Perchance to Dream

From the Story Arc: Creature Comforts

Next Story in the Arc: Skin Deep by Nova Requiem (Saturday, January 21, 2006)

(posted Saturday, January 21, 2006)

There was no denying it. Nova Requiem was lost.

She wasn't even sure how it had happened. One moment, she had been standing with her comrades Albtraum, Bejouled and Soviet Shocker. The last of the Crey troops had been dispatched from this hidden lab, and congratulations were being passed around. They had all agreed that there was no point in lingering any longer and headed back towards the surface.

Nova must have taken a wrong turn. No matter how much she called out on the comm, her comrades weren't answering. She looked up and down the twisting corridors, trying to remember the way from which she had come. But the hallways were completely identical.

The young mutant sighed. She hated to do it, but she would have to trust in random luck. 'Left is Right', as many of her comrades would say, and she took off down the corridor in a burst of speed. In no time at all, an elevator presented itself. Without a second thought, Nova pressed the call button. The doors opened instantly, the car was waiting.

Nova stepped inside and the door closed silently. There wasn't even any sense of movement to tell if the elevator car had even budged. The doors opened up into a 'lobby' that was for all intents and purposes identical to the one she had just left. The corridor ahead branched off in a different direction, much to Nova's relief.

The girl struck out again into the labyrinthal facility. None of this section was looking familiar. Beginning to worry, Nova slowed her pace. And then, she noticed the chill pervading the entire floor. The temperature had dropped several degrees from the previous floor. Every instinct was tell Nova she had gone down instead of up.

She began retracing her steps, but realized she'd been paying attention to finding another lift rather than the path she was taking. She was even more lost than before.

Nova stopped to collect herself, and felt on odd sensation. A deep thrumming was coming from nearby, almost at a sub-sonic level. Being rather sensitive to sonics, it seemed to call out to the young mutant, piquing her curiosity and the same time radiating... comfort? Safety? Nova couldn't quite pin the feeling down.

Nova slowly walked closer to what she felt to be the source of the sound. The air was growing colder still, and the girl was thankful that her CCCP combat uniform had a degree of insulation to it--practical and fashionable. Turning a corner, her eyes widened. Of all the strange and awe-inspiring sights she has seen since coming to Paragon City, this took the prize.

Mist swirled around the floor, chilling Nova's feet through her boots. Over a dozen enormous glass tubes hung from the ceiling filled with some kind of liquid and containing a darker shape within. Nova crept forward, eyes widening in shock. There were humans inside the tubes!

Part of Nova wanted to flee in terror. Everyone had warned the young mutant about the evil that was Crey Industries, and this could not be anything good. But there was the part of her that struggled to be hero, a champion for the People like her comrades.

Rescue them, that quiet voice said. e brave, Tasha. Your comrades believe in you. Believe in yourself. ou can do it.

Nova Requiem swallowed nervously and looked around the room. A nearby catwalk led right up to the tubes. Trembling nervously, she gripped the handrail and made her way up the ramp. The young mutant stopped in front of the first tube and leaned over for a closer look. The figure suspended inside was that of a girl, no older than herself. Through the murky liquid, Nova could see a respirator mask over the girl's face, as well as other tubes whose function she didn't want to think about, let alone guess.

There was no question. She had to get the girl out. The only question was how. She looked closely at the chamber, but other than the steel braces holding the tube in place, it was smooth glass. There was no way to get inside. Nova sighed, and the answer came to her. Taking a deep breath, the young mutant let out a scream of concentrated sonic force at the bottom of the tube. The glass cracked, and the pressure of the suspension fluid quickly did the rest. The liquid burst from the chamber, quickly draining all over the floor below. The girl inside slumped to the bottom.

The hole Nova made wasn't big enough to get inside. She aimed higher and loosed another sonic bullet. The glass spider-webbed, but held. Nova made a fist with both hands, reared back and took a mighty swing. Her metal gloves finished the job, shards of glass falling away.

Nova climbed onto the railing and leaned into the tube.

"Hang on, devushka," grunted Nova, straining to get the girl upright, "Am not going to leave you."

Nova got the girl into a sitting position and removed the respirator mask. She brushed back the damp hair clinging to the girl's face, and let out a yelp.

It was her face. A perfect copy of Nataliya Novakovski. No, not perfect. This girl had the look of a burn victim; blood veins covered her face, not quite covered by the pale skin.

Nova fought for breath. What was the meaning behind this? Why was there an almost perfect copy of her in an underground laboratory run by Crey? The answers weren't going to be found here. Once she got this girl out, then Nova would start seeking help.

As Nova hung there collecting her wits, the girl's eyes snapped open. Nova started to gasp again, but the girl shot out a hand and clenched down tightly on Nova's throat. Nova's eyes bugged out, fighting for breath, barely registering the fact that for whatever reason, her mutant gift was having no effect on the girl. And her touch was cold, colder that the room itself. Nova felt as if the very life was being sucked out of her.

The girl stood up, still clutching Nova's throat in a death grip. Nova's feet slipped off the railing and she hung in mid-air, struggling against the grip and unable to take her eyes off of the girl who was ending her life.

This almost-Nataliya stared back intensely, hatred burning in her perfectly mirrored hazel eyes. The girl's lips curled up in a feral snarl. She took a deep breath and screamed with all her might. The sonic energy that issued forth was unfocused, but had just as much force as any scream that Nova could summon. The sonic waves buffeted Nova fiercely, sending the young mutant over the edge into unconsciousness.

[hr]

Nova Requiem stumbled out of the office building that was a front for the Crey lab, clutching her throat. She looked up as best she could and struggled to catch her breath. Albtraum was nowhere to be seen, but Bejouled and Soviet Shocker had stayed behind, deep in conversation. They broke off when Nova appeared, and stared at their comrade.

"Are you feeling... well, Comrade?" asked Bejouled, grimacing at Nova. A large, dark purple bruise covered the mutant girl's throat.

Soviet Shocker frowned and added, "You look...Purple."

Nova Requiem cleared her throat as best she could and nodded "D-da, am fine," she said rather hoarsely. "Am not sure what happened..."

"Were you ambushed on the way out?" asked Bejouled, glancing at the door, "I thought we cleared all of the scientists?"

Soviet Shocker interjected, "Lost in a thought perhaps, comrade. We cleared them all."

"Nyet, nyet," answered Nova, shaking her head at Bejouled. "I took wrong elevator, ended up on a different floor. It was...cold...chambers of some kind."

Bejouled frowned and replied, "I am pleased you came out then. Crey elevators are very unreliable. Bear always takes the stairs in Crey labs."

Soviet Shocker nodded to Nova and asked, "Can you describe it in more detail, comrade?" He looked over at Bejouled, almost as if seeking some recognition for his concern.

Nova Requiem coughed a couple of times. "I looked at one, was glass filled with some liquid. There was girl inside. Curiosity got better of me."

"Did you know her?" asked Soviet Shocker.

Nova paused. Yes, she knew the girl. Or at least, what she looked like. But how could she come out and say such a thing? She had been to a few of the Rebuild Paragon Congress meetings, and was always quiet and observant. Whenever the 'C-word' was mentioned, the general consensus was always "Damn it, not another one!" It was best to only give this information to those she trusted like family.

"I...I can not say," answered Nova, deciding to omit certain details. "Had an odd look about her, like fire victim. Not much flesh, veins everywhere. I opened the chamber. Is a bit fuzzy... I do not remember after that. Her eyes snapped open, and she grabbed my throat. It was cold...more cold than the room itself. I...blacked out."

"Was she still...human?" asked Shocker quietly.

Bejouled bit her lip. "I saw such a creature running out of the building. I was going to blast her, but I figured she was a temp."

"She's OUT on the streets?!" cried Shocker. A sheepish look came over his face. "Now that you mention it, I saw her too."

Bejouled eyed Shocker and said, "Unlike my father, I try not to be biased by outward appearances."

"I could not help myself," replied Nova, "She was innocent civilian in Crey's evil experiments!"

Soviet Shocker nodded his head and said, "Remember, it is what is on the inside that truly matters. We are crusaders for all the people, no matter what they look like or seem to be."

"Perhaps we should let the Paragon Police know," offered Bejouled, "Maybe there's a missing person report."

Soviet Shocker agreed, "Great idea."

Bejouled looked at Nova Requiem's throat, noticing that the bruise had a very distinctive shape--a perfect handprint. "You should have Thanh Ha look at that," she said.

"Maybe Social Medicine or the Communard could look at your throat," suggested Shocker.

Bejouled scowled. "Not Communard. He'd inject her with drain cleaner and put a probe in her ear."

Soviet Shocker winced at the thought and said, "Yeah, bad suggestion. Regardless, this is interesting. We must investigate further."

Bejouled nodded and said, "I would indeed file a report with Commissar Saviour. We would hate to have a situation."

Nova Requiem rubbed her throat and tried to swallow a few times. Right now, she wanted nothing more that to go home and forget that that this whole mess ever happened. "I will have this looked at," she said, putting on a tough front. "Comrades, let me know if you find anything."

"Bear and I shall keep our eyes open," said Bejouled with a warm smile, "And Comrade Shocker is... dependable... and very sturdy. He shall look to." Bejouled looked quickly at Shocker, a slight blush creeping onto her face.

Soviet Shocker crossed his arms and puffed out his chest. "I'm more than a dependable and sturdy comrade, you just haven't looked hard enough," he said with a laugh. He regarded Nova once more and said, "Please keep us informed on any new intel, and I will look for clues on my patrols."

Nova Requiem drew herself into a sloppy salute, but it was the best she could manage. "Do svedanya, comrades. I will seek medical aid."

Her two comrades said their goodbyes, and Nova leapt off across Brickstown. Yes, she was going to seek medical assistance, as well as get some sound advice and answers that would put her mind at ease. And only one person could do all of that.

It was time to pay a visit to Doctor Bella.