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[personal profile] calleigh_j
Title: But The Stars Collide
Author: [ profile] calleigh_j
Artist: [ profile] eudaimon - mix to come soon
Fandoms: Criminal Minds/The West Wing
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: none
Pairing: Emily Prentiss/Kate Harper
Disclaimer: anything you recognise is not mine
Word count: 13,885
Summary: A few months after the initial alien invasion, Kate Harper gets out of hospital and finds the efforts to save the world well underway, and a burgeoning relationship with a former FBI profiler
Notes: thanks to my beta for helping me get my words out; title comes from 'Aftermath' (REM); chapter quotes from 'Bullets In My Hairdo' (Finn), 'Don't Choose The Wrong Way' (Andy White), 'One Of Our Submarines' (Thomas Dolby), 'Airwaves' (Thomas Dolby), 'Karma Police' (Radiohead), and 'Aftermath' (REM)

Chapter One:

The whistle of the sniper, the crashing of the bombs
Put a spring back in my step, keeps me feeling young

She's running and running, and then blinking furiously as she hurtles out of the ship and onto the tarmac and finds herself nearly blinded by the summer sun. As much as she wishes these runs weren't necessary, Emily loves the adrenaline, the feel of her heart pumping fast and the blood pounding in her ears. She hears the sound of shooting from behind her and just keeps running, darting left and right and left again as she tries to make herself as difficult a target as possible to hit as she crosses the bridge. She's been lucky this run, just a few grazes and a sprained ankle. They hurt but she's still running and so she's lucky.

To her right, she spots Morgan and changes course slightly to bring their paths to cross. As they get closer together, he grins broadly at her and she knows he finds the whole experience as exhilarating as she does. They match pace and run until they get back into the more built up areas of what remains of the city and out of range of the shipboard weapons. Ducking round a corner, Emily leans against a wall to catch her breath for a few seconds and flex her ankle. Morgan peers around the corner of the building.

"There doesn't seem to be anyone following us," he remarks, breathing heavily.

"I don't think they even knew we were there until we were leaving," Emily responds and she can't quite hide a wince when she tentatively puts her weight on her right ankle.

"You okay?" Morgan asks as he looks down at her foot, concerned.

"It'll be fine," Emily replies, "I just need to rest it and maybe put some ice on it."

Morgan checks again and there's still no sign of pursuit, but still they jog back to the gates. They go through the normal routine - name, fingerprints, password - and then they're back to Alpha. Emily and Morgan part ways then as he heads back to base to give a report and Emily heads over to get her ankle checked out.

Despite repairs, the George Washington University Hospital doesn't look anything like it used to. The large expanses of glass at the front of the building are boarded up, as are most of the windows along the right hand side. The glass porch is almost completely gone, just a few of the metal support beams still up. The walls are charred but they're incredibly lucky that the main body of the hospital is still intact. In the centre of Alpha, the hospital is one of their greatest assets. It's a lot less busy than it used to be as well: these days, a cold or a minor burn or a bout of the flu are far less likely to get people to the hospital. There's someone sitting behind the reception desk at the main entrance but he's not a receptionist: he's there to keep an eye on who's coming in and going out of the hospital. All the other entrances and exits have been closed up because as organised and orderly as their little community at Alpha is, there are valuable supplies and equipment in the hospital which need to be protected. Vital supplies are starting run out and if anything were to be stolen or go missing, it could have a devastating effect.

The man recognises her though, she's been in here enough times, and waves her on through. She doesn't know the doctor on duty - it's surprising really how many medical professionals managed to survive the initial wave of the invasion - but she's perfectly pleasant as she probes Emily's ankle, moves it this way and that, and asks where it hurts. The conclusion is better than Emily had expected - it's just a strain rather than a sprain and she has orders to go home and rest and ice it. She's more than willing to comply with those instructions and limps out of the exam room and back out of the front doors. The adrenaline's wearing off now and the idea of medically advised rest is more than tempting.

The walk to the Ritz-Carlton takes longer than it usually does but Emily likes having the chance to clear her head a little. The former hotel is on the edge of safe territory and where about a quarter of the survivors with weapons and tactical training are living. The rest are spread out at various points around Alpha but Emily's happy where she is. Even with the top floors severely damaged, and an obvious lack of room service, the Ritz-Carlton is still without a doubt a nice place to be staying. Most of the civilian population of the safe zone are living in the various houses and apartments left empty but Emily had felt uncomfortable about the idea of just moving into someone else's home, even if there was little chance that person would ever be returning to claim it.

As she turns onto the right block, the radio at her waist starts to crackle.

"This is the Wicked Witch," says Garcia, her voice distorted by static, "calling her flying monkeys back to the tower."

Even with the steadily increasing pain in her ankle, Emily can't help but smile. Through all of this, Garcia hasn't changed one bit and Emily thinks she'd rather not be around to witness the day her friend stops smiling.

"This is Prentiss," Emily says into the little speaker, "I'm on my way, just be a few more minutes."

Over the open channel, she can hear the rest of the team checking in. She's the furthest away so she quickens her pace a little as she reaches the hotel lobby and heads towards the stairs. She's never much minded the fact that they can't use the elevators - they have a generator of limited capacity to power the building and elevators aren't even close to being a priority - but today, it just seems cruel as she drags her ever more tired body up seven flights of stairs. With a sigh of relief, she pushes open the door of the seventh floor and steps into the dark corridor. Windowless and lit only by emergency lighting, the corridors on all the above ground floors are always gloomy. Electricity is heavily restricted but there's something endlessly depressing about these hallways, all the same, lined with anonymous doors. Emily's always found hotel corridors mildly depressing - they remind her, she suspects, of her childhood - but these days, they're even more so.

Her room is thankfully just a few doors down and although she knows she's needed downstairs, she takes a few minutes to change and prod her swollen ankle. She forgoes putting her boots back on as they're just too uncomfortable and instead goes with an extra pair of socks and heads back out into the corridor. Then it's back down the stairs, this time into the basement.

Garcia's den of magic and mayhem is in what was once the security control room for the hotel. It's not exactly her office back at Quantico but considering the situation, it's an impressive space. The walls are covered in maps and blueprints, copies of those pinned to the walls of all the meeting rooms on the first floor, and computer monitors cover the desks. Usage of those is restricted too but they're high priority and so more often than not, they're all switched on.

"How's your ankle?" Garcia asks without turning around. Emily's long since ceased to be impressed by this trick: reflections in a computer screen are a useful tool.

"Just a little strain," Emily replies, "Need to see if I can raid the kitchen for some ice though. Did Morgan give you what he got?"

"He did," Garcia confirms as Emily hands over her own camera.

"How's the imaging going?" Emily asks.

"Better and better," Garcia answers, "I think we must have about sixty percent of the main routes and the most important spaces - engine room, weapons storage, everywhere like that - covered by now. Still don't have anything about the command centre though."

"No-one's ever made it in that far," Emily says pointlessly - Garcia knows that as well as she. In all the time they've been carrying out raids on the ship, no-one's ever managed to get into the command centre and back out with information. Seven people have tried and lost their lives doing so and so they're all under strict instructions not to even try getting in there until someone can come up with a decent plan.

"I hope what I got is helpful," Emily adds as she watches Garcia plug in the camera and start to work her magic, "I took the left-hand corridor in instead of the right so hopefully that might flesh out the detail of the paths leading to the weapons storage."

"It's great, sugar," Garcia replies absentmindedly, completely absorbed in her task, and Emily takes that as her cue to leave.

Instead of going straight back to the stairs, she carries on down the corridor and into the kitchen.

"Hey Bella," she calls, certain the woman will be around somewhere, "I'm just getting some ice for my ankle."

"Sure thing," comes the reply from somewhere in the far right corner. Bella had been working as a sous-chef in the hotel kitchen the day of the invasion and volunteered to stay on and take charge of the kitchen. She runs the kitchen with an iron fist, more necessary than ever as their rations continue to dwindle.

Emily pulls open the heavy door of the walk-in freezer and heads straight to the back where a small ice machine is kept. With the number of injuries people sustain, there's always someone who needs ice for something and so the machine is always running. Emily scoops the crushed ice into a sandwich bag, noting as she does so that there really aren't many left, and twists it shut. Shivering, she leaves the walk-in and heads to the small staircase at the side of the room that had once been used by waiters working in the restaurant directly above. She goes up to the ground floor and then up another staff staircase to the first floor. The meeting is, as always, in Washington meeting room, the third on the right, and Emily can hear from the muffled sounds of talking that it's already started.

It's the usual group: Hotch, Reid, Rossi, JJ, and Morgan; various other FBI and CIA agents; a couple of a guys from ATF; a contingent of military personnel from different branches; and Nancy McNally. Emily isn't sure how they managed to get lucky enough to end up with Nancy McNally in their little corner of resistance but once the initial attack was over and the first clean-up began, she was there, organising everything. Emily's always been curious as to why she isn't in some bunker somewhere with the President, offering advice from deep underground, but she's loathe to ask in case somehow that makes Dr. McNally disappear. Without her, none of this would have happened, of that Emily is almost certain. Without Nancy McNally's cool head and years of experience, the survivors in around the D.C. area would probably have been picked off in a few weeks and that would have been that. Which isn't to say there aren't dozens of other experienced and highly trained people around, but somehow Dr. McNally's managed to bring them altogether, to inspire invaluable unity and loyalty.

Emily slips as quietly as she can into a seat near the back of the room and takes another one to prop her foot up. She presses the ice against her ankle and looks to the front of the room. Standing beside Nancy is a woman Emily doesn't recognise. That in itself is strange: after five and a half months, she thought she knew everyone in their corner of Alpha. The woman has the pale complexion of someone who hasn't spent very much time outdoors recently and though none of them are exactly the picture of health at the moment, the new woman looks a little skinnier, a little more drawn than everyone else. Emily doesn't have to wonder about the other woman's identity for very long though.

"This is Kate Harper, former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Bartlet," Dr. McNally says. Emily isn't exactly sure what the 'former' means: they've all gotten into the habit of referring to the jobs they used to hold and the things they used to do, but Emily is unsure whether the 'former' here refers to that, or if Kate Harper stopped working for President Bartlet before the invasion. It's pretty irrelevant but Emily finds her mind wandering anyway.

"She was injured in the initial attack," Dr. McNally continues, "which is why she's only joining us now. However, now that she's fully recovered, I believe she will be of great help in our continuing fight against the K'larn. She's a member of the US Navy and a former CIA agent and has invaluable experience in covert operations and tactical assaults."

Emily watches and Kate Harper seems decidedly nonplussed by the praise - it may not sound much like praise but Nancy McNally isn't one for effusive compliments - more interested in taking notice of the different people and groups in the room. Emily means to look away but then Kate glances in her direction and their eyes meet. Emily's a little embarrassed to have been caught staring but Kate holds her gaze, and so Emily keeps on looking. They look straight at each other until McNally asks for Kate's opinion on something and then, with an upwards quirk of her left eyebrow, Kate turns her attention to Dr. McNally.

It's difficult to focus for the rest of the meeting as Emily finds her attention continually drawn back to Kate Harper. More than once, when she looks over, Kate's looking at her, an enigmatic expression on her face. Each time their eyes meet, Emily makes herself hold Kate's gaze. The other woman's expression remains indecipherable but there's an element of interest there and Emily can't deny that it would be nice to have some new faces around. But finally, with a quick round-up of everything that's happened in the past few days and a date and time set for the next meeting and the planning of the next raid, the meeting ends. Emily gets to her feet and winces as she does. Over the course of the meeting, she'd forgotten about her ankle and standing up is serving only to remind her that it hurts, and hurts a lot. She picks the bag that had originally held ice, and now is just full of lukewarm water. As she shifts her weight around, trying to work out just how much her ankle can take, she realises that there's someone standing beside her.

"Hi," Emily hears, and she looks up and into the face of Kate Harper.

"Hi," Emily echoes.

"What happened to your ankle?" Kate asks, looking down at Emily's feet.

"Twisted it coming out of the last raid," Emily replies with a small shrug, "Nothing bad, just painful. I'm Emily," she adds, "Emily Prentiss."

"Kate Harper," Kate says, as if Nancy McNally hadn't introduced her not an hour previously.

"Dr. McNally said you were injured," Emily says, "What happened?"

"The building I was in at the time of the first attack was hit," Kate explains, "I was on the ground floor and when the building collapsed, I was pinned under concrete. I broke a few bones and had some swelling around my spine. Luckily, I was with Dr. McNally and she eventually managed to get me out. I ended up in the hospital and I've been stuck there ever since. They only let me out for the first time the other day." She says it very matter-of-factly, but Emily knows that if Kate's injuries kept her in hospital for over five months, they must have been incredibly serious.

"I was lucky," Kate continues, "It's good to be out though."

"I bet," Emily agrees, and then they fall into an awkward silence.

By now, the room's emptied out and they're the only ones left. Emily glances down at her watch and is surprised: clearly the meeting went on longer than it felt like it had because it's far later than Emily would have guessed.

"I was just going to head down to the dining room," Emily suggests, "Do you want to come? I could introduce you to people - I know how hard it is to come into the middle of something."

"That would be great, thanks," Kate agrees, and motions for Emily to go ahead of her out of the room.


Chapter Two:

I know I shouldn't be writing about the weather
Not with the war and all

New places, especially ones where she's going to spending any great length of time, are uncomfortable for Kate. She makes a mental note to give herself a full tour of the former hotel after she's eaten. At the very least, she needs to know exits and entrances, the quickest routes for getting in and out of the building, and any places that might be vulnerable to attack. She's supposed to be meeting with Penelope Garcia tomorrow as well. Apparently there's been something of a project to build up a detailed set of plans for the big K'larn ship with the eventual intention of getting in there to destroy it. She may not have been on any of the raids but that's going to change soon and hopefully with the help of the plans and the walkthrough, she'll have some idea of what she's going into.

"Do you know Penelope Garcia?" she asks Emily as they walk - slowly - down the stairs. Emily's doing her best to walk normally but Kate knows from experience how painful an ankle injury, even a minor one, can be so she makes a conscious effort to slow her pace and not make the other woman feel bad.

"Garcia?" Emily repeats, "Of course - we worked together at Quantico."

And from that, Kate understands that Emily is...was an FBI agent. She kicks herself mentally for not having already found out, but she's been out of the game for months and she's just so glad to be in the company of other people again, so she'll allow herself a little leniency.

"Garcia's the best at what she does," Emily assures Kate, "She can do things with a computer that I didn't even know were possible."

"I'm supposed to be meeting with her tomorrow morning so she can take me over the plans and the pictures from inside the ship," Kate explains.

"The pictures are amazing," Emily says with enthusiasm, pushing open the stairway door and stepping through to the ground floor corridor, "We've all been going in with cameras set on automatic and Garcia's put them together into a kind of visual guide of the ship, or at least the bits we've managed to make it into."

"How are you still managing to get in?" Kate asks. There's still a lot that she hasn't been brought up to speed on and she hates being uninformed, especially about matters this important.

"Garcia again," Emily replies, "She can explain it far better than I can, but as I understand it, their shields use some of rotating electromagnetic field. It's very effective, or it would be if Garcia, well, Garcia and Reid, hadn't figured out the pattern of changing frequencies. I honestly don't understand exactly what she did or how she did it, but she managed to find a way to temporarily disable the shield when it's working at various frequencies. She can only do it for a very short period of time and only in certain places - something to do with the proximity of the shield generator - so the timing has to be absolutely perfect, but it gives us anywhere from three to fifteen minutes inside. The shield apparently fluctuates a fair bit anyway, which Reid says might have something to do with the gravitational force here, so they don't seem to have worked out yet how we're getting in."

Emily pushes open another door and Kate realises they've walked all the way down the corridor and she hasn't been paying any attention to her surroundings. But the smell of something delicious reaches her nose and she realises that she's genuinely hungry. She hasn't been properly hungry really since the attack: only in the past weeks has she managed to actually get through a full meal.

"That smells amazing," she says appreciatively, following Emily over to a line of people queueing for whatever it is they're going to be eating.

"Bella's done incredible things," Emily agrees, "It's getting more difficult now, we're really starting run out of things, but she usually manages to cobble together something good. It's not exactly Michelin star-worthy but considering where we are, it's amazing."

"How is the food situation?" Kate asks. Emily seems to know the right people around here and Kate figures it's better than her constantly bombarding with Nancy McNally with questions.

"It's...difficult," Emily says slowly, picking up two trays from a stack and handing one to Kate, "Again, we're lucky in that there was quite a lot of dried and canned food already here and in the other big hotels which was mostly undamaged by the attacks. There's also a warehouse just across the river that we managed to get a lot of dried goods out of. But flour's starting to run low, the canned fruits and vegetables are starting go off, and there's pretty much no meat left. They've started growing vegetables on the baseball pitches by the university but it'll be a while before any of those things are ready, and that's assuming they don't get destroyed in the meantime."

Emily breaks off then to talk to one of the guys ladling food onto plates. Kate feels like she's back in high school again but understands the necessity of portion control when food is being rationed. She's not entirely sure what she's being served - something brown and stew-like - but it smells good and comes with fries so she's not complaining. She takes a glass of water, wishes it were coffee, and follows Emily over to a table. There are six people sitting down already: a young guy with glasses next to a slightly older, well-built African American; next to him is an older, Italian-looking man and by him, a blonde woman who looks to be a few years younger than Kate. Next to the blonde woman is another woman, this one with pigtails in her hair and bright, colourful make-up, and beside her is a man who's probably a few years older than Kate and the epitome, even in jeans and sweatshirt, of an FBI agent.

"Kate Harper," Emily says as they reach the table, "This is my team. Spencer Reid, Derek Morgan, David Rossi, JJ Jareau, Penelope Garcia, and Aaron Hotchner." She gestures at each person as she says their name and when Kate realises that the woman with the crazy hair and make-up is Penelope Garcia, she's more than surprised. She realises she shouldn't be, but she'd expected, for whatever reason, someone very serious, and Penelope Garcia doesn't appear to be that person at all.

"You're my ten o'clock," Penelope Garcia says in recognition of Kate's name.

"McNally's new number two," Morgan says to the others, and Kate remembers seeing his face during the meeting just a little earlier.

"You're working with Nancy McNally?" Hotchner asks.

"We worked together before the invasion," Kate explains, "I was injured and haven't been really been able to help at all until now but I'm all fixed up and ready to get out there."

"I'm giving her the virtual tour tomorrow morning," Garcia says, grinning at her friends before turning to Kate, "You're my first guinea pig; the first person to get the walkthrough who hasn't actually been into the ship."

"I'm looking forward to it," Kate says and surprises even herself by how much she means it. She's never been out of action for such an extended period of time before and the idea of being able to be useful again is definitely appealing.

With introductions over, it's Emily's turn to talk as Morgan asks about her ankle, prompting everyone else to ask if she's really okay and if she's had it checked out. Emily rolls her eyes but dutifully answers all the questions and promises to put more ice on it later. Kate watches and listens and it feels almost as if things haven't changed for this small group of people. They were a team before the invasion and somehow, through luck and training, they've managed to remain a team. It's nice to be around people again but Kate feels a little isolated: these people all have history together and she has no idea where all the people she used to know are. Some of them are probably in the bunker with President Bartlet and his family, assuming they managed to round them all up in time. But the rest of the senior staff? She has no idea who among them might have had passes for the bunker. Every day as well, she thinks of her family, her sister and brother and their spouses and children. There would have been no bunker for them to hide in. She hopes that they're okay, that they found small groups of survivors like here in DC, but no-one has any idea what's going on in the rest of the country.

Communication with the rest of the US and the rest of the world has been down since a couple hours since the first wave of attacks. The K'larn sent in smaller ships at first and took out power sources and communication towers. Kate guesses they must have been monitoring the planet for a while and is more than a little disturbed that despite all the satellites in orbit around the Earth, no-one spotted any sign of the K'larn until it was far too late. She doesn't remember much at all about the first few weeks of the occupation but from what she's been told, panic doesn't even begin to describe the atmosphere. It was the end of the world. Except it wasn't; they're still here, even if the world they knew has come to an end. By the time Kate was conscious and coherent enough to have things explained to her, the world had seemingly shrunk to a few square miles of D.C. She's heard from others that Nancy McNally was the driving force behind getting everyone into one place and trying to start work on some kind of defensive plan, though McNally herself seems reluctant to agree to having been that important.

It's certainly an interesting plan. Kate's not sure it's what she would have done had she been in charge: spreading people out over a larger area and making it harder for them all to picked off sort of sounds like a better idea. With things the way they are now, they're certainly at risk of having their small colony of survivors obliterated by a single powerful weapon. That hasn't happened yet though and Kate has to wonder why. The K'larn have far more sophisticated weapons, more firepower, and surely are in a strong offensive position. Yet since the first few days of the invasion, their ship has been grounded just across the [NAME OF RIVER]. There are patrols, both in the air and on the ground, and there's no doubt that it's the K'larn who are in charge now and the humans who are fighting for survival, but Kate feels like there must be something they're all missing. It's not that it's exactly been easy, but why are they still alive?

It's only the sudden noise of chairs being pushed back from the table that brings Kate out of her thoughts and alerts her to the fact that Emily and her friends all appear to have finished eating and be leaving. Kate looks down at her own plate and is surprised to see she's eaten it all: she was so lost in her own thoughts that she doesn't even know what the food tasted like.

"Where are you headed to now?" Emily asks. She's still sitting down but has pushed her chair back and is clearly waiting for Kate's response.

"I was just going to wander round the hotel a bit," Kate says, thinking of her earlier plan, "I just want to get an idea of the layout, quick exit routes, things like that."

Emily nods in understanding and offers to go with her. Surprising herself again, Kate agrees to the company. Usually, she'd prefer to do something like this on her own but Emily's been nothing but helpful and interesting to talk to and honestly, Kate quite likes having someone new to talk to.

Garcia's heading back down to her 'den' with Doctor Reid and the rest of Emily's team are, as far as Kate can tell, going to play poker or something like that. They all exchange goodnights and separate.

"You seemed distracted over dinner," Emily says as they head slowly up to the top floor. Kate had suggested that they didn't need to cover all the floors, that she could do whatever was left on her own later, but Emily insists that her ankle isn't that bad and she's really not ready to go back to her room.

"I was just thinking," Kate replies. Emily raises an eyebrow, inviting further explanation, and Kate relates her thoughts from earlier. Emily nods as Kate talks about the lack of communication and the odd way the K'larn seem to be leaving them alone when they could easily destroy them.

"I think they're waiting," Emily says when Kate's finished speaking.

"For what?" Kate asks.

"Of that, I have no idea," Emily admits, "but you're completely right: they have the ability to destroy us in seconds and the fact that they haven't yet doesn't mean they don't plan to. I think there's something else going on that we don't know about. That's why we need to get into the command centre. There has to be something there that can tell us what they're planning."

"But how would we know?" Kate asks, "Even if we did find plans, it's not as if we can read their language."

"There has to be something there that we would be able to understand," Emily insists, "Blueprints, maps, something like that."

Kate's not convinced that it could be that simple, but Emily's earnest belief is infectious and so Kate smiles and privately hopes that she's right. They finish the tour without bringing it up again as Kate asks questions about the changes they've made to the hotel and Emily does her best to answer them. By the time they get back to the ground floor, it's late; so late it's actually early the next day. Kate's still supposed to be staying in the hospital overnight, but curfew comes into effect as soon as it gets dark and it's been dark for a few hours already. She looks out of the front doors, past the guards, and into the darkness.

"Where are you staying anyway?" Emily asks, following Kate's gaze.

"Supposedly at the hospital," Kate replies ruefully, "but I don't think that's going to be happening tonight."

"You're more than willing to share my room," Emily offers, "I mean, there are plenty of empty rooms around but I don't know what kind of condition they're in, and I have an extra bed..."

"That would be great, thanks," Kate agrees, and she follows Emily back to her room.


Chapter Three:

The Baltic moon along the Northern seaboard
And down below, the Winter Boys are waiting for the storm

"We could try going in this way," Emily suggests, pointing at the blueprint spread out in front of her on the large table. The conference facilities of the hotel have proven more than useful, with tables large enough to accommodate the oversized maps of the area and diagrams of the K'larn ships.

"I thought that way had already been tried," Hotch questions as he looks at the line Emily's tracing with a pencil.

"It has been," McNally agrees, "but not for a few months. We know a lot more about the ship now and if we can have a bit more time, Emily's right: we might be able to get somewhere from there. We're not learning anything new by constantly going for the same places."

"I'll go in," offers Graham Edwardson, a former Army major. Other voices all around the room pipe up, offering their support of the idea and suggesting good teams.

Emily tries to offer but McNally shuts her down before she can get the words fully out, assuring Emily that until her ankle is fully healed, she won't be involved in any raids. Emily slumps a little but she knows it's the right thing: if her ankle were to give way while she was in the ship, she could be trapped there and could put other people in danger if they tried to come after her. It makes her feel useless though, knowing that she'll be stuck her while others are out risking their lives.

"I thought you'd be glad of the rest," JJ says as they file out of the room at the end of the meeting.

"I should be," Emily agrees, "but I hate the idea that someone else's is going out there in my place. If they were to be hurt..." She doesn't need to finish the sentence. JJ understands the guilt that comes from staying behind.

"How are you doing anyway?" Emily continues, pushing open the door at the top of the stairwell, "It seems like you and Reid have been locked in the communications room for days now and we've barely had a chance to speak."

"I'm okay," JJ replies, looking away from Emily.

For all that she's lost and all that she misses, Emily can't even begin to fathom how hard it must be for JJ, not knowing even whether Will and Henry are still alive.

"It's hard," JJ says after a pause, "but I know there isn't anything I can do other than hope they're still okay and do whatever I can to destroy the K'larn and get them back."

JJ's pragmatism astounds Emily. Emily remembers, and it seems so long ago, back at the Hankel house when JJ had asked her how she managed to deal with the things they saw every day. Emily's not certain her compartmentalisation skills could match what JJ must be doing every single day now. She tries not to ask about it too much - she doesn't want to force JJ to think about it all the time - but she knows how overwhelming things like this can be and she doesn't want JJ to get lost in her grief.

"You know, if you need to talk..." Emily offers, as she always does.

"Thanks," JJ replies, and they both know she won't. Emily suspects JJ's been talking to Hotch which makes sense, seeing as they're in the same situation. But in general, JJ avoids talking about Will or Henry and Emily can't blame her. None of them wants to spend time talking about the people and the things they've lost. They live from one day to the next because it's all they can do. Looking back is pointless, looking any further forward than a few days is so completely hypothetical as to be useless.

"How's the new girl?" JJ asks as they reach the bottom of the stairs and step out into the corridor, heading down to Garcia's office and the communications room.

"Kate?" Emily checks and JJ raises an eyebrow: who else could she possible have meant?

"She's...interesting," Emily hedges, not sure enough of her own thoughts about Kate Harper to want to share them quite yet with JJ.

They'd spoken a little more the night before when they got back to Emily's room. Emily had learnt a little more about what Kate's job in the White House had entailed, and in turn she'd shared what exactly her role in the FBI had been. But it had been late and they'd both been tired. When Emily had awoken, Kate had already left. Emily had been surprised to feel a little disappointed by that, and she's not entirely sure where the disappointment had come from.

"I think she'll be able to help a lot," she says more certainly, "Her background is certainly good for us and McNally trusts her. I think she'll be good for us."

Emily pushes open to door into Garcia's office and steps back to let JJ walk through first.

"So, down there is the command centre, as far as we know," Garcia's saying to Kate, pointing out things on the largest of the computer screens.

"But no-one's actually made it in there?" Kate asks.

"No-one who's made it out again," Garcia confirms, "We really have no idea what happens in there but it's the centre of the ship, there are always people going to and from there, and we've managed to map out most of the other important places."

"We're going to try and get someone in in a few days," Emily says and Kate and Garcia turn around: apparently neither of them had heard Emily and JJ come into the room.

"What are they going to try this time?" Garcia asks. She knows all of the failed attempts and is clearly curious as to how anyone might be able to make this time be any different.

"We're sending a team in this way," Emily says, stepping over to the wall where the blueprints of the ship are tacked out and tracing the suggested path with her finger, "It's a much longer way around but we haven't tried it in a while, so hopefully it'll take them longer to realise we're there, and if we can get to the command centre, then it'll be worth it."

"What happened the last time you tried to send people in that way?" Kate asks as she looks at the blueprint.

"We didn't lose anyone," JJ replies, "but we came close. There are just so many more places to be spotted and opportunities to be caught going that way. But we've tried over and over to get through going the shorter way and we haven't gotten anywhere. There's nothing more we can do until we know what goes on in that room, and maybe getting in there will allow us to learn something about what the K'larn are actually trying to do."

"Garcia, I was just looking for..." Reid says as he comes out of the door against the back wall, "Oh, morning guys."

Without even hearing what Reid's looking for, Garcia hands over a small black box and Reid smiles at her.

"Have you seen the communications room?" Emily asks of Kate, gesturing towards the door Reid's left open.

"I haven't," Kate replies.

"I have to go up and see Doctor McNally," Reid says, already pushing open the door that leads onto the corridor, "but Emily can explain everything to you if you want to have a look around."

"That would be great, thanks," Emily says to his rapidly retreating back.

JJ sits down beside Garcia - since the invasion, she's become Garcia's unofficial assistant and they make a fairly formidable team - and Emily shows Kate through into the communications room. Originally, it was an annex to the security room that's become Garcia's office. Now, it's full of radios and speakers and various items of electrical equipment as Reid and a former Army technical officer named Collins try over and over to get in touch with anyone else who might still be alive. Occasionally, they also manage to pick up some kind of transmission from the K'larn ship but no-one's yet managed to figure out how they communicate from ship to ship so they're limited to whatever random chatter comes through the shortwave radios set up.

"So, these are the receivers," Emily says, feeling a little as though she's on a game show, stepping to the side to announce the different prizes.

There are seven working sets spread out over the large table along with another half dozen or so in various states. Emily's not sure whether they're in the process of being fixed or if the parts are just being salvaged to make something else.

"Where did they all come from?" Kate asks.

"There were a few in shops around here," Emily explains, "We found some more in some of the abandoned properties while we were trying to work out places for people to live, and then the university had a couple as well. I was really surprised how many we came up with, but Reid and Collins - he's an Army technical officer who specialises in communications - have managed to fix a lot of them up."

"Have we actually received anything?" Kate asks, a doubtful look on her face.

"Nothing from anyone from Earth," Emily replies with a rueful smile, "We get the occasional snippet of a K'larn transmission, but no-one's actually been able to work out how communication between their ships - and we're just assuming there are multiple ships here - even works. Collins reckons it's just due to the nature of the shortwave sets."

"Do we have a transmitter?" Kate asks next. Emily watches as she walks around, picking up and examining the various different receivers. Emily guesses Kate probably has some experience with things like this: she certainly seems to know what she's doing as she turns the appliances over and over in her hands.

"It's just over there," Emily answers, pointing to the corner of the room, "Reid and Collins broadcast from it once an hour between around eight in the morning and midnight on various different frequencies. So far, nothing. It seems like we're just sending words out there into the void and there's no-one listening."

"I don't see how we can be the only people left," Kate says with more confidence than Emily's ever heard from her.

"And you're basing that on what exactly?" Emily asks. She wants to believe Kate and figures the other woman must have a reason for saying that, but being positive after so much time is hard.

"If everything went to plan, the President and members of the cabinet should be in the bunker, along with their families," Kate replies, "I know we didn't have much warning, any warning really, or enough time to do anything properly, but they ought to be safe. And there are a lot of people here. Relatively, I mean, given the attacks and our proximity to the ship. I cannot believe that there aren't other people who've survived. Either like us, in the big cities, or in the countryside, in smaller towns. Even if the K'larn have destroyed every single town and city in the country, I'm betting there are people who live off the grid, or just people who happened to be away from home in the national parks and things at the time of the attacks who survived."

"That's an incredibly optimistic outlook," Emily comments. No matter how impossible she personally may find it to be constantly looking for the positive in their current situation, it's heartening to know that there are still people who can.

"Maybe," Kate admits, "but human beings are incredibly resilient. Think about the people who've survived stuck on mountains in snow storms or trapped under buildings after natural disasters. It's only when we're faced with things like this that we realise our true strength."

Emily raises an eyebrow and Kate ducks her head.

"Okay, maybe that was a bit over the top, but we cannot be all that's left."

"What if we are?" Emily asks, feeling oddly fatalistic.

"Then we have to do as much as we can to destroy the K'larn and keep the human race alive," Kate replies, "There's really nothing else we can do."

Kate says the last with a shrug, a note of realism after her idealism, and Emily smiles. It really is amazing to have a new person around, and Kate's not just any person. She's smart and funny and down to Earth, all qualities Emily admires and finds, much as she knows this is an incredibly inappropriate and awkward time to be feeling this, attractive. She tries not to make snap judgements about people, even in the current environment, because she knows as well as anyone how misleading first and even second and third impressions can be. But there are people, she firmly believes, who come into your life and who you know immediately are meant to be there. She can't shake the feeling that Kate is one of those people, regardless of the circumstances of their meeting and the state of the world.

"Reid should be back soon to do the hourly attempt at contact," Emily says as she looks down at her watch, "I'm certain he'd be more than happy to explain things to you in more detail, if you want."

"I actually have to go," Kate says, glancing down at her own watch, "I'm supposed to be meeting McNally to get fully briefed on all the latest plans, which should all make a lot more sense now that I've seen Garcia's walkthrough."

Emily finds herself having to work to keep down a sudden feeling of disappointment until Kate adds, "I should be done by lunch though, if you wanted to get together then. I'm sure I'll have more questions and you seem very good at answering them."

"I do my best," Emily says with an air of nonchalance.

They make plans to meet in the dining room some time after one, depending on when Kate's meeting finishes, and then Kate leaves. Emily can hear her saying good bye to JJ and Garcia. She rubs her eyes with her hands and tries not to grimace. She can't help feeling like somewhere down the line, this is all going to end badly.

Part Two
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