From the Story Arc: Red And Blue

Previous Story in the Arc: Hacked By HiV Security Team by Dr. Bella Dawn Parker (Saturday, September 03, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Hard Line by Dr. Bella Dawn Parker (Wednesday, October 05, 2005)

(posted Saturday, September 24, 2005)

So many pictures….

There were security cameras all over Paragon City, and Josh had just whipped up a recognition program in two hours that would sort through the video, the stills, and cull out CCCP members, one in particular. And one who hero who was not a CCCP member….

Bella had come up with better use for her time than crawling into a bottle and hiding. A late-night talk with a guy named Kuo, a guy with at least as much pain in him as she had, a guy with a knack for being a catalyst.

Grab someone and start scrap-booking.


He may not remember who you are, but you can show him who he was. Who knows. It may be able to restore a little of his memory. Providing it's not full delete, wipe, delete. Friend of mine in high school got into a car accident so bad he forgot who he was, and was only able to piece himself back together via yearbooks and photo albums.

Waitron was helping, able to scan through things far more quickly than a human, able to pick out emotionally laden scenes because of her unique chipset. Johnny being so careful with Shuma. Mentoring and guarding Thea and Shen. Goofing off with the rest of them. Lots of that, lots and lots of that. When he and Djinni had helped her with Frostfire, and after the clean-out, they’d spent about half an hour fooling around on the frozen cascades of ice like idiots.

It was turning into way more than one DVD; she was sound-tracking it herself out of Vickie’s record collection. Johnny loved music…

A little bit she was singing herself, because she couldn’t find a recording she liked.

Moments of defeat too---because it shouldn’t be all good times. But in defeat, they all comforted each other, and that went in. Sometimes just with a drink. Sometimes with a shoulder.

She hadn’t known there had been a weather-cam on the building the night Johnny told her he was dying. Or some of the other nights they’d talked…..

She kept those for herself; there should be no confusion as to who was the emotional focus of Johnny’s last days.

And there had been that serendipitous camera trained on the top of the Arena where Flame and Johnny had had their first meetings. Knowing what she knew now, it was easy to see the transition, from angelic counselor to friend, to the moment when Flame—though not Johnny—realized that friendship and the need to get Johnny through and past his old pain had turned into something else.

Spend all your time waiting
for that second chance
for a break that would make it okay
there's always one reason
to feel not good enough
and it's hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
oh beautiful release
memory seeps from my veins
let me be empty
and weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight

in the arms of an angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort there

And of course, Waitron and Felix recorded things, and they were in Bell’s apartment, the one she’d loaned to Flame and Johnny until---

There was a special section on the first DVD just for Flame.

And especially soundtracked; Bella’s own version—

so tired of the straight line
and everywhere you turn
there's vultures and thieves at your back
and the storm keeps on twisting
you keep on building the lie
that you make up for all that you lack
it don't make no difference
escaping one last time
it's easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
this glorious sadness that brings me to my knees

in the arms of an angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort there
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here

Thing about the high security levels like Johnny---he had more cash than he knew what to do with. There were rewards for making arrests; the badder the bad guy, the bigger the reward. Johnny had been spreading that around to all of them lately….

So, unbeknownst to himself, he was financing a slightly better lifestyle for the new “him.”

Not greatly; she didn’t think he’d be much different from his old self in that he’d prefer a Spartan sort of life. So, a simple studio apartment here in her complex. Not the same floor, the next one up. Not a lot of furniture, but there was a good small TV and DVD player, and the DVDs she was making for him now would be stacked right next to it. Felix was already installed there, waiting for the melding, and what they all hoped would be the end and the beginning, to keep him safe during those hard levels in the single digits as he learned his new powers and whatever he brought with him from the “old” Johnny Murdock.

Flame, though she hadn’t said anything about it, had the studio down the hall on this floor. She probably knew, if she had bothered to stretch her mind in that direction, but she had other things to occupy her right now, so maybe she didn’t know. It wasn’t quite as Spartan as John’s new place. Bella figured that Flame would need some real physical comforts to offset the physical discomforts she was going to have, and a bit more in the way of practical, day-to-day help. Waitron would be moving there to give it, once the conclusion to this all came about. Flame would be near enough to Johnny to be near enough, far enough away to give them both some distance while they worked things out.

One way or another.

But the plan to make memories alive again went way past Johnny now.

My leader wants---to kill people---it's all gone to hell---

And you want to save it all. But you don't know how.

--pretty much---sums it up---can---a heart really break?---because---I think mine---just shattered.

A set of DVDs for herself. Her own memories. Because she really, really needed to look at them right now. To remind herself of everything that had gone on until now, and that there was way more good than bad.

She could see Titian Paladin in her mind’s eye, image blurred with her tears, as she poured out her heart to him and Kid Crisis.

Do I follow my heart---or my conscience? My conscience says "walk." My heart says "stay" Dammit.....I love these people. I still love Nat.. I need them, they need me. But---irreconcilable differences here...

It would seem to me ma’am.....that if you love these people, and they are fighting the good fight...then you stick by them, and try to find a way to do it with a clear mind.

There were things she needed to remind herself of. And things that had to change quickly.

Belladonna, I must ask... is there discord between the CCCP and Alliance right now? Am I wrong to be fraternizing with you right now?

More DVDs. Alliance and CCCP working together. Some from happier days, but some from right now, because some people in CCCP, like Star and Thea, were determined to mend the rift and some were on Bell’s side of the conflict.

Every time she finished one, a copy went to CCCP HQ and Alliance HQ. She couldn’t make anyone look at them….but the urge to see yourself on TV was practically irresistible…..

You know--- the reason I joined them in the first place? Wasn't cause I was lonely. I---I was, but that wasn’t the reason. They're---they're full of Big Guns And those Big Guns go right out---every day---patrol KR before they take the big mishes. Walking the walk That was why. No stupid dancing around in AP. No goofball costume contests. Walking the walk. Every day. Even RS.

You know, I'd heard that, but I never knew it was true.

So another set of DVDs was going to the Alliance, and AOC and AODOJ ---just footage of the CCCP, the Big Guns, caught on camera, running the routine patrols. One-shotting Hellions and Skulls and other gang-bangers, moving on, with no one there to applaud them. A little reminder there, too, was not going to go amiss.

Another DVD, one only, for Nat…..

Kuo's voice in her mind.....even as she had chosen her new costume, which was deliberately not the CCCP uniform, but a tribute to Johnny in her colors and his. Because the question was still there; go or stay?

Given everything, the ups and downs, the plusses and minuses, the merits and flaws. If I was in your situation, I'd stay. Maybe not forever, but long enough to make sure things are taken care of, at least. A good team is like a don't want a forty person breakup at once. You can distance yourself from them, or try and step in to heal it up, but you can't be neutral. Things can't be the same. Which is the shame of shames. But, nevertheless, you make do with what ya got.

That one was just about finished compiling. Nat hauling her along on mishes. Her laughing after faceplanting, because she would insist on doing as much as she could even as a single-digit. “Debt is a capitalist myth!” as she tossed the hospital bill in the trash, knowing it would get paid off in a day at most. Joking. Serious. Saving Nat’s sorry ass with just-in-time heals because she would insist on charging in like she was a tanker. And some goofing, though there was not nearly as much of that as there was with the others.

Yeah, and Djinni saving Nat’s sorry ass a time or two, as well.

Just about compiled….

She set up the camera, took a deep breath, and started it rolling.

“Nat---I can’t pretend to understand your mindset. You hardliners are more soldier than cop. But---I’m going to try. I swear, I am going to try. You talk, I’ll listen. And I would like it if I could talk--calmly and rationally—while you listen.

And there are some things you need to hear and try to understand too.

You aren’t in Russia; you’re in America. And if you don’t want to lose the CCCP you are going to have to adapt to that fact, because while they might let you skate on the Council thing, another massacre and you’re gonna get booted at best and end up in Geneva at the International Court at worst. Nobody appointed you to the position where you get to declare war. If we start doing that, we open to door to---well, a whole lot of nastiness. And, fact, when the facists start making us act just like them---they’ve won. That’s why there has to be a line we can’t cross.

It isn’t just the Americans that are revolting against the kill-order, either. Some of your own people are; Russians, just like you. People who came here to join you because they thought you stood for something amazing. And now, they don’t know what to think, and their hearts are torn.

So ask yourself this: do you want to be the so-called infallible leader, always right no matter what? Or do you want the CCCP? Because you can’t have both.

Just like I can’t be the all-wise, all-compassionate healer-Madonna I'd like to pretend I am. Because in the heat of anger, I said some dumb things that gave the carte blanche to atrocities too. And because I would happily paint the town with Rikti and CoT blood. So I don’t get off free either. I had to face that about myself when I was looking at the world through the bottom of a vodka bottle. I’m not innocent either.

But I want to help save us, salvage as much as I can---you, me, CCCP. Cause I love you guys, and I don’t mean that frivolously or lightly. And Nat, you’ve called me sestra, sister, and I—that means more to me than any damn Accolade. I love you and Mosca, but especially you, like you were my own blood. I don’t want to lose that either. I have a pile of biohazard bags full of tear-soaked tissues waiting for pickup that proves that. We’re both going to have to do some compromises with what we think we are in order to get this mess sorted. I’m willing. Are you? Cause it’s gonna take both of us.”

She set it to record. Then she took it and put it in Nat’s computer with an override that wouldn’t let her do anything else until it played through.

Nothing to do now but wait, and hope that memories counted for a lot.