While her mother was sending Jessyn’s father into a forced sleep, Jessyn was busy darting across the corridor to support a wounded Kaara.
Only when she heard the growl of a curse did she look up to see Rikert, face flushed and bleeding from a scratch on his forehead, crushing Mo’s fallen sandal with his boot.
“You owe me twelve hundred credits for that,” Mo said, then paused. “Or, six hundred, since it’s just the one.”
Jessyn stifled an ill-timed chuckle—truly, the situation was anything but amusing—and wrapped her arm around Kaara’s waist, while also allowing herself to taste the other woman’s pain.
Sharp, she sensed, and hot, but not, thank the Goddess, too deep.
“It will be—”
/—well, Kaara. Just lean on me./
Hearing Jessyn’s soft murmur in his comm, Ray came to an abrupt halt.
“Kaara?” he echoed. Who the hells was Kaara?
“Who?” Bader whispered.
“What now?” Otto asked, not quite whispering.
“New player on the field,” Ray said, activating his mic. He didn’t want to distract Mo or Jess, but he needed a better read on the playing field. “Tin Man here, approaching your location, but I—”
/need a picture./
At the sound of Ray’s voice, Jessyn twitched which, in turn, caused Kaara to gasp.
"My sorrow,” she murmured to the wounded woman.
“Apology not accepted," Rikert said, shifting his attention from the ruined shoe to Jessyn.
“As the one threatening three unarmed women, you are the one who should be apologizing,” Jessyn replied sharply, earning an approving dip of the chin from Mo and a rush of warmth from Ray.
Sparing Rikert the briefest of glances, she turned her gaze on the rest of the Libra employees. “I understand Mr. Rikert to be both a scavenger and a coward,” she told them. “But the four of you need not dirty yourselves in his predatory business.”
“Oh,” Claude said…
Ray turned to Bader. “Five hostiles, three friendlies. Friendlies are all female, all unarmed.” He motioned his team forward. “I’m on Rikert, you two handle the rest.”
“Copy that,” Bader replied, her expression cold.
“Wait,” Otto said, trailing after. “That adds up to two each.”
“Ovary up already,” Bader slapped Otto on the shoulder.
“What she said,” Ray added, picking up the pace. Hearing the first plaintive notes of yet another Oz-related song flowed from the speakers, he added, for Jessyn alone, a quiet, “Good job—”
Jessyn barely had time to register Ray’s praise before Rikert, with greater than human speed, was at her side, his fingers digging into her arm with greater than Human strength, and jerking her away from Kaara.
The Elasian's gasp was faint, but the slice of fresh agony from Kaara’s wound flared in Jessyn psyche. “You are hurting her,” she protested, clawing at Rikert’s hand.
“Oh, I’m not the one hurting her.” Rikert’s breath on Jessyn’s face was hot and smelling of cherries. “You are.” As he spoke, he yanked Jessyn to one side and turned his pulser on Kaara. “Just like you’re the one who will, for what for what remains of your pathetic existence, have to live with the fact that it was your childish insult that killed your friend.”
At which point Jessyn, without a thought, and for the first time since coming into her maturity, used her gift not as a salve, nor even as a shield, but as a weapon.
It was the work of a moment—the note of a song, the beat of a heart, the motion of a finger tightening on a trigger—but in that brief span Jessyn was able to gather the searing pain of Kaara’s wound, twist it upon itself and, with the barest brush of her hand, bestow that pain threefold upon Rikert.
“Whoa!” Otto exclaimed, hitching to a stop as the shocked howl rent the air. “What the hells?”
Ray didn’t answer, but did pick up his pace to a jog as Rikert’s shriek reverberated in his comms as well as the corridor.
As he ran, he experienced Jessyn’s fury shivering along his spine, and knew she’d somehow been the cause of Rikert’s distress.
/—frosty, Jess/ Ray’s voice warned Jessyn even as the pain-mad Rikert flung her to the deck with bruising force.
Through a sudden haze of tears, she watched him claw at his side, seeking a wound that did not exist.
“Director?” Claude asked.
“Where is it?” Rikert demanded. “Where is it?”
“Where is what, Director?” As he spoke, Claude edged closer to one of the security officers, who had his baton live and waving between Mo, Jessyn, and Rikert—who was ripping open his shirt, where he found no sign of a wound.
“Shut it, Claude,” Rikert snarled, but Jessyn sensed the shimmer of fear beneath the rage. “It’s you,” he continued, fixing his gaze on Jessyn as she pushed herself to her knees. “You’re making this happen.”
Jessyn said nothing. Could say nothing, entangled as she was in the storm of Rikert’s nervous system.
“Make it stop,” he ordered, stepping closer. His face was pale, beaded with perspiration, and one hand pressed to his side. Apparently whatever strength Rikert had stolen from his victims could not stand against his own nervous system being turned against him. “Make it stop…now.”
She could, Jessyn, thought, her vision wavering between the waving pulser and the red-black flare of pain she’d given Rikert.
She could certainly make it stop.
But she could also, she realized, with the slightest shift of focus, set his every nerve-ending afire.
She also understood, in the micro-seconds between realization and act, that such a shift would utterly betray a lifetime of training.
If she took such a step, she would be no longer a Naihad—nor even a spy—but something else.
“Time for the rematch, asshole!” Ray’s shouted challenged preceded him by half a second, just long enough for Rikert, Claude, and their three henchmen to begin to turn before Ray and two humans in GIES uniforms literally crashed the party.