In a Bad Way

From the Story Arc: Little Fish, Big Pond

Next Story in the Arc: From The Ashes by October Star II (Tuesday, May 17, 2005)

(posted Monday, May 16, 2005)

Chyort voz’mi!” Alexei cursed under his breath as he stumbled out of the hospital telebooth. The automated booth spit out a receipt for his bill and a clean, recorded voice suggested he have a pleasant afternoon. Against the technology of the 1940’s and the simple gangsters of the Russian mafia, the October Star suit held up well. However, against the super powered agents of the Clockwork King and Dr. Vhazilok, he tended to take more punishment than he dished out. Perhaps it was his imagination, but even the citizens of Czar’s Row were looking at him dubiously.

After changing into civilian clothing, Alexei hopped onto the tram leading back to his apartment in Galaxy City. Doubt and shame wracked his mind. His grandfather had been a hero of the people. In Kiev, Alexei had been able to use that reputation as a means of striking fear into criminals, but here in Paragon City, the criminals feared nobody. Looking up, a ganger had scrawled “Skullz Rule!” across the windows with a black marker. As he exited the tram, he saw several Hellions harassing a police officer. Alexei paused, perhaps to do something, when a small hero swooped in.

Dejected, he wandered the streets. Alexei wanted to go home, but going there would just shut him in with is own thoughts. Alone was the last place he wanted to be. Night fell, and he finally relented.

As he opened the door into his small dark loft, a mew echoed, and a pair of luminous yellow eyes appeared. “Privyet, chuvak. Kak dela?” Alexei turned on the light and shut the door. The fat Abyssinian meowed a few times and rotted into the kitchen. “Yasno. I will get you some food.” The cat purred as he opened the can. “At least I can save you, Misha.” Placing the bowl on the floor, he smiled as the cat began to eat heartily.

Alexei walked into his bedroom and tossed the gym bag down, spilling the October Star suit onto the floor. Flopping onto his bed, he stared up at the ceiling. He reached over to his nightstand and picked up the picture of his grandfather in costume, and him sitting on the shoulder. “Jedushka, what do I do?”

***

Alexei opened his eyes slowly. He could hear the rumblings of a garbage truck in the street below his window, but the sun had not yet risen. As he sat up, Misha stirred, and then curled back into the pillow of his basket. He could hear faint buzzing, but his sleep-addled brain could not pinpoint the source of the sound.

He shuffled into the bathroom and splashed some cold water onto his face. The buzzing was nearly inaudible. It had to be in his room. Misha meowed in protest when Alexei turned on the light, and scampered to a darker room of the apartment. Rifling through his bag, he found one of the power cells had come loose when he tossed the bag. The power cell had come in contact with other components of the suit. Alexei went white as he fully drew the suit out of the bag. The buzz was the sound of several of the control systems shorting out. Several servos had heated up and scorched holes through the insulated cloth cover. “Tvoyu mat’!” He ran to his closet and pulled out what looked like an old fashioned typewriter case. He opened it and plugged it in. The vacuum tubes hummed as the ancient diagnostic kit came to life.

Tears of fear and frustration ran down his face as he made the connections between the suit and the tester. A green light meant the system was functional. An amber light meant it was damaged but still functional. Over ten years he had learned how to repair most amber alerts. Red meant the system was damaged and would need to be replaced. He had replaced a few components, but the box of spare parts was small and nearly empty. Crossing his fingers, he set the dial to “test” and pressed the “start” button.

Red.
Red.
Red.
Black.
Amber.
Red.
Black.
Black.
Black.
Black.
Amber.
Red.
Black.
Black.
Black…

Alexei turned off the humming apparatus before it had finished all twenty-eight systems. He didn’t know what black meant, but had to be worse than red. “Blin.”

***

Alexei arrived at the CCCP HQ, duffle-bag over his shoulder, communicator in hand. It was all he could do. He would turn in his communicator. Perhaps they would let him work in office, instead of making him go back to Kiev in shame. As he entered, wallowing in self-pity, he nearly knocked Petrograd over.

“Comrade!” Petrograd’s warm voice did little to help Alexei’s mood. The dark look in Alexei’s eyes spoke volumes. “Vsyo v poryadke? You look upset. Come, tell me what is weighing on your heart.”

Da, kazhetsya, ne ochen' harosho.” Alexei spent several hours explaining how useless he felt. His suit wasn’t good enough for the villains of the city. He was not as skilled or trained as his grandfather, and he felt he was shaming the name of October Star. He had destroyed the suit, and now was less than a hero. He had nothing to do and nowhere to go.

Petrograd had let the young man pour out his heart, but the time for talking was done. “Alexei, you do not dishonor your Jedushka. I knew him. Not well, but enough to know the character of the man he was. You want to be hero. Protect the people. Uphold the State. You have good heart. You have heart of hero.” Picking up the bag with the ruined suit, he motioned for Alexei to follow. “Heart is part, most important. If you are having this, then the rest will come. This; “ He held up the bag. “Can be repaired or made better. Come. We will see what I can do.”

To be continued...
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Russian Glossary for unlearned Americanski readers

Chyort voz’mi! – Damn it! Oh Sh*t!

Privyet, chuvak. Kak dela?” – Hello buddy. How are things?

Yasno – I see / I understand

Jedushka - Grandfather

Tvoyu mat’! - vulgar expression of anger, although milder than the English “f – word”

Blin – Darn/Shoot/Crud (very mild curse)

Vsyo v poryadke? - Is everything all right?

Da, kazhetsya, ne ochen' harosho - Not too well, I'm afraid.