Part 5: House Call Part II: Bedside Manner

From the Story Arc: The Hunt For Krasniy Oktyabr

Previous Story in the Arc: Part 5: House Call by Nova Requiem (Wednesday, December 07, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Part 6: Toy Soldiers by Krasniy Oktyabr (Wednesday, December 14, 2005)

(posted Tuesday, December 13, 2005)

Stacey Williams slumped over her drafting table with her chin in her hand. She tapped a pencil impatiently against the blank sheet of paper in front of her. It was no use. Nothing was coming to her. The fashion designer growled, drew a large X across the paper and crumpled up in frustration. She leaned back in her chair with an exasperated
sigh. Where was the Muse when you needed her?

There was a knock on the front door, and Stacey welcomed the distraction for once.

"Hold on!" she called out.

Stacey peered out the eyehole and gasped. Working the locks as fast as she could, Stacey flung the door open. There stood Nataliya Novakovski in a long winter coat and her ever-present duffel slung over her shoulder.

The girl smiled faintly and signed, Hello, mat'1

Stacey covered her mouth. Her foundling had come back! Forgetting herself, Stacey cried out in joy and wrapped her arms around Nataliya in a tight embrace.

"Oh, my little Tasha!" exclaimed Stacey, "I thought I'd never see you again!"

Nataliya went rigid with shock, but relaxed when she realized Stacey had inadvertently avoided making contact with any bare skin. Had it happened, Nataliya would have had to drag an unconscious Stacey back into her apartment--and that was the best-case scenario. Nataliya returned the hug.

Stacey straightened up. She sniffed and wiped her eyes.

"Well, let's not just stand out here," said Stacey, "come in, come in."

Nataliya followed Stacey back into the apartment. She dropped her duffel at the end of the couch and looked around while Stacey locked up the door. Nothing had changed, except for a slight rearrangement of the furniture. It was still the same apartment Nataliya had awoken in all those months ago. She might have moved into her own penthouse when her modeling career took off, but that was just where she lived. Stacey's apartment felt like home.

"Can I get you something warm to drink?" asked Stacey. "I've got a fresh pot of coffee."

Nataliya screwed up her face. She had consumed far too much coffee in the last few days.

No coffee, thank you, signed the young mutant. Perhaps you have tea?

Stacey grinned and replied, "Of course, honey. Make yourself at home while I boil the water."

Nataliya shrugged out of her coat and placed it on the coat rack, but left her leather gloves on. Timidly, she sat down on the overstuffed leather couch. The girl didn't want to get too comfortable. She came to Stacey with a purpose, and it had taken a while to work up the courage to come here in the first place. Decadence and bourgeoisie trappings had been her downfall once before, and Nataliya wasn't about to be sucked back in. She had a duty to perform.

Stacey came out from the kitchen area with two steaming mugs, and offered one to Nataliya. The girl took the tea and sipped, delighting at the tingling sensation as the warm liquid sparked a reaction from her mutant gift. Stacey sat down at the opposite end of the couch and turned to face Nataliya, nestling into the crook of the arm. Looking at Stacey, Nataliya realized she was being silly. It wasn't her caretaker's fault that she had had abandoned the ideals of socialism. Nataliya had taken that first step herself and hadn't looked back. Stacey would never try to hurt her. Nataliya leaned back and mirrored Stacey's posture.

"I'll have you know," said Stacey after a long sip of her coffee, "Poor Dmitri was absolutely livid when he found out what happened. He even went so far as to storm into the Russian consulate and demand to know where you were."

Nataliya silently giggled.

Stacey frowned and added, "Of course, the consul insisted he knew nothing and had never heard of you."

Nataliya cradled the mug in her lap and signed, This is no surprise. Is way of life for us.

Stacey shook her head and said, "Don't ever expect me--or any other American--to accept that kind of behavior, young lady."

Please do not be angry, signed Nataliya with a frown, I did not come here to fight.

Stacey sighed and replied, "I know that, hon. I'm sorry. I've barely gotten any work done since you were...taken. I'm happy to no end that you're back."

Nataliya smiled and signed, That means a lot to me.

Stacey nodded and gulped down more coffee.

"Well, dear," said the fashion designer, "You'll be happy to know that everything is still the way you left it. Your suite is waiting for you, all of your earnings untouched. Dmitri is ready to shoot any time; the poor man has had to beat back the local 'zines, clamoring for more pictures. Oh! And a representative of a national publication even made overtures to..."

Nataliya held up her hand and shook her head.

I am not here for any of that, either, signed the girl. I have an important mission that needs my attention more than any of that.

"Oh," said Stacey, blinking in shock. This certainly wasn't the same teenager that had been dragged away by the KGB. Nataliya had...changed? Matured? It was hard to tell.

But I really need your help, continued Nataliya. I don't have proper security clearance to do what I must do. So I need to ask for, beg for, some favors.

Stacey straightened up and placed her empty mug on the coffee table.

"Of course, Tasha," answered Stacey, "You know I'll help you any way I can. What do you need?"

Nataliya looked Stacey in the eye and signed, I need to get into the Zig.

Stacey blanched and asked, "You what?"

I need to visit someone inside the Ziggurat, the girl signed, someone very dangerous.

Stacey cleared her throat and stood up.

"I don't know how much help I can give you in that regard," said Stacey, "But there's a few phone numbers I can try. Make yourself at home, honey. This might take a while."

Nova Requiem was ushered through the last security checkpoint of the Zig and stood patiently while all of her paperwork was verified for a third time. She understood the need for all these precautions. The Ziggurat didn't hold the run-of-the-mill street thugs and other assorted criminals. This was where members of the villainous organizations too powerful for the politsila to handle were locked away. If Nova hadn't known better, she could have sworn that the designers of the Zig had learned a few things from the Soviet prison system.

The last page of Nova Requiem's paperwork was stamped once again and filed away. The warden nodded, signaling that everything was in order for her to proceed. It had taken surprisingly little for Stacey Williams to influence this visitation into happening. All Nataliya really had to do was sign a few magazine photos for the chief wardens--"for their kids", of course. Perverts.

Two large guards took place on either side of Nova Requiem and led her down into the belly of the Zig. The prisoners didn't have access to the hallways they took, but the precautions were understandable. The Zig had had more than its fair share of riots and escape attempts. At the end of a passage five floors down, Nova Requiem and the guards came to a massive steel door. The guard on duty at the door nodded, punched in the access code on the wall-mounted keypad and the door opened with a loud clank.

Beyond the door was a large chamber with bare steel walls, separated in the middle by a thick sheet of plexiglass. On the other side of the plexiglass was another smaller door.

One of the guards spoke into his radio, "Bring in the prisoner."

The door opened, and in shuffled a rather pathetic-looking man in an orange jumper. Nova Requiem regarded Dr. Vahzilok curiously. If it hadn't been for the heinous acts that had brought the doctor to the Zig, Nova Requiem might have felt some pity for the man. Vahzilok was much smaller outside of his hideous armor of body parts, not much bigger than Nataliya.

Vahzilok wearily lifted his head to look at his visitor. In a flash the apathy vanished, replaced with uncontrollable rage. Vahzilok roared and flung himself at the plexiglass. Nova Requiem jumped back. Vahzilok clawed at the plexiglass, smearing it with spittle and howling near-incomprehensible curses at the Soviet heroine.
The guards stepped forward, but Nova Requiem held up a hand to stop them. This was precisely the reason Nataliya had donned her outfit; The young mutant wanted Dr. Vahzilok to recognize the person responsible for his arrest, and have the added protection of her equipment in case something went wrong.

"Calm down, "Doc"," ordered one of the guards. "That's no way to behave in front of guests."

"I have nothing to say to that f***ing c***!!" screamed Vahzilok, stomping over to the door and pounding it with his fist. "Take me back to my cell!"

"But she has something to say to you," answered Nova Requiem, "Now where is bedside manner what doctors are to have?"

Vahzilok returned to the partition and growled, "You all think you're so damned funny with your medical jokes! Everyone thinks I'm just one big joke! Well, F*** them! F*** all of you!"

Nova Requiem crossed her arms, unphased. "You know what your crimes are, Vahzilok."

Vahzilok furrowed his brow and bugged out his eyes.

"My crime?" hissed Vahzilok through gritted teeth. "My CRIME?? I make the greatest advances of the century in medical science, unlocking secrets of immortality, and you call it a CRIME?"

Vahzilok began pacing the chamber, laughing manically and ranting, "Oh, blind everyone is. All the other men of science are cowards, cowards! They lack the courage, the vision, to delve into medical mysteries the way I have! The answer to life itself lies within their grasp, yet only I dared reach for it...And when I have brought them all back from death, they will know... they will know that I..."

"Enough with monologue," yawned Nova Requiem, "I am not here for mad rambling."

Vahzilok threw himself against the plexiglass again. "I don't care what you're here for, little girl!" screamed the Doctor. "GO TO HELL!!"

Nova Requiem sighed. There would be no reasoning with this man, so she just proceeded to ask, "Why did you get in contact with Clockwork King?"

Vahzilok cackled maniacally and replied, "Another great fool! Oh, I could give him a new body. I've offered many times to give him a new body, and countless more so he could truly live forever! But noooo, he cares more about his precious little machines than any "crude organic matter". Bah!"

"You have communicated with him recently, then?" inquired Nova.

"He came to me!" barked the mad Doctor. "Not personally. Oh no, the big coward had to send his little toy soldiers to do it for them."

"Why?" asked Nova.

Vahzilok chortled and said, "The big clunking idiot demanded that I "educate" him on powered prosthetics and man-machine interfacing."

Nova Requiem paled, glad that her helmet hid her shock from Vahzilok. This was a piece of the puzzle she hadn't wanted to think about.

"F-for what purpose?" stammered the young mutant.

"Why the hell should I care?" shouted Vahzilok. "I don't deal with crude machines! I work with pure flesh and blood! Let others dick around with mechanical gadgets that merely mimic what Nature has perfected!"

Nataliya asked, "What others?"

Vahzilok scoffed. "There are no end to the fools who would mutilate a perfectly good body with electronics. I gave that oversized Erector Set the names of a few of my "colleagues" in that field that had particularly mocked me. I have no interest in the Clockwork King's little pet projects."

Nova Requiem began shaking with rage. "That..."pet project" my DRACHEVO2!"

Vahzilok burst into a fit of giggles. Just as quickly he sobered and said with mock sincerity, "My condolences, devushka. If you ever find his body, I would so love to study it. I could even bring him back from death. Would you like that, little girl?"

It took all of Nova Requiem's willpower to not reach out and siphon every last erg of energy from the twisted monster of a man.

"Interview. Is. Over." said Nova as calmly as she could manage.

She turned and left the room, the guards right behind. Vahzilok's insane laughter followed until the door slammed shut. Nova Requiem stopped and raised her clenched fists to her head. Throwing her head back, the young mutant screamed at the top of her lungs. Three innocent fluorescent light fixtures were caught in the sonic blast and exploded. The guards ducked and covered their heads as the shower of glass and plastic came down around them. Nova Requiem stood there panting and trying to collect herself. Taking a deep breath, she surveyed the damage she had caused.

"Send me bill," said the young mutant, marching towards the elevator.

1 - lit. "mother"; often used in ironical fashion (e.g. "Whatever you say, mother)

2 - lit. "bastard"