From the Story Arc: Red And Blue

Previous Story in the Arc: A Walk in the Park by Red Saviour (Sunday, June 19, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Room: No View by Dr. Bella Dawn Parker (Friday, July 01, 2005)

(posted Tuesday, June 21, 2005)

Cowritten by Shyft

Shyft was well known to have a temper. The fact that she had a singularity buried between her eyes--well, that made the consequences of invoking that temper a little more...interesting. Bella set down on the roof of the tram station with a vivid recollection of the last time she had seen Shyft in combat.

"Hi," she said cautiously. She wasn't going to sit. Not yet.

"Privyet," said Shyft, betraying nothing.

She sighed. "We don't know each other very well, and this is like major awkward." And she could have hit herself. The dumb Amerikanski bit was all right with Communard but--

Shyft shrugged. "You are comrade in CCCP, and as you Americans say, 'one of the girls.'"

She decided to plunge straight into it; at this point she was exhausted, her eyes were red and sore from cyrying, and, truth be told, she was out of patience. "I have to deliver a message from a friend, and I'm kind of hoping you'll sit still for all of it---"

And Shyft--hit her with something. A speed boost? it felt as if she'd just downed a gallon of double expressos...

"Theres a pick-me-up, comrade." Shyft looked at her with a frown beginning. "I'd offer you vodka, but my bottles empty... I'm not a patient woman..."

Get it over with. Then you can go home and cry yourself to sleep again. " you have ANY idea what is about to happen to Johnny?" she asked abuptly.

"By Mean John Murdock?" Shyfts face subtly hardened. "Da. We spoke of it last night."

"You know about the Kheld fusion?" she persisted, as Shyft nodded. Y"u know he's gonna get rebooted? Memory wipe?"

Shyft was beginning to look angry. "Yes. I know. What of it?"

Well, Bella was angry at the whole world right now... "I have four best friends in the whole world," she said, defying Shyft's impatient toe-tapping. "Two of 'em are Flame and Johnny. Flame wanted me to tell you something; after the reboot it's a level playing field between you and her. There are rules she can't break and one of them is she is not allowed to guilt him into coming back to her."

Shyft's half- hearted snort of laughter and head-shake tore her already fraying temper in two. "Look, I don;t care if you believe this or not---but if she breaks those rules, she becomes Fallen and this is hard enough on her as it is!"

"He loves her. She loves him. Right?" Shyft replied, making it all sound---so easy.

All of Bella's emotions were threatening to boil over; she felt like she was caught in a rip-tide of anger and grief and fear, all pulling her out to sea---"She loves him so much she is sacrificing everything that makes her an angel to save him," she said, wishing that the words were knives that could cut all of them loose from this hideous mess.

Shyft muttered something, and that was the last straw. "God, I don't know why I am bothering, it's like talking to a wall!" she snarled. "There's a law here. It's called Free Will That's why its' gonna be a level playing field--"

Shyft looked at her with a cynical twist to her mouth. "Let me guess, you are hear to persuade me to not persue my interest in John?"

Bella clenched her hands at her sides to avoid the temptation of slapping the older woman senseless. It was a perfectly reasonable assumption---had it been anyone but Flame. "DAMMIT Shyft! This is killing her!" she cried, as the containment-suit gloves kept her from clenching her fists as hard as she wanted to. "And---and there's nothing I can do about it! And no, dammit, that is NOT the message. The message is that it's a level playing field. That's ALL! She wants you to know, because YOUR pain is HER pain." Behind the glasses, nothing. No way of telling if Shyft even heard. "You want him after the reboot, you have just as much of a chance as she does; robably more. Because she is going to be living on my charity, she is going to have to learn to live as a human, she is going to have to somehow NOT become Fallen---"

Now Shyft spoke. "Tell you what.... why don't you give her a message for me. That's the difference between her and me. After the reboot, he's not John. He's some wiggly looking alien in John's body."

The bitterness in Shyft's voice almost matched her own. "That's where you're wrong," she said, dropping her voice, and holding back tears. Oh god---Home World---why won't you at least let Flame try and save you, too? "The Kheld---won't be anything but powers and a form. It'll be Johnny---just Johnny like he was before he got augmented and after that---fragments. None of us knows what he'll remember, lose, or be able to recover. We only know that he will have everything up to the point of the experiments." She wasn't losing one friend out of this, she was losing two. They had the easy part---dying, forgetting. She and Flame were the ones being left behind to mourn....

"Tell me, who's soul will be in that body?" Shyft asked sharply. "John's? Or the alien?"

"Flame says Johnny. I believe her." Bella thought of the two of them together, and wanted to weep. "I can't imagine her giving up what she's going to give up otherwise."

Shyft's lip twitched. "Because people in love do stupid things."

"Yeah well, at the moment she's not 'people.'" Bella pointed out, knowing Shyft was not going to believe that.
"And short of you meeting up with her and getting a dose of the real Flame, there's nothing I can say other than that. And even then you could tell yourself it's all some kind of Jedi mind-trick."

Shyft snorted. "So afterwards he'll be perfect for her....both of them something they weren't before...something half right, and half wrong."

Bella lost her temper and her grip on her tears. "Look, I don't care what you think. I'm just the messenger."

Shyft shook her head. "Everything I like about John is what his powers made him. He understands power, and it doesn't frighten him. You know what it's like walking around with a black hole in your head?"

Bella just stared at her. Rich, powerful, beautiful. She could have just about any man she wanted. Flame was losing her only love...and Bella...would never have anyone. She lost it. "You know what it's like to F-ING NEVER BE ABLE TO TOUCH ANYONE?" she all but screamed.

Shyft, however, never raised her "Yes Bella, I do..." she said, crossing her arms. "He's the first person in years who's gotten an arms distance from me without looking worried. I have to walk around in a forcefield, every minute of every day."

But you can still touch--and be touched.

"We have a nice little club here, don't we?" she said bitterly. "Any second, any day, my mutation can go. It's unstable. When it does, it will probably kill me. I was lucky the last time. Yeah, lucky, I got powers. I prolly won't be lucky twice." She looked off at the War Walls, and tried to lose herself in their shifting patterns."

Shyft sighed. "You're a walking nuclear reactor...I'm a walking spacial anomaly. I feel for you. I really do. Let me let you in on a little secret. You know why I hit you with my gravity field when you popped up here? The star in my forehead can feel the rads in you. I was shielding you, to make sure you don't interfere with my belt. It goes, I wont be as lucky. I'll live. But Steel canyon will look like Faultline. John knew that. And he stood next to me. John won't be John. He won't be the man he was. He won't understand living with power like that."

And she thought that was due to the powers---

"At least I *probably* won't take anyone with me when mine goes. But no telling. Let me tell you something. That wasn't Johnny's powers. That was Johnny. That was the man without the powers. If he was a cit he would still have stood next to you." Bella looked up at the stars and back at Shyft---who had also moved her gaze to the heavens. "It isn't powers that make us what we are. If you think that---it's what we make of powers. You have Free Will and free choice too."

The next words she spoke seemed to change the subject--but Bella sensed they were somehow still talling about Johnny. "You aren't the only one who feels out of place with the Soviets. I hear the whispers, the rumors..."

She shook her head. "That---that's the problem. I don't feel out of place. You guys are my second family."

Shyft nodded. "Good. People need family. Need people to care about and care for them. The fact you can still get fired up about a moral cause, not knowing when or if you'll go poof.... Thats a good thing. The soviets need people like you."

She squirmed a little, feeling acutely uncomfortable. "Meh. I'm nothing special--"

Shyft smiled a little. "Really? Not what I hear... Saviour listens to you. Calls you sestra... You're smart and passionate.... You still have...something...inside."

It was an awkward moment. It demanded an explanation, and Bella didn't really have the words for what she felt. "I---I live on connections; connections are what make people what they are. I just like to do what I can to keep 'em repaired."

Shyft was still looking at the stars, arms crossed. "I do my best to stay distant. Safer that way."

"You and Sturmfront," she said, shaking her head. "Same story, different mouth. Connections are dangerous."

Shyft looked a little offended at being compared to Sturmfront. "I go critical mass another couple miles of city... What happens if somone I dared to care about in in that epicenter?"

That would make it better, how, exactly? "Yep. And he basically said the same thing. He's mad, bad and dangerous to know, and he's only going to get people who get close to him killed or worse...."

Her expression was unreadable. "You don't think if I could...I'd take off my belt, give up my powers and be normal?"

"Well, from what I've seen, prolly about a quarter of the heroes in this city could pretty much say the same thing," Bella pointed out.

That particular truth stopped her cold. "I don't know that I love John," she said at last. "I don't know that I can.. I know that around him, I feel normal. And thats a lot better sometimes. But he does love her. And he said as much.'

She nodded.

Now Shyft looked at her again. "You're a healer. You understand the Hyppocratic oath, right?" Again, she nodded. "It's a code of ethics every doctor worthy of the name follow. I'm not a doctor, but I am a scientist...And I have ethics. I may not act like it, and I may not look like it... But I'm a good person, and I live by my ethics. He loves her. To take advantage of him forgetting that is unethical; it's no differnet if he was an amnesia patient."

She closed her eyes. "And she would be violating the rules if she didn't make sure you knew everything," she said quietly. "No matter what it costs. And for all we know, he could turn to someone outside the group."

Would that be better---or worse?

"I don't know Bella..." Shyft said forlornly.

"None of us does," Bella replied. "That's the sorry-ass part of it. All we can do is try to keep pain to a minimum."

Keep it just below the point where death is better than the pain....

Shyft chuckled ruefully. "We should form a support group for people whose powers have screwed up their lives."

"We'd have to rent the Arena." She took out a Kleenex and mopped her eyes. "Ah hell. Sucks to be us,"

Shyft shook her head. "Yeah, I suppose. People suck."

If she believed that, she'd have to---go crawl in a hole. "Naw. People don't suck. It's what we get into that sucks."

Shyft glanced at her sideways. "We haven't realy talked you've never heard the Wolkoff Laws of Humanity, have you?"

She shook her head.

"Just like physics, people are governed by simple laws, and exeptions. First Law, people suck. You can meet somone for the first time, expecting them to suck and not be dissapointed. There are two exceptions to the law. The first exception, is people like you. People who can shock you. people who can be a people and not suck."

She blinked. Somehow in the course of this conversation, had Shyft turned into a friend? "Thank you for including me in the non-suckage section of the restaurant."

"The second exception is people like Communard. They who do not suck, but are actually the counter to sucking, they blow." She cocked an eyebrow at Bella expectantly.

She couldn't help it, she started to giggle.

"Actually he doesn't count, because he breaks all the laws of physics," Shyft added thoughtfully "He manages to suck and blow at the same time."

She laughed, probably harder than the joke warrented but---but it was so much better than crying.

"I'm not a bad person Bella," she said, quietly, hanging her head. "It's just easier to act like one and keep people away than to chance meeting somone like John. I have to tell myself that he wont be him afterwards.. That he'll be some totally differnet person. It was all fun and giggles when I thought he was just another super hero in tight pants. Then..holy shit..he turns out to be a decent guy. Kinda hard to find in an organization of ex-spies, assassins, KGB agents and alchoholics...."

She sighed. "One of the best I know. But he came to it through a lot of pain," she said softly. "See, we're kinda the confessors to each other. He talked to me before he ever met Flame, Flame.....sent me to him, like she sent me to you."

Shyft shook her head. "Bozshe moi, I'm going to have another person to worry aobut. You're almost likable, you know?" She grinned. Bella returned it.

"Naw. I'm an asshole. Ask anyone. I tell 'em things they don't wanta hear."

Like Flame.

Shyfts smile turned wry. "I imagine Saviour feels like that about you. Kid sister who needs a hug, a spanking then another hug."

Yes, she does.

"Yeah, no doubt Nat wants to whack me upside the head right now," she admitted. "But--I think you'd like Sturgeon's law. Sturgeon's Law---90% of everything is crap....I guess I just don't mind wading through the crap to find the good stuff."

Like you, Shyft.

Like you.

"But hey, I got an errand to run. Need to go shopping. New uniform, y'see--"

New uniform. There had been a bad patch when she never expected to say that.

Shyft's mouth quirked up in a smile. "I'll come along. Keep Serge honest."

Bella's smile matched Shyft's. "I was hoping you'd say that.