From the Story Arc: One of Two

Previous Story in the Arc: Us Or Them by Belladonna Aura (Thursday, July 26, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Running Low by Belladonna Aura (Friday, August 10, 2007)

(posted Wednesday, August 01, 2007)

This was war, and a good portion of CCCP was, sadly, more than used to war. But Bella had had a full day to make plans, tear them up, make them better. She had hit the ground running, and the rest of the officers had caught up with her within the first hour.

King's Row now had an entire network of shelters; the cleaned-out sewers themselves, basements with sewer access, CCCP HQ. Thanh Ha's street-healing teams swept through periodically to find the civilians who did not have the benefit of medevac. Petro's people alternately made life difficult for the dropships and pulled civvies out of the ruins. Thea and Gremlin ran the soup kitchen with the help of Ms Dales and her entire Ladies Aid Society. And Sun Kai and Thanh Ha had moved into the second phase of the guerrilla actions: arming and training those in the shelters to fight for their homes. Not everyone, of course--but Thanh Ha had a good eye for those who were angry and could channel that anger without going crazy. Most of them were taught to do what Astra was doing: luring Rikti into Sun Kai's ambushes.

The Medic staff had a two-part agreement: anyone outside Medical that looked on the edge was zapped with something to make him (or her) rest for a minimum of four hours. And Medical was running tag-team within their department. No one was allowed to drop from exhaustion. People's Elf, Vickie, Thea, Thanh Ha, Bella, Red Crosse, Bee, Felix--even Astra--anyone that could heal even a bit was dragooned into Medical, which gave them enough coverage to tag out.

Supplies and cots were everywhere in HQ, although most of the cots were for CCCP members. Civvies were bunked down in the basement, in the YC coffeehouse, in the sewers. Although things appeared chaotic, they answered to Petro's peculiar logic of organization: ask him where something was, and he could put his hand on it immediately.

That first twelve hours had been the foot-to-the-floor frantic part, when everyone was poised on the edge of terror, wondering just how bad it was going to get. Bella not the least of them. Lady Grey hadn't exactly been exact in her predictions, and Blue Velocity's had been....appalling. The first twelve hours had been crucial, when CCCP and the rest of RPCongress had absolutely needed to be hyper, to stay focussed, on top of the situation, until the rest of Paragon City and the world got over the shock and got to work, and figured out just what tactics worked and what didn't, figured out how a bunch of people who had little in common besides the common broadcast comm channel could work together at a moment's notice.

By the gods, Bella admired them. Within that twelve hour window they had pulled together. People grabbed each other for teams almost as fast as they could shout out over comm. Medics materialized out of nowhere. Rally points were established. And when a zone started to go south, those with contacts outside the zone did shout-outs for help and got it, no questions asked, everything dropped so that help could speed to the imperiled zone.

The first couple of days had been the ones for the mantra of "Hold the line." Not in the strict sense, but in the sense of staying on target. Now it was time for a new mantra. And that one came up--oddly enough--all on its own.

Bella and Vickie had answered the call to Atlas Park, where the lack of medical support was sending fighters to the overburdened hospital so fast that the doors were being jammed. Just as they dive-bombed their way into the center of the knot, one of the Rikti--these Rikti rarely said anything--taunted a blood-spattered fighter. "Your defeat: Inevitable. Your victory: Inconceivable."

Now as it happened, that was the moment that the presence of added medics turned the tide of battle. The scrapper spat out a couple of teeth and shouted back, a manic look of glee on his face, "I do not think that word means what you think it does!"

And that was when Vickie said it. Shouted it, really.

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!"

She repeated it. Not knowing why, Bella joined her. Then another, and another and another until the whole group of several hundred heroes was chanting in unison. "Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!"

It was like a battle song, a berserker chant. Somehow that silly catchphrase from a fantasy movie caught them all up and united them until they were a wave of implacable force that crashed over the Rikti and forced them into absolute retreat from assured victory.

Back at HQ, Bella grabbed a coffee and looked at Vickie, who chuckled wearily. "You want to know why that worked, don't you?" the tiny writer asked.

Bella nodded.

"You did the Winston Churchill bit, 'We will fight them on the beaches,' yada yada. That was perfect for that moment. But right now--what we need is....hope. The equivalent of 'Nuts!' And as dumb as it might seem, on the face of it, Bell, Goldman is a frikkin' genius when it comes to encapsulating something in a way that people get instinctively, and yet doesn't come off as pretentious. Think about it. There's Inigo. On paper, no way he can win against the six-fingered man. But he has things that are not on paper. He has friendship. He has the will. And above all, he has hope. He has seen his friend come back from the dead and beat unbeatable odds. That's what is all balled up in that silly catchphrase and everyone who has ever seen that movie gets it on a gut level." She ran her hand through her grimy hair. "Trust me, the Rikti are gonna be hearing that a lot from now on."

The thought of Zach, grinning, chanting that phrase flashed across her mind. And from somewhere, she managed the ghost of a smile.