Running Low

From the Story Arc: One of Two

Previous Story in the Arc: Nuts! by Belladonna Aura (Wednesday, August 01, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: I Am A Rock by Belladonna Aura (Friday, December 21, 2007)

(posted Friday, August 10, 2007)

Into the second week of the Second Invasion, and things were running thin. Bella was grateful now for those pallet-loads of GammaBars. The comrades had gotten tired of them long ago, but at least they were food, and the kids would eat them, and right now the choice was GammaBars or borscht or stewed cabbage. And all three were getting low.

She found Petro staring in despair at the empty shelves of the armory. About the only ammunition left was a few boxes of exotics: ,23 caliber from some weird-ass weapon an obscure faction of Malta used, five boxes of shells for (literally) an elephant gun.

As for CCCP Medical—they had been down to powers only for the last day. Well, powers and splints. Broken wood they had in plenty.

She called a meeting of the officers—and Vickie. Vickie, because the techno-mage had been known for pulling rabbits out of hats before, And when they were all done reporting the grim situation, Vickie looked thoughtful,

“Striga’s not getting hit,” she said, when all eyes were on her. “Dunno why…at a guess, though, it’s because of all the ground-air defenses. We’ve taken down one dropship with powers alone, figure what all those SAMs and AA guns can do.”

Bella bit her lip. Petro’s armored fingers made a scraping sound on the tabletop. “I say do it,” she said, as Thanh Ha nodded.

“It would beink leave King’s Row unguarded,” Petro replied, slowly. “We would to beink need all of ASDF, nyet, every comrade for frontal assault on warehouses. And transportation alone—“

“Ain’t gonna be unguarded,” John Murdock countered swiftly. “There’s the cits, the heroes that ain’t in RPC, RPC itself. We gotta, Petro, Cleanin’ out the Council warehouses’ll hold us for a couple more weeks. Hell, it’ll hold all of RPC for a couple more weeks.”

Bella looked around the table. “Unanimous, then? Right, Petro, tell Sun Kai to mobilize. You guys put a plan together that uses us all, leaving only a skeleton force here.” She looked over at Thanh Ha, who was fairly quivering with the desire to go and hit something, “I’ll hold the fort, if Thanh Ha wants to head up Medical.”

“Thank you, Bella ban,” The little doctor was hard to read, but Bella knew her well enough to know she was satisfied,

All eyes went back to Vickie, who shrugged. “You’ve got the guns, I’ll research the butter. Can’t promise anything.”

“I’ll check the outside storage and see if we stashed a couple more pallets of GammaBars there. Assuming the storage units survived,” Bella said with a sigh. For once, nobody groaned at the mention of the bars.

Kyria Shadowdancer was neck-deep in Rikti in King’s Row. Heroes were being evac’d left and right, the Rikti were gaining ground, and where was CCCP?

“We are losing King’s Row!” she called in despair over the comm., both the open channel and the AoC.

“On my way!” cried a hoarse voice—an unexpected voice, since Jason Collier had been strangely absent since the Invasion began.

“Hurry!” Kyria urged, and took the risk to drop into humaniform to suck energy from the fallen.

There was the sound of Jason arguing with someone angrily; not over the comm., but as if he had left the comm. on by accident.

Wave after wave of Rikti materialized around the little knot of heroes Kyria was fighting among. She saw the last healer dropped into unconsciousness by a Rikti Priest, and took on Ruktur form, grimly prepared to last as long as she could—

And then, a blur with a sword appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. With none of his usual bravado, no battle cries, only a single-minded fury, he plowed into the massed Rikti troops like a human mowing machine.

His presence turned the tide; Kyria and the rest regrouped, fought back, and finally, momentarily thwarted, the Rikti beamed out again, taking their dead and injured with them.

And Jason vanished as well, without a word.

“Ddydd Da, Commissar.”

Bella didn’t look up. The kid she was tending didn’t like plain boiled rice, but he disliked borscht even more, and that was all there was. “Caradoc, if you know any way to persuade a toddler to open his mouth for a spoon, I would—“

“This, perhaps?” A sippy-cup full of what looked like juice appeared as if my magic over her shoulder, in Caradoc ap Dai’s hand. The toddler crowed and grabbed for it, gulping down the contents with a greed that spoke of hunger.

“Caradoc!” Bella whirled, and faced the elf, who bowed. “I bring you plenty, Commissar,” he said, and with a wave of his hand, the Croatoa Portal hummed into life.

Three hours later, every shelf, every closet, every free inch of floor space was full of crates of foodstuffs, and that didn’t even count the things that people had been chucking into the porter to AoC, JTF, Second Nature, and the other groups CCCP had direct access to. Nor was that all. Steel jacketed bullets and mines the elves could not provide—but C4? Brass-jacketed ordinance? Arrows? The armory had supplies again, and when Sun Kai’s strike force got back, they would be in business again.


“Caradoc—“ she finally managed, as the last bag of beans was squeezed into the soup kitchen and Thea moved so fast among the pots and pans and things simmering and baking and roasting that she looked like triplets. “I can’t begin to thank you but—why?”

“I am about to reveal to you a great secret,” the red-haired elf said, with none of his usual cavalier attitude. “We need you. Your imagination, your creativity, you mortals. We need that. Without it, we fade, dim, and dwindle. The Rikti have nothing of that sort.”


“Yes. Without you, we die. If you fall, we fall. Now you must swear to tell no one.”

Bella swore. It was, after all, a small price to pay for salvation..