Part 4: Rising Stars Must Also Fall

From the Story Arc: Prekasnia in Pink

Previous Story in the Arc: Part 3: Such a Pretty Face by Nova Requiem (Saturday, November 26, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Epilogue: Bright Lights, Red City by Nova Requiem (Saturday, November 26, 2005)

(posted Saturday, November 26, 2005)

The feel of rushing through the air at terminal velocity was exhilarating.

Nova Requiem fell from the sky with the grace of an acrobat, arms outstretched and toes together pointing down. She looked down to the balcony directly below her. Stay calm, she thought, small beads of sweat forming on her brow in anxiety. Don't push away the resonance. Let it build. The young mutant switched off her helmet's resonance amplifier, took a deep breath and hummed a steady F Flat. With the amplifier off, the sonic force vibrated through her entire body. Nova Requiem's kinetic-harnessing gloves caught most of the building energy, which allowed her to redirect it where she pleased. It felt like a mild electric current running through her, which only added to the sensation. She really didn't have time to think about all of this. Physics--and especially gravity--don't like to be ignored. She braced herself as best she could for the touchdown only seconds away.

Her landing was anything but graceful. The girl's feet hit the balcony with an audible thud, cushioned only by an invisible force she could only trust was there. The sonic resonance absorbed most of the impact and dispersed faster than she could maintain it. Forward momentum was still a factor, and the resonance didn't stop Nova Requiem from pitching forward with a yelp. Her hands shot out, stopping her from banging her head on the floor.

Nova Requiem's heart pounded fiercely, and she took several deep breaths to calm herself. That wasn't so bad, she thought. She stood up and ineffectually brushed down her skirt. The girl took a deep breath and opened the balcony's sliding door.

Stacey Williams sat in a recliner, staring in shock as Nova Requiem walked in to the penthouse. Stacey threw aside the magazine she had been reading and stood up to greet the girl.

"What is with you superheroes?" Stacey asked. "Can't you use the front door like a normal person? Where did you come from anyway?"

Nova Requiem shut the door and absently waved her hand upward. "Skyscraper, over there."

Stacey looked out at the building in the distance and boggled. It was then she noticed the girl's outfit for first time. The spandex was covered in splotches of some vile-smelling green goop, and some spots were straight out dissolved.

"My God, what happened to you?" Stacey demanded.

"I have...never...seen so much rvota in my life!" Nataliya screamed. "Was like rancid butcher shop mixed with, ah, how you say? Place that Romans used with feasts."

"A vomitorium?" Stacey ventured.

"Da, whatever," Nataliya grunted, taking off her helmet and placing it on the coffee table.

Stacey arched an eyebrow with a look of disgust. "Yes, well. Dmitri called, he wants to go over next week's photo session schedule."

Nataliya stripped off her gloves and tossed them aside onto the couch. The girl switched to sign language.
Never mind that now. Is bath ready?

Stacey nodded, having learned Sign for her foundling. "Yes, I got your message and drew one for you. I had to send the maid away. Couldn't have her seeing you in costume, you know."

Nataliya rolled her eyes and waved a dismissive hand. She walked into the bedroom, unhooking her skirt and dropping it onto the king-size bed dominating the room.

"Speaking of costume," Stacey continued, "what's to be done about this one?"

Nataliya slid open the bathroom door. Her bath was waiting as promised, brimming with bubbles and steaming invitingly. Slipping out of her leotard, the girl tossed it to Stacey.

Burn it, for all I care, she signed, it is ruined.

As Nataliya stepped into tub, Stacey closed door and shook her head. The things she put up with for that girl...

Nataliya sank deeper into the bubble bath with a grateful sigh. What a night it had been. Her two careers--burgeoning superhero and rising supermodel--were growing by the day, and so it seemed with her mutant gifts. Nataliya reached for a nearby remote and turned on the stereo. As Tchaikovsky softly filled the room, the young mutant leaned back and let her thought drifts over the night's events.

The office building might have one time been a clean, efficient place. Now it seemed every available surface was covered in blood and bile, body parts scattered throughout. And the stink. Nova Requiem didn't think she could take much more of it, even with her helmet filtering out the worst of it. As bad as those chyortov sewers she had just finished slogging through. Her outfit had taken a worse beating than she had. It didn't have the same regenerative abilities the young mutant possessed.

Nova Requiem had added to the carnage on her way up the building, clearing out Vahzilok's foul minions and zhmurik as they got in her way. The resulting gestalt had all but dulled her senses. She could barely remember why she was here in the first place. Something about a virus. If she ever met this Dr. Vahzilok in person, she had quite a bit of shouting to do at the man.

I could be in bed, she thought, or working. Why did I agree to this?

The elevator door opened and Nova Requiem jumped out, alert for any trouble. The only thing that greeted her was a glass double door on the far side of the lobby. The young mutant walked up to the doors and peered inside. The doors might at one time have opened automatically. But amongst the other damage the walking corpses had done throughout the building, they now stayed closed. The glass was covered in grime--and other effluvium the young mutant didn't want to think about--so there was no clear view of what was going on beyond the doors, other than some vague movements. Nova Requiem grasped the doors and strained to pull them apart. When there was just enough room for her to squeeze through, an automatic mechanism caught and the doors slid open as they should have.
The atrium beyond was dimly lit. Partly due to the sparse number of lights working off a backup generator somewhere in the building, but mostly because it was growing dark outside.

Boze moi, Nova Requiem thought, How long have I been going at this? Hours? Feels like days.

The movement Nova Requiem had spotted was there in the middle of the Atrium. A dark figure was kneeling over the body of some poor worker, making large incisions and tittering in glee as it played with the entrails. A dirty man with a dirtier apron stood watch nearby, holding a wicked-looking crossbow. On the other side, one of Vahzilok's countless zhmurik listed mutely, waiting for a command. If she hadn't already been numbed by this whole adventure, the girl might have thrown up at the grisly scene. Nova Requiem moved in for a closer look, trying to formulate some strategy.

The bowman spotted the young mutant in the shadows, jerked his head around and cried out. He fired off the crossbow bolt. Nova requiem tried to jump out of the way, but was struck in the thigh. The girl growled in pain and yanked the bolt from her leg. Along with her own blood, the bolt was smeared in a black substance. Nova Requiem felt her limbs grow heavy, and her head began to swim.

How udvitelnyi, paralyzing agent, she thought, the bolt slipping from her numbed fingers. The drug acts quick. Only one way to cure it...

Nova Requiem held out her gloved hand, feeling for the proper 'tune' amongst the man's energies. Finding it, she pulled back her fist, taking with it his potential momentum. The power swirled around her and the numbness all but vanished, the familiar rush of speed flowing through the young mutant. Nova requiem let out a scream at the bowman, and he fell to the floor clutching at his head.

The dark figure stood up, dropping a handful of guts. Nova Requiem stared at the woman, covered head to toe in a patchwork of leather, straps and buckles.

"Who are you to disturb me at my, heh heh, work?" she hissed.

"Am Nova Requiem!" the girl answered. "And your butchering ends tonight!"

The woman cackled. "How lovely! A song of death. I shall be ever so eager to hear it. You can call me Scalpel. Let the surgery begin!"

Scalpel thrust out her hand. A bolt of dark energy issued forth, enveloping Nova Requiem. The black mist was cold beyond cold, leeching the warmth--and the life--from her core.

Nova Requiem had heard of these creatures. Eidolons, they were called. Animated corpses made from various body parts, much like their dumb cadaverous cousins, but with deadly differences; They were somehow imbued with paranormal powers, and a cold, calculating mind to use them to their fullest. Nova Requiem shook off the blast. She knew how to handle this. Siphon the strength, siphon the speed, then run circles around her victim while unleashing her sonic force. Keep it moving, by the numbers.

"For the People!" she called out, even though her heart wasn't behind the words anymore. No time to think about it, anyway.

Scalpel grunted as the young mutant yanked out her potential energies, stumbling when the first sound wave hit her. The eidolon growled and let loose another blast of darkness. But there was nothing there to hit. Scalpel howled in anger as Nova Requiem ran past in a streak of black and pink, punching her in the face as she ran over to the far side of the atrium in a blink of an eye. Another sonic scream buffeted the eidolon, followed by another blur of movement.

But Scalpel was prepared this time. She thrust out her hand and grabbed Nova Requiem by the throat as she went by, lifting the young mutant up in the air to kick futilely.

"You are no match, little girl," Scalpel cooed with a gravelly voice. "It will be fun to see what your body parts will do for me."

The eidolon squeezed with an inhuman strength. Rapidly blacking out, Nova Requiem grasped the arm holding her with both hands and held tight. The flow of power was intense and staved off unconsciousness.

Scalpel let out a startled cry and let go of the girl. Nova Requiem dropped down and stumbled back. She let out a hoarse scream as best she could manage with a bruised windpipe. But nothing came out. The resonance amplifier must have been turned off, she reasoned quickly.

The sonic force, denied its regular channel, reverberated inside the helmet and dispersed outward to gather in her extremities with an intense tingling. The eidolon swung her fist at the girl, and Nova Requiem jumped back out if its path. Much to their mutual surprise, the young mutant was airborne.

In a lazy somersault, Nova Requiem's trajectory was taking her to the elevated walkway behind her. Summoning up everything she could recall from her gymnastics schooling as a child, and what she had learned 'in the field' as a heroine, NR righted herself in time to make a sloppy yet solid landing on the railing. She looked down to see the eidolon standing below her, fist clenched in rage. The young mutant flipped the amplifier on and howled in laughter. The resulting sonic wave shot forth and struck the Vahzilok below.

With a roar, Scalpel once again demonstrated her superior strength by leaping up to where her prey had escaped. Nova Requiem snapped her head up, looking for an escape. Above to her left, there was a higher balcony of someone's office. Switching off the resonator again, she let out another shout. The sonic force joined with the residual energy still tingling in her legs, and Nova Requiem leapt with all her might just as the eidolon reached the landing. Scalpel made a grab for the girl, but was too late.

Ecstatic in the newfound ability, Nova Requiem couldn't help but show off a little. She reached the balcony and grabbed the railing. Her legs continued their arc and Nova Requiem dismounted with a half-turn, landing gracefully on her feet and facing the fuming eidolon below. Nova Requiem let out a triumphant laugh, aiming the resulting sonic bullet in Scalpel's direction.

The triumph was short lived. The floor beneath Nova Requiem emanated a black mist, and an infernal howling rang in her ears. From the mist, tendrils of dark matter lashed upward and wrapped themselves around the startled girl. The tendrils held fast, no matter how much she struggled. They wrapped even tighter around her until she cried out in pain. The dark shackles had given Scalpel time to reach Nova Requiem, and now she stood gloating over her catch.

"Not so proud of yourself now, are you?" the eidolon growled. "Enough fun and games. This ends now."

The eidolon held out her palm. The dark mists coalesced around Nova Requiem, and the girl shivered as she felt the life drained from her. Through slit eyes, she saw the eidolon surrounded by a green nimbus. Now she knew what it must feel like when she did much the same with her mutant power.

The dark tendrils may have held her fast, but they couldn't stop those powers within her. Nova Requiem clenched her fists and drew more strength from the eidolon, letting out a scream fueled by pain and frustration. The force of the scream made Scalpel stagger back, losing her concentration on the tendrils. Freed from their grasp, Nova Requiem lunged forward and grabbed hold of Scalpel's still outstretched arm. The eidolon's energy was leeched out in an uncontrolled torrent. Her power, speed, even her very life force became Nova Requiem's. The eidolon didn't even have the strength to scream.

Nova Requiem spun Scalpel around and landed a mighty uppercut straight into her abdomen. Powered by the eidolon's energy, the punch sent Scalpel flying over the railing, screaming and flailing, down to the atrium below. The young mutant rushed down the stairs with her stolen speed and was on the ground floor before Scalpel. The eidolon landed on the floor in an undignified heap, and rolled onto her back. Scalpel wheezed and gurgled as she struggled in vain to get up, but there was no strength left to do it with.

Nova Requiem knelt down, planting her knee on Scalpel's chest. Leaning down, the girl whispered in a chilling voice.

"Da, is always fun until someone is hurt."

Nova Requiem reached down and clutched Scalpel's jaw. With a quick flick of the wrist, she snapped the eidolon's neck.

She sat up, taking mental stock of everything that had just happened. But her thoughts were interrupted by a retching sound, followed by something warm and wet splashing her backside. Nova Requiem leapt to her feet a moment later, screaming in pain. The liquid was burning through her clothing and exposed flesh like acid. She spun around to find the zhmurik standing over her, vomit dripping from its open mouth. The stupid creature hadn't moved an inch during the fight.

"Govnyuk!" the girl screamed. "Does this der'mo never end?!"

With the last of Scalpel's siphoned power, Nova Requiem pummeled the abomination into a bloody pulp.

Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major wound down, and Nataliya stirred from her reverie. The bath water had grown tepid, her skin wrinkled. Nataliya sighed in content. The previous hours covered in zombie puke were all but forgotten.

As she was brushing out her hair, Nataliya heard raised voices in the living room. The girl grumbled. Moments of peace never lasted long, anymore. Nataliya slipped into her bathrobe and stomped out into the living room. If Stacey was having another row with a deliveryman, so help her...

"...can't just barge in here! I don't care if she's Russian, she still has rights!" Stacey was yelling as Nataliya came around the corner. Sure enough, she was arguing with someone in the loudest manner possible. The person in question was a large man in a dark suit and sunglasses. Nataliya gasped. No, it couldn't be!
The girl's outburst interrupted the conversation, and both turned to look at Nataliya.

"Tasha, I don't know who..." Stacey began.

"Nataliya Vasil'eva Novakovski," the man interrupted. "My sobrali vashe oboudovanie. Poluchite odet'no."
Nataliya nodded dumbly, and turned towards the bedroom. Stacie had no idea what just happened. She ran up to Nataliya and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Tasha, what in God's name is going on?" she whispered. "Two guys bust in here, one grabs your...gear...and takes off..."

Nataliya looked sadly into the woman's eyes. She had given so much, never asking for anything in return. Nataliya shrugged away from Stacey's hand and signed, Better not to ask. Must do as he says.

Nataliya closed the bedroom door and sat on the edge of the bed shaking while Stacey resumed screaming at the top of her lungs. KGB! This couldn't be happening! How had they found her?

They're the KGB, dura, that's how. she thought. Besides, it's not like I was hiding. I'm in half the local fashion magazines, these days.

Nataliya sighed. If Stacey hadn't been in the room, she would have let loose on the agent with her powers without thinking twice. It would have only made the situation worse in the long run. The girl glanced out the window. There was still a chance to get away.

Quickly dressing, Nataliya opened the window and crouched on the sill. It was a long way down, and the young mutant had no idea if she could control her sonic vibrations without the helmet. She closed her eyes and hummed a single note, feeling the resonance building within her. Holding the note, Nataliya opened here eyes and hopped off. Even two dozen stories up, the fall was a quick one. The sonic vibration cushioned most of the blow, but Nataliya still ended up on her hands in a crouched position, her legs screaming in pain. She wasn't about to complain about that. By all rights, she should have been a sidewalk pancake.

Nataliya pulled herself together and quickly looked around for more dark suits. None were in sight. What she did see, however, was a limousine parked by the curb. Standing in front of the limo was man wearing a trench coat and a familiar face.

"They expected you might try to escape, devushka," Levka said calmly, looking up. "But I must admit, that was one method I could never have imagined."

Nataliya stood up unsteadily and hugged her arms. It was her uncle, of that there was no doubt. Still, he was the last person she thought she'd be seeing. She could scream and run, but she would never dream of hurting the one man that had been kind to her in all the years of her adolescence.

As the pair stood there awkwardly, the doors of the limousine opened. Several agents emerged, each drawing out their gun and aiming for the girl.

Levka smiled. "Let's not make a scene, Tasha. These men know what to expect. They'll fire if you so much as open your mouth."

He opened the door and gestured for Nataliya to enter. For a long moment, no one moved except for the citizens of Paragon City around them. Men in suits pointing weapons at people were far from an uncommon sight, one best ignored. Finally, Nataliya bowed her head and got into the car.

I should have brought a coat, the young mutant thought as the limousine pulled away from the apartment building. It's a long, cold winter in Siberia.