Part Seven: For the Love of You

From the Story Arc: The Body Electric

Previous Story in the Arc: Part Six: A Shining Joule by Krasniy Oktyabr (Friday, August 11, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Epilogue: Until the Last Star Falls by Krasniy Oktyabr (Monday, August 21, 2006)

(posted Tuesday, August 15, 2006)

Kurt Jacobson stomped through the woods with grim determination, kicking up leaves as he went. Nothing was going to slow him down, not this close to his goal. Rocks were kicked out of the way, no matter how large. Any branch that got in his way came crashig down.

Sarah struggled to keep up. Her body begged for even a brief rest from the grueling pace. Dodging a falling branch, she panted and said, "I can't take much more of this, Kurt. I need a break!"

"You can rest soon enough, Sarah," replied the Electric Knight, "Stanislav can't have gotten far. When we find him, you can rest all you want."

Sarah threw up her hands and said, "This is ridiculous! You don't even need me! I could've just--"

Kurt stopped and spun around so quickly that Sarah almost bumped into him. A few dead leaves floated through the air and landed on the armor. Runners of electricity covered them and they instantly turned into ah, as did the ones at his feet. Luckily there was still enough greenery around to prevent an out-and-out forest fire. "That's where you're wrong," he said, placing a gauntleted hand on Sarah's cheek, "I do need you. He's hurt and confused. You need to reach out to him. Stanislav might listen to you, since he won't listen to reason."

"Reason?!" Sarah boggled and took a step back. "You beat the man to within an inch of his life and threw him through a building! Since when is defenestration synonymous with reason?!"

The Electric Knight regarded Sarah calmly. "So you did see where he went. You lied to me."

Sarah managed to keep her composure and her indignation. "I said I didn't know where he went. I heard the crash and went to see what had happened. You were the first person I saw after it had happened." Sarah crossed her arms and looked away to hide her nervousness. "I've had enough of this, Kurt. I'm done."

The armored man glowered and grabbed Sarah's arm in an iron grip. "You don't have a choice anymore. You are through when this is over."

Sarah ineffectually smacked the hand holding her arm. "Let go of me, Kurt!" But no matter how much she protested and tried to break free, Kurt held tight and dragged her along.

"How many times must I tell you that I'm doing this for his own good?" asked Kurt, "For your peace of mind?"

"Oh, don't youdare spout that crap at me!" spat Sarah, "This has nothing to do with anyone but you and your obsession with those damned gloves!"

Kurt snarled and threw Sarah to the ground, letting out a yelp as she rolled. Sarah sat up, ready to unleash her infuriation. But one look at the electric Knight's face silenced her and for the first time felt truly afraid of him.

"You don't understand anything, Sarah," he said, barely above a growl, "This shame, this... humiliation has been hanging over our family--our whole country--for three generations. Nikolai Tesla gave this armor to my grandfather. The Electric Knight was to be a champion for the United States! Instead, that damned Stanislav disgraced the name."

"Aleksandr has nothing to do with this!" Sarah shouted back, "Your punishing him for something he didn't do!"

Kurt clenched his fists, the electricity around his armor flaring ever so slightly. "As long as those gauntlets are in his possession, it falls on his head to--"

A bolt of lightning interrupted his proclamation, striking his back and sending spasms throughout his body despite the armor absorbing most of the energy. The Electric Knight growled and spun around to face what Sarah was already gawking at; the small orb of electricity floating a few feet off of the ground could have only come from one source. The orb let loose with another bolt, but Kurt’s hand shot up and the electricity dissipated harmlessly around the armor.

"Stanislav!" he shouted, "Come out and face me, coward!" A rustling in the branches above was his only answer. The Electric Knight turned around and looked up just in time to see a large blur bearing down on him. Something hard and heavy connected with his shoulder, sending him reeling backwards and grunting in pain. Regaining his composure, Kurt snarled and glared at Aleksandr. The Russian grinned back, still grasping his dead cybernetic arm by the hand. Quixote bobbed in the air and let off another bolt square in Kurt's face.

"Is seeming to be more on your head," said Aleksandr.

The Electric Knight backhanded the electrical annoyance, dispersing it. He growled and charged. Kurt reached Aleksandr and swung his fist. Aleksandr easily dodged the clumsy blow and reared back with his own double fist, smashing into Kurt's back. A shower of sparks filled the air and the Electric Knight stumbled forward into a tree.

Kurt rolled around just in time to see Aleksandr's fist coming at him. He reflexively ducked to one side and the gauntleted fist crunched into the trunk. The Electric Knight struck back, knocking aside Aleksandr's arm and delivering a vicious left cross to his jaw.

Aleksandr staggered backwards and shook his head to clear it. He stared at Kurt menacingly as the man got to his feet and advanced. "I admire your spirit, Stanislav," said the Electric Knight, "Perhaps had things been different, the two of us could have been allies."

Aleksandr regarded his opponent curiously, but didn't let his guard down. "Perhaps we still can be," he offered. In all honesty, he was too tired to go on, fighting out of pure desperation. Maybe showing this madman that not only was a Russian willing to extend a hand in peace, but willing to do it first, a truce could found and a deal struck.

The illusion was shattered by the Electric Knight's hollow laughter. "Hardly!" he shouted, charging once more.

Aleksandr grabbed his dead hand and readied himself as best he could. The pain in his shoulder was intense, almost blinding, as was the rage building in his head that if not for the fatigue, would have consumed him long ago. Kurt roared and brought his fists down in an overhand smash. Aleksandr brought his fists up just in time, warding off the blow with the metal arm and swinging back with a glancing blow to the chest plate.

Punch after punch was thrown, slowly driving Aleksandr back The Electric Knight's armor was dancing with tracers of electricity, setting off showers of sparks wherever Aleksandr managed to connect. The energy of the gloves was building just as quickly as he could discharge it, sending out huge bursts of lightning, only to be absorbed by the armor and starting the cycle over. The dark woods were filled with flashed of electricity, driving away the night in a spectacular show that only had one frightened witness.

The electric Knight stumbled over a tree root and for a moment the momentum of the battle started to turn. Aleksandr pressed the advantage, swinging his double fist as quickly as his exhausted body would. Kurt grunted with each blow. The electric Knight had always relied on the armor to protect him from any assault, and it was taking the brunt of Aleksandr's fury. Large dents and broken tubes and wiring were appearing, the electricity not as prominent.

But Kurt was far from finished. He planted his feet, waiting for Aleksandr's next attack. The Russian swung, and the Electric Knight ducked under and came back up. Grabbing a fistful of Aleksandr's shirt, Kurt leaned in and with a hoarse shout threw him as far as he could.

Aleksandr slammed into a tree and fell to the ground on his stomach. There wasn’t a single inch of his body that didn't hurt in some fashion. He brought his hand to his face and wiped away the damp leaves, stopping short and staring. The gauntlet had fallen off! Aleksandr looked around in a panic, and spotted it lying on the grass a few feet away. He reached out for the glove, but it was barely outside his grasp. Aleksandr crawled forward reached out again.

A steel boot stomped down hard on his wrist. Aleksandr screamed in agony, the unique sound of crunching bone filling his ears. His hand went limp even as he struggled futiley to free his arm and fought through the endless pain for his consciousness.

The Electric Knight bent down and picked up the gauntlet. He held it for a moment, gazing at it with satisfaction and reverence. "You have no idea how long I've been waiting for this, Stanislav," he said. Wrenching the plain blackened steel gauntlet from his hand and throwing it off into the night. The rightful one, separated from the armor for eighty years, slid onto his hand and clicked into the grooves.

That particular electronic while returned, long-dormant connections flowing with energy. The gauntlet began rippling with electricity. Kurt clenched and unclenched his fist, looking on and starting to laugh--low and hollow at first, becoming manic. The Electric Knight grabbed Aleksandr by the collar and hauled him up into the air. Too broken and bloodied to fight back, Aleksandr hung there limply and looked at his adversary with resignation.

"The game is over," gloated the Electric Knight, "I have what is mine. You are beaten, Krasniy Oktyabr." He ripped that other gauntlet from Aleksandr's cybernetic arm, the electricity crackling around his fist more than ever, and slammed it into Aleksandr's chest.

Aleksandr's world once again exploded with lightning, and her realized that he was flying through the air. Again. The tiny fraction of his mind that wasn't preoccupied with pain or defeat knew that he was going to hit the ground hard. Not that it mattered. Failure was about the only thing that really sunk through. He had failed to defeat his enemy. He had failed his grandfather, his legacy.

He had failed Sarah.

Aleksandr landed and tumbled backward along the ground, coming to rest on his back. Darkness closed in, the distant laughter of the Electric Knight ringing throughout the woods.

"Get up."

Aleksandr blinked and wearily looked towards the source of the voice.

"For the love of God, Sasha, get up!"

"Nyet, Sarah. Go on without me." Aleksandr closed his eyes. "Is what you are best at..."

Sarah grimaced but didn't respond to the barb. Instead, she crouched down and put a hand under each of Aleksandr's armpits, pulling him upright. "I'm not leaving you again. We're getting out of here together."

"But Kurt--"

"Kurt is done with me, spat Sarah, moving her arm further around Aleksandr's back, "He's made that perfectly clear. No more talk, Sasha. There isn't much time, so let's go."

Much to Aleksandr's surprise, he felt a twinge in his cybernetic arm. It started responding to the minute impulses sent to it from his shattered mind. It stood to reason that such an advanced piece of machinery would have a way of repairing itself, but he would just have to ponder that later. Aleksandr put his hand on Sarah's shoulder and together they got him upright. Aleksandr draped his broken arm over Sarah’s shoulders, and she bore his weight without complaint. They moved as fast as Aleksandr could manage. He might have been unable to run, but his inborn stubbornness and determination at least got him going at a decent pace.

"STANISLAV!"

The electric Knight's shout reverberated off of the trees, followed by a sound that brought renewed fear; Aleksandr was all too familiar with the sound of building energy for an overcharged blast. "Run, Sarah!" He poured all of his remaining energy into his legs, willing himself to go faster and silently urging Sarah to do the same. The bolt to come might be powerful, but even it had a limited range. If they could just get far enough...

The massive bolt filled the air around them with electricity, even more that Aleksandr had ever managed to summon, briefly illuminating the forest around them as if it were midday. Through the noise, Aleksandr could just make out Sarah screaming as they fell to the ground. He grunted and shook off the pain as best he could, rising to his knees and putting his hand on Sarah's shoulder.

"Come in," he said, gently shaking her shoulder, "We might have more time before he can--"

The words died on his lips. In the faint moonlight, Aleksandr could just make out the large hole in Sarah's overcoat and the sickly black and read of burnt muscle. "Sarah!" he sobbed, rolling her over and carefully cradling her in his arm. He gazed at her slack-awed, unable to form any words to express his disbelief.

She stared back at him, laboring to breathe as every muscle in her body spasmed. Sarah lifted her jerking hand to Aleksandr's face. "Ya... budu vsegda... lyubit' tebya...*" He fingers barely brushed his cheek before her hand fell limp onto her chest, sightless eyes staring up at the Russian hero she had loved. Tears began streaming from his eye and Aleksandr gently laid Sarah on the ground and closed her eyes.

The ground shook and an ear-splitting crack filled the air, but neither got a reaction out of him. The Electric Knight appeared out of that massive bolt of lightning, still laughing like a madman. Kurt balled his fists and spread his arms. "I didn't say I was done with you, little ma--" he stopped short, visibly paling as he saw Sarah's lifeless body. "Oh God, I didn't mean to--"

Aleksandr's head snapped up and turned towards the Electric knight. The expression of shock slipped away, replaced with a twisted mask of rage. He sprang up and charged, screaming at the top of his lungs. Aleksandr swung savagely, hitting Kurt square in the chest. The armor sent waves of electricity up the cybernetic arm and bringing with it more pain. But there was enough force behind the blow to send Kurt stumbling backwards. he returned the punch but it was clumsy, one which Aleksandr easily ducked under. With the gloves reunited with the armor, even this action brought an arc of electricity coursing through Aleksandr's body. White-hot anger dulled the pain, and Aleksandr backhanded Kurt across the face with his fist. The electricity running through Aleksandr because of it was ignored as well.

The electric Knight kept his balance only by walking backward. Aleksandr followed, snarling even as the tears continued. "Stop, damn you!" begged Kurt, holding up his hand an inadvertently hurling another jolt of lightning at the Russian, "You'll kill us both!"

The plea fell on deaf ears. Aleksandr continued advancing, reaching up and breaking off a sizable branch. He swung it like a club, only missing Kurt's face because of the arm thrown up to guard it. The electricity flared at the strike, but Aleksandr had chosen his weapon for a purpose--wood wasn't conductive.

Kurt was fighting for his life and he knew it. His method of fighting had no finesse, just brute strength to wear down and overcome his foes. Now that the same ferocity was turned on him, Kurt could do little to defend himself. Blow after savage blow found their mark, leaving huge dents in the armor and sending sparks flying everywhere. Aleksandr showed no signs of slowing. Pain, hatred and revenge fueled his fury.

Kurt backed into a tree and futilely fended off the blows. There was nowhere to go, now. This was the last stand.

The Russian swung with all of his might, smashing the branch into the Electric Knight's side. The club snapped in half from the force behind it, but so did several of the buckles holding the chest plate in place. Aleksandr growled and threw aside the stump, grabbing at the edge of the plate. Electricity flowed, sparks flew more than ever. Kurt howled in pain as the power of the suit discharged over both of them. Aleksandr was unwavering. Even as their skin grew hot and the remaining hair on their bodies began smoking, frying both of them through and through, he shoved it all aside and put all of his remaining strength into prying the chest plate free.

With a final creak of protest, the last tubes and wires snapped and the chest piece bent almost in half before falling off. Aleksandr snarled and pressed his broken arm against Kurt's throat. Kurt let out something between a cough and a groan as Aleksandr's metal fist slammed into his abdomen. Once, twice, three times. Consciousness threatened to abandon him.

Aleksandr grabbed Kurt by the hair, forcing him to look the Russian in the face. The fury was still there in Aleksandr's eye, ready to be unleashed in full, seeking vengeance for all the wrongs visited upon him. 'You can't kill me, Stanislav," croaked Kurt, wearily staring into Aleksandr's face, "You just don't have it in you."

Aleksandr's gaze briefly flickered over to where Sarah was lying dead. He grabbed Kurt by the jaw and sneered. "Nyet. Death is too good for you." Aleksandr let go of his chokehold and grabbed Kurt full in the face. Drawing a deep breath and pulling back, he slammed the back of the man's head into the tree trunk. Kurt gave Aleksandr a brief look of disbelief before his eyes rolled back and he slumped to the ground.

Aleksandr stood there panting. His body had been screaming for relief for hours now. It is finished. The words played through his mind, although could scarcely bring himself to believe it. As he stood there, numb from fatigue and injury, Aleksandr felt something warm spread across his back. Slowly turning around, he was momentarily blinded by the first rays of the new morning.

The sunlight drove away the pre-dawn grayness, glinting off of the dew and falling across Sarah. Aleksandr shuffled over to where her body was laying and stared for an immeasurable time. She looked to be at peace, and he could only hope and pray that she had ultimately found it. The battle had been won, and the price for that victory paid.

Aleksandr fell to his knees and wept.