From the Story Arc: The Enemy Within.

Previous Story in the Arc: Alienation by Komrad Vex (Sunday, August 28, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Chocolate and Betrayal by Komrad Vex (Saturday, April 08, 2006)

(posted Friday, September 02, 2005)

The park across the street from Cygnus Medical Center was lush and green. The multitude of people passing by made no acknowledgement of the lone sentinel sitting, watching the hospital. He had been in that spot everyday for the past week, never moving just watching. It had been over a week since Booster Max had been attacked, and everyday he came to this spot, exactly 150 yards distance from the hospital.

Since he had been liberated from the control of the device, Komrad Vex had made a daily trip to this spot to watch for developments, to reflect, to make his penance. He was slowly losing himself to the overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, regret, and self doubt. He was no longer the sturdy hero of the people he had once been, now he could not even bring himself to don the uniform of the CCCP. He was frightened and he did not want his comrades to know the depths to which he had sunk. And so he sat in the park.

It had been over a week since the attack that had hospitalized Booster Max. On this day Komrad Vex finally lost hope of ever speaking to his friend again.
He thought about getting up and leaving but he could not bring himself to do it.

“Hey hun, why the long face?”

He had not even seen her come out of the hospital and run across the street toward him.
In his depression he was beginning not to notice a great many things.

“I prefer to be alone.” He replied quietly.

“Well that's too bad cause I'm not leaving.”

Vex turned to see who it was that was pestering him. Never in his life could he remember seeing such a beautiful woman. Her hair the most golden shade of yellow, her slender frame that surged with power, and a face that seemed as though it had been carefully sculpted from the finest marble. As he looked back at her the sun shone behind her head creating the appearance of a halo. As far as Vex knew she could have been an angel.

“So you gonna tell me whats up or you just gonna sit there staring?”

“I er.. am.. aah..” Vex stumbled.

“What's the matter? Never seen a woman in black before?” She asked playfully.

Vex had never found himself at a lack for words since he could remember, something about this sight simply left him dumb struck.

“Of course, forgive my clumsy speech. I was not expecting to speak to anyone.”

“That's ok Komrad Vex, not everyone can be at their best all the time.”

Vex was once again taken aback.
“How do you know my name?” he asked.

She looked at him quizzically. “I've seen you in the papers, you're pretty famous in hero circles.”

“Ah yes, speaking of not being at ones best.” He acknowledged.

“These things happen you know, its all part of putting on that costume. When you stand up for something important you tend to make yourself a target.”

Her words sounded familiar, something that comrade Bella had once told him.

He mulled over her words a few seconds, “So I have been told.” He responded.

“ Oh by the way, I'm Veroni… er.. Obsidian Wail.” She smiled sheepishly. “As you can probably tell I'm pretty knew at this secret identity stuff.”

Vex shrugged, “ I would not have guessed.”

“You're a pretty bad liar you know that?”

She laughed, her whole face lit up, her laughing voice was like silk being poured in his ears. It had been so long since he had heard laughter.

“I suppose I am.” He chuckled back.

“ Come on, take a walk with me I need to get some smokes.” She said as she grabbed his hand and tugged him towards the street.

“ I should not leave, I have to…” He began to protest. “He will still be there when you get back, a short walk will be good for you.” She insisted.

“Very well.” He agreed.

They walked down the sidewalk towards a corner store at the end of the block. Neither one spoke the whole time. They reached the door to the store, he began to open the door but she grabbed his arm.

“You know, it doesn't take that much strength to endure an ordeal. The will to carry on afterward, that takes real strength… I should know.” She looked at him square in the eye, her face betraying her pain.

She pushed the door open and they walked in. As she made her purchase, Vex stood to the side reflecting on what she had said. She is correct, how is it that a stranger can tell me this and I hear it so readily?

She came back over to him from the counter, cigarettes in hand.

“Ready to go?” she asked.

“Indeed.” He replied quickly.

He opened the door for her and then followed her outside. Lost in his thoughts inside the store, Vex had failed to notice the flurry of activity outside. As he stepped out of the store a voice boomed out of a bullhorn, “ Komrad Vex you are under arrest! Get down on your stomach with your hands behind your head!”

He was not surprised, he had known this would be coming, just not now. He shot a questioning look at Obsidian Wail, she looked liked her eyes were about to pop out of her head. Obediently he knelt down slowly and then placed his hands behind his head, he was not going to make things worse by resisting.

Bright lights…

No sound … why can't I hear anything?

Booster Max opened his eyes for the first time in over a week. His head pounded like there was a marching band doing full drills in his brain. Disoriented, he looked around. Everything was so bright, machines crowed around him, he was in a bed.

Where am I? He wondered.

Wait! Crey! They took me… I'm in one of their ghoulish labs somewhere.

Movement, just on the edge of his vision, someone was coming. He readied himself to blast whoever it was. The curtain pulled back, and a young woman rushed toward him, not a Crey agent , but a nurse.

She moved to his side, checking monitors, her mouth moving but no sound coming out.

“Where am I?” He tried to speak but there was a pain in his throat. He reached up to feel what was causing the pain and felt a tube sticking out of his neck.

“Don't try to talk.” He heard her, only faintly but he heard her.

“Can you hear me Booster?” She asked

He nodded.

“Good. Hold still, I'll get the doctor and we will remove the feeding tube from your throat.”

A few minutes later he was alert and able to speak softly.

“ Where am I?” He croaked.

The doctor answered, “You are in Cygnus Medical Center in Steel Canyon.”

“How long?” He struggled.

“ You have been in a coma for just over a week.” Was the reply.

“I have to find Vex, they are using him.”

The doctor looked at his chart and spoke.

“ You are not in any condition to be going anywhere. We need you to rest here for a couple days while we run some tests.”

Booster was already sitting up pulling off monitor leads and his I.V. line.

“ Doc, I appreciate the concern but I gotta go and that's the end of it.”