Chapter 1
The Beginning. The End.
Various Kinds of Healing
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:: Corridor, Outside Holodeck 4

Keeves fooled with a hairclip as they walked up to the holodeck. She was dressed in a completely black exercise suit. Johnson had said wear black---so she wore black. She didn't really like black though. She didn't really dislike black. In fact, she was pretty apathetic to the whole thing. What she was more interested in was what he had cooked up for her.

Johnson approached Keeves in his usual black combat pants and shirt "Ready?" he said, she nodded stoically, a slight smile at the corner of her lips.

They walked together to the holodeck, the only one actually working on the ship, since the explosion damaged so many critical EPS junctures; holodecks weren't really a concern. Yet, Holodeck four was rather inexplicably working at this time. A slight smile curled at his lips, as she looked at him questioningly. Of course, being the only working holodeck, everyone wanted to use it. Being the CEO did have its advantages from time to time.

"Computer prepare holodeck program Johnson Training Six." Johnson called with his finger pressed against the console. "Program loaded, enter when ready." The emotionless female voice answered.

Alara cocked an eyebrow as the doors opened with a familiar whoosh and clunk of the servos locking into position. The scene before them revealed a dark corridor, going off into what seemed like nothingness. She waited for his first move---after all, it was his program. "And you're sure this holodeck is repaired?" Alara sounded, not afraid, simply cautious.

"Yeah, only problem is the safety routine is shot to bits so if you fall you could break a bone or two." Johnson smirked "...Joking. I made sure a team looked at it before I re-commissioned it I considered it a high priority for ship morale after the critical systems." Johnson smirked at her

"Very well. I never liked holodecks. They always seem to have the pesky habit of going offline just at the wrong times and either locking people in with the safeties disabled, or killing everyone right off. Neither possibility appeals to me much for my entertainment." She spoke, extremely logically.

A slight smile and a smirk was the only reaction from Johnson as they both slowly entered the darkness. Alara immediately faced away from the doors, forcing her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. As soon as they were both inside, the large doors closed behind them with a resounding thud, and they were both plunged into darkness.

Johnson's voice once again called out "Computer reduce gravity settings by fifteen percent." A beep was the only response to his request. Alara noted the change in gravity, and shifted from foot to foot slightly testing her balance in this new gravity field.

"Have you ever done hand to hand combat in reduced gravity before?" Johnson asked, looking over at Keeves, not that he could see her much.

"Yes, I gained a certification in point five gravity BF to B combat, as well as dabbling with some zero-g training, but I was called back to active duty before I could complete the course." She said, her formal manner slipping back in again. At least he had gotten her to stop calling her sir while in an off-duty situation.

"BF and B?" he questioned "Sounds like a protein they use in sickbay"

Keeves grinned in the dark. "Bare Fist, to Bones combat."

"You should enjoy this then." He answered, grinning mischievously; something that wasn't lost on her.

Johnson handed Keeves a black pair of fingerless gloves. In the dark, now that her eyes had adjusted to it, Keeves saw him hold them out and took them gently, slipping her fingers nimbly into the knit fabric. She touched her fingers to her palms, testing the grip of the gloves. They had leather inserts on the pad and palms, probably to protect hands while sliding down some type of object, or gripping things such as wire.

"Okay the idea is simply to get from here to the other side." Johnson said, laying out the plan. Keeves only nodded in the dark, one ear already adjusting to the sounds of the night as they showed themselves here. "The only problem is that its a 20th century cityscape and some people really don't like us round here and will use any means necessary to make sure we don't make it. Computer, select difficulty level six."

The computer again confirmed its action with a beep. Johnson walked down the corridor and rounded the corner and stood under and archway that looked out onto a nighttime cityscape. The dark horizon was slightly bluish, reflecting the city lights off a slight haze that hung in the sky. It was cold, so bitterly cold. The blue mercury vapor lights shined of the pavement, providing the lighting that illuminated the city. The pavement seemed wet, as though after it had just rained. Dogs barked in the distance and the sound of traffic could just barely be heard, like an afterthought in the nighttime noises.

Johnson admired the view from the roof of a three-story building. Alara Keeves stood only slightly behind him, her eyes narrowed a bit at the unexpected light, scanning the horizon. Across the entire expanse, in the distance, a single point of deep red light pulsated. Keeves nodded to it. "Our target?"

"Yep but it's further away than you think." He answered, she smirked slightly. "I seriously doubt that. " Did he think she was a fresh out-of-the-Academy ensign? She had come up through the enlisted ranks, and was quite seasoned. Alara didn't bother with further contemplations of that thought though.

Her eyes scanned the horizon again, this time taking into account the target and possible ways to get there. She walked slowly to the edge, her silhouette being visible to Johnson, illuminated from the bluish light from the street below. She crouched, looking down at the activity in the streets, and straightened. Then she lightly stepped over the edge, thinking nothing of it. His eyebrows went up, and he quickly moved to the edge to see her sliding down the gutter, landing lightly on her toes at the bottom.

Down there, she gave him a "Well?" look, then ducked into the shadows behind a trash container, seeming to simply melt into the darkness beyond.

Johnson jumped over the short gap to the building opposite and stepped onto the escape ladder it quickly dropped to the ground with a clatter where Johnson rolled off and joined Keeves in the shadows. Keeves watched as he lightly landed on his feet beside her, she smiled and shook her head, wondering if he'd try and outdo her later, or would cooperate. Males did seem to be indisposed to topping their teammates. Only time would tell.

But then she heard something, and ducked into the shadows quickly, agilely, as if she was light as a feather, and graceful as a dancer. Boots clicked across the pavement quietly, and clinking chain could be heard jingling with every step.

Slowly, the figure's shadow bounced across the ground, and against the wall near where Keeves and Johnson were. She watched silently, her black eyes piercing his back as if she could simply stare him down. He had a rather large knife in a sheath strapped to his thigh. Keeves didn't see this as a problem, but rather... an opportunity.

Quietly she moved from the darkness, making a single motion with her hand downward to the ground, then lifted it up and pointed with her middle three fingers at the building ahead of her. Johnson didn't understand her gesture, but didn't dare speak out. She crept up behind the man, quietly as a cat balancing across a banister.

When she was within three feet, another light came on, motion-sensor, apparently, and cast her shadow out before her, warning her victim of her approach. In one smooth motion, he whirled around with a yell, his knife whipped from its holster and drawn in a long slash that should have met her mid-chest. But Keeves jumped back, and when the next slash occurred, she grabbed his hand and smashed her knee up into the bottom of his wrist, bringing her fist back across his jaw.

In that instant, her nimble fingers caught the blade as it loosened from his grasp, before it was allowed to fall to the concrete. She whirled around in a continuation of the motion and brought the handle soundly into this left temple. The muscular man crumpled to the ground at her feet. She couldn't take any pride in her victory, or any other sense of emotion, because as she stood upright again, two more men emerged from a door further down, drawn by the sound of a fight.

Keeves acted like she was going to meet them, walking up confidently with the knife born threateningly in her hand. With her other hand, she gestured Johnson to go down the alley behind her, to her left, while she held off the guards. Johnson moved quietly behind her, becoming her breathing shallow. The thick black darkness hung around him like a cloak. This is what he liked about this training program. He watched Keeves walk towards the guards.

"Well, lookie what we have here..." one of the guards snarled at her, she spat at the ground at his feet. "Filth." She snarled back. Johnson was seen sneaking in the shadows past them. "Put your fist where your mouth is, honey... if you have the guts." The man returned angrily. "I have more guts than you'll ever know."

She saw the other man begin to jockey for position. She also saw it when he began to swing a chain, the taunting man armed with a knife. Yet, out of the corner of her eye, a dark shadow disappeared around the bend. Keeves smiled sweetly, and turned tail, running full speed away from them. She heard something whiz past her ear, followed by a clanking sound that told her he had thrown the knife.

The slim woman scooped it up, barely breaking her stride. "I thank you for your contribution, gentlemen!" she couldn't help to shoot a retort over her shoulder.

Keeves darted around the corner not noticing Johnson in the shadows she was quickly followed by the two guards. Johnson saw his chance and kicked out at head height catching the grunge-face-guard in the side of the face knocking him to the ground the second turned a looked a little stunned. Keeves came to a stop and took her chance to bring chain-man the floor with a swift kick to the back of his legs. The grungy-face now recovered and took the stance of a street fighter. Keeves in the mean time flattened chain-man with a nice knee drop to his back.

The slightly pudgy grunge-faced man now charged at Johnson swinging wildly. Johnson spun to the right, punching the guard as he flew past knocking him to the floor. A low double beep sounded. "What was that?" Keeves asked moving to flank Johnson's side, silently and swiftly. "Oh, think I forgot to mention the computer automatically increases the difficulty level if we get an edge." Johnson replied bouncing into a change of defensive stance.

"Great." Keeves said, rolling her eyes. 'If this was a real battle situation, we'd both be dead!' she thought 'And simply from lack of communication.' She grinned slightly. 'But I guess this only is for fun...' and then returned her attention to the area around them, she put her back to Johnson's and looked around, ready for where another imminent attack would come from.

A door opened behind the where both guards lay. Two men in dark suits walked through; one taller, one shorter. They looked decidedly more professional than the street thugs they had just downed. "Cybersh..." Johnson never had time to finish his words as the taller came straight at him. He tried to dodge but got thrown in to the bags of garbage behind him.

Keeves dark eyes flashed as she took the opportunity to bring her heel scraping down the back of the man's leg, starting at the knee. The taller man tripped and fell to the ground, allowing her just enough time to swing around and twist backwards, avoiding the other man's punch as it shot out just above her. With her momentum already heading back she back flipped regaining her feet and slashing in front of her simply to make him wary and give her a few seconds.

Johnson regained his stance as the agent pulled him up to stand in front of him. The man moved like lightning, crossing the space between them in a heartbeat. Johnson prepared himself for the imminent attack, blocking with one arm and trying to get a punch in to his ribs. The man blocked each punch with ease without a word Johnson felt the man grab his leg and swing him in the wall on the other side of the narrow alleyway. Johnson, when he finally got out, was not happy. He dusted himself and launched himself at the tower of strength in front of him. He struck the seemingly normal human square on the face with a round kick sending him sailing across the floor. Johnson looked to Keeves who was having an equally hard time with the other man.

"Keeves we're leaving." She whirled around, slashing the man twice across the chest and tripping him with a well placed foot as he tried to jump back in avoidance. When he was down she finished him with a slice to the neck. His thrashing stilled and did not move, but she didn't look back and was already running over to Johnson. "This is strange, they're stronger and more resilient than most races, don't think like them either." she said, seriously. But before she could get more analysis in, Johnson interrupted her. "One other thing I forgot to mention---we're on a thirty minute time limit."

Keeves looked at Johnson as if to say 'anything else you want to tell me?' Johnson turned just as the two men stood up. He half pulled Keeves along to a door and kicked it through. The door splintered and sent shards of wood over the room beyond it. 'Strange settings,' Keeves thought. 'The people are stronger and faster, but the surroundings are weaker. Would seem to be a bad combination.' They quickly ran up to the top of the building to be confronted with three new adversaries. Neither officer wasted any time. As if it had been rehearsed both officers took two steps and jumped. They landed almost identically on the same guard sending him reeling across the building-top. Keeves landed with grace and started her attack on the second guard.

Concentration was complete, and she held her still-dripping knives to her sides, arms outstretched as though inviting him to attack. He took the bait, but instead of rushing her, he reached towards his pocket. Alarm shouted through Alara's system as she took one step to the left then made her next one half-cartwheel, aiming just right of where the man stood. A gun came out of his pocket and he fired, the boom resounding through the air at such close range, missing her by about six inches as her back was arched. With all the power in her momentum, she wheeled her arm up and delivered a deep slice to his right wrist.

Blood gushed from the wound as he yelled, dropping his gun. As she regained her balance a little to the right of him, she kicked out and the gun went scraping across the rooftop. But somehow, he regained enough composure to lance out with his left hand catching her square in the jaw. Alara toppled back, but dropped into a rolling maneuver, coming back on her feet about three meters away.

Johnson half rolled and half fell as he struggled to maintain his balance. The third guard was soon behind him. He ran towards the red marker post and stepped up onto the vertical support beam, beginning to climb. But he was quickly followed by two others. Speedily enough, he made it about three meters in the air and jumped away from the beam spinning in mid flight to stand behind the second guard. All it took was one well-placed kick to send him falling against the support beam. Johnson turned to watch as Keeves finished off her guard.

Johnson ran behind the tower and pulled a lever. Alara's hand, aimed at the guard who had fallen first, but had been aimed at Johnson when he was climbing the pole suddenly caught empty space as the surroundings melted away. The look on her face was almost one of disappointment, as she had clearly wanted to finish him off. The knives similarly had disappeared from her hands, along with the red-stained black gloves.

"Training program completed," If the computer could express emotion right now Johnson was convinced it was unhappy at the result. Johnson sat down, both he and Keeves were exhausted, though she was sure that with a little adrenaline, she could have continued for another hour. "I think I need a shower," Johnson reported as if it was vitally critical to the situation. Keeves nodded with agreement, still miffed at not being told half the rules until she was past desperately needing to know. But without comment they headed back to Johnson's quarters.

Loaded: 03.10.2004

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