For the People

From the Story Arc: Little Fish, Big Pond

Previous Story in the Arc: More Than the Sum of its Parts by October Star II (Tuesday, May 17, 2005)

(posted Friday, May 20, 2005)

“P-p-p-please, don’t h-h-hurt me!” The young wman cowered against the wall, her eyes not leaving the knife in the thug’s hand.

The Skull licked his lips, savoring the woman’s fear. “Don’t worry, baby. It won’t hurt much.” The group of thugs behind him laughed, the malice in their tone, unmistakable. He leaned forward, resting the knife on her cheek. “If you got enough cash in your purse, we’ll be happy to leave you be.” His eyes grew dark. “If not..” He leered at her cleavage and his trailed down. “I’m sure we can work out some alternate arrangements.”

There was a sudden rush of air and a shockwave followed by an explosion, sending the gangers flying several yards, into the burnt-out husk of a Buick. “Alyo, garazh!” October Star lowered himself to street level. “It is appearing to me you pertzy are committing crime against this woman. This, I cannot allow.”

As the Skulls picked themselves up, all of them pulled weapons. “You’re a dead man, hero.”

“Whether you run, surrender or fight, today you are going to tyuryaga.” Alexei allowed a confident smile to creep out. “Peaceful or painful, mne po figu..”

Alexei’s gauntlets erupted in a series of blue blasts, scattering the gangers. The first two had gone down with the second volley, the third with a glowing uppercut that knocked him into the alley. Shimmering with a built up charge, he turned to face the Bone Daddy that had started the confrontation. A pair of shadowy bolts whizzed past Alexei’s ear. The thug turned to run, only to catch a hail of bursts in the back. The city’s criminal transport system fired off, and the gangers disappeared.

Alexei shut off the flight pack and turned to the young lady. “Are you alright, miss?”

As the woman spoke, static crackled in Alexei’s ear and his CCCP communicator came to life. “Hullo? Is anyone on patrol in Skyway city?”

Alexei recognized the voice of Sister Soyuz. She had joined the CCCP the same time as he had, but he had not seen her much. He knew little about her other than her ability to shroud herself with large amounts of flame. He assumed from her codename, she was an astronaut, but even that was a guess. “Nyet, but I am near Czar’s Row tunnel. Are you in needing of assistance?”

“It would be most appreciated, comrade.” There was a distinct sound of relief in her voice. “I have contact whose office is under attack by clockwork. I do not think I can handle them alone.”

“No worries, sister.” As he headed into the tunnel, he synced his GPS with hers. The flashing red light marked the building in question. “I will meet you there.”

***
The metallic crash rang through the office building as the last of the Cannon Knights fell. Alexei wiped his bloody lip. The fight had been long and brutal. Scattered scraps of metal and broken gears littered the floor. “Bozshe moi! I know the Clocks are determined, but I have never seen such numbers.”

Sister Soyuz picked up the shattered remains of a box. “They were coming from this.” She squinted in concentration. “They were having me collect up parts from Clockwork I had smashed. This is what I brought them back in.”

Alexei chuckled. “At least you not have to look far to smash them again.”

Soyuz muttered with a wry smile and shook her head. “You are not being funny man.”

“Then you are having no reason to smile, da?” Alexei chuckled as he headed for the exit. “If you are needing more assistance, I would be glad to pair up. We make good team.”

“Maybe next time you not knock them away from me while I am punching head.” Sister Soyuz winked.

Alexei replied with a sharp bark of laughter, and the door closed behind him.

***

Within minutes of entering the underground base, Alexei knew he was in over his head. But he had the new suit, and it would take him through to the end. He had taken out the sentry quickly, but he had not expected the Council agent to erupt into seven hundred kilos of fur, claws and muscle. He used his flight pack to hop over the beast and onto its back.

The grip Alexei had on the Warwolf’s harness was slipping. The energized punches to the back of the monsters head appeared to be doing little other than make it angrier. Poised between its shoulder blades, Alexei was out of reach from its teeth and claws, but he could hear the sound of jackboots approaching. The creature’s howls were bringing backup. “Tvoyu mat'! I am not needing more problems.” He heard the chain-gun fire and the world went black.

***

“Alexei! Alexei, get up! You are going to make us late!”

Alexei opened his eyes, but it was not the hospital room he expected to see. He was lying in his bed in his parent’s home in Kiev. Looking down, he was wearing his Octroberist uniform for the Young Pioneers.

“Alexei Gregori Nikolski!” His bedroom door burst open and his older brother Constantine burst in, trying to tie the red scarf of his Young Pioneer uniform. Alexei felt a twinge in his stomach, seeing his brother alive again. Constantine had become an officer in the Soviet military and was killed in a riot in Kazakhstan in 1985. “Mother says if you make us late…why are you laying down? You will wrinkle your shirt!”

Alexei hopped off the bed. “Sorry Connie. I was afraid to scuff my shoes.” He knew he was a grown man, but his reactions were that of his seven-year-old self. “I am ready to go.”

Constantine handed his little brother a uniform cap. “Good. Father is sending a car for us that will be here any minute. Go see if Jedushka Vlada needs help with his uniform.”

Alexei tore out of the room, and ran down the hall to his grandfather’s room. Seeing it now through adult eyes, it was apparent that his family lived well for Soviet Russia. Thinking about it, it made sense. Vladamir Nikolski was the original October Star. He was a hero of the state, and a champion of the people. His grandfather’s status led to his father Boris having the opportunity to join the Party at a young age, and become a powerful administrator within the government of the Ukraine. His mother’s father had been a highly decorated officer in The Great Patriotic War, and his mother, Viktoria, was a world-class tennis player in her youth, and had represented the country in several Olympic games. All of these led to his childhood being rather privileged.

Jedushka?” Alexei rapped on the door and poked his head into his grandfather’s room. “Mama said for me to help you.”

Even though he was nearly sixty, Vladamir Nikolski was still an impressive man. Years of discipline and a military upbringing showed in the meticulous organization of his room and the athletic physique. A lit Prima dangled from his lip as he concentrated, polishing one of the October Star shoulder pads. “Come in, Lexi. Come in.” His exes darted to Alexei for a moment and a a grin jumped across his face. “Your mother sent you to hurry up the old man, eh?”

Alexei plopped down on the floor and laughed. Taking he other shoulder pad, he began polishing it with the other end of the rag his grandfather was using. “This is special May Day, da?”

The elder Nikolski grunted an affirmation. “It is 35 year anniversary of end of Great Patriotic War in Europe.” He paused to examine his handiwork. “It is day to remember great heros.”

“Mama said the Premier wanted you to come to Moscow.” Alexei held the shoulder pad up for his grandfather’s approval. “Why did you say no? Is that not great honor?”

The old man laughed. “Da, is great honor, and many of my comrades from CCCP will be there.” He nodded and too the pad from his grandson. “But Kiev is my home. Moscow has many heroes. The Ukraine has few. Today I am hero for Kiev.”

“But you are always hero of Kiev! Today you could be hero of Moscow”

Vladamir patted his grandson on the head and pulled on the chest and shoulders of his suit. “Da. But only for today.”

Alexei’s eyes grew wide. “Minister Brezhnev would probably pin a medal on you himself for all you have done!”

He pulled on his hood and the suit hummed to life. “That is true.” He knelt down, bringing himself face to face with his grandson. “Being hero means you do what you do, because it is right, not because people will praise you for it. Today I will march down the street and I will turn and salute First Secretary Shcherbytskyi, and the people will cheer and throw flowers. May Day is for military, but it is also day for the people. And it is for the people I do this. Remember that. When your Pioneers walk down the avenue and you turn to salute the First Secretary, remember you are doing it for the people, not for him.”

“I will jedushka. I promise. When I become hero, like you, I will do it for the people.”

“That’s my good boy.” Vladamir rose and lifted Alexei onto his shoulders. “Now wake up!”

***

As Alexei opened his eyes, the blurry contents of a hospital room came into focus. Sister Soyuz sat in a chair next to his bed, lightly dozing. Petrograd stood motionless, looking out a window at the Paragon City nightline. A nurse was checking his drip. His throat burned, and his head throbbed with each heartbeat. “Might I have a glass of water?”

“Comrade!” Petrograd turned around as Soyuz sat upright. “You are awake? Thank goodness. We were ochen worried.

Soyuz held the straw to Alexei’s mouth. “You have been unconscious for three days. The doctor said after you fell, they must have continued beating you. The base was shielded from the Hospital Teleport grid..”

“Luckily, those fascist govnyuk did not check your communicator.” Petrograd shook his head. “I was running field diagnostics on your suit. When your bio-signs showed you down, and stayed there for an hour, I put a team together to come and get you.” The armored soldier laughed. “Sister Soyuz here was quite the one to watch.”

She blushed. “I did what any Soviet would do for her comrades.”

Alexei swallowed the cold water and felt a wave of exhaustion. “Spaciba comrades. I owe you my life.”

“You owe us nothing comrade. You are one of us. We could do no less.”

Petrograd nodded. “I have made the needed repairs to your suit. I am not sure what failed you…”

Alexei cut him off. “The suit did not fail me. I did.”

Both soviets were taken back my his statement. “Shto?

“I thought I could handle situation myself.” Alexei closed his eyes. “I thought I was, as Heavy Brother says ‘a real bad-ass’. I thought if I went in there and broke up the base by myself, the city would honor me. I thought I would be hero of the people.” The hero sighed. “I went in, looking for trouble, looking fro praise. My heart was in wrong place. That is why suit was broken in first place, that is why I was nearly broken now.” He paused as he took another drink of water. “But now, I remember.”

“Remember what, young one?”

Alexei laughed quietly. “I remember a promise I once made to my jedushka. A promise I intend to keep.” He opened his eyes and looked at Petrograd. “I will honor him. I will be the hero of the people he was. The hero he always was, even until his death. You said I had the heart of hero, comrade Petrograd. Perhaps I did, but until now, I did not know it.”

“Your suit is waiting for you, as soon as you are released Ale….October Star.” The smile in Petrograd’s voice brightened the room. “I look forward to seeing you in it again.”

“As do I.” Sister Soyuz put the empty cup on the nightstand. She patted Alexei on the hand and the Soviets left.

Alexei closed his eyes and laid back. Sleep would come but not before the image of his grandfather saluting the First Secretary that day came to mind. October Star, hero of the Ukraine and Kiev had come to Paragon City.

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Russian Glossary for unlearned Americanski readers

Alyo, garazh! – an ironical greeting

Pertzy – slang for a group of “cool guys”

Tyuryaga – “the joint”; jail

mne po figu – colloquialism meaning “it’s all the same to me”

Bozshe moi! – Literally “My Lord!” or “Oh my God!” – Expression of exasperation

Tvoyu mat'! - expressing anger/annoyance or surprise, a bit milder than “the ‘F’ word”, but still very rude.

Young Pioneers – Soviet equivalent of Boy Scouts. Membership is typically for boys age 10 to 15 and was a gateway to becoming a member of the Communist Party.

Octroberist – What the Young Pioneers are to Boy Scouts, the Children of October are to Cub Scouts. For short they are often called “Octroberists”. Membership is typically for boys age 7 to 10.

Prima – A brand of “American Style” cigarettes, popular in Soviet Russia.

First Secretary – Head of Communist Party in region. Equivalent to regional president or governor.

Shcherbytskyi - Volodymyr Shcherbytskyi, First Secretary of the Ukraine from 1970 to 1989. Was considered Leonid Brezhnev's protégé, and was known as a bastion of Cold War era mentality, politics and measures even in the face of glasnost.

Govnyuk – unlikable person, equivalent of calling someone a “bastard” in English.