Stand And Deliver

From the Story Arc: Battle Stations!

Previous Story in the Arc: Reap The Whirlwind by Heavy Brother (Thursday, April 06, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Calm Before the Storm by Bestial Boy (Saturday, April 08, 2006)

(posted Friday, April 07, 2006)

Bella was throwing heals as fast as she could to keep the team standing.

Not a shock when you were up against the thing called Rularuu. Thank heavens Battler had already smacked it with a nuke he'd gotten in Warburg before they even started. Thank heavens Comm was sending Gustave, his psychically created warrior, in to take a lot of the damage. Rularuu was going down and the good guys here in the Shadow Shard were going to have a little less to worry about for a while.

And the CCCP would do it again. Bella felt filled with pride just to be on this team. The only way it could have been better would have been if Zach had been able to be here.

The thing that called itself a god went down, and the team dove for the Portal. A job well--

Her comm--and everyone else's--went off with the Red Alert.

Oh shi--

"Commissar," said a sarcastic, and very familiar voice. "This is Ein Stein. I am patching you through on my internally secure channel to Waitron9000. There is a Code Alpha Emergency. While you speak to her, I will be contacting LlewellCo to establish a secure, encrypted comm link to all your members. Stand by."

Bell didn't even have a chance to breathe as the rest of her team huddled around her to listen in. "Commissar," came Waitron's voice, in the flat tone that told Bella she had disabled her emotion chipset. "The Headquarters have been overrun by Council in force."

Gasps and muttered curses all around, but worse was to come. "There are four known casualties with no possibility of revival. Iron Curtain, Master Te, Heavy Brother and Free Radical. The Council has issued a kill-order. There is one missing. Commie Cowgirl. Petrograd and Felix are in the workshop next to the teleporters playing dead. The rest of us are in the safe room. We do not know the status of anyone else except that they are still alive. We do not know the status of anything outside the HQ but--"

"But we assume the worst." Bella handed Communard her cell phone. "Call Bestial Boy. Tell him what we know, and stay on the line with him. Nobody move and nobody comm anyone until we get that encrypted line." She turned back to her comm. "Waitron, get Stein back on...."




It had been a happy shock and surprise for Zach to be sent to meet an Aeroflot jet with an unspecified "Russian VIP" aboard to discover it was--Mojiotok, once Commissar to CCCP US, and now their Politburo liaison.

"Privyet, green pain machine," Moj said, barely cracking a smile. "I am hopink you are havink wodka, will be needink it. Am here to adwise you on beink Commissar."

Wordlessly Zach handed Moj the bottle he'd brought--one did not meet Russians without a bottle of vodka--and refrained from reminding Moj that he had been a Commissar for quite some time now.

Moj took a long swig then and there. "Correction," he said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "Am here to advisink you on beink one of four equal Commissars. Is difficult dance." The sardonic Russian lifted a brow. "Especially when one is sleepink with one of four."

Zach blushed jalapeno green. Moj uttered a dry laugh. "Is no much different from havink been raised with one of four. Natalya, she is like sister. Like twin sister, almost. So, am thinkink is not so different. You love, you fight--"

Anything that Moj might have added at that point was cut off by the ringtone on Zach's cell that he and Bell had promised would only be used for red hot emergencies. Well, not exactly a ringtone. It was the "red alert" klaxon from the Star Trek series. Head swiveled all over the concourse as he fumbled the phone out.

"Wha--"

"Commissar!" Communard's voice was shrill with tension. "Disaster! Absolute disaster! Horrible! Death!"

Before Zach's heart and brain could start again from the shock, he heard---ohthankgod--Bella's voice. So she wasn't dead. "OK Comm, give me that." Then, louder, "Commissar, we have a Code Alpha emergency. The HQ has been overrun by the Council and they've issued a kill-order."

His heart stopped again. His brain, however, continued to function. "Status?" he snapped.

"Four confirmed, no-revival fatalities. Iron Curtain, Free Radical, Grandmaster Te and Heavy Brother. One missing, presumed dead, Commie Cowgirl. Two personnel concealed near the teleporter room, Felx and Petro. The rest still in the HQ sealed in the safe room. We are establishing a secure encrypted link to the rest of the CCCP now. Status in KR outside HQ unknown---" now and only now, her voice faltered just a little. "--I need you here five minutes ago."

"You got it. Stay off the line until you can use the secure comm. Marx knows who could tap this." He snapped the phone shut and looked at Moj, who nodded. "Am havink favors owed," the saturnine Soviet said, his expression of controlled rage. "Am havink plane on runway before can be sayink John Robinson. And am comink with you."






Goddamn...

It was the curse that had been replaying through John's mind as he made covert rounds of King's Row with his first-born son, JJ. Every exit was guarded by Council, armed with heavy emplacements and fortified gun nests. The highway leading to Skyway City had the worst of it; legions of Council interdicted the tunnel passage. Heroes were trying to break through from both sides, but weren't able to do much against the concerted efforts of the fascists.

The Paragon City Police had made a showing, too, particularly at the tram. Concrete was blackened and cracking around the ramps where the Council had set off miniature nuclear devices--relics recovered from Warburg, which had at one time been under 5th Column control-- to take out the Police drones at the base of the tram station. Squad cars and several SWAT vans lay over-turned, smoldering and twisted in the street.

Bastards have the entire zone zipped up tight; no one in, no one out.

John looped back through the air, high above King's Row in his Mefnanim form. He flew closer to the CCCP HQ; things would be bad, but he had to see it.

Black smoke rose in thick columns from the roof; all of the comm. arrays must've been literally burned off. The front entrance wasn't anything more than a hole in the steel reinforced brick; jagged edges curved inward where explosives had blasted through.

He'd seen enough. Time to get his family to safety, and figure out what the next move was. Enough of the CCCP was out on patrol. They'd have to regroup and---

His comm went off, with the Red Alert blat.

"Attention, all members of the CCCP. This is Commissar Belladonna Aura. This channel is now encrypted and secure. Do not reply until ordered."

Alright, word had gotten out about what happened. That saved him the trouble of having to find a way to report the bad news himself.

::JJ, make your way to the sewers. Get with Mom and everyone else, and get ready to move out. Aunt Bella is gettin' ready to get somethin' done.:: John banked to his right, taking position above and behind his son so that he could fly overwatch for him, should anything happen on his flight to the sewers.

Bella's voice continued from the commset, steady, if not entirely calm. "CCCP HQ has been overrun by Council. They have issued a kill-order, therefore all CCCP members are ordered to take extreme caution and not approach Council unless and until specifically ordered, except to save another life. There are four known casualties. Iron Curtain, Free Radical, Grandmaster Te and Heavy Brother. There is one missing, presumed dead; Commie Cowgirl. Remain where you are. Do not attempt to rally until ordered. Now, sound off, roll call and location in alphabetical order. Report."

John waited for his place in the order to come up; since he now operated under the callsign of 'Blaze Phoenyx', he didn't have too many folks ahead of him. "This Blaze, reporting in from above King's Row. Open a channel to me when you have a chance, Bella." The rest of the CCCP ticked off with name, location, and status. Everyone was accounted for, except those in the base.

The roll call hadn't gotten past three names before the light for "secondary channel," normally used only for team, began blinking on his comm. John reverted back to his human form, punching the switch on his comm. unit twice to confirm that he was on-line.

"Status, Johnny."

"Zone is locked down, kiddo. Council, and lots of 'em. Heavy weapons at every entrance into King's Row, especially at the tram and the Skyway entrance. Lots of casualties, civvies and cops. As for the base itself," he shook his head. "They're in there, and went in hard. Roof has plenty of spot-fires on it, and the front entrance has been obliterated. Back way in looked forced, but is closed at current. They cut right into us, Bella."

"...yeah. All right. Nothing you can do in the next five. Get your team. Then send whoever can stealth to scoop up Moriyaku and Red Savina. Savina's church is down there on the east side and you know the coords to Mori's old apartment. I don't want them to become collateral damage. Probably everyone else in the zone right now is attached to Mannequin's operation and he'll have ordered a recall. You ten sit tight. I'll have an update for you soon." Her voice hardened. "They want a war, by god, they are gonna get one."

"F****** a, kiddo. Making retrieval on the two specified now. Keep us informed." John switched his comm off, then submerged into his connection with Sera. ::Picking up Savina and Mori now, love. It's pretty bad up here. Keep everyone together; JJ an' I'll be back soon::

Once they got this mess sorted out, the Council would have hell and then some to pay for.




Bella left the PI office of Freedom Corps trailed by her team and with a grim smile on her face. That must have set a record for the all-time fastest bureaucratic meeting on the planet; it had amounted to, "you want it, you got it."

She now had an operator's comset. Forty channels. She punched the first one. "Stein. Clear for scramble, all RPC Channels. Go,"

There was a brief burst of static, followed by Ein Stein's voice. "Go for comm, Commissar."

She punched in the Congress-wide channel. "Restore Paragon Congress. This is Commissar Belladonna Aura of the CCCP and this is not a drill nor a prank. As some of you may have already discovered, King's Row has been overrun by the Council. All entrances are taken by Council troops. The CCCP Headquarters has been overrun by Council and they are killing and we have four confirmed, no revival casualties. Please do not rush to King's Row. I will be coordinating volunteers through your group leaders. Those of you who have no group leaders report to Kid Crisis of the NAP. All Congress channels have been rendered encrypted and secure, so feel free to use them. Please stay off the CCCP channel and the Congress-wide channel until further notice."

Some would ignore the order and rush there anyway. They'd been warned. Now--how the hell were they going to get people into KR to take back--

"Commissar, I have Red Saviour on the--" Communard held the phone away from his head as Saviour screamed her rage into the handset on the Moscow end. "--she has been briefed."

"Good. Comm, would you check on the status of Bestial Boy's plane. Unter, can you get our group members consolidated at the tram stations in each zone, please. Give me RS, Comm--"

Nat raged. Nat screamed. Nat berated. And, in between, Nat's voice choked with sobs. The Council would pay in blood. This was the result of American softness in not exterminating them. And so on. Bella let her rage. No matter what she did, she could not get here physically for at least 16 hours. By then, it would be over or---

--or she'll call for a nuclear strike on Striga and KR with the blessing of the U.S. Government, Bella thought, grimly, throttling down her own rage, her own fear, her own anguish with control that had been hard won over the past several months. It was as if her whole life as a hero had been preparing her for this moment.

Maybe it had. But oh, God, she wanted Zach.

Finally Nat wound down and Bella gave her the strategic situation. "...please tell me you have a brilliant idea for getting people into KR, Nat," she finished, harshly. "All I can think of is the sewer system and that could end up taking out as many of our people as the Council."

A long, long silence at the other end of the line, and then---

"Decadent nightclub is having entrance in Talos, Founder's and King's Row," said Red Saviour.

Bella felt a light go on inside her skull. "Pocket D," she breathed.

"Da."

"Stay on the line, Red Saviour. We need your strategic knowledge." She put the phone down and turned to her team. "Start contacting group leaders. We've got our way in."

She thumbed on the comm to the private channels. "Thea, I want you to get from Striga to the Green Line station in Steel. Vickie, I want you at the entrance to Pocket D in Talos. Anybody who can't get to the D on their own, Thea, you can port to the Green Line and Vic, you can pick them up from the tram and drop them in D."

Affirmatives came from both women and Bella opened up the Congress-wide channel again. "Members of RPCongress. All those who are coming to the aid of the CCCP, we have a way into King’s Row. Rally point will be King's Row Police Department, where we will be aided by PCPD and Longbow. Those needing help getting to D contact Althea Nagy in Steel Canyon, and Victoria Victrix when you arrive in Talos."

She repeated the message over the CCCP channel. And then, on private---"Commissar Aura, this is Commissar Bestial Boy. We're at the airport and waiting for pickup."

"We?"

"I have Commissar Mojiotok with me."

Her heart leapt. But her hands were steady as she locked Zach's ID into the 'porter and hit the power-up.

They still had a long, bitter fight ahead of them. It wasn't going to be easy. And it almost certainly was going to be bloody.