The Thrill of the Chase - part 4

From the Story Arc: Rebirth

Previous Story in the Arc: The Thrill of the Chase - part 3 by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, December 17, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: The Thrill of the Chase - Epilogue by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, December 17, 2006)

(posted Sunday, December 17, 2006)

(The next day)

The knock on the door went unanswered at first, but that was not unexpected; the people inside had more important things to concern themselves with than visitors at the moment. Although, judging by readiness of the security systems, certain types of visitors had been prepared for - just in case.

After a short period of time, the door was opened by JJ and, after giving a slight smile of welcome, he stepped aside and motioned Red Star in.

Passing through the entranceway, she walked into the living room and glanced around. There was a pile of armour, some polish and a set of rags on one of the coffee tables; this must be where JJ was keeping himself occupied. Hearing the front door click shut, Star turned to see JJ enter the room and start making his way towards the half polished armour.

“Murdock and Sera?” Star asked.

“They’ve gone out. I feel sorry for the Malta who are pulling them away from here.” JJ gave a cheerless grin and, selecting a rag, sat down.

Star looked over towards the bedroom area and reached out towards Astra. “There has been no change in either of them?”

JJ stared critically at the armour. “Some, but they need to rest. Aunt Bella said it would take time but they’d be fine.”

The casual way that that was said made Star turn to face him. He was intently not looking at anything but the armour, polishing a spot for all it was worth. Star nodded slowly; she got the feeling that this armour would be having a rough time over the next few days.

She moved towards a couch and sat down. Getting comfortable, or as comfortable as she could get, she reached out towards her sestra. Astra was asleep, as seemed to be Kyne; Star didn’t sleep but given what she was seeing in Astra’s head it didn’t seem at all like the restful experience that she’d been told it was. Star closed her eyes and concentrated on her sestra.

Astra passed over streets and buildings, chasing the dancing, black shape ahead of her. She ran as fast as she could but she was too slow and it was too late. No matter how fast she ran or flew, he was always ahead of her.

“Where’s ya hiding, brat?” It called out, “Come n’ show ya’self; the longer ya take, the more that die.” It laughed as it flew on, and wherever it passed children died.

“I’m here!” Astra shouted, desperation in her voice, “I surrender!” but her words were carried away by the wind and the ghost did not hear.

“Astraaa!” It called, flying over a bright yellow bus which exploded, leaving a trail of smoke in his wake.

“I’m here!” Astra sobbed as she flew after him and all the burning children cried out to her, asking why she was letting him do this to them.

“I’m sorry,” she replied, tears streaming down her face, “oh please, I’m sorry, I surrender…”

And then everything began to turn black as Red Star pulled her up, away from the carnage and into the quiet of the, now night-time, sky.

< It is alright, sestra, you are safe. This never happened. >

“It did,” Astra cried, “they died because of me.”

< They died because of him, Astra. He was the one who killed them. > Puzzlement entered Star’s thoughts, < This is not real, you are just imagining this. >

“Children died, Star, and I could have stopped it, I should have stopped him sooner. If only I’d surrendered, if only…” a vision of a child’s head, staring up at her from a box, swept in front of her and, her vision blurring, Astra clung to Star and cried.

Star tried to think of something she could say, something that would be of comfort to her sestra, something to take away the pain. But there was nothing. This was just too different, too much beyond her experiences and so, feeling helpless, Star just held Astra close and waited until her cries subsided.



---


A few hours later, the security system gave a bleep as the apartment door opened and Star looked up just as Sera walked into the room.

Looking tired, and not just from the tender ministrations of the Malta, concern for her children all but radiated from Sera.

“Hey, there. There’s no change, they’re still resting.” JJ said, pre-empting the question on Sera’s lips.

Looking slightly crestfallen, Sera replied, “Of course,” then smiled slightly as Murdock stepped beside her and placed his arm around her. To Star’s eyes, they seemed to derive some comfort, some strength, from each other. She only wished that she could provide the same to Astra.

After a moment, Sera and Murdock broken apart and, turning to face the room, Murdock appeared to notice Star was the first time.

“Oh-- howdy, Star. Sorry, didn’t notice you sat there.”

“It is not a problem, comrades.” Star said, standing up. “It is I who should apologise; I am disturbing you.”

“Not at all, Star.” replied Sera, “I’ve told you before, visit us anytime. I’m sure Astra would be glad to know you are here. I’m about to make some tea, would you like to join us?”

At Star’s refusal, Sera turned to JJ who, giving a look at the gleaming armour, offered to give her a hand. Murdock smiled after them as they walked into the kitchen, and shrugging off his coat, sat down opposite Star.

“You gonna sit yourself back down, Star? You’re makin’ the place look untidy.”

Star gave a quick look around, it didn’t seem like she’d put something out of place but she must have done, “Apologies, comrade Murdock, that was not my intention. I just wanted to make sure Astra was alright, now that you are back I will leave you alone.”

“‘t was just a figure of speech, Star, don’t leave on our account.” Murdock said, frowning slightly, “Sera was right, y’know; you’re always welcome here.”

“Thank you, comrade, it is-- Astra is resting now and there is little I can do here. My presence is not enough to help her and,” Star sighed, “In truth comrade, there is little that I can do-- little that I know to do. Were she a Nictus, she would be dead already and, well, having her in this state is oddly distressing. Maybe Zakat was right and my ‘humanity’ is showing after all…” Star’s voice trailed off as she stared towards Astra’s room.

After a moment, Star turned back towards Murdock, who seemed to be staring at her. “I continue to take up your time; I am needed to patrol shortly and must be going. I will see you again, comrade Murdock.” And she walked past the couches, towards the door.

“Star, hold up a sec.” Murdock’s words followed her, and she halted before the door and turned to face him as he approached.

“Before, you mentioned that Astra was being hunted; the Stalkers have been dealt with? They ain’t going to be causing any problems?”

Blood dripped of his face and down, onto the floor. ”Astra? The Peacebringer?”

“Yes, comrade. They have been dealt with.” Star turned back and opened the door then, stepping into the corridor, hesitated. “Murdock, it was not Astra they were after.”

Gal’ Ulan wiped his face with his hand, smearing blood over his cheek, “Why would we want her, Red Star? We know who you are.”

“It was me. Da svedanya, comrade.” Star said, closing the door and walking out of the building.


(The previous day)


Star stared as it attempted to rise to its feet. “You think you wouldn’t be found eventually? How many Nictus ever used the name ‘Star’?” it taunted.

She glanced over her shoulder, Sofia and Sasha would be here soon and they could not be a part of this. If these Hunters had thought to track down Astra to get to her, they could be tracking anyone. Her anger turned to determination as she turned back to the Hunter, “Who else knows? You will tell me, ‘Slayer’, or I will--“

“What? Kill me?”

< No, I will make you wish I had. >

There was little time and she was rather more abrupt than she would have liked but eventually Red Star was satisfied that he had told her all she need to know, Which, she thought looking at the body, was just as well. It hadn’t been exactly pretty but it had worked quickly. From her experience, ripping out the Nictus shards from a Hunter had a similar effect as shooting a Kheldian with a Quantum weapon; it wasn’t a surprise that he started to talk so quickly.

His story never changed; he was the one who recognized her with Astra. He’d assembled a team himself and only the members of this team, no-one else, knew. All the details of the hunt were on the computer, waiting to be sent in, and no-one else knew.

So, all that was left was the computer.

“Star, is everything ok?” Sofia’s voice, approaching the room.

Star looked over at the computer; it had been knocked over in the struggle but was still functioning. Using the last of the energy she’d drained from the Slayer, Red Star blew the computer apart, just as Sofia and Sasha entered the room.

“So there you are, we thought you--“ Sofia stopped talking and stared at the badly damaged corpse of the Slayer, which lay surrounded by the remains of several Nictus shards. “What have you done, Zvezda?”

< I have done what I must. We are finished here, comrades, let us return home. > and, ignoring the look that passed between Sofia and Sasha, Red Star left the room, closely followed by an indignant Sofia.