The Light That Failed Pt 29

From the Story Arc: A Fine And Private Place

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

Next Story in the Arc: The Light That Failed Pt 30 by Victoria Victrix (Tuesday, October 11, 2005)

(posted Tuesday, October 11, 2005)

"DNA of the subject we wanted," Vickie said, handing the first vial to Bob, and then the second. "And a retrovirus allegedly tailored to insert it. The source is dubious, I want it checked and rechecked until you would use it on yourself, you're so sure."

She wasn't sure what was in her face, but it caused Bob to straighten his spine and shove his glasses up. "Yes Ma'am!" he said, and ran off with the precious containers.

Then—wait. But it took a lot less time than she would have thought.

She got on the comm..

"Members of RPCongress, you are to stand down from the search for Kid Crisis and the False Bella. I repeat, you are to stand down. We have the DNA. I repeat, we have the DNA. Bella—"

She had to pause to clear her throat and wipe her eyes.

"—Bella is being treated. She will be fine. She will be just fine. In fact, she will probably make the next Congress meeting. It's going to be all right—"

She put the announcement on auto-repeat and shut the comm. off.

And then—then there was a flurry of activity in which she took no part, no part at all. Thahn Ha was given another bucket of water to keep her going as an emanator and Rhylla brought in a couple more, which evidently, as Shyft had said, sped up the activity of the retrovirus. There were too many people in there as it was; Vickie stayed out. Zach stayed in. Shyft stayed in, too, and Furry brought in enough Kora to feed a small army, which was exactly what was in that room anyway.

Star came back with more of Thea's soup and sandwiches and Thea herself, and Vickie sipped at the soup and nibbled half a sandwich and longed for Red. Had he heard the announcement? Where was he?

Did he realize how much he had done, how he kept her on the straight and narrow when everyone else was losing his head, how thinking of what he would have said and done kept her reminding everyone that they were heroes, dammit, and not a bunch of third-world jackbooted thugs? The old Vickie would have been out there holding them for Agn to hit, justifying herself by thinking that anyone who would withhold a cure from her dearest, dearest friend deserved to die. The new Vickie, the Vickie he loved, who loved him with a passion she herself could hardly understand, whispered You have no right to make any such judgment nor decision. You are a hero.

Flame and Johnny, Saviour and People's Blade, she and Zach and Shyft were the only ones who knew who had brought the DNA and the virus. Zach hadn't wanted to believe it. Then he had been sure it was some kind of insidious plot to turn Bella into a Protector or something. Only when Bob had actually offered, in all seriousness, to use the stuff on himself did Zach relent. Now she didn't know what he thought.

Hell, she didn’t know what she herself thought. The False Bella—Vickie could not stop thinking of her as "Evil" Bella—was still out there. He was with her. She could still be the coin that had bought his soul. It might only have been that whatever was left of his conscience had convinced him to save their girl.

And yet—and yet—the agony that had been on his face—

She was too tired to decide.

She went in every so often to have a look at the patient. Minute by minute, it seemed, she looked better. First her skin stopped looking like leather, then she got back color, her breathing eased, the lines of pain etched at the corners of her mouth and eyes eased away. Flame sat beside Zach, John standing soldier-like behind her, both hands on her shoulders. Zach held Bella's hand and every now and then reached out with a hand that shook and softly touched her face. And it was wonderful and terrible, to see both couples, because it made Vickie want to cry with wanting Red, wanting him to be there, wanting him to share this with her.

"She'll be waking soon," Flame said, after a long, long time. "A few moments—"

"That's—good. Good to hear," said a dear, familiar, and unutterably weary voice behind her, and the arms she had longed for closed around her, and with a little cry, she leaned back against a chest that smelled of sweat and smoke, and put her hands up and held his arms to her. Her lifeline. Her lifeline.

And the young woman on the bed stirred, and sighed, and opened two beautiful—


--blue eyes.

Her eyes never did that before— But lots of heroes had glowing eyes, Thahn Ha, for one, and Vickie forgot about the anomaly as they all held their collective breaths, waiting for her to speak, to say something, be portentous or as mundane as "Where am I?" or "What happened?"

But—she didn't speak. Not a word. She just looked at them all with her soul in her eyes, and slowly, slowly smiled. The most beautiful, heartbreakingly beautiful smile that Vickie had ever seen in her life. It graced each of them in turn, a thanks and a benediction in one, and then her gaze and her smile came to and rested, and remained on Zach. And she took the hand that held hers, and held it to her cheek, sighed, and closed her eyes again, still smiling.

"She's asleep," Flame said in tones of relief, before any of them could panic. "Normal sleep. This took a lot out of her too—"

"Out of all of us," Johnny said, in that deep voice, and Flame stood up.

"All will be well, naught shall go ill," Flame said, and smiled, a smile that was an exact echo of Bella's. "Let us leave her—" then with a glance at Zach, corrected it to "—them, alone. She'll sleep for a little yet."

"Horosho," said Saviour, with weary, but immense satisfaction. "Everyone to be out. There are still patrols, and sleepings to be done. And horse to be returning."

The room evacuated slowly, leaving only Flame and John, Vickie and Red, and Zach beside the sleeping Bella.

"Here, comrade," Murdock chuckled, and moved Zach's chair, found pillows from somewhere, and arranged things so that the Commissar could at least put his head down a little. "Close your eyes, get a catnap. I know for a fact you've slept in worse places. We'll stand watch for you, wake you if she wakes up."

"Much worse places," Zach said hoarsely, and in a moment he was out cold, Bella's hand still held tightly in his. Johnny took another chair, Flame beside him, stretching out his legs, and looked at Vickie.

"Time for you to stand down too, comrade," he said, then looked up above her head, at Red. "You too."

"Aye," said Red Djinni, and his arms tightened around her. "Time to go home."