Andrea walked down the corridor, her steps echoing upon the stone floor and reverberating off the plain white walls that seemed to stretch on forever. The only other sound was that of her breathing, ragged and harsh against the silence that pervaded the corridor. She couldn’t even remember how long she had been walking, searching for a way out.
She came to a junction and cast her eyes down the right hand branch. It was no different, only more whiteness disappearing into the distance. Turning to the left hand branch Andrea was met by a pair of wildly staring eyes.
“Why did you leave me?” wailed the man in front of her, his voice loud in the otherwise empty corridor.
Andrea stumbled back against the wall in shock.
“Walker? I…I…thought you were dead?” she stammered.
“You left me, why did you leave me?” he moaned again. Andrea could see now that he was deathly white.
A thin trickle of blood started to drip from his nose. It splashed garishly on the floor, a bloom of red against the white monotony.
“You should have stayed with me…”
Andrea turned and ran back the way she had come, the dead man’s continued pleas a haunting call after her as she fled down the corridor. Turning a corner she suddenly found herself face to face with him again. She pulled up quickly as he tried to latch onto her, to stop her from running again.
“Why didn’t you help me?” he beseeched her.
“I couldn’t, there wasn’t anything I could do!” she desperately tried to explain, still panting from her frantic run.
“No!” he cried, becoming angry and grabbing onto her arm. “You should have stayed with me!”
“Let go!” Andrea shook him off and turned away.
Only there he was again, right in front of her before she could even take a step. Andrea dodged under his flailing arm and ran, knowing only the overwhelming urge to get away from him. Her heart was hammering wildly in her chest; the sweat was dripping down her face; she could barely breathe. Yet Andrea knew she had to keep going. Rounding another corner, Andrea didn’t notice the lack of floor until it was too late and she was plunging off the drop, landing heavily face-first on the hard stone floor.
It was then that she sensed someone standing in front of her, watching. She started to raise her head…black boots…uniform trousers…
“Oi! Rise and shine!”
Andrea sat up abruptly in bed, trying to shake off the dream and recall where exactly she was. Standing watching her with his dark eyes was a soldier. He waited expectantly with his hands on his hips. Ah, yes, the army base, she remembered.
“What time is it, Lieutenant….” she asked, trying to recall his name while she composed herself.
“Chadwick,” he answered, “And it’s 8am.”
“8am?” she cried, a frown furrowing her brow. “Why the hell are you waking me so bloody early?”
He shrugged his shoulders unapologetically. “8am is hardly early for the army. We thought we’d let you have a lie in, actually.”
Andrea pushed her blond hair away from her face and rubbed her eyes. “Lucky me,” she said sarcastically. “I presume, since you’re waiting there, that I have somewhere to be?”
“I’m here to escort you to your briefing,” he informed her.
“Right, well, if you’d just give me a minute,” Andrea said, indicating the door.
She waited for the door to close behind him, before clambering out of bed. Andrea stretched her long limbs to get some life back into them. The Lieutenant seemed to have a nasty habit of waking her in the middle of dreams, she considered, as she opened the wardrobe looking for something to wear. She didn’t know what it was about him, but she didn’t like the man. There was just something creepy about him, beneath the stiff military exterior. It appeared that the concept of privacy was somewhat foreign to him too, since he had just strolled straight into her bedroom in order to wake her. Not to mention the way he had stared at her the day before when she had been dressing.
Peeling off the large t-shirt she had found to sleep in, she put on the army issue clothes she had dug out of the wardrobe. Wearing the semi-uniform reminded her of her early days in the police force when she was a young officer on the beat, before she moved on to bigger and better things with CID . That seemed like a whole other lifetime right now.
Once she was dressed, Andrea followed the Lieutenant out of her quarters, noting that it was just the two of them today. The lift deposited them on the fifth underground level, where the doors opened onto the plain surrounds of the subterranean portion of the base. Walking along, she wondered exactly how far the base extended, while at the same time trying to ignore the unwelcome reminder of her earlier dream the featureless corridors elicited.
The Lieutenant finally came to a halt in front of a door marked SRU Briefing Room 1. “Here we are,” he said, “Time to meet your fellow freaks.”
Andrea shot him a look, surprised at his terminology, though she herself had used the description the day before. He appeared totally unrepentant at having used the insulting term, and pressed the entry button, allowing the door to slide open.
Inside was something akin to a lecture room, with a series of desks and chairs, leading to a larger desk at the far end. On it sat a projector, while a white board took up the wall behind the desk. Three people sat at the tables in the main part of the room, and they all swivelled round to regard the new entrants.
One of the men leapt up from his seat to come and greet them. “Chad! Nice to see you!” The man’s eyes flicked to Andrea, offering her a wink. “So who’s the new girl?”
Andrea noticed that the Lieutenant looked decidedly annoyed by the way the young man had addressed him, his jaw twitching as he clenched his teeth.
“This is Miss Hallstrom,” the Lieutenant replied frostily.
“Well, pleased to meet you, Miss Hallstrom,” said the other man, in what Andrea had now identified as a strong Manchester accent, “I’m Tom Parsons.”
She took the hand he had offered up. “Andrea.”
As Tom shook her hand enthusiastically, Andrea took a quick moment to study his face. He seemed to be about her age and had an open, friendly expression. He possessed a pair of baby blue eyes and short fair hair. She supposed he would have been considered quite handsome, if she was into that kind of thing.
“And I’m Harry,” said another man, pushing Tom out of the way so he could take her hand instead. “Harry King,” he added with a smile.
He was slightly younger than Tom, perhaps somewhere in his early twenties. His features were quite a contrast to those of the other man; his hair was black and his eyes equally dark. Both men wore clothes similar to her own - variations of casual military wear - though neither displayed any sort of rank anywhere. Andrea assumed they were civilians like her.
The Lieutenant pointed out the final occupant of the room. “And that is Miss Tardelli.”
Andrea looked over to the woman, who had remained seated. She received back an icy stare from a pair of dark eyes. The woman had a latin look about her and, judging by the name, Andrea guessed she was of Italian heritage.
“Don’t worry about Bel,” whispered Tom, leaning over to Andrea, “Believe it or not, that’s her friendly expression.”
Taking in the still challenging look she was receiving, Andrea wondered what the woman might look like when she wasn’t being ‘friendly’.
“So, Chad, what’s the scoop then?” continued Tom, nudging the burly Lieutenant in the arm.
“Would you please refrain from calling me that,” the Lieutenant muttered with obvious annoyance.
Tom wasn’t letting up, though. “Ah, come on, Chad, you know it’s just because we love you.”
“Yeah, Chaddy,” joined in Harry, leaning into the man on the opposite side to Tom, “You’re our pal aren’t you?”
The Lieutenant stepped away from them as if he was worried he was about to catch something. “My name is Lieutenant Chadwick.”
“Whatever you say, Chad,” said Tom teasingly, and Andrea noticed that Harry was stifling a laugh behind him. She guessed that winding up the Lieutenant was one of their common activities, though the man was so dour it didn’t seem to be particularly hard to get a rise out of him.
Suddenly the door slid open and Major Jarvis stepped into the room, immaculately turned out in her pressed uniform, complete with dark green jacket.
“Good morning, Major,” chorused Harry and Tom.
Andrea glanced over at them in surprise, noting how they had subconsciously stood to attention in her presence. It seemed she commanded a lot more respect from them than the Lieutenant did.
“Tom, Harry,” acknowledged the Major with a nod, “Andrea,” she added turning her blue-grey eyes in Andrea’s direction.
“Major,” replied Andrea evenly. She supposed she could be civil for now until she discovered what they had in store for her.
The Major made the last of her greetings by calling over to the woman in the chair, “Good morning, Bel.”
“Good morning, Major,” responded the dark woman, with a half-smile.
So she did speak! And smile too! thought Andrea. Obviously only to selected people, though.
The Major turned back to Andrea. “I presume Lieutenant Chadwick has made the necessary introductions?”
“We got about as far as names, yes,” replied Andrea.
However, one of the things Andrea really wanted to know was what exactly was superhuman about the people in the room. None of them looked any different to a normal person, though she wasn’t quite sure what she had been expecting – someone with two heads perhaps? She supposed she would find out sooner or later what special abilities they possessed, apart from a capability to annoy army lieutenants.
“Good,” remarked the Major. “Right, the rest of you are with me,” she ordered, indicating the others. “Dr Todd will be here in a moment to give you an introduction to the facility,” she informed Andrea, before exiting with the other three obediently in tow.
Andrea found herself faintly disappointed that the Major wasn’t going to be briefing her, but didn’t have much opportunity to contemplate that further as a tall man wearing a white coat strode briskly into the room. He introduced himself as Dr Theodore Todd, and promptly dismissed Lieutenant Chadwick, who was only too happy to get out of there. Dr Todd offered her a seat, before he proceeded to outline the background and function of the Superhuman Research Unit to her in what seemed to be a well-rehearsed speech.
Dr Todd had no compunction about bombarding her with a great deal of information in one go. He was like a lot of scientists and academics she had met – intelligent, precise, logical, but slightly lacking when it came to interpersonal skills. She found his no-nonsense, factual approach quite refreshing.
She was surprised to discover that the base was actually on an island, just off the west coast of Scotland in the Firth of Clyde. She supposed that was certainly one way to make sure no one left unexpectedly, unless they fancied swimming several miles to the mainland.
Apparently the unit had been in existence for approximately nine months. There was a mixture of army and civilian personnel on the base, all of who had quarters within the main complex. The base also hosted a number of recreational facilities, along with the various research labs and training facilities for both the “special operatives” and the regular troops stationed there.
The unit had been set up in response to the discovery of genetic mutations that could lead to the development of special powers. The government had decided that this wasn’t really something for public consumption, instead creating this secret facility where the whole subject could be researched.
Andrea wondered if research was all they were really interested in. For a start there was the way Dr Todd had used the term “special operative” when referring to the superhumans, suggesting an active role in something. Plus there was the fact that the army were running the show. And not just the army, but the Intelligence Corps, which hinted at something clandestine. She would have thought that if research was all they were up to, then there would be no need for the army to be involved. She decided not to voice her suspicions for now – she needed to get a better idea of the unit and whom she could and couldn’t trust first.
Dr Todd then moved onto her particular case, reiterating to her what the Major had told her the day before about the problems with her particular mutation. From what he told her, it turned out that all the other operatives at the unit had possessed their mutation since birth, though not necessarily all the abilities associated with it. Andrea’s enforced mutation meant that they would have to take things slow with her, especially due to the seizures she had been having. The doctors would carry out a series of investigations to determine what exactly the nature of her mutation and powers were.
At that point, Dr Todd invited her to join him in one of the labs on the floor below where they could start assessing her condition properly. Entering the lab, Andrea noted the vast array of technical equipment spread round the room. There were a number of computers, microscopes, scanning devices and quite a few things she had no idea as to the function of - only that they looked highly advanced and expensive. It appeared that a lot of money was coming into this project from somewhere.
“If you’d like to take a seat,” offered Dr Todd, going over to search something out on the far side of the room.
While Andrea was waiting the door to the lab swished open, and she spotted Dr Whitman joining them.
He smiled amiably as he headed her way. “Morning, Miss Hallstrom.”
“Morning,” she replied, “And Andrea is fine.”
“Well, you can call me Doc, since everyone else seems to insist on doing so,” he said, with a fake air of exasperation.
Andrea looked at him in bemusement. “Aren’t there several doctors here, though?”
“See, that’s what I keep telling them,” he said, obviously pleased to find someone who could see his point of view, “But Mr Parsons came up with it, and now it seems to have stuck. I think half the people here don’t even realise I have a proper first name.”
Dr Todd came back over at that point, having retrieved whatever he had been looking for. “Ah, Doc,” he noted, “Now you’re here to monitor things we can get on.”
Doc leaned over to whisper to Andrea, “See, even he calls me it!”
Andrea smiled at his annoyance, especially as she thought he was feigning it on purpose to try and put her at ease.
Doc wheeled over a monitor, from which he produced some wires and sensors. “OK, now I’m just going to place these on you so we can check out exactly what’s going on in your brain to begin with. I hope you’re not going to be pulling them straight off again?”
“I think I can cope with them this time,” replied Andrea.
Doc smiled. “Good, because you’ll need to get used to it, what with the number of tests Theo here is likely to want to run on you!”
“Thank you, Doc,” interjected Dr Todd with a slight hint of exasperation. “Though he is right,” he added, addressing Andrea, “We will need to run an extensive set of tests, looking at all aspects of your mutation. It may seem like some of them are utterly pointless, but I just ask you to be patient and bear with us. We need to be thorough so we don’t miss anything.”
Andrea nodded. “As long as you don’t mind the odd question along the way, I kind of like to know what’s going on.”
“Fine,” he agreed, “I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have, as long as they don’t step into areas I’m not at liberty to discuss.”
Some hours later, Andrea wearily made her way back to her quarters. It seemed she was finally allowed to walk about the base unescorted as she travelled up in the lift alone. She contemplated getting off at the ground floor and seeing how far she might get before she was stopped. She didn’t think it would be far, with the number of cameras and soldiers she had observed about the place.
She tiredly rubbed her neck, thinking that Doc hadn’t been wrong when he made a joke about the number of tests Dr Todd would want to run. Most of the time it seemed like she was hardly doing anything, flexing particular muscles or thinking about particular things, but she had seen that Dr Todd looked rapt in the results he was getting on his computer screen. It had all seemed like one long physical, rather than anything to do with super powers – she hadn’t been called upon to do anything out of the ordinary once in fact. She still wasn’t even sure what it was she was capable of, though Doc had warned her about trying anything to investigate herself while on her own. All she knew so far was that she had exhibited some sort of enhanced strength.
Part of her was itching to know more about it, though at the same time she had to admit that it was all a bit daunting and maybe even a little scary – the prospect that there was this whole other side to her that she herself knew nothing about. She had always prided herself on her ability to meet any challenge, and had rarely found things in life that she couldn’t overcome or control. So to now have to place herself in the hands of others to such an extent was somewhat anathema to her.
Having finished for the day, Doc had offered to take her up to the messhall on the ground floor where the superhumans, scientists and regular soldiers could get something to eat. She had declined his offer though – she didn’t expect to be around this place long enough in order to have the need to make friends or socialise. She’d already discovered that her quarters came equipped with a fully stocked fridge the night before, so it wasn’t like she had to go to the messhall. These were hardly the sorts of people she would want to be friends with either – a load of squaddies and some juvenile superhumans. The only people she had felt any sort of connection with so far were the two scientists she’d been introduced to, and that was mainly a kind of grudging respect for their intelligence. She resolved that she would just do what she had to do until she could get out of there and back to her normal life.
Thinking of her real life, Andrea realised that she needed to arrange a few things back in London, not least of which was Gerry. God knew what he must be thinking. She realised she should really have asked one of the doctors about making a call to the outside world. Since she was heading up to the second floor anyway, Andrea guessed she might as well drop in on Major Jarvis. No doubt she would need her permission for any such request.
Striding along the corridor, she saw the eyes of the soldier at the desk outside the Major’s office nervously regarding her rapid approach.
“Is Major Jarvis in?” Andrea asked the young man brusquely.
“Er…yes,” he answered, somewhat taken aback by her brisk tone.
“Good,” she replied, not waiting for any other confirmation before strolling over to the door and knocking on it.
The young soldier bumbled up from his desk. “Wait, you can’t just…”
Andrea pushed open the door before he had the chance to reach her, and before she got any sort of answer to her knock. The Major’s eyes flicked up from her desk, a quick flash of annoyance passing across her features before the cool impassive mask was back in place. Andrea was disappointed she hadn’t managed to catch the Major out a little more, although she wasn’t entirely sure why. Something in Andrea just felt the urge to try and rile the other woman, just to see what reaction she got – maybe because it seemed like such a challenge to get one at all.
The young soldier pushed past Andrea’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Major…”
“It’s all right, Anderson,” said the Major with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Come in, Miss Hallstrom, have a seat,” she added, gesturing to the one in front of her desk.
So I’m back to being Miss Hallstrom am I? Perhaps I did manage to rile her just a little bit.
Andrea made her way to the indicated seat, the blue-grey eyes watching her intently the whole way across the room, and as she lowered herself into the comfy chair.
The Major leant forwards slightly so her hands rested together on the table. “Now, what can I do for you?”
“I need to make a phone call,” answered Andrea, getting straight to the point.
“May I ask whom you’re calling?”
“You may, but do I have to answer?” countered Andrea.
The Major regarded her for a moment, showing no visible sign of being perturbed by Andrea’s deliberately obtuse take on her question. However, the pause before she spoke was evidence enough. “I’m afraid you will need to, before I can agree to it.”
“I want to speak to one of my colleagues, Maria Fernandes,” said Andrea.
“Jesus!” cried Andrea, “Shall I just tell you everything I want to say now? It’s not like you won’t be listening in and recording it anyway, I’m sure.”
“This is a top secret facility,” remarked the Major, still not rising to the bait and maintaining an even tone, “We can’t allow unmonitored communication off the base. This isn’t anything personal against you, it’s the same for everyone here.”
Andrea sighed. “All right, if you must know, I need to get her to look after Gerry for me.”
“My cat,” clarified Andrea.
“Your…cat,” repeated the Major slowly, and Andrea could swear she was straining to stop a smile creeping onto her face.
“Yes, my cat. Does it seem so unusual that I would have one?” challenged Andrea.
“No, not at all,” replied the Major, though her expression indicated otherwise. “I think that should be fine,” she continued after a moments thought, “Though please keep off the subject of where exactly you are, or what you’re doing here, or we will be forced to cut you off. I’m sure you can come up with some feasible excuse for your absence, visiting family perhaps?”
“She won’t believe that one!” scoffed Andrea before she could stop herself.
The Major looked at her quizzically, one eyebrow raised, but Andrea refused to elaborate further on the subject.
“Yes, I’m sure I can make something up,” Andrea said instead, getting back to the point in hand.
“In that case, if you want to head back to your quarters, I’ll arrange for your phone to be activated,” the Major informed her.
“Thank you,” said Andrea grudgingly, getting up and heading for the door without waiting to be dismissed.
“Oh, and Andrea,” called the Major, waiting for her to turn back before she continued, “Please don’t barge unannounced into my office next time.”
Andrea forcefully closed the door to her quarters, trying to restrain herself from seeing if she could rip it off its hinges and fling it across the room. She just felt so frustrated and trapped.
In fact, why should I restrain myself? she considered, If I’m cursed with these new powers, then why shouldn’t I use them to let off a bit of steam? Why do I need someone to tell me when and where I can use them?
Doc’s warnings about trying to use her abilities un-monitored flashed through her mind, but Andrea dismissed them; Doc probably just didn’t want her to find out anything before him. Andrea knew she desperately needed some outlet for her pent up aggression. Talking to the Major certainly didn’t seem to help, since Andrea found herself losing her cool whenever she did. That disturbed her too - she was famed for being the cool, calm one back at the station. Her icy stare alone was renowned for eliciting confessions from criminals.
Andrea felt her anger building again as she thought of the rigid army officer and the reactions she stirred. Snatching up one of the kitchen stools, Andrea gripped the wooden seat in one hand and one of the metal legs in the other. With a single yank the stool splintered in two. Andrea looked at its remnants with satisfaction – see, there was nothing to it!
Casually discarding the seat part, she started to bend the metal leg. The effortlessness of it was amazing; anyone would think it was some twig that she was bending with such ease. The steel groaned in protest at the punishment, before finally giving way and snapping. The broken sections clattered noisily on the tiled floor as they joined the rest of the shattered stool.
Just as Andrea was looking around for something else to mutilate, it hit her – intense, agonising pain. She staggered clumsily against one of the kitchen units, sending the utensils on the work surface flying, before tumbling to the floor. Huddled in a foetal position, Andrea simply prayed for the pain to stop as it shook through her body. When the darkness finally overcame her, it was a merciful release.
The cool surface of the tiles as it pressed against her cheek was the first thing that pervaded Andrea’s senses when she finally regained consciousness. Gingerly rising into a sitting position, she rubbed her elbow where it had been bashed on the unforgiving floor. Glancing up at the clock on the wall, Andrea realised she’d been out for about thirty minutes. She supposed it could have been worse, especially if someone else had discovered her. Luckily she’d been spared the embarrassment of explaining why she’d chosen to ignore the repeated warnings about using her powers alone.
Clambering unsteadily to her feet, Andrea made her way over to the sofa. Her hands were shaking disconcertingly as she rested them on her thighs, and she closed her eyes to take a few deep breaths. In through the nose; out through the mouth. In. Out. Relax.
She supposed it was just the present situation that was affecting her, making her lose her perspective and compromising her judgement. Maybe the chance to call Maria, and connect with the real world, would help her with that - remind her that she still had friends and a life outside of the base.
Picking up the phone, Andrea listened for the dial tone, relieved to find the Major had kept her word and enabled the connection. As she keyed in Maria’s home number, Andrea just hoped her fellow officer wasn’t on duty that day.
After a couple of rings the call was picked up. “Maria Fernandes,” came the answer from the other end.
“Maria, it’s me,” said Andrea, grateful to hear her good friend’s voice. They had been at Hendon  together and had remained fast friends ever since.
“Andrea? Christ!” exclaimed Maria, “Are you all right? Where the hell are you? What’s going on?”
“Woah, slow down!” interjected Andrea, “One thing at a time.”
“Sorry,” replied Maria, “It’s just that after what happened at that warehouse, and then not knowing what had happened to you…I’ve been worried.”
“It’s all right,” Andrea reassured her, realising how anxious her friend had been from her frantic tone, “I’m ok. Well, as ok as I can be given the circumstances.”
“But where on earth are you?”
“I…can’t say,” replied Andrea, fully aware of who might be listening.
“You can’t say? I’ve been worried out of my mind and you can’t say? What’s going on? Are you in some sort of trouble?”
“I’m sorry, Maria, I wish I could tell you more, but you’re just going to have to trust me on this one for now,” explained Andrea. “How are you anyway?”
“Me?” said Maria, surprised at the question. “I’m fine, though busy since…” she trailed off for a moment. “I just can’t believe all those guys are dead,” she finished quietly.
“Me either,” agreed Andrea sorrowfully, as their faces filled her mind once more. “Anyway, I need to ask you a favour,” she continued, not wanting to linger on those thoughts any more than she had to. She also thought she better get onto what she had to ask, before she said something she shouldn’t and they got cut off.
“Go on, you know I’ll do anything to help if I can,” replied Maria sincerely.
“Can you go and pick up Gerry from my flat, look after him for me?” Andrea found herself inexplicably starting to well up as she thought of her home, with Gerry waiting expectantly for her return. She considered it must just be the fact that she was cut-off from reality that was getting to her.
“Of course,” answered Maria without hesitation, “Good job you made me take that spare set of keys, though you always were the organised one! Do I need to know anything special - what food he likes? Any little habits?”
Andrea tried to pull herself together, stop her mind wandering to thoughts of home and colleagues she would never see again. “No, he should eat pretty much anything, little pig that he is. Especially since he’s been on his own there for 3 days, poor bugger. Just give him a cuddle from me to say sorry, ok?”
“No problem,” said Maria, “Do you know when you’ll be back?”
“No, I’m not sure. I’ll try and call you again when I know a bit more. Just tell anyone else who asks not to worry, and that I’ve gone off to have a bit of time on my own after the recent…trauma.”
“Ok,” noted Maria, before pausing as if waiting for Andrea to say something else. The only audible sound was the faint hiss of the phone line. “Aren’t you going to ask how Meg is?” said Maria eventually.
Andrea didn’t reply immediately. She hadn’t really wanted to talk about Meg on this monitored line. To be honest she hadn’t really wanted to think about her at all – it still dragged up a few too many painful memories.
Maria continued, since Andrea failed to say anything, “She misses you, Andi. I still don’t know why you two broke up.”
“It was complicated,” said Andrea, supposing she had to say something in response, “I know she’s your friend so I don’t want to say too much. Maybe you should speak to her.”
“I have!” said Maria, her voice carrying an edge of exasperation, “But she’s as evasive about it as you are! I think you’re both just being stupid; you two were great together.”
“Look, Maria,” said Andrea, perhaps a touch more tetchily than she had intended, “Even if it wasn’t all over, there’s no chance for us to get back together now.”
“Because you’re off at this place you can’t talk about?”
“That’s right,” Andrea stated.
“Is this place anything to do with the accident?” asked Maria, seemingly unable to resist her natural instincts to investigate. “Only there’s been a lot of weirdness around that, you know, the investigation was…”
The line went dead, cutting Maria off in mid-sentence. Andrea stared at the phone in her hand for a moment, not quite believing what had happened.
What the fuck? This is…unacceptable!
Leaping up, she stormed out of her room to get some answers.
Kate sat on the couch in her office, drinking her coffee and listening attentively as Theo filled her in on the day’s tests. Apparently there wasn’t a great deal to report as yet, though she hadn’t really expected there to be at this early stage. They all knew how careful they had to be when dealing with superhumans and their powers to avoid any nasty accidents, especially at the beginning when no one really knew the extent of them. As he finished up she decided to probe him for some other types of information.
“So, how did you find Andrea?” she asked nonchalantly.
“Well, considering what we spoke about two days ago, she was actually remarkably accommodating,” he replied.
“She was?” said Kate in surprise, “I wonder if it’s just me she doesn’t like then?”
“Or perhaps she doesn’t like what you represent?” offered Theo, earning him a questioning look from Kate. “I mean authority, control,” he explained, “She strikes me as the sort who likes to maintain those for herself, judging by the number of questions she was asking about the tests.”
“Possibly,” Kate allowed, “Maybe I should check with Lieutenant Chadwick and some of the other officers, see how she is with them.”
“As I said, she was mostly fine with me. She was a little reluctant and suspicious, but nothing that I would classify as openly hostile or antagonistic. And she and Doc seemed to get on well, though she did turn down his offer of joining him in the messhall. Perhaps you need to pull back on the full military side of yourself when dealing with her, if you’re having difficulty.”
Kate raised both eyebrows questioningly as she stared at him. “Are you suggesting I’m too rigid and overbearing?”
He laughed at her expression since it pretty much proved his point. “Not exactly, though you can be intimidating.”
Now it was Kate’s turn to laugh. “I really don’t think I’m intimidating Andrea! I don’t think anyone is capable of that. I mean you should have seen her in here earlier, making demands like she owned the place. Though I’m still not sure whether that’s all a front,” she added, putting down her mug and shifting her position so she could stare off out the window for a moment.
“Go on,” prompted Theo.
Kate tried to decide what it was that was making her doubtful. “I don’t know, I just think that underneath all the outward arrogance and hostility, there is someone who does actually care what people think of her.” She turned back to face Theo. “There’s definitely something driving her to succeed in whatever she puts her mind to – just look at what she’s accomplished at university and in the police,” she noted, recalling what she had read in the young woman’s file, “Despite her rather individual approach to her job, she still managed to get into CID at a young age. They must have seen potential in her.”
“Indeed,” noted Theo. “Though the sort of people who strive for success so hard are also often the ones who don’t like failure,” he added with a hint of caution, “And have trouble admitting that they might be wrong or when they need help.”
Kate nodded. “Mmm, I wonder if that’s the case here?”
“Meaning is she trying to hide any insecurities she might be feeling by being overly aggressive in her attitude?” clarified Kate, “Or is she just like this all the time? I don’t really know her well enough yet to know.”
“No, I guess only time will tell,” he conceded, “There’s also the possibility of post-traumatic stress affecting her behaviour. Don’t forget she did see all her colleagues die in front of her eyes.”
“Yes,” agreed Kate, “It would be odd if that hadn’t had some impact on her. So she could be covering that up too. Maybe you could get Doc to have a surreptitious word with her. Nothing too obvious, just mention the fact we have counsellors here that are for anyone’s use. Something tells me she won’t be keen if we try to force the issue.”
“No, I believe you’re right. I’ll speak to him,” confirmed Theo.
Kate sighed and added a rueful smile. “Well, I sincerely hope she isn’t quite this annoying all the time. I’m just not used to such blatant disregard for protocol!”
“Though you yourself have been known to bend the rules from time to time,” commented Theo, “Not to mention be a touch stubborn.”
Kate stared at him, furrowing her brows in a look of consternation. The stern look didn’t quite reach her eyes, though, since she knew he was just teasing her. “Whose character are we assessing here exactly?”
Before he could reply the door to her office flew open, thumping into the wall, and Andrea strode in.
“Why the hell did you cut my phone call off?” she demanded, storming straight over to the coffee table, her pale blue eyes flashing with anger as she stared down at Kate.
Kate shot back a deathly look, but kept her mouth tightly shut for the time being. She didn’t trust herself not to say anything she might regret later. Taking a few deep breaths, she slowly rose from the couch and stepped purposefully round the coffee table. She moved so that she was right up in Andrea’s personal space, intending to evoke a sense of menace with her proximity. However, the younger woman didn’t flinch, despite her closeness.
Kate narrowed her eyes into her most severe look of annoyance and fixed them on Andrea. The tension in the room was palpable as the younger woman just stared resolutely right back at her, neither of their gazes wavering.
“Theo, could you leave us to it?” said Kate eventually, her lips barely moving and her eyes never shifting from their combative regard of Andrea.
“Er, sure,” he replied somewhat hesitantly, perhaps afraid they were about to come to blows.
Kate waited until he left the room before she spoke.
“Miss Hallstrom,” she began, her voice low, dangerous, “I realise you are not one of my soldiers, and therefore not directly under my command. However, I would expect that even you could follow common courtesy.”
“Courtesy?! You want to talk about courtesy?” snapped back Andrea furiously, her breath hot against Kate’s face, “How about you chopping off my phone conversation?”
“I believe I did warn you that might happen…”
“Yeah! If I said anything about this place!”
“So what were you talking about?” asked Kate, trying to keep calm in the face of Andrea’s continued fury, though she was finding it hard.
“Like you weren’t listening in!” scoffed Andrea incredulously.
“Believe me, I have far better things to be doing than listening to your personal phone calls,” Kate informed her. Kate considered that she should have been the one bawling out the young woman for barging into her office again, but she tried to remember what she and Theo had discussed – pull back on the military side.
Andrea crossed her arms across her chest in a defiant stance. “Really,” she said doubtfully.
Kate almost rolled her eyes – it was like dealing with a petulant child!
“Look, I don’t know the particulars of why your conversation was terminated,” said Kate, attempting to be reasonable, “I’ll find out why my men found it necessary to cut you off, ok?”
“Ha! They probably just thought it would be funny! Abusing their little bit of power by getting one over on the new girl. Maybe I wasn’t giving them anything juicy enough to listen to? Nothing to give them their kicks?”
Kate found herself bridling again, and she clenched her fists at her side to resist the urge to slap the other woman. It was one thing to listen to Andrea rant on, but when she started insulting her men that was something else.
“My officers are professionals,” stated Kate seriously, “They do not monitor conversation for some sort of cheap thrill. I’m sure your personal life is infinitely fascinating, but they are just doing their job.”
“Well, you should know all about my personal life,” countered Andrea, “You do have that handy little file on me.”
Kate heaved a sigh. “Contrary to popular belief the government doesn’t make a habit of spying on the people of this country. The only information in that file is data of public record, such as where you were born, your family, your schooling. Plus we have your work records and reports, that the Met  were kind enough to forward to us.”
Andrea threw up her arms and made a tutting noise. “Oh, I bet that made interesting reading! I’m sure MacKenzie had a few choice things to say. Let me guess – I was a complete pain in the arse who showed a distinct lack of regard for the command structure and protocol?”
“A quite accurate summary…of parts of it,” agreed Kate honestly. However, she sensed an opportunity to diffuse the situation at the same time. “Though he was actually quite glowing in his praise of your results.”
“He was?” replied Andrea, taken aback.
“You sound surprised,” noted Kate. She stepped away and sat back down on the sofa so she appeared less threatening. “Yes, amongst his remarks he did note that though you were…difficult…you actually showed an amazing dedication to the job and that he thought that it was just your desire to do what you thought was right that made you overstep the mark sometimes. He also mentions the times you went out of your way to help your colleagues when you didn’t have to.”
Andrea didn’t reply, and Kate thought she looked slightly confounded by her sudden change of tack. Most probably she had come in here wanting and expecting a fight. Kate wondered if she was finally making some sort of headway with the younger woman. If she could get past all this outward hostility she thought that Andrea could be an asset to the unit. Not only was she highly intelligent, but the number of commendations in her file suggested that she was someone you could rely on in a crisis and who would be loyal to you – once you had won her respect and trust. Perhaps she should offer something up about herself to try and start the process of winning her trust.
“Andrea,” she began, switching back to using her first name to indicate the fact that she was trying to make peace, “I’m not going to judge you on your past record. We’ve all made a few mistakes in our time; I know I have. All I care about is what goes on here, now.”
Andrea continued to regard her evenly with her piercing blue eyes. Kate wasn’t sure if she was thinking about her words or contemplating her next riposte.
Kate continued, supposing she might as well see how far she could get before Andrea leapt in again, “You know, you might find things a bit easier around here if you relaxed a bit. I realise the regime can seem strict, but not everything is intended as personal affront to you. Perhaps if you tried to make a few friends you would see that. I hear Doc invited you to the messhall but you turned him down?”
Too late, Kate realised her mistake.
“Oh, more checking up on me, eh?” remarked Andrea scornfully, “And how long did it take for that little bit of information to wind its way to you?”
Kate sighed to herself, realising any hope of a rational conversation had gone for the evening.
“You think you know me do you?” said Andrea with an air of resentment. Kate leaned back on her couch, letting the ongoing tirade wash over her. “You want me to make friends and be happy like a good little camper when all that’s happened to me since I got here is that I’ve been restrained, injected with sedatives, poked, prodded, spied on and generally been made to feel like some lab rat? I am a human being! I have rights!”
Andrea shot her one last furious look before turning on her heel and storming back out the door again, which shook on its hinges as she slammed it behind her.
Well, that could have gone better, thought Kate to herself, tipping her head back on the soft cushions and closing her eyes.