Murky Clouds at 20000 feet

From the Story Arc: Red And Blue

Previous Story in the Arc: Within White Walls by Belladonna Aura (Wednesday, July 06, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Portals by Belladonna Aura (Thursday, July 21, 2005)

(posted Sunday, July 17, 2005)

(This occurred prior to the conclusion of the Phoenyx Rising Arc, and prior to “Bulletins with a Bullet” in Bella’s arc)

“You look familiar, and I never forget a face.”

“What, you mean you don’t get gorgeous green superheroes on the Paragon Shuttle often?” Zach sheepishly grinned at the stewardess’ joke, and she winked back.

“I guess most of the big-time superdudes just fly themselves”, Zach mused to himself.

He found an open seat towards the back of the plane, and opened up his briefcase. Flying back and forth to Washington, D.C. was becoming a chore, but as Red Saviour had shrewdly pointed out that an American face might go over better with the Feds, even if it was the green face of the Bestial Boy.

The federal government, long involved in the lives of Superheroes through the Rikti War, was starting to take a particular interest in the long-standing supergroups of Paragon. So far the meetings had been purely informational, sharing intelligence, meeting liaisons, hearing Congressional leaders talk of whether the would officially recognize such groups. All of these were developments that Natalya thought they should remain abreast of, even if she wasn’t exactly delighted at the prospect of another government’s interference, Moscow’s was bad enough. So, Zachary Marlowe had suddenly gotten to know the staff of the Paragon Shuttle fairly well, flying back and forth to DC on a semi-weekly basis.

Zach loosened his tie, and looked over the itinerary Belladonna and Waitron9000 had prepared for him. Having their help with paperwork was becoming a lifesaver for Zach, who would otherwise have lost his patience long ago with his new role. He scanned over the neatly typed list, and made his own handwritten notes in the margins.

9 a.m. Meeting with Undersecretary for the Air Force for update on the Rikti (Breakfast served?)
11 a.m. Meeting with the Congressional Delegation from Rhode Island. (Ugh….)
1 p.m. Lunchtime Roundtable discussion of the Supergroup registration system. (During my lunch!!!???)
3 p.m. Congressional briefings on loan funds available for supergroup base construction and improvements (Finally something useful!!!)
7 p.m. White House Dinner to honor the Freedom Phalanx (Why am I invited to this???)

It was going to be a long day, but at the very least the shuttle was pleasant enough. It was used almost exclusively by businessmen, so they tended to leave you alone and keep to themselves. And since it was all one class with no assigned seats, it at least felt more egalitarian, so it didn’t overtly offend his socialist tendencies.

Zach started going through his materials, including full dossiers on the governmental leaders he would be meeting. “Damn Bella, you really outdid yourself this time!” Zach was startled at how much he had come to rely on the young tovarisch, who seemed eager to assist with some of the more unpleasant duties in office. She wasn’t a bad hand in combat either, and her radiation powers seemed to almost perfectly complement the Bestial Boy’s fighting style. It was nice having another American around, someone that didn’t stare blankly at Zach when he made a Star Wars reference. And there was something else there too…a certain….

Zach shook his head, trying to dislodge unwanted thoughts. Jesus, relationships were hard… Carpathia, she was everything to him. At least, she had been. When he was still feeling his way, both as a hero, and as a man, she had believed in him. Wanted him. Loved him? He certainly thought he loved her, but lately there was an emptiness between them, a gulf that grew ever wider as their respective responsibilities carried them away from each other.

First there had been her family problems in the Czech Republic, which carried her out of town without even so much as a word to Zach. Then there was Zach’s promotion to Commissar, a not-so-subtle alteration in their dynamic, especially considering that Carpathia had been Zach’s superior in the CCCP for virtually their entire relationship up to that point. They never discussed it, but Zach winced when he had to give her an order, and she certainly seemed to chafe at it.

Now with all of the travel back and forth to DC, Zach felt himself losing connection to all of the CCCP, Carpathia perhaps most of all. The recent revelations regarding John Murdock only added to Zach’s sense that things were changing beyond his capacity to keep up. Thank God Bella kept leaving him status reports…Jesus, Bella again. Zach was getting a migraine.

The plane reached their cruising altitude, and the stewardess asked him if he wanted something to drink. She might as well have offered a suffocating man an oxygen mask.

“Grey Goose straight up, and keep them coming.”