Part 1: Mother Wanted a Ballerina

From the Story Arc: Prekasnia in Pink

Next Story in the Arc: Part 2: Lost in Younkers by Nova Requiem (Saturday, November 26, 2005)

(posted Saturday, November 26, 2005)

Nataliya sat on a high metal table, twirling a lock of hair and idly kicking her feet back and forth out of sheer boredom. It seemed all of the men in her family had strange fascinations with machinery of any kind, the more "high-tech", the better. But the banks of tools, workstations and servers in this anonymous laboratory were totally foreign to her mind--much the opposite of her uncle Levka, busy at work at a counter across the room with even more unidentifiable gadgets.

With a small sigh, Nataliya took the lollipop out of her mouth and regarded it ambivalently. She rolled the stick between her fingers, letting the small tingle of energy in her fingertips build slightly. She didn't really care for sweets all that much, but it was something to keep her mouth busy. Her mother would admonish her about how the sugar was ruining her beautiful teeth, not to mention her figure. Well, brushing also helped distract her. And what was a few extra sit-ups?

Still, girls will be girls and can be just as mischievous as boys, especially when bored. Nataliya began to hum an American pop tune, quietly at first, growing in volume as her love of music started taking over. Nataliya couldn't help but smirk as every bit of metal in the room--and there was a lot of metal here--began to vibrate. As she increased the volume of her humming, the vibrations increased equally. Loose tools began skittering around the tables until Levka looked up from his work and cried out in shock. It was all she could do to keep from bursting out into song, but enough damage had already been done on account of that.

Levka twisted his head around and fixed his niece an angry stare.

"Tasha!" he shouted, pushing his spectacles back into place, "I'm trying to work here! This is for your benefit, you know."

Nataliya stuck her tongue out at her uncle, and then titled her head back and dropping her shoulders with a silent sigh.
Levka put down the voltmeter in his hand and shook his head.

"Da, devushka, I know you're bored," Levka consoled "I cannot blame you. But the work is almost finished. Just a few more adjustments..."

Nataliya stuck out her tongue, silencing Levka's oft-repeated speech. She rolled her eyes and put the lollipop back in her mouth, and resumed swinging her legs. Levka took this rightfully to mean that the conversation was over, and went back to work.

She really had no use for platitudes. It seemed every official in the Motherland had told her how much she was "benefiting" from all this attention. It didn't make her feel any better about what she had done. An accident, they kept calling it. To Nataliya, it was a curse from God. Dreamily, she remembered her father beaming proudly during her first solo recital, as she first lifted her voice in song to the Almighty. Now, all he did was scowl, when he wasn't crying over his son.

One truth is universal: It wasn't easy being a mutant. Especially one with no control of those mutant 'gifts'. It all just made Nataliya want to scream.

"Uspyekh!" Levka cried out, turning around with a flourish.

So lost in thought, Nataliya nearly fell off the table at her uncle's outburst. She scowled at Levka, and looked around on the ground for her lollipop. Finding it, she made a disgusted face and tossed it into the nearest trash bin. Crossing her arms, Nataliya stared at Levka, waiting for him to explain himself.

What Levka held up was the weirdest helmet she had ever seen, like some metallic insect had mated with a motorcycle helmet. Nataliya couldn't help but boggle at it.

"I won't bore you with the details," Levka said, "But in essence, this helmet will let you channel your mutant dissonance into a controllable force."

Nataliya continued to stare, now with a perplexed look.

Levka sighed. "It will also let you talk again," he concluded.

Nataliya lit up, and for the first time since becoming a teenager, genuinely grinned with delight.

In yet another anonymous room in the vast complex that made up the Ministry of Advanced Technology Research, Levka knelt in front of Nataliya and helped put on the helmet for the first time. Not that it was overly complicated, but it was a snug fit and would take much practice to get it on and off by herself. Securing the last neck brace, Nataliya was encased in darkness.

Menya naduli! she thought, Is this the price for having my voice back?

No sooner had she started to panic, when Levka flipped up a panel on one of the vents and pressed the power switch. With a faint electronic whine, light once again returned to Nataliya's world. Although faintly rose-tinted, her vision was as clear as ever.

"So, care to say something?" Levka asked with a smirk, "Or will you just stand there like a dura?"

"Sledi za barazom!" Nataliya snapped without thinking.

With a gasp, Nataliya went to cover her mouth, only then to realize that there was the helmet's apparatus in the way, and that her uncle was still crouching there and grinning with pride.

"O, klassno!" Nataliya exclaimed, to the further non-injury of her voice. "This is wonderful, uncle!"

The young mutant opened her arms to embrace the man who had given her part of her life back, but Levka held out his hands to stop her. Nataliya dropped her hands to her side, dejected. In her excitement, she had forgotten that her touch was still dangerous.

"Well well," Levka muttered. "This won't do. We'll have to do something about that."

"But what?" Nataliya asked, still getting used to having her voice again.

Levka had that smug grin again, one that the girl was ever the more tempted to smack off his face.

"Ne gruzis'!" Levka exclaimed, and went for a briefcase on the table.

From the case he removed a pair of armored gloves and presented them to his confused niece. Hesitantly, Nataliya reached for one. Although the polished black metal looked heavy, it was very light and flexible.

"I made these before the helmet, Tasha," Levka explained. "Modeled them after the pair your great-grandfather had after the Revolution. Even my superiors were impressed with the results. You'll be able to physically touch anyone while wearing these, and not drain them."

"But I can do that with normal gloves," Nataliya interrupted. Well, most of the time, anyway, she added to herself.

"Ah, but these are not normal gloves, devushka," Levka continued. "As I was about to demonstrate."

Curiously, Nataliya slipped her hand into the glove she held. The smooth, synthetic fabric that lined it stretched over her hand like silk. It was snug, but breathed easily. If it hadn't been for the integrated circuits that lined the material and connected to the plating, Nataliya wouldn't have know she was wearing anything.

As she did so, the door at the far end opened, and in stepped a severe-looking man in an even more severely cut suit. Nataliya didn't need to be told this man was a high-ranking Commissar. She just knew. And even though still a teenager, the young girl strove to be a loyal comrade. In almost perfect unison, she and her uncle snapped into a stiff salute.

The Commissar merely nodded at the pair. Another man entered, very much the opposite of the Commissar. Bulky, unshaven and wearing a bright orange jumper...and handcuffs.

Nataliya leaned toward Levka ever so slightly and whispered, "What is going on, uncle? Who is this man?"

"None of your concern, Comrade Novakovski." It was the Commissar that answered. Nataliya was startled, but sheepishly realized she had no idea about the helmet's volume control. "Suffice it to say, he is a criminal. One that does not deserve our attention. Comrade Stanislav, is everything ready to proceed?"

"Da, Comrade Commissar," Levka replied. "One moment, and we will begin."

Levka knelt down again in front of his niece and began making a few adjustments to the helmet while Nataliya slipped on the other glove. Luckily the helmet concealed the girl's emotions, but her trembling hands gave her away.

"Is not to worry, devushka," Levka whispered to her. "Everything will be fine. Everything is intuitive. Hold your hand out toward the prisoner, and everything else will come to you."

Nataliya nodded mutely, and turned to face the shackled man. Even though he glowered menacingly, there was nothing he could do but stand there. The young mutant took a deep breath to steady her shakes, and raised her hand outward. Almost immediately, there was a tingling sensation in her fingertips. Yes, the familiar power was there. It grew in the palm of her hand, spreading through the glove. Nataliya clenched her fist, and like holding a handful of puppet strings, yanked her fist back.

The prisoner let out a strangled groan, knees buckling. For her part, Nataliya felt a surge of strength unlike anything she'd accidentally done since this power manifested. The helmet hid her maniacal grin as the unfortunate man's potential energy became her own kinetic power. But the prisoner still had some strength left, and with a roar came rushing at the young mutant who would violate him so. And in that moment, Nataliya knew terror. She stumbled back, only to bump into either her uncle or the Commissar--she didn't turn around to determine which--and let out a terrified scream.
Somewhere in the back of her petrified mind, she knew that the scream would do someone harm, and indeed it did. The helmet concentrated the sonic vibrations and concentrated them into one concussive force. The blast hit the prisoner square in the chest, knocking him flat on his back and fighting for breath.

Nataliya stared at him, stunned at what she had witnessed. For their part, the two men behind her exchanged a silent nod.

Staring out the window of the private jet, Nataliya was beside herself. She had never flown before, never mind in such luxury as this.

"This is all so decadent! All this for me! Why should I deserve such as this?" Nataliya chattered away to the seamstress cross from her. The helmet hadn't come off since the final fitting, so overjoyed she was to have her voice back. And the seamstress had been her only company this long flight. Her uncle and the Commissar were also aboard, although they sat near the front, talking in huddled whispers over endless paperwork. She hadn't been allowed to step off the plane when they refueled. So she did the only thing she could, talking to the company she was given.

The seamstress, however, was a dour woman with very little to say. She had a duty to perform, and gave Nataliya a stern look most times a question was directed at her. "You don't, dura," was all she offered up before returning to her work.

Nataliya flipped the woman a rude gesture before resuming watching the world slowly roll by. She wasn't about to let this rude woman spoil her mood. America. She was being taken to America. She didn't know why, and really didn't care. The young woman had no use for their capitalist ideals, and was pretty sure she could not persuade any to see the truth the Party had to offer. So, why? Nataliya glanced again at the uniform the seamstress was stitching together. To give some Amerikanskii boys some cheap thrills with so skirt so short it showed her knees? She'd seen some fashions from the States--this uniform was practically utilitarian in comparison. No metal bikinis or some Yaponskii schoolgirl babnik fantasy for her. Nataliya shuddered at the thought.

Nataliya sighed and pulled down the window cover. Reclining the seat, she figured a little sleep would help pass the time until they landed. Closing her eyes, she began to dream of winters passed, the singing of seasonal songs and the warmth of the hearth.

The warmth dreamt of would have been pleasant now. A stiff wind held a bit of chill, enough to cut through the uniform Nataliya had finally donned. She stood there shivering slightly with her uncle outside the limousine that had brought them from the airport to this small corner of Paragon City.

Paragon City. A City of Heroes, some called it. And here she was, just another young hopeful, like an abitura stepping onto a strange campus for the first time. Nataliya wonder if she had what it would take to...well, she didn't know what it was she had to do.

"What is it I'm doing here, uncle Levka?" she asked, looking back at the man standing behind her.

Levka's trench coat flapped a bit as a breeze picked up, and he wrapped it tighter around his frame. He gave his niece the warmest smile he could muster.

"A silly question, devushka," Levka replied, looking off into the distance "You are here to be a hero! For the glory of the Motherland! A greater honor could not be bestowed."

"Da uncle, but..."

"Now now, it's time to get going," Levka interrupted. He pointed to the policeman standing at the edge of the parking lot. "That man over there will help you with anything you might need."

"But how am I to..."

"Nataliya Belovna Novakovski!" Levka snapped. Despite herself, the young mutant pulled herself into a full salute.

Levka's smile returned, and he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Tasha, you are a hero now. You are Nova Requiem. A New Song for the People to proclaim. You must be strong. Mother Russia believes in you. I believe in you."

Hidden as it was, Nataliya smiled widely nonetheless. She gave her uncle one last embrace, and saluted once more before jogging off to the waiting officer.

Levka's smile disappeared. He turned and entered the limousine, and sat down opposite of the Commissar with a worried look.

"This doesn't feel right, comrade Commissar," Levka said accusingly.

The commissar merely shrugged. "It is what her family wanted, comrade Stanislav. It is for the best."

Levka grimaced. He knew full well by 'family', the Commissar meant his brother-in-law. The heartless bastard.

"How long do you think she will manage with the mere pittance the Party gave her?" Levka had felt the worst about that, and had secretly added an equal amount from his own pocket. It was the least he could do. And, her feared, the most.

"It is more than adequate until subsequent orders are issued," the Commissar answered.

"And when will that be?" Levka responded bitterly. He hung his head in apology. It was wrong of him to yell like that. He looked out the tinted window towards his niece, deep in conversation with the policeman.

"Do you think she can find him?" Levka asked absently.

The Commissar shrugged again and tapped the partition glass, signaling the driver to get going. "The Party knows what it's doing, comrade. Have faith."

Levka looked out again. Nataliya was already running off into the distance, almost out of sight. He let out a tired sigh. Yes, he had faith. A little, anyway.

But how long would this New Song last?