Ties That Bind - Part 1

From the Story Arc: Bear It Alone

Next Story in the Arc: Ties That Bind - Part 2 by Soviet Bear (Saturday, December 24, 2005)

(posted Thursday, December 22, 2005)

The Soviet Bear trudged up the stairs of the King's Row tenement he called home. It was a fairly shabby building, with a dirty exterior and hallways that smelled of cat urine and garlic, but it was close to the CCCP base and the rent was affordable for a senior superhero on a fixed income.

After climbing three sets of bowed wooden stairs, the Bear reached his door. His gnarled, arthritic fingers fumbled with the keys as he unlocked the several deadbolts he kept on his door; the Skulls he'd repeatedly arrested for loitering on his steps broke into his apartment last week and stole his toaster oven. In retaliation, he thrashed every Skull in the Row and added some extra locks to his door. Never needed the toaster oven anyhow, because all he ate was canned ravioli.

He stripped off his reinforced leather uniform top, and tossed it onto the floor. After saying a few kind words to Sparky the Socialist Fish, he grabbed a can of Dew and fell into his battered recliner.

“I'm getting too old for this nonsense,” thought the Bear, “I cannot continue to fight crime at this rate.” The Bear removed his cap and eye patch, revealing thinning silver hair and a deep chrome socket that glinted in the flickering light of the television set. After taking off his gloves, he licked his index finger and lightly polished the socket where his eye used to be, his old memento of Stalingrad.

He thought about the usual things. “Why do I continue with this charade? Am I getting too old for this? What do my comrades think of me? Am I a buffoon? Bah, I am probably a burden to the collective. Am I setting a good example for Shuma and Shen? Bah, who am I kidding, kids these days couldn't think less of an old Bear like myself, with my wheezing and my complaining. I'd mock me too if I was their age.”

The Bear began to cough, his body wracked with spasms and pain. He looked like a poorly animated stop-motion figure, twitching in one place while blood trickled out of his mouth and nose. The coughing subsided and he put his head in his gnarled hands. It had been happening more often lately, but never on patrol, thankfully. He'd hate to have to inform a Commissar that he was too infirm to continue.

Though his body had been shattered at Stalingrad, the Soviet doctors had only replaced his heart and skeleton with the plasma-channeling conduits that kept him unnaturally active after a century; they did not replace his lungs, however, and that was the weak link in the Bear's health. He hadn't slept in years, his lungs burning at night as if he were breathing ashes and peppers; instead he watched television and wished that he had never been revived after the war.

In his darkest times, he would often imagine turning his plasma blaster to his temple and letting loose, melting his face and ending his existence. The thought of the ozone and barbecue smell amused him considerably. “But who would care for Sparky,” he asked aloud to no one in particular. He wiped his face on a towel he kept near his chair and stumbled into the kitchen. As he was getting a can of ravioli out of the large wooden crate in the dining area, there was a knock on the door.
“Who is it?” the Bear inquired.

He put on a nearby shirt and placed his eye patch back over his gaping socket.

“I say, who is it? Are you deaf or just in dire need of a lesson?”

The plasma conduits in his frail frame came to life, whirring and pulsing. He crept to the door and flung it open, pointing the end of his blaster toward the middle of the frame.

There stood a girl: tight grey shirt, short skirt, glasses and her hair in a bob. She looked very much like the Jenkies character from the Skoobski Doo program that runs on the Animation Network. The hallway light above her head dimmed considerably.

“Are you Vladimir Polokhov, the Soviet Bear?” she asked in a stern but sweet voice, her arms crossed angrily over her chest.

Without lowering his weapon, the Bear tersely replied, “Yes, I am.”

“In that case,” the mysterious girl said, “you may as well lower your weapon. You can expect no harm from me.”

“Why is that?”

“Because if you are indeed the Soviet Bear, then you are my father. And my mother is Ilyana, the Odessa Electress”

The Bear felt all the blood rush from his face. He lowered his weapon and stepped aside. “Then please,” he said through gritted teeth, “come in.”

As she entered into his apartment, the hallway light once again brightened to its normal intensity. The Odessa Electress. A name he had not heard since Stalingrad, but still rang sweetly off of his good ear. As he locked his door once more, he couldn't suppress a smile. “Maybe I will live for one more day.”