Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

From the Story Arc: The Death of CCCP

Previous Story in the Arc: I've Been Blue by Red Saviour (Sunday, March 27, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: In the Ghetto by Red Saviour (Sunday, April 10, 2005)

(posted Sunday, April 03, 2005)

Supported by a paramedic, Lt. Romanov directed the clean-up operation. Detective Whitfield arrived on scene, shaking his head at the chaos and wondering out loud what he’d say to reporters. A limping Hypno Sister was led, blindfolded, into a waiting police van. Ten ambulances crowded the driveway and parked on the expensively irrigated grass.

An exhausted Red Saviour and Mosca watched the Americans take control of the situation with relief. Such banalities were not their purview, although after a wrenching episode like this Natalya envied the uniformed cops. Their duties were dangerous, to be sure, but what tragedy would unfold had usually done so by the time they were notified. A hero often found herself in the midst of the tragedy – or, today, very nearly the victim of it.

The blue mutant girl, Belladonna Aura, sat on the bench with them. She applied a low-level metabolic stimulus, at Natalya’s request, to keep them awake for a statement to the police. Some said the Cold War had ended, but she had dealt with enough aging cops to know that they could carry a grudge for years. The mess Hypno Sister had made at the Five Fronds Hotel warranted a little bandaging of East/West relations.

“I have to say, I’ve seen a lot of weird things in my life, but tonight was the creepiest.” Belladonna Aura – Bella, she insisted – sighed and slumped her shoulders. “Did you notice how those old ladies left their slot machines? That never happens here.”

“Was good exercise for them, then,” Red Saviour said. “This city is bolshoi corrupt. Is greed in form of entire city.”

Mosca squeezed her. “Mi corazon, do not be so hard on it. Las Vegas is purest expression of American capitalism. If the revolution ever comes to this country, it will stem from outrage at the excesses we’ve seen here.”

Bella stared at them, feeling as though she should defend her hometown, but nothing defensible came to mind.

“Except for comrade Elvis,” Natalya said.

“Elvis is always the exception, my sweet.” He winked at her.

“You guys are talking about the Elvises, right?” Bella wondered if this conversation would get any more surreal.

The couple nodded. “Darlink is Elvis’ biggest Marxist fan,” said Natalya. “We visited half dozen Elvis fakers before running afoul of Irina.”

“Impersonaters, Natya. They are not fake, for they summon the essence of the King.” Mosca stood. “In the jungle, fighting the fascistas, I would entertain my brothers with my own humble impersonation. Watch.” His hands formed the half-pointing gesture that Elvis was known for.

“Nyet! No Elvis, please, darlink. I beg you.”

“Elvis later?” Mosca sounded like a scolded schoolboy.

“Later,” she agreed, utterly defeated at last.

Romanov brought Detective Whitfield over to speak with the heroes. The old man’s scowl promised nothing. “Don’t stand,” he said.

“I have given Whitfield briefing on events. He is satisfied that you behaved properly to defend yourself. No charges are being filed. As for lawsuits from bruised Americans, well, this is what keeps American economy afloat.”

Whitfield grunted. “I think the police report Romanov will be filing will make it hard to hold you liable. Given what he told me about what you can do with that magic blast, it seems you used remarkable restraint.”

“Spasibo. It was nyet easy, comrade Whitfield. I prefer fighting crooks, not children and fat old ladies.”

“In this town, they can be one in the same.” Whitfield offered her a cigarette. She gratefully accepted. “It could have gone a lot worse. I might actually get some sleep tonight.”

“Sleep is something we are all needing,” Romanov said. “I’m afraid this has not been very good vacation for you.”

Mosca held up a finger. “There’s still time to see the city of lights, comrade. My stack of Elvis pamphlets awaits us.”

“Oh, geez, you can’t trust those things.” Bella swung an arm at the street. “You need a native guide to show you where to find the real stuff.” She poked her chest with a thumb. “That’s me.”

Red Saviour smiled at the blue girl. “Da, I am owning you one for saving our bacon strips even after I beat you black and, er, blue.” The idioms gave her pause. “Comrade Bella, you will be our guest. You show us something good about this nekulturny town, and we show you how to drink vodka proper way.”

Romanov chuckled. “Bozemoi! This I would like to see. I know reputation of Krasnij Spasitel. Little Bella will need chaperone. And a taxi.”

“I can hold my liquor,” Bella said, raising her chin. “I’m no pushover.”

“Then it is agreed. Let us recover for day, then meet tomorrow night for dinner.”

“And Elvis,” Mosca said. “You will take us to best of Elvises.”




They slept for sixteen hours, the deep, dreamless sleep of soldiers. When they awoke, they sought a late lunch in the hotel restaurant, returning to their room for long hot baths and naps. Mosca attempted to call his sister, Gato Rojo, without success. When Natalya awoke from a catnap, he related this to her.

“Strange,” she agreed. “Her comm unit should be active, at least.”

“It appears to be off. I have left messages at her apartment.”

“Did you call CCCP headquarters?”

“Si, si, and I spoke with an unfamiliar woman. She claimed to be the new receptionist. She, how do you say, ‘took a message.’” He framed the phrase in double quote fingers.

Red Saviour turned over in the bed and buried her face in a pillow. “I am sure she is great beauty, and quite impressed with Moji’s attentiveness. No doubt these are her qualifications. It is nyet important; let Moji ‘re-educate’ her.” She made her double quote fingers in the pillow. “He is hard worker. He deserves fun time now and again.”

“So do you, Natya.”

“I will have it. I am having it.” She patted the bed. “But still stiff from ordeal. Is time for jungle fighter’s hands to find good use. Sestra Gato can wait.”

It was a ritual they had developed soon after becoming a couple: Natalya’s muscles underwent a great strain from wielding her powers, a side effect of the incomplete mystical procedure. She followed a strict regimen of yoga to stay limber, but inevitably the exertion took a toll on her body. Mosca, being a great lover of women, had much skill in relaxing a woman’s body. With a few extra therapeutic techniques thrown in, he could function as her professional masseuse. The massage helped them unwind after a day of intense stress, but it also became a space for them to let their minds wander together. It was this intimacy that Natalya looked forward to, even more so than the soothing manipulation of her tense muscles.

Mosca clambered onto the bed, straddled her, and started on her shoulders. “Lower, darlink. Is small of back that is most sore.” Dutifully, he adjusted his position.

“You are like iron, querida. The bath, it did not help?”

“Before bath, I couldn’t even move. Who would have thought staying still would be so painful?” She tried to banish the episode from her mind. Clues were to be had from Hypno Sister’s cryptic comments, and her phone conversation with an unknown boss, but now was not the time for her to be sorting out threads. She could delegate that task; it was the advantage of working in a team.

“Your body, it has been pushed to the limit. You don’t need to do anything until tonight.”

“Tonight is Elvis.”

Mosca sighed, and paused in his ministrations. “You are tired of the King already, si?”

She turned over to look him in the eye. “He’s fine, darlink. I am being happy to see you so excited. When do we get Elvis in Paragon City, after all? We see Elvis.”

“No, no Elvis tonight.” He patted her cheek. “Our guests don’t care for such decadent tourist lures. Perhaps they will show us a side of Las Vegas that is not so disturbing, si? For a city to offer so much to visitors, there must be many workers laboring to make it so. These are our people.”

Natalya pulled him down into a hug. “Spasibo. You are Comrade Cheering again. Darlink,” she whispered in his ear, “am I being martinet?”

“This word, I am not recognizing it.”

“Is meaning strict, rigid. Like military commander, but in bad way. I have heard Amerikantskii comrades use it, when they did not noticing me.” She buffed his cheek. He was a big man, even bigger than she was, and his weight on her she found reassuring. “But I am much more permissive than any of my own superiors were.”

“Their standards are different from yours, querida. You must let it pass.” He favored her with a kiss on the cheek. “Your heart knows how to command them. Follow it, and wear some armor.”

“Da, this is what I try to follow. And yet… I see the love in their eyes for Fei Li. She is like their mother. I am like unloved auntie.”

“It is the opposite. You are the mother, and must say hard things they do not wish to hear, but it is for their own good. Fei Li is the aunt who rules by gentle direction. Natya,” he said, stroking her hair, “she has a little more experience than you.”

“Two thousand years.” She giggled. “I suppose if I live two thousand years, I will be the auntie, too.”

Mosca held her in silence. She rubbed his strong back for a time, sensing a shift in him. “Darlink?”

“Let us talk of other things.”

“Why?”

“Yesterday, we both nearly died. Perhaps it is only now, with innocent conversation, that I realize how close I came to losing you.”

“Santi.” Tears formed. “You were one with gun to head.”

“I would prefer to die myself, than for you to pass from this world too soon.” His grip on her tightened, as if it could stop time. Natalya wept in his arms, and she felt his own tears on her forehead.

The time for joking was past; alone, together, in the safety of their love, they released the agony in slow, gentle waves.