True Love Waits

(posted Thursday, February 16, 2006)

The sun filtered down down between the buildings in Founder's Falls like a orange venetian blind. She was there, like she always was, arms crossed and a defeated scowl on her face. Her fingers were stained orange from a million cigarettes, and the bags under her eyes reflected the baggage on her soul. She was always a brief stop for some bedraggled hero, fresh off the boat from Independence Port, bright-eyed and naive. She stood there, day and night waiting for them to use her, in her pink cardigan sweater and yellow skirt. She learned long ago not to fear the Nemesis sniper or roving Crey scientist. Life had ceased to have meaning; she accepted being a stepping stone, a pit stop, for ambitious heroes.

A man ran up to her, sweating in the setting Founder's Falls sun. Philipa Meraux had seen his kind before; the down-on-his-luck hero with empty pockets and a head full of ideals. She took a long drag from her cigarette and stared at her visitor with empty eyes.

"Greetings," said the man, "your friend in Talos said you could be of aid to me, nyet?"

"And you are?" Philipa sounded as irritated as she did curious.

"I am the Soviet Bear! And I am here to help you fight crime. Because if I do not, the government will take away my check. I am on, how you say, fixed income."

Philipa frowned, the recesses around her mouth deepened like bitter fjords. "Whatever, Bear. I need your help defeating some Rikti in Crey's Folly. If you arrest thirty-five of them, they should give you the information you need."

"Why such an arbitrary number?" the Bear inquired, "It seem like you and all your associates have me go arrest a predetermined number of criminals and it is always, ALWAYS, the final one that gives me the information I need. Very puzzling, no?"

Philipa looked annoyed. "Listen, Soviet Bear, I don't make the rules. Go defeat the Rikti and come report back to me."

Bear smiled. "As you wish."

****

On the front steps of the King's Row tenement where he lived, the Bear ran into Loretta Krupauer being assaulted by two Skulls. "Help me!" she yelled hoarsely.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Krupauer. It is excellent to see you also."

"You bastar..." Bear shut the door and left the ruckus outside. He sprinted up the stairs to his apartment. Bejouled was inside, eating a GammaBar and reading Electrical Engineer's Quarterly. "Greetings my wonderful child!" Bear exclaimed.

"Bejouled looked at him in disbelief. "Communard did not make you sniff happy gas again, did he?"

"Nyet, Nyet!" Bear exclaimed, "I have met the most wonderful woman! She asked me to take down some Rikti in Crey's Folly! Sure it was dangerous: monkies clawing me, a mentalist making me sleep, conscripts slicing me up."

"Monkey Gas, that explains it," thought Bejouled.

"But I thought about Philipa, in her pink sleeveless cardigan telling me lovingly to do her the favor. And sure enough, the thirty-fifth Rikti monkey I defeated told me the location of their secret lair, just as she said it would. She is like a prophet! I am going to see her again tonight to brief her of my progress. Do you think I should wear my uniform or my combat armor."

"I think you should put a plastic bag over your head," Bejouled mumbled.

"Shto?"

"I said YOUR UNIFORM IS ON YOUR BED. Need to get your hearing checked Old Man."

Bear nodded. "Da, da. I know" He changed into his uniform quickly. "I may not be home tonight; do not wait up."

Bear winked and Bejouled shuddered.

***

The run back to Founder's Falls was uneventful, but Bear's heart was pumping. He ran back to the island, where Philipa stood, arms crossed as she always was.

"Comrade Meraux, I have defeated the Rikti."

"Excellent Soviet Bear. Now quickly, the Freakshow have stolen electronics in Steel Canyon."

"You look cold, Comrade. Perhaps you need a Bear to keep you warm?"

"Hurry Soviet Bear. We cannot let the Freakshow integrate those electronics.!"

Bear smiled. "Surely, Comrade, there is enough time for dinner, no?"

"Hurry Soviet Bear. We cannot let the Freakshow integrate those electronics!"

"I will be back, do not not fear. THE BEAR shall not fail."

The Soviet Bear dashed to Steel Canyon. Before entering, though, he decided to call his old friend Tony Kord for some advice.

"Comrade Kord, this is the Soviet Bear. I have a question for you. How can you tell if a certain lady-friend is interested in your charms?"

"I'm sorry, Soviet Bear," Tony said, "I don't have any work for you. You might want to try another contact."

"Bah, Comrade. i am not looking for work. I am up to my plasma conduits in work. I am asking you a question about a matter of the heart."

"I'm sorry, Soviet Bear," Tony deadpanned, "I don't have any work for you. You might want to try another contact."

"Bah!" Bear turned off his communicator in disgust. He then called a new friend of his, Neal Kendrick.

"Comrade Neal, we have had some good times no? This is the Soviet Bear."

"I'm sorry, Soviet Bear," Neal Kendrick said automatically, "I don't have any work for you. You might want to try another contact."

"Bah!" The Bear turned purple with rage. "What is it with you contacts? You give me your phone number and tell me to call you anytime? Do you want to talk? Do you want to be friend of Bear? No! It is all just work with you people. I am a human, no? I have feelings, no? Why do you give me your number when you no longer want to talk to me, eh? How do you answer that Comrade Neal."

"I'm sorry, Soviet Bear," said Neal in an even-toned voice, "I don't have any work for you. You might want to try another contact."

"Bah!" Bear thew his communicator to the ground, smashing it into small pieces. He knew he'd have to make up a story to a Commissar to get a new one, but he didn't care about that now. He marched into the office building, his plasma conduits open and ready to spill white-hot destruction upon any Freak in his way. Champion smashers and stunner freaks lay in odd poses wherever the Bear trod, and the smell of recently crisp flesh was present through the hallways. His battle with a tank named 1337 Pwn J00 was legendary, but the Bear prevailed. He sat down next to the smoldering Freak leader and waited for a hospital beacon to take him into recovery.

***
Bejouled went to the Steel Canyon Medical Center the next day with a can of ravioli and a concealed bottle of discount vodka.

"Knock, knock." She said, peering into his room. Bear was in a hospital bed, his leg in a cast.

"Greetings Comrade Bejouled. Have you brought a Bear his goodies?"

"Of course," said Bejouled, smiling. She handed him his provisions. He was smiling quite with glee that transcended the simple pleasure of Comrade Boyardee.

"What is wrong with you, Old Man? Monkey Gas?"

"Nyet, Comrade. It is love." Bejouled looked puzzled. Noting her confusion, Bear clarified/ "It's Philipa. She gave me her phone number!"

Bejouled winced and shook her head. An Old Bear can't learn many new tricks.