Memories of Future Past

From the Story Arc: One of Two

Previous Story in the Arc: Here With Me by Belladonna Aura (Friday, March 16, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Incommunicado by Belladonna Aura (Saturday, July 07, 2007)

(posted Friday, July 06, 2007)

((Thank you, Blue Velocity, for the RP and including us in your min-arc))


Belladonna Aura carried a stack of paperwork from John’s desk to her own. She tried not to look at the empty chair. She’d done everything she could…and they were losing him.

She heard Ivan—the cat, Ivan, not Petro—greeting someone in the meeting room. From his very talky meow, she knew it was a stranger. Curious now, she stuck her head in, to see Ivan interrogating Blue Velocity. She blinked. She hadn’t seen Red Djinni’s old friend about in an age…

“Hey Blue,” she greeted him, satisfying Ivan, who stalked off to find a cool spot to lie in.

“Bella!” he exclaimed with his trademark smile. “Good to see you.” Then his smile faded. “I've got...news...that you should be made aware of...”

She shook her head, getting that old familiar sinking feeling. “Usually when people say that, it means something bad.”

His next actions did nothing to reassure her. He inhaled deeply and ran a hand over his head. “Yeah. All right. You heard of Ghost Widow hitting the D and laying down a warning?”

Her spirits sank further. “I did. She's not exactly in my good books.”

A flicker of a smile passed over his face. “I wonder why. Anyway... I've been having some....issues, with my powers recently. I ‘blink’.”

She looked at him oddly. “Most of us do or our eyeballs would dry out.”

Again, that flicker of a smile, quickly gone. “Yes, but when you blink, do you end up three months into the future?”

Bloody hell “Not normally.”

“I...have been.” He took a deep breath. “And the past....and...” He shook his head. “It's all jumbled. And difficult to keep straight. You see Memento?”

So he’s time-traveling. Crap. If only he’d been doing that six months ago….. “Is that a movie? Then no. Just don't have the heart or the time for thaat sort of thing anymore.” Zach was the movie buff….we used to watch the same movies and talk to each other on the phone when he was in DC and I was stuck here… Dammit. It still hurt. It didn’t stop hurting. She pulled her attention back to Blue.

He was caught up in his own interior landscape. “Yeah. Okay. So every day when I wake up, I don't know sometimes where or when I am. This is why you haven't heard of me much lately. Or I assume you haven't. A lot of the memories I have from those blinks aren't accessible and have been causing me no small amount of stress....and pain. But....but... With the help of Mori I remembered a recent blink.” He grimaced, just as Kremlin Gremlin poked his own nose into the room, curious to see who was in there talking.

“Ho ho!” Gremlin said cheerfully. Bella had to smile at him. He always went out of his way to try and make her smile. Blue suddenly stopped, glanced at Gremlin and gave him a cautious nod.

“Hello Mister Velocity,” Zach’s great friend said in genial greeting.

Bella decided that a full explanation was better to quell rumors than just letting Gremlin go with what he had overheard. “Apparently, Gremlin, Blue here has been bouncing round in the past and the future.”

Gremlin blinked. “Vhat?”

Blue shook his head. “It's a bad habit.”

“How you do that?” Gremlin asked with unabashed curiosity.

“I wish I knew,” the other man replied, with intense frustration.

Bella frowned, it sounded like this was getting into “recovered memory” territory, which was a place fraught with error. “So, Mori helped you remember one of these blinks? Forgive me Blue but....you know, at the best of times memory is faulty. That is why eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable.”

He nodded acceptance of that fact. “ I do. But...I'm pretty sure what I saw was real.’”

She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “But was it past, present, or future?”

“Future,” he said with absolute conviction.

Maybe. “How can you be sure?” she persisted.

Kremlin Gremlin grinned. “Does Gremlin win lotto?” he asked with interest.

Blue Velocity ignored the joke. “I can't. Not 100%. I can't even be 100% sure that I was on the right ‘Earth’. But I'd rather be safe than sorry. : Especially in this instance.”

Her head was hurting. She could tell from the stress in his voice, the emotions pounding against her shields, that when he spilled this, it was going to be bad. She didn’t want to know how bad. She didn’t want to know. “It could be that it is some other Earth We already know people can pass between them. Kaspar Hauser for instance.”

“Me, for another,” he offered. Then he smiled faintly. “And you haven't even asked what I saw.”

She rubbed her head. “Not sure I want to know. There are days when I wish I would wake up and find myself a plain pink paramedic in an un-super Las Vegas.”

Blue and Gremlin both laughed finding what she had to say funny. If they only knew…the job, the losses….especially the losses…

As Blue’s laughter faded and his expression sobered, she looked up into his eyes.

“You know what they say—“ she began.

Gremlin laughed harder. “Da, it stays in Vegas!”

“Gremlin, could I have a moment of privacy with Bella?” Blue asked.

“Of course,” Gremlin agreed.

But she was talking, not really to either of them. Maybe to herself, to the Fates, whatever. “’With great power comes great responsibility’. The problem is it never stops. It just....never....stops. And you just get so damned tired….”

Suddenly sober, Gremlin turned to the Commissar. “Call if you need me,” he said, eyes kind and full of understanding.

She smiled faintly. “Thanks, Greenie,” she said as he left, and Blue added his thanks.

There was an awkward silence. Finally Blue sighed and said, “You look tired, Bella.”

“I am tired,” she admitted, sadly.

He nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“I'd like just one happy ending. Just one,” she said after a pause. “Something to let me know that all this isn't......futile.”

He nodded again and smiled sadly. “I could tell you it isn't...but I'm not sure you'd believe me right now.”

She shook her head, and blinked at the sting in her eyes. “Sera and the kids....gone. JM so screwed up it isn't funny. Red's vanished.”

His eyes widened. “Oh...oh hell.”

“Vickie's tottering around like a zombie half the time,” she continued, with a glance at the empty desks. “And Zach...”

He rubbed his temple and sighed. “I'm sorry, Bella. I didn't know. Dammit.”

“Not too many people know about Red.” Which was the way Vickie wanted it. No big hunts, she said, no searches. He would come home when he could. But Bella wasn’t sure he ever would… “Me and Mandy, and Vickie of course. I think that's it.”

For a moment he looked bleak. “Damn.”

She thought about her favorite fantasy, the one she indulged in when she considered that if she could just find someone to take her place…. “There are times....it's tempting.....load myself up with explosives and see if I can't blast my way into that damned Rikti ship.”

His breathing stopped for a minute. She felt the impact of emotions again on her shields.

She went on. “If it weren't for them, I'd still be a paramedic in Vegas, Not pink, but still.... Oh, they'd take me out, but at least I'd get some revenge.”

He looked down. “There's more coming.”

She looked at him in confusion. “More what?”

“A whole shitload more...”

“Of what?”

He looked up to meet her gaze. “Rikti. A second invasion fleet.”

For a moment, everything became very still, very clear. A pulse like a jolt of electricity went through her. The last time, three fourths of the metas in Paragon City, in the whole world, had died.

And this time?

Once, it seemed like an age ago, she had stood inside the monument to Hero One and sworn that if she had the chance, she would do the same thing he had.done. Now, here it was. This was the chance. There would not even be the trace of guilt she had, knowing what the Rikti at the Crash Site actually were. These were the Enemy, nothing but, whose only goal was the extermination of all human life on this Earth.

She felt a dangerous, a heady excitement. Blue watched her carefully. “Hero One and the Omega Team stopped them before,” she said.

“Did they?”

“Think Bella and the CCCP can do it again?”

One corner of Blue’s lips lifted upwards. “Maybe. But that may not be necessary. At least I sure as hell hope it isn't.”

She looked him straight in the eyes. “But it would be a helluva way to go.”

He nodded. “Yes, it would. And it's eventuality should probably be prepared for. But first... We need to start quietly preparing everything else.”

She raised an eyebrow. “This is the CCCP. They only get to catch us flatfooted once.” He chuckled as she continued. “You haven't seen paranoia until you see Russian paranoia.”

“If that means you've already been preparing, then all I have to say is "hallelujah"!” He sobered again.

“You see all this?” she said, waving her hands at the public areas of HQ, quiet, unwarlike.

“Yep,” he replied cautiously.

“Most of it is façade,” she told him.

He looked at her with pleading in his gaze. “Please tell me you have one honkin' secret laser beneath this facility...”

She smiled thinly. “We have a state of the art cargo container ship in international waters off the coast. Whatever you can imagine packed in her....you aren't imaginative enough.”

He chuckled. ”Sweet.”

“Petro has an air strike group manned with frickin' lasers,” she continued fondly, thinking of all the little hopped up Longbow chasers he was converting. And this news? Well he’d probably have them armed with plasma weapons in short order. “We have nukes we smuggled out of Warburg.”

That surprised him. “Holy...”

“Chem, Bio, you name it,” she continued. “We've been intercepting every third resupply to the Council from Striga.”

He shook his head in mock pity. “Aw. The poor Council.”

“Yeah, poor boys,” she agreed as his gaze glimmered with a touch of humor. “What will they feed their puppies? And on top of that all....we have Petro.”

He looked at her knowingly as she smiled with pride. “Ace in the hole?”

“HQ here is relatively empty, logistically speaking,” she continued. “That means we can use it as a staging area.”

“I don't know what kind of intelligence the Rikti have, or what they're preparing for,” he cautioned.

She shrugged. There was never any doubt, not really. “Oh that's simple. Extermination.”

“But applying a bit of Russian paranoia to things...I don't think you can count on this place staying functioning for long.”

She inclined her head. “Which is why we have the ship.”

His eyes lit up. “Right..”

“Pretty much everything can be run from her,” she told him, thinking with glee about everything she had put in place there.

“Beating them means staying mobile.” He looked more confident since he had since he had started revealing this to her.

“I should tell Petro he can go back to that plan of hijacking an Arachnos sub....” she mused aloud as he grinned.

“Good.”

“You want this kept quiet or spread around?” she asked, coming to the only point on which she did not already have something in place.

“I've informed Jason, and other guild leaders are supposed to be informed as well.” He told her. “We wanted to start by keeping this quiet. Mass panic and hysteria, assuming that we're believed, is not quite in our best interests.”

That was exactly what she had been thinking. “Right. Well it's simple enough, I can just paint this as the next logical upgrade to our capability. Nothing like making your redundancy redundant.”

“Sounds good,” he told her. “I'll....try to be around...if you can get hold of me, you've got whatever I can give.”
She made a split decision and reached into her pocket for a lancet and one of the chips that were otherwise kept in a locked compartment inside Waitron9000. “Well....if I can't trust you, Blue....give me your badge please. And a finger.”

He chuckled, not understanding what she was about.

“I'm serious here Access to Sanctuary is restricted Not even Jason has it So, badge and finger, please.”

He sobered and offered her his badge and finger. Shortly, the new chip with his DNA ID from his blood sample was slotted into the back of his badge with his Freedom Corps chip and she had handed it back to him. “Now any time you use the CCCP porters, a third option will come up, MMS Sanctuary.”

He gave the badge a quick look before returning it to its previous location. “All right.”

“If we lose the HQ and our porters,” she continued, “Waitron already has the code hacked in place to put that option on the city porters.”

He nodded. “Good.”

“This is keyed to you and your DNA,”

“Gotcha.”

“The code reads the chip, checks the DNA against the database, then double checks to make sure that the badge holder has the same DNA as the badge.” It was as tight a system as she could think to make it.

He smiled with approval. “Prudent. Thank you.”

“We use both cellular and mitochondrial DNA,” she continued. “We figure anyone trying to counterfeit a chip won't think of the latter and will just replicate cellular.”

“And they get transported into oblivion?”

She smiled. “I wouldn't be that ruthless. The chip just fries and an alarm goes off, leaving them stranded in the HQ with alarms blazing.”

Blue Velocity flashed a grin. “Sorry. My brain went all Star Trek.”

She shrugged. “Well heck, my rookies need shooting practice and live-fire is always better than targets. Waste not, want not, as our pioneer ancestors said.”

He laughed. “All right. I need to get going. Thanks for your time, Bella.”

“And I need to start issuing orders,” she said with a sigh. “One thing never changes. and that is the amount of paperwork the Russians require for these things.”

His grin turned feral. “Let's beat them so bad this time, that they'll piss in their pants the next time they hear the word ‘Earth’.”

“I'm all for that.” Oh yes. At last. An enemy she did not need to hold back with.

“Ah, bureaucracy. I'll leave you to it, then. Good seeing you. Though I wish I had better tidings.”

“Thanks Blue,” she said, with emphasis. Then added, a little hollowly, “This is going to be bad.”

She looked into his eyes, and again sensed his emotions battering at her shields. Those eyes had looked into a kind of hell. “Yes,” he said simply, stared into space for a moment, then grimaced and shook his head.. “Take care, Bella. I'll be in touch.”

“Thanks,” she called, as he sped off. Then she sat down at her computer, and keyed up the “Eyes Only” protocol.

Comrade Commissars and Officers. I have been made privy to some information of the gravest nature….