The Oddest Couple
From the Story Arc: Two For The Show
(posted Monday, August 14, 2006)
Astra looked up at him a little dazed, but took his hand, and stood up. “Where are we going, Uncle Auguste?” she whispered.
At some point during the session, it can gone from “Commissar Communard” to “Uncle Auguste.” She had sensed that he liked it, but she would have to remember not to call him that during missions or the like. When he was commanding a mission, she had to show him the proper respect. He appreciated respect; Astra sensed that he got very little of it—
Well, except from Aunt Bella. One of the reasons that she had gone along with this in the first place was because she’d sensed that deep respect from Aunt Bella. This had been strangely at odds with Daddy’s perception of Uncle Auguste…which had puzzled her no end, but she trusted Aunt Bella….
“You had troubles in a mission, yes?” he asked. “We go to face that fear. But first, we go to face a larger one, for we must go by tram.”
She felt herself wilting—but then, strength and support from Communard. “Come, child,” he said, kindly. “You can do this. You can face it. You will see when we get there.”
Oh, it was hard, hard, hard…the closer they got to the tram, the more panic rose in her. There would be so many people there—they would see what she was, and the would hate her, and—
The tram station was packed, people shoving and pushing and she shrank against her tall protector. He put one arm around her, and ushered her into a corner. “Now Astra, lower your shields, just a little. Let their surface thoughts come to you.”
Panicking she whispered, “Uncle Auguste! I…I…I…”
“Trust me, child.”
She hid in the shelter of his arm, and, shaking so hard her teeth rattled, did as he commanded.
If that brat cries one more time—
God I hate this job—
Clockwork! Why did it have to be Clockwork!
Just hit the streets, take down some Lost and it’s Miller time—
Got the right Masa flour now, the tortillas—
Ah, now that was a job to be proud of, Itzhak. That watch will last another hundred years—
Five times in the hospital on one job! Why did I ever—
Huh, a Kheld. Cute kid.
Old goat—what’s with the—not a pedo—oh, it’s a squid-kid, she’ll be ok.
God I hate this job—
“You see, Astra?” Uncle Auguste whispered. “They are just lumpen proletariat. Easily manipulated. But—“ he added grudgingly “—not so bad people.”
“They—don’t hate me!” she whispered, wonderingly.
“Their loves, their hates—no more than a moment,” he said dismissively. “Of more importance to them is the next alcoholic beverage. When we have converted them to our way, they will be more enlightened, bur for now, you should pity them, not fear them. Now come along. We have people to help.”
She nodded, and carefully closed down her shields again.
The mission was another task from Sunstorm against the Council. And Uncle Auguste was—magnificent. Oh, he talked like a coward—“Are they expecting us? Ah, you go first.” But he was the first one into the hidden bunker and called out on the comm. to tell her that the entry was safe and not hot. He might shout out “Flee comrades!” but he wasn’t doing any fleeing himself. And when they saw a Void Stalker among the Council, he interposed himself between it and her until he had subdued it.
And then she got into the rhythm of it, back to her old pace—
Until she forgot she was supposed to be terrified. It wasn’t until they were out again, and blinking in the sunlight, that she realized she hadn’t been afraid.
She looked up at the old man with adoration. “Uncle Auguste—“ she began.
He shook his head. “The bravery is still in you, Astra. You must keep finding it.” His eyes looked far away for a moment, and inexpressibly sad. “One day, I will tell you of my own walk through the Abyss.” Then he bent to kiss her forehead gently. “But that day is not today. Today—“ he smiled. “You and I will go to a café. We celebrate our victory. We will sit outdoors and make rude remarks about the lumpen proletariat. And I will have a fine Burgundy. And you will have a decadent ice cream. Yes?”
She smiled—a real smile, and one that lit up her face. “Yes, Uncle Auguste!”