The Light That Failed Pt 27

From the Story Arc: A Fine And Private Place

Previous Story in the Arc: The Light That Failed Pt 26 by Victoria Victrix (Tuesday, October 11, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: The Light That Failed Pt 28 by Victoria Victrix (Tuesday, October 11, 2005)

(posted Tuesday, October 11, 2005)

In private, locked in the bathroom, he pressed his forehead against the cool glass of the mirror and heaved a sigh of relief. There hadn’t been a massacre. That was something, anyway. He looked down at the objects arranged on the countertop. The vial Saviour had left, a PDA receiving decrypts of the Congress channel from Ein Stein, a slim 9mm pistol and, looking distinctly out of place, a wood hair brush.

He sighed again, but not in relief.

Outside, Belladonna watched the door of the bathroom through angry, narrowed eyes. It was never good for him to spend time alone. Time alone was time he could think, without her eyes on him, reading his body language like an open book. Daddy had made it clear that time he spent thinking was dangerous to them. The trap was slamming shut, soon he’d have no alternative but to be theirs, to be hers body and soul. Until then, thinking was dangerous.

A click from the latch. She rearranged her face, into love, care, concern. The door was flung open, and Crisis strode out, pulling off his tie and ripping off his dress shirt, grabbing the components of his armor from where they were scattered across the floor and pulling them roughly on.

“I don’t think you should go out,” Belladonna said, stretching herself on the bed, preening, trying to distract him. “You heard the reports, they’re hunting for us.”

He didn’t reply, only pulled a glove onto his flesh hand.

She stood up and wrapped her arms around him. “They hate you,” she cooed softly in his ear. “They hate us.” She ran a finger gently up his metal arm. “Stay. Rest. It’ll be all for the…” He pulled out of her grip, walked over to the window, flung it open.

Collapsing back to the bed, she let out a sob, and, Finally!, he turned back to her. She could see sadness and guilt overcome the anger that had just been there. “You don’t love me,” she cried. “You got what you wanted, and now you’re just going to leave, let them hunt me down like an animal! You’ll probably help.” He slowly moved away from the window, sat heavily down on the bed next to her, began softly stroking her hair with his gloved hand.

“It’s not like that,” he said quietly. “I’m just going out for a run. I need to clear my head.”

She looked up at him, a hopeful look on her face. Truth, she thought. “Can I come?” she asked. “I don’t want to be alone.”

He shook his head. “I’d rather be alone. I won’t be long.”

There wasn’t any way to force the issue that she could see. She nodded silently, and he stood, ran towards the window and jumped out into the city. Taking a deep, irritated breath, she stretched herself on the bed again, then reached for a comm.

“He’s out of the building, alone,” she said, speaking into it. “Start tracking.”

Originally, the Veracity armor was a test, to see if he could recreate the original armored exo-suit he wore. He’d worked at it for months, until he’d come up with this. First, it was going to be stealth suit, insulated against most security scans, blocking or absorbing them. Now, it was a secret secret identity. A second hero name, a second costume, dark reds and black, a cape, an exaggerated build, oozing smoke for effect. Inside, he looked like any other dark warrior, out for fill-in-the-blank revenge. Other than the people he’d told, only one person had ever recognized it as him. And hopefully, People’s Blade wouldn’t be there.

He pulled the helm over his head and fastened it shut, watched the head’s-up display flicker into life. A low tone told him that Stein had uploaded the location of the lab he was looking for. Veracity was a perfect identity for covertly doing missions he didn’t want anyone to know about. The stealth components of the armor even blocked the signals from whatever it was Crey had snuck into the cyberarm.

Vaulting over the side of the building, he set out for the lab at full pace.

No one stopped him as he walked into the hospital, although one nurse did request that he switch off the smoke. He ground his teeth as the elevator slowly approached the right floor, hoping he’d run into a friendly face, or god, even one who just wasn’t actively interested in immediately killing him. There was a note in the same pouch as the two vials, but still, it’d be nice to walk out again.

Something’s not going right in my life when a Skyway hospital seems more dangerous than any base I’ve ever attacked, he thought to himself.

The doors hissed open. Looking both ways, he walked slowly down the hall, counting room numbers. A heavy door swung open, a woman he recognized from the footage of the wedding and a couple RPC meetings, the elf, Pana? No, Pania, Pania Alow, stepped out, talking to a techie wearing a labcoat. Crisis dodged into the nearest open room. An old man watching TV stared at him, but Crisis ignored him. He slowly pushed a length of fiber-optic around the door frame, and watched a stream of heroes vacate the same room Alow and the tech had just left, following them down the hall. He recognized a couple, people he would once have been confident were friends, but now…

When he was sure they were gone, he stepped into the corridor, walking as fast as he could for the weighty metallic doors. Pushing them open, the scene inside stopped him short.

Bella, the real Bella, who he hadn’t seen in so long, and all the memories came flooding back, the memories he’d been fighting off while her twin, her damn twin in nothing but appearance preyed on him like a spider, her laugh and her smile, her infectious happiness…

Lying unconscious in a bed. Shyft sat on it’s edge, and from the bubble of blurring, the exaggerated slowness of all the subtle movements, he could guess what she had done. Around the bed, a trio of robots wearing CCCP colors pulsed out a healing aura, reinforced and strengthened by the slim form of the Health Fairy. She seemed intently focused on the healing, tuning out the entire outside world to pour every ounce of strength into the waves of healing energy. No one noticed him.

Slowly, he unlatched the helmet, pulled it off his head, placed it gently on the ground. She was dying. While he was giving press conferences, playing at false, self-serving love with her… with her clone, hear it, say the goddamn word, face up to what she is, you coward, while he lied, his friend was dying. The entire Congress had mobilized to try and save her, while he got to pretend she was the one next to him. Bile rose in his throat, hot shame flooded his face.

Clumsily, he reached into the pouch, pulling out the two vials. The dark fibers in one glinted under the hospital lights. The viscous liquid in the other took on an antiseptic glow. Holding them up to the light, he steeled himself to step inside, to finally, finally do his duty.

Deep in thought, he never heard the approaching footsteps.