The Light That Failed, part 20

From the Story Arc: A Fine And Private Place

Previous Story in the Arc: While Bella Lay Dying... by Soviet Bear (Monday, October 10, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: The Light That Failed Pt 21 by Shyft (Tuesday, October 11, 2005)

(posted Monday, October 10, 2005)

Chaos. Utter chaos.

The hospital was a zoo of colorful costumes. One would have thought an Amerikantskii singing star had caught flu. All mourning the dying Bella as if at a wake. Faces pressed against the glass of the containment capsule, mooning around, sipping bad (bolshoi bad) hospital coffee as they went through some kind of existential crisis.

Red Saviour loved Bella deeply, as Russians do when they take a friend into their heart, with total loyalty and affection. Bella was family to her; she fully intended to have her babysit the baby as soon as possible. Bella arranged their silly but ochen romantic Elvis wedding.

But was she weeping in the lobby, being patted by some running dog RP Congressmember in armor? Nyet. Nyet! She was a hero, and more than that Commissar.

So she called a meeting: People’s Blade, poor Zach, Shyft, and Oksana, who had been moping around the hospital ever since bringing Bella in. CCCP only, for CCCP emergencies. To get away from prying eyes, they took over the smoking lounge. Red Saviour lit up at once.

“CeCe,” she said, “is talk that you have idea about this Bella imposter. She is useful to us?”

Shyft rose to the question. “Da, Commissar. Crey appears to have cloned Bella, but clone is healthier and more stable on cellular level. With combination of Devouring Earth DNA as carrier of this stabilized DNA, I am thinking we can reverse deterioration.” She frowned, showing her fatigue. “Question is being, where is Bella clone?”

“Is one way to find out. Send out all moping heroes to hunt for her. How many secret Crey labs have we smashed? Check records, give to do list to Amerikantskii heroes.”

“I-I can do that,” Zach said, his voice small. “It would be a welcome change of pace.”

She pointed at him. “Zach is checking records. Fei Li, am also hearing reports of heroes going on rampage. Is unacceptable. We have standard of behavior to maintain.”

People’s Blade nodded once, and tapped the hilt of Jade Emperor’s Whisper. “Hao, Natalya. Think no more of it.”

Red Saviour held up a hand. “I have other plans for you. Shyft is needed here. Zach…” The man looked exhausted. “Zach is busy. Oksana, am deputizing you.”

The mournful girl perked right up at the word “deputize.” She tilted back her hat. “Deputize, comrade ma’am?”

“Da, da. I give you same authority as Commissar for temporary. Use comm, find who is out of control, and, how are you saying, rein them in.”

The girl leapt to her feet: “Rein them in! Da, comrade trail boss! Am moseying now!” Without a moment’s hesistation, she bolted for the door, her cowboy boots clacking on the linoleum.

“Totally insane,” Red Saviour said, shaking her head. “But enthusiastic, which is what I need. Now, come with me, Fei Li. We will collect Agn and check hunch I am having.”




First things first. She strode into the lobby, where so many of the RP Congress heroes sat, consoling each other.

“Shto? What is this? Bella is nyet dead yet.” Red Saviour smacked the nearest hero, Jason Collier, on the back of his head. “I declare visiting hours over. Get up!” Jason recoiled in surprise and anger. “If you want to make mopey Amerikantski selves useful, search Paragon for signs of Bella clone. I want her alive.”

“Hey,” he began. The other heroes bristled at the sudden shouting.

“Nyet for whining, any of you. My officer is dying. If you care about her, you will [I]do what I tell you.[/I]”



Josh Spiers, aka Captain Hackatron to the internet world, fished for the last of his Doritos, and squinted at his television. The Sailor Moon bootleg dvd had the worst subtitles of any he’d seen so far, blue and fuzzy. Then the phone rang.

It was the first phone call he’d received in a week, since he’d moved back into his parents’ basement, completing his arc back into total loser. He paused the anime with a trace of shame.

“Hello?”

White noise disguised the voice. “Comrade Hackatron, you are there?”

“Um…” The voice was Russian. He’d downloaded a lot of pr0n from Russian sites lately using a cracked password. Had the Russian Mob caught wind? “You…have the wrong number.”

“Nyet! Is Red Saviour from CCCP. Bella is dying, and I need your help.”
Josh nearly dropped the phone. He’d tried to forget his feelings for Bella, but they all welled up in his throat. “What? What’s wrong…”

“Is no time. Get on computers and find me information on Woodbridge Arms hotel in Paragon City. Am looking for resident information on rooms.” Josh pulled his laptop out and kicked on his hacking tools.

“Okay, ma’am, I’m looking… Hey, this ain’t no Holiday Inn. It’s a Crey-run facility. The ice on this thing – “

“Am nyet interested in excuses, comrade Captain. You break into system and tell me where Crey has rented block in name of John Lang on register. You have ten minutes. I’ll hold.”

“Um…um…” Beads of sweat. “Crey is protected with the best security protocols out there. There’s no way –“

“That is why I called best hacker. Bella trusts you, and so do I.” The distinct sound of gunfire punctuated her voice. “Ah, I have found my stray operative. I call you in ten minutes.”

The line went dead, leaving Captain Hackatron regretting everything about his damn handle. Still, if Red Saviour said Bella’s life was on the line, he wasn’t going to let her down.


####

Agn Stratonik, wearing his CCCP uniform and mask, fell on the gaggle of Crey patrol guards like a tiger. The rage coursed through his veins, and only escalated when the patrolmen dared cock their weapons and aim at him. He shattered the helmet and face of the nearest with a drop kick.

“They’re here! Shoot to kill!” The agent in charge bellowed. Word had spread: CCCP’s fangs were out.

The bullets flew, but Agn was never in the same place long enough to provide a target for these men, as highly trained as they might be. Collarbones snapped, jaws broke, ribs caved in as he whirled about them, wanting – no, craving – to hear the brutal sounds and the sobs of pain.

“Your judgment is upon you,” he said through gritted teeth.

Seven men down in ten seconds. Blood on his fists, blood on the ground, blood on the agent’s Armani suit. The man’s earpiece buzzed. He whispered into the mouthpiece.

“You had better be making funeral arrangements,” Agn said. The agent looked past Agn, then covered his head and screamed.

“Shto?” A colossal thump behind him sent him into a sideways tuck and roll. He came to his feet in fighting position, to face…

A horse.

It reared over the Crey agent, but did not strike him with its hooves. The rider tacked the horse in a high pitched female voice, accented in Russian.

“Oksana?” Agn stared at the woman, finally astride a horse after months of complaining around the HQ. The woman leveled a pistol at him.

“Whoa there, comrade pardner,” she said. “Orders from our honcho. Y’all are to be stopping of renegade behavior and follow orders.”

The idea of this woman bossing him around – judging him – was infuriating. “How dare you? Get out of my way.”

The girl cocked the hammer back. How old were those pistols? “Nyet, buddy. Settle down. You’ll get your chance at them Crey varmints.” She tilted her red Stetson to look into the sky. A familiar glowing figure swooped towards them.

Commissar Red Saviour landed between Oksana and Agn. The horse stirred, and Oksana petted his head and whispered in Russian.

“Your little break is over, Agn.” Red Saviour didn’t look angry at all the blood around him. “Is work to do, down the street.” She pointed at a bank of high rises, and one in particular: Woodbridge Arms. Her grin was the fanged grin of a she-wolf. “Now that you have taste for blood.”

Agn grinned back, under his mask, and threw an impeccable military salute. “I am yours to command, Commissar.”


####


The lobby of Woodbridge Arms fit right in with the upper crust of Founder’s Falls. Modelled on a British colonial outpost, the combination of elegant wood and Indian themes gave guests the sense that the were getting their money’s worth. And many of them came from out of town, to sightsee Paragon City’s most unique attraction: superheroes.

Today, the tourists in the lobby would get quite a bit more.

Heralded by panicked doormen, Red Saviour walked into the lobby, head held high, more regal than any business tycoon in a three piece suit. Behind her, a man in a menacing black uniform and red goggles; a small Chinese woman with a sheathed sword; and a cowgirl leading a majestic horse.

The horse snorted and pawed at the Persian rug at their feet. The sound attracted the attention of anyone who hadn’t seen the group’s entrance.

Red Saviour strolled up to the front desk. The manager, a woman in a green vest, gaped at her.

“Hello, comrade. John Lang, please. I believe he is a guest here at this hotel.”

The manager stood stock still. Around her, employees scrambled into the back room. Calls to security were made, audible in the lobby. The tall Russian woman didn’t blink.

“John Lang. Is working for your boss, Crey.” She tapped the computer monitor. “Look him up, him and his blue girlfriend.”

“Belladonna Aura?” The woman said.

“Oh, you wouldn’t last for minute in Moscow interrogation room.” She leaned across and seized the woman’s collar. “I will nyet ask again. Tell me room number of John Lang and your Belladonna Aura, or you will find security to be entirely too slow.”

The woman’s eyes went wide as plates. She typed at a sunken keyboard. “Room…room 2010.”

“Spasibo.” Red Saviour let her go and turned to her comrades. “Twentieth floor. Is luxury suite. Comrade Crisis has done well for himself.”

A clatter of combat boots sent the tourists running for cover. Dozens of Crey patrol guards and agents spilled into the room. In their midst, she spotted blue and yellow Crey Protectors, menacing red Juggernauts and a Cryo Tank. Quite a security force for a mere hotel.

Oksana drew her six-guns, taking aim. Fei Li drew her sword, calm and deadly as a snake waiting to strike. Agn assumed a crouching defensive position straight out of Systema’s handbook.

Red Saviour folded her arms.

“Am waiting for Kid Crisis and his blue devushka. You.” She pointed at the Cryo Tank. “You seem important. Bring them to me.”

The guards cocked their rifles. The energy guns carried by the armored Crey began to power up. Behind the counter, the manager sobbed.

“You’re trespassing,” the Tank responded, his voice tinny through speakers in his helmet. “Leave at once.”

“But of course. I leave with blue girl in hand. Is nyet need for bloodshed.” The smile she offered him was nothing less than predatory. “So… you enjoy your job?”

“Enough, Nat,” a voice called from the back of the lobby. The guards parted to allow Kid Crisis and Belladonna Aura to step through. Both wore expensive Crey suits, as if going to a meet and greet for executives.

“Commissar Saviour to you, treacherous dog,” she said. “Shall I ruin another one of your suits?”

“Very funny… Commissar. You have no right to be here.”

Red Saviour studied the blue girl holding his hand. It was shocking to see a perfect facsimile of Bella, smiling with a malice the true Bella could never muster. Natalya began to doubt her faith in Kid Crisis and his little intrigue. Had he turned traitor for real?

“I make it my right. Bella is dying, comrade. The true Bella.” The blue girl before her stuck a blue tongue out at her. “Is nyet need for pulling out your hair over it,” she said slowly. “Just give me DNA sample of your new girlfriend, and we leave.”

Kid Crisis laughed in her face. “You’re joking, right? Even if I could believe you about Bella, I don’t think it’s my call. Right, baby?”

The Bella clone smirked at Red Saviour. Without the good heart inside, her beauty seemed that of a mannequin. “I’m not in the mood today. Come back next week.”

Red Saviour dug in her belt, producing a vial, to a chorus of bullets locking into their chambers. She held up the vial for all the Crey to see. “I can fill this with hair, or blood. Who wants to choose?”

“Nat… Commissar. Please.” Kid Crisis stepped forward. “We don’t have to fight. You’re outgunned and outnumbered. I know why you’re here, and it’s very noble. I’ll talk to my higher ups and see what I can work out.”

“Too bad about your Bella going ‘bella-up,’” the blue girl said with venomous satisfaction. “Maybe when she kicks, I can work part-time for CCCP. I hear you have a soup kitchen. I make a mean borscht.”

Mystical energy sprang into life around Red Saviour’s fist. She gritted her teeth, fury building up in her. Before she could move, a dozen rifles aimed point blank at her head. The CCCP comrades poised to strike, ready to take as many Crey down with them as they could. Jade Emperor’s Whisper snaked out of its sheath.

“Past' zabej, padla jebanaja,” Red Saviour hissed. “I might have to close my eyes to do it, but I will crush your head in my hands before you speak of Bella that way again.”

“Commissar, don’t.” Kid Crisis tried to sound commanding, but the words came out as a plea. “You can’t win here.”

A pregnant silence fell over the lobby, punctuated by the shifting of firearms in sweaty hands.

Suddenly, Red Saviour slid the vial over the barrel of one of the guns, a gesture weirdly reminiscent of hippie protestors in the 1960s. “For once, you’re right, svinya.” She turned to her comrades. “We are done here.”

Oksana patted Thunderbolt’s cheek and shushed him. Agn hesitated, unsure what Red Saviour meant.

“Davay, we are leaving. Let Kid Crisis have his little toy.”

The CCCP filed out, contemptuous of the Crey display of power. When the doors closed, the entire congregation of security guards breathed a sigh of relief.

“Back to your stations, people,” Kid Crisis announced. The guards filtered out of the room. Belladonna gave him a curious look and squeezed his hand. He pulled his hand away, thinking furiously.

The guard whose rifle had been capped with the sample vial handed him the vial and saluted. “Evidence, sir.”

“Yeah. Evidence.” He turned the vial over in his hands. “Dismissed, Sergeant.”