And Now A Word From Our Sponsor, Pt 3

From the Story Arc: Lovers and Heroes

Previous Story in the Arc: And now a word from our sponsor (Part II) by Bestial Boy (Thursday, January 19, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: And Now A Word From Our Sponsor, Pt 4 by Belladonna Aura (Sunday, January 29, 2006)

(posted Saturday, January 28, 2006)

It was, by Bella’s way of thinking, a good night’s work. Sure, things had gotten more than a bit chaotic before it was over, and poor Zach—events, and peoples’ natures had conspired against him.

Now, as they both stood by the Portal that linked the Shadow Shard to Peregrine Island, she could tell he was depressed. Zach was not often depressed, but trying to lead the team, and having people—the Commissar!—run off and do their own thing had made him conscious, perhaps overly conscious, of a certain lack of respect for him.

A prophet is not without honor save in his own country….

It made her…angry. People had no idea what he was doing for them, there in Washington. How much he gave up. How good he was at all things political…

“Sweetie,” she whispered, “you were wonderful. Look....it takes a while before people recognize you as a leader. and the last ones to do so are your superiors.”

He sighed. “I guess....some times....its just, you kind of get tired, ya know?”

God, how she hated seeing him like this. Weary. Careworn. “Oh believe me, I know,” she said, looking into those green eyes and seeing shadows of depression. “I know only too well.”

She kissed him; he smiled at her, but she knew it really didn’t help. Damn it, why couldn’t he be happy? He deserved to be happy!

He looked off into the distance. “Waiting for something is only okay if it someday arrives...otherwise, its just waiting.”

Then his attention snapped to something just past her shoulder. “Evening commissar,” he said.

She turned. There was Red Saviour. Well…good. “Is evening here? Looks red,” the Commissar replied.

“It always looks red,” she replied.

“You do realize you'll be ranking Commissar when Nat goes off to have the baby?” she whispered.

“Don't be so sure about that....sometimes you'd think that she would demote me if she could figure a reason to do it,” he whispered back, and the bitterness in his voice made her want to hit something.

“Well.....she can try,” Bella whispered, grimly. “You have the backing of me, Flame, Johnny,. Vickie.... Probably Thanh Ha…”
His forlorn reply made her heart ache. “I don't want a revolution....just want it to get better.”

Then he turned back to Red Saviour. “Alright, heading back into Talos....this place gives me migraines after a while.”

“See you at home, babe,” she called after him as he headed through the Portal, and moved to intercept the Commissar before she could follow suit/

“Saviour.....I'd just like to suggest a little something to you for you to think about,” she said resolutely.

The Commissar eyed her. “Da? Is about shampoo?”

“It's about the commercial work that Zach and I are doing, yes,” she replied.

Red Saviour made a dismissive motion. “My hair is horosho since i have become expectant.”

She reined in her exasperation. “Look......we're turning every dime over o the CCCP.”

Saviour looked bored. “What is your point?”

“We did our best to find really responsible companies,” she pointed out forcefully. “And there are more that want us. He's already a Hero of the City, and I'm getting there, and forgive me, but we're both pretty good looking. We can do more of this....”

Saviour frowned. “I am nyet worried about that. Is principle of thing.”

“That's the point. Principle,” she replied. She was being very, very careful not to be antagonistic. This was not an argument, or at least, she wasn’t intending it to end up that way. And thank the Infinite for her telempathy…it was giving her a road-map on what body-language to use, what tone of voice.

“Advertising is core component of what is ruinink this country,” Saviour said, her chin thrust forward stubbornly.

She nodded, and yet, at the same time, disagreed. “Yes and no. People ruin themselves, Saviour. They make choices.”

Nat was on a roll. “Whether or not company is ethical, is system that is intrinsically corrupt.”

She spread her hands. “What if they have ethical role models like us? Instead of selfish, brattish, anorexic supermodels. : If they see people who act ethically and look good....” Looking good; that was so important to getting peoples’ attention. Even babies paid more attention to pretty faces.

Saviour was still on her favorite subject. “Must be rooted in ideology. Without ideological component, we are merely allowing ourselves to be exploited by capitalist system. You aren't listening. Ethics are not issue! Must be rooted in proper ideology. Otherwise we lend credence to capitalism.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Are you saying I'm ideologically unsound?” She had invoked Communard’s pet phrase. And in many ways…poor Comm was a wack-job. And everyone knew it. She saw Saviour falter a moment.

“Your actions can be called so. “I think you are trying to resolve your upbringing in capitalist country with your principles.” But there was a note of uncertainty there.

“But my motives aren't,” she pointed out, quick to take advantage of the faltering. “And motives are what counts.”

“You want to ‘work within system.’” Saviour said, raising her chin. “But system must be dismantled for motives of goodness to be fruitful.”

She chuckled. “Heh. I want to bring the system down from the inside.”

“See? That is difference we are havink,” Saviour responded with impatience. “From inside, walls are too thick. You need cannons from outside. Then from inside, destroy obstacles”

And there was the difference. Bella was a—quiet revolutionary. Even her combat style showed it; stand off and pick off targets surgically from a distance. Just as Saviour’s was to rush in and hammer everything.

Just as Saviour hit the hospital three or four times as much as Bella ever did. No point in harping on that, however. “Ever looked at Johnny's motto?” she asked instead. “The one from Thoreau that points out how futile it is to hack at the branches of a problem when you need to get at the root? I want to get at the root. The root is inside, not outside. Besides---that's not the whole point. The whole point is this---”

Red Saviour sighed. “Sometimes I wonder if it is wrong for me as outsider to tell Amerikantskii how to create own revolution you must find course yourselves, even if takes century more.”

Bella quickly caught her jaw before it hit the floor and broke.

Quickly she followed up on her advantage. “Look, Saviour---Zach and I are only 2 people in all of the CCCP----wait just a sec and hear me out okay? Did you ever hear of Mustafa Nagib?”
Saviour’s brow furrowed. “Da! He is famous...er...had popular...um...nyet. Never heard of him.”

She repressed a smile. A college friend of her parents had worked for the man back in her lean days in the late 70s, as an artist model for his sculpture school. It had been an interesting story. “Well, I'm sure you've heard of King Farouk of Egypt, and Nassir, who led the revolution against him?”

Saviour nodded. “Da.”

“Mustafa Nagib was Farouk's Royal artist,” Bella explained, “Personal handpicked artist, a sculptor, monumental sculptor. Unbelievably well paid. By day, Farouk's pet artist. By night, Nassir's revolutionary committee met in his studio, the meetings covered by the sound of chiseling marble. Nagib's money went to fund the revolution.”

The Commissar’s eyes lit. And the parallels could not have been more obvious. Horosho! But that is different because...” And there she stopped, because there was no difference, and she knew it.

Bella pressed her advantage. “So what's wrong with me and Zach being your Nagibs?”

Saviour’s brow furrowed more. “…ah.... is because...”

She got out a stick of gum. GammaBars and gum; better than vodka and smokes. Saviour was changing…. “Govno! I do nyet know! But is making me angry anyway.”

Time to back down again. “Just think about it, ok? And think please, about this--Moscow is turning as corrupt as America. You know this. You know why the CCCP is here and not there.”

Red Saviour looked at the ground. “Not all Russia hates me. Just Kremlin.”

Bella softened her tone. “With what we do, we can make the CCCP independent from the decisions of Moscow….”

And at just that moment, exactly the backing Bella needed popped through the Portal. Johnny Murdock. Nat respected him as she respected no one else. “Interupptin' anythin'?”

Red Saviour jumped and squeeked.

She grinned. “Hi Johnny.”

Johnny tilted his head to the side a little, curious at Saviour’s reaction. “Evenin' folks.”

“You startled me,” Nat said, with a sharp look at him.
“Johnny,” she said, “I think you ought to be hearing some of this too.” It would have been better from her perspective if it could have been Zach but—but Nat still didn’t respect him the way she respected Johnny. Murdock :perked up, pulling his scarf down.”

She turned to Saviour again. “Sestra--- It is my fondest mish to make you the undisputed leader of the proper socialist movement here.”

”Govno...more paperwork...” she grumbled, but she looked flattered.

Again she followed up on her advantage. “With the cash that Zach and I can generate, we can make CCCP independent of Moscow. But what is even more important? Moscow will know this. Here's another little story if you have the time for it.”

“I have point first.” Nat said. “You say you work within system to change it...but then you want to take CCCP out of Russian system. Which worker's collective am I fighting for? American or Russian?”

She shook her head. “No---you see, here is my point. And I need the story to make it, ok?”

Saviour fished in her pocket. “Then I need more gum.”

“I used to have a friend who worked with computers for Sears,” she said. “When everyone else had to work overtime, he never did. Do you know why? Because he lived at home, his car was paid for, he had no big bills. They could not afford to piss him off, because he could afford to walk out at any time. When we can afford to be independent, and Moscow knows this.....” She let the implications dawn on Nat herself.

Typically, Nat took the oddball slant. “So we should be like geek in basement? Hmmm... is weirdest argument I am ever hearing.but i see point. We will not start watching japanese miniskirt cartoons, da?”

She smothered a grin. “No japanime, no. Johnny, your take?”

John shrugged. “Well, I've never pretended to understand Russian politics, nor have I ever had any solutions of my own for our problems with the Motherland. Whatever y'all can think of, I'm down for. So long as we stay autonomous, I'm happy.”

The frown of worry started again. “Right now we are autonomous only because I fight with Moscow over every ruble….would be nice to stop with battling.”

There it was. Concession. Compromise. Thank the Infinite. “That is exactly what I hope to make possible, sestra.”

Saviour straightened. “Well, I will look at numbers and make sense of it. There is solution, I am sure. I am just werry distracted right now.” She patted her slightly rounded belly.

“Would you like me to also set you up with the numbers of what Zach and I could make? If we took as much work as we could comfortably fit in our current schedules?”

That got her interest, but also her native caution. “You are sure? Sure of income? Because I know American pop culture has short attention span.”

She’d gone over this one with the agent Vickie had sent her to. “I am sure of at least five years of income. But Zach and I are metahuman; we have am extended youth, you might say. So who knows?”

One eyebrow went up. “So you are model, then? Hmmph. You know...my issue of Maxim was top seller for year.”

She smothered a smile again. “I'm not shocked, and I could get you jobs too.”

Oh this was comical….Nat was clearly torn between normal female vanity and being the Commissar. “Nyet! I am just pointing out--“

“And no,” she continued. “First, I am Medic 3 of the CCCP. Second, I am a doctor; only third am I a model and only then because it bring money for my comrades.”

Nat pounced. “Aha! what about hero! you are already living The Big Lie!” But she winked.

No harm in playing on the vanity with truth. “And----sestra, I have already had inquiries about your availability, which of course I.....prevaricated on.”

Nat preened just a bit. “Bah, are you kiddink? they never stopped...they just thought you might be better gateway to me. Playboy, Secret of Victoria, Low Rider Magazine... GQ, Details, even New Yorker. Wanted "bedroom pictures" and interview by Garrison Keillor.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Not shocking. As for being a hero....” she shrugged. “Never thought of myself as one.” Time to back down again, while Saviour was still mellow. “I don't want any decisions, sestra. I just wanted you to think about these things, and possibilities I deeply respect you as my Commissar. I trust in your decisions. Options are all I wanted to offer. As Waitron says. good data makes good choices, insufficient data leads to narrowing of options.”

Spasibo. That is breath of fresh air,” the Commissar said. Well, no doubt, coming from her most troublesome and yet curiously beloved “sister.” Especially the part about respect and trust. “Oh, I have thought about them for months. Just never had satisfactory options. Please to understand... we have very strong emotional ties to Moscow, regardless of morons in charge.”

She nodded. “I would never want to break that kind of tie.”

Saviour sighed and looked melancholy. “Is hard to just walk away, even if ties are symbolic and cause only for frustration.”

“Personally, the win-win situation is for it to become a tie, and not a chain.” If Moscow knew that there was nothing they could use as a big stick to hold over Saviour’s head….

Zach wasn’t the only one who needed a little more respect at home.

“One day I hoped to bring my child back to Russia. I do nyet wish to raise a child in this country,” Saviour continued.

John nodded. “Home is home. No arguin' that.”

The melancholy turned wistful. “America may be rich in wallet, but not rich in heart like Russia. We have fought for 1000 years to build what we have. Is important my child understands legacy.”

She nodded again, but was going to at least put in a defense for her own home. “Well, my purely personal opinion there is that it depends on where you look, but there is no doubt we don't have the history or the culture. And you are damn right that it is important for kids to know what their roots are. It makes them stable and strong.”

Nat grimaced a little. “Are fine individuals here, da, but culture is weakened by consumerism. Is why advertising idea chafes at my gut.”

She softened her voice. “I know.”

“I cannot change way Americans think. What is phrase? ‘Can't legislate hearts.’”

Good gods, another concession. “Exactly. Zach and I are trying to just give people who can still think something to think about.”

Saviour hesitated, and looked—sad. “Perhaps you would succeed more without CCCP.”

“Maybe. But we need the CCCP to come home to.”

Nat looked even sadder. “Is culture of xenophobia and fear right now. Your association with me can't help your credibility.”

Was Nat really trying to—

No. No, she didn’t want them gone. But she was trying to protect them. Trying not to clutch too tightly. Because if being gone would have been better for them—

Good gods, she was going to make a good mother.

“Without our comrades we're just....do-gooders,” she said softly.

“You always have home here,” Nat said, looking at her. “Is nothing wrong with do-gooders.”

Johnny put in his two-bits worth. “Well, the fact that they're both shining role-models can't help but shed some favorable light on the CCCP itself.”

“That is nyet point,” Nat sighed. “CCCP has negative connotations to country that "won" cold war. Da, is true, I admit cold war is over.”

“Without the CCCP, without our comrades, what reason are we doing good for?”

Nat steeled herself. “Mostly for your home, sestra. Your country needs you to show proper way. Your wishes are nyet important. Your duty takes precedent. CCCP is nothing...nothing! Is just tool. What is it Lenin said? ‘Right tool for right job.’ Or was that tv comedian? Or Bob Vila? Anyhow is good advice.”

You don’t have to give us up, Nat. We’re in this for the long haul. “We have the rich heritage and the right philosophy in the CCCP.”

Now she looked uncertain. “Then perhaps you should take it and repackage in way Americans understand.”

She smiled. “As another comedian said, why reinvent the wheel?”

She sighed. “When wheel isn't working on your road. My beliefs have changed, lately.”

No joke! The changes she had hoped for, even prayed a little for…they were coming. If CCCP was going to work in the modern world…it had to change. And so did Saviour.

“And Rome wasn't built in a day, sestra,” she said softly. “Look, none of these things have to be decided now.”

Saviour smiled. “I know. Am trying to be realistic. Don't tell anyone.”

She chuckled. “And no point in trying to get rid of me and Zach either.”

Saviour’s smile broadened. “Bah! was worth try.”

“We're like the cat that kept coming back,” she said, and Nat winced.

“Ah...is bad analogy,” Saviour said. “Not safe to be kitty around young Natalya.”

Hmm…one of those kids, eh? “Ah well, then, we are like the big overly friendly wolfhound that sits on your lap whether you want it to or not. We're annoying sometimes but when you find a burglar in the house you're glad you have us around.”

The Commissar nodded. “Much better. Is strange world we live in. I wish I could take Portal back to Lenin's time and tell him what comes in 20th century. Just to see his face.”

Time to wrap this while everyone was feeling good about it. “OK, I said my piece, and you listened with amazing patience.”

“Surprised?” Nat grinned. “Am mellowing out, I think.”

“You are always surprising me, sestra. Oddly enough.....I think we might be growing together.”

“Growing? Do nyet put pressure on me. Am havink baby....is too adult already.”

Well….that was life. You grew up whether you were ready to or not.

“You would have been shocked to hear me in teams lately,” Bella offered.

Red Saviour perked up. “Da? what are you doing? giving orders, excoriating svinyas?”

She put on her game-face. "I am an aura healer. No aura, no heals. Outside the aura, tough cookies."

Saviour applauded. “Horosho! Make lazy Americans sweat!”

She bowed to her Commissar. “Learning just a bit of toughness from you, sestra.

Saviour smirked just a tad. “Is handy to have in our line of work”

“OK, I have a very tired and kind of discouraged young man waiting for me at home,” she said….because there was no harm in planting that particular seed either. “I'm going to see what I can do about both situations.”

“Give him strength,” Saviour advised. “I have lazy Spaniard who is already knitting baby blankets at home.”

Johnny chuckled.

“Good night, druzoi.” Red Saviour finished, stepping toward the Portal.

“Well, g'night to both of ya,” Blaze said, looking around. “I think I might get the lay of this place again.”

Saviour stepped through the Portal and was gone.

“Well, Johnny? What did you think of my pitch?” Bella asked—because Saviour wasn’t the only one who trusted John Murdock’s opinion. “Think she'll come around?”

He ruffled his hair. “You've made yer case, kiddo. I think Red'll give it some real thought. It's all dicey subject matter, though. Y'know?”

She sighed. “Don't I just. At least for now, I think we've laid some good groundwork She won't refuse the money.”

Johnny nodded. “Can't afford to.”

“And she'll get off Zach's back about the shampoo commercials—“ and she laughed. “Oh god, those were fun to make. They call us ‘one-take wonders.’”

John looked bemused. “I'm still wonderin' how you convinced him to take the plunge and go for those.”

“How? Easy.” Easy as anything when it came tp saving something Zach cared about. “We were going to have to close the soup kitchen otherwise The coffeehouse is barely breaking even. The upgrades to the base took every cent we had. Something had to give.”

He nodded. “Point taken. Shampoo? Cracked me up first time I caught it on the tube, y'know.”

She chuckled. “ It still cracks me up! ‘From the hgh style, to the low down—‘” She did a little hip-swivel and flirtatious look. “My Zach, sex symbol!”

John broke up. “Boy oh boy. If I weren't the irrevocably nice guy that I am, I'd be tempted to ne'er let him live all've this down. Butsince he's bein' so self-sacrificing, y'know, becomin' a sex symbol an whatnot, I think I'll give 'em a pass.” He smirked. “Kiddo, go home. Get feet rubbed. Razz on my favorite muppet. I'll catch ya later on.”

She stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “OK Johnny. You take care. You better. Cause we loves ya.”

And with that she was gone, bounding through the Portal, following her heart home.