On Home Ground

From the Story Arc: Battle Stations!

Previous Story in the Arc: Take Back The Night by Mojiotok (Monday, April 10, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: The Charge of the Light Brigade by Belladonna Aura (Tuesday, April 11, 2006)

(posted Tuesday, April 11, 2006)

Santorini grumbled, chewing on the end of his cigar. "We need to finish this; the cops are gettin' ripped up, and I'm starting to get tired myself. Any word from the other teams?"

Polite Boggart nodded, making sure his head didn't poke out from behind the barricade. "Trouble at the headquarters; alley team has stalled, suffering losses. Front door team has made it inside, but they're at a standstill. Sewer team has pushed through opposition and joined with the internal teams." He put his hand over his ear, listening to the comm earbud. "Galaxy City and Skyway City highways have been retaken...We'll have help shortly from both teams."

A portly cop, his duty uniform covered in dirt and burned in some places, came jogging up to the heroes. "Mister Savina! Where's the 'Red Savina'?" Savina came running himself, crouched down and kneeling next to Boggart.

"What's the word?" He extinguished his sword of flame, catching his breath.

"We have a force on the IP side of the highway. They've cut the Council's supply lines, and are getting ready to make a push through the tunnel. They want to coordinate with you." Red nodded.

"Have your people form up. We're going to get through their lines, Lord help us. That point---" he gestured towards a section of the Council's barricade where a gap had formed from a grenade blast, "is where we will drive the sword point home. Have your men cover my team. We will make the advance in-time with the forces coming through the tunnel. "Ready, friends?" Santorini nodded, grinding the stogie under his heel, his skin bristling with rock. Nightrayne and Alrissa both acknowledged their assent, readying their powers; Polite Boggart gave the thumbs-up, standing up.

Red Savina vaulted over the barricade, flashing sheets of flame at the Council line. Steel melted and pooled on the asphalt; blasts of dark energy from Nightrayne shot through the weakened undercarriages of the overturned vehicles, causing the Council behind them to scatter. "Forward!" he shouted, a sword of fire springing into existence in his hands. Together, they charged the Council lines; Santorini and Red were in the lead, with Alrissa and Nightrayne firing as they ran. Polite Boggart continually poured healing energies into all of them, counteracting any attacks that might have found their mark.

They crossed the distance easily; the Council were pinned down by the sheer weight of the firepower being directed at them. The team was a few strides from the makeshift barricade, when Santorini sped up. Lowering his shoulder, he battered one of the vehicles at the weak section away.

The Council lines had been breached.

Little Terra barely had time to register the fact that something was falling towards her, when the battered and barely breathing bodies of her two friends, Nova Requiem and Marrita Red Bear, fell at her feet on the rooftop. With a squeal of alarm, she pulled two medical-transport-override patches out of her pouch and slapped one on each of her unconscious friends. Within seconds, they were gone, whisked away to the Facility emergency rooms.

"Hold still, daughter." Her father, Hawk's Scream, bent down and gave her a quick shot of her meds. She smiled up in gratitude when the comm came alive.

"This is Waitron9000. Roof team, aid the back door team."

"That's a big 10-4," replied Infurno, first to respond. She bounded to the edge of the roof and looked down. "Fish in a barrel, and I do love fish. Oooo! And doggies!"

The tram station was falling apart. Bullet holes riddled almost every inch of the exterior. The map screen had been toppled, broken in half by a careless Warwolf. Craters from explosives blackened the walkways and the walls. The Council was running out ammunition, surely, and their cover was being destroyed around them. But they still wouldn't surrender.

Ratt, Hegemon, and Li Lung were doing their best to make it through into the tram station itself, but were repelled by overwhelming firepower each time, forced to fall back or risk being overtaken by the melee-types among the Council's ranks. Shen Lung, Psi-Control, Gellidity, Winza, and Bejouled were coordinating with a squad of SWAT, pouring their own salvos of ranged fire into the opening, covering their teammates' retreat.

Electrikeet's Speak'n'Spell was overheating and she had been forced to hook it up to a car battery to keep it powered. Her sonic shields around her teammates were being battered and she barely had time for a screaming burst of sonic pulses now and again herself.

This is going nowhere.

Kid Crisis came striding over to Keet, his armor covered in scratches and pits from claws and bullet ricochets. "We've gotta keep trying," he said over his helmet speaker, breathing hard. "I just hope that we don't take out the entire station in the process of getting it back. I'm getting our bruisers set up with some of those bullet-proof shields that the SWAT carries. We're going to try a phalanx sort of formation. Go in, break formation, and try to oust them once and for all. I'll bring the boys over here first, let you get them souped-up for the fight. Sound good?"

Keet nodded. For once she was too tired to say anything, anything at all.

A minute later, KC came back with Ratt, Li, Hegemon, Golden Eagle, and U.S Avenger in tow. Each of them was carrying a large sheet of steel coated in Teflon; the SWAT shields. Keet charged each of them with the Speak'n'Spell, offering additional protection. KC signaled the SWAT commander; the outgoing small arms fire intensified, streaming at the tram station entrance. The fighters advanced, shields raised and overlapping; they really did look like a motley and modern version of the Roman Centurions. Hopefully, they'd be able to get far enough inside and uninjured enough to make a difference.

Even with the SWAT and police firing as quickly as their weapons could discharge the rounds, the Council was able to return fire. Bullets panged off of the team's shields, with a few hits making it through to bounce from their personal armor.

They crossed the threshold after several tense moments, and immediately became the focus of the Council fire. The team burst from their formation, some of them throwing their shields at the soldiers. It was vicious, brutal fighting. KC did his best to coordinate the group and concentrate their efforts, but there were just too many Council; they didn't have the initiative in this fight.

Li Lung became separated from the rest and shoved into the area beyond the doors where the tracks were, unable to make his way back to the others as they began a running fight towards the safety of the police line. Kid Crisis caught a glimpse of him past a Council soldier that he was peppering with blows. In an instant and with a shrill cry, Li was swamped with Warwolves and Mechmen. Very suddenly, he was silent. KC cursed under his breath, then shouted into his comm as he fought his way out. "We need an emergency port on Li, now!"

There was silence on the comm for a moment. Then Waterlily said, very quietly, "Captain...there is nothing left to port."

Mojiotok ran along at an even pace, his team directly behind him. Petrograd had enabled a device that would cloak the team from visual identification, so they were able to move fairly quickly through the base. Any opposition wouldn't know they were there until it was too late. The sounds of battle intensified as they neared the entrance.

Moj stopped at the corner of the hallway that would turn onto the last stretch before the entrance. John Murdock and Chug came up to the front of their line, with Agn and Krasnaya Zvezda covering their rear. "Chug, you shall lead us into the fray. Murdock, you and comrade Petrograd will lay down a suppressing fire. Agn and myself will engage the enemy in close quarters battle. Prepare yourselves." He turned to Petrograd. "Call up Communard's forces; we'll use them here, now that the roof team is assisting with the alley."

Chug, who had been slowly taking in the devastation, the horrible damage that had been done to his home, was crying. But he nodded anyway, "I make dem mad," he sobbed. "I make dem real mad at me. Cuz I mad at dem."

John patted Chug on his shoulder. "You'll do good by us, comrade. Just be careful." With that, the Kheldian transformed into his aerial form, gleaming in the flickering light.

"Hey sweetie," said Vickie cheerfully, holding something carefully in both hands. "Look who Big Red found."

She held up a small cage. In it, a little golden hamster huddled fearfully.

Chug lit up. He took the cage from Vickie for a moment and murmured at his pet, which clearly recognized him and relaxed, coming forward to sniff at the massive fingers. He looked up at Vickie. "I gotta go help my komradz," he said, standing straighter, and handing the cage back to her.

"Well guess what. Thea's feeling scared and she's staying back here. How about if I leave this little guy with her? Then she won't be so scared anymore."

Chug nodded, and managed a smile. "Okeyz," he said, as Vickie took the cage back to Thea. "She nice. She makes good cookiez."

Spines jutted from Mojiotok's body suddenly, his muscles tensing for the fight ahead of them. Now we go to work. "Comrade Chug, lead the assault."

An old labor-union song ran through Bella's mind as her team grimly pushed back the enemy at the front door. Step by step the longest race/can be be won, can be won... That was how they were winning this one. Inch by inch, step by step. Whenever her powers had built up enough, she let off an EMP, stunning everything with robotic components, which sure helped...

Vaguely she heard things on the comm. GC taken back. Sky taken back. IP starting to regain ground now that the others were there. The tram...not doing well...

She had gotten to the point where she just had a rhythm to this. Heals every five seconds. Three heals and hit. And when the reserves were high enough, EMP. She wished she had the kind of powers Sovie and Thanh Ha and Vickie had, to be able to recharge her comrades too...she had something like that, it accelerated peoples' metabolism and let them recover faster but...you had to feed the metabolism something, and when the last reserves ran out there would be hell to pay.

The Council faltered, then. Their concerted attacks fell into disarray; what had been carefully executed rifle bursts were now wild sprays. The Warwolves milled, caught between attacking Bella and her team and whatever was drawing their attention now.

"Commissar!" shouted Battler over the din. "It is Commissar Moj! And Commissar Bestial Boy! And Chug!"

"Pound 'em, people!" she howled. "Go, go, go! Don't let' em breathe!" She poured out everything she had, sucking the bottle of "Bella's special" dry to fuel her own fires. Green radiations flooded everything. She hit the enemy with emanations to weaken them, hit her own people with the healing they needed and just---hit. The snap and crack of her own rad-fueled bolts echoed over the thunder of Molotov's fireballs and the pounding of Battler's fists.

As they cleared through the Council, Bella could see Mojiotok's team. Agn and Moj had waded straight into the largest congregations of Council, hammering them with blows. Chug and Seraphic Flame were in the middle of the room, lashing out at any enemies they could reach. Communard, shirtless, fired Abyssal energy from above, with John Murdock in squiddie-form hovering beside him, unleashing his own barrage. Petrograd, Red Djinni, and Krasnaya were covering the melee fighters from the rear, laying down fire, ice, and negative energy in measured salvos. And Vickie was augmenting Bella's healing with pulses of her own, emergency hits of healing energy delivered directly to a flagging fighter on an individual basis, And here were those extra boosts Bella so wished she could produce...she felt Vickie's spell hit her, and it was like a double-hit of her cocktail, only better.

But the sight that invigorated her the most was the "lint-ball" himself--as Zach often called himself--pounding away at the faces of Warwolves as Vickie imprisoned them in geomantic stone pillars.

Caught on two fronts, the Council forces collapsed.

"Waitron, front door secure, rendezvous with internal team complete," she reported into her mic. "Get ready to execute your orders on signal. Power up medbay."

She looked over at her fellow doctor. "Thanh ha, can you spook in there?"

The tiny Vietnamese doctor nodded. "Da, is no problem. Am thinking probably empty--" she grinned ferally "--but if is not--" She held up a tranq-dart gun.

Zach stepped forward after tagging some of the Council he had personally knocked out. He came to Bella's side quickly. "Hey, toots." He smiled rakishly, looking down into her eyes.

"Glad you could make the party." As much as she longed to throw herself at him, this was not the time nor the place. "We still have some housecleaning to do though." Oh, how she envied Sera and John their--

--wait a moment.

She dropped shields and screwed up all of her concentration. I love you! she thought at him---hard. You come back to me in one piece!

His wonderful green eyes widened for just a second, then narrowed. She sensed something pushing at her mind, and opened herself up to it. A feeling more than words. --love ya. Better do the same--

It was as good as a kiss. She winked, pulled her shields back up, and waited for her orders.

"Time to ruck up and finish this, folks." John spoke up, a Council Warwolf dematerializing at his feet. He pulled up the black balaclava he had donned for this mission, turning back to head down the hallway.

"You heard him, folks. Bella," Zach said, looking back to her. "Your team will stick with Mojiotok and finish clearing out this floor. Communard's team will accompany mine to the second floor; we'll need them when we reach the safe-room. Unter is already on the third-floor, working his way up to the roof. Let's go to it, comrades." He kissed Bella quickly, winking, before trotting off to the stair access.

Moj waved for his portion of the team to follow him. "We must route these fascists, comrades. Onward." Petrograd once again switched his cloaking field on, his now expanded team fading from view as it warmed up.

With the combined force of the two teams, even though the fighting was fierce, there were no more casualties, and the Council was driven steadily back towards the back door.

But every person in the CCCP was experienced enough to know not to leave apparently empty rooms behind them without making sure they actually were empty.

Somewhere in the vicinity of, but below, the safe-room, a half-open door prompted Moj to move more cautiously. Bella glued herself to him, as she always did to Zach, trusting to her protective force-field belt and her five-second-heals to keep her and him safe as long as she didn't attract too much attention.

After all, that was his job.

John lunged forward, grabbing Mojiotok by the arm before he could step through the doorway. "Wait," he whispered. "Somebody's ahead. Y'feel it, Bella?"

She looked over Moj's shoulder, frowning. There was an awful lot of debris...and bodies...

She looked up, and felt her eyes widen. The floor above this room had collapsed, sending a cascade of debris and dead-beyond-retrieval Council down into this room.

"Holy crap--"

The crack of a rifle from the center of the debris-field made her leap back. Moj cursed, grabbing at his shoulder. Bella threw a heal, then another.

"Back out!" John tugged Moj back out from in the doorway, pressing himself flat against the wall as he swung the barbed Russian around.

Then fluent curses in Russian followed by "You sorry varmints ain't got me yet!" came weakly from somewhere under a very dead Warwolf.

Bella leaped forward. "Oksana!" she cried, crossing the room in two leaps and pulling fruitlessly at the heavy weight of wolf. "Oksana, we thought you were dead!"

"Not...hardly..." said Commie Cowgirl, not moving, as the rest came forward to pull bodies and debris off her. "But they got m'comm an they got m' tag, an' they come purt' near t' gettin' me."

A dark, spreading scarlet stain on the belly of her shirt made Bella grit her teeth and throw more heals.

"Sorry fer not standin' an' salutin' Commissars," the girl added. Her skin was transparent. She must have lost a tremendous amount of blood.

Bella slapped a temporary medical transport patch on her, and thumbed the comm to the hospital emergency room. "Aura. One override. Stabilize and transfer to Galaxy City, the gate's open," she said crisply.

"10-4" came the reply, and Commie Cowgirl's critically injured form faded and was gone.
Govno... Mojiotok thought, first with astonishment, then with admiration. Here was exactly the kind of woman he had been...thinking about. Strong. Courageous, surely with a courage to match his. Self-reliant. Russian, completely Russian to her core, no matter her Amerikanski affectations. Could this--be--possible?

He shook the matter out of his head, with a little smile. No matter now. There was still a fight to be won.

And then, perhaps, the hand of the fair cowpoke maiden.