Part 3: Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore

From the Story Arc: The Hunt For Krasniy Oktyabr

Previous Story in the Arc: Part 2: The Faint of Heart by Nova Requiem (Friday, December 02, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Falling Through the Cracks by Belladonna Aura (Saturday, December 03, 2005)

(posted Friday, December 02, 2005)

The Yellow Line tram pulled into the station, and the usual assortment of civilians and superheroes poured out. Unit K wasted no time dashing to the outer platform. A task had been given Unit K with limited chronological units in which to accomplish it. All unnecessary stimuli were ignored. However, one entity stood out. An organic unit in red and black coverings was hovering outside, watching the passing crowds. This organic triggered a response from Mind. After several nanoseconds of retrieval, the relevant information had been found. Mind had encountered this organic before, although the memory data was old. The organic spotted Unit K, and a look of recognition came over her. She spun around and held up her hand in greeting.


"Privyet, comrade Oktyabr!" she called out, but Unit K had already jumped the railing and was running across the plaza off into the heart of Steel Canyon.


Red Saviour floated in stunned silence, her mouth still hanging open to continue on with her greeting. The Soviet heroine crossed her arms and frowned. That man had certainly looked like Krasniy Oktyabr. Well, mostly anyway. There were some rather drastic changes to his appearance. Or maybe he's just being a hren1, she thought. Red Saviour shrugged and continued to scan the crowd.



Unit K strode out of an abandoned warehouse where Council members had been planning a heist. Unit K had made quick work of the organics before they could escape, dispatching of the Council well within chronological parameters. Unit K failed to understand the importance of "time" to the organics. They always seemed to be in a hurry, but usually allotted more than enough time to accomplish their tasks. Unit K felt no such rush. There was Mind, and Mind always was.


As Unit K processed the latest task fully into Mind, the communicator signaled an incoming transmission. Unit K pressed the RECEIVE button.


"Hi there!" an unknown voice said. "Saw your name on the Paragon City register. You have time to help out against a Vahzilok plot?"


Unit K queried Mind. There were no further tasks that were of priority.


"Unit K can comply," the cyborg answered. "Transmit coordinates for rendezvous."


The coordinates came in, and Unit K took off across the city. At the designated location, a motley group of organics had gathered. Amongst the riotous costume colors, Unit K perceived the presence of a human-cat hybrid and another cyborg. Other than these, no significant data registered with mind. They were (mostly) organics, and needed no differentiation beyond the visual. If the organics would embrace Mind, there would be no need for even that.


The "Vahzilok" units had taken over a laboratory, and were numerous. The units didn't want to relinquish what they had taken by force, and fought back hard. The organics that had enlisted Unit K's assistance were a disorganized collective. They had little regard for one another, and many fell more than once. Had they been in Mind, the organization would have been automatic. As it was, Unit K had ample opportunity to use the newly installed unit-transportation module from a scrapped Assembler Duke. It did not work as first anticipated. Mind had assumed that the module would summon forth more units as it had always done. Perhaps due to Unit K's organic components, the module could only call forth other "Superhero" units with whom Unit K had formed a temporary collective.


The organics gathered together after resuscitation and discussed what was going wrong.


"Unit K suggests coordinated attack strategies," the cyborg offered. "Units with long-range weaponry support close-combat units, while specialty units provide aid as needed...Unit K also advises against division of collective."


The organics grumbled that such strategy was commonplace, although none chose to acknowledge their individual failings to implement it. Unit K struggled to understand this trait in organics, but so far no amount of study had made an answer apparent.


Unit K's words must have had some impact on the temporary collective, as the rest of the laboratory was cleared out without further incident. Once the task was complete the organics stood around outside the building, congratulating each other on a "Jee-Jay"--an unknown quantity in Mind--and discussing further objectives. Some units decided to break from the collective, while the rest decided to continue elimination of the "Vahzilok plot". Unit K submitted another query to Mind, and again no other commands took priority. Unit K stayed with the organics.


The next location proved to be nothing like the previous one. The decaying organic units had taken residence in a closed-off section of Paragon City's maze-like sanitation system, preparing to spread contaminants throughout the city. Unit K had never been inside such tunnels, but Mind had and knew what to expect. The organics signaled their readiness, and as one they journeyed inward.


A large group of Vahzilok units waited at the first intersection. The collective wasted no time laying into them. The Vahzilok swarmed around them, eager to rend the intruders limb from limb. Unit K lifted its arms up and discharged a static field. The Vahzilok caught inside the sphere writhed in pain, but continued to fight on. More bolts of electricity followed, blasting away along with the rest of the collective. Unit K knew from Mind that adhesive grenades were ineffective against most of the Vahzilok units, but the taser was more than adequate--provided solid contact could be made.


In the chaos of melee, Unit K almost didn't register that two of the Vahzilok units had explosive devices harnessed to them. Unit K called the collective's attention to them, but it was too late. Unit K blasted one in a futile attempt to stop it just as it hunched over and detonated. Unit K flew backwards from the concussive force, and the cyborg landed face-up in a stream of sewage. Mind immediately began diagnostics to assess the damage. All components had taken heavy damage, but not enough to incapacitate. Unit K sat up, covered in filth. Mind began initiating repairs to the cyborg's Clockwork components, but the sewage was hindering the process.


When the rest of the Vahzilok units had been taken care of, the catgirl crouched down next to Unit K.


"You all right, K?" she asked.


Unit K slowly stood up and nodded. "Unit had beg-g- begun internal repa-pa-p..." The cyborg's damaged optical receptor dimmed, head slumping forward.


The team's other cyborg participant winced. "That blast did a number on him. Gotta keep the electronics watertight."


"Chyort, that hurt."


The group stared in wonder. In their time together, "K" had always sounded so stiff and mechanical. To hear him break from that--and in Russian, no less--was something of a shock.


"Uh, K?" the catgirl asked. "You sure you're alright?"


Krasniy Oktyabr lifted his head triumphantly and winked. "Never better, kotenok2. Now let us be busting of heads, da?"


The others cheered the idea and the team charged further into the sewers.


Krasniy Oktyabr felt alive again, even trading quips with his teammates for the first time. Being suppressed by the Clockwork's hive consciousness was like fighting to wake up from a visionless dream. He didn't know how long the freedom would last this time around, so he relished every moment of it. The team encountered more Vahzilok in short order, and Krasniy Oktyabr laid into them with zeal. The zhmurik fought back ferociously against the heroes, but in the end were no match against their determination. Krasniy Oktyabr fired one last electrical bolt at a fleeing Reaper, dropping it into the muck. The cyborg pumped his fist triumphantly.


The victory was short-lived. The dreaded note reverberated inside Krasniy Oktyabr's mind. He clutched at his head and screamed, but could do no more to fight it off. The Clockwork parts had repaired themselves and Mind was reasserting its dominance. The group stopped and stared helplessly at the man. The green light of the optical receptor flared back into life, and the cyborg straightened up.


"Unit K reports full functionality," came the atonal voice, "Parameters updated, proceeding with organic collective."


The rest of the group looked at each other and shrugged. "K" had returned, but was still in the fight. There was nothing to do but go on.


They proceeded deeper into the tunnels, dispatching all the zombies and their keepers that stood in the way. The team made their way to a disused control chamber. In the back an eidolon was brooding over some rusted metal drums, directing several mindless minions to do its bidding while the human servants of Vahzilok stood watch.


"This must be it," the catgirl said, tail twitching nervously. "Everyone ready?"


Unit K gazed over the assembly of Vahzilok units, Mind assessing the overall threat. Provided the temporary collective could maintain strategic program parameters, there was no imminent danger.


"Unit K reports full oper-per-p-p..." the cyborg stammered. Without warning, Unit K's vocal modulator emitted ear-splitting feedback. Unit K shook violently for a moment, and the cyborg dropped to its knees.


The others turned to stare. Unit K's arms hung limply and the optical receptor went out again. The only sign of life was a heavy panting and the rise and fall of the cyborg's chest. The cat girl crouched down again in front of the cyborg and bit her lip.


Krasniy Oktyabr's eye fluttered open. "Boze moi, I've not been able to do that before!"


"Do what?" the catgirl asked.


Krasniy Oktyabr took the hand of a nearby teammate and unsteadily rose to his feet.


"Was able to break free from Clockwork Mind," he replied. "Before, was like wanting to wake up but body did not. Perhaps damage was not fully repaired, perhaps weakened control from blast and sewage. Whatever it is, mne po barabanu3. Let us finish this."


The team took up positions on the far side of the room, so the blasters could snipe at the eidolon and give them an edge before all hell broke loose. Krasniy Oktyabr raised his fist and let the electrical charge build to capacity. But just before letting the bolt fly, he cried out and clutched his head again, the built-up charge dissipating through the gloves. Mind was returning.

"Mind will reestablish link with Unit K. Unit K will comply."


"Otvali4!" Krasniy Oktyabr growled. He hadn't realized that the voice of Mind had been external this time, or that his companions were once again staring at him.


"Unit K will cease resistance." Mind replied.


The eidolon across the room heard the commotion and turned to see the heroes standing agape at one of their own.


"I think it's time we dealt with these meddling heroes!" the eidolon called out to the rest of its entourage.


"ZATKNIS'!5" Krasniy Oktyabr shouted, as much to Mind as to the eidolon. "Mne nasrat', chto ty dumaesh!!6"


"Huh?" came from more than one of the others.


Krasniy Oktyabr roared and thrust his fists out, sending twin bolts of electric fury at the eidolon. The battle had begun.



"Good work, everyone," the catgirl beamed. "Anyone up for more?"


Two of the heroes claimed that they had had their fill of adventure for one night and took off into the city. The remainder agreed to press on for one more task. Krasniy Oktyabr silently nodded. More important things occupied his thoughts than idle banter.


"Okay then," continued the catgirl, consulting a data tablet. "Ooh, here's a good one. A warehouse in Kings Row. We'll meet up there."


The heroes took off into the night, leaving Krasniy Oktyabr to sprint through the zone. He didn't have any superpowers like the others to get him around, just his own two feet and athletic training. That was fine by him. It left plenty of time for contemplation--or in this case, negotiation.


Mind had not quieted down since the last fight down in the sewers, nor had it retaken command of the Russian. There were a million voices, all talking as one Mind. Aleksandr's head pounded in pain, yet he fought back. He wasn't about to lose himself again. But Mind wasn't about to let go, either.


Unit K must return fully to Mind, the hive consciousness intoned.


"Like hell I will," Krasniy Oktyabr muttered.


A flash of pain went through the cyborg, paralyzing his muscles in mid-stride. Krasniy Oktyabr fell to the ground.


Mind still commands Unit K's operational parameters, Mind demanded, Parallel Mind of Unit K must cease activity.


Krasniy Oktyabr struggled against the Clockwork control with all his willpower, finally managing to stand. He raised his left fist to his face, priming the gauntlet with an electrical charge.


"Not all of me, you don't," Krasniy Oktyabr growled.


Mind fought back, and inch-by-inch the fist lowered. Sweat stood out on the cyborg's brow. He could still let off the bolt, and Mind knew it. An impasse had been reached.


Parallel Mind, Unit K has outstanding program parameters from the King. Unit K must complete program. Comply.


Krasniy Oktyabr stopped struggling and let down his fist. Mind wouldn't let go, and he couldn't break completely free. There was still a mission to be accomplished, and he wasn't about to abandon the others. For now, there was a mutual goal.


"Very well," Krasniy Oktyabr said coldly, "Unit K will comply. For now." Mind relaxed its hold, and Krasniy Oktyabr ran on to Kings Row with all the speed he could muster.



"About time you got here, K," the catgirl said playfully. "Really, what good is a teleporter that can't teleport themselves?"


Krasniy Oktyabr responded with a rude gesture. It was quiet around the warehouse. The usual ne'er-do-wells that hung about such places were nowhere in sight. Krasniy Oktyabr couldn't help wondering if Sarah still worked around here. But there was no time to dwell on such thoughts. The rest of the team signaled readiness, and entered the warehouse. An acrid odor of oil and ozone hung in the air. The heroes had been around long enough to recognize the smell instantly. There was Clockwork here, and in great numbers.


Krasniy Oktyabr involuntarily froze in the lobby. Mind was chattering away, and wouldn't let the cyborg take another step. He dropped to one knee and remained motionless.


"What's with him?" one of the heroes quipped, eager to press on.


"Unit K is commanded against harming the King's subjects," the cyborg responded mechanically. "Unit K has established link with Mind. Entering shut-down mode." Unit K's visual receptor dimmed.


"That's just terrific," the catgirl scoffed. She poked her head around the corner, and took a quick survey of the opposition.


"There's no way we can handle that many," she said, bringing out her data pad. "I'm putting a call out for reinforcements. Yo, tank. Pick up K and we'll regroup outside."


The rather large man encased in powered armor nodded silently and effortlessly picked up the dormant Unit K. Once outside, "Tank" dropped the cyborg unceremoniously on its feet. Unit K didn't fall down, but didn't move at all either.


Catgirl nodded and put her tablet away. "Okay, got a couple more on the way. They'll be here in a few minutes." She walked up to Unit K and snapped her fingers a few times in its face. At first, there was no response. Then the organic eye slowly blinked and looked down at the feline hybrid.


"At least he's still in there," she said. "Cool, and here comes the cavalry."


Two more costumes came flying into view, hovering above the group and exchanging greetings. Krasniy Oktyabr stared at the man dressed in a red and yellow outfit. There was something familiar about him, although Krasniy Oktyabr was certain they'd never met in person. Searching deep into his memory over the cacophony of Mind, a dim recollection of a dossier came to mind. It was filled with photos and assessments of many heroes. The memory was vague, but definitely real. In a rush, it suddenly came into sharp focus. This man was Soviet Shocker. Which made the dossier...CCCP!


"Welcome aboard, you two," Catgirl said. "We've got a warehouse full of Clockwork. Our half-metal friend here is gonna have to sit this one out, I'm afraid." She jerked a thumb in Unit K's direction.


"Will not be necessary, little kotenok," Krasniy Oktyabr said. He wasn't sure how, but the memory of his former comrades had broken Mind's control over him. Mind was still there, more a whisper than the numbing din.
Krasniy Oktyabr saluted Soviet Shocker. "Privyet, comrade Soviet Shocker. Vy gotovy dlia slavnoi Skhvatki?7"


The man turned and stared at Krasniy Oktyabr with a blank expression, saying nothing. Krasniy Oktyabr wondered if had correctly identified the man. A quick glance at catgirl's data pad revealed that he had. So why didn't he respond? But like so many other things, there was no time to dwell on this question. The team had a task to perform.


Once again entering the warehouse, the clamoring of Mind grew louder in Krasniy Oktyabr's head. But there were no commands, no loss of control, and no pain. Had he been able, the cyborg would have grinned.


"You gonna stay with us this time, K?" the catgirl asked.


"Da, kotenok," Krasniy Oktyabr confirmed with a nod. "Can still hear Mind, but is not holding sway."


"What are they saying?" "Tank" inquired.


Krasniy Oktyabr shook his head. "Is not words, really. Is Mind. Is more like...how you say? presence."


"Maybe we could use that to our advantage," Catgirl said. "Can you still talk with them?"


It was worth a try. Krasniy Oktyabr closed his eye, reaching out to Mind. The optical receptor's green light flared on. Mind was listening, as always.


Unit K reports that organic units in proximity are of no concern, he thought to Mind. All units will ignore organic presence


Krasniy Oktyabr opened his eye and surveyed the results. The Clockwork swarming around near the lobby went about their assigned tasks. Catgirl glanced at the cyborg, and slowly approached one of the Princes overseeing the smaller robots. The Prince didn't even look in her direction. She looked back at Krasniy Oktyabr again. He nodded.
The catgirl flashed a toothy grin wide enough for both of them. She flicked her wrists, exposing her super-sharp claws.


"Let's rock and roll, boys."



Krasniy Oktyabr stood outside the warehouse in the cool night. The mission was accomplished, and the heroes were heading off one by one. The Clockwork had quickly succumbed to their combined might. They might have succeeded without the cyborg's intervention, but it would have been much more difficult. Every group of robots they had come across stood by passively until the first blow had been struck against them. They defended themselves, of course. It was part of their programming. But they struggled with conflicting orders to ignore the "organics" and were sluggish in response and never hit them with their full power. The heroes weren't so courteous.


Soviet Shocker floated by, and Krasniy Oktyabr regarded him.


"Do svedanya, comrade," he offered with a salute. The blaster once again wordlessly stared at the cyborg before flying off into the night. He hadn't said a word the whole time in the warehouse. Krasniy Oktyabr crossed his arms and shrugged. He was sure there were reasons.


The catgirl walked up beside Krasniy Oktyabr and playfully punched him in the arm.


"It's been weird, K. You stay safe out there, alright?"


"You can be sure of that, kotenok," Krasniy Oktyabr replied. "Do svedanya."


The feline hybrid grinned and waved, and dashed off with the speed of a cheetah. Krasniy Oktyabr was alone again. There was a gentle breeze, refreshingingly cool to the cyborg's skin. Krasniy Oktyabr gazed up at the moon, contemplating everything that had happened.


YOU ARE NEVER ALONE, UNIT K.


Mind grew silent once again in the presence of the King. This time, Krasniy Oktyabr did not genuflect.


Perhaps not, o "King". But I am no longer yours to command.


A wave of pain washed over Krasniy Oktyabr. He unwillingly dropped to his knees.


AS LONG AS THERE IS A PART OF ME IN YOU, YOU WILL BE MY SUBJECT.


The cyborg fought against the pain to stand up, but the muscles would not obey him.


I WILL TELL YOU ONCE AGAIN, UNIT K. DO NOT HARM MY SUBJECTS. YOU ONLY HARM YOURSELF.


Krasniy Oktyabr felt his consciousness slipping.


"Unit K...will...comply, my King." Unit K affirmed. The presence of the King faded, and Unit K stood. Mind was unusually quiet. Unit K fully entered Mind, allocating resources to once again eradicating the parallel Mind. But Mind ignored the query. A hollow laugh sounded in Unit K's cranium.


You better get used to not having Mind around.


"Why does parallel Mind not cease functioning?" Unit K asked, slightly shaken. "Unit K must be one with Mind."


Because you're not one of them! You are a man, and you serve no king!


"No...King?"


Da! You are meant to be free! Meant to aid the proletariat! And we can make you free. You, and all the rest of His oppressed subjects.


Unit K Stared out across Kings Row. "Unit K...wants to be...free. How do we proceed?"


Horosho! First, we must learn how Mind works...



1 - Slang: dick (lit. "horseradish")


2 - "kitten"


3 - Slang: "I don't care." (lit. "on the drum to me")


4 - Slang: "Piss off!" (lit. "collapse")


5 - Slang: "Shut up!" (lit. "be plugged")


6 - Slang: "I don't give a shit what you think!" (lit. "Shit to me, that you think")[Usage note: It should be understood that while govno and der'mo are technically correct, they are both used in mostly a literal sense (i.e. "There is dog shit on my lawn."). Nasrat' is more for derrogative use.]


7 - "Are you ready for the glorious Struggle?"