Paragon, You Are Safe!!

From the Story Arc: A Day in the Life...

Previous Story in the Arc: Ex Machina by Petrograd (Thursday, February 09, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Rocket-Sliding by Petrograd (Monday, September 18, 2006)

(posted Thursday, February 23, 2006)

After three hours of shuffling between offices in City Hall and filing paperwork, the only words Petrograd had for Rick Davies were the kind a beraucrat might go a lifetime without hearing. Of course, he could hardly take the evils of beraucracy out on the former hero, so he had to resort to more diplomatic words. The shouting, though, he kept.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ARE CONFISCATING MY ENTIRE STOCK?!?!? Do you know how long I have worked to build up reserve of proper electronics and components? Will take months to replace, in best!"

Rick just shook his head. "I'm sorry, Petro, but its for the bes...."

"BAH! Do nyet lecture me on greater good! Every piece of Rikti or Crey or Council device I am nyet using goes into jetpacks and belts for your 'unagumented' heroes. I have spent days working on materials for donation!"

"Yes, and we've thanked you a thousand times. We even overlooked your 'sources.' But not everyone was so generous, and quite a few were even more grabby at crime-scenes than your bunch. Then, Crey sued the pants off of us."

Petrograd just huffed.

"We won, judge was on our side after all that evidence... but we had to rewrite the evidence laws. Judge Harmon even let us slip in the confiscation/salvage clause."

"Ah, bolshoy, so now you have right to confiscate all my materials."

Rick sighed. Petrograd was a whiz when it came to reverse-engineering or gadgetry, and they sure as heck owed him, but this was getting silly. "Look, heres a tagger," Rick said, pulling an RFID dispenser from his desk and tossing it to Petro. "Just tag any 'evidence' you find, or anything 'dangerous,' or something 'worth investigating,' or however you want to say it. Just tag it. When the crime-scene cleanup crew comes in, they'll ship it to us. If we don't need it, and we usually don't, it'll go streight to your base, I swear. Two hours tops."

Petrograd stood for a moment. Rick didn't know if he was being contemplative or sarcastic with that blasted helmet of his, but he did put the tagger in his belt pouch. "Da... so what of my tools? Are you to be 'needing' those as well?"

"They're not hero-rated, EPA violation. We'll get em replaced."

Petrograd choked back more of those words. "Spaceeba. So, where are planning to acquire Soviet-issue fully stocked machine shop? Am nyet using tools from Amerikanski corporation." Petrograd's tools may be a bit primitive... heavy power cords with European sockets, calipers, slide rule... but by Lenin's creepy corpse they were his.

"Look, we'll compromise. I'll just have the boys in the shop refurbish your old ones. They get them up to snuff, and they're yours. A week, tops."

"And my papers? I had full analysis of Council and Crey weaponry, and also full schematics of dissassembled Sky Skiff, with designing criticism. Had several companies interested."

"You were going to SELL those?!?!?"

"Nyet, are mad? Were for production... was hoping to outfit... heroes, or police... am nyet knowing who. Mostly practice of rusty aeronautical engnieering."

"Well, looks like Longbow borrowed 'em. You'll get em back fairly soon, I'm sure of it."

"You are lending my papers to other heroes now?"

"No, Longbow, they're part of the Freedom Corps... I can't believe you haven't heard of them. Actually, that's a good point." Rick pulled out a briefing and tossed it at Petrograd. "They could probably use a hand, if you ever get time. Look, just go talk to your contacts or something, try out the tags. Most of your stuff will be back in a few weeks. Until then.. just consider it a vacation."

"Bah! Too many forms. I will merely resume patrol."

For the first time in their meeting, Rick could sympathize.

* * * * *

Petrograd had had trouble sleeping since his "awakening." Or more accurately, he had trouble staying awake. Usually, the high-power stimulants constantly pumping through him could keep him going for the long night patrols without any unusual side effects, but recently he just couldn't keep at it like he used to. He could only assume the injectors in his pack (Soviet Mark 174 Combat Drug Dispenser - Permanent) had been damaged by the cryo-stasis, but without his tools or diagnostic kit, there was no way of knowing. Marx knew the pre-meds at the hospital couldn't figure it out; they always just flooded his suit with whatever chemicals they were favoring that day and hoped for the best. Petrograd was a lucky one: his receptive mutation allowed him to graft to the crudest cybernetics, stay awake and alert for weeks on combat drugs with no tolerance buildup or addiction, and get the most effect out of just about any medical treatment out there with none of the typical side effects.

Still, when the suit had kinks, he had kinks, and that was bad.

CCCP was, in a word, different. For him, it'd been like taking a nap, but suddenly the base was all out-of-whack. Half the names in the roster had dissappeared and been replaced with ones he'd never heard of. He was no longer a commissar, his place apparently taken by an American. This was actually good news on both parts: the demotion meant less paperwork and more fieldwork, which was nothing to complain about, and the American, as far as he'd heard, was a medic good enough to be up in the ranks with Soviette, which was nothing to scoff at. Besides, Americans back in CCCP was one more step to entirely erasing the memory of Worker's Champion, and a smallish step towards bringing all Americans into the light.

Still, nothing was the same. His sleep patterns kept him from patroling with the others, and with his workshop gone, Petro just felt.... obselete. A dinosaur. "Only ceremonial." It was just like Moscow, when the ICBMs replaced the bombers. Petro couldn't stop a missile, not with the whole Moscow Air Defense Group behind him, so they cut him loose. Floating.

There was a small stack of paperwork on his workbench at least. Red Saviour had some requisition forms for him, things he hadn't the parts or tools to work on. "These are over six months overdue, but due to extenuating circumstances, I have extended the deadline to two weeks from today. Is good to have you back, old friend. --RS" Aside from that, and a cute note about "hardshelled devushkas," there was not much else to see. Except, of course, for the Longbow briefing folder sticking out at the bottom. After all, who would do paperwork when there could be a mission?

Longbow was exactly the sort of unit Petrograd approved of, even went so far as to remind him of his days not with the Spetsnaz, not spent in too many places to name. They were a hard-hitting batch of SpecOps, delivered dierctly into the heart of the action in the Rogue Isles, with jet-pack units and modified Sky Skiffs for strong air support. They even had their own helicopter transports and a fully operational gunboat. Petrograd flipped through the folder to the action page.

Anyone could mistake Petrograd for a statue on a good day, but this must have been his best imitation yet. For the better part of a minute, Petrograd may as well have been Rodin's Thinker, forever contemplating the folder in his hands. Then he said some words not fit for any member of the human race.

Soviette sprang from her desk at the noise of the crash, but by the time she got there, she was too late. The emergency exit door was shattered into a thousand pieces, most of them still freezing. Outside, a line of laundry from a nearby apartment was still smoldering after being caught in the full blast of a pair of back-mounted afterburners. After a few minutes with no Rikti or Nemesis appearing, Jadwiga noticed the Longbow folder, its contents strewn about the doorway. On top of the stack was a reconaisance photo of a nuclear missile in full launch rig, with the word "Warburg" scrawled on it in red marker.

Petrograd was back.