Calm Before the Storm

From the Story Arc: Battle Stations!

Previous Story in the Arc: Stand And Deliver by Belladonna Aura (Friday, April 07, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: A Kiss Before Battle by Mojiotok (Saturday, April 08, 2006)

(posted Saturday, April 08, 2006)


Bella was on comm now. Zach, Moj, Communard and Unter were in charge of strategy from this point on. All she was going to do was organize, deploy, be the sane voice on the comm--as much as she could be--and make sure there was at least one medic with every group. And occasionally issue reminders--

"We're vulnerable to the vamps and their mind-control," she reminded them as they chewed over what sort of force to put at Skyway. "It'll be getting dusk by the time we get in place. That works for us but it works for them too, cause the vamps will be out in force--"

Zach nodded; good, he'd heard her. She went back to the comm. "Johnny, have you got the Command and Control Center set up at KRPD yet?"

Static crackled over the comm speaker as the incoming message went through different signal routers. "Everythin' but the red carpet, Bella. Start shufflin' 'em over. Escorts are waitin'."

One more call to make. She punched in a code she had been passed via Sister Hecate.

"This is Belladonna Aura." she said.

"You have the Mannequin."

She took a deep breath. "I am going to have to ask you to do the hardest thing you have ever done in your life," she said. "Stay where you are. Guard your Facility. I don't know half of what you have in there, but even what I do know you've got, we can't afford the Council getting its hands on. I'm pretty sure they're counting on you to rush out so they can help themselves--and if you go down, we both go down....."

Greater good. She had to think beyond right now and CCCP. If they failed--then Mannequin and the Knights would still be there, and the severly-weakened Council could be hit with another assault from a fresh source.

Assuming Saviour and her nukes didn't get there first.

"This is Commissar Belladonna Aura. All systems go. Saddle up and move 'em out. You may break radio silence."

The RPCongress channel had been completely quiet except for static until that moment. Now teams all over the city began reporting in. John Lang ---"Kid Crisis"---jogged through the Pocket D nightclub, heading for the King's Row exit. When he first realized that there was something wrong, he'd tried to get into the city zone through the Independence Port highway, then the Galaxy City entrance. All of them were blocked with the remains of vehicles that looked as if they had been bulldozed into place; all of the yellow line tram stations were redirecting their cars back to the station to route around KR. Cops were scrambling everywhere, trying to get control of the situation, but they weren't very effective.

Then the word had come across the comm from Bella...and his blood had just jelled. He'd felt a moment of helplessness; he wasn't used to thinking in terms of--well--war. A small team, sure, but--

The NAP just wasn't big enough for that sort of thinking. And even his own personal fight with Crey hadn't gotten--all that big.

Just as he had looked at despair, more had come over the comm. The CCCP wasn't down, not hardly. In fact... fact, they had a plan. He'd reported in after he thought all the CCCP had probably cleared through, and the next thing he knew, he was liaison to any independents from RPCongress that wanted to volunteer for the CCCP Assault. But he couldn't just sit there. Something told him he needed to be in place. So he'd come in early to the D to wait it out there.

He stepped through the elevator doors into the "intersection", where the three entrances into the city met. He turned the corner, and then through the glass doors. In an instant, he was outside; KR's familiar skyline of smokestacks and factories was silhouetted by the setting sun.

Someone whistled a bird call from behind him. Kid spun around, the fading light glinting off of his sleek blue armor. It was Mori; she had been in the corner of the building, staying out of sight. "A little warning next time, maybe?"

She shrugged. "Get ready for a ride, KC," she said, and spoke into a comm. "Social. One for pickup, KC."

"Da," replied the high voice over the comm. "Kid Crisis, prepare for secure medical transport." And Kid Crisis felt the pull and disorientation of a teleporter grabbing him and the next thing he knew, he was in the hanger-like space of the KRPD garage, now being cleared of everything extraneous. There was one set of tables and chairs in the middle. At one of these, the senior staff of the CCCP huddled over maps and lists, Bella off to the side with an operator's comm. in front of her.

It was a scene of organized chaos. Uniformed and armored police officers were rushing about, carrying or moving pieces of equipment or stacks of papers. Tables set against the walls had a variety of weapons and other munitions scattered on them; tear gas canisters, grenade launchers, and flak jackets covered every inch of space.

Thanh Ha was porting away like a mad thing, people popping into existence around her. A moment later Health Fairy joined her and began adding to the incoming. People who could get there on their own out of sight--by flight or using some sort of stealth, presumably--were arriving through the main doors. The CCCP had already organized off to the side.

There was already a small congregation of folks next to the CCCP ranks; the Murdock children, Booster Max and Titian Paladin, Red Savina, and Red Djinni were quietly talking, with frequent glances at the CCCP leadership on the makeshift stage.

A moment later, Kid Crisis found his hands full as his independent volunteers started to show up. No sooner had he gotten them tucked over to one side, than Shyft arrived and set up a computer, a projection TV and a screen and began testing it out.

That was when a Longbow contingent, and more PCPD SWAT team volunteers than Kid Crisis had ever seen in one place started filing in, taking up their own little section of the floor. As if that had been a signal, the flood of newcomers eased to a trickle, then stopped.

Bella picked something up from her table, walked over to Bestial Boy, and handed it to him. Kid Crisis could see as Zach turned around that it was a microphone.

Zach cleared his throat, looking out over the crowd. "Alright folks, here's what's going on. CCCP base has been breached by a massive Council attack. The entire city zone of King's Row has been locked down; the highways have been blocked by destroyed vehicles, and the tram has been taken over completely. The only ways into the city are being used to funnel resources here, at the PD; the sewer system and the nightclub, Pocket D.

"Now, I'll only say this once, since we are very short on time here. This is a CCCP operation; we're in charge, and there's nothing to negotiate here. If that presents a problem for you, then you'll have to sit this out. We appreciate everyone coming to our aid, but we can't have anything gum this up. This is a logistical nightmare as it is." He sighed, looking back over his shoulder to the other CCCP officers. Unter nodded to him. and Bestial Boy turned to face the crowd again. "If nobody has any objections, we'll move on."

An series of images began to flash on the projector screen. Aerial pictures of King's Row; the tram station, the highway entrances in the War Walls, and finally the CCCP HQ itself. "In one hour, we're breaking from here to begin taking back King's Row. This action is going to involve several teams, which I will define shortly. All metahuman teams will be supplemented and supported by SWAT and Longbow teams. Leadership will be deferred to team captains, however.

"If you have any specific equipment needs, wait till we're done outlining the plan. There will be 9 teams for this operation, divided into 4 elements; Internal Assault, External Assault, Tram Assault, and Highway Assault---"

Bella got his attention with a quick nod, and he paused. Evidently she had a collar mic already, since her voice rang out over the speakers. "You might think the last thing we need to do is open the tunnels and the tram--but it's the first priority. We have to be able to get people out. If we can't take KR back...then we'll have to evacuate. No one can afford this place to become another Striga." She left unsaid what was in KC's--and probably everyone else's--mind. They would have to evacuate because the next option would be another Boomtown. Or maybe...a nuclear option...

"Right. Now, here are your assignments. We're splitting this up as best we can folks, but we're not guaranteeing anyone being able to stay with their home units for this. We've all worked together before, so we don't think this is too much of a problem. You're here, so we're using you where we need to use you. Listen up,"

"Highway teams first. Skyway City team: Fire Curtain, Sister Hecate, Gaia's Soldier, Righteous Might, Operative Talon, Crashin' Byrne, Black Light, and Titian Paladin. Also, we're assigning any other JTF members that aren't attached with a separate team to the Skyway gate. Team leader will be Booster. Skyway is possibly the most critical gate for us to retake; it's the main artery back into the city, should we be forced to start evacuating the zone. We're puttin' all of our punch that we can spare there.

"Independence Port team: Nightrayne, Bridget Morrigan, Rory Hartlan, Polite Boggart, Santorini, Alrissa. Red Savina will act as team leader for that gate." Zach gave the thumbs-up to Shyft, who switched the projector image to a listing of the team rosters. "Galaxy City team: JJ, Aedan, and Astra Murdock, Black Orchid, Doc Danger, Fraustfyre, and Blue Velocity. will act as team leader.

"Tram team: Right Hand Ratt, Shen Lung, Li Lung, Hegemon, Miss Rude Girl, Golden Eagle, U.S. Avenger, Twilight Healer, Psi-Control, Winza Nakamure, Jason Collier, Health Fairy, Gelidity, Moriyaku, Bejouled, Sis of No Mercy and Electrikeet. Kid Crisis," John perked up. Bestial Boy's gaze pierced right through him, but without any malice or contempt. "Will lead the tram team. This is where the Council is entrenched the heaviest, next to the CCCP HQ. Heavy weapons have been used, and there's a lot of collateral damage. This is another crucial area for us to take back."

John Lang felt stunned. Oh, he had assumed that there was a kind of truce between him and Bestial Boy, but he hadn't even hoped for any sort After all, Zach Marlowe had blamed him at least for a time, for Bella's near-fatal gene-crash. And in the back of Zach's mind whenever he looked at KC there had to be the thought that Kid Crisis had literally been sleeping with the enemy--with Bella's clone, who called herself "Belladonna Nova." Now he was trusting KC with....well, next to the CCCP HQ itself, this was the key battle of the zone. His mouth went dry.

Zach was the first to break their gaze. "Moving on. Next element, the assault on the CCCP HQ. All teams participating in the assault will be lead by CCCP officers, reguardless of the actual team-makeup. There are several reasons for this, the least of which is that we'd hope our own folks know the layout of our HQ the best. Roof team first. You'll be in charge of clearing the roof and securing it; plenty of resistance, which will be detailed later. Sister Shuma, Shyft, Felix Cortez, Bestla, Agent Dva, and the entirety of Kitty of Heroes. Shyft will be in charge of the team. Orders are strict, here: take the roof and hold it. No more, no less, comrades.

"Second team will be in the sewers: Victoria Victrix, Althea Nagy, Cagey Bee, Red Djinni, Seraphic Flame. Commissar Communard will lead this team. We expect a lot of vamps down there once we get into the basement, and we need people who can hold their own against those mind-powers, or lend that help to others," KC caught Bestial Boy pausing long enough to give Thea a confident nod, and the shy vampire hunter blushed pink. "Third team will be going through the back entrance. It's been breached, but it looks like the Council haven't done much to seal it back up. Team composition: Nova Requiem, Tutelary, Mandragora, Taiga, Soviet Shocker, Natayasha, Kremlin Gremlin, Soviet Swordsman, and Marrita Red Bear. Soviet Winter will act as team leader.

"Final external team will go through the front door. The entrance itself has been demolished by heavy explosives and assorted weapons fire. Be careful in there, comrades. Function Five, Madame Molotov, Russian Battler, and Krasniy Oktyabr. Commissar Belladonna Aura will be leading this team." Zach took a step back, handing the microphone to Untermensch.

"Will be using teleporters, via capitalistic Base Portal here at Longbow site to infiltrate the base through our hazard-zone teleporters, located here," He said in his usual coarse manner, pointing to the projection screen; another image flickered to life, a blown-up schematic of the CCCP HQ. The teleportation room, located in next to the workshop, was circled in red. "Once Internal Assault teams have entered, they will split into three. First team made up of these comrades: Soviet Bear, Led Radiatski, Ludwig Von Mig and October Star II. I will lead this team. Second team of comrades: Krasnaya Zvezda, Agn Stratonik, John Murdock, and Chug. Commissar Mojoitok will lead. Last team: Komrad Vex, Kuo, Krasnaya Zarya and Krasniy Zakat, and Social Medicine. Team will be lead by Commissar Bestial Boy."

Zach stepped forward again, Unter leaving the microphone with him. "Team leaders, you'll be issued portfolios with any extra and relevant tactical information concerning your portion of the operation. Here's the progression," he said, turning to face the projector. "Once we're set and in position, we'll have the highway and tram teams commence the attack. This should happen simultaneously at all of the locations. Immediately after, we'll be sending in our external teams; roof, front door, back door, and sewers. Internal team will slip in through the porters during the resulting chaos. Once inside, they'll separate and retake each of the three floors.

"Now, everyone listen up. Check your fire when you're inside the HQ. If you miss with a shot, there's something--or someone-- behind whatever you were aiming for. We have people in there, and we don't want any friendly-fire casualties."

Bestial Boy choked on that last word. The room got very, very quiet.

That was when Bella stepped forward again, and her face was as hard and cold as ever KC's had seen Red Saviour's look.

Oh god. This is all gonna blow up. She's gonna issue a kill-order. Just like last time....

"Yes," Bella said. "Casualties. I'll repeat what I said over the comm earlier. There are four confirmed no-revival casualties, comrades taken down in such a way that not even the best meta-human healing can bring them back. The Council is clearly operating under a kill order." She took a deep breath, and the room seemed to turn into an ice-cave. "We, however, will not."

Pandemonium erupted. Bella let it run for a moment, then used one of Saviour's old tricks. She took a pistol out of the belt of her uniform and shot it in the air three times. KC's eyes bulged. He hoped it was loaded with blanks....

Silence descended with the smoke and smell of burned cordite. "There will be no killing. Killing is what started this. Killing is not going to end it." A tight, cold, little not-smile creased Bella's lips. "I have been speaking at length to Longbow. We have another solution. All prisoners taken in this operation will be bagged and tagged with Longbow tags. All prisoners will not be transported to the Zig. They're going straight to Mercy Island. We won't be seeing them here again. If they are very lucky, their brethren there will pick them up. If they're not...Lord Recluse hates the Council almost as much as he hates us."

Zach found his voice again. "If everything goes well, debriefing will be held promptly here at the PD. If not, exfiltrate through whatever hole has been created by the highway teams. Failing that, the Pocket D entrance is the next viable exit. Anyone not mentioned in the team listings is issued this order: you're the reserve. If everything goes sour, you need to be ready to pick up the pieces and start getting people out of King's Row. Police will handle their end. Let's make sure that things don't come to that." He sighed, turning to look back at the other Commissars and officers one final time. "Get your teams prepped, commanders. We ship out in an hour." He turned his back to the assembly as he walked back to the CCCP leadership's table.

Kid Crisis found his voice again. "All right!" he said, "Tram Team! Form up on me!"