Finding the truth

From the Story Arc: Rebirth

Previous Story in the Arc: An early night by Krasnaya Zvezda (Thursday, May 04, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: 'Till We Have Faces by Krasnaya Zvezda (Monday, June 26, 2006)

(posted Thursday, May 04, 2006)

“you 'killed' yourself.”

Long after she’d left, Belladonna’s words continued to echo around in Red Stars head. Is this really what a full fusion felt like? It was very different from the consciousness that called itself Krasnaya Zvezda; but still, was it possible? There was just that one nagging doubt, why could she not feel Alexander? Belladonna had suggested discussing this with other Warshades but placing herself at the mercy of an unknown Warshade didn’t appeal at all. This meant of course that the only Warshade whom she could approach was the Shadowstar, with all the inherent dangers that that entailed.

“you ‘killed’ yourself”
She had know. One way or the other, it was worth the risk.
“you killed yourself”

“you killed yourself”
With Belladonna’s words with her, Red Star flew all night attempting to find some sense of peace. However, it was not to be. A bank of clouds blew in and so the stars and the solace they offered were withdrawn, leaving only the promise of rain in their place. Still, she flew and flew, but the words “you killed yourself” followed her, no matter how fast or high she went.

Eventually the sun rose, bringing a new day and dispersing the clouds that had brought the rain to Paragon City overnight. At first, Red Star didn’t notice. At some point during the night, “you killed yourself” had turned into “you killed him” and the fragile hope that she had attained the night before evaporated with the morning mist. When at last the sun did intrude, a weary Red Star turned towards Galaxy City and Shadowstar.

From her vantage point on a nearby building, Red Star could see Shadowstar standing in her usual place, alongside the Freedom Corp building, talking with an unknown Warshade. Waiting until the stranger left before teleporting down to the street, Red Star made her way up a flight stairs towards Shadowstar, each step her trepidation increased. How do I tell her? What do I tell her?

When Red Star reached the top of the steps, Shadowstar turned and smiled. However, the greeting she was about to give died before it left her lips and the smile faded.

“I” Red Star started to speak but was cut off.

“Red Star, you have returned I see. But where is Alexander and Krasnaya Zvezda?” An inky, purple aura started to surround Shadowstar.

Red Star, swallowed hard, “I don’t know, I… I was hit by a Quantum weapon, I think, and when I woke up I was like this. Shadowstar, I don’t know what happened and I need to, can you help me? Please? I need to know if I did ‘fuse’ with Alexander or if he...” her voice breaking, she looked imploringly at Shadowstar.

Shadowstar stared back at her, Red Star only then realised how tired she was, how much she needed to rest. Maybe it would be better if she just killed me, destroyed this shell. At least then I could rest properly.

“No, I do not think so, not this time. You have the air of truth about you Red Star, something most assassins lack. Come with me and we will discuss circumstances in which you find yourself.” With that, Shadowstar led Red Star towards the Freedom Corp building.

Upon entering the building, Shadowstar headed towards a doorway, “They keep an office here for me, it is occasionally useful”, and Red Star was led into a small, austere office. Sat on the desk was a radio, quietly monitoring the broadcasts and general chatter of Paragon’s heroes, and adjoining the office was a small reception room which seemed more luxurious than the office to which it was attached.

After offering Red Star a seat and securing both doors, Shadowstar sat down. “If I am to help you, I must know all that has happened; every thought and feeling you had, every action you took, I must know everything that happened to you before and after you returned.” Shadowstar then made Red Star go over, and over, everything she could remember. The Council assault on CCCP, the Void Stalkers, Mojiotok’s sacrifice, John Murdock, and then waking in the hospital. Red Star went over her thoughts, her fears and talked and talked until she was finally able to express the grief and loss that she felt within her.

When at last Red Star finished, there was silence. Then, after what seemed an age, Shadowstar spoke ”It is possible that you have fused with Alexander. However, it is also possible that this process was disrupted, due the circumstances in which it happened. We will need to check, walk with me.” Following Shadowstar out of the office down the hallway, Red Star was filled with both a sense of hope and fear towards whatever lay ahead. Soon, one way or another, she would know for certain what happened to Alexander.

Passing a Freedom Corp trainer, and descending a flight of stairs, they arrived at the offices of SERAPH. Leaving Red Star outside, Shadowstar entered what would be best described as a laboratory and approached a young, blond lady. Wearing glasses and a lab coat, she was examining the equipment on the workbench and making copious notes on her clipboard. Behind her, on the other side of a glass window, there was a swarm of activity from the working lab technicians. Standing outside, Red Star saw Shadowstar and this lady embrace then start talking. She couldn’t hear what they said, but she was well aware of the appraising look the human was giving her. Unable to wait any longer, Red Star entered the lab and approached them, arriving just as their conversation ended.

Turning to face Red Star, Shadowstar gestured towards the unknown lady. “Red Star, allow to introduce Rebecca Brinell. Rebecca has agreed to help us find out what happened to you.”

“Hello Red Star, a pleasure to meet you.” said Rebecca, shaking Red Stars hand.

“Rebecca will have to run several tests and I am needed elsewhere. I will be back later and, until then, I will leave you in her capable hands.” And with that, Shadowstar left.

Nervously, Red Star turned towards Rebecca “So, what now?”

“Now we find out what happened to you. I should have enough equipment here, if you’d just like to come with me.”

‘Like’ wasn’t quite the word she’d use, in fact she’d rather not at all, but Red Star went anyway. For Alex.

The next few hours were spent in one of the labs hidden behind the public face of SERAPH. Red Star was poked, scanned and prodded, as well as hooked up to lots of different pieces of equipment. Rebecca did take care to explain what was going on and what each test was for but Red Star just didn’t care. As long as it brings Alexander back, that’s the important thing.

Eventually, “And that’s that. All finished.” said Rebecca, “Now, if you’d just like to take a seat outside, I’ll get the results analyzed then we can have a little chat.”

Red Star extracted herself from beneath a ‘big, glowing thing’ that looked suspiciously like a cannon and made her way back to the entrance to SERAPH, where she sat on a chair and waited.

Hours passed, will still no word. Watching the heroes, running to and from their various contacts, made Red Star feel the need to be doing something, anything except this waiting. She’d tried to think of other things to do but, as much as she wanted to leave and do something else, her thoughts were constantly drawn back to the laboratory analysis that was going on and the results that she so desperately needed. She eventually settled on pacing but that, combined with the fifteenth time of asking if the results were in yet, had only led to Rebecca ‘suggesting’ that she may be more comfortable waiting in Shadowstars office.

And that is where she found herself, playing with a paperweight and listening to the general chatter of Paragon City on the radio, when the door opened and Rebecca entered.

Almost dropping the paperweight she’d been tossing up in the air, Red Star stopped resting against the desk and pushed herself upright. The results! They’re ready!

“The results… you have them?” she asked hesitantly. “Alexander?”

“Lets sit down shall we Red Star?” Rebecca made her way towards Red Star, motioning at the chairs.

“No, tell me. You’ve found Alexander? He’s ok?” Red Star ignored the chairs, hope now filled her voice.

Looking up from her clipboard, Rebecca shot Red Star a quick, pitying, look.

And that was all it took. Hope shattered and suddenly ashen, Red Star could only mumble “No… No that, that’s wrong. It has to be wrong.” Unnoticed, the paperweight fell out of her hand and landed on the floor with a thud. “Alexander has to be, he must be,” her legs unable to support her, she grabbed hold of a chair and lowered herself into it.

Rebecca sat next to her and, as gently as possible, confirmed her fears. “I am sorry Red Star, but he’s gone.”

Red Star could only look at Rebecca, silently pleading with her.

Smiling sadly, Rebecca answered the unspoken question, ”I am sorry, but we are certain, we were very thorough. It looks like you completely wiped his personality when you took control. There may be some partial integration but we cannot tell how much. Given you have none of his memories… it doesn’t look like a great deal was integrated, if any at all. In all likelihood, you didn’t integrate him properly due to the tremendous pressure you both were under at the time.”

Rebecca sat still for a time, waiting to see if any query or question was forthcoming. When it wasn’t, she stood and, giving her condolences one last time, left the room.

Numb, Red Star didn’t notice her departure. She just sat, her head in her hands, and stared at the floor. Alexander was gone, just like that. Yet another death she’d caused and would have to live with. She’d immersed herself within Krasnaya to stop this, to not cause more pain, instead she’d destroyed the one person who knew her, trusted her.

After a while, she became aware of Shadowstar sitting next to her. “Alex’s gone.” She stated, still staring down at the floor.

“I spoke with Rebecca Brinell. I am sorry.” Shadowstar replied.

“What can I do now? I’m not strong enough. Alex’s gone and, without him… there’s no one.” She despaired.

“You are not alone Red Star. You have all of us, you also have the CCCP.”

“But they think I have fused! How can I tell them? How could they understand if I can’t?”

“You can tell them the same way you told me. It will be hard but it needs to be done, these people knew Alexander too. Your loss is theirs as well.”

“I can’t.” She said, shaking her head, “Without Alex, I’m not, I just can’t.“

“Without him, you’re you. You were strong enough to fight your way free of the Nictus, to journey here.” Shadowstar gave a slight smile “Do you remember where you landed? Remember why you went to Russia? Out of all the countries you and the others could have chosen, you picked Russia. Do you remember why?”

Raising her head, Red Star looked at Shadowstar “We went, after all the pain we had caused, we had spent enough time working for self interest, we decided to work for something better; for the benefit of all peoples. We went to make a difference, to atone.”

“Well?” said Shadowstar gently, “Nothing has changed. You are still here, you can still make a difference. You know as much as anyone the damage that the Nictus could do, how we can help these humans stop that threat, as well as help them against the others yet to come. Do you not you owe it to them; owe it to yourself to help? You have great strength within you Red Star, you could do much good.”

“’From those with ability…’” quoted Red Star softly.

Shadowstar smiled, “Precisely. You cannot hide any more, Red Star, it is time to be the person you were before, be the person Alexander and you were capable of being.”

In the background, the radio crackled, “Attention, I’ve just received word that a group of students have been kidnapped by the Circle. They are due to be sacrificed within the hour and I need some help! Is anyone able to give assistance?

“But, how can”

“No buts.” Standing up, Shadowstar interrupted, “Alexander is not here, you are. Ispolnay svoy dolg, soldat.”

“Yest!” Red Star jumped out of her seat then faltered, “But.. I don’t speak Russian. Krasnaya got that from Alexander…”

Shadowstar smiled, “Maybe you have retained something of Alexander after all then.” She turned slightly and gestured toward the radio as the request for help was broadcast again. “Are you going to assist them then?”

Red Star looked at Shadowstar then, slowly, took out her PDA. After a slight hesitation, she pushed a button. “This is Red“ she stopped. Closing her eyes, Alex, I’m sorry she took a breath then started again.

“This is Krasnaya Zvezda, count me in. Whereabouts are you?”

“Head to Perez Park, Kay Zee. I’m looping you into my teams communications frequency now.”

“Understood, and call me Kras.” Red Star turned back to Shadowstar. “Thank you for your help and please thank Rebecca. I feel I should say more but..”

“You can thank me by saving those children, and all the others like them. Do Svedanya, Krasnaya Zvezda.”

“Do Svedanya, comrade Shadowstar. “


After Red Star left, Shadowstar bent over and picked up the dropped paperweight. “You can come in now.” She said to the empty room.

Rebecca Brinell entered from the reception area.

“So, was that useful to you?” Shadowstar asked, idly turning the paperweight over in her hands.

Rebecca took a seat “Well, the conversations were of more use than the tests. I am curious as to why you had me run those them. You knew we wouldn’t find anything, so why?”

“It was something she needed to hear. She needed to know for certain what had happened, both to herself and to Alexander.”

“So, another potential?” said Rebecca sadly.

“Unfortunately, yes. Red Star suffered a great deal coming here, I was unsure if she would be able to cope with the transition to a Warshade, not with her past, but if she can find the way then there is hope for them all. Alexander was perfect for her, he balanced her, turned her alignment back towards life. He and Krasnaya became the reason she could live, a personality she could hide behind and heal. I just hope she has healed enough…”

Curious, Rebecca leaned forward, “The way you talk about her, you knew her then?”

Placing the paperweight back down on the desk, Shadowstar smiled, “I know them all, but that is something for another time. Another new soul approaches, I must return outside. For now though, keep those notes you made, store them with the other potentials and hope, for her sake, we never have cause to look at them again.” With that, they both left the room.

In the now deserted office, the radio continued to broadcast the requests for help and offers of assistance from the many heroes of the city, and somewhere, deep within the caves under Perez Park, a Warshade called Krasnaya Zvezda received the thanks of a grateful student.