Part One: Family Matters

From the Story Arc: The Body Electric

Next Story in the Arc: Part Two: Home and Hearth by Krasniy Oktyabr (Wednesday, August 02, 2006)

(posted Monday, July 31, 2006)

"You... will not... get better of me!"

The sweat stood out all over Aleksandr Stanislav's body. His muscles bulged, straining both the organic and inorganic components of his body to their limits as he struggled to overcome his foe. Failure was not an option. People were counting on him to succeed, bringing them a small amount of comfort. And the vow he had made as Krasniy Oktyabr all those few long years ago to serve the People held as true now as the day he took that vow.

Aleksandr bore down with all his strength, gritting his teeth. He let out a shout as the resistance gave out, rewarding the Russian with a squeal of rusty metal. The nut holding the fan blades of the A/C unit clattered away and the rest of the assembly followed.

"Victory for the Proletariat!" he laughed, straightening up and popping his back. Taking a kerchief from his pocket, Aleksandr wiped down his bald head with a sigh of relief. He loved this old Kings Row building, and was forever grateful that Leroy allowed him to stay there with just this sort of work as payment. But the summer heat was already reaching oppressive levels with no relief in sight, and Aleksandr was bound and determined to get this unit working for the good of all the tenants.

He leaned against the metal box and grabbed the bottle of water sitting there next to his toolbox, draining half the contents in short order. Aleksandr's gaze wandered across the roof, over to the empty clotheslines strung up, and a memory of last summer floated into his mind.

Sarah pinned the last sheet to the line and turned to him with a half-smile, holding a hint of fondness long past. She reached down into the laundry basket and pulled out two brown bottles. Walking over to him with a slight sway in her full hips, she held out one to him.

"A peace offering...." said Sarah, her eyes holding a glow that he though he would never see again...


Alexander shook his head, clearing away the daydream. A fantasy, no more than that. It was a fact that he had to face. Sarah was gone, out of his life almost as quickly as she had entered it. Looking down at his artificial limb, it was easy to remember why. She had no love of heroes. And then to pull an asinine stunt as he had, it wasn't a stretch to see that it had been the final straw. Ideological revolution for the Clockwork he thought, scoffing now at the idea that had almost destroyed him, body and mind. As much as Sarah might have loved him, Aleksandr couldn't lay any blame on her. Such was life.

And so too did life continue, down on the streets below and throughout the city. Aleksandr took his bottle and walked over to the ledge, leaning heavily against it and watching everything below. As outmoded and stereotypical as some would claim it to be, it was moments such as these that the Russian man truly felt at ease, watching the Proletariat. They might not think of themselves as such--and some would actively argue it--but it was how he viewed the world, and felt a part of it. These were the People he fought to protect. The workers, the common man. And when one got right down to it, it didn't matter what you wanted to call them. As Krasniy Oktyabr, Aleksandr Stanislav was proud to serve, proud to aid them in their struggle for daily survival--whether it be against battalions of Council or recalcitrant air conditioners.

Down on the sidewalk below, Sasha spotted Leroy coming out for a bit of air. Owner of the building he lived in, part-time boxing instructor and all friend, the elderly black man meant as much to him as any one of his comrades in arms. That which he had given Aleksandr was a debt that could only be paid forward. And he did, to every tenant and every resident of Kings Row and the rest of Paragon City. Leaning of the ledge of the roof, Aleksandr watch on as the mail carrier approached and the two men exchanged pleasantries as they had for as long as he had been living there and assuredly before then. The two chatted for a moment and Leroy gestured upwards towards Aleksandr, more than likely discussing his current mechanical adventures. The elderly black man spotted Aleksandr on his rooftop perch and the gesture turned into a wave.

"Hey, Alek! Come on down when you get a minute."

A mischievous grin broke out n the Russian's face. A faint electronic whine emanated from Aleksandr's cybernetic arm, the Clockwork Assembler unit within stirring into life. Inexplicably altered by Nash's advanced technology, the device no longer just brought others to his vicinity but also transported him to nearby locations without crossing the intervening space. In the blink of an eye Aleksandr was on the sidewalk next to the pair with only a slight whiff of ozone lingering on the roof to mark his having been there. The mail carrier jumped back slightly with an expression that Aleksandr knew he wore the first time it had happened. Leroy, however, simply laughed. At his age, it took a lot more than that to faze him.

"Nice trick there, Red," said Leroy, "Bet that comes in handy."

Aleksandr grinned back and replied, "Is having many uses, I am finding. Still, is taking some getting used to."

"Imagine so. Anyway, got a letter here for you." Leroy handed over a small envelope. "Figured you'd want to read it as soon as you could, given what's on it."

Aleksandr took the letter and examined it, his grin growing wider as he saw the Cyrillic letters across the front. He tore open the flap and removed the letter, scanning the contents enthusiastically. As he read on, his expression began to drop until Aleksandr's face was ashen and his hand trembled.

Leroy put his hand on the Russian man's arm and said. "You don't look so good, Alek. Anything I can do to help?"

Shaking his head, Aleksandr folded the letter and returned it to the envelope. He gave the elderly man a weak smile and answered, "Am sorry, friend. Is something I must attend to alone. Will send someone to fix air conditioner, my expense." Without another word, the electrical while returned moments before Aleksandr vanished from sight as if he had never been there.

[hr]

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

The old saying flashed through Belladonna Aura's mind so often lately that it almost seemed to be tattooed there. Staring at the mound of paperwork in front of her, Bella sighed and leaned back. The new CCCP base was up and functional. The final nail had been hammered into place and the last contractor shooed away. It was a definite sight
better than the old dingy warehouse that they had lovingly transformed into a working base of operations, but still seemed a bit stark. And the paperwork... Of course she hadn't expected it to magically vanish when the old building fell. It was like ants over a discarded bone. They could be scattered for a bit, but always came back in force.
Still, a girl could dream, couldn't she?

A quiet knock on the doorframe stirred Bella from her musings of spontaneous paper combustion. She looked up and a smile spread on her face. "Sasha! Come in, come in," she greeted, pushing aside the pile of forms and making the conscious effort to not move them over a few more inches to 'accidentally' fall into the trash can sitting beside
the desk. "What can I do for you?"

"Privyet, Commissar Doktor," Aleksandr replied, snapping a sharp salute to the blue skinned woman before stepping in. "Am hoping I am not disturbing anything."

Bella shook her head and smirked. "Nothing that can't be put off, Sasha. And I've told you before, you can drop the formalities. I'm your comrade, just like any other."

The Russian gave her a blank look. For all of his time in America, there were some concepts that just failed to register with Aleksandr. He wasn't the only one like that either, and all Bella could really do was grin and bear it. "Of course, Commissar. Anyway, there is crucial matter I was needing to discuss with you."

"It's not the prosthetic, is it?" asked Bella with a look of concern, "If any adjustments need to be made to your cybernetics or medical regimen, that's more important than--"

Aleksandr waved the arm in question, cutting her off. "Nyet, nyet. Is as good as ever. Is, well..." He fidgeted for a moment, taking an envelope from his pocket and removing the letter within. Sasha unfolded it and handed it over to Bella. "Is matter of great import that I must see to."

Bella took the letter with growing empathy. It was obviously weighing on the man heavily. "Sasha, whatever the matter is, it's--" She stopped as she scanned the letter, glancing up at Aleksandr with a bemused look and holding the sheet out again. "...It's in Cyrillic."

Sasha slapped his forehead and took the letter back. "Ogorchenno, ogorchenno," he chuckled, "Am forgetting sometimes. Well, problem is..." Aleksandr scanned the letter again himself and looked at Bella. "You are remembering from my file, mention of grandfather?"

Bella closed her eyes for a moment. "Think so. Hero of the Revolution, right? One of the first. And you wear the gloves he won."

"Da, is so. And I am wearing them with pride, doing honor to his name and to Motherland. But now..." Aleksandr took a deep breath, gathering his failing composure. "But now, Grandfather is on death bed, and wants to see me."

Bella blinked, a moment of confusion clashing with the concern and overwhelming empathy. She got up from her seat and walked over to Aleksandr, taking his hands as she had on that hospital bed months ago. Looking him in the eye, Bella said, "Sasha, dear dear friend. Nothing is more important than family. Forget your comrades,
forget your 'duty' and forget the CCCP. None of us would dream of stopping you from going. Go to him, with all haste."

The blank look returned momentarily. Aleksandr shook his head. "Was not thinking that would be problem, Commissar. Especially not after..." His gaze wandered out the door and over to the monument to the fallen visible in the commons room. "The matter is, he is wanting me to bring gloves, see them one last time. But given current state of
national security..."

"...They wouldn't let you bring 'weapons' on a commercial flight," Bella finished the sentence, pursing her lips. She understood the situation all too well. Walking back over to her desk, Bella began sifting through the mass of papers. "No worries. I'll put in a call to Vickie. I'm sure she'll be more than willing to sequester a Llwellco
jet to fly you home and back. We'll get you there, Sasha."

A smile crept onto the Russian's face for the first time since reading the letter. "Spasibo, Bella. More than I can express, spasibo."

Bella dropped her shoulders and rolled her eyes, even though she was smiling. "And would you stop calling me--oh. You didn't. Now that's progress..." she turned around, but Aleksandr was gone with only a lingering odor of ozone remaining to show he'd even been there.

Showoff... she though with a chortle, turning back once again to the desk. The paperwork was still there, mocking her. Damn. Now why couldn't he have taken all of this with him?