Part 5: House Call

From the Story Arc: The Hunt For Krasniy Oktyabr

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

Next Story in the Arc: Part 5: House Call Part II: Bedside Manner by Nova Requiem (Tuesday, December 13, 2005)

(posted Wednesday, December 07, 2005)

"Privyet. You are Caitlin Murray, da?"


Caitlin Murray looked up from her endless mounds of paperwork at the girl who had entered the D.A.T.A. office. Another fledgling hero, she thought, glancing at the clock on her desk. At 2:30 in the morning. Technically, D.A.T.A.'s doors were open twenty-four hours. Things usually quieted down at night, save for the occasional creepy "creatures of the night" that decided to be heroes for whatever reason, and gave Caitlin an opportunity to try to catch up with her work. The D.A.T.A. representative put on her best smile, grabbed her PDA and stood up.


"Yes, that's me," Caitlin said, walking over to the girl. "And what do you go by?"


"Shto? Oh, am Nova Requiem."


Caitlin tapped in the name a frowned. "Oh, I'm sorry dear. It looks like you're already registered as a mutant at G.I.F.T.'s Galaxy City branch..." Caitlin stared at the PDA, perplexed. "...Twice? Must be a clerical error. Anyway, there's nothing I can do for--"


The D.A.T.A. representative broke off, finally realizing that Nova Requiem held something under her arm; the head of a Clockwork Prince stared back gruesomely with lifeless eyes. Caitlin jumped back with a yelp. She'd seen plenty of Clockwork parts come through to the lab; she was just startled to see one carried in in such a manner.

The girl placed the head on the desk. "Am not here for myself, comrade Murray," Nova Requiem explained. "Am in need of your help, in search of another hero registered here."


The young mutant removed a well-creased photograph from under her belt and held it out. Caitlin studied it for a moment.


"Yes, I remember him," she confirmed. "Russian fellow, with some marvelous electric gauntlets. Went by, hold on..."


"Krasniy Oktyabr," Nova Requiem interjected, "My uncle. Went missing months ago with no trace. I have been sent back to Paragon City to locate him. And few days ago, he spoke to me through this." She placed a gloved hand on the Clockwork head.


"He what?" Caitlin asked, nonplussed.


"Is true," the young mutant replied. "He spoke my name through this robot. So I decided to talk to you first. Will you help?"


Caitlin furrowed her brow and asked, "How did you know to come to me?"


"Oh, was simple," Nova Requiem replied. "Uncle Sasha's Ministry of Paranormal Services file had cross-reference to yours, as first contact in city."


The D.A.T.A. representative blanched. "Moscow has a file on me?"


Nova Requiem waved her hand dismissively. "Is no big deal. Half of Paragon City has file. Now, will you help or not?"


Caitlin shook her head. "Look kid, there's nothing I can do. I haven't heard anything more about your uncle than anyone else has. Last time I spoke to him, he came in here to ask for some equipment and left quickly."


Nova tilted her head. "What kind of equipment?"


"Nothing really unusual," Caitlin answered with a shrug. "A mini-computer, VR helmet, some coupling cables..." The D.A.T.A. representative drifted off, staring at the Clockwork head. She looked back at the young mutant with a pensive expression. "You don't suppose..."


Nova Requiem threw up her hands. "I suppose nothing! Is why I come here!" She crossed her arms and stared at the Clockwork head. Then, Caitlin's line of thought became clear. "Uncle Sasha tried to...connect to these mashiny?" she asked in disbelief. "Why would he do such a thing?"


Caitlin held up the palms of her hands. "I don't know. But it's the only explanation that I can think of. He's had a fascination with them ever since I gave him his first assignment. He would wax philosophical about ideology and..."


"What does socialism have to do with Clockwork?" Nova interrupted.


"Not much, as far as I can see," Caitlin replied. "They're a collective--a hive mind, and they're tireless workers."


The Soviet girl nodded. It all fit into place for her. "And they are oppressed by king, da?"


Caitlin blinked. "I suppose you could say that."


Nova Requiem nodded again and explained, "The code name Uncle Sasha chose, Krasniy Oktyabr, is Russian. Means 'Red October'--what Amerikanskii call Great October Socialist Revolution of 1927, the overthrow of Russian Provisional Government after abdication of czar ten years before. Don't you see? Uncle Sasha wanted to lead a Clockwork Revolution and depose their King!"


Caitlin Murray's lips trembled, fighting hard not to burst out laughing. "You can't be serious," she said with a chuckle in her voice.


The young mutant crossed her arms. Even though her helmet obscured her face, Nova Requiem's posture was more than enough to convey her sincerity.


Caitlin cleared her throat. "Well, then. I can only think of two things I can do for you. First, I can lend you the same equipment Krasniy Oktyabr used, and you can try to duplicate his experiment with a secure network. Your base does has a computer network, right?"


"Are you psih?" Nova cried. While she had all the faith in the world about Bella's hard work in getting the CCCP's system functional by somewhat-modern standards, she wasn't about to compromise her comrades' facility with such an asinine stunt. "Is not worth risk!"


"Well we're not about to attempt it here, young lady!" Caitlin snapped back.


Nova Requiem sighed and rubbed the back of her neck. "Fine. What is second option?"


"We do it the old-fashioned way," Caitlin answered. "We gather up a list of people that Krasniy Oktyabr had contact with and hit the streets, see if anything turns up."


Nova Requiem nodded. "Da, MPO already has such list. I will get copy and "hit streets"."


Caitlin Murray scowled. "Then there's no more I can do for you, kid. I have other heroes that need my time."


Nova Requiem picked up the Clockwork head and tucked it under her left arm. With a crisp salute, the young mutant dashed of the D.A.T.A. offices. Caitlin sat down behind her desk and cradled her head in her hands.


Russians...



Nataliya crossed yet another name off the dwindling list of her uncle's contacts. She had been doing this for days now, and her resolve was flagging. The young mutant leaned back in her chair and began massaging the kinks out of her neck. Nataliya was grateful for all the help her renewed comradeship with the CCCP had given, even if all it
had amounted to so far was the use of their computers and late-night sessions hunched over the least-buried desk in the headquarters--not to mention that the Young Champions brewed one mean kofeii.


Nataliya gazed out a grimy window into Paragon City's heart of production. Somewhere out there was Aleksandr Stanislav, as well as the pieces to an old life of a young teenager. Nataliya closed her eyes and a fragment of conversation with comrade Bella came vividly to mind.


"...and you can bunk at the CCCP headquarters, if you don't have a place to stay. The Young Champions also run a coffee shop, and..."

"I...am not knowing what I have. There is Amerikanskii friend I must talk to."


That friend, of course, being Stacey Williams: the fashion designer who nursed a self-abused and injured mutant Russian girl back to health. She had also unintentionally swayed Nataliya into a pampered bourgeoisie life, abandoning the ideology she had faithfully held to heart for crass materialism--just as the girl felt abandoned by it, and all of Mother Russia.


Nataliya was not ready for that visit yet. There was a more important duty to perform first.


Nataliya turned back to the desk and picked up the list again. The next name was Olivia Chung--yet another contact the two Volgogradian relatives had in common. Nataliya scowled. This one wasn't going to be a remote communication. She had certain words for that woman. Grabbing her equipment, Nataliya marched out of CCCP
headquarters and leapt off into the night.



Nova Requiem rebounded from an office complex and made a graceful landing behind Olivia Chung. With the well-practiced application of sonic resonance, the girl hit the ground with no more noise than from jumping off of a fence. In the silence of the night, it was still enough to get the Chinese woman's attention. Olivia Chung spun around with a gasp.


"Dobre vecher, comrade Chung," Nova Requiem said coolly.


"Oh, hello Nova Requiem," Olivia replied, "Gave me a bit of a fright, there."


The young mutant cocked her head. "Da, one must be mindful of what bumps in night."


Olivia Chung thought her way through the broken syntax, and her eyes widened. "Oh, the mission! I take it you were successful?"


Nova Requiem raised her visor so that Chung could see the rage in her eyes, and crossed her arms.


"You knew about disease," the young mutant accused, "You knew I would catch it."


Olivia paled. "The Wasting Disease? There was a risk of it, yes, but..."


"But if not for more caring comrades," Nova Requiem interrupted, "I may well have ribbited."


Olivia raised an eyebrow. "I think you mean 'croaked'."


"Don't change subject!"


"As I was about to say," Olivia explained, "Yes, there is always risk of contamination when dealing with biohazardous materials. And you've done this city a great service! Because of your brave efforts and sacrifice, we can analyze this latest outbreak and track it to the source."


Nova Requiem held up her hand. "Is not why I'm here, comrade Chung. Am more concerned with finding this man."


The girl presented the file photo of Krasniy Oktyabr. Olivia took it and studied it for a moment.


"Hmm, looks familiar. Haven't seen him for some time now. Do you have any other information?"


Nova Requiem nodded. "Have reason to believe Clockwork are involved."


The Chinese woman shook her head. "Then I've got nothing to contribute. You know my area of study is Dr. Vahzilok's "work". Still... wait, how long ago did he disappear?"


"Has been several months," Nova Requiem answered with a shrug, "Don't know definite date."


Olivia stroked her chin. "I might have something for you after all. About six months ago, one of my sources reported that he had witnessed a meeting between Dr. Vahzilok and representatives of the Clockwork King. He didn't have any details, but there was mention of "human experimentation". Are you familiar with Tom Bowden?"


"Da, I am," the young mutant replied. "He asked me to look for Clockwork communications device."


Olivia snapped her fingers. "Excellent, continue with that task. If you can find any evidence suggesting that such a meeting took place, you may just be one step closer to finding your man.


Hidden behind the helmet, Olivia Chung couldn't see the huge grin on the girl's face. With a sharp salute, Nova Requiem once more leapt away.



Standing next to one of the countless sewer maintenance access doors scattered throughout Skyway City, Nova Requiem held her CCCP communications PDA in trembling hands. Nataliya Novakovski had always loved to sing. Standing in front of an audience and lifting her voice in song was pure joy. But singing was nothing like addressing the public, especially beseeching aid from complete strangers. For the first time, Nova Requiem doubted she could find her voice. But she had to. Taking several deep breaths, the girl summoned her fleeting courage and opened a channel to the Rebuild Paragon Congress.


"Comrades! I have lead on uncle Sasha!"


Stupid, stupid, she thought, These people have no idea who I'm talking about.


"Sources of Olivia Chung tell of meeting between Dr. Vahzilok and Clockwork King about "human experiment" few months ago," she continued. "I followed trail, and such communication is true! The evil doctor is hiding in Skyway City, and must be apprehended for questions! Is not for personal gain. Is for good of city that I ask this, and to find Krasniy Oktyabr. Comrades, come join me!"


Nova Requiem released the SEND button. Other than a slight hiss of static, there was no answer. She realized she had been holding her breath, and let it out in a sharp laugh.


There is no one coming, dura. No one cares about one man or a silly girl looking for him.


Nova Requiem hopped on top of a nearby dumpster, swinging her legs with a hung head. She couldn't, wouldn't, give up. But what was there to do? The girl was drawing a blank.


So absorbed Nova Requiem barely registered a figure in black swooping down from the sky and landing in front of her. Superheroes were always dashing by, hell-bent on completing their missions for their own greater glory. What was one more?


"And good evenin', comrade 'Nova'," came a gruff yet friendly voice. "I don't believe we've met. Now, what's this task? Somethin' 'bout an uncle of yours?"


Nova Requiem jerked her head up. Comrade Nova? She stared at the man, eye alight with an alien flame she had seen once before in another, and recognized him from the dossier she'd briefly flipped through.


Blaze Phoenyx had answered her call.


The young mutant jumped down from the dumpster and pulled herself into a nervous salute. "Th-thank you for answering, comrade."


"Name's John, John Murdock," Blaze Phoenyx responded with a wave, "Lieutenant with the CCCP. So, what's goin' on here?"


Nova Requiem pointed to the access hatchway. "Doctor Vahzilok is hiding is sewers here. I need to...question him."


Another voice came in, wonderfully harmonious and soothing. "Hello beloved, what is going on at the moment?" Seraphic Flame asked.


Blaze replied, "Our comrade here, Nova, seems to be in a spot of trouble."


"Oh! Hello Nova!" Sera said. The girl felt as if someone was smiling compassionately at her, and failed to remember that she had turned off her comms unit.


"Comrades! I have lead on uncle Sasha, Krasniy Oktyabr!" Nova said happily.


"Truly?" Sera asked. "That is excellent news!"


Grinning her fool head off, Nova Requiem repeated her announcement on the Rebuild Paragon Congress frequency, with added emphasis on her "good of the city" line.


Seraphic Flame replied, "But my dear, all connections between people are for the good of all of us."


Nova Requiem nodded, "Comrade Bella has spoken well of you."


The feeling of happiness returned. Sera said, "Comrade Bella is my dear and oldest friend in the city."


The angelic voice faded away, but the warmth it brought lingered. Somehow, the young mutant knew more help was on the way.


The comms unit crackled into life. "Understand there's a little problem that needs a lockdown, Comrade Blaze?"


Blaze Phoenyx thumbed his comms. "Yep. And it's John, Vickie. Dontcha 'member?"


"Heya, Johnny!" Victoria Victrix corrected herself. "Just being formal. Open comm and all."


Blaze laughed. "Heya, kiddo. No worries. I'd be surprised if there was a criminal out there that don't know 'bout me, the way all of us go gallavantin' 'round. At the mission site 'n waitin' for ya."


Blaze thumbed off his wrist comm and activated the PDA function. After a moment of study, the lieutenant regarded Nova.


"Showin' you as one of our members for a bit, though I don't think I've ever seen ya 'round."


Nova Requiem looked at the ground sheepishly. "Is long story."


Blaze Phoenyx nodded. "Most of 'em are. We've got a spot of time, if you wanna explain it. I believe Vic's on the way; she's even slower than I am."


The young mutant folded her hand behind her back, and gave a very abbreviated history.


"I was sent here to locate my uncle Aleksandr, code-name 'Krasniy Oktyabr', member of CCCP that disappeared. Of course, MPO did not bother telling me this. After time, was sent back to Moscow for debriefing and "reeducation".
Now am back to continue the hunt for uncle Sasha."


Blaze Phoenyx took all this in. "Huh. Any information relatin' to his disappearance?"


"Only just recently." Nova answered, once again summing up all she knew. "Sources of Olivia Chung tell of meeting between Dr. Vahzilok and Clockwork King about "human experiment" few months ago. I followed trail, and such communication is true."


"I heard that over the comms," Blaze said. "How's that relate to yer uncle again?"


Nova Requiem's shoulders drooped. "Ah, is another long story. The short of it, uncle Sasha recently spoke to me...through a Clockwork Prince."


Blaze Phoenyx arched his brow. "Through?"


The girl nodded, "Da. Was his voice. I'd recognize it anywhere."


Blaze snorted. "Well, I'll be the first to admit I've seen some weird crap in this town. But that's a first."


Nova Requiem nodded emphatically. Most of what Paragon City threw at her was "a first". "Caitlin Murray at Atlas Park D.A.T.A. confirms he was working on some project involving Clockwork. Nothing else is known, and is all I have after weeks of searching."


"Sounds like a start, anyway," another voice chimed in.


Victoria Victrix descended into the concrete canyon and touched down lightly next to the Kheldian. Nova Requiem remembered Bella mentioning this comrade in passing, and saluted her arrival.


Victrix grinned. "Relax, Nova, us Americans are pretty informal."


To emphasize her claim, Blaze Phoenyx playfully put his arm around Vickie's head and rubbed his fist in her hair. "Welcome, kiddo," he said.


Nova Requiem couldn't help but laugh. "Am well aware of that," she said.


Returning to a more serious tone, Blaze said, "Well, if it's got both the Clockwork King and ol' Vahz in on it, it can't be good." Turning to Victoria, he added, "And now that our final party member is here..."


Victoria Victrix grinned again. "Let's see what we can do to make the Doc's day very, very bad." She turned to Blaze and poked his chest. "Keep that up and I'll bite your kneecap off," she growled with mock sternness.


"Quakin' in my cape, Vic," Blaze replied with a smile. Tying his scarf up around his face, he regarded the two women. "Ready, folks?"


Victoria Victrix cracked her knuckles. "Oh, hell yes!"


Nova Requiem couldn't agree more.



Nova Requiem switched on the flashlight she had had the foresight to bring along.


"Is dark in here," she said mostly to herself, panning the beam around the entry chamber.


But her companions had already sped down the sloping tunnel. She turned off the flashlight and leapt after them. They were waiting at the bottom intersection, the tunnel ahead swarming with lumbering zhmurik. The stinking abominations were no match for the veteran heroes, and Nova Requiem had no problem with merely aiding the only way she could think to: The strength of the enemy became their strength, their ability to heal their injuries instead mended the scratches the heroes received. To use her oft-cursed mutant gift in aid of comrades was one of the few times she was not ashamed of it.


Beyond the horde, the tunnel continued deeper under the city. And in a forest of pipes and walkways, an eidolon lay in wait.


"Doctor Vahzilok expected Nova Requiem would try to stop him!" The Leech called out to the heroes.


Nova Requiem drew back her fist, siphoning the potential momentum fron the creature. "And he was right!" she screamed back, unleashing with it the sonic force that was the byproduct of her energy-stealing power.


The Leech and his minions fell quickly, the human servants of Vahzilok knocked cold and the gruesome animated corpses sent to their final rest.


Nova Requiem swung her fist at the last fleeing Reaper, sending him sprawling into the flowing muck, and heard Victoria calling her name somewhere above her. "Damn, Nova. There's a body over here."


Jumping up to the catwalk, the girl saw her comrade standing over a body bag. Nova knelt down and brought out her flashlight. She unzipped the bag just far enough to expose the head, and fought every urge to throw up in her helmet. The unfortunate man inside had succumbed to the Wasting Disease. Nova resealed the bag and removed one of the spare Emergency Medical Transportation discs that Olivia Chung insisted she bring from her belt. She affixed the disc to the bag and activated it. The body vanished and Nova Requiem stood up.


Victoria placed a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Nova, that wasn't..."


Nova shook her head. "Another pour soul...nothing to be done."


Victoria nodded, "Okay." There was, in fact, nothing to be done except continue on and apprehend the Doctor.


In a flow control chamber filled to capacity with more zhmurik, Blaze Phoenyx came across another body bag.
"Damnit..." the lieutenant cursed, waving Nova over to him, "Another body over 'ere."


Nova Requiem leapt over to the body and examined it numbly.


"...Nothing," she said.


"At least it's not your uncle," Victoria Victrix commented.


Nova Requiem nodded. One more disease victim, one more EMT disc. The heroes moved on.


A few minutes later, Nova Requiem's comm unit chirped. "Do you still require aid, Nova tongzhi?"


The young mutant stopped in wonder. She looked at her companions in turn, and they both nodded. They apparently recognized the voice.


Nova Requiem pressed the SEND button and replied, "Any aid is most welcome, comrade."


They waited there in the tunnel, Blaze and Victoria grinning at each other and passing idle banter back and forth.
"You know, they say after a while you get used to the smell down here," Victoria commented.


"Helmet blocks most of stench," Nova Requiem threw in, trying her best to keep her breathing shallow. "...Most."


"One nice thing about becoming an avatar for the Celestial Dragon...I can negate my sense of smell," said a voice behind Nova.


The trio looked up to see People's Blade before them, and they couldn't help but stare in wonder. The Commissar floated serenely, looking for all the word like space itself; Pitch-black, radiantly sparkling with countless points of light.


"Holy--" Victoria Victrix muttered.


People's Blade smiled. "Dui, in a sense."


Victoria Victrix blinked, speechless. "Um..."


"I am still Fei Li," People's Blade responded.


"Do I bow, or kneel or something?" Victoria asked. Nova had been wondering much the same thing, but for all her awe and respect, she couldn't get over how pretty Fei Li looked.


"I'd get up on some concrete, first," Blaze advised with a smirk. The two women looked down. Indeed, they were knee-deep in raw sewage. They climbed out hastily.


People's Blade alighted on the walkway herself. The darkness and starlight drew into itself. In a moment's time, the familiar form that was People's Blade stood before them and held up her hand. "At ease. You need do nothing."


Victoria Victrix bowed with a flourish anyway. "My respectful greetings to the Celestial Dragon, and to both Generals."


Nova Requiem drew herself into full salute, in proper deference to her superior.


Irreverent as always, Blaze Phoenyx asked, "Ready to kick some zombie ass, Commissar?"


People's Blade grinned. "Oh yes! Let us proceed!"


In no time at all, the team made their way deeper still into the sewer tunnels, and came upon their final destination. What once might have been a control room had been gutted. The platform that had held the control banks for this section had been replaced by Doctor Vahzilok's personal inventions--twisted machines used for his gruesome medical methods of reanimation. Surrounded by his followers and creations, the doctor ranted on about his "great works", being misunderstood, and how the fools that doubted him would one day pay. The heroes had heard it all before.


People's blade drew her weapon and pointed to the villain. "There is your foe, Nova," she said in a commanding voice, "Confront him."


Nova Requiem hopped up on the railing and raised her voice above the din. "VAHZILOK! You will answer for your crimes!"


The assembly turned to stare at the girl above them. Doctor Vahzilok howled in rage.


"Nova Requiem! I will not allow you to destroy all that I have strived to--"


His words were cut short as the earth itself rose up, encasing the doctor and his grisly armor of flesh. "Got him, Nova!" Victoria Victrix yelled.


"And we've got your back!" Blaze Phoenix added.


The young mutant leapt from the railing and landed in front of Vahzilok.


"Tell me where uncle Sasha is!" she screamed, drawing out the doctor's potential energy.


Vahzilok roared in incoherent rage. The others waded into the mass of his followers, dispatching them with swiftness and keeping their attentions away from their master. Weeks and months of frustration, anger, isolation and betrayal came screaming out of Nova Requiem. Her throat went raw, but still she unleashed the sonic force from within, and Doctor Vahzilok could not stand up to the furious assault. Vahzilok crumpled onto the concrete, his grand works collapsing all around him.



The quartet stood over Vahzilok.


"Excellent work, Nova," Blaze Phoenyx said.


"Spasibo," the girl replied, barely above a whisper.


"Absolutely," Victoria confirmed.


Nova Requiem turned to face her comrades. "I cannot thank you enough," she said hoarsely, "Your valiant aid of a comrade is more than I could ask. But I wish to speak to him alone."


Blaze Phoenyx nodded. "No problem, comrade. Call out if y'need anythin' more." With a wave, Blaze flew off with People's Blade towards the surface.


Victoria Victrix threw the girl a quick salute. "He's all yours, comrade. And you know, I would ask you not to damage him too much but..." She looked down at the unconscious doctor. "You can't do that. He's already damaged. Good luck with him."


Nova Requiem returned the salute. "Dead men do not talk," the young mutant replied, "He will remain unharmed."


Victoria Victrix grinned and took off after the others. Nova looked back down at Doctor Vahzilok. She knew he was destined for the Ziggurat, and rightly so. It was probably best to wait until the authorities collected and restrained Doctor Vahzilok before trying to get any information from the man.


When that time came, Nova Requiem had questions for him. Many, many questions.