Part Four: You Always Hurt the One You Love

From the Story Arc: The Body Electric

Previous Story in the Arc: Part Three: Facing the Past by Krasniy Oktyabr (Friday, August 04, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Part Five: In Your Name by Krasniy Oktyabr (Wednesday, August 09, 2006)

(posted Monday, August 07, 2006)

The darkness faded away. Aleksandr felt something cold against his cheek and came to with a start. For the second time that day, he was shocked by the face before him.

"S--Sarah?"

Without saying a word, she gently wiped away the last of the blood from his face.

"Sarah, am not understanding. What is--"

She looked into his eyes, her own filled with conflicting emotions and placed two fingers on Aleksandr's mouth. "< I'm so sorry, Sasha, >" she said in fluent Russian. Aleksandr felt a mild bit of surprise that she had continued to practice once she had left his life. "< I'm sorry for all of this. >"

Sarah moved her hand across Aleksandr's face, tracing the contours in a way that she had when they were still together, and gingerly touched the implanted eyepiece and chin support. Sarah's gaze went downward, spotting the cybernetic arm underneath his jacket. Her hand went to her mouth and tears started to form in her eyes.

"< My God, Sasha, >" she said, barely above a hoarse whisper, "< What have they done to you? >"

Despite anything that might have gone wrong between them, there was still a part of Aleksandr that loved this woman, and didn't want to see her in pain. He tried to reach up to wipe away the tears, but the chains holding him to the pole were still as tight as before.

Cursing under his breath, Aleksandr looked directly at Sarah and said, "< That is a long series of stories that I couldn't do justice to in my current state. >" He smiled the best he could, trying to add a little levity to this unlikely situation. The tiny smirk he got from Sarah was reward enough. "< But none of that is important now. What the hell is going on here? Who is that madman, and why--why are you apologizing? What have you got to do with all of this? >"

He kept any tone of accusation from his voice, but still the words had a sting to them. Sarah sniffled and wiped her eyes. Wringing the cloth in her fingers, she looked away and replied, "< Well, I guess I had better start at the beginning. Do you know, Sasha, that I vividly remember the last day I saw you? Really, how could I forget, seeing you slumped over on your makeshift worktable with all of that ridiculous rigged-up equipment and that Clockwork... thing... staring back with those glowing green eyes.. .>" Sarah let out a shudder before continuing, looking up at Aleksandr with a hint of accusation that he knew he deserved. "< And I remember thinking, as I went through CPR and waited for the ambulance to arrive, 'How could I have been so stupid?' Here I though I had finally come to terms you being a damned hero, and you go off and do something idiotic like that! >"

Of course, it had been idiotic, in hindsight. But at the time it had seemed like the right thing to do. The Clockwork appeared to be socialist in nature, and he and his jury-rigged apparatuses from D.A.T.A. were going to bring them their Revolution. But Aleksandr also knew that this wasn't the time to argue about it. What was done was done, and Sarah's story felt far from over.

"< And then, those damned robots appeared out of nowhere and started dragging you away like I wasn't even there. I screamed, I cried, I fought back, but there was no stopping the bastards. And then... they were gone. And you with them. That's when I had decided that I'd had enough. I had to get out of that building, away from the memories there. I didn't tell Leroy where I was going, because I honestly didn't know. I stayed with friends until I could find another flat, and that's when I met Kurt again. >"


Aleksandr blinked. "Kurt?" he asked, despite himself.

Sarah briefly closed her eyes and nodded. "< Yes. Kurt Jacobson. I had a relationship with him a couple of years before I met you. And he was the reason why I was so upset to find out that you were a hero. >"

"< He was one, too? >"

"< And obsessed with it! It was all he ever talked about, all he ever was. 'Carrying on the name', as he kept saying. Kurt would go on an on about 'restoring the glory days'. It was all that drove him. >" Sarah hung her head and sighed. "< And all it did was drive us apart. >"

A few pieces of the puzzle were starting to fall into place, but Aleksandr was far from seeing any kind of picture. "< So why go back to him? >"

"< He said he had changed, >" answered Sarah, unable to keep the edge of bitterness from her voice, "< Said that he wasn't doing the 'hero thing' anymore. Kurt claimed that he had spent some time in prison on falsified burglary charges, and then while doing his time, realized that there was more to life than just being a hero. I told him that I had somehow ended up with another, and we shared a good laugh about it. >"

Aleksandr leaned back against the pole, feeling a wave of fatigue was over him. "< Well, it's good to know that all of my hard work came of some use. >"

Sarah glared, her lips forming a hard line. "< I don't deserve that, Sasha. >"

"< You're right, you don't, >" conceded Aleksandr, closing his eyes and sighing. "< I'm sorry, Sarah. Please, continue. >"

A soft, sad smile indicated an acceptance of the apology. "< Actually, that's when it all started to fall apart. Kurt was curious, what kind of hero you were, what powers you had. >" Sarah paused, holding up her hand. "< I know what you must be thinking, Sasha. But before we broke up, I made you a promise that I would keep your secret, tell no one whom you really are. And I swear to you, I kept that promise. All I told Kurt was what powers you had, and how you used them. >"

"< That's when he changed. Suddenly Kurt was determined to help you follow his path: Give up that which made you a hero, so that people like me could be happy. Kurt realized that I still care about you, but I just can't live like that. Not again. >"

Aleksandr furrowed his brow. "< I still don't see how-- >"

"< Neither did I, at first, >" Sarah interrupted, "< But he's become a monster! All he's talked about since is finding you, never relenting until I agreed to help him. Kurt set this whole thing up. An old letter from your mother had gotten mixed in with my belongings and he talked me into forging another to bring you here. And then, the final string, dragging that armor out of storage... >"

She took Aleksandr's shoulder and looked at him imploringly. "< I never expected any of this to happen, Sasha. I still love you, very much. I want to wash my hands of all of this. Of him. Please, Sasha. I don't want to see you suffer. Just give him what he wants. Then he'll leave us be and we can go home, together... >"

Aleksandr stared at Sarah. He couldn't believe he was hearing this. "< I still love you as well, Sarah. But I can't just surrender the-- >"

"Get away from him, Sarah."

They both looked up to see Kurt several feet away, still wearing the armor. Sarah gave Aleksandr one last apologetic look and stood up, backing away from both men.

"This can be over with now, Stanislav. The more you delay, the longer you will needlessly suffer." Kurt stepped forward, clenching and unclenching his fists.

"< Please, Sasha, >" begged Sarah, "< Just give him what he wants .>"

Aleksandr looked from Sarah to Kurt. "Poidite k Adu," he spat defiantly.

Lightning flared around the armor once more. "Don't toy with me, Stanislav. You're still my captive, and one way or another, what was taken will be mine again." The armored man raised his fist as before, electrical charge building.

Aleksandr coolly stared back at the gauntleted fist pointed at him, and his eye widened. In his previous daze, he had failed to notice the one thing that explained it all. The gauntlets, as blackened as threatening as the rest of the suit, didn't match. Kurt's demands and Sarah's story ran through his mind, and suddenly all the pieces fell into place.

"Make your decision, Stanislav," said Kurt, "We do this the simple way, or the painful way."

The sound of charging electricity grew louder, and Aleksandr realized that this could have ended a while back. With a single thought, he added his own small electrical whine, lost in the louder crackling. Aleksandr spotted a high window behind Kurt and gave his captor a grin.

"You are wanting them so badly?" he asked, "So be it."

The whine reached a crescendo and dissipated just as quickly, taking the Russian with it. the chains holding Aleksandr to the pole clattered to the ground and Sarah, although shaken by the sudden disappearance, breathed a silent sigh of relief.

For his part, Kurt seemed unfazed. He dropped his fist and the electrical charge dispersed. "Well, that was rather unexpected," he said, moving to Sarah's side, "But it doesn't matter. It won't help him."

Sarah turned away, wrapping her arms around her stomach. The sudden chill she felt had nothing to do with the temperature. "Are you going after him?"

"No need for that, love. He'll come back to us. And I'll be ready." Kurt reached up and brushed the hair away from Sarah's neck. "I must say, you played your part well. I'm proud of you."

Sarah stared off into space and said nothing, glad that with the gauntlet in place, Kurt couldn't feel her shudder of revulsion.

[hr]

"...And while Comrade Commonwealth had the Amerikanski confused, trying to figure out which of the three identical men was the real opponent, I took the opportunity to jump from behind and sap him good!"

The youngest Piotr laughed appreciatively as his great-grandfather retold the stories of his glory days, gesticulating grandly while doing so. This didn't go unnoticed by the elderly man. He may have been bound to his wheelchair, but his mind was still strong and he delighted in the interest shown by his family. Piotr thought of Aleksandr then, recalling the vivid attention his grandson had paid to his stories. Piotr was proud of the boy, following in his footsteps the best that he could, continuing the fight for the proletariat.

As if summoned by the thought, Aleksandr burst through the front door with a wild look on his face,

"Have you taken leave of your senses, boy?" asked Piotr sternly, "Your mother would tan your hide if she saw--"

"There's no time for that now, Grandfather!" Aleksandr interrupted, frantically looking about the living room, "Where are they?"

"Where are what?"

"The gloves, Grandfather! I need them!"

Piotr gave Aleksandr a confused look and pointed. "There, under the coffee table, right where you left them. Why the hurry, boy? What's going on that has lit a fire under your feet?"

Aleksandr got down on his knees and pulled the case up, set it on the table and threw open the latches. "He’s back. I don't know how, but he's back."

"Who?"

Aleksandr removed one of the gloves and held up his right hand. The gauntlet slid easily onto the cybernetic limb and fell into place with a faint click, locking it onto the hand. A brief discharge of electricity crackled along the glove and down the metal arm, and Aleksandr gave his grandfather an even, stoic look.

Piotr blanched. He wheeled himself forward and placed a hand on Aleksandr's flesh-and-blood shoulder. "Go with Godspeed, Aleksandr. Come back to us safe."

Aleksandr took the hand in his own and offered a smile and a nod. Taking the other glove, he stood up and gave his grandfather a sharp salute before running out the door.

"What was that about, grampy?"

Piotr looked down to see the little boy sitting patiently where he had been, hanging on every word and action. The old man sighed and positioned himself back in front of the fireplace. He clasped his hands to hide his shaking hands and looked down at the youngest Piotr.

"My boy, now I will tell you the story of my fight against my greatest adversary, The Electric Knight..."