It's Still Rock and Roll to Me

From the Story Arc: Volgograd on the Adams

Previous Story in the Arc: Everything Right Is Wrong Again by Krasniy Oktyabr (Thursday, June 23, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Jumping Jack Flash by Krasniy Oktyabr (Friday, September 02, 2005)

(posted Thursday, July 28, 2005)

It's amazing, how a few short days can hold so much activity that it seems not much happened at all.
After diary incident, Caitlin Murray gave me information to get in touch with others who would aid me. Was not a sad parting, because I will always think of her as comrade, willing to help how she can if something comes up.
Detective Brogan knew nothing regarding the Clockwork, to my disappointment. However, he did educate me on activities of Atlas Park's number one problem street gang, the Hellions. Drugged out, devil worshipping trash, their leaders even dabbling in dark powers to reign through fear over minions. I would disregard them completely if not for sheer numbers. A formidable army, if they would stop squabbling amonst themselves instead of stabbing their way up hierarchy.
But has not been easy, comrades. Part of my mind thrills at all that I am becoming. A Hero for People. Something that the Motherland--and Grandfather--would be proud of. The sensation that comes whenever a blow is struck for Party is well and good. But yet...something felt wrong. And slowly, it dawned on me.
Achievement is fine, as long as it doesn't drive to greed. I had seen all too many "heroes", alone or striving together in ragtag groups, become greedy and careless, wanting all glory for self. And in end, it was all same. Failure was always fault of others. I almost fell into this trap, in Kings Row of all places. I think it funny, now I sit and write this, that there never should have been room in my life for any King, especially so tied to Capitalism. Or to the ego.
How long I had been at this, here in this Amerikanskii city amongst countless thousands? I knew not, nor did I really care. I would run for hours through streets, sending electric hell to all evildoers that dared be in my path. Ah, and to think this was how Grandfather felt while wearing these gauntlets. Standing tall amongst the proletariat, fearing nothing. The truth, as always, is never so simple. And it took an average citizen for me to see this.
I cannot recall day, or exact place I met Leroy. The foul zhmurik known as Vahzilok were preparing to dice him up, and of course as upstanding hero of People I thought myself as, this could not pass. A few well-placed we grenades and blasts of excited electrons soon had Vahzilok "reaper" laid out, while his zhmurik minion took a few jolts of my taser before it finally stopped moving--but not before knocking me almost senseless. Panting to catch my breath and wiping the foul retchings from my shirt, I couldn't see for ife of me how one elderly black man could be useful to the zhmurik. But when you get right down to it, the gangs that plague the city like so many rats don't care upon whom their terror is bent, as long as it gets accomplished.
I hadn't noticed that the man was still standing there while I had these thoughts. I was quite used to citizens running to safety after rescuing them. But there he was, in a rumpled suit looking for all the world like he had just gotten off from a hard day at the office rather than vivisection at the hands of those monsters.
"That was a mighty fine piece of work, son," he began, a broad grin making the creases on his face deeper. "Name's Leroy, and I'm mighty obliged for what you've done."
I had enough of an understanding of the language from my schooling--and months in Paragon City--to follow what Leroy was saying. My own Angliski was not so clear, though, as I tried to respond.
"You have...home?...to be?" I asked haltingly.
Leroy glanced away and answered, "Matter of fact, I do. I was just on my way home when those...things jumped me." He turned back to look at me, with what I assumed was a friendly face. "I don't suppose a strappin' young man like yourself would mind helpin' me there? It's not far, but I've had enough excitement for one day."
Well, I wasn't sure how to answer that. I had duty to perform for the People! Even looking down the street, I could see packs of Skulls menacing the neighborhood. But as I looked back at Leroy, something inside...changed. I have no better word for it. Smiling broadly, I extended a gloved hand towards the old man.

The building we arrived at was in no way different than any of the others in Kings Row. Dirty, disheveled, but still clinging to life. Leroy led me to a side entrance, drawing out a set of keys and letting us in. Flipping on a light, Leroy led me down featureless hallway, save for large window near far end.
"Been here for near on thirty year, Red," Leroy explained. He took to calling me "Red" when I explained best I could my socialist loyalties. From anyone else, it might be insult. Jeremey, though, no malice there. Was in good nature. "Seen all kinds of people come and go. Crises too, for that matter. Energy shortages, stock market crashes, aliens..."
We reached window then, and I could not help but look in. And what I saw, comrades, amazed. Even though no light within I could make out exercise equipment, punching bags, and boxing ring. All was covered with dust, not used in many years. I was captivated.
"I would...like...stay here, pazjalste. Please," I asked.
"Don't see why not, Red," Leroy shrugged. "Got plenty of vacancies. It's not a glorious building, but something tells me you wouldn't like that anyway."
Absorbed as I was with gym, I did not notice sarcasm. I just nodded like a durak.
"I will get job, Leroy," I replied, even though idea of working in capitalist system revolted me. "Not have much babki...money...at moment."
Leroy merely shook his hand and waved me off.
"Not really looking for cash, son. I'm doin' alright. I've got people here who refused to move with the big bad aliens showed up, and they sure as all get out aren't gonna move now. Tell you what, though. Can you do any house fixin'?"
I nodded, envisioning Grandfather's country house down the Volga, and summers spent painting and getting pipes ready for the cold seasons.
"Alright then," Leroy continued, "I could use someone to go around to the other tenants' places when problems crop up. If ya want to do that for me, you can take your pick of the units."
This man, Leroy, I liked him more we talked. He would rather me work, provide services for him in exchange for living space, rather than spoil things with money or possessions. The socialist in me was elated. Leroy might not hold any other ideals of Party--and I don't blame any Amerikanskii for this failure--he certainly wouldn't have hard time getting along with them.
As I thought about these things with contented smile, my gaze wandered back through the window into the gym. Leroy craned his head as well, and a smile of his own creeped onto his face.
"A lot of good times are in there, Red. Some bad, too, but every haunt has a few spooks."
I fought for the Angliski for a minute, and asked, "You...teach?...fight?"
Leroy looked startled for a moment. I was sure I hadn't expressed properly.
"Well now," he answered, "I haven't trained anyone in, damn... years. Never thought I'd have to start back up again."
It was my turn to shake my head and wave him away. "Nyet, nyet. Meant..."
"Oh, I got what you meant, Red," Leroy interrupted. "Doesn't change my answer. I watched you take out those--what'd you say? Zuhmurk?"
"Zhmurik."
"Right, them. You're good enough with that lightnin' you got, but when they closed up on you, it all fell apart."
I frowned. What words I did catch made too much sense. He was right. The recollection of meaty, rotting fist knocking me senseless was all too fresh.
"Ah, don't fret about it, Red," Leroy said, giving me a friendly light punch on the shoulder. "I don't mind startin up again. If you're gonna be a Hero, ya need all the help you can get."
But as Leroy led me up stairs to units, my last thought was of being hero. This building, it felt of home already. On fifth floor, Leroy found key for an empty flat and opened door for me. I was in awe. Just the main room was gigantic. Could fit all of family in just this. But for just one? Was typical Amerikanskii waste.
"Is too much, Leroy," I protested. "Spasibo, but is more than I need."
Leroy looked confused. "All the units are the same size, Red, give or take. I s'pose if you want I can find something smaller..."
Before I could answer, a door opened further down hall and young woman emerged with large basket of laundry. Blonde girl, hair in neat bun. Life was not soft but was fair, or so her face told me. Lovely full figure with strong muscle underneath. She walked past us, smiling at me just so, stroit' glazki. I could not help but return it. I looked back at Leroy, a knowing smile of his own.
"All the utilities are on, and other units have some furniture that got left behind. Help yourself." Leroy placed key in my hand and patted my shoulder.
"Welcome home, Red," Leroy said, and shuffled off. I stood in hallway for good ten minutes before getting myself together.
---
Months have passed. Months of happiness, free from worry and struggle. Well, not all struggle. I stepped off the tram trying to balance several large bags of groceries from market in Atlas Park. To be sure, several "supers" were milling about but paid me no mind. To them I was another Vasya Pupkin proletariat who would need rescuing before day was done. Let them think so. Mne do lampochki.
The walk home was short and uneventful, as usual. Staying out of way from Skulls seems second nature. Ignore them, they ignore you. For most part.
I arrive at flat, and Sarah opens door before I can arrange bags to knock. How she does this, I do not know.
"Zdrastochye, kraseevah." she says, ging me a peck on cheeck and taking groceries to kitchen. "Ti sevodnay shto dalish?"
This gives me pause. It was not problem with paroeskie I have been teaching, but that she would ask such question.
"I am doing not much today," I replied, practicing my Angliski. "Why to ask, tyolka?"
It is then I noticed sound coming from bedroom--a continual beeping. Sarah stood in doorway of kitchen, biting her lip in way I have come to know as worry. It was familiar, this sound, but I could not place it. Sarah followed me to bedroom, and there on bed was a suitcase.
A suitcase I had pushed out of mind completely. And it was beeping.
Trembling, I opened case. There, as I laid them months before, was uniform of Krasniy Oktyabr--The shirt with emblem of raised fist, symbol chosen to represent the People; The beret I had worn almost daily since paramilitary school; The utility belt with State-approved equipment to aid my Struggle; And to either side, Grandfather's gloves, as bright and polished as the day I was gifted with them. With shaking hands, I pulled out glove that was making noise. Ah, a communication device that had also slipped from memory. Nervous, I pressed the approprite button.
"Comrade Aleksandr Pyotr Stanislav, code name Krasniy Oktyabr. Priority message from People's Department for Paranormal Services: You are to report immediately to Coalition of Communist Crusaders for the Proletariat representative, Commisar "Red Saviour II" for debriefing and active status initiation into same. Compliance is mandatory."
I stared in shock, and became aware Sarah was staring at me. The message was too much for her to understand, but tone of urgency is universal. She was looking back and forth between outfit and me, face drained of color.
"Y-you, are a Geroj?" sarah stammered.
I sat her down on bed and held her tightly.
"Da, tyolka, I was Hero," I explained, wiping away tears that were forming. "It was choice, like any other. I lived like a chyortov zvezda. Forgot who I really was. It took kind Leroy, and you..." I kissed her lightly on forehead, "to remind me of truth. And I wanted it no more."
I looked down on outfit, now-bitter memories flooding back. Not all bitter. There in all the chush' was gem of truth. I could be champion for People. Grandfather saw it, the Subminister saw it, and now I could clearly see it. I had but to lift it up and not be afraid.
Sniffing back the last of her tears Sarah exclaimed, "Kakogo chyorta! I shouldn't be surprised. There's so many supers running around these days, it was bound to happen."
Sarah turned around, gazing deeply into my eyes and placing hand on my chest.
"Ne gruzis', Sasha," she whispered. "Ya budu sku chai. No, nyet raskusit'..."
I answered her by taking her hand and kissing her fingers gently. I would go out first thing in the morning. In the mean time, we proceeded to trahat'sya with enough passion to light up whole building.
---
*whump-whump*
*whump-whump*
*whump-whump-WHUMP*

A sheen of sweat accompanied an adrenaline rush that could only be matched on the streets combating the evil that plagued city. But I did not care for that now. My concentration was on punching bag Leroy held still in front of me, and the gloves on my hands were for this task, not the ones I wore with pride once more.
"So tell me of this "Red Saviour" lady, again," the old man asked in between critiques of my form. "What's she like?"
*whump-whump*
*whump-whump*
*whump-whump-WHUMP*

"Comrade Commisar, she is...unique," I answered, slowing my pace. "She is strong, sure, a true soldier for Party. An inspiration for us all."
With one last jab at bag, I stopped to gather deep breath, and my thoughts, and sat down on bench.
"But through her, I also see spirit of comradeship. The power she has, is nyet denying it. Is there for all to see. But the power, is not her. Compared to her, I was but chajnik. But it did not matter to her. Was as if she knew my strengths and melded them with team into winning strategy. Made me see them for myself. That I could do this."
Just then, I glanced up to see Sarah walk by with her duffel, back from work. She paused briefly, smiling sadly at us--at me. Brushing back stray lock of hair, she went on to her flat.
Leroy placed sympathetic hand on my shoulder. Of course he knew Sarah had moved back to old place down hall.
"I've never been a hero, Red," Leroy said. "Coachin' young bucks like you is the closest I've come. So I don't really know what to say to a hero."
He sat down next to me as I stared out into hall and continued, "But, I can say something to you, one human being to another. It's rough. Ain't nothin' but rough. But I've seen what you can do, and in that ring I've seen what you're capable of. Ya ask me, those baddies out there don't stand a chance. You said it yourself, you have power. But you also have heart.
"The human spirit is capable of great rage and great compassion. And I'll say this; If you can bring both under control and combine it with what I've taught you in here, there ain't a power on this earth that could resist that one-two punch."
His words rang true to my core, and I took them in. But I could not help but to laugh. My bag containing uniform lay next to bench, and from it I took taser and thumbed switch. I held it up as electricity danced between tips.
With big grin, I replied, "Make that one-two-THREE!"