The Light That Failed Pt 28

From the Story Arc: A Fine And Private Place

Previous Story in the Arc: The Light That Failed Pt 27 by Belladonna Aura (Tuesday, October 11, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: The Light That Failed Pt 29 by Victoria Victrix (Tuesday, October 11, 2005)

(posted Tuesday, October 11, 2005)

Zach had eaten. Not nearly as much as Vickie had urged on him, not nearly as much as Flame thought he should, but at least now he had more than a gallon of coffee and a Kora fruit inside him. Flame still wanted to talk to him, although she was not certain where to start. In a way, she was experiencing an uncanny feeling of deja vu. This was almost exactly the way she had felt the first time she spoke to John Murdock-- that was, minus the powerful attraction.

But Zach--Zach's pain was fear, mostly, and a little guilt, and terrible sorrow, all mixed with an equally terrible anger. Zach wanted Kid Crisis to be responsible for what had happened to Bella, and Flame sensed that it would be very difficult to persuade him that there wasn't someone, somewhere, that had caused it.

Flame knew better. It was just one of those bad-things-happen-to-good-people. Exactly what had happened to John Murdock in a way. Good people finding themselves in bodies that began to sabotage themselves. It was really no different than the poor fellow who has never touched a cigarette in his life developing lung cancer.

But Zach wanted an enemy, someone he could blame so that he had someone to pummel. There would be relief for him in that. The trouble was, he had already made up his mind that this enemy was Kid Crisis.

And--now Flame wavered on the edge of uncertainty. She wasn't altogether certain he wasn't right, at least in part. Not that Kid had caused this but--but the beautiful blue woman last seen whispering into his ear was certainly not helping his case.

John stole a glance to his left, catching the face of his friend and senior officer briefly. Zach was flanked by him and Flame as they walked down the corridor, with Vickie leading the way. He could feel the hate, the raw grief radiating from the green Commissar; while most heroes had had moments when they were completely helpless in a situation, few such situations involved the love of a hero's life. If this were any other "crisis", Zach would be interjecting quips with his usual cheerful sarcasm. Right now, though, he was silent, the heavy silence of someone who does not want to speak for fear of weeping.

"Oh hell--" said Vickie, stopping dead in her tracks so quickly that they all ran into her. And it was a pity that she wasn't taller, because there was no way, no way at all, that Zach couldn't see who was standing there in the corridor, in the door to Bella's room.

Even though he wore the generic black armour of the kind every other gothity-goth angst-ridden hero with a grievance wore.

Because the helmet was on the floor, and there was no doubt that the person standing there with a look of uncertainty on his face was--

Kid Crisis.

John and Flame reacted instantly, taking a subtle lead in front of Zach, staying a pace in front of him. Be ready, love. For Kid and Zach both. They both pivoted, keeping their shoulders perpendicular to Zach; offered less of a profile, in case things turned ugly.

The venom in Zach's voice should have peeled the paint from the walls and melted the linoleum. "You bastard, you dare to show up here to gloat? You want a good look at your handiwork? Not enough for you to build your own little girl-toy is it? You couldn't have the original, so she has to die, is that it?"

Crisis spun, the twin vials in his hand catching the light. His already haggard face went pale as he saw who was standing in the hallway. Vickie was almost not recognizable without her signature medieval armour, mask and winged headpiece. She looked almost like--anyone--in baggy brown sweater and suede jeans, no mask at all, and only gloves marking her as just a little different. But Zach was still in full CCCP uniform and seemed twice as large as normal, his dark power starting to form an aura all around him.

"Zach," Crisis whispered, his voice ragged. "Don't. You don't understand."

"I don't have to understand a damned thing. I know," Zach snarled, and flung himself at Crisis, both hands going straight for his throat. John tried to snag Zach's arm, but wasn't fast enough, left swiping at the fabric of the Commissar's cape. Zach charged past Vickie, knocking her out of the way as he dove for Crisis. It was all Crisis could do to tuck the vials into his belt, before the bigger fighter slammed him into the wall, his fingers digging into the younger man's throat.

"Agn was right! Should have hunted you down when we had the chance," Zach roared, bearing down on his target. Crisis gasped for air, clawing at the hands choking him.

Then both shuddered, as they felt half their energy suddenly ripped out of them. Zach's hold on the younger man's throat loosened for a crucial second. Taking advantage of the distraction, Crisis wrenched free and both staggered away from each other. Though he was winded, Zach wasn't about to quit; he lunged again at his wheezing opponent, but found himself restrained. John had hooked his arm under Zach's, both struggling against the other.

Flame interposed herself--but sans all powers but one. The blue glow of the Wedding Ring. That, combined with her costume, the echo of her Seraphic garb, gave her some of the glory she had once had as an angel, and her face, full of compassion, gave an emotional force to the hand she held against Zach's shoulder. The enraged Commissar dragged himself forward another step, pushing against Flame's hand and pulling John with him.

But Vickie was already there, too, grabbing Crisis roughly by the arm and hauling him down the corridor with her, her strength out of all proportion to her tiny, delicate frame. The panting, bruised young hero put up no resistance.

"You've got some chutzpah, you lying bastard," she snarled. "For two cents I would leave you back there with him, I should anyway. But she wouldn't want that--"

By that time, they had reached the Emergency Exit. She shoved it open with a shoulder. "Get out of here. And if I see your face again I swear to God I will fossilize your ass and let him have you." Zach was still raging around the corner, the sound of him struggling with Flame and John clearly audible.

"Wait," he rasped, as she turned to leave. One hand was on his aching windpipe, the other dug through a pouch on his belt. He held the two vials out to her, hoping, pleading with whatever might listen that she would turn back.

A whisper on the wind, a gentle breath, something brushed up against the edges of her mind even as something that felt uncannily like a cool hand rested for a moment against her heart.

Stop. Listen. Trust.

Her eyes widened involuntarily as reluctantly, with every hair on the back of her neck standing up, she turned back towards Crisis, still standing two paces away on the hospital lawn.

"Hair. DNA. From the other one," he said, his voice fraying as he spoke. "And a virus." A hacking cough interrupted him. "A retrovirus," he continued. "Experimental. For rewriting DNA. Might help."

It felt as if someone else was moving her body for her. She watched as her hand reached out, open, palm upward.

Trust.

He left the vials in her hand, and walked slowly away, still massaging his throat. The choking cough echoed in the still air, long after he'd disappeared into the night.