her wake up. Full morphine drip at all times. Do exactly what I just told you, she might even have a fifty-fifty shot of lasting until I get there."

"Full morphine ... understood. I'm at Boston Memorial. Ask for Dr. Wallace. He's the lead physician on this."

"Boston Memorial? Won't even need a bag. Be there in an hour. And for god's sake, don't let Wallace try anything fancy. He wasn't any good at school, either." The phone cut off with a sharp click.

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The last of his meager power ebbed into the base of Kara's skull and spine. It wasn't enough to bring her around - all that he could do right now was ease the bruised tissue and some of the smallest fractures to the bone, but it was all they had. Evan wanted to talk to Kara, to reassure her that everything would be okay. There were two other novas here, willing to protect her, and another nova on his way to help heal her wounds.

Beneath his touch, Evan felt Kara's quantum signature ripple in a way that counter-acted his gift. From his limited experience, Caduceus knew it would take at least an hour for the resonance to subside so he could heal her again. Thankfully, by that time, Dr. Adler would be here to advise him.

"They don't teach this in Medical School," Evan whispered.

He sat there helplessly and waited, only sure that Kara was in a fitful, but deep drug-induced sleep.

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“Sir. Sir! I'm going to have to ask you not to go that way, sir, that's the Critical Care unit, you really can't go in there! Sir!

Adjusting his grip on his cane slightly, the gaunt man in slacks and a leather jacket paused to fix the nurse rushing after him with a sardonic smile as he yanked the door open and leaned on it a moment. “Really? The Critical Care wing? Well that won't do at all. Where do you keep the really sick people?”

The nurse finally slowed down, hesitated, rallied. “Sir, only staff members are allowed back there.”

“I'm here for a consult. Patient's had a decent selection of her extremities hacked off. Kinda thought that might be more important than signing in at the front desk.” He limped down the hall with nurse trailing in his wake, cutting off her attempt to resume protesting by banging his hand hard on the metal desk of the nursing station. “Kara B'nath, Dr. Wallace attending, God help us. Which room.” The young man behind the desk opened his mouth, and found himself cut off before he got a word out. “No, I don't need another lecture about how only staff are allowed back here. I'm the consult, now tell me the god-damn surgical theater they have her in. And stop thinking about the quality of my jacket, you can't have it.”

The desk nurse hesitated, reached for his computer, typed in a query. “Sir, I'm really going to have to call Dr. Wallace and confirm that he...”

“Theater three, down the hall and to the right. Don't bother.” The man limped off down the hall again, leaving the two nurses to stare at each other in momentary bafflement.

Dr. Wallace's voice, his residents often noted, carried. When he was angry, it carried most of the way through the building. At the moment, Evan Sigmar suspected that there were probably people down near Harvard wondering what that ringing in their ears was. “For the last time, Dr. Sigmar, I am not just going to stand around while this woman ruptures her spleen! I have a top-flight surgical team ready to go, and I see no reason to wring our hands and wait for a diagnostician to tell us what we can plainly see before we start getting this woman some help!”

“Go in there and start cutting things out, Randal, and the only thing you're going to be helping her into is an early grave.” The voice crackled over the surgery's loudspeakers with the authority of a particularly irritable God speaking to Moses about that Golden Calf for the third time, and only professional discipline kept one of the state's best surgical teams from jumping out of their skins in surprise. Leaning his cane against the viewing gallery window, Dr. James Adler tapped a couple of buttons on the monitor keyboard to pull up another set of charts. “She's a regenerator, or she wouldn't have survived the fall she did; the pattern of nerve damage in her neck says several of those fractures your boy did such a good job of healing started out as complete breaks and took a good chunk of the nerves with it. Open her up to cut her spleen out, her body will waste energy trying to grow it back when it has bigger problems to worry about. Like her heart, lungs and liver. Speaking of which, push four cc's of belthazine so her liver function doesn't quit on us in the next ten minutes or so. Come on, boys and girls, we've got work to do; give me the best imaging of the torso you can, starting five minutes ago.”

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What Caduceus lacks in outright authority, he makes up in the ability to organize and thus pick the people key to making things happen. Instead of confronting Dr. Wallace, Evan turns to the head nurse on the team. He nods his head in confirmation of Dr. Adler's order before taking on the rumpled Chief of Surgery.

"Doctor Wallace, your Critical Care Unit isn't the place for this clash of wills. I am happy Dr. Adler had agreed to consult with me about what my abilities can do for the patient. I don't feel comfortable coming into yoursurgery and using my gifts without some sort of guidance. Dr. Adler is an authority on the Unusual and I figured he could help me."

There. Evan had put the weight of Dr. Adler's appearance on him and he had pandered to Dr. Wallace's good graces as much as he cared. All Evan wanted to do was save Kara, and he didn't care if he had to kiss-ass or place a good kick to the balls to get it done.

"Dr. Adler, she is about ready for another regenerative treatment. From analyzing my first treatment, my treatment seems to be diffused into the soft tissue, healing lesions and abrasions, not the core organ or bone damage."

Caduceus let the consulting physician absorb that piece of data while he waited.

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“Shit.” Reaching into his pocket, Adler dragged out a cigarette case and snapped it open, summarily ignoring the “No Smoking” sign in the viewing gallery. He took his time lighting one, let it dangle between his lips while his fingers tapped a couple of keys to bring up different displays of the patient's vitals. “The minor injuries on her skin aren't going to kill her, but that's what her body seems to think, and our resident heal-o-matic can't bypass her node's preferences. That's going to make things more than a little difficult...” He tapped his fingers on the desk for a moment, taking a drag of the cigarette, some of the sarcastic lines dropping out of his face with the intensity of his thought. “First, let's get those surface cuts closed. All of them. Break out the needle and thread, get 'em done as fast as possible; don't bother with tidy, she'll be mending them herself eventually. We'll see if that won't speed things up. Then Sigmar, give her another shot of your mojo and try to focus on the internals as much as you can. After that, we start getting fancy. Wallace, I'm going to need your surgical team to put a probe in through her side and do as much mending as you can manage on the spleen and liver there and as you can through a quarter inch hole. If we start punching holes in this girl she's just going to try to mend them herself, and bugger little things like her brain and major organs, so lets keep the new openings to a minimum. Anybody else have any questions? Then get to it.”

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A little more energy left his body and Kara's skin took on a more healthy hue. Evan was frustrated with his progress, but Adler just nodded. Kara shook ever so slightly in a valiant attempt to overcome her morphine-induced slumber. Within ten minutes the latest test results confirmed the two novas suspicions. With her dermal and large muscle tissue damage now healed, coupled with Kara impressive recuperative abilities, the next round of healing would finally tackle the worst of the organ and nerve tissue damage.

The thing that made the waiting nearly unbearable for Evan was Dr. Wallace's constant hovering and chatter. The human doctor simply hadn't wrapped his mind around the new reality of using Quantum healing techniques on a traumatized, regenerating nova. Were as Adler and Sigmar were working to heal her internal trauma before Kara's instinctive healing ran amok trying to deal with more physical damage than any human body, or human mind, could hope to deal with.

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“Better.” Grinding his third cigarette into the carpet absently, Adler lit a fresh one and took a slow drag while he looked over the results of the last hour's work. “Internal needlepoint seems to be holding up, liver function's improving, steady rise in the lung function. Nerve damage seems to be improving somewhat on its own, but we're definitely going to need another round of healing from Dr. Sigmar before she's stable. Looks like the suture on the left side already healed completely...” He tapped the cigarette against the table a moment, eyes half lidded as he leaned back in his chair. “Looks like it's down to you when you're ready, Sigmar. Could somebody get me three hamburgers, a couple of chocolate shakes, and for the love of god up her morphine dosages again. You want her waking up with her tongue, eyes and half her face missing?”

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Between the passage of two hours and Evan's two healing sessions, Kara has healed all of her Bashing Health Level. From here on out, Evan will be healing Lethal HL, though the actual regeneration of lost appendages and organs will take weeks.

For an instant, Caduceus felt nothing standing in his way. His power coursed into Kara and was not diffused. He felt a joyous moment right up until he moved away from her spinal injuries and tried to regrow her tongue. The power flowed, but the feeling of elation came to an abrupt halt. There was no tongue to heal. Her body took the healing pathways opened up by Evan and stored them in its quantum memory ... for later use. For now, the body could do no more.
"Doctor Adler," Caduceus said angrily, "I've hit a block. I can not regenerate her missing tissue. I could feel the body responding to the spinal treatments, but ..." He stopped, frustrated. He was angry at Cyn, for doing this to poor Kara, and he was angry at himself for not having yet mastered a way around Kara's own regenerative process, and ... and he really hated Cyn, for her deliberate cruelty.
Evan Sigmar looked to Dr. Adler for some kind of answer, even though his gut told him the only answer was time.
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"Was worried about that." Adler tapped the last of his cigarette out against the table, dropping the butt to the floor and leaning forward to look down at the surgical theatre and the painfully earnest look on Sigmar's face. "Mixed blessing of regeneration coming with no handbook; it'll all come back eventually, but after a point your body starts responding to quantum healing like it's a form of injury itself. Her system figures thanks, no thanks, it's got it from here. Stubborn bitch of a thing." His lip quirked in a dry, sardonic smile, and he leaned back in the chair to put his bad leg up. "Do what you can with the spine and internals, Sigmar. The rest, we'll have to let her do the hard way."

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The waiting room was like all hospital waiting rooms; that false warmth that tried to be comforting and instead of as sterile as the rest of the building. It was here that those waiting to hear about Kara's condition were left, those that couldn't help her directly anyway. While the doctors had a hard job, at least they didn't have to wait.

Dexter was curled up in a chair, trying not to shiver. He was aware of the miserable image that he created, but he couldn't care about it at all. His mind kept flashing back to Kara lying bloody on the floor, and the way she she had looked. Tears rose, and the young man brushed at his eyes with a mixture of anger and shame. Real men didn't cry; Rashard certainly wasn't. He was sitting in a chair, perfectly straight, as if nothing was wrong.

He didn't even look up when another person came into the room. He was lost in his personal misery.

Bell looked around the waiting room as he entered and noticed Dexter and Rashard. He nods in passing to Rashard, and makes his way over to the coffee machine. Bell puts in his change and punches the buttons in a bit of a daze. When the coffee arrives, Bell takes a long sip, then he nearly spits it out as he looks at the selections he pressed. He kicks the "rogue" coffee machine dejectedly. Bell sighs and downs the rest of the steaming hot coffee in one gulp. He slowly wanders around the room, until he spots Dexter. Bellator steps up to Dexter, "Dexter, Is that you, man?"

Dexter looked up slowly, his eyes focusing on Bellator. Rashard moved for the first time, looking up at Bellator with suspicion in his eyes. There was something else, too; Bellator had seen it before in men looking for an excuse to become angry and lash out, but where held in line by internal contraints.

"Bellator, from New York," Dexter said, and Rashard relaxed a touch. "You're one of Kara's nova friends." Dexter extended a hand. "It's good to..." He trailed off as he realized that Bellator wouldn't be here if it weren't for Kara being hurt. "I'm glad you're here."

Bell nods, and sighs, "I wish it were under better circumstances. Do you know when we can go see her? I'm hoping that it will be soon. I don't want her to wake up without a friend there." He shakes his head and sits down next to Dexter, "How're you holding up? Waiting like this almost always makes things feel worse, rather than better. Have they given you any information about her condition?"

"Nothing!" Dexter barked, and in that one word was all his pain and frustration. "They haven't told us a god damned thing."

"They'll say something when they do," Rashard said, his dark eyes veiled. "Until then, we wait."

"You deal your way, I'll deal mine," Dexter all but spat. "I saw her-"

"So did I-"

"-and I want..." Dexter's voice trailed off. He hid his face, and the other two men ignored him as he fought back tears.

"She is alive," Rashard said softly, "or she was, when she got here. She is strong. She'll pull through." The faith in his words was complete, but Bellator caught the hint of desperation. Rashard believed she would pull through because he needed her to live.

"Hey, are you family and friends of Ms. B'nath?" a voice asked, and the three men saw a woman in scrubs. "She's been moved to a room. The doctors say that you can see her now. She's unconscious, but they expect her to wake up soon. If you'll follow me?"

Bell taps Dexter on the shoulder, causing him to jump and look up at Bell. Bellator then turns to the lady in scrubs, "Yes, we are. "

Bell and Rashard stand up, and move over to Dexter as he finally stands. Bell ask the young baseline, "You okay to do this?"

Dexter nods and shakes his head as if to clear it. All three of them quickly follow the nurse to the Critical Care Unit, pausing before they enter the room.

When Bell enters the room, he stops as he sees Kara swathed in bandages. Kara... He kneels down next to the bed, his hands resting on the rails. His face turns a distinct shade of green as he looks Kara up and down, then his expression hardens, and his body language becomes tightened and shows barely contained rage.

“Kara, It’s Joe, I’m here for you.”

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"She's not going to be hearing you for a while if we can help it. Which we probably can't." There was a dry, biting humor to the voice from behind them, only slightly muffled by a sense of occasion. "We're doing our best to keep her sedated, which is no mean trick with a regenerator; she's on enough morphine to drop an elephant. You'll forgive us not wanting to wake her up, but with her remaining injuries she's probably better off in dreamland than trying to cope with missing her tongue and eyes just yet." Leaning on his cane, Alder eased into the room and limped over to check Kara's vitals. "Not that we're likely to be that lucky. Your girl here doesn't much like being drugged."

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Deepwater folded the computer terminal after having finished the work that was requred of him. It had taken six hours to do, and in that time his friends at the Bureau had only called to confirm that the trail of the attacker had grown cold. "Keep me posted." was all he'd said before hanging up. He followed to Kara's room and looked at the bandage-swathed form of the traumatized nova. "Damn."

He'd heard the doctor describe their difficulties treating her. He knew things were still pretty bad, but he could feel her signature, and it was obvious her body was working hard to heal her wounds. He laid a hand on Bellator's shoulder.

"She'll pull through this. We have to do our part. Let her fight her battle, there's nothing either of us can do for her riht now, but perhaps we can help track down the sicko who did this to her."

He looks down. "The FBI struck out. My people didn't fare any better. Technically I'm at the end of what I can do within the realm of my title." He shrugs. "That just means we go it alone or with what help we can hire or scrounge up. So my question to you is this. Where do you want to start?"

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"I want to start by getting my hands around that twisted little bitch's throat, and end standing next to her grave, but that's not possible until we find her. I have no clue how to do that. Maybe there's something in the video? But you would have checked that already."

Bell shakes his head and sighs. "Listen, I have no skill at tracking people down. I have skill in other areas, though. Once we find her, I can help in taking her down. Anyway, I'd like to help, but I'm afraid I'd be useless until the takedown."

He leans down next to Kara's unmoving form, and a lone tear runs down his cheek. Bell whispers softly to Kara, "Get better as quick as possible, Kara. I'll be right here waiting for you."

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The purple and yellow from the bruising had faded. Caduceus was sure her next liver panels would show that organ had stabilized finally. Kara still had a ways to go, but she was out of the woods.

Still blind.

Still missing her most crucial method of touch.

Still unable to speak.

She will live. She will get better. She will come back from this. So he hoped, anyway.

Evan looked over to were Dr. Adler was.

"I think its time to reduce her morphine. Its so high now, its counter-productive to her natural healing processes. I know she will wake up, but we can't keep upping her morphine until she finally grown them back. That could take weeks and we'd kill her trying to keep her under."

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"Alternatively, we can let her wake up without her tongue, eyes and fingers. Yeah, that's a good idea." Adler leaned over Kara for a moment, the drawn blinds casting him in shadow for a moment, his fingers tapping lightly on the edge of the bed frame. "On the other hand, hey, you're right. We're going to have to torture our patient just to keep her alive. Isn't that fun?" He shook his head, straightening up. "Cut the morphine. Once we drop the level, her body's just going to cleanse whatever we put in, so no sense just running up the budget."

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A piece of Caduceus' anger with the world comes seeping forth as he says,

"We aren't torturing anybody, Doctor. She's already been tortured. What we can do now is give her the reassurance that she is not alone in this and that the people who care about her are with her now."

He stands up, walks over to the console, and orders the reduction in morphine. Doing so allows him to reign in his rage.

"Dr. Adler, how long do you think it will take before she fully, physically recovers?"

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"Weeks. Maybe months." Adler picked up one of Kara's bandaged hands, examining it slowly. "The tongue will come first; it's a powerful muscle, but just a muscle. She'll have to relearn speaking, of course, because the lower tongue muscles will have atrophied by then. Then there's the fingers. Bone, tendon, muscle. It's detail work, but her body will find it reasonably easy. Two to four weeks, depending on how things come along." He set her hand down again, picking up the chart and glancing through it. "Then there's the eyes. We don't have any recorded medical records for novas regenerating their eyes after having them cut entirely out of their heads; we know it's possible, because novas in combat professions have visibly done so, but we don't really know how long it will take. Based on the rate of cellular regeneration, though, I'd put my guess at around three, four months. Faster if she's lucky. You'll probably want to get her a cane."

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Evan takes the news like a great weight on his shoulders. He nods and searches for the words he will have to find for Kara when the time comes. Months before the outer wounds are gone. How long before the psychological wounds heal? He has to believe that they one day will.

"I'll get on the cane," he responds mutely " ... and sunglasses for her eyes."

What he really wants to know is why he can't do more for her. Why is the world this way, and why can't he make it better.

Caduceus stands up and heads out of the room. He goes looking for Kara's closest friends who have gathered here. Time to give them the grim news and give them something to do ... to take their minds off the enormity of what's happened.

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Dexter took the news gladly, not only that she'd be fine, but that he had the chance to run errands before she woke up. He siezed on the opportunity to do something. Rashard, on the other hand, slipped into her room and took up a position beside her bed. From there, he took up a stance that suggested he couldn't be moved.

The time ticked on, as the IV drained into the young woman's arm. Slowly, the drugged fluid from the last infusion dripped into her arm. They couldn't see when it happened, but the waiting doctors saw the effects. Her heartrate changed, starting to rise. Her respriration changed from a shallow, steady rate to an erratic pulse. They were all signs that she was coming around, as was the small motions that trembled through her body.

For Kara, it was like pulling herself out of a fog, one which should have had other things at the end of it. There should have been light. The hand that slowly lifted to touch her head shouldn't have been bandaged and feeling somehow wrong. And there should have been something in her mouth that wasn't.

Someone was talking at her, but Kara's mind was busy figuring out what was wrong. It wasn't until she tried to feel the inside of her mouth with her tongue that she realized what was missing. It wasn't hard to scream without a tongue, Kara found out. It just sounded horrible and inhuman.

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The noise catches Evan somewhere between wanting to vomit and wanting to cry. Instead, he pulls through and reaches out for Kara's hand.

"Kara! Kara, this is all temporary. You will get over this. This is Evan Sigmar. You are going to get over this, I promise."

What else could he say? He couldn't take away anymore of her pain and he couldn't stand between this trauma and Kara's mind. He wanted to, but he couldn't. All he could do was keep repeating,

"You are going to get better, I promise," until he was hoarse.

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Upon hearing the terrible scream, Bell runs into the room and to the side of the bed opposite Rashard and Evan. He puts a hand on Kara's shoulder, and whispers in her ear, "Kara, please... stop screaming... We're here for you..."He keeps whispering these thoughts to her, and leaves his hand upon Kara's shoulder trying to be comforting.

A tear ran down Bell's cheek and splashed on Kara's shoulder next to his hand.

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Austin stood back, saying a prayer for the young woman lying on the bed.

"We'll find who did this, nd we'll see justice done. People don't behave like this." He placed a hand on Kara's other shoulder. "You are a kindhearted woman. You are strong. You will endure this, you will survive and become more beautiful than before. Your friends will take up your fight now, We will keep you safe."

He steps back and nods to the two nova healers. "Thank you both. Do either of you have any needs that need attending to? Is there some way I can thank you for your help with this?"

He knew Doctors did this willingly, he had the utmost respect for them, but this was different. ANother nova had willfully done this to her. It defied all reason, all logic. It was barbaric in the extreme. A part of him railed against subjecting them to seeing the horror of it so up close and personal, but he knew without them she would be dead.

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"You can get out of her damn sick room and stop talking to a patient who can barely hear you around her pain and the screaming she's doing." Alder shrugged past Austin, Bellator and Sigmar roughly, leaning on the edge of the bed and restraining Kara's mutilated hands before she could continue clawing ineffectually at the bandages covering her eyes. "You're not dealing with a car accident victim here, people, she's suffering from acute post-traumatic stress and probably worse. Now either you can let Dr. Sigmar here escort you out of the room, or I'll have orderlies toss you out. Move it!" There was a steely, unintimidatable authority to his voice, as though it never crossed his mind that considering the power assembled in the room there was very little he could have done if they refused. "Sigmar, get them out of here."

Disregarding them as a problem already solved, Adler looked down at his still screaming patient and silently filled his lungs as he mentally counted off the reasons he hated doing this. Then, with an effort, he reached out with his mind and shoved a handful of words directly into Kara's pain-wracked brain. My name is James Adler, Kara, and I'm your attending physician. Now STOP SCREAMING before you hurt yourself further.

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Evan stood away from Kara's side and moved to the other two novas.

"Bellator, Austin; we've said what we can to Kara for now. We need to give her some time to come to grips with were she is."

Caduceus only gave a passing glance to Rashad before confining his efforts to the two men with him.

"We need to talk about what comes next."

Once out of the room, Evan continued.

"For starters, what about her place in Miami? Is it safe, and how are we going to get her, and her people back there? Also, does anyone have an idea why she was attacked? Beyond Cyn being Cracker-Barrel nuts?"

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With the hands and voices leaving, Kara finally recognized them. Part of her felt bad; she wanted them to stay and comfort her, but it was all too overwhelming, too chaotic.

The words dumped directly into her mind were crystal clear. They came with that sensation of something dragging itself over the inside of her skull, igniting bad memories. For a split second, she was bad on the cross, straining to slip away; then Kara was able sort out the memories from the now. *Who... he answered that... What happened... CYN. Where? Yes, where. Where am I? How... is my... how badly am I hurt?

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The voice in her head was calm, crisp, with the slight hint of undirected exasperation characteristic of a man unwilling to suffered fools at all, much less gladly, but there was no malice in his voice and the hand adjusting her bandages was gentle enough. You're at Boston Memorial Hospital, being treated for your injuries which I presume were inflicted by this Cyn. Lovely girl, really, I don't see why she isn't invited to more parties. The dry sarcasm of his mind-voice should have been offensive, but under the circumstances it was a touch of normalcy in a world gone screaming mad. Kara had dealt with plenty of directors in her career, she understood abrasive men. It was familiar. Safe.

"We've made you stable, thanks to Dr. Sigmar the living healing battery, and there's no question that in the long term you're going to be fine. Given the regenerative abilities you've already displayed, I expect you to make a full recovery." He was speaking aloud now, a dry masculine voice rough with cigarettes and barely restrained scorn, but somehow the lingering touch of his mind assured her none of it was directed at her. He finished adjusting her bandages, picked something up; she could hear the scratch of a pencil on paper, someone taking notes. "Unfortunately, she did a great deal of damage to your eyes and tongue as well as severing your fingers. We expect that you'll regrow all of them in relatively short order, but it'll be at least a month and possibly as many as four before you finish your recovery."

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*Four months?* The dismay in her thoughts were clear. *I have a movie to start shooting in May. I can't...

My eyes? Why... how could someone do that? Why didn't she just kill me?* The thoughts were rushing at Dr. Adler now, gaining momentum as they flowed away from the moment of calm and started to become emotional and reckless. *If I'd been a baseline, I'd be forever maimed. How could she be so evil?!*

Kara was becoming upset, moving hands in helpless, circular motions over her body. She could feel the wrongness in the way that the bandages were wrapped; she could feel the loss of her fingers in the loss of tactile sensation. But worse than anything else was the rising surge of helplessness - a sensation that the woman hated.

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"Stop moving, Kara, or I will be sedating you again." Adler's voice was utterly buisiness, his hands coming down lightly but firmly over hers to stop her motion. "I don't like making recovery predictions, but I think you should have your hands and tongue back in a couple of weeks. Less than a month, almost certainly. I don't know why she did it, I don't know why she didn't kill you, but I do know that if she thought she was maiming you for life then she's in for a very unpleasant surprise. In a couple of months you'll be able to walk out of here on the arm of one of those gentlemen outside with everything but your sight. A couple of months after that, you'll have that back too. I have no idea what the whackjob who did this too you intended, but I'm betting real hard that wasn't it. So the best thing you can do to stick it to her is help me get you well as fast as possible."

He paused, removed his hands from hers once he felt they were still, and she could almost hear him blink. "Hey, you're a movie star? Really? Neat."

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Kara laughed mentally, a cold, bitter noise that echoed in their minds. "Oh, I'll get better. I'll get better and rip her head off." For a second, Adler sees a roaring panther standing in a spotlight; then the image is gone. An instant later, he can feel Kara pulling her mind back into order. *Sorry. What are the stages? Denial, Anger... I don't remember what's next, or even the other two. I've hit Denial, I need some time in Anger. Maybe I should go back to Denial - I have whined hardly at all about being bl-. Blind. Fingerless. Tongueless.* She said each word seperately, as if she were breaking them apart so that they couldn't touch one another - or her.

Her hands went limp under his as she added, *I'll do whatever you say. I want to get out of here as soon as possible.* Adler can feel the conviction behind her words.

*Aaaaanndd... it depends on how you define 'movie',* Kara chuckled into the brief silence that followed. *See, some people don't consider porn to be true movies.* The statement was casual, as if testing his shock reaction. *Which reminds me - I'm going to miss the Adult Movie Award Ceremony. And I was nominated for two categories.*

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"Two categories... Kara." Adler paused, then burst into dry chuckles. "Kara B'nath. Caramel Bath. Very cute. You're much sexier out of the ER; we'll have to get to work on getting you out of here, or the world's porn fans will shrivel up and die from deprivation." He gently set her hands back at her sides and picked up her chart for a moment, then his voice spoke in her mind with a playful leer she could almost see. Not every doctor gets to brag he's been inside Caramel Bath, no matter how technically. I'll have to give you the extra-special recovery plan for that one. He tapped his pen audibly against the clipboard for a moment or two, still chuckling, then his voice turned serious. "As far as a sympathetic therapist, you're pretty well screwed: I'm the only telepath in the region with a psych degree, and my PTSD credentials are immaculate, so we're going to be seeing plenty of each other. In the meantime, I'm going to be monitoring your condition and giving you some physical theraphy exercises to do so we can minimize the time you'll spend in PT after your body heals itself. Of course, they're probably going to hurt worse than that hundred guy gang-bang you turned down in Rome. But they will get you out of here faster."

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