There's No Place Like Home

From the Story Arc: The Death of CCCP

Previous Story in the Arc: Can't Help Falling in Love With You by Dr. Bella Dawn Parker (Thursday, May 19, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Epilogue by Red Saviour (Tuesday, June 07, 2005)

(posted Thursday, May 26, 2005)

Natalya dreamed of blue sky, clouds, crimson rays of sunshine. She dreamed of laughing faces, warm kisses, tables of food. She dreamed of Lenin, strangely shorn of a body. Then everything dissolved into an insistent pounding.

“No more, Santi. I sleep.” She sleepily pushed Santiago away, but her hands encountered only satin sheets. Cracking one eye open, she saw his bare back well off to the side of the massive bed. The pounding came from the door; it was in fact a timid knock.

“’Ello? Maid service?” The maid’s Spanish accent through the wooden door made her words hard to understand.

Govno, she swore to herself. “Nyet, we are staying in. Please to come back tomorrow, comrade.” She made it a point to be respectful to American service industry workers. One day they would lead the others in revolution. Even through her blistering hangover, she remembered her manners.

Silence at the door. The maid had left, familiar with the habits of newlyweds. No doubt the hotel made a pretty profit on sleepy couples and an eleven o’clock checkout time.

She swung her legs off the bed. A lacey red dress caught her foot. “Oops.” She tucked a foot into the folds and lifted it up for inspection. Tearing the dress off seemed like a good idea at the time. So did refueling their reverie with more vodka. Now her wedding dress was in tatters. No matter; she only needed it once.

Natalya made it to the bathroom with wobbly legs and used the toilet. In the mirror, her face looked pale, but for the smeared make-up and bags under her eyes. I am paying dues, she chided herself. Married, and no longer a pretty bride.

Cold water and soap made her feel better. She started up the shower to finish the process, despite an urge to go back to bed. My first shower as a wife, she mused. Feels no different, except for ring. Ring with charming red star. Holding it up to admire it, she grinned foolishly.

You are married, Natalya!

But of course she was married. What else could she do with Santiago Ferrer, who had won her love so naturally it felt like breathing. To not marry would have been nonsensical. Perhaps their timing was abrupt, but in their line of work many things were. To a woman who had faced down Nazis, robots and vampires, the challenge of a marriage could hardly be intimidating.

As a girl, she imagined her future husband as a more athletic, handsome version of Lenin. Smart, strong…a little bald…and certainly Russian. Some in Russia would find her choice of husband scandalous. To them, she was a poster girl for the Soviet Union, a pinnacle of Marxist perfection. She imagined this sudden wedding would give gossip columnists material for months.

No matter. Let them gossip. CCCP has work to do.

And so does my husband, she decided. She left the shower wet and climbed back into bed. Sleep could come later for the triumphant Spaniard. Natalya intended to make clear to him what his marital duties would be, hangover or no.

Bella had friends working for the airline. Red Saviour began to think Bella knew everyone in Las Vegas. As Bella and her friend altered itineraries so that Natalya and Mosca could fly back on Bella’s flight, she wondered why the blue girl ever left Las Vegas in the first place. Her parents and family, particularly her grandparents, were gems. She knew the habits of the underworld here, and the geography they skulked across. She didn’t even get sunburn.

Yet the joy in the girl’s face when Natalya drunkenly inducted her into CCCP spoke of a disconnection…or a longing for something else. She knew the feeling well: it had sent her across Asia, and landed her in Fei Li’s doorstep.

I will have to explain our new recruit to Fei Li. She’ll understand taking in a stray. In fact…

New ticket in hand, Natalya found a pay phone and called CCCP headquarters. Iron Soviet answered the phone; he sounded harried. She gave him their flight information, and on a whim told him to inform the Commissars and Medical Officer to meet them at the airport. She wanted to spring her surprise on them first. Iron Soviet, sounding puzzled, agreed.

The plane’s seats constrained the leggy Russian, as usual. She and Mosca squeezed into the narrow seats that Bella snuggled into, ignoring the stares from fellow passengers.

“It’s a long flight, but there’s a lot to talk about,” Bella said. “CCCP regulations, contacts, my new comrades. You can fill me in.” She opened the case to her comm. “What channels should I add?”

Natalya smiled at her and patted her arm. “Please, comrade. Is very little sleep from last night.” Mosca’s quiet snore punctuated her request, even though they’d been seated for two minutes. “You do nyet mind if we save briefing for tomorrow?”

“Okay.” Disappointment dropped over the blue girl’s face. “Sorry.”

“Is nyet problem. Here, read this.” She gave Bella a Marx/Engels Reader in English. “Is good translation. I know, I have portions memorized in Russian.” Natalya’s lids grew heavy, as the cool air blew out of the vents above.

She wanted to recommend a particular essay in the book as Bella thumbed through to the table of contents, but then she noticed how soft Mosca’s shoulder was. She dozed off before she could get another sentence out.

The stewardess came by and saw the sleeping couple. “Do they need pillows?”

“Just blankets,” Bella said. When the blankets arrived, she tucked them in, and then tried to bury herself in the book of rhetoric.

They slept through the entire flight. Bella felt as though she was on the Russian front, studying Marx as her fellow soldiers slept through shelling and firefights as only weary soldiers can do. She prodded them awake as the plane taxied into the gate.

The groggy newlyweds plodded through the terminal to the baggage claim. They spoke little, but both favored Bella with sweet little smiles. Natalya put a hand on her head to pet her hair, as she might do to a little sister. No one paid the blue girl much attention in Paragon City, though she noticed sly glances at the statuesque Natalya. Celebrity counted for more than blue skin in this city.

And that applied to CCCP as well. When the Commissars entered through the sliding doors of the baggage claim area, conversations stopped. The five of them made a strong impression: four Russians, one Chinese and one…green person with a foolish grin. In black leather and kelvar, decorated with red stars, they looked like what the makers of the Batman movie attempted and failed, combined with some kind of Russian SWAT team. Their military bearing – again, save for the green man – intimidated Bella to no end. This was Natalya’s world. Bella met her on holiday.

“Zadrastvuitye, Commissar Krasinij Spasitel!” The short one, who she did recognize from TV as Mojiotok, saluted Natalya in their unfamiliar salute. He looked a trifle bored. “We are here to carry your luggage, as requested.”

The others saluted, and Natalya saluted back, formally, greeting each one by name.

“Comrade Soviette,” she greeted the bob-haired woman whose cold Slavic beauty rivaled Natalya’s. “Comrade Mojiotok,” to the dour man; “Comrade Untermensch,” to an equally dour, muscular bearded man; “Comrade People’s Blade,” to the slender Chinese woman who walked like an Empress; “Comrade Bestial Boy,” to the green man with crazed blue hair and a mischievous grin. Bella liked him at once. He reminded her of an actor…who? Lou Ferrigno? No…

“Please to meet our newest recruit: Belladonna Aura,” Red Saviour announced. “Salute the Commissars and Official, Bella.”

“Oh!” Bella fumbled at her forehead with a flattened hand. The Russian salute was so close to an American style salute, but there was a little twist…too late.

“Privyet, comrade Belladonna,” Mojiotok said in his gravelly voice. “This is surprise, but since when has Natalya ever been predictable? At ease.”

Bella relaxed, but tensed up again when the green man – Bestial Boy – winked at her conspiratorially. He’s American for sure, she thought. And…Jude Law? No, no. Young William Shatner?

Mosca brought over their luggage. Without a smile the Russians divided it amongst themselves.

“So, little blue lady, what brings you to Paragon City?” Bestial Boy favored her with a smile again.

“Oh, um, ah,” she said. Why was she at a loss for words. “I helped Natalya and Santiago out in a bind, and, well, we got drunk together. And then they got…” She covered her mouth in shock. They didn’t know!

“Got drunk? Wait, we knew that. Got married? Ha!” Bestial Boy hummed “Here Comes the Bride.”

“It is hardly likely,” growled Untermensch.

“Actually, tovarischii, this is reason for bringing you here to airport.” Like the blushing bride Bella saw in the Elvis chapel, she held out her hand: the universal sign.

Jaws dropped. People’s Blade did a credible imitation of an Asian schoolgirl, clapping both hands to her cheeks. Mojiotok raised one, then both eyebrows.

“Santiago and I are husband and wife, by power of Reverend Elvis.”

A full seven seconds of silence followed. Bestial Boy broke it by clapping his hands together. “Santiago, you DOG! Way to go!” He seized Santiago in a bear hug. The Russians and little Chinese woman descended on them, hugging, kissing cheeks, even crying a little. Bella breathed a sigh of relief.

Natalya assured them she would give a full report, including the incident with Hypnosister, at the headquarters. She also acceded to the demand for yet another wedding party. “No Elvis,” she decreed. Mosca smirked at her.

Then they all piled into a dilapidated van with only two seats. The workers bore little burden for CCCP expenditures, Bella guessed. They hadn’t even repaired the bullet holes in the side door.

“Are many new recruits for you to review,” the woman named Soviette said. She wiped the tears away from perfect blue eyes and smiled. “Some fresh as daisies, others old and grumpy. Shall we arrange briefing?”

“Da. And Jad, please to bring Bella under your authority of medical unit. She is horosho healer. But do nyet let her pull tricks when drinking vodka.”

Soviette gave Bella a questioning look. Bella shrugged and smiled at her. Her adventure, she suspected, was only just beginning.

As the van trundled back to town, she caught glimpses of Bestial Boy, sitting in the front seat of the van, chattering with Untermensch. She wished she was part of that conversation. He was awfully cute, he decided, like…like…


Johnny Depp.