Part 2: The Faint of Heart

From the Story Arc: The Hunt For Krasniy Oktyabr

Previous Story in the Arc: Part 1: Trouble in Mind by Krasniy Oktyabr (Friday, December 02, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Part 3: Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore by Krasniy Oktyabr (Friday, December 02, 2005)

(posted Friday, December 02, 2005)

Nova Requiem groaned and struggled to open her eyes. She tried sitting up, but every muscle ached in protest. A strong arm was there across her shoulders to support her. Nova Requiem reached up and pressed the release for her helmet's visor. The air was cool inside the dam power substation. She breathed it in deeply. The young mutant looked up and smiled weakly at her benefactor.

"Spasibo, comrade StarBreak," Nova Requiem whispered hoarsely. "How long was I out?"

"Just a few minutes," StarBreak answered. "Want to take your helmet off and rest a few more?"

Nova Requiem shook her head. "Nyet, will be fine." The girl slowly rose to her feet, very thankful for her fellow hero's assistance. "Spasibo, again, for not abandoning me."

"Hey, we've come this far together," a second voice chimed in, "We're not gonna leave you behind when we're this close to ending "Metal Man's" little adventure." Nova Requiem grinned at SunForce as he appeared from the corridor up ahead.

The trio of heroes was all that was left of Task Force Corona, sent out by Positron--whom Nova Requiem had unaffectionately dubbed "Metal Man". Task Force Corona had originally set forth six strong. But as the plots of three of Paragon City's villainous elements began to weave together, casualties whittled them down. One had fallen in combat to Vahzilok's minions, whisked away by the Emergency Medical Transporters and not heard from again. The other two had bolted later, claiming commitments elsewhere. Nova Requiem thought them cowards, and didn't even remember their names.

And so the three had pressed on: SunForce, with his powers of concentrated heat; StarBreak, a Kheldian whose host's past was similar to Nataliya Novakovski's in many regards; and Nova Requiem, whose mutant kinetisynthesis made a formidable combination of power. Their teamwork was extraordinary. Each hero knew the strengths and weaknesses of the others and knew their own roles without the need for barked orders or panicked. Together, the villains didn't stand a chance. They delved far into the intertwined plots against the city with tremendous speed.

Only one thing was slowing them down. Nova Requiem had been suffering from increasingly frequent blackouts since returning from Moscow. Nataliya was convinced it was the result of the mentalist interrogator probing deep into her mind while in such a weakened condition. The Amerikanskii doctors, skilled as they were with treating superheroes, couldn't help the girl. So far all of their treatments for her symptoms merely put off the blackouts for a few hours at best.

Part of Nova Requiem's "reeducation" had included emphasis on teamwork, something that the girl felt little need for in the past. Even the most devout Party member needed comrades. There was no glorification of the individual. It was only through unity that the proletariat might rise up in their Struggle. Of all the heroes she had met and aided since returning to Paragon City, StarBreak and SunForce were the most sympathetic to her condition. Staying by her side during her bouts of unconsciousness was proof enough of this.

"Ready to go on, Nova?" SunForce asked.

Nova Requiem stepped out from under StarBreak's arm, still shaking slightly but growing steadier quickly. She glanced back at StarBreak. The Kheldian gave her a wink and a thumbs-up. The girl turned away and pulled down her visor to hide her blushing. She had grown quite fond of the alien and its host, although it was more of a tragic kinship than anything else. Nova Requiem gave SunForce a firm nod.

SunForce grinned. "Glad to hear it. There's a bunch of Thorns and Vahz duking it out down the hall that might not be so thrilled."

Nova Requiem gazed down the corridor and saw the mages and zhmurik1 trading blows in one of the substation's numerous control rooms. It was also the route the heroes needed to reach the heart of the complex. The girl turned her head to StarBreak, whose eyes were already alight with alien fire, and returned the thumbs-up.

"Poehali!2 Nova Requiem shouted, charging down the corridor with her companions.

When they reached the doorway of the control room, Nova Requiem held out her gloved hand toward one of the Circle of Thorns mages. The familiar rush of stolen potential energy sang through the young mutant's veins, and her two companions joined in the chorus. Thanks to Uncle Levka's perpetual tinkering, the gloves now gave Nova Requiem the ability to bestow some of the harnessed energies upon others.

Sonic, solar and alien energies flew through the room with borrowed strength, cutting down the minions of evil before the heroes. Their surprised foes fought back against the vigorous onslaught to no avail. Nova Requiem easily jumped out of the way of most of the blows and projectiles, aided by her sonic resonance. The injuries that Task Force Corona did sustain vanished just as quickly, as the young mutant siphoned the healing energies from the mob and dispersed them to herself and her teammates. In no time at all, the invaders had been dealt with. The end was near. They could all feel it.

Nova Requiem placed her hands on her knees while she caught her breath. The battle and siphoned strength had wiped away most of the traces of her latest blackout, but she still tired easily. StarBreak and SunForce expected this, and understood. While the girl recovered as best she could, the Kheldian and the blaster checked out the paths ahead, alert for more trouble.

Nova Requiem ran to catch up to where her companions had stopped. They had reached the central control chamber, and it was teeming with Clockwork automatons. The smaller robots busied themselves by snatching up anything that wasn't bolted down, and dismantling everything that was. Two larger machines towered over the rest, supervising the progress and belching oily smoke and steam. The trio was being ignored for the time being, and took the opportunity to survey the Clockwork and come up with a plan.

As the heroes whispered amongst themselves, a small Cog carrying several lengths of piping walked by. The robot whipped its head around, dropped the pipes and let loose a bolt of electricity. The bolt flew over the heroes, and they turned their heads in unison.

"So much for a plan," muttered StarBreak.

"Forget plan!" Nova Requiem barked. "We get this over with!"

She yanked her fist back, bringing with it the machine's power. The girl screamed at the top of her lungs and the Cog toppled over in a pile of scrap. The rest of the Clockwork in the room turned as one, a dozen pairs of green eyes glowering menacingly at Task Force Corona.

The room erupted into a riot of clashing energies. The trio waded in full tilt, blasting away at the robots as they tried to swarm over the heroes. Nova Requiem struggled to drain as many as she could, denying the machines of their abundant potential energy and healing her teammates. The girl's throat was getting raw, but there was no time to stop. Taking a couple of deep breaths, she continued to scream and shout all around her. In all the activity, Nova Requiem failed to notice that while most of the small robots had fallen the huge Clockwork Princes fought on.

Nova Requiem looked up to see one of the lumbering machines clanking loudly and running straight toward her. The young mutant cried out and held out her hand, stealing the momentum from the Prince. She dashed away from the hulking robot, but not soon enough. The Prince swung its huge steel fist, backhanding the girl and sending her flying across the room. The automaton fired a massive bolt of electricity, hitting the young mutant in the chest and sending her into convulsions. Nova Requiem crashed into the wall and hit the ground face-first in an undignified sprawl.

Consciousness was once again fading quickly. Not now! she screamed to herself. Fight this! They need your help! Get UP!

Gritting her teeth, Nova Requiem summoned her remaining strength and pushed herself up onto her knees. She couldn't get any further than that. The blackness was closing around her vision, and through that tunnel she saw the Prince still coming toward her in slow motion. Shaking uncontrollably, Nova Requiem raised her arms. She didn't know if she had it in her to pull any more energy from the Clockwork robot, but she had to try. The tingling was there, but she didn't have the will to draw it forth. The young mutant's arms fell down once more, and she hung her head in defeat.

The sound of an explosion brought Nova Requiem's head up once more. Through her narrowing vision, she saw the Clockwork Prince's head sailing in an arc straight towards her.

"CATCH!" StarBreak yelled, hovering a few feet off the ground above the body of the fallen Prince. His hands still glowed with the energy that had sent the head flying.

Surprised as she was, Nova requiem still managed to raise her hands in time to catch the unusual missile. The head was about the size of a soccer ball and almost as light. It still had some residual energy left inside, which the young mutant's exhausted body absorbed gratefully. She turned the head over in her hands to look it in the face. Nova Requiem pressed the stud to raise her visor, and stared in wonder at the machine.

She had fought these things many times before, but had never seen one this close before. She marveled at the mad, genius design of the thing. Even in such a state the eyes still faintly glowed, clinging tenaciously to its mockery of "life". There was even the sound of static emanating from the mouthpiece.

"...zzhhzz...Tasha?" came a voice from the head.

Nova Requiem yelped and dropped the head. It landed between her knees, still staring up at the girl.

"...zZHzh...Tasha?" the voice said again.

Nova Requiem stared at the head in disbelief. The voice was faint and tinny, but she recognized it.

"U-Uncle Sasha?" she asked quietly. "To vi??3"

To her continued wonderment the voice responded, "...ZZzhhZz...Tasha! Help me!...zHzZHh...Tell them...ZhZhzZ...I'm..."

The voice of Aleksandr Stanislav faded away, and the glowing eyes died completely.

"Uncle Sasha!" Nova Requiem shouted, picking up the head and shaking it violently. "Beseda k mne! SKAZHITE MNE GDE SASHA DADUSHKI, VAM SVOLOCHI!!4"

StarBreak and SunForce stood slack jawed at Nova Requiem's outburst of Russian. Before, along with her broken English, it had made the girl that much more endearing. But the rage in her words translated into any language. Nova Requiem looked up at the pair, not caring that a tear had escaped down her cheek. She sniffed and held out her hand.

"Please to help up?" she asked.

The survivors of Task Force Corona stood outside the dam power substation in Perez Park. Positron had just finished commending the heroes for saving the dam--and a good portion of Paragon City itself--from destruction. But "Metal Man's" words were hollow in the trio's ears. All they had to do was look to each other to know something great had been done that day.

StarBreak hovered a few feet off the ground and beamed. "We were a great team today, guys. Any time you need help, don't hesitate to look me up."

SunForce nodded. "Yeah, great job all. The same goes for me. I'll be around."
Nova Requiem looked up from the Clockwork head cradled in the crook of her arm. She hadn't let go of the thing since she first took it, and the other two saw no problem with that. The young mutant gazed at the two men in turn.

"Da, was good work," she said softly. "Good thing was done for People today. I want you to know, though you may not be countrymen, I will always think of you as comrades."

Nova Requiem drew herself up into a full salute. "Do svedanya... comrades."

StarBreak grinned and returned the salute. With a wink and thumb-up, the Kheldian flew off in the direction of the setting sun. SunForce saluted as well, and in a burst of light dashed off out of sight in the blink of an eye.

Nova Requiem held her salute until both men were gone. Taking the lifeless Clockwork head in both hands, the young mutant stared intently at it for some time, as if will alone could bring back the light to its eyes.

"Ne gruzis',5 Sasha dadushki," she whispered. "Hang in there. We will find you."

Nova Requiem looked out across Perez Park, spotting the gate leading towards Atlas Park. She knew just where to start looking.

1 - Slang, ironical: Corpse, dead person

2 - Slang: Kick it!; Let's go! (lit. "They went")

3 - "Is that you?"


5 - Slang: Don't worry; Do not take [something] to heart (lit. "Not be loaded")