Greek Tragedy IV

From the Story Arc: Pictures at an Exhibition

Previous Story in the Arc: Greek Tragedy III by Strela (Monday, July 17, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Greek Tragedy V by Strela (Monday, July 17, 2006)

(posted Monday, July 17, 2006)

Act IV: "The worst is not, So long as we can say, 'This is the worst.' "

Diseases desperate grown
by desperate appliance are relieved,
Or not at all.
Hamlet: Act IV Scene iii

< Rachmaninov: Opus 29 "The Isle of the Dead" >

No spandex, no cape, and the only concession to the CCCP uniform was that Belladonna Aura had a small red star embroidered on the breast pocket of her white lab coat. She stood at the head of the table in the hospital conference room, lit display screens behind her, and looked down at her colleagues. On the left side of the table, CCCP Medical. Medic One: Thahn Ha. Medic Three: Cagey Bee. Medic Four: Victoria Victrix. Medic Five: Led Radiatsii. All that had been able to get to the hospital in time for the conference. Realistically speaking, Vickie was marginal, and Bee and Led were both field medics but...Bella wanted anyone who could make it to be here. Strela would need the help of every sturdy comrade.

Down the right, Dr. Guy Peterson, Internal Medicine. Dr. Isabelle Stroud, Ocular specialist. Dr. Peter Graine, Orthopedics. Dr. Susan Cage, Neurosurgeon. Dr. Jim Taylor, Trauma, attending ER Physician.

A patient's personal physician was usually the one nominally in charge and coordinating a case; this was doubly so when the patient was a metahuman. Throw in that it was CCCP--as soon as Strela had been positively ID'd, the air had sizzled with attempts to get hold of Bella. No one wanted a repeat of Red Saviour's takeover of the hospital in Skyway when Bella herself had gone down.

Bella looked at the charts on her PDA and cleared her throat. Personal feelings were being shoved aside. Later she would cry. Now she would be Doctor and Commissar. "Jim. What's our condition?"

"Stabilized for now." Taylor ran a hand through his hair, a habit so ingrained that it generally looked like Einstein's unruly mop. "Stabilized, but critical. She's been moved to Intensive Care."

"Peter?"

The rangy bone specialist who looked more like a basketball player than a doctor unfolded himself from his seat and began sticking X-ray sheets up on the display boards, describing what was there as he wedged them in the holding strips. "Proximal fractures to the right ulna and radius. Compound distal fractures to the left ulna and radius. Both arms straightened, set and cast with minimal damage thanks to Thanh Ha. Left floating ribs cracked. Left kneecap dislocated and broken. Broken jaw, seven teeth snapped off at the gumline, I've had Nigel Richardson here in from Orthodontics, he'll extract what's left of the teeth and put in implants later. Skull fracture and underlying brain trauma, and for that I hand off to Susan."

Small, tough, almost a clone of the famous (or infamous) Doctor Ruth, Isabelle Stroud stood up. "Short form. Skull fracture to the back of the head, probably from a hard fall to the pavement. Severe concussion. Brain swelling minimized thanks to Thanh Ha and Vickie. Seems that anti-mez trick they do drops inflammation of brain tissues to 10% of what we'd expect." A pause. "She won't remember any of this, just so you know. Severe head trauma disrupts short-term memory, so don't expect her to be able to even ID her attackers. Chances are the most she'll ever recall is stepping into that alley."

"Good to know," Bella said, already concentrating on the next. This was where the bad news started. "Guy?"

"Not a lot of internal injuries but--severe sexual assault of some sort. Certainly at some point with an object; we're testing for semen, so we don't yet know if conventional assault took place. Damage there indicates that the patient will be sterilized."

If I ever get my hands on that bitch... Bella took a deep breath and forced herself to be calm. Now the worst and weirdest. "Isabelle?"

"I called in a specialist as soon as I knew we had something out of the ordinary. Pending a miracle or some other extra-natural form of intervention, the eyes are gone." Isabelle Stroud looked a lot like the horses she rode in her rare off hours, but that brisk manner concealed deep compassion. "I had the Forensics man in here from PCPD and he confirms what I thought. Injury was caused by a blunted instrument something like a knitting needle. The problem is--"

Now Isabelle looked at Vickie, who took the cue. "The wounds are cursed, Bella. Nothing that's been tried mundanely has stopped the bleeding, the cavities are necrotic, and her lifeforce is being leeched away from that source."

Bella's gut clenched, but her voice remained steady. "Right. What can we do about it? I assume if you could have broken the curse, you would have."

"I called in M.A.G.I." said Isabelle. "But they're backlogged...."

"I've got resources, but first we have to find the weapon that did this, and next we have to at least ID the mythic source," Vickie put in. "I can tell you it's not Celtic nor Slovakian, those are my bailiwick. Outside of that?" She shrugged. "Curses are very specific rituals and a seat-of-the-pants techno-shaman like me is not very good at disentangling them. So I put a call in to Mom at the Bureau. This is certainly a Federal case at this point. They're sending their magical-ID guy over, assuming M.A.G.I. doesn't shake theirs loose first. Azuria is helping me in thirty minutes to put a patch on her that will at least hold things steady for a while."

"How long is 'a while'?" Bella asked.

Again, Vickie shrugged. "Days. Two, three, a week at most. These things aren't exact, and we don't know if the source of the curse can tell if we've patched it, or if the curse itself can be given a boost."

Bella consulted her notes again. "Question. Would we lose any ground if we pursued the stuff from M.A.G.I. about the bracelets and assumed the source of the curse is also Greek?"

Vickie's brows furrowed. "Not really. Experts tend to not generalize. We don't lose any time really because we can't make a move until we get a positive ID. So we're in holding until the expert gets here and he'll be able to tell us in a New York minute if we're on a wild goose chase. Might as well chase some geese. Won't cost anything and might get us a step ahead."

Bella nodded. "All right then. The bitch was going on about what Sib did to that gangbanger Heracles. Vickie, you're the one with the cop contacts. Find out what was going on when Sib busted him, if it was a run-of-the-mill heist or something else. See if we can tie that in here. If it's got a Grecian angle we could be on to something. Sera has a friend--Kyria something--that's supposed to be a Greek-flavored mystic, she might be able to do something there. Bee, Led, you keep going in there and giving Strela the usual doses of rads. Social, keep doing your thing. Vickie, get that patch on. Ladies, gents, you're doing ace work. It's only halftime. We still have two quarters to put one over the goalpost."

Nods all around the table, and the conference broke up. Bella retired to the little private physicians' washroom just off the corridor, locked the door, and cried.

< Antonio Vivaldi-The Four Seasons-"Winter" >

Meanwhile, another medical conference was still in progress. Clytemnestra winced as another layer of iodine soaked gauze was pressed to the fist shaped burn on her jaw. The bare whitewashed cinderblocks of the St. Raven's nurse's office seemed to mock her as the other person in the room applied yet another bandage to her many cuts and bruises.

"As I warned you, Blaze Phoenyx is not a foe to be underestimated. You are fortunate that I was available to teleport you clear of his presence there in Bloody Bay."

"Yeah yeah, so he's a tough commie bastard. Still, I managed to get in a few good shots on him, and next time I won't be so nice," Clytemnestra replied as the other figure opened a fresh box of gauze. ""Besides, I have to keep 'em off balance before I strike again. You taught me that, 'teach."

"Indeed I did, indeed I did," responded Belladonna Nova, with a carefully hidden smile. The board was set and the pawns were moving now...what to do to push events the way she wanted them to go? Bella Nova mused as she continued to care for Clytemnestra's injuries.

"You mentioned that the meteors in Bloody Bay were calling to you? That was why you were distracted and let Blaze get into range?"

"Yeah, kinda felt funny, like something was lookin' for me. Ya know, like when folks are talkin' bout ya behind yer back? Still, that book ya got for me tells me how to use them meteor energies, and it's helped already with the bitch, so I'm gonna do it again to that bastard Siberius." Clytemnestra narrowed her eyes, now blue with green flecks as her normal scowl replaced the brief look of reflection on her face.

Belladonna Nova wrapped Clytemnestra's sprained wrist as she digested this new piece of information. Perhaps she could kill two birds with one stone if she maneuvered Cly into a collision course with the CCCP. Now who would work for my target, and how can I snare them in my web. After all, everyone has a price....

< Sibelius "Finlandia" >

He stood silently on the Talos Island shipping docks, watching the waters splash against the pylons below. Some would look at the CCCP member, and think he was intense, his mind focused on the task in the immediate future, focused on vengeance. There was some truth in this...but the lion's share of the truth was that Siberius was lost. He had no idea how to proceed, what direction to go. He THOUGHT he had known where this was going to go, what form this silly test that An Binrui had been raving about would take. But he had been wrong. Closing his eyes tightly, he shook his head, and grimaced. Right now, he was left with more questions than answers.

"I am nyet ready for this..." he muttered softly to himself. Clenching his fist tightly, Sib spun and marched right up the docks, the muscles in his jaw tightened. He'd have his answer, damn it. And he knew just where to start looking.

They weren't hard to find. Like cockroaches, they would gather together in alleyways. Tonight, Mikhail would play the exterminator and the interrogator. And even if he didn't get his answers from these dregs, then a message would be sent to Clytemnestra. She wanted a war, she found a soldier. What did she expect, that he would cow down? Curl up in a corner and beg for forgiveness for whatever ridiculous wrongs she perceived him doing to her? No. Mikhail Romanenko would not go quietly into the darkness. He could feel the white hot heat beginning to fill his bloodstream again, almost as if it were beginning to burn at the very center of his being and grow stronger, burning outward in all directions, just as earlier at the D. He would ask Binrui about that, if he ever found the old man again. Another question...like a pebble dropped into a quarry. Slowly, he advanced on the pack of Warriors standing in the alleyway.

"Get him, Herocymus! Don't take his lip, show him how to fight..." one of the gathering called out. Siberius snorted derisively. One of their stupid contests. Siberius' steps didn't slow as he approached, making no effort to conceal his presence.

"Comrades!" Mikhail bellowed as he walked resolutely toward them all, "I am here to be asking you all a few questions! You will nyet be able to answer most of them...and for every question I am asking that you are nyet able to answer...I am breaking a bone in your bodies. However...if one of you IS being able to answer my questions, I am giving you a deal. I will save you for last, and you are having chance to escape unharmed while I am distracted with your comrades."

Almost in unison, the Warriors turned slowly, some of them laughing.

"Who the hell...is this guy?" one of the Warriors asked, handling his sword, grinning as Siberius continued his advance. The one called Herocymus watched Siberius bemusedly for a moment before realizing the Russian wasn't slowing down.

"Shit, GET READY FOR A FIGHT, THIS GUY'S NOT GOING TO STOP!" Herocymus the Hewer bellowed, hefting his war axe. Two of the swordsmen rushed Siberius quickly, lancing out with their blades. His eyes still locked on Herocymus, Siberius deftly slipped around the slices of the blades, and without breaking eye contact with Herocymus, smashed a steel elbow into the base of one of the swordsman's skulls, dropping him at once. When the other swordsman turned and slashed at Siberius again, Siberius simply sidestepped and applied a military style joint lock on the swordsman's elbow, locking it back. Staring at Herocymus, Siberius' expression remained stone cold as a wet crack echoed in the alleyway and the Warrior slicer bellowed out in pain, dropping to his knees, nursing his new compound fracture of his forearm. As the other Warriors backed away a couple of steps, Siberius drove the heel of his boot into the jaw of the fallen slicer, and stared at Herocymus.

"I am looking....for a woman. She is being one of your comrades, I am thinking..." Siberius began, only to be interrupted as three more of the Warriors rushed him. Sighing in annoyance, Siberius caught one of them with a roundhouse kick that sent teeth clattering to the pavement. Grabbing one of the other Warriors, he quickly spun the man around, yanking the man's bow off of his back. Quickly, Sib spun around in front of his new target and placed the bow around the man's head, pulling back on the bow string and releasing it in such a way that the string caught the Warrior across the collarbone. Yelping from the sting and the deep cut that suddenly appeared across his shoulders, the Warrior staggered backward. In one deft motion, Siberius snapped the wooden bow over his knee, and using it as a makeshift club, smashed one of the broken ends across the side of the man's head, knocking him unconscious. Flicking his eyes to the remaining Warriors, Siberius chuckled as they began to scatter....all but one.

"You gotta be kidding me...cowards." Herocymus growled and hefted his axe. Extending his hand to Siberius, he motioned the Russian hero forward. "Come on, big boy."

"As I am saying...I am looking for a woman. her name is Clytemnestra..." Siberius began. Snorting, Herocymus spat in Siberius' face, and laughed.

"Never heard of her! You wanna fight, let's fight!" Herocymus roared. Slowly, Siberius reached up and wiped away the spit, and stared at Herocymus coolly. He felt the snap deep inside before it manifest itself physically, his body igniting in golden flames. Staring at Herocymus through the glow, Siberius watched as now the first signs of doubt began to cross Herocymus' face.

"This is fine, comrade, if it is being the truth..." Siberius said softly, dangerously. In a blur, Siberius appeared in front of Herocymus. The big Hewer swung his axe hard, but Siberius ducked it easily, dropping down to unleash a sweep on the man. Herocymus expected this, however, and leapt over it. Unleashing a war cry, he swung his axe straight down, intent to cleave the skull of the CCCP member in half. But Siberius was faster, rolling clear, and rising to a kneeling position. Sparks flashed as the steel axe connected with the concrete, and right in that very moment, Siberius made his move, stepping onto the haft of the axe and leaping above the Warrior's head. Turning in midair, Siberius drove the heel of his boot right down between Herocymus' eyes, flattening the big man, and separating him from his prized axe. Quickly, Herocymus fought to roll over, but froze as a deafening clang sounded right beside his head and sparks and shards of concrete collided with his cheek. Staring up at Siberius, the Hewer's double bladed battle axe in his hand, golden flames licking off of his form, Herocymus, for a brief instant, had the visions of an enraged Greek demi-god in his head, as if the original Ajax or Heracles had stepped right out of history to meet him and beat him down.

"But I...do nyet...believe you..." Siberius growled, his shoulders heaving with deep breaths as he finished his words from before the exchange, "Clytemnestra. Speak. Now. Or things become very bad for you."

"You're a hero, man...you can't just..." Herocymus began, shakily, trailing off at the look in Siberius' eyes.

"I am coming from Soviet Union, Warrior. I was black operations. You are nyet thinking that I am knowing how to make people vanish without trace?" Siberius threatened coldly, his eyes locked into Herocymus'.

"Clytemnestra...that's...that's-that's...that's Heracles' bitch, right? I don't know where she is, man, but rumor was she rolled back into Talos a few days back, and then went right back out of the other side...she's not here, man, I swear, that's all I know." Herocymus stammered. Siberius stared at him for a moment, before nodding, the golden flames fading. Standing up straight, Siberius reached down and seized the Warrior by his vest, pulling the man to his feet, and shouldering the battle axe. "Wait, what the hell are you doin'? I told you, that's all I know!!!"

Dragging the Warrior toward a tree near the road, Siberius slammed the man back against the tree hard. Groaning, the Warrior watched as Siberius took a step away, and cocked back the axe, preparing to swing it. Herocymus only had a moment to judge the angle, and realize that the Russian was about to swing at neck height.

"No-no-no-no!!" Herocymus begged, but Siberius was already in midstroke. Herocymus felt the tree shudder behind him as he clenched his eyes tightly shut, expecting death. It didn't come. Opening his eyes, he stared into Siberius' eyes as the big man twisted the axe now embedded in the tree in such a way, that Herocymus was now pinned to the tree by the axe haft under his chin. Pausing for a moment, Siberius stared into the Warrior's eyes.

"And now, comrade...you are going to deliver a message for me. I know your friends will find you before police. Please to be spreading the word...and making sure that it eventually gets back to her. I will find her. And I will nyet be sparring with her, as I am with you." Siberius said, and turned to walk away.

Watching from the roof of one of the buildings, a single figure tilted its head slightly to the side, and played with the three foot long fu Manchu mustache.
"Clytemnestra..." Binrui said softly, nodding in thought, "I fear that all you have done is awaken a sleeping giant...and filled him with a terrible resolve."

< Prodigy: "Mindfields" Matrix OST >

Clytemnestra narrowed her blue-green eyes as she listened to Herocymus. The other Warriors in the warehouse murmured as he finished speaking. Cly felt a familiar heat burn inside her breast as she thought of how Siberius was even now turning the Warriors against her. Sure, they called it 'keeping a low profile' and 'cutting their losses' but she knew the truth. Siberius had gotten to the Warriors, just one more thing that he was accountable for. He even had the audacity to make them blame her for the death of Ajax, when it was his entire fault. If he and that bitch Strela hadn't gone after Heracles, none of this would have happened, so it was his entire fault!

"Clytemnestra" Odysseus spoke in his bass rumble. ""this cannot continue. Our interests are being threatened by your actions, so you must back off this vendetta. It is dishonorable to fight the way you have." The other Warrior bosses nodded in unison.

Cly spat on the floor as she turned for the door. ""Ya call yerselves, 'Warriors'? Yer nothin but a buncha pussies. I'll show ya how REAL Warriors get payback. Ya will all talk a lot different when I bring ya the commie's head..." She ignored the voice inside her head telling her that she was walking away from her gang, from the only family that she had ever known. The door slammed behind her.

Belladonna Aura's communicator beeped. The voice of Vickie came over it, the strain audible in her tone.

"Want the good news or the bad news, Bella?"

Belladonna sighed wearily. "Please the good news first, Vickie. I'm not sure how much more bad news I can take."

"OK the good news is this, Kyria has managed to ID the curse as Grecian-called it the Binding of Argus. She says that it's very likely that it is focused through a physical object such as that needle that Clytemnestra had. Apparently if that item is destroyed, the curse will be shattered. So we have a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's not much of a light."

"Also, my contacts came through for me. Apparently, in that bust of Heracles and the Warriors, there were a lot of pieces from the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, remember? Those were all Greek, mostly from the Schliemann collection the Russians recovered in Berlin in 1945. According to the FBI, there was an inventory done two weeks before the theft of those items, and both the bracers and needle Cly was using in Pocket D appear on the list. Unfortunately, we can't trace them back any farther than the ruins of Troy, but we do know that they are authentic relics of the Classical Age."

"Now for the bad news" Vickie sighed. "That patch is eroding fast and it's only a matter of time before Anna dies. Worse, Althea thinks it is like a vampyric drain upon Anna's soul. She believes that if Clytemnestra dies before the curse is lifted, they will BOTH die, it would be like opening a drain on her lifeforce. Also, once the patch fails, there's nothing that we can do to stop Cly from draining Anna dry at any time. So we have to find some way to get that cursed needle away from Clytemnestra without killing her. Worse, the Needle has to be destroyed utterly, perhaps by disintegration. As long as it remains in being, Anna will continue to deteriorate."

Clytemnestra stared at her reflection in the mirror. Green eyes with merely a trace of blue glared back at her through the spider web of cracks. She had pushed herself to the limit in practice combat today, and her body still ached. She opened herself to the link, feeling Anna's despair and pain like a fine wine as she siphoned off energy. Before her eyes, her bruises and cuts on her knuckles faded, leaving behind smooth unscarred tissue. As she felt a new surge of vitality and almost orgasmic pleasure, the scene in the mirror changed.

Instead of the St. Raven's washroom she was seeing the bare concrete walls of the Cooler's showers. Behind her she saw a trio of Knives of Artemis approaching, eager to slake their lusts upon her.... She felt a sudden pain in her had as she returned to the present. Her fist was driven not only through the mirror, but into the cinderblock of the wall behind it. She shuddered as she tried to regain control. It was becoming harder and harder to block out the memories and the pain. It was all Siberius's fault and he would pay for what he was doing to her...oh yes he would pay....