Epilogue: Bright Lights, Red City

From the Story Arc: Prekasnia in Pink

Previous Story in the Arc: Part 4: Rising Stars Must Also Fall by Nova Requiem (Saturday, November 26, 2005)

(posted Saturday, November 26, 2005)

Nataliya Novakovski woke up with a start. The girl blinked, not knowing how long she had been out. The hot floodlight still shone down on her, sweat dripping from her face. She had slumped forward, but didn't have the energy to sit up straight. They had made sure of that. Not that she was in danger of falling out of her chair. Her arms were bound in a rubberized straightjacket to the back of the chair. Wearily, Nataliya chuckled. It was all standard procedure for 'questioning'. They were just softening her up. The actual questioning was still to come.

Somewhere behind Nataliya, a metal door opened, and footsteps echoed through the room. The lamp was adjusted slightly, revealing another chair in front of Nataliya. A woman came into view examining a folder, and sat down. She was wearing the uniform of the Party. But she bore no insignias or decorations, and the uniform was a dark red rather than the utilitarian gray of the masses. For several minutes the woman said nothing and continued to read.
Nataliya didn't try to speak. Not that she could. The gag on her mouth was an ingenious device, somehow blocking all sound from escaping. The girl would have been impressed under different circumstances.

Just get on with it, Nataliya thought.

My, aren't we impatient. Do you have somewhere to be?

Nataliya raised her head as best she could manage and stared at the woman, who was now gazing intently back. Had Nataliya just imagined that voice?

Nyet, comrade, you didn't. You also didn't answer the question. Have you somewhere to be?

Nataliya shook her head. I... nyet. Da... I... I'm late for work.

The scarlet woman smirked.

How industrious of you. The Motherland should be proud.

Nataliya looked back at her strange interrogator. Should...?

'Scarlet' folded her hand on her lap. Oh da, comrade. Should be. But you have strayed, haven't you? Capitalist greed has taken the place of Party ideals. Tell me, what did you produce that deserved so much profit?

Nataliya closed her eyes, sinking her head. I... regret nothing.

The woman clucked and shook her head. Of course you don't. Young, rich, free from obligations. After all, what has the Party given you?

Nataliya shook her head again.

Let me tell you what we've done for you. The best medical care for your tragic brother. Supporting your family while they suffer. And the opportunity for you to lead a normal life.
Nataliya's head snapped up, what little defiance she had left rekindled. You threw me to the wolves!

"And you came out stronger for it, nyet?" a new voice spoke from the shadows.

Nataliya looed around as best she could. From the darkness behind the woman, a man stepped forward and stood beside the interrogator. Nataliya recognized him instantly, the commissar who had overseen the first testing of her equipment and her flight to the United States.

"It's quite marvelous, having a telepath working for this Ministry," the commissar continued, placing a hand on the woman's shoulder. The telepath crossed her legs and gave Nataliya a smug look. "There's nothing you can hide from them. And in this rare case, we can talk to you without risking injury."

Nataliya scoffed silently. You could just give me my helmet back...

The commissar barked out a harsh laugh. "Your helmet! It is property of the State. Or had you forgotten?"

Nataliya hung her head once more. How had she fallen from grace so quickly? Deep down, she clung to the ideals of communism. She had been proud to serve the Party, selflessly. It was Paragon City that had corrupted her, so full of vice and capitalist corruption.

The commissar smiled as warmly as he could manage, even though a picture of a light bulb would have brought more warmth into the room.

"Do not worry, Nataliya. You wish do redeem yourself, and we wish to see you redeemed. To be hero for the People again."

Scarlet opened the folder and removed a photo from the files. She reached over and dropped it on the girl's lap. Nataliya regarded it wearily. Another familiar face stared up at her. There was no mistaking the eye patch and chiseled features her uncle Sasha wore. She stared at it curiously.

"Alexandr Piotrov Stanislav," the commissar confirmed. "Codename: Krasniy Oktyabr. He disappeared from contact several months ago, along with State equipment. We have been unsuccessful in locating him. Perhaps with your...influence...among the citizens of Paragon City, you can continue the search along more fruitful avenues."

Nataliya looked up at the commissar. Finding one man in a huge city? I can't do it alone!

The commissar smirked. "You seemed to have managed just fine on your own, comrade. Aside from the time spent living in the streets, you've done quite well for yourself."

Nataliya blinked. They knew about all that?

"Of course we did," the commissar answered. "We've been watching you this whole time."

The girl's defiance flared again. How could you treat me like that?! I had no provisions, no purpose! Nataliya closed here eyes, unable to wipe away the tear rolling down her sweat-soaked face. No comrades...

You had comrades, dura. The telepath cocked her head with an arched brow. Or was the CCCP not good enough for you?

Nataliya's eyes snapped open as the memory came back. The CCCP. Red Saviour. She had met with the Soviet heroine, albeit briefly. It was right after donning her costume after recuperating fully. She could barely remember the exchange between them. Nova Requiem had stood in a nervous salute while Red Saviour gave her some words of encouragement and a welcome into CCCP's ranks. Then in a flash of crimson, Red Saviour flew off into the sky. It was the first and only contact with anyone from the Motherland since arriving, and ever so briefly it had rekindled the flame of nationalist pride that had died down. Nataliya had forgotten because it was shortly after that her modeling career took off.

Don't think so much into it, devushka. Natalya has always been a fickle woman. Really, your life in that decadent city mirrored hers in many ways.

Nataliya looked at the telepath in wonder.

Oh, I'm sure it wasn't intentional. But in the end, she has done much the Party. Surely you can do the same.

The commissar stared intently at Nataliya during this exchange. Apparently Scarlet wasn't transmitting this part of the conversation to him.

"Well, comrade?" he asked impatiently. "Will you aid us in finding your uncle, or shall you remain our guest a while longer?"

Nataliya finally found the strength to sit up straight. She fixed her gaze not at the commissar, but at the telepath, and nodded once.

For the glory of the people, and the Party, she would find Krasniy Oktyabr.