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Nebulious

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Carol fires once, twice, three-four-five times, then moves to the next lane and starts over again. One, two, three-four-five. Change lanes, repeat. One, two, three-four-five.

It's only when she reaches the final lane of the firing range that she stops, holsters the gun, and walks back along the lanes, calling each target forward. Her shoes tap-tap-tap against the floor, her hand smacks against the call button. Pause, smack, tap-tap-tap, pause, smack, tap-tap-tap, pause, smack, tap-tap-tap.

When she reaches the first lane again, she pulls on a glove and inspects the results. Head, neck, heart heart heart.

Satisfied, she snaps her fingers and watches the ash settle to the floor like gray snow.

She repeats this for each lane - pause, snap, tap-tap-tap, pause, snap, tap-tap-tap - and maintains the beat when she leaves.

Pause, smack on the janitorial robot call button, tap-tap-tap.

The range has been empty for hours now, but she's such a familiar face the officer in charge gave her the security codes to close up after she leaves. Dangerous of him, when he doesn't know her from Adam. If she was in Starfleet she'd report him to his superior officer.

Pause, swipe the security code, tap-tap-tap. Once she's outside, she shakes herself all over, breaking out of the rhythm she falls into around weapons.

The night is bright with stars, but even with the sun backlighting it the Earth is brighter still. The sight of those glittering oceans doesn't steal her breath in the same longing way looking up at the moon and stars used to, but it is a beautiful sight.

North America is slowly spinning out of view, and Carol wonders suddenly how her father is doing.

They haven't spoken since he refused to sponsor her application to Starfleet... how many years ago, now? They'll take one look at what you can do and shunt you sideways to the FSHP, he'd said. It's not what you want, and it's a death trap besides. And it had been a fair point, but all the same... she couldn't get the kind of education she wants outside Starfleet. Sure, no one in the FSHP has gone off-planet for work purposes in all the years the program has been around, but she could have convinced them. These abilities aren't just for playing out superhuman power games, and if she'd just had a chance to prove that -

But going in without her father's support had been an enormous red flag, and she'd been rejected from Starfleet. And once they reject you, well.

Which isn't to say anything bad about where she ended up. Luna U is a well-ranked school, and was hardly her last choice. It hadn't been the highest-ranked among her handful of acceptances, not until she realized she could use this as an opportunity.

If they won't accept her theoretical research, she'll force them to acknowledge her as an actual data point.

And on that note... Carol pulls out a comm and waits for the autodial to kick in.

"Thank you for calling the Lunar Federation Offices, how may I - "

"Officer Howard, it's Carol Marcus," Carol interrupts, slowly walking where her senses lead her. "I've found another leak."

"Doc Marcus! Long time no call! Hold on just a sec, let me patch in someone from Maintenance..."

Carol sighs. "I keep telling you, I haven't completed my doctorate yet," she complains to her comm, which is playing loathsome hold music: a five-minute clip of Vulcan wind chimes that she's heard so many times she hums the tune in her sleep. She keeps walking, concerned when she hasn't reached the leak after passing through a half-dozen corridors. If it's really that far away, but she still felt it this strongly, it must be a serious leak.

Then she notices a rubber ball floating past a nearby window, and breaks into a run.

The hold music cuts off. "Okay, I've got the Maintenance Chief for your quadrant on the line, Dr. Marcus, tell us about the leak."

"I'm afraid it's more serious than I thought," she says breathlessly, reaching a corridor that's been sealed off. Someone's pounding on the door, crying out weakly for help. "It's an occupied area, and the leak was large enough to let a child's toy outside."

"Collecting coordinates from your comm location," Howard says, switching gears like the pro she is. "Gerald, I'm sending them to you - "

" - got it," a new voice says, tight with worry. "We'll have a team there in five minutes, Marcus. Evacuate if you can, but if the doors are sealed then stay back, for your own safety."

"You don't have to worry about my safety," Carol says, abandoning the comm to hack the sealed door. That officer at the firing range really should have known better. She gets it to slide open for a few precious seconds, and a girl of ten or twelve falls through, choking and shivering.

"T-Toby's s-s-still in there," she stutters.

"Your brother?"

She nods, miserable and guilty.

"Right," Carol says, back at the controls. "Get as far from the doors as you can, okay? Find your parents if you can." The girl nods, running off on shaky legs. Carol sucks in a breath. "Right," she says to herself, "you can do this. Just concentrate, pull it towards you. You've fought off gravity, you can fight off a vacuum." The doors fly open again, and she dashes through before they shut.

The room is freezing, and for a second Carol forgets herself just from the shock of it. A panicked cry from across the room grabs her attention, and allows her to recover her concentration. Toby, who's maybe three, is clinging to a table leg as far from the crack in the wall as he can get, but it won't do him much good for long.

Carol can save him.

Clenching her fists, she pulls the oxygen back to her that's trying to escape and runs for him. "Hey, Toby. Want to get out of here?" He stares at her, wide-eyed and breathless. Going into shock, he's running out of time - frantic, Carol shouts, "Come on, your sister's waiting!"

This seems to snap him out of it. He shouts "Bella!" and leaps into Carol's arms, clinging to her neck like he did the table leg. She wraps an arm around him, pushes the air in the room up and towards their heads, and runs back for the door. Two buttons gets the seal broken for the third and last time, and then they're through.

Carol sinks to the floor, light-headed and laughing. For a moment she enjoys the sensation, but fears of O2 overexposure make her relax, and the air around her becomes ever-so-slightly less dense. Toby seems to notice the change, as he makes a confused sound and lets go of her, hitting the floor with a gentle plop.

"Toby!" It seems Bella only ran a corridor away; she returns now, scooping her brother up into a hug and bursting into tears; Carol tunes them out, and only then notices that her abandoned comm is still on.

"Howard, you there?"

Silence for a moment, then a relieved sigh. "Cripes, Doc, I've never been so scared of the silent treatment."

"Sorry," Carol says. She bites her lip, trying to come up with something else to say. "I got the occupants out, a couple of kids. I think they were playing around and one of their toys hit a leak that was already there, made it big enough to be a concern."

"I'll add that to the report," Howard says, her voice fondly warm again. "The maintenance team should have an outer seal on the leak before the hour's over, and then an internal crew will take over."

"This isn't my first time," Carol protests. "I know how it works."

"Just thought you could use a reminder that you've done all you can about that," Howard says gently. "Those kids you saved might still need some help, though. If you're looking for something to do."

Carol turns her attention back to them. The girl's crying has reduced to occasional sobs. Her brother allows her to hold him, but doesn't seem as strongly affected. "Yeah," she says quietly. "Think I might find their parents or take them to an infirmary."

"You do that, hero," Howard says warmly.

Carol's blood freezes.

"I'm not a - "

"Are you kidding me? You saved two kids from death by exposure! If that's not a heroic act, I don't know what is."

Well, the Lieutenant does save children from fires and collapsing buildings all the time. And now, despite all her work to prove that powers have other uses, to prove that it's worth sending people with powers out into space, all anyone's going to see when they look at Carol is another superhero. Still, as she gathers the children and leads them in search of their mothers, she can't find she regrets it.

"You know what? You're right," Carol says before shutting off the comm. "I am a hero."