From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame: Meanwhile

Previous Story in the Arc: The First Month by Krasnaya Zvezda (Tuesday, May 01, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: One Is The Loneliest Number by Victoria Victrix (Friday, May 11, 2007)

(posted Saturday, May 05, 2007)

The CCCP base seemed empty but, according to the logs anyway, Commissar Murdock was shown as being here. Walking around, the chink of glass on metal drew her towards the Mess hall and, sure enough, there was Murdock. He sat at one of the metal tables, hunched over and pouring something into a small glass. When the glass was full of the clear liquid, he placed the half empty bottle back on the table, next to another bottle which was empty.

Star made her way over to him, studying him as she approached. The closer she got the more that she could see that did not look like the Murdock from a month - or even a few weeks - ago. He was wan and ill-kempt; his once immaculate uniform was dishevelled and looked like it had been slept in - not that it looked like Murdock had actually slept.

"Murdock." she said, stopping by the table.

Murdock didn't look up. "Comrade." he drawled and poured himself another drink.

Star looked at the bottles; they proclaimed themselves to be 85% proof, though proof of what she wasn't certain. "That is helping?"

"There ain't nothin' left t'help, Star. If anythin', it stops me from havin' nightmares." Murdock took another drink and then, motioning with the bottle, said "Take a seat."

He poured another glass, pushed it towards an empty chair near Star and took a swig from the bottle.

She looked at the drink then at Murdock. "Thank you, comrade, but I am fine." He surely knew that she didn't consume things the same way as humans, when had he ever seen her drink anything?

Murdock finally looked up at her, his eyes were dull and washed out by the sadness radiating from them; while this look would have inspired pity in a human - it only served to irritate her. Surely he had things to do?

"Suit yerself then," Taking another drink, Murdock resumed staring out into nothingness; waves of despair and loss pulsed from him.

Star stared at him for a moment, but he just sat there. "So what are you doing now?" she asked.

Murdock shifted slightly, it was as if he'd forgotten she was there, then he held up the bottle before him and stared into its depths. “I thought that ought t’be apparent.”

“After you have gained sustenance then.” She managed to keep the annoyance out of her voice; he was a Commissar and surely knew what he was doing, didn’t he? But Murdock just shook his head then, with the aid of another drink, resumed staring into nothingness.

Star shifted slightly, “Comrade, are you unwell?”

Taking another drink, Murdock turned his head to face her, “As unwell as I’ve ever been, Star.”

She could believe this, in a lesser light he may have got mistaken for a creation of Vahzilok. “And Waitron cannot help?”

“It ain’t that kinda bein’ sick, comrade.” said Murdock with a heavy sigh heavily and he resumed staring into space.

“Then what, comrade? I fail to understand.” This time irritation crept into her voice; was Murdock refusing to do anything until he became better?

“The sort that there ain' any words for, comrade. I don't mean to wax poetic, or nothin', but it's gotta do with my soul.” Murdock faced her and his voice shook with pain, “I’ve lost my family, Star. I’m not going to be ‘chipper’.”

Was he feeling sorry for himself? Anger began to rise but she pushed it down as much as she could. “And I have lost my sestra, comrade. I am not asking you to be ‘chipper’,” whatever that was, “I am asking what you are doing.”

“Drinkin' myself to oblivion.” Murdock punctuated this by taking another swig. “I plan on doin' it till I can't anymore. After that, we'll see.” He swallowed and continued “I couldn't save my family; I know it wasn't my fault, but it doesn't make it any better. An' I can't get back at the sonuvabitch that was responsible for it, either. Can't even find him.”

She’d had, and heard, enough. “Maybe you should have started looking for him a while ago. Then maybe this would not have happened.”

For the first time this evening; life, in the form of anger, shone through in Murdock’s eyes and he turned back to her. “Y'think, huh?” Maybe there was hope for him after all.

“You do not?”

“Whaddya think I've been doin' in my spare time, Star? Ever since I learned the motherfucker was still alive? Twiddlin' my thumbs? We suspect that he was behind that incident with Grim Gambol just couldn't link him directly.” Murdock gestured angrily, “I've hired just 'bout every damned information trader out there, in Paragon an' in the Isles. The man is a ghost, Star. Even his most recent associates don't know where the hell he is!”

"He is not a ghost yet but he should be." 'Suspected' he was behind Gambols attempt on Astra? And wanting to link him directly?! Star knew she shouldn't have left Garvey to Murdock. Did he want to wait until he found Garvey standing over a corpse? There was but one way to treat a threat to the Clan: eliminate it.

“I've been lookin' for him for months, Star. Months before this happened.”

Attempting to justify his failings now. How he had fallen. “And you have been looking by asking his associates where he is hiding? That does not sound especially... helpful.”

“I've gone through an information broker that was one of those associates. Y'know what she said? "He took what he needed, then disappeared." Disappeared.” Murdock repeated. “I've tried mystics, empaths, techno-wizards an' snoopers of all sorts, Star. No one can find him.”

‘No one can find him’, indeed. Star shook her head. “And what did Garvey take?”

“Just usin' their resources to build up his own; she wouldn't tell me.” The anger was beginning to be replaced by resignation in Murdock’s voice now.

“And you didn't make her?”

Murdock shook his head in disgust, “Kinda hard to start somethin' violent on neutral ground, Star. Or over a comm. unit.”

“He is responsible for what has happened. He must pay, comrade.” Surely Murdock must see that.

It seemed that that hit a nerve, as Murdock jumped up, knocking back the chair he’d been sitting on, “Y'don't think I know that, damnit? Huh?” he said, waving the bottle around. “Y'don't think I've been dyin' over this entire damned mess since it began?”

“And what good is dying. You are still here. They are not.”

Murdocks face darkened, "It's an expression, y'literal bastard."

He went to take a drink, instead throwing the bottle against the wall in anger. The bottle shattered, with glass and vodka spraying everywhere, but neither of them noticed.

Star stared directly at Murdock, “An expression, comrade, is not what is required. Action is.” She said accusingly.

Shaking his head with anger, all traces of the drink had left his voice now, “Y'don't get it, do you? They're gone, Star. No one can find the bastard responsible for it. Even if they could, what good would it do?” He glared at Star, “I think y'ought to leave. Now.” He added with an unspoken threat.

But Star was incredulous, “What good?” He knew nothing and, it seemed, could not be trusted to do what was necessary. As for leaving…

“I think not.” She said, hostility in her voice, “You fail to grasp this situation, Murdock. Garvey has taken my sestra from me. If you fail to deal with this, then I will.”

“Cut the bullshit, Star. She was my daughter! Y'don't think I'm gonna do everything possible?”

A slight grunt showed what she thought of that remark. “You are the one who mentioned that finding Garvey would do no good.” She reminded him

“Yeah? Y'think that means I've stopped tryin'?”

“I don't know.” said Star, looking over at the bottles, “Have you?”

“I've still got people out there lookin' into it.” Murdock said, “But y'know what they're sayin'? "Nothin' to find".”

“And what are you doing?” Star said accusingly.

“Fuck you, comrade. If you’ve got such a low opinion of me, y’can go right to hell with it. I don't need this crap.” Mudock snarled as he stormed past her, kicking a chair that had the misfortune to be in his way.

Anger raced through him as he walked down the corridor.

This damned obtuse alien; she had no clue about the situation, did she? He’d been telling her, about everything he had been doing. Everything he had tried. Yet, there she was, just about accusing him of sitting on his ass since the entire mess started. Like it would be just as simple as saying, "We need to find Garvey," and he'd be right there, ready to face his punishment. Things didn't work like that; Garvey was hiding, and had covered his tracks far too well. There was no trail to go on, no clues or informants. Nothing. At best, they knew he was in the Isles. What good was that information? Without any intel, John could wander around the Isles till he was caught by Arachnos or worse; he still probably wouldn't find Garvey. Before John could hurt Garvey, he had to find the bastard; that was the rub of it, what he was trying to communicate. Being drunk probably hadn't helped.

Not that he felt drunk anymore, the past 10 minutes had seen to that. In fact the brief flame of anger he had was waning now as well; he raised his arm to punch at the wall, but what was the point? It wouldn’t bring them back to him; nothing could bring them back to him.

Hunching, as if to ward off a blow, he walked up onto the teleportation pad and - setting the destination to the Pocket D - hit the activate button.

Star’s had stared after Murdock as he left and her eyes remained fixed on the exit even after he’d gone. For one moment, she’d seen a flash of the Murdock she’d expected to find, the anger - the rage - that he should be feeling about what had been done to him, but he’d walked away without doing anything about it. She stood, stating at the doorway then, reaching down, she activated her PDA.

Waitron responded immediately. "Comrade Waitron, I require all the information you can discover about this Garvey as well as the identity of the contacts Murdock used to attempt to locate him. And comrade, I also need to see Commissar Belladonna - as soon as possible."

"May I ask what this concerns?"

"Of course you may, comrade. It is regarding Commissar Murdock."

"I have booked an appointment for you tomorrow, Comrade. It is on your PDA."

"Spasibo, I will see her tomorrow then."

"Comrade Zvezda," Waitron added crisply. "Much of this is partial at best. And I am not privy to a great many of the contacts that he has in the Isles; such things are, as it were, 'off the books.' However, I will conduct research on my own. If you are not too particular about whom you speak to, there are many information brokers there; I will find some for you."

“Spasibo, comrade Waitron, that would be appreciated.”

Star ended the conversation and walked towards the exit. It was past time Garvey was dealt with. Murdock had had his chance and if he would not finish this, then she would.


Belladonna Aura closed the door behind then sighed and swore softly. Why couldn't things just go well for once? This had been a hell of a year; so much destruction, so many friends and comrades lost, it was as if the gods had decided to push her and her friends as hard as possible, to see where their breaking point was and then, when they had just started to pull back from the edge, push them again.

First Moji, Heavy Brother and the others when the Council attacked, then there was Grim Gambol and his - Garvey's - attempt to kidnap the munchkins. Then Zayra and Zakat became stranded in another dimension and then... She stopped and took a beep breath, trying to compose herself but, unbidden, a green face with a crooked smile swam before her.

She felt her eyes begin to tear up and brushed at them angrily. Damn it, Zach! You should be here for this. Thanh Ha and I can only handle so much.... Petro, god bless him...give him something to do with engineering, mechanics, physics even...or military strategy...he was a genius. But handling emotions? Zach had been good at that. And getting better all the time.

But he wasn't and, if wishes were fishes... Getting herself under control - she could fall apart later - she walked over to the desk and picked the cat up off the chair. She held Ivan up before her and looked in his furry face. He purred at her.

“Maybe we should get a dog, huh? He’d leave hairs everywhere as well, but at least I could use him to eat some of this.” she said, indicating the mounds of paper on her desk.

Ivan just blinked sleepily at her and, smiling fondly, Bella lowered the great lump down to the floor and he promptly rolled over, stretched and then tucked his feet under himself, tucking his head down and turned into an oblong, furry bolster

“Right, don’t strain yourself.” Bella said, sitting down and then staring at the paperwork in disgust. Thanh Ha and her had been trying to keep as much paperwork away from Johnny and Ivan - the original, not the feline namesake - as possible while they worked on finding Sera and the kids. Ivan managed to do the odd piece her and there but Johnny... She sighed again, allowances were being made and she hoped that - well, she just hoped.

Take it one day at a time, kiddo, that's all you can do. She thought and reached for the nearest pile of paper.


After a while of staring at details of the amount of waste water generated on Sanctuary and the associated costs of converting it to pure, she became aware of a presence in the room with her. She shifted slightly, disturbing Ivan who was still sprawled out under the desk, and looked up.

"Zvezda," said seeing Star standing by the door." was there somethi-- damn, you wanted to see me. Sorry, I got caught up and, well, you know." She shrugged apologetically.

"It is not a problem, Commissar, I know you are busy and was happy to wait." Star said, moving to stand in front of the desk, which now had a few less piles of paper on it, instead a large pile of paper was stacked on the floor.

"So, what can I do for you?" she asked.

"Commissar, I wish-- I am concerned about Commissar Murdock. He does not seem to be capable of fulfilling his duties a--"

"John's gone on a leave of absence," Bella interrupted "he's taking a week to try and compose himself. He'll be checking in with us everyday though, so don't worry, someone will be keeping an eye on him."

Star hesitated. "That is good to hear. He did not seem to be with it all when we spoke last night. It would be good for him to recover soon."

"Yes, it would." But it ain't gonna happen that quickly, Star. After all, it's been two years for me, subjectively, and it still hurts li-- Enough. Later.

"Well, was there anything else, Star? Or did you want to help with some of this?" She gestured at some of the piles of paper.

"Apologies, Commissar," Star glanced at the piles of paper and Bella could almost feel the shudder, "I would but there is something else. I would like to requisition the Active Self-Defense Force."

"You what?" Bella stared at Star, was she being serious?

"I would like to requisition to Active Self-Defense Force." Star repeated. "Now that Murdock is not in charge, I would like you to authorize it."

"Hold on a second, ignoring the fact that Official Sun Kai is now in charge of the SDF and you'd need his okay, these are people - you can't just requisition them."

Puzzlement radiated from Star. "Really? I thought Comrade Bear said--"

Bella snorted, "Yeah, despite what Pavel thinks - otherwise we wouldn't be able to move with all the Laker Girls underfoot. Go talk to Sun Kai, he's the one you need to see first."

"By your command, Commissar." Star nodded and walked toward the door then paused in the doorway. "Commissar, if I may ask. What are Laker Girls?"

Belladonna looked up and racked her brains. Explaining the concept of cheerleading to an alien---

No. No no no. This was a conversation that she'd like to hear but not participate in.

"We'll talk about the Laker Girls later, Star." She said, drawing a curious look from Zakat who happened to be wandering past. "Sun Kai'll be able to help you. See you later."

“Da svedanya.” said Star shutting the door behind her.

It was only then, Bella realized she hadn’t asked why Star wanted the SDF in the first place. Ah well. she shrugged. Sun Kai could handle it. If there was a problem, she’d hear about it soon enough anyway.

“Now, where was I? Oh yes. Waste water. You sure you don’t want a doggy friend?” she asked Ivan.