From the Story Arc: One of Two

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

Next Story in the Arc: INVASION! by Belladonna Aura (Monday, July 23, 2007)

(posted Monday, July 09, 2007)

It was a beautiful suite. It could have been one of the high-roller suites in one of the high-dollar casino hotels in Vegas, like the Bellagio or the Venetian. Tasteful, subtle, it had everything from a Jacuzzi to a baby grand piano.

It also had no windows. And as Belladonna Aura could attest, it was something like ten stories underground.

And there were two armed Vanguard sentries with nullifier devices at the door.

She paced.

”Commissar, we very much regret doing this, but we know from our own experience that the people in positions of power will not believe you. And you have a history of going to the press…which will only induce panic in this case. Forgive me. We know this invasion is coming. We simply do not know when. Your fellow metahuman Blue Velocity has given us a window of three months. It could be at the end of that period, it could be tomorrow. We hope we will be ready.”

“Why isn’t he in here?”

“Because he will not go to the press. And because already most of those who listened to him begin to doubt.”

Ivan purred from the velvety sofa, where he was sprawled out like an odalisque. He approved. He was getting only the best catfood.

”If it is any comfort to you, you are not alone. Azuria is here, for instance.”


“She is here for her weekly treatment, although this time we might keep her.” One corner of the speaker’s mouth lifted in a smile. “Why do you think she keeps misplacing valuable artifacts? Sadly, when we make her forget the Invasion, she also tends to forget that she left something out of the vault. The problem is, she is inclined to tell every young hero that trots through her door whatever her most powerful vision is. Again…the powerful have refused to believe her, and revealing this to just anyone could cause panic.

And we have some other guests as well. Perhaps you will meet them.”

She paced.

”You might help us out.”

“Bite me. You are going to let those mutated bastards with their agenda of genocide invade again and you want me to HELP YOU? In your dreams!”

She paced. Ivan snored.

” Commissar, the CCCP has resources we know nothing about. We will transport you by special portal straight to CCCP HQ the moment it all starts. You have my word on it. But it would help us to know what your people can bring to the table. We won’t order your people to go anywhere or do anything…but when the balloon goes up, so to speak, we may be able to suggest the best place for the best use of your resources. We can’t do that if you don’t tell us what they are.”

She stopped and glanced over at the desk, where a sleek computer waited. Intranet only; she’d checked. The cursor blinked positioned on the first line of a document.

She closed her eyes, and she was back again, back there, the bunkers of Groom Lake Research Facility. Area 51.

It looked like someone had driven a mining truck through the tunnel then followed it up with a couple of grenades. The only light came from red emergency lights at intervals along the corridor. Overhead fluorescent fixtures hung from their wires, sputtering, sparking, occasionally flickering. Smoke had started to fill the ceiling; there were little fires burning everywhere.

And there was screaming. Lots of screaming. From the wounded, from the dying. Bodies lay sprawled where they had fallen. Not a lot of blood, though. The enemy weapons didn’t leave the sort of wound that bled.

Whoever the enemy was. So far the only thing Bella had seen was the ship blasting the Strip before the Thunderbirds brought it down.

She was crouched in the shelter of a set of industrial shelves half overturned, waiting for Iron Hawk to give the signal to move forward. Somewhere in this hell were her parents. She prayed they were safe. They had been when last she’d heard from them…

And then, there was a strange whirring sound, and the smell of ozone, and she looked up—and saw, no more than a foot away, and staring down at her—

--the Enemy.

Her hands clenched, nails biding into her palms. She felt as if she was choking and her eyes stung with tears. Damn them. Damn them all. Vanguard for putting her here. The Rikti for existing.

What would Zach do?

She looked at the computer.

Slowly, as if with each step she was walking on knife blades, she went to the desk. She sat down. And she began to type.