Brother to Brother
From the Story Arc: Cold Front
(posted Friday, December 15, 2006)
Bella was going to move heaven and earth to get hold of Russian Battler personally. If it took getting Saviour to find a horseback courier to take him a satellite phone, she'd do it. This was not something he should hear from anyone else.
Nicholai, smiled as he stared into the sun. His chest, bare and sweaty from a day of farm labor, he felt good to be, just another Russian Citizen. Even if it was only temporary. He thought back to his days in the CCCP, and smiled. "I am needing to get back to comerades soon." He said to no one in particular. "But father is still too weak for me to be leavink."
"The mighty Russian Battler," once hero of Paragon City, was now another farm hand, helping his parents run their farm, and train the latest crop of Russian Professional Wrestlers. How the mighty had fallen", Nicholai mused to himself. "What would Zach be thinkink of me now, da?"
"They would think that you are still a hero, big brother", came the voice of his little sister, Illyana.
"You would be sayink that, little flower. Perhaps some day will be takink you to Paragon. Would be wery interesting for you to meet your twin, Nataliya".
Nicholai's Padd buzzed with an insistancy that would not be ignored. "Wonder why CCCP is contactink me?"
"...and I don't care if you have to bounce the signal off Gorbachov's head...oh, you have him? Nicholai?"
"Da, Comerade, Bella, is good to be...." Nocholai paused, noting her voice, and the harried look on the Commisar's face. "Is somethink goink on?"
"Nicholai...ah crap. Tovarish...please, sit down. The news is....not good."
Nicholai looked around the cleared field, and planted himself on the tire of the nearby tractor.
"You know Zach's been in DC, right?" She swallowed hard.
"Did nyet know he had left. He mentioned that he was goink to be visitink or beink stationed there soon."
"There was...an attack there, a couple of metahumans...killed a lot of Pentagon people. Zach was giving Gremlin a tour and, you know, standard op, Freedom Corps makes them available to DC PD. They got the callup. Except...except these weren't your...garden variety villains. They came out of the Program that made Zach. And Johnny Murdock. And they were gunning for Zach." Her face crumpled. "Nicholai...Zach's...gone."
Nicholai looked at the PADD for a moment. "Of course he is gone, comerade commisar, he is in DC, you are just tellink me that, da?" Nicholai didn't want to let the truth of her words hit him.
Her voice became very, very soft and gentle. "He's dead, Nicholai. I'm sending you the newsfeed now."
Nicholai's face filled with confusion. Illyana looked at her big brother, worry etched on his forehead.
Bella's face was replaced with the PNN footage, in all its horrible clarity. "If I'm goin', you're comin' with me!" The white flash. The glowing red crater. The commentators.
Bella came back online. "Nicholai? Still with me?"
Nicholai stood up, looked at the tractor, looked at where his sister was standing, nodded to himself, and then hurled the tractor across the field. It landed with a loud crash, smoke and a small fire billowing from it. Illyana looked at her big brother. "You know Father is nyet goink to be happy about havink to be replacing that. I am hopink you feel better."
Nicholai looked at Illyana, "Better the tractor, than the trainees."
He then turned his attention back to Bella, his face turned emotionless and stony, "Da, am here Commisar.
She passed her hand over her eyes. "I have Tasha here...would you...could you...talk to her? I'm not sloughing you off, Nicholai. But I know you two are closer than you and I were. Are. Crap."
"Da, would be good to talk to Nemnoga Sestra again."
Bella looked off the screen. "Tash?"
There were some confused pictures of Bella's office, mostly upside down. A flash of what appeared to be Kid Crisis's face. Then Tasha's face replaced Bella's.
Nicholai couldn't help but smile. He and Nataliya had talked about the uncanny resemblance to Illyana, but to actually see the two relatively side by side, if his sister hadn't been by his side, it would be easy to believe that she were thousands of miles away.
"Zdrastochye, bolshoi brat," said Tasha quietly. Nicholai could see the sad smile hidden by her prottective gear in her eyes, despite the strong face she was presenting.
"Nataliya." Nicholai said cooly, almost as if he was holding his emotions in complete check.
"Is very good to see you again, Nicholai," she continued, "I have been missing you."
"Da. Has been long time. This is sister Illyana, who has overheard the message. Illyana, this is Nemnoga Sestra Nataliya, he one I was speakink of earlier. How are you dealink with news?"
"Better than father's tractor, I can assure you", Illyana blurted out. Battler surpressed a slight smile, not knowing how to feal, confusion still etched his face.
Tasha's tinkling laughter broke a bit of the tension, and they all shared a smile. "Honestly, I am all right," she answered, "This pain will last for a time, but I am doing whatever I can to be there for her, for everyone. Is least I can do, after all of the love and compassion given to me when I was needing it most. You know, it was Bella herself that told me that these acts of kindness can only be paid forward." She paused briefly, allowing another smile to cross her face. "And I am doing that, as are we all."
"Nyet all of us. Am still here, in Siberia." He looked around for something else to throw, and only saw Illyana.
"If you throw me like you did the tractor, Father would kill you."
Nicholai stiffled his sister with a stare, and turned his attention back to Nitaliya. "It should have been beink me, to be with him. I should have been beink there, instead of here, plowink fields, and makink sure the trainees are doink their push-ups."
Nataliya slowly shook her head and said, "And if you had, bolshoi brat? Would you wish twice the mourning on us? Nyet, the best thing we can do for him, and our other comrades before him, is to live, love and carry the hopes and dreams they had."
"If was there, he would still beink here. He and I have stopped everythink that has ewer faced us." Nicholai stopped for a moment. "Where is body?"
She hesitated, looking away from the camera at one of the others in the room. Taha nodded and took a deep breath, gazing firmly at the large man she had come to think of as a brother. "He... he is with God, Nicholai. Every part of him."
"If there is no body, then he can nyet be dead. Am knowink this is how thinks work in Paragon. Have seen it before. We must be lookink for Zach. Will be gettink on plane to assist." Nicholai's eyes looked slightly crazed, but his jaw was set.
A voice from off the camera interrupted them. "Tasha, let me take this."
Again the crazy upside-down pictures, then Bella's face. "Nicholai. You know me. You know what I can do..." Her skin was very, very pale, and her eyes bright. "If he were...still with us...I would know. Dear god...I would know."
The screen went dark for a second, as if the phone was placed face down on the desk. When Bella's face appeared in it again, she still looked pale, but a little more composed. "Nevertheless, if you want to be here, I'm making arrangements now. Saviour will send a helicopter to the farm, that will take you to Star City, where you'll get a second seat in one of those Mach 4 spy planes we aren't supposed to know about. That will land in Cuba, where you'll pick up something else and go straight here."
"Will have bags packed. Ewen the Wild Huntsman and Chernobog combined could nyet be keepink me away. Am wantink to see for self."